Addendum to best books of 2019 list

Here is the original non-fiction list, the original fiction list, and these are my post-Thanksgiving additions:

Emmanuel Todd, Lineages of Modernity.

John Barton, A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book.

Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Herself Alone, volume three.

Susan Gubar, Late-Life Love: A Memoir.

Bernardine Evaristo. Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel.  The Booker co-winner and yes the focus of black women’s gender-fluid lives in Britain sounds too PC, but I was won over.  There is a Straussian reading of it as well.

Elizabeth Strout, Olive, Again: A Novel.

On the classical music front, Jean-Paul Gasparian’s Chopin CD is one of the best Chopin recordings ever, which is saying something.

The list of add-ons is I think a bit shorter than usual, which suggests that other people’s “best of” lists are declining somewhat in quality.  In essence I construct this add-on list by ordering the items off other people’s lists which I am not already familiar with.  I didn’t find so many undiscovered-by-me winners this time around, the Gubar and Strout being the main choices I drew from the discoveries of others.


"In essence I construct this add-on list by ordering the items off other people’s lists which I am not already familiar with."

In other words, Tyler has become a sentient meta search engine. We don't need AI when we have real I.

But surprising Tyler didn't choose to read the co-Booker winner till it was on another's list.

History of the Bible: From the Amazon summary, this book appears to be an historical critical interpretation of both old and new testaments, a tall order since the two were written for a different audience, at a different time, and for a different purpose. But I have downloaded the audible version so I can listen to it on my long holiday driving travels. For Christians, I suggest a somewhat different approach. I'd read Bart Ehrman's textbook on the new testament and then read his dozens of books on selected topics from the new testament. Ehrman's dozens of lectures are also available online and can be found with a Google search. I would also watch Dale Martin's introductory class on the new testament at Yale, which is available on i-tunes university. Both Ehrman (who was a fundamentalist but is now agnostic) and Martin (who was a fundamentalist but is now, ahem, an Episcopalian) teach the new testament from an historical critical perspective. The two are best friends. Erhman also has debated many fundamentalists, debates that are available online, but I don't find those debates very interesting or educational. I mean, how does one debate the question whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. For the religious perspective, I suggest lectures and books by N.T. (Tom) Wright, a former Anglican bishop, which are available online. Of course, if one prefers to listen to heretics (atheists), I suggest lectures by Richard Carrier (he is a new testament scholar, unlike, for example, Sam Harris, a much more famous atheist).

Maybe Barton thinks that the NT is so loaded with allusions to the OT that he'd rather discuss both in the same book.

Ehrman's expertise is in textual criticism: an expert on the work itself. This is fine as far as it goes, but it tends to make for a very narrow focus.

While almost nothing is known about Christ outside of the text of the NT, there is a lot known about what was going on in the near surround.

Yes, his mentor was Bruce Metzger, considered the greatest textual critic of the 20th century. I love this stuff.

IMO, reading them separately is a big mistake. You can’t understand either of them in isolation. That would be like watching a sequel of a movie without having seen the first one. You can do it but you miss so many things.

Authors of the NT viewed the OT as prophecy, prophecy of the Messiah Jesus, prophecy that stretches the imagination to say the least. Many of the early Christian scholars even rejected the OT, Marcion being the most well-known; indeed, Marcion believed the God of the OT was not the same God as the God of the NT. And of course much of the NT is antisemitic, which is strange when one considers that Jesus and His Disciples were observant Jews.

Some of the NT comes across as anti Semitic when viewed in isolation... that’s my point. And Marcion... he is one of the fathers of heretics that thought he could invent interpretations whole cloth.

Brothers and sisters, stand firm. Hold fast to the teachings that were passed onto you... whether by word of mouth or by letter.

I'm a faithful Christian, which means people like Ehrman don't threaten my beliefs because my beliefs run deep. My faith is strengthened by a better understanding of the history and context of the NT. As for the early Christians, all of them were inventing interpretations whole cloth. Indeed, some of today's evangelists, today's heretics, are inventing interpretations whole cloth.

My beliefs on not threatened by the critical method... my point was that it’s unwise to separate the study of the NT from the OT.

Of course people like Credo, Marcion, Valentinius, etc would espouse the separation of them and hold anti Semitic points of view. They were students of Simon Magus (the father of heresy).

