Thursday, December 18, 2014

"The Annals" - Tacitus

Yes, I'm still alive.

I had an extremely hard time getting through this book which is the sole reason for my extended absence. There were a few reasons I found this book hard to get through, but the main reason is that I found it really dry. Where Herodotus told history in an entertaining and story-like manner, Tacitus merely reported events matter-of-fact. It might make for a more accurate record of past events, but it's far less enjoyable to read. My eyes glazed over many, many times while reading.

Another reason that may have contributed to my dislike for the book is my persistent dislike of Rome. Maybe it's because of early exposure to the New Testament and Asterix comics, but I have a hard time seeing Rome as anything but a villain. While the Greeks weren't angels, there is enough for me to love that I have developed  a huge soft spot for them, but I have never developed such a soft spot for the Romans. Indeed, most of the "characters" in the Annals were either despicable people or their victims. The injustice was sometimes hard to read.

Still there were bright spots in the sea of monotony that was the Annals. For example the Annals is the first non-Christian source to mention Jesus, albeit in a decidedly unsympathetic light - at least regarding his followers, there is also an account of Britain's warrior queen Boudica (I was cheering on the "barbarians" in the wars mentioned), there were some interesting legal or political dilemmas, there was an endearing moment when Tacitus apologized to his readers for having to go into boring details.

So, overall, the Annals was not a favourite of mine, but I am excited to finally start moving ahead again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Just a quick update: I think I'm going to stop recording my thoughts on the books I read each month. I might start it back up again in the future, but lately I haven't been feeling the desire to record my thoughts on every book I read. I'll continue to record my thoughts on the Great Books and thus keep this blog alive, but I'm going to throttle back on blogging.

Speaking of the Great Books, yes I am still reading them, but definitely at my own pace. I'm slowly making my way through the Annals of Tacitus right now. It isn't the most readable book in my opinion, but I'll get it done eventually.

Also, I have closed my second blog "Waiting for the King". The reason being that I am now writing for and I have transitioned the posts I have already written and will continue to write about King Arthur in the media there.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Book Read in July 2014

Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell

The second book in Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles was told almost episodically in four parts. The first part was about a war against the Saxons. The second part was a Grail Quest of sorts, re-imagined as a quest to find a pagan cauldron, one of the Treasures of Britain. I found the first two parts underwhelming. Battles get boring to read after a while and this version of the Grail Quest, stripped of all its symbolism and mysticism, was just a prosaic retelling of a fascinating story. Luckily, the last two parts made up for it. The first was about Britain during a short, but peaceful time and the second was about Lancelot's rebellion and Guinevere's betrayal of Arthur. This is when the themes of the gods vs. kings and order vs. chaos really got a chance to shine and the results were fascinating. I love Cornwell's writing style. It's very readable, but also obviously well-researched. I did find it a bit funny that by making Lancelot such a scumbag, the conflict between him and Arthur was a lot more black-and-white than it was in the legends. All of the despicable characters were lumped together conveniently on one side. That's not to say this book in its entirety is black-and-white by any means, but I just thought it was interesting because modern re-tellings like this usually try to make things more "morally complex" than the originals.

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Elements" [Book I]

I went through the first book of Euclid's Elements using a pen, ruler, protractor, compass etc. and followed his instructions in each proposal. It was fun at first, but became somewhat tedious around the middle of the book. What I found interesting about Elements is how many mathematical laws were proposed and problems solved without the use of complex calculations. I used a calculator a couple of times, but it wasn't necessary. The first book dealt mostly with triangles, angles, and parallelograms. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Books Read In June 2014

The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth

During the first couple chapters (or "books"), I was surprised at how readable this history was. However, after a while, as countless kings rose and fell, I began to get restless. Luckily things picked up once Arthur entered the scene for the last few chapters. This books is one of the earlier appearances of Arthur in literature and much of the romance of later Arthurian tales is absent. There's no Round Table, no knights in the traditional sense (although some familiar faces such as Gawain and Kay turn up), no Lady of the Lake etc. while some of it is present such as Merlin and Excalibur (here named Caliburn). This was an interesting if ultimately dry book, which I am glad to have read but am in no hurry to re-read. I learned some very interesting things about the English mythos pre-Arthur - for example I learned that the Britons were thought to be descended from Aeneas, survivor of Troy and founder of Rome - as well as the origins of Arthurian legend, though of course Arthur's roots go much further.

The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis

The Discarded Image is a fascinating look at the beautiful and elegant - though scientifically inaccurate - worldview of the Middle Ages. Many would say that learning about a disproved theory of the universe is pointless, but I am very glad I read this book. Scientifically, there doesn't seem to be much point in having any more than a basic understanding of the medieval model of the universe, but this is a book written for those interested in medieval literature and this book provides a backdrop for said literature. However, the medieval model is a thing of such beauty and a product of a philosophy so different from our own, I would recommend this book to anyone simply as an exercise in stretching the mind. Lewis paints a vivid picture of the medieval model, discussing everything from the medieval views on the planets, to the four elements and humours, humanity, animals, and so on. Lewis is also keen on disproving misconceptions about medieval thought such as the idea that the medievals thought the universe was small and local when in fact they thought that the stars were unimaginably distant and the scandalous idea that the medievals thought the earth was flat when nearly every educated person knew that the earth was round. This was a fantastic book and is sure to get many re-reads from me.

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

This is the first book in the Warlord Chronicles, a retelling of the King Arthur set in the historical setting of the "real Arthur" - if he ever existed. Because of the Dark Age setting the knights are replaced by 6th century warriors, chivalry is replaced by a more rough warrior's honour, and motte-and-bailey fortresses rather than stone castles. Although my heart lies with the idealized version of Arthurian legend, I found this book very interesting and enjoyable. I liked the authenticity of the setting and I liked how cleverly Cornwell weaved myth into history. You can easily imagine how the Arthur story as we now have it grew out of these "real" events. The protagonist Derfel was easy to connect with and I found Cornwell's takes on Arthur, Guinevere, and Nimue fascinating. All three were very well fleshed out and felt like real people. However, I wasn't happy with Cornwell's portrayal of Lancelot. He is portrayed as a vain, arrogant, despicable coward who paints himself as a warrior. While I appreciate the cleverness of this portrayal (can't you just see how the legends of Lancelot would come about if this was how he really was) and I recognize that my dislike is subjective, it pained me because Lancelot is my favourite character and my hero. This was basically like seeing him slandered.

