Monday, June 18, 2012

Reflections: Crime and Punishment

Cliff Ward opines on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment:

"I am more of a human being for having read this novel. I hope it lasts.

This and Anna Karenina are almost tied for the best and most elevating novels I've ever read (though Anna Karenina holds a hardy first). It made me cry and wrench in emotional anguish more than most books and less than Dostoevsky likely intended. The Greeks valued this kind of tragedy for its cathartic effect, but I know of no group of sufferers so adept at writing them than Russians. It was meant to evoke pity and disgust and love and pure hope. And that is what it did for me.

I loved this book like I would love a person. Although, it is one that you need to be ready for. You have to want to be made better by it, not just entertained. For example, it’s easy for some parents to give up on a child who seems to be forever lost. But it’s the parents who endure with hope, even amidst seemingly insuperable suffering, that find out what parenthood is really about—they discover, through overcoming, the infinite nature of love. The same type of thing will inevitably happen if you can resist giving up, avoid hanging yourself, and read Crime and Punishment in its soul-informing entirety.

Thank you Dostoevsky for your obvious suffering and for doing something with that suffering."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Reflections: Dandelion Wine

Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts on Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine:

"It was a total coincidence that I began reading Dandelion Wine the very day that Ray Bradbury passed away.  Although I felt genuinely sad that he passed away, I was also genuinely excited to begin reading what I knew would be an interesting, creative, and meaningful narrative.  I recently complained that modern authors lack the ability to write truly great literature, but Ray Bradbury is an exception in a sea of modern mediocrity.  To describe him as a great author who writes great literature barely does him justice.

Dandelion Wine is definitely one of Bradbury's more traditional tales.  It's a tale of nostalgia and longing for childhood summers.  Although it's a domestic tale, it's still laced with Bradbury's signature flavor of fantasy, albeit very subtle in this story, and imagination.  At times it feels like it could have been a collection of short stories, but Bradbury beautifully knits the various vignettes together through his main characters, Douglas and Tom Spaulding.  If you have read Bradbury's writings before, it's entirely unnecessary to say that the writing is good; in fact, it's great.

In conclusion, I think Dandelion Wine is a wonderful book.  I also think it's a great book for anyone who has not read Bradbury to introduce themselves to his work.  With the passing of Ray Bradbury and my reading of Dandelion Wine, I have realized once again how great writers never actually die."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Reflections: Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty

Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts on Randy Barnett's Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty:

"Randy Barnett's Restoring the Lost Constitution is an 'achievement' book.  Although not as long or as difficult to read as some books I have read, finishing Restoring the Lost Constitution left me feeling filled and enlightened, even accomplished on a small scale.  There is a tremendous amount of information - historical, legal, ideological - in Randy Barnett's book.  Completing it made me feel like a genuinely smarter person.

I love American history and studying the Constitution and law from an academic perspective.  I have wanted to read Mr. Barnett's book for many months.  The book is not a primer.  It assumes knowledge of certain basic legal and constitutional theories, arguments, etc.  In that regard, there are more readable and approachable books that deal with this particular topic.  (The Dirty Dozen by Robert Levy and William Mellor would be one example).  However, if one feels comfortable wading into academically charged Constitutional waters, this book is an absolute joy.  The arguments are interesting, although reiterated one too many times, the historical information presented is enlightening, and the main thrust of the book-the presumption of liberty-is worth understanding for anyone, regardless of ideology.

I would highly recommend Restoring the Lost Constitution to anyone with an established knowledge of Constitutional law (although additional knowledge in ideology and political science would be helpful).  Otherwise, most people would get completely buried in the book's contents.  I loved the book and will point to it as a fine, albeit small, accomplishment having read it."