The Worm at the Heart of the Tower in Merrily We Roll Along

This post is one in a series on friendship, explored through the lenses of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along and C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves.In high school, I took a survey history course on the Middle East, which ran in reverse.  We started at the present day, and worked our way backwards, with a sense of suspense to discover the cause of the war whose consequences we had learned in the last lecture.  Merrily We Roll Along follows a similar format, spooling out its story back … [Read more...]

Three Priestesses Deciding Whom to Sacrifice

There are three priestesses at the heart of Max Gladstone's newest book in his Craft Sequence, Full Fathom Five, and none of them fit easily into the traditional split of Maiden, Mother, Crone.In his last book, Two Serpents Rise, the action took place in a city that had thrown out its gods and had replaced it with a more mechanical means of keeping communion flowing between souls.  This book also takes place in a city without gods (Kavekana's gods went out to the wars, and never made it ba … [Read more...]

An Exhaustion with Epics

I finished Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments hexalogy this week when I reached the end of City of Heavenly Fire, and I'm awfully frustrated.  This series hit the same problem a number of epic books and movies have been causing for me:I'm tired of reading another story where possible outcomes are either the death of everyone on earth (and possibly associated worlds/dimensions) or the happily ever after.  It makes it pretty darn easy to guess what the answer is going to be.Plus, as t … [Read more...]

In the Moral Landscape, There Still Be Dragons

Sam Harris has announced the winning entry in his contest for critiques of The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.  The winner (from a philosophy M.A. and blogger at Point of Controversy) is the obvious complaint, which seems just.  Here's an excerpt: First, your analogy between epistemic axioms and moral axioms fails. The former merely motivate scientific inquiry and frame its development, whereas the latter predetermine your science of morality’s most basic findings. Epis … [Read more...]

Books that Love Books

I finished two novels recently, neither of which I would urgently recommend to someone, but both of which were clearly written by people in love with language, and, as I expect that describes some of my commenters, I wanted to give you all a heads up, in case you'd like to check them out at your local library.  I'm glad I read both of these, but I read a lot faster than average, so the opportunity cost of a book is low for me.  I think what I want to do most is to have coffee with the a … [Read more...]

Asperger’s and the Arts

Hot on the heels of that excellent NYT piece on the autistic boy whose family learned to communicate with him through Disney, there's a really wonderful essay up on Medium by Rachel Edidin on storytelling, empathy, and the difficulty of communication.  There are a lot of passages I'd be inclined to blockquote, but I'll stick to just these two: My homework this week has been to look at the very few relationships in which I feel comfortable talking about my feelings—especially negative fee … [Read more...]

If Only Angels Would Prevail: The Ballad of Sweeney Todd

The Pope Francis bookclub post will run on Wednesday, since the chapter seemed apropos for the beginning of Lent.In a time when Hollywood is producing gritty remakes of well nigh everything, it might be appropriate to look back at one of my favorite works on how to live in an irrevocable corrupt world.  Today, at Ethika Politika, I'm discussing the tragic love that the Demon Barber of Fleet Street still bears the Moral Law in Sweeney Todd. Bond’s Sweeney, when confronted by bloodshed, has a … [Read more...]