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Old 16.04.2008, 17:03   #1
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Sunday, April 13, 2008
THE BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate The Books That Matter Most To Them. Edited by Roxanne J. Coady & Joy Hogannessen. 197 pages. (New York, 2006).
“The book that has meant the most to me in my life,” writes Bernie S. Siegel, a medical doctor and a prolific author, “is THE HUMAN COMEDY by William Saroyan.” Two pages of explanations follow. “Perhaps the most important words in Saroyan’s book for me were these: ‘But try to remember that a good man can never die…. The person of a man may leave -- or be taken away—but the best part of a good man stays. It stays forever. Love is immortal and makes all things immortal. But hate dies every minute.’” Elsewhere he paraphrases another one of Saroyan’s ideas: “The evil man must be forgiven and loved because something of us is in him and something of him is in us.” He concludes with the words: “If every child were brought up with the words spoken in THE HUMAN COMEDY, the world would be a very different place.”
Another writer included in this collection of essays is Christ Bohjalian, who chooses not one but several books by such best-selling writers as Stephen King, William Peter Blatty, Peter Benchley, Thomas Tryon, Harper Lee, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Speaking for myself, the two books that changed my life are Dostoevsky’s THE IDIOT and Turgenev’s FATHERS AND SONS.
Monday, April 14, 2008
In THE BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE (discussed yesterday), Senator Joe Lieberman names the Bible, after identifying himself as “a religiously observant Jew whose life has been shaped by the faith and commandments contained in the Bible,” and immediately after the Bible, he names William Saroyan. “As a child,” he writes, “I loved the books of William Saroyan for their faraway ethnic richness, idealism, and humanity."
More contemporary writers have been influenced by Saroyan than by Henry James and James Joyce combined, probably because Saroyan made writing as easy as a walk in the park. I have read many interviews with contemporary writers and the name that comes up as an early influence more than any other is that of Saroyan.
I first read Saroyan as a teenager. What fascinated me about him was the ease with which he connected. Compared to him, Henry James and Joyce seem to take pleasure in raising impenetrable walls between themselves and their readers.
Critics have attacked Saroyan for his naïve sentimentality and unwillingness to confront the dark side of life; they also saw his phenomenal international success as a liability. Who reads Saroyan today? Once in a while I pick up one of his books and try to reread a page or two, and what was fresh and full of life when I first read him now seems cliché-ridden and infantile. Critics are not always wrong.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Of all human enterprises the most despicable, cruel, and criminal is that of building, running, and defending an empire. And yet, we all admire Alexander the Great, Caesar, and Napoleon.
When I understood nothing, I pretended to know everything. Now that I know one or two things, I understand nothing.
A perennial victim will also be a perennial dupe of lies and propaganda.
A fool, being a fool, will convince himself of anything, including being wise.
Following an argument in an Armenian discussion forum is “like floating down a sewer in a glass-bottomed boat.”
If Wellington is right and “the secret of success in war is learning what lies on the other side of the hill,” then we have no choice but to assume that we have been at the mercy of blind men.
To quote Wellington again: “A battle is like a ball. Everybody sees something. Nobody sees everything.”
The more brainwashed a man is, the more unshakable his convictions will be.
To exile or deport people against their will is to sow dragon teeth.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
We like to say that capitalism defeated communism, but in reality it was communism that did the job. Ideologies, like nations and civilizations, are not killed, they commit suicide.
If you feel more or less comfortable in your conception of reality, be prepared for a rude awakening.
The trouble with assessing yourself as smart is that you will go on assessing yourself as smarter than someone else, and after that, as smarter than anyone else.
The mirage of happiness is the greatest source of misery.
A fraction of a second is also a fraction of eternity.
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