This I Believe: the personal philosophies of remarkable men and women. For book group. Mostly, they are nice. The only one that has given me to think is William F. Buckley, who says,
I've always liked the exchange featuring the excited young Darwinian at the end of the nineteenth century. He said grandly to the elderly scholar, "How is it possible to believe in God?" The imperishable answer was, "I find it easier to believe in God than to believe that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop." That rhetorical bullet has everything -- wit and profundity.
Come on. Yes, if atheism means that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop, then atheism is nonsense. But atheism does not mean that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop. Here's what I believe, Mr. Buckley: you should not argue against someone else's position unless you know what it is. And if you cannot say what it is in a statement that your opponent agrees is true, you do not know what it is.
• What did you recently finish reading?
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini
Content notes: A poor man sells a baby to a rich woman. Two "mercy killings" of disabled people by their long-term caregivers.
There are a lot of twos in this book: Two disfigured little girls. Two highly privileged young men who have a brief but intense connection to someone whose desperate state inspires a mercifully fleeting desire to become a better person. Two people who spend decades with the object of their unrequited, unspoken love. I think this must be some literary technique at work, reflecting or reinforcing the main pairing: two women named Pari, one of whom used to imagine the other was her invisible identical twin.
There are sibling or sibling-like relationships in all the stories in this book. The ones between people who are actually present in each other's lives are strong but unsatisfying, as real relationships tend to be. The ones that are broken or only imagined are far more compelling than reality.
If I weren't reading it for book group, I wouldn't have gotten very far with its mood of longing for a different, better world combined with the futility of making any changes in this one.
No Man's Nightingale, by Ruth Rendell. Satisfactory. Inspector Wexford is old, and he investigates things as an old man would. He putters around. He is reminded of things. He thinks about the way things used to be. He forgets things. He remembers them again. Not very exciting, but I enjoy it. It confused me that two of the main suspects (and one minor character) were men with the initials D.C. I know real life is confusing that way, but fiction doesn't have to be.
The House on Fortune Street, by Margot Livesey.
Content notes: Suicide. Infidelity. One of the four sections is from the point of view of a pedophile, though there is no sexual content involving a child.
This book is preoccupied with the question: When is love wrong?
Interesting. Well-written. Very sad.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
Maybe Three Parts Dead, for SF bookgroup.
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