Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Interesting books 2

Today I went to the Frankfurt after Frankfurt book fair, just like last year. And so, again just like last year, here are a few interesting books I've noticed. Perhaps some day I'll buy and/or read some of them.

  • Robert Irving, John Lundberg, Mark Pilkington: The Field Guide: The Art, History & Philosophy of Crop Circle Making.

    A book about crop circles by some of the artists that make them (see e.g. Lundberg's website, circlemakers.org). The book has been published by strangeattractor.co.uk, which are also noted for their impressively bizarre journal.

  • Thomas Bulfinch: Bulfinch's Mythology.

    This is a popular and well-known 19th-century overview of classical mythology and medieval legends (those about king Arthur and his knights, and about Charlemagne and his paladins). The copyrights have of course long since expired, and the full text is freely available on the web. A few years ago I printed the whole thing out and read it, so I don't really feel a pressing need to buy a properly printed copy of this book. However, if I did, this Gramercy edition looks very appealing: a very handsomely produced book (it even has gilt edges) for a mere $20.

  • Karla O. Poewe: New Religions and the Nazis.

    A book about the influence of neo-pagan cults on the rise of Nazism. Sounds like a potentially interesting addition to the books by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (Black Sun and Occult Roots of Nazism). However, some of the reviews on amazon make me a bit wary of this book (“both Poewe and Hexham are devout Christians who might have, as the book shows, allowed this to color their alleged scholarship since the book reads as an anti-cult book having little to notting to do with leading Nazis”).

    Incidentally, while browsing on amazon, I also found this beauty: Reich Of The Black Sun: Nazi Secret Weapons & The Cold War Allied Legend by Joseph P. Farrell (“A fascinating exposé proving that Nazi Germany won the race for the atom bomb in late 1944 [. . .] Joseph P. Farrell is an internationally-known author and researcher in Tesla studies and esoteric technology”). ROFTL :)

  • Jeremy Black et al. (eds.): The Literature of Ancient Sumer.

    An anthology of Sumerian literature. Sounds potentially interesting, but more likely it would just bore me.

  • Stephen A. Barney et al.: The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville.

    The first complete English translation of this famous early-medieval encyclopedic work and an inexhaustible compendium of curious beliefs and ‘facts’. Once again, amazon has a bizarre pricing policy: amazon.com says the RRP is $150 and sells it for $138; but amazon.ca says the RRP is $176 Canadian and sells it for just $111 Canadian, which is $98 US. The book is published by the Cambridge University Press; in Britain the RRP is £85 and amazon.co.uk sells it for £80, i.e. even worse than amazon.com. But anyway, even at $98 US, I doubt I'll be buying this one anytime soon :)

  • Victoria Finlay: Jewels: A Secret History.

    Apparently this ‘history of [a thing/material/etc.]’ genre is still going strong. I must admit that a history of jewels sounds a lot more interesting than a history of cod or salt.

  • Ellis Wasson: Aristocracy and the Modern World.

    Some time ago I read a bit more than half of David Cannadine's excellent book, The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy. This book seems to be in a similar vein, but not limited just to British aristocrats (it is also much shorter than Cannadine's), and possibly focuses a bit more on how the aristocracy is managing to adapt to the new circumstances of the modern world.

  • Christopher Clark: Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947.

    Frankly, I'm still not quite sure if I'm sufficiently interested in Prussia before the time of Wilhelm II to read a whole book about it. However, in the long term it might be a good idea.

  • Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, Edmund Weiner: The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary.

    As is well known, Tolkien spent a year or two early in his career as an assistant on the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary. This is a book about his involvement in the OED and how this affected him and his work.

  • Laura J. Miller: Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption.

    It's always sad when something becomes a mere object of manufacture, trade and consumption, but it's doubly sad when this happens to a cultural artifact such as a book. Thus, I have always been slightly curious about the publishing and bookselling business, and this book sounds quite interesting.

  • William Blake: The Complete Poems.

    This is the Penguin classics version, edited by Alicia Ostriker. There are at least two competitors: one by David Erdman and Harold Bloom, and one by Michael Mason (an OUP paperback with red covers, which I saw in a bookshop not more than a year or two ago, though it seems to be out of print now). I still can't decide which one would be the best choice to buy. It seems that the Mason edition has modernized spelling, and the Penguin edition seems to have just poems but not other writings, so maybe the Erdman/Bloom edition is the one to go for. The comments on amazon.com also seem to confirm this. And anyway I'm in no hurry to buy Blake's works, as I'm still very much afraid that I'll find most of them completely incomprehensible anyway.