"Politics" [Books III-V]

This reading took longer than expected (I largely blame the World Cup), and because of this I'm anxious to move on so I'll keep my thoughts on Politics brief.

These three chapters had a lot going on. Because Aristotle's writing is so pithy, I felt like the information I was taking in was soon being pushed out by new information. I would have liked either a teacher or a reading group to help dig deeper into Aristotle's ideas. The result is I feel like I haven't learned as much from these chapters as I would have liked.

The main focus of these chapters is a comparison of the three major forms of government: monarchy (the rule of one), aristocracy (rule of few), and democracy (rule of the people).

Some things I found interesting:

  • Following the principle he laid down in Ethics that virtue is the mean between excess and deficiency, Aristotle said that it isn't good to be rich or poor, but to have moderate wealth. I very much agree with him. In my opinion, if you have too much or too little money, it will run your life.
  • Aristotle said that democracy is built on the assumption that, because citizens are equal in one area (i.e. freedom), they are equal in all areas. Oligarchy is built on the assumption that those unequal in one way (i.e. wealth) are unequal in all ways.
  • Towards the end Aristotle explained how power is preserved in a tyranny (i.e. a ruler who rules for his own self-interest rather than for the general good and not from laws). If a tyrant is to preserve his power, he must stop any one of his subjects rising above the others, he must not allow groups of his subjects to meet in secret, he must always keep his subjects in view and know what they are up to, and not allow his subjects to get to know each other well lest they form factions against him. I found this part particularly chilling because I recognize these features in dystopian societies in fiction and also totalitarian states in the real world.
  • Aristotle didn't seem to prefer one form of government over the other and even suggested that one government may work well in one situation and with one group of people but not with another.
Overall, I found this book a lot more practical than Plato's Statesman and I could easily see myself re-reading this book more in-depth in the future.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New Blog!

I have started a second blog, "Waiting for the King". The blog's focus will be the new Arthurian film series in development. I will report news and then give my thoughts on it. I might also review old Arthurian films and television shows. Click here to visit my new blog.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Books Read in May 2014

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz  (re-read) by L. Frank Baum

File:Wizard title page.jpgI re-read this book shortly after re-watching the 1939 movie adaptation. I had read it once before when I was younger, but I wanted to read it again to see how it differed from the movie. Even though there were some major differences, I was surprised at just how well I knew the story. I realized it was because of the countless hours playing the board game as a child. Even though none of the additional plot elements surprised me, there were some key differences I noticed. For one, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion are not dumb, cold, and cowardly. In fact the Scarecrow is the smartest, the Tin Woodman is the most tenderhearted, and the Lion is the most brave. It isn't a story about them gaining these qualities, but discovering they had them all along. It could be argued that the same moral was in the movie, but the characters were portrayed inconsistently. In the book, all three characters embody the qualities they long for throughout the book In the movie the Tin Woodman is always tenderhearted, but the Lion is undoubtedly a coward, and while the Scarecrow doesn't seem especially smart, he doesn't seem especially stupid either. I thought the book made more sense. The book also never gives the impression that Oz was a dream. This was a bit of a relief, because while I liked the character doubles (the three hired hands for Dorothy's three companions and Miss Gulch for the Wicked Witch of the West; all absent from the book), I never liked the idea of Oz being a dream. None of this is to slam the movie by any means. It's one of the best movies of all time in my opinion.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Before now Ed Catmull has slipped below my radar. I knew he was one of the founding members and was instrumental in the technical development of computer animation, but because he isn't involved in the actual storytelling at Pixar Animation Studios, I undervalued his importance. After reading Creativity, Inc. - basically Catmull's how-to guide for running a successful creative company - I realized just how big an impact Catmull has had on Pixar's success. After Pixar had established themselves as an established studio, Catmull felt a sense of letdown, because he felt like the fight was over. However, he later found new purpose in preserving Pixar's unique creative environment - the true magic of Pixar. Even though I don't plan on running a creative company - or any other company for that matter - I still found relevance in Catmull's wisdom. Some of the big takeaways were that change is not only inevitable, but something to be embraced (a lesson I badly need to learn), the importance of honesty, and the importance of listening to others' opinions no matter their rank. They seem like simple lessons, but I can imagine how poorly they are implemented in the "working world". This book also gave me a renewed sense of confidence in Pixar's future. Even though Pixar seems to be in a mini rut, after reading Creativity, Inc., I am confident that they can get out of it.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"On Interpretation"

On Interpretation gave me flashbacks to high school. I remember learning about grammar, parts of speech etc. in high school felt like nothing but a waste of time to me. It made sense in elementary school, but in high school it felt like learning useless information, learning what now came intuitively to me. I could read and write just fine without having to think of the rules of grammar.

Reading On Interpretation made me realize that I no longer think that continuing to learn the rules of grammar (after it has become intuitive) is a complete waste of time, because it is helpful both for clarity of thought and for analysis purposes. And there's always knowledge for knowledge's sake, I suppose. I still find it a boring and often superfluous topic though.

I don't have much else to say for this one.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Are We All Created Equal... And What Does That Even Mean?

