Wednesday, November 09, 2011

What I'm Reading

Marsilio Ficino, Platonic Theology. Ficino kicked off the Renaissance with his translation of Plato and the neo-Platonists from Greek into Latin, and was Lorenzo di Medici's go-to intellectual: physician, astrologer, and head of the Florentine reincarnation of the classical Academy. He was later charged with heresy, sodomy and what-have-you, but seems to have successfully defended himself. The Theology is what you end up with when a fearsomely intelligent and erudite man pulls out all the rhetorical stops and attempts to prove the immortality of the soul and the underlying unity of all religions using logic and the best science of the day. Like Raoul Vaneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life , you may find the whole effort unconvincing, but you've got to admit that the man gave his best effort.

Edward Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. A deeply satisfying book, despite the occasional irruption of Luttwak's views on modern geopolitics into narratives about the first millennium CE, which mar an otherwise excellent, erudite and enjoyable book. Basic premises: unlike the Roman Empire and many contemporary powers, the Byzantines believed that prevarication, bribery and gradual attrition of the enemy is the least risky course; behind each defeated enemy is another enemy ready to take their place; and there is always someone who can be induced to attack your enemies, thus sparing your own resources. Fascinating view of the near 1000 year history of a civilization that I'd only read one set of books about previously (the John Julius Norwich triple decker).

North Morgan, Exit Through the Wound. I laughed out loud over the SAD therapy light sequence and the line about the typing fetish. Just a tremendously fun read, though I kept imagining a movie where main character Maine, played perhaps by Ryan Gosling, spends scene after scene staring listlessly at computer screens, family members, romantic partners, and hospital rooms. Make an iPod list of all the songs you listened to when you had a soul, consume 10mg Valium (if you have any. All I could find was a linty Midol tablet) and read this on the way to the gym.

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