Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reading notes, with movie postscript

Having embarrassed myself the other day on Crooked Timber (if indeed it's even possible to embarrass oneself in the blogosphere) by revealing that I'd never read The Social Contract, I've now picked up a used copy of the Norton Critical Edition of Rousseau's Political Writings. As an undergraduate I never took the standard course in the history of political thought because (1) I was stupid and (2) the course wasn't required by the program I was in, though it should have been. Consequently there are several canonical works of Western political theory I've never read.

Before I can get to Social Contract, however, I have to finish Iain Banks's Matter which, despite some witty moments and lovely descriptive passages, has turned into something of a chore. Which may explain, I suppose, why I don't read much science fiction.

Movie postscript: I see from the front page of WaPo online that a version of The Great Gatsby, with Leonardo DiCaprio, is coming this summer. It can't possibly turn out to be worse than the early 1970s version with Sam Waterston and Mia Farrow, which is on my worst-movies-ever-seen list.

Update: Have now ordered the recent Penguin ed. of Social Contract, trans. Q. Hoare, ed. C. Bertram. 


thusbloggedanderson said...

Is there a particular storyline in "Matter" that's dragging for you? Because I have a theory about that.

Not sure I ever finished "Social Contract," tho I know I read the 2d Discourse. Never a Rousseau fan. Let us know if anything fun happens.

LFC said...

Re 'Matter':

It's not so much a particular story line that's dragging -- well, maybe it is. Here's one of my problems: I can't *really* get heavily into the Prince-Ferbin-and-his-trusty-servant-from-the-neo-medieval-(or-whatever)-Sarl-seek-justice thing. B/c Ferbin is given these lines that are sort of banal, if well-written, rehashes of basically what a Shakespearean figure in his position wd say (or it's like Shakespeare crossed w soap opera, maybe). Which is a problem b/c Banks, while good, is not Shakespeare.

I don't know if that's coherent, but it's the best I can do right now w/o having the bk rt in front of me to quote from. Anyway, I intend to finish -- I'm more than halfway through at this pt, I'd say -- even tho the ending won't be a surprise b/c I already know what happens.

LFC said...

P.s. I do think there are some interesting questions about artificial intelligence etc raised in the bk -- tho maybe i think they're interesting only b/c i haven't read much SF. I actually started to write a post on that but then decided i shd finish the bk first.