The Myth of Paganism: Nonnus, Dionysus and the World of Late Antiquity - Robert Shorrock - 181 pages - finished 4/11
"Late Antiquity" describes the time period between the fourth and sixth centuries AD, when Christiawas rising as the dominant religion but paganism still flourished, and the two were not mually exclusive. Shorrock, opting to use "Christian" and "Classical" as descriptions of genre without religiously singling out the autors of these worksexplores the intertextualities of Nonnus's Christian Paraphrase of the Gospel of St. John and Classical Dionysiaca, as well as the role of the shared motifs in the larger culture (e.g. wine, virgin birth, death and resurrection) to illustrate the ways in whch Cassical and Christian thought and narratives clashed and communicated.
(P.S., does anyone know where I might locate a copy of the Dionysiaca, say on online copy perhaps? This book wasn't the first time I've heard of it, but the closest I come to finding a local copy is a study on Nonnus in one of my area's theological libraries >.<)
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo - F.G. Haghenbeck - 354 pages - finished 4/12
Obtained here from fashion_piranha! It's a story I'm familiar with, some of the phrases (not just in dialogue) almost word for word, but then they all only trace back to so many sources, right? But this one, true to the titular book about recipes and the Day of the Dead, focuses less feelings and art than it does on Frida's encounters with Deth and her avatars, so to speak, as wel as the kitchen. So much the kitchen. I finishd it and I craved mole.
After Dionysus: An Essay on Where We Are Now - Henry Ebel - 136 pages - finished 4/16
This was a reassessment of the stock classics, with especial attention given to Homer, and how readers/critics respond to them. Ebel looks at and quashes the "noble savage" type vision of earlier writers (and people in general) being somehow more intellectually simple and "pure" in their work. He looks at the tradition and content of the classics, arguing how there is a mixture of the Apollinian and the Dionysian, individual irrationality in the face of collective or national need (e.g. Achilles sulking in his tent) or vice-versa. While I'm personally unfamiliar with most of the work Ebel references, Chapter 3, "Quest for a Better Tradition," which looks at the 20th century shift in critical thought, is a pretty intriguing read.
Magritte: The Silence of the World - David Sylvester - 352 pages - finished 4/16
I think ths is like a coffee table book; a lot of the writing is of interest and the pictures demonstrate a broader spectrum of Magritte's style(s) than I was previously familiarwith, but some points, especially pertainint xyz dealers, exceeded over to tedium. But if it is sometimes excessive it is also very thorough. I looked up Magritte because I wanted to learn more about his men in bowler hats, and learned that he also did a great deal more that was pleasantly weirder (and some that were less so, either and/or). I like that he did things like paint on wine bottles as a means of deflating some of the pretensions of artistic construction, though being with the Surrealists he of course has his own conceits as well.
Reservation Blues - Sheman Alexie - 306 pages - finished 4/21
I felt like some of the subplots weren't carried all the way through, but I liked the sort of vignette-style storytelling. All the characters were interesting, and I especially liked th dynamics between Victor and Junior (sort of the story's Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum). Sometimes it got pathological nearing the way of Indian Killer (i.e. displaced Native angst), but thus far I think this is the best Alexie novel I've read. Which almost has nothing to do with the recurrent Jim Morrison jokes.
The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell - Aldous Huxley - 185 pages - finished 4/27
A few of my friends have told me that they've "always wanted" to read The Doors of Perception but are simultaneously "intimidated" by it. I don't see why that should be; it is no Speech of the Birds or House of Leaves. Actually what I liked best about it was how artfully and accessibly Huxley was able to recount his peyote experience.
However, I wish he would have restrained some of his more shall we say "activist" (as activist as any New Age contemplative regurgitating syncretized cosmopolitan "wisdom of the ancients" ever is) thoughts while recollecting. For me this tainted a well-written phenomenological piece with the sort of propaganda that Sherman Alexie made fun of in the abovementioned book. (Also, Huxley advocates a better society in which its denizens would periodically trip on peyote or LSD for better contentment and complacency, even if they had to be made to trip by force--which makes one recall some of the soma scenes in Brave New World in a slightly altered light.) This is unfotunate, because I wonder if Huxley might have come off as less douchey if e'd transferred some of those thoughts to the adjoined Heaven and Hell, which was an interesting essay on vision and Other Worldly experienes produced by and in works of chemistry and art. He focuses a lot on the historicl regard and use of lighting (the flood light seems to be a personal favorite of his), color, and reflective substances, on their potential sublime qualities and their increasingly current degradation thanks to familiar indifference.
Heaven and Hell also comes with a series of little appendices elaborating on mostly sme different artists and artistic techniques, with a couple that look a visions experienced in past a present due to various chemical imbalances in the body. Which, as he points out, may explain why nowadays we seem to live in a much less fantastic or miraculous world.