I wrote down a rant this afternoon and thought I'd post it (with a few minor alterations to make it more polite):

I doubt whether the question “Are we equal?” has any meaning. If the question means are people equal in the same way that two and two is equal to four, the answer is an obvious “No”. Every person is unique and anyone who denies this self-evident fact is delusional. So what does it mean? Are some people “better” than others? Again, one person will be stronger, smarter etc. than another person. People can become smarter, stronger etc. with practice and through will power, but genetics definitely play a role in determining the development of certain characteristics. Nature, nurture, and choice all play a role in our identity. I assume that by one person being better than another, we’re talking about the sum total of attributes. Many will say that one person is good at A while another person is good at B, therefore they’re both equal. I still don’t think this is true. Is A of equal importance than B? What’s to say A is better than B? And we’re not only comparing two qualities, but the sum total of a person’s attributes. Anyone who thinks they can successfully quantify the level of each of a person’s attributes is fooling themselves. It’s hardly an exact science and I see no way to successfully do it. Also, judging a person is folly, because we can’t see what is going on inside their heads or the raw psychological or emotional raw material they are working with. If the question of equality has any meaning, I very much doubt it’s a question we can answer. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much a believer in equal treatment under law for every individual, sex, race etc., but I also don’t believe that the idea that “All men are created equal” is any more than a legal fiction, an idea created by man. If you tell me that we can’t judge, generalize, or successfully determine whether one person is “better” (whatever that means) than another person I am with you, but if you tell me that everyone is exactly the same as everyone else, I cannot agree.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Statesman": Who Watches the Watchmen?

A lot of interesting thoughts went through my head as I read Plato's Statesman. This dialogue mainly consists of an unnamed visitor and another Socrates (not Plato's teacher) attempting to define a statesman.

In the first part of the dialogue, the young Socrates and the visitor narrow down what a statesman is by dividing categories into two and then selecting which one applies to the statesman. Their conclusions at this point are that the statesman possesses a specialized theoretical knowledge related to statesmanship (as a doctor possesses a specialized knowledge in the art of medicine) and that a statesman is a herdsman of sorts over his people.

From there the dialogue takes an unexpected and fascinating turn. Plato outlines a view that seemed very mythological and I'm not sure how much of this was traditional Greek mythology and how much of it is the speculation of philosophers. Of all the parts of the dialogue this was the section I most wanted extra clarification on. This is how it went, as much as I understood it: In the previous age, the Age of Cronus aka the Golden Age, the world was under control of "the god" and humanity was taken care of by him as a divine herdsman. Everything necessary for humanity's survival was provided for by the god, without humanity needing to work for it. There was also no need for political institutions. Then the rotation of the world reversed (whatever that means), the world entered its present age, and was no longer taken care of by the god but was run by itself Epicurean-style. Because humanity now had to take care of itself, gifts were given to humanity to aid them (e.g. fire from Prometheus, crafts from Hephaestus). 

There are a lot of interesting implications and connections with other things here. I just wish I knew more about the origin of these ideas. I'll have to research it some time.

After this, the three major forms of government - monarchy (rule of one), aristocracy (rule of few), and democracy (rule of the people) - are defined and it is decided that the art of the statesman must reside in one person, or at most a few, because specialized knowledge, the attribute that defines the statesman, cannot be possessed by everyone. 

The nature of laws are then discussed. It is decided that written laws can never adequately express justice, because situations change and every situation is different. Rather laws serve as general rules, and the ideal statesman is able to operate outside of them if needed to implement justice, as a doctor will sometimes go outside of general practice guidelines depending on the patient. At about this time my spidey-sense started tingling. Surely, no man can be trusted with this level of authority?

Plato addresses this. The reason why democracy emerged and laws are treated as, well, law is because statesman have abused their power. Plato wasn't a fan of democracy, because it was the democratic process that led to his teacher Socrates' death. The end result of the dialogue is pretty impractical. The dialogue, it seems, is devoted to defining an ideal that, to my eyes at least, will never be realized by a mere mortal. It seems that the statesman Plato is describing would have to be more than human. In true Platonic fashion, rule by this ideal statesman is the ideal form of government, which all other forms of government are a copy or imitation of. I  think I agree with Plato, at least as far as this dialogue goes, that the rule of a wise and good statesman would be the best form of government, but unfortunately I don't think he currently walks among us. Ultimately, I side with democracy, but I do so with a heavy heart. I share none of the enthusiasm of someone like Rousseau, because I view democracy largely as a safety check. We can't trust any one person with power, so we must distribute it evenly. It doesn't exactly make me feel good about humanity. Lucky for me I don't place my hope in humanity, but the true Statesman.

This quote from the 51st Federalist Paper went through my mind frequently as I read the Statesman: "The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"The Peloponnesian War"

Herodotus and Thucydides approached history in a different way. Herodotus gathered all of the information he could get about Greece and various other countries that he visited. He often went down rabbit trails and included a variety of details about the subjects he investigated. Thucydides was a lot more focused. He wrote about the Peloponnesian War in a matter-of-fact way and seldom got sidetracked.

Herodotus often wrote about what had happened a long time ago, relying on records, witnesses, legends, and stories. Thucydides, on the other hand, was writing about current events, chronicling the war as it happened.

The end result is that Thucydides is probably a more reliable source, but I thought he was far less enjoyable to read.

The impression I got from history class was that Herodotus was the naive one and Thucydides was skeptical one, the true modern historian, but I think this is being very unfair to Herodotus. First of all Herodotus was skeptical. He included details from myths, legends etc. but always hesitantly and with a disclaimer. It's also unfair because of the time period each historian was dealing with; Thucydides' job would have been a lot easier. I think Herodotus did an admirable job with the resources available to him.

It was also interesting to compare the Persian Wars with the Peloponnesian War. As far as wars go, the Persian Wars were pretty straight forward. The Athenians encouraged their colony in Ionia to revolt against their Persian conquerors and after the revolt, the Persian king became angry and invaded Greece, hoping to conquer the free land of Greece. My sympathies lied almost completely with the Greeks. However, the Peloponnesian War, being a civil war rather than an invasion, was far more morally ambiguous. It reminded me a lot more of the wars and conflicts that have gone on in the world during my lifetime. I wanted to cheer on Athens because I'm biased, but the Athenians and their allies were hardly innocent in this war and neither were the Spartans and theirs.