Simon Magus (see Acts 8 etc) was a greedy magician that sought buy the power of the Holy Spirt from the Apostles. He then appears to convert but eventually bough a slave/prostitute, married her, and called himself the Christ and represented himself as Zeus and his wife Hellen as Athena. Gods on earth. Based on his gnostic POV, Simon rejected the Yaweh of the OT as an inferior evil God... hence his rejection of the OT. Further, being a Samaritan, he always held a biased view of the Jews and also blamed for falling for the lies of the false God of the OT.

Interpretations where not originally invented. They were weighed against the oral teaching of the Apostles... the magisterium, the sacred tradition that came from the Apostles. It’s no surprise people like Marcion (beginning way back with Simon Magus who had many confrontations with them) reject the Apostles... they do so because their teachings were inconsistent with the sacred tradition/oral teachings of the Apostles. The heretics (at least at their origin) believed Simon Magus was the Christ and that the Hebrew God of the OT was not the Heavenly Father described by Jesus but rather was an evil demiurge. His teachings were utterly despised by the Apostles and their students because they claimed he made it up. Simony (the purchase of office) in the Church is in fact named after Simon.

Hence by the time of St Paul’s preaching (50-60 AD) we already see in his letters the admonition to hold fast to the traditions and oral teachings passed on from the apostles (see for example 2 thes 2:15). We also see in St Johns first epistle (for example 1 John 4:1-3) the warning to the students of the Apostles that false teachers can be identified by their belief that Jesus never took ok human form (it was just an illusion)... a gnostic belief espoused by the very same Simon, Credo, Marcion etc.

We can identify false teachers very much in the same way today... those teaching things that are inconsistent with the magisterium/sacred tradition/teaching of the Apostles.

The problem today is that people read sacred scripture separately (OT without NT and vice versa) and without any context or with sacred tradition.

" Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel. "
since when is a deviant a "correct" social role

"Say Nothing" by Patrick Radden Keefe

Derek Thomson, Where's My Flying Car?:

I have commented many times that people will look back on this era and ask: What were they thinking?

So, two more novelists with colon envy. I don't recall Graham Greene needing those

Does a 'Straussian' reading always imply a 'Straussian' writing?

My holier than thou eco warrior hypocrisy forbids me from buying a paper book. Only online web fiction for me.

If you are not reading the books at you are missing out on the greatest literary trend of this century. Thus is disrupting and disintermediating the publishing business. Nowadays I only read Litrpg like the kids do now. Litrpg is as important to the 21st century as the novel was to the 20th. Besides the simulation hypothesis demands that we write stories about being in a game like simulation.

Ah, once again a Straussian reading. I've googled the phrase several times over the last year or so and always come up with the Wikipedia entry on Leo Strauss, which is not all that helpful.

OK, so texts have multiple, layered meanings, etc. Who doesn't know that? It's Contemporary Critical Theory 101. Hidden meanings are a dime a dozen. Back in 1963 Frederick Crews parodied a variety of critical methods under the title, The Pooh Perplex: A Student Casebook. He produced a new batch of parodies in 2001, Postmodern Pooh.

This time out, however, I hit pay dirt, an exchange of letters in the NY Review of Books from April of 1986 entitled "Further Lessons of Leo Strauss: An Exchange". First of all, it seems the exchange had been going on since October of 1985, so it was hot stuff in its time. There are four letters in this round of the exchange. The first is by Gregory Vlastos, a name I remember from my undergraduate days, though I've never read anything by him. I'll quote his last paragraph in full:

Not least of the merits of his review [Burnyeat’s of Strauss, which, I gather, started this whole exchange] is that he keeps his cool. This enables him to give credit to the Strauss to whom high credit is due. An early work of his published in 1936 (English translation from the German: The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, Oxford University Press) ranks with the finest work on Hobbes produced in my lifetime. Its scholarship is solid from beginning to end, daring and provocative, but never eccentric. There is no sign here of the delusion that the classics of political philosophy were meant to be read as palimpsests—strange aberration in a noble mind. I trust that Burnyeat’s mention of this first, powerful and eminently sane contribution to the history of ideas, not yet distracted by the search for concealed meanings, may win for it many readers both in and outside the ranks of true believers.

The exchange makes for interesting reading even if you aren't familiar with the earlier rounds, much less with the book (by Strauss) at the center of the discussion.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine whether or not the practice Straussian reading is sufficiently well-defined so as to support a parody of the kind Frederick Crews has so generously supplied for Winnie the Pooh.

TLDR. Please give an "executive summary" worthy of Donald Trump.

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