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November 25, 2003

Shelf #2

It was harder than I thought it would be to get that entire shelf in frame. So here is the second in a series. I find it interesting in looking at these books how much they are and aren't integrated into my personality. I attend them with a passion which isn't quite matched with my ability and willingness to talk about them at length. Perhaps this is the greatest problem with autodidacticism. Books end up like musical recordings, enjoyed in solitude.

On the left side is the great Cryptonomicon. This is singly the most enjoyable gifts I ever recieved. Thanks Lee. I'm so glad you told me about it. It is a book for bitheads like me. It unseated the previous chamption, Foucault's Pendulum. C'mon admit it, haven't you at one time named one of your computers Abulafia?

Third from the left is, in my opinion, the most insightful treatise on the nature of American popular and commercial culture of the 20th century. While the whole world is spitting out aphorisms of McLuhan, he really didn't understand things the way Marshall Blonsky does. American Mythologies is crucial. Unfortunately when I wrote him.. well, that's another story. Suffice it to say that between Eco and Blonsky, I was a hair's breadth away from dropping CS and studying philosophy and semiotics at the New School. Now there's your context for Boohab.

Next are the obvious, Metamagical Themas and De Lillo's Underworld. They are primarily there because this is the shelf for big books, but also because I loved those two particularly. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature is not as much fun as I thought it would be, primarily because, like its neighbor The African American Book of Values, not much of it is readable to the children. But I don't see how any black family could be without both of them. Note to self, find that Gwendolyn Brook poem about revolution.

Gore Vidal's United States used to be right next to David Halberstam's The Fifties. Suddenly, I lost interest in American History and have barely cracked the two of them. Instead Jacques Barzun has won out with his broader scope, Dawn to Decadence.

I can't remember much of anything I read from Gina Dent's Black Popular Culture when I got it back in my Brooklyn days. But Andrew Hacker's Money comes in handy quite often. Cultural Literacy, I just picked up again recently. I find it especially useful in Dad's Trivia Questions with the kids. Right next to it is Cecil Adams' classic The Straight Dope, and my invaluable reference to those Liberal Arts, An Incomplete Education. I hear there's a second edition.

Back to back are Michael Heim's Metaphysics of Virtual Reality and Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community. I should have those next to Ed Krol's The Whole Internet, but my copy is deeply buried somewhere in the garage.

The last few volumes are very legible in the photo. The Cornel West Reader was a gift from Pops. I've taken Cornel down a notch or two and so I haven't cracked it. I really want to see his dealy with Chekov and Coltrane. Next to it however was the book of West's that set me on ear: The American Evasion of Philosophy. As Dean Esmay says, we're all Liberals if we know what we're talking about, and this book proves it.

Karen Armstrong's thin volume on Buddha is very valuable to me. The last one you can't see is Stanley Crouch's Notes of a Hanging Judge. This includes the essay where he compared Spike Lee to John Wayne Gacy. I remember my giggly enthusiasm when this book came out. I wonder if there is any more writing like this done today. Hmm.

Anyway, that's my top shelf in the big hallway bookcase.

Posted by mbowen at November 25, 2003 10:27 PM

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But no poetry.

John McWhorter sure has your number.

Posted by: Peter Sean Bradley at December 1, 2003 09:59 PM

how so?

i don't have much poetry. only calvin trillin and and english cat named hopkins. i suppose that if i did music and poetry i'd be no good for writing software. that or i'd be about fifty pounds lighter, unmarried and smelly.

Posted by: Cobb at December 1, 2003 10:12 PM