I'm pretty relieved to be finished with Thucydides. I've been reading him off and on for ages now, because of the demands of school. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Books Read in April 2014

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Although I enjoyed this book, I thought it was by far the weakest of the Bradbury books I've read so far (the others being Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, and Dandelion Wine). Bradbury's writing is brilliant as usual and there were plenty of moments that I loved, but the book as a whole didn't come together for me as much as I would have liked. The imagery wasn't quite as haunting or evocative as the images in The Illustrated Man and it didn't stir my nostalgia like Dandelion Wine or become my bookworm battle-cry like Fahrenheit 451. Regardless, Bradbury's writing is always a pleasure to read, even if I felt a bit relieved when I was finished this one. This is just my opinion, but I think the ideas in Something Wicked This Way Comes could have been used better in a short story or two, because while the ideas were good, they weren't enough to interest me for the entire book. In fact, Bradbury combined a couple of short stories he had already written to make this this book. And by the way, I thought Will's father, Charles Halloway totally stole the show from the two protagonists, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade.

Kings, Bishops, Knights, and Pawns by Ralph Arnold

Kings, bishops, knights, and pawns: Life in feudal society: Ralph Arnold
This was a short book about medieval feudalism. It was written with appreciated sensitivity, as the author tried to put his readers into medieval people's shoes. Granted that feudalism was a system that was often abused and used as a means of injustice, during the Dark Ages it gave much needed stability and security in a chaotic world, following the fall of the Roman Empire. I think the most interesting part of this book for me was actually the section focusing on the lives of peasants. When reading about the Middle Ages, my main interest is in knights, followed by nobility and monks. I have nothing against peasants, I just thought reading about their daily lives would be relatively boring. I was wrong.

The Journey by Kathryn Lasky (re-read)

I found a bunch of Ga'Hoole books at a thrift store and because of this I finally got around to re-reading the second book, The Journey. I'm really enjoying my re-read of this series and I'm already on to the third book. The Journey is a slower book, the first third being about Soren, Gylfie, Twilight, and Digger's journey to the Great Ga'Hoole Tree and the final third being about life in the Tree. The villains of the last book, the owls of St. Aggies, aren't a threat to the characters anymore, and the Pure Ones, the major villains of the series, are only hinted at ominously in this book. In many ways it's a book of setup, getting to know the owls at the Tree, learning how things work at the Tree etc. but the way Lasky writes about the Great Ga'Hoole Tree is so enjoyable that I don't mind.

I've decided to focus on my favourite character Otulissa as I re-read the series and do a mini character study of her. The Journey is the first book Otulissa is in. Otulissa is a Spotted Owl from the Forest Kingdom of Ambala. She apparently fell out of her nest as an owlet, her parents never returned, and she was then rescued by a Ga'Hoole search-and-rescue patrol and brought to the Tree. Otulissa is very proud of her ancient and distinguished lineage and, truthfully, is a snob - often judgmental of those she consider unrefined. She is prim and proper, a teacher's pet, and doesn't know when to shut up. She is also a lover of knowledge and books. Otulissa is convinced that she will be tapped into the navigation chaw, the chaw she considers most prestigious and the chaw her idol and fellow Spotted Owl, Strix Struma, teaches, but is horrified when she's tapped for the decidedly non-prestigious colliering and weather-interpretation double chaw (at Ga'Hoole a "chaw" is an owl's area of specialty, kind of like a career, and owlets are "tapped" or selected for a particular chaw). You may be wondering why such a character would be my favourite. First of all, Otulissa's book smarts immediately make me sympathetic to her and, for whatever weird reason, I have an affinity for snobby characters, so her pretentiousness wasn't as off-putting for me as it would be to most people. I often felt sorry for the snobby characters as a kid, as they're so often the "bad guy" in family movies and usually get tar-and-feathered or some equivalent at the end and all the "good guys" laugh at them. Towards the end of the book I really do feel sorry for Otulissa on a couple of occasions, the most notably when Otulissa clumsily tries to comfort Soren by giveing him bookish information about the condition Soren's delirious sister might be in. Soren snaps at her that she's giving him useless information to which Otulissa, in tears, responds, "Oh dear. None of this is coming out right. I was just trying to be helpful." Otulissa could have so easily been just a foil for Soren and co., but Lasky developed her into a layered and complex character and I respect her for that. Most importantly, this is only the beginning. Otulissa probably goes through the most growth of any character in this series, and does become a rather awesome character later on. I dare anyone not to fall in love with her character if they keep reading.

The Rescue by Kathryn Lasky

Otulissa undergoes significant character development in this book, although a lot of it happens "offscreen". The first sign of the change comes when two of the owlets rescued from the last book are stating their belief that Glaux, the firstborn owl was a Tyto and that all Tytos (Barn Owls, Masked Owls, Sooty Owls etc.) are descended from him. The owlets are speaking as they have been taught by the Pure Ones, the Nazi-like villains of the series, but Otulissa is upset by what the owlets are saying. She firmly tells the owlets that all owls are descended from Glaux, not just Tytos. The main characters are surprised at Otulissa using the phrase "all of us", since she herself seems to believe that Spotted Owls, especially certain ancient families of Spotted Owls, are the best. It could be argued that Otulissa is simply refuting a mistaken belief, which in itself is very characteristic of Otulissa regardless of what the belief is about, but I think it becomes obvious later on that this moment is starting to show a real change in Otulissa. Later on, when the major characters Soren, Gylfie, Twilight, Digger, and Egalntine decide to form the Chaw of Chaws (sort of an updated version of the Band established in the first book to potentially include more owls than just the four) and search for Ezylryb, the missing scholar and weather interpretation ryb, Otulissa, who had apparently been eavesdropping, tells them she wants to join as well. She tells the others that she hates everything she has been hearing about the Pure Ones, and their belief that Tytos are the supreme species of owl. It's a good thing Otulissa joined the Chaw of Chaws on their mission because her  knowledge of metals and higher magnetics was instrumental in finding Ezylryb and destroying the Devil's Triangle created by the Pure Ones. So what caused Otulissa to change? Like I said, it wasn't made explicit, but I think it's safe to say that her time spent at the Great Ga'Hoole Tree softened her ideas of the importance of lineage. It's obvious that Otulissa learned these ideas before coming to the Tree, probably from the culture she was raised in as an owlet, because one of the key virtues of the Tree is humility and most of the Guardians are not pretentious in the least. After spending so much time among such noble owls of a variety of species, many of Otulissa's assumptions must have been shattered. I also think Otulissa being picked for the colliering/weather interpretation chaws was no accident. Being picked for a less prestigious chaw would teach Otulissa the value of certain things that are often less respected and give her a much needed lesson in humility.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Books Read In March 2014

I've been frantically finishing up summative assignments and prepping for tests, so my blog has been low on my priority list of late, but better late than never.

