Friday, February 25, 2011

What I'm Reading

1. Edward Slingerland, Effortless Action: Wu-wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China. Slingerland analyzes the conceptual metaphors used by early Chinese philosophers to characterize the ideal of wu-wei or "not doing". He argues that these metaphors result in irresolveable paradoxes, suggesting that the concept of wu-wei may be self-contradictory.

2. Owen Flanagan, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World. An analytic philosopher looks at the issue of the purpose of life, in the light of contemporary science and eastern and western wisdom traditions.

3. Clark Ashton Smith, A Vintage from Atlantis. This is volume 3 of the collected fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith. Smith was a writer for the pulps in the 1930s, whose poetic prose and lush imagery had a big influence on other writers of horror, fantasy, and science fiction (including H. P. Lovecraft and Jack Vance).

4. Robert E. Howard, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian. Along with Clark Ashton Smith and H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard is one of the three most influential writers from the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 30s. Howard's writing is vivid and visceral, and his brooding hero is more than just the muscle-bound oaf in sandles of later pastiche, film, and television.

5. Chris Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000. Wickham shows the continuity and contrasts between the late Roman empire and the early Dark Ages. He helps clarify the nature of the transformation of Western Europe after the gradual collapse of Roman rule there, working extensively with both the archaeological and textual sources, and even-handedly evaluating the theories of other historians.
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