Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Reading

Once reason I was happy to see the end of the spring semester, besides getting a few more credit hours under my belt, was I would get to read what I wanted in my spare time. Originally, I intended to continue the readings that we didn't have a chance to cover in the textbook for Aesthetics (PHI 439), "Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art," by Lamarque and Olsen. Meanwhile, new books continued to accumulate from library sales, thrift stores, and church rummage sales - bargains I just couldn't pass up, even being extremely choosy, as I've already run out of room on the bookshelves. This meant I was only able to quickly browse through the new acquisitions. I did stick to a couple, though, through at least past the half-way mark.

Jimmy Buffet's "A Pirate Looks at Fifty," is an amusing sort-of-a-memoir in the light-summer-reading genre, centered on a tour around the Caribbean in his personal seaplane to celebrate his 50th birthday. One of the best parts of his life story revolve around his tale of his earlier seaplane crash in Long Island Sound. He credits his survival to a week's worth of Navy survival training that he had to go through to ride an F-16 out to an aircraft carrier. The problem is the book is over ten years old so now he's a pirate looking at sixty or more. And, I don't think there's room in the world for any more sixty-year old pirates, because Keith Richards of the Stones already holds that title.

Witold Rybczynski (wish I could use his last name in Scrabble when I get a tray full of consonants, but proper names are against the rules), professor of architecture at McGill University, produced a gem of a little book in "The Most Beautiful House in the World." In it he traces the evolution and construction of his own house south of Montreal. Along the way he makes these pleasant side excursions and forays into the historical precedents of architecture and building, and ties the whole thing together into one neat package.

"Socialism in America" by Irving Howe, is a small hardcover library discard that I came across, tracing the history and implications of the movement in the USA. In the early years of the 19th century, especially in the west and midwest, during the era of Big Business, Big Railroads, and the Big Trusts, the little people in the factories, mines, and out on the farms were being squeezed unmercifully. Socialism was a booming and wide-spread populist reaction to all of this, concurrent with the translations of Marx and Engles' works into English in the late 1890s. Socialist rallies matched the temperance and religious revival movements in attendance and enthusiasm. Howe continues on to analyze the movement and why it hasn't succeeded here, and what it will take for it to succeed.

Last but not least, there's "Italian Baroque and Rococco Architecture," by John Varriano. I think I like this book not just for its content but because of the gold 19th-century typeface on its cover and its oversized glossy pages, which give a softcover like this a feeling of quality. My, how times change. It's hard to believe that the expansive Baroque architect, Borromini, now considered a brilliant designer, had no influence in his own time and was actually reviled, called "a complete ignoramus, the corrupter of architecture, the shame of our century" (54). Funny how one century's fool is another century's genius, and vice versa.


My lookie said...
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Andy Egizi, Program Coordinator said...

think I'll look for the Witold Rybczynski book. My wife works for the American Institute of Architects. She's taught me a thing or two about the field, some of which is only tangentally related to a building. For example, she told me a few years ago about green roofs - planting a roof to save on energy costs - and now we have one on the UIS campus.