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Vineland (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
Thomas Pynchon
Tristes Tropiques
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Patrick Wilcken, John Weightman, Doreen Weightman
Richard III
William Shakespeare
The Dwarf
Alexandra Dick, Pär Lagerkvist
The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen, Cecil Day-Lewis
Labyrinths
Richard Wolin
Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery
Jill Dunkerton, Susan Foister, Dillian Gordon, Nicholas Penny
Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics
Hubert L. Dreyfus, Paul Rabinow
Gravity's Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon
A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel
Steven Weisenburger
Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vol. I: The Structure of Everyday Life - Fernand Braudel, Sian Reynold (Not everyone will find this book easy to read. The author makes no concessions whatsoever to the reader. The book is crammed with place names and technical vocabulary from weaving, joining, planing, sailing, ploughing, leaching, waxing, glazing, coining, minting, metallurgy, etc. etc... none of which are ever located or explained. Readers of Whitman or Catullus, poets who revel in proper nouns, will not be troubled by this cornucopia of names. For me, the book was fabulous, rich, insightful... it is true that the author often seems to careen from topic to topic. But genius has the right to be careless. Ultimately, perhaps, Braudel does not have a solution to many of the items he discusses -- but he asked fascinating questions. That is often a cliché, to be sure -- but not in this case.)


I have never read a book quite like this one -- though I have often dreamt of it. The first volume of Braudel's C&C looks at the structures of everyday life: demographics, agricultural, wheat, rice, maize, beer, cider, forks, utensils, curtains, how flooring was done in the 16th and 17th century, ceilings, windows... how they opened, how high doors were, luxury, poverty, dress... and that is only in the first 3 chapters... It is astonishing....

In addition, while weaving together this sundry material, the writing is suffused with such insights and genius -- that it has at times quite an effect. (Braudel is the man who wrote the entire first volume of his magnum opus, the Mediterranean, from MEMORY -- while imprisoned by the Germans during WWII...). To take just one example -- in his discussion of luxury, he talks about the treasures that are squandered for meaningless things -- the Chinese sending silver to Java and Vietnam in exchange for salted bear paws; the Spaniards spending their silver, won by the death of thousands... millions of Amerindians -- to the 'hated' Dutch in exchange for powdered wigs (for Spanish gentlemen...) -- and observes that a society that cannot spend its accumulated capital on extending productively the means of production thus is showing signs of senility, a phenomenon peculiar to an 'ancien regime'. I read this paragraph while observing the following facts this week: that a society that can spend $250 million making the special effects for a movie can't pay its teachers, train its students properly, or fix its bridges...; that a society that can underwrite (with tax-payer subsidies/backstops/etc.) $145 billion of end-of-year bonuses to otherwise teetering banks, can't find $6 billion to bail out its largest economy (California) -- that such a society is, in Braudelian terms, showing signs of senility and decay... perhaps terminal decay.

And that, as I say, is only in the first three chapters....

These chapters cover the most trivial elements, as chapter four and following start on the topics of energy, metallurgy, gunpowder, transportation, urban planning, etc... Volume II then deals with markets; Vol. III with the consolidation of capital. In sum, a really amazing book.



(I feel as if I have just stepped into a great cathedral...)