  • Lisa Rodensky: Decadent Poetry from Wilde to Naidu.

    This looks interesting, and it's the first time I've heard of Naidu. I've already read one anthology on a similar topic, namely Karl Beckson's Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s, but that one also included lots of prose, not just poetry. Of course, rather than buy yet another 1890s anthology, it would probably be better if I started reading the one that is still waiting unread on one of my shelves, namely Martin Secker's The Eighteen-Nineties : A Period Anthology in Prose and Verse (1948), a generously extensive anthology compiled by the man who personally knew, and sometimes in later years published, many of the protagonists.

  • Velimir Grgić: Jegulje, grah, bukkake: vodič kroz japanske seks-fetiše.

    Ta knjiga ima tako čudovito bizaren naslov (in vsebino), da sem se le z največjo težavo uprl skušnjavi, da bi jo kupil. Od nakupa pa me je odvrnilo predvsem troje:

    (1) cena — stala je okoli 3200 SIT, kar se mi zdi veliko za knjižico s pičlimi 80 stranmi majhnega formata, pa še od tega je veliko fotografij (kasneje sem tudi opazil, da na superknjizara.hr ista knjiga stane le 31,20 kun, za kar Google pravi, da je enako 1010 SIT — torej nas poskuša Konzorcij prav nezaslišano odreti);

    (2) sem bolj sramežljive sorte, pa mi je bilo nerodno stopiti s takšno knjigo do prodajalk, sploh ker sta bili mladi in čedni;

    (3) verjetno lahko vse (in še več) bizarnosti iz tiste knjige zastonj najdem tudi z brskanjem po webu in prebiranjem kakšnih forumov. Na primer tole: claw your eyes out :))) [Če link ne deluje, pa poskusite iskati fcb_jap_tsscaps v Googlu.]

2 Comments:

Anonymous Irving Hexham said...

Dear Ill-Advised,

In your comment on Prof. Karla Poewe's book "New Religions and the Nazis" you wrote:

“However, some of the reviews on amazon make me a bit wary of this book” Then you cite the comment “both Poewe and Hexham are devout Christians who might have, as the book shows, allowed this to color their alleged scholarship ...”

Surely, before posting such a personal and abusive comment which questions the integrity of a well know and highly respected scholar you ought to have checked more closely and reached your own conclusions. It is not a popular book but an academic monograph. As such it is admittedly difficult to read and easily misunderstood by someone without an academic background in the field who is upset by the fact that Poewe uses the term “pagan” and “neo-pagan” to describe a group of Nazi intellectuals who used these terms to describe themselves.

Nevertheless, if you look at serious scholars writing in secular academic journals, like Roger Griffin and John Conway, you will find that they take the book very seriously indeed. Actually, the amazon.com review has very little to do with the book itself because it totally distorts the argument and ignores Poewe's extensive documentation as a result of a knee jerk reaction to her use of the term “pagan” which as pointed out was the term of choice used by the people she studied.

Even so, thanks for mentioning my wife's book.

Irving Hexham, Professor of Relgious Studies, University of Calgary

Saturday, January 20, 2007 7:00:00 PM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

Thanks for your comment, prof. Hexham. Frankly, I didn't think that the sentence from amazon.com that I quoted above is terribly abusive -- in fact I thought it was quite decent and moderate, especially by internet standards. Anyhow, if you or your wife were offended, I'm sorry -- it wasn't my intention to be abusive.

If I had had an unlimited amount of time, I might have done a bit more to reach my own conclusions, but as it was, the most I could do was to reach them after just a couple of minutes, most of which were spent looking at this book's webpage on amazon.com. Seeing as I am more or less completely ignorant on this topic, it would be difficult for me to reach any intelligent conclusions without spending a huge amount of time on this.

Anyway, I don't want to get involved in some sort of religious war between christians and pagans here :) Your wife's book sounds interesting, and if I come across it on ebay or some such suitable place, I'll definitely consider buying and reading it.

P.S. Now I noticed that the book also has a website dedicated to it -- I might as well add a link here: www.nazireligions.com.

Monday, January 22, 2007 11:01:00 PM  

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