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis (re-read)

While re-reading The Silver Chair this time around, my focus was on the future movie adaptation announced last October. My thoughts were on things like how Puddleglum would be portrayed on screen (CGI? Make-up? Both?), how the Prince Rilian flashback would be handled, whether or not the film-makers should re-imagine the scene where Aslan blows Jill and Eustace down to Narnia (which has the potential to look ridiculous on-screen) etc. I also made sure to understand the most important themes, so I could criticize any changes made accordingly. I would say The Silver Chair is about doing your duty even when its hard, even when it leads to death. To find the lost Prince Rilian, Jill is given four signs to follow by Aslan. The signs serve as a metaphor for morality and the climax of the story is when the characters choose to trust Aslan and stick to the signs even though it will probably be the death of them. Puddleglum's steadfastness is the heart of the book. Even though he's sure the worst is going to happen, he is going to do the right thing. The Silver Chair is one of the gloomiest books, but also one of the funniest, with a couple laugh-out-loud moments. Assuming the movie gets off the ground, I have a few years of geeky fun ahead of me.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

After reading Brave New World, I have now read the "Big 3" of dystopias, the other two being 1984 and Farenheit 451. Farenheit 451 is still my favourite by far, but I liked Brave New World better than 1984. Brave New World pictures a world where sex is firmly separated from procreation, promiscuity is the new social norm (with monogamy being the new taboo), and eugenics rule. Every generation is grown in test tubes and carefully conditioned to fit neatly into a societal niche. For example the working class babies are given a dislike of books and flowers to keep them from having a desire to read or move to the country. The people in this society are slaves to their predestined roles in society. The book has a lot to do with the suppression of the individual in society, hedonism, and worship of science, though in this society "science" has ceased to be science. Innovations and discoveries are rejected in favour of maintaining the status quo. The society in Brave New World champions stability and happiness. There is the sense that part of our humanity is lost when we no longer have conflict or adversity. We stagnate and cease to really liveThe two main characters are John, a "savage" who lives with a tribe outside of modern society, and Bernard, a dissatisfied member of one of the higher castes. I highly value individuality and I could empathize with Bernard's odd wish to not be so darn useful to the social body, but to be independent, to be me. This may well be a foolish wish, but I can't help but have it. 

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (re-read)

This was a very rewarding re-read. I had been feeling a bit of a spiritual cramp and, while this book wasn't the only thing that got me out of it, it did a great deal. It really reaffirmed a lot of what I believe. Going back to the basics is never outdated. Another thing that hit me was what Lewis said about evil always coming in pairs - an excess and a defect like in Aristotle (and by the way, I saw a lot of philosophical influences in this book from Aristotle, Plato, Kant etc. that I hadn't picked up on before). The point Lewis was making is that politically, we're divided between totalitarianism and individualism, but both will lead to ruin if followed to extremes and what we really need, like usual, is a balance between extremes. This hit me hard, because recently I've been all about individualism as a political theory, but I see now that individualism can't be an end in itself because it would lead to isolation in the same way that totalitarianism as an end in itself would lead to the abolition of the individual. Thank you, Mr. Lewis. I don't know where I'd be without you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"The History" [Book IX: Caliope]: The Persians Defeated

The final book in Herodotus' History, Calliope, is about Persia's final defeat in the Second Persian War. The Persian army, now under the command of Mardonius, are defeated during the battle of Plataea and, with that, the Persian invasion is repelled and Greece remained free. There are events before and after Plataea, of course, but I'm going to keep this post brief. I've talked about Herodotus in four previous posts and Book 9 didn't really give me anything to add to what I've already said.

My reading through the Great Books has slowed almost to a grinding halt due to the demands of school. I fully expect things to pick back up once the semester is over and I have more free time and mental energy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"The History" [Book VIII: Urania]: The Battle of Salamis

My reading of Book VIII of Herodotus' History coincided conveniently with the release of 300: Rise of an Empire. Both are about the Battle of Salamis and the events preceding and following it. Though I likely won't be seeing the movie in theatres, I thought it was an interesting coincidence.

The collective Greek fleet was led by Eurybiades, a Spartan, thought Herodotus devotes more of his writing to Themistocles, the Greek captain. Themistocles is an interesting figure. While he did the Greeks, and by extension Western civilization, a great service by his actions during the Persian Wars, his actions were often done under the table, unbeknownst to his allies. Themistocles took me back to Machiavelli's The Prince - whether the ends justify the means - and Plato's Republic - whether society should be led by enlightened individuals rather than the voice of the people.

I learned about Themistocles and the Battle of Salamis at school, but what I didn't learn was that, after Persia's defeat at Salamis and Xerxes' retreat, Mardonius remained with a force of 300,000 soldiers in a last ditch effort to conquer Greece. Mardonius' fate will presumably be dealt with in Book IX.

Book VIII ended with a Persian envoy trying to entice the Athenians to join in an alliance with Persia and a Spartan envoy trying to keep the Athenians from joining the Persians. The Athenians said to the Persians, "So long as the sun keeps his present course, we will never join alliance with Xerxes. Nay, we shall oppose him unceasingly, trusting in the aid of those gods and heroes whom he has lightly esteemed, whose houses and images he has burnt with fire", and assured the Spartans the needn't have even bothered coming to convince them not to join the Persians.

