Like Our Age

Although a few sections of Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age are gratingly detailed, especially when describing the complicated humbuggery of embezzling ‘tycoons,’ this novel often reads like an Axios News analysis of our contemporary social-political state of affairs. Enhanced by Twain’s acerbic wit and sarcasm, the novel resonates in our own times as well as the period in which the story takes place. Grift, patronage, theft, and abuse of power, among many forms of corruption, dominate most interactions between major characters. Adding some love, light, and drama to the wretchedness are romantic situations among younger characters, but dark motives and … Continue reading Like Our Age

The Power of Place – ‘A Month in Siena’ by Hisham Matar

Having lived near Siena for a relatively longer time than Hisham Matar’s sojourn, which he eloquently describes in “A Month in Siena,” I appreciate his experiences there. As a college student, my encounters with the city were more with people than with a conscious engagement with art and architecture. So, I loved “living” there again through his eyes and his immersion in Siena’s interior life. Goodread’s book description summarizes this work well–[ ]. I’d like to add a few passages from the book to that summary: I loved his description of Siena’s central square, La Piazza del Campo, where … Continue reading The Power of Place – ‘A Month in Siena’ by Hisham Matar

On Walks Through Autumns

Pico Iyer–journalist, essayist, unintentional (?) philosopher–quotes several thinkers in his book Autumn Light, an exploration of losses and other turning points in his life. Referring to Thomas Merton’s ‘Fire Sermon’ in response to death or estrangement among family and friends, he says life itself is a burning house. To what then can we cling? Merton’s answer: “Only the certainty that nothing will go according to design; our hopes are newly built wooden houses, sturdy until someone drops a cigarette or match.” An appropriate reference in the context of his return trip to his alternate home in Nara, Japan, where fires … Continue reading On Walks Through Autumns