Ah, I love the Athenians.

Monday, March 3, 2014

"The History" [Book VII: Polymnia]: Xerxes Invades Greece

The seventh book of The History dealt with Xerxes' accession to the Persian throne and his invasion of Greece, culminating in the Battle of Thermopylae. I remember loving learning about the Persian Wars in history class and have been meaning to delve deeper into them for a while now. What's not to love? Greece was the perfect underdog: a relatively small, but free country versus the massive Persian Empire. The vastly outnumbered Greeks withstood the Persian invasion with their minds, through clever battle tactics.

The reading selection (Books 7-9) picks up after Xerxes' father, Darius's invasion of Greece and the famous Battle of Marathon. I'll have to read The History in its entirety some day, because I love Herodotus.

One thing that surprised me was the diversity in Persia's army. Xerxes enlisted soldiers from across his empire, including Assyrians, Indians, Arabians, Ethiopians, Lydians, Egyptians etc. It makes sense, but I guess I never thought about it. It's a pretty cool image and makes the Persian Wars seem even more like they were Greece vs. The World.

Much of the narrative follows Xerxes and his army on their journey to Greece, including an odd but amusing incident along the way. After Xerxes' army built a bridge across the Hellespont, connecting Asia with Europe, the tides rolled in and swept away the bridge. A new bridge was soon built, but not before Xerxes "punished" the Hellespont by whipping it's waters.

When Xerxes approaches Thessaly, Thessaly chooses to side with Xerxes because of insufficient military aid from the southern city-states. Xerxes, then passes through Thessaly, but before his army can reach southern Greece they most pass through Thermopylae, a narrow pass with water on one side and cliffs on the other. Famously King Leonidas led 300 Spartans (plus a few thousand other Greeks) to delay the Persian army at Thermopylae. They were eventually slaughtered of course, but they will live forever in legend. Even though I'm not generally a fan of war-obsessed Sparta (go Athens go!), I have to salute Sparta's inspiring example at Thermopylae.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Books Read in February 2014

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

"Dawn Treader" is a very different book from the first two books in the Narnia series. In "Wardrobe" and Prince Caspian, Narnia is under control of an unlawful tyrant and must be set right by Aslan and the rightful heirs to the throne. In "Dawn Treader", Narnia is at peace and remains so for the entire book - a rare thing indeed for modern fantasy. There isn't even a villain. And yet,"Dawn Treader" may well be the most well written of the first three books. Instead of saving the world, the crew of the Dawn Treader is on a quest of honour to discover what became of the Seven Lost Lords of Narnia, and in the meanwhile drawing closer and closer to the World's End (the Narnian world is flat). Beyond the World's End is Aslan's Country (Aslan is Narnia's Christ-figure), a place Reepicheep the mouse has desperately longed to go to since he was in his cradle. This idea has always resonated deeply within me, because I've been haunted by a sense of longing for another place for about as long as I can remember (and apparently Lewis experienced similar longings for much of his life). The plot of Dawn Treader is episodic, each island resembling a short story, but each island also growing more and more mysterious as the ship nears the World's End. The last three chapters especially gave me a wonderful sense of numinous awe culminating in the revelation that Aslan is in our world too. In some ways "Dawn Treader" is like Paradiso for children (though of course, it would be doing "Dawn Treader" a major disservice to say that it is a book exclusively for children).

The Song of the Nibelungs (unknown author) translated by Frank G. Ryder

In all three of the 12th century epics I've read (The Songs of Roland, the Cid, and the Nibelungs), there has been an interesting interplay between past and present. Each of them portrayed events that occurred hundreds of years prior and interpreted them in light of what was then modern sensibilities (the interesting thing is that, although this fascinates me in medieval literature, modern stories "modernizing" the past is a big pet peeve of mine; I might have felt differently about these stories had I lived when they were written). "Roland" and "The Cid" were heavily influenced by the dawn of the Crusades in the late 11th-12th centuries, a foreign concept previously. "Nibelungs" tells a story that took place in ancient pre-Christian Germany but paints it with the chivalry, courtliness, and Christianity of the 12th century. The result is an interesting mix of brutality and elegance. The story itself feels more ancient than medieval. It reminded me of the Oresteia, a story of revenge and conflicting loyalty, but with medieval ideas like chivalry and vassalage. The characters and their actions were more morally ambiguous than in "Roland" and "The Cid". I had very mixed feelings on all of the main characters, liking some of their qualities but disliking others. This isn't a story of good guys and bad guys, but a realistic portrayal of humanity and the ending is very sad (I don't consider this a spoiler since the author constantly reminds you that things will end badly throughout the poem).

*SPOILER warning*

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

When I heard that this book was about a war between the ancient gods (e.g. Odin, Thoth, Anansi) and the modern "gods" (e.g. Media, Technology), I had high hopes for this book, but after reading it, I have to say it wasn't my cup of tea. I didn't care for the way the gods were portrayed. They were modernized, mundane versions of themselves and I questioned what it was about the gods, as Gaiman wrote them, that America so desperately needed. The qualities of myths that I find so interesting and unfortunately foreign to modern society were not present in Gaiman's gods. What exactly would these burned out fellows do for America if they gained more prominence in the American mind? Maybe I'm missing the point. After all, by the end, and even before then to an extent, the new gods aren't viewed as the bad guys any more than the old gods are viewed as the good guys, so it's not so much a polemic about the modern things that Americans revere, but the fickleness and lack of foundation of their reverence. I also had a hard time caring for the main character, Shadow. There have been emotionally dead, passive characters that I have really connected with in the past, but I had a hard time  connecting with Shadow. He stumbled passively through much of the story and his decisions and attitudes sometimes felt odd to me, so it was hard for me to care. Interestingly though, he reminded me quite a bit of a character I actually did like: Paul Schafer from The Fionavar Tapestry. And finally, I thought it was odd that the monotheistic God was never brought up, except in passing. Saying that America isn't religious is simply wrong (the ironic thing is that the "Old Country" is less religious than America these days), but Americans worship the Christian God, not pagan gods. It felt like a major puzzle piece was missing. The book also felt really long, like a movie that should have been an hour shorter. The last third was interesting, but I was bored through much of the first two thirds. Unfortunately, by the time I reached the last third, I was anxious to be done and didn't appreciate it as much as I could have.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"Prometheus Bound"

For some reason I had always thought Prometheus was human, so it surprised me, while reading Prometheus Bound, to discover that Prometheus was a Titan, because it really does make a difference. The story of Prometheus is beloved by scientists because Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gives it to humanity, similar to how scientists intrude into the realm of the sacred to give knowledge and power to humanity. If Prometheus is a human, then it's a story about humanity outsmarting and flaunting the gods, but if Prometheus is a Titan, then humanity still owes the gods (or the Titans, I suppose) for their success in the long run. Either way, it's a story about the arbitrariness of authority. Not long before the story begins, Zeus had arbitrarily dethroned his father Cronus (who had earlier dethroned his father Uranus) in an example of might makes right. This makes Zeus a tyrant and a hypocrite. Prometheus is being punished by Zeus for flaunting his authority, yet Zeus himself treasonously overthrew Cronus. 

Another surprise was that Prometheus had not only given fire to humanity, he had given them the gift of reason, the attribute that separates men from beasts. Before men had been "senseless as beasts."

Prometheus Bound also reminded me quite a bit of Paradise Lost, although Prometheus was naturally more sympathetic then Satan. I'm sure this play influenced John Milton and I'm sure it's no surprise that Prometheus Bound and Paradise Lost are listed in the same year in the Great Books reading list.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Random Number Survey

I got this idea from the blog, "A Great Book Study"
and I thought it sounded like fun.

Here's how the Random Number Survey works.

1) Pick a number in your head (I picked five).

2) Count that number across your bookshelf (so, I picked the fifth book on my bookshelf). Answer the first question with that book.

3) Count the same number of books from where you left off and answer the second question.

4) Continue until the questions are complete. There are 15 questions.

Here we go...

1. What do you think of the cover?

The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

I rather like the simplicity of the C. S. Lewis signature classics, which is why I choose to collect that particular set. The weigh scales seem like a good fit for The Abolition of Man, because it deals with objective value and our judgment of it. Thumbs up.

2. Write a review in 140 characters or less

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

First book of LOTR "trilogy". Tolkien's classic remains the standard for modern fantasy. Brilliant storytelling and world-builiding. In one word: epic.

3. How or where did you get this book?

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney

I bought this book at Chapters a few months ago.

4. Who's your favourite character in this book and why?

Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Rescue by Kathryn Lasky

OTULISSA! Otulissa is my favourite character in the entire series. For some weird reason, I tend to be partial towards somewhat snobby, aristocratic characters and Otulissa is one of them. Otulissa's love of books and knowledge, pretentiousness, blood thirsty warrior mentality, bravery, and principles combine to make Otulissa the most well developed character in the series and one of my favourite characters of all time.

5. Recommend this book to a fellow blogger you think would like it

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Well... I can't really recommend this because... I haven't actually read it yet. *cough*

I will say that my literature teacher told the few boys in our class (I being one of them), that reading this book is a great way to win a girl's heart. So, I recommend this book to anyone interested in that end.

6. How long ago did you read this book?

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

*checks previous blog entries*

August 2013.

7. Name a favourite scene from this book (no SPOILERS)

Akiko and the Intergalactic Zoo by Mark Crilley

Man, I haven't read this book in years, so it's hard to remember which scenes were my favourite. I'll say any scene where Spuckler and Mr. Beeba are arguing, because it's hilarious.

8. Open to page 87 and pick a random quote to share

Chretien de Troyes' Arthurian Romances

"Then I can truly say to you that the flower that buds from such a graft should be very beautiful and attractive, and the fruit from it all the better to pick; for the product of excellence has a sweet fragrance. Enide is beautiful, and it is right and proper she should be so; for her mother is a most beautiful lady, and in her father one sees a handsome knight. She does not fail to live up to them in any respects, for she closely follows and takes after them both in many ways."

9. How did you hear about or discover this book?

The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis

Long story. When I was about 11 or 12, I was a huge fan of LOTR (I had only seen the movies at that point) when I read a description of "The Chronicles of Narnia". I thought it sounded a lot like LOTR (silly me) and I decided to read it. I picked up The Magician's Nephew, because it looked like it was Book One (once again, silly me). I didn't like it and didn't continue reading the series. I blame this partly on reading The Magician's Nephew as Book One a la chronological order when I should have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first a la publication order and partly on my bad taste back then (I now love The Magician's Nephew). About a year later, I randomly watched the BBC adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, expecting to dislike it. I laugh at the BBC movies nowadays, but the original story shone through enough to make me LOVE it the first time I saw it. I soon rediscovered the book series and the rest is history. I don't like telling this story, because it's long and somewhat embarrassing in hindsight, but there you have it.

10. If you could redesign the cover, what would you do?

The Dark Sea Annals: The Errant King by Wayne Thomas Batson

I actually really like the overall design of this cover. All I would do is try to make it look a little more professional. Something about it looks a little cheap to me, but I'm not sure what exactly.

11. Name your least favourite character in this book and why

Watchmen by Alan Moore

This is a hard question, because not many of the characters in this graphic novel are that likeable, but they are all very interesting (much like the graphic novel itself), so... I'm not sure if the question is which character is the least likeable or the least interesting. Of the main characters, I will say that Edward Blake aka the Comedian is the least likeable to me because he is a rapist and I'll say that Laurie Juspeczyk aka the Silk Spectre is the least interesting to me, because... she is (though that isn't saying much because all of the main characters are very interesting).

12. Fill in the blank. If you like _____ then you should try (your book)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snickett

If you like the previous books in the series, then you should try The Grim Grotto. Not very imaginative, I know, but this is another book I haven't read in years and, from what I remember from my re-read the biggest flaw in these books is how similar they are to each other. The first so many books follow essentially the same plot structure, just in a different setting. Snickett also uses continuing phrases in each book (I'm not saying this as a complaint necessarily, it's actually kind of charming, but it doesn't help the similarity of each book).

13. Name one cool thing about this book (under the dust jacket, map, font, photograph, etc.)

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers by Beatrix Potter

Potter's illustrations, especially the ones coloured with water colours. They remind me of my childhood.

14. Where is it set and would you ever want to visit that world/place?

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (graphic novel) 

A long time ago in a galaxy far,
far away...

Would I want to visit it? Not particularly. It would be cool to be a Jedi, but if I wasn't endowed with the correct Midichlorian count, I'd probably take a pass.

15. Who is it dedicated to?

Greek Realities: Life and Thought In Ancient Greece by Finley Hooper (one of my nonfiction books got mixed in with my fiction)

Finley Hooper dedicates this book to his mother, Lola Allison Hooper.

Monday, February 10, 2014

"On Liberty"

Scool has been keeping me busy, so it took me a while to finish On Liberty. It certainly wasn't from lack of enjoyment. Although political philosophy isn't my favourite topic (it also isn't my least favourite topic), On Liberty was my favourite political philosophy Great Book. I said mental "amens" many a time while reading.

After the introduction in Chapter One, Mill presents an argument for freedom of speech and of the press that was similar to Milton's argument in Areopagitica. One idea I found interesting was Mill's assertion that, even if 99.9% of the population actually want opinions suppressed, the government still shouldn't suppress ideas. This raises an interesting question about democratic government. If Mill is correct, and I agree with him whole-heartedly, then the government is answerable to something other than the voice of the people (because, in Mill's scenario, the voice of the people would have opinions suppressed). 

Mill mentioned another scenario that got me thinking: what if Marcus Aurelius had adopted Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire instead of Constantine? Even before now, I had gotten the sense that Constantine used Christianity for political convenience. Marcus Aurelius, on the other hand, was deeply concerned with philosophy and his own philosophy, Stoicism, had many similarities with Christianity, such as their moralities and the idea of aligning your will with God or the Logos. How would the history of Christianity have gone if it had been adopted into the state by a man with real philosophical convictions like Marcus Aurelius? I don't think mixing Christianity with the secular state is a good idea either way, but it's interesting to think about.

Chapter Three was my favourite. In it, Mill explained the importance of the individual and how, in modern democratic society, it is easy for the individual to get lost in the masses. Innovations propel society forward and most innovations are discovered/created by eccentric people. However modern i.e. 19th century society seems to want all made equal, not only in intelligence but in interests (i.e. we must like what everyone else likes) and the few who dare to be original feel alienated. 

Mill says that it was men of a different sort (i.e. individuals, not the sheep of modern society) that made England great and it would take men of a different sort to keep England from declining. This principle could be applied to the West in general or any other great civilization. Mill said that the stagnation of society in the East is due to lack of individuality, while in the past individuality is what made the West strong. I would suggest that, here in the 21st century, the tables have turned and it is the West, through lack of individuality that is declining and the East, perhaps through rediscovering individuality, is ascending.

Chapter Four discusses the limits of authority society has over the individual. Mill's conclusions, again ones I agree with, is that only actions that directly harm others should be illegal. Otherwise, people should be left to do as they please, even if it brings harm to themselves. Mill also advocates for the separation of Church and State, yet another concept I agree with, by quoting Tacitus: "Injustices to the gods are the concern of the gods".

Chapter Five applies Mill's ideas to various scenarios. Mill accuses state education of both casting people into the same mold. The mold in question creates citizens without individuality and in whatever form the state wishes. Mill understood the need for the state to enforce education, but he didn't think the state should conduct education. In other words, Mill thought education should be an entity, separate from, though required by, the state. I thought this was an excellent idea! Schools would focus more on real education and less about creating "good little citizens" and it just might get the West back on track.

Speaking of which, reading On Liberty made me realize that Libertarianism might just be the political philosophy for me. Although I'm not sure I agree with separating the healthcare system from the state in Canada (and, thus, stopping free healthcare), many of the ideas of the Liberterians speak closely to my heart.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Books Read in January 2014

Knights: In History and Legend edited by Constance Bouchard

The back of this book promises that it is the "most comprehensive book on knights and knighthood available" and it certainly delivers. Although, other books will go into more depth in specific areas of knighthood (e.g. armour, tournaments), this book has the widest scope, while still having impressive depth, of any book on knighthood I have seen. This book is divided into five parts and subdivided into smaller sections. Part One gives a basic introduction to knights, their place in society, an overview of chivalry, the horses they rode, and their impact on the arts. Part Two deals with how knights lived, their training and education, knighting ceremonies, it goes further into chivalry (a nebulous concept and one that never ceases to fascinate me), what knights did when they weren't fighting, where they lived, castles, armour, weapons, warhorses, tournaments, how medieval wars were fought, heraldry, knightly orders (e.g. the Templars, the Order of the Garter), and finally warriors similar to knights in non-European countries (e.g. the Samurai). Part Three outlines the period of history that knights were involved in. It goes from approximately Charlemagne's reign in the 8th Century to the decline of knighthood and covers many important events and wars in between (e.g. the Battle of Hastings, the Crusades). Part Four deals with the cultural legacy of knights and how their influence continues to be felt up until the present: knights in literature, film, television, games, medieval reenactments and festivals, sports teams, brand names, and modern knightly orders (spoiler: they aren't nearly as cool as their medieval counterparts). I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knighthood and chivalry. It's one of the books that I'm most proud to own.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (re-read)

For Christmas, I got the 50th Anniversary, full-colour box set of my favourite books in the world, "The Chronicles of Narnia", and I am now in the process of re-reading them. It is amazing how much Lewis put into these little fairy tales. I'm always finding more and more layers to them, the more I read them and this time was no exception. I had heard some complaints about Aslan's resurrection being cheap and deus ex machina, so this time I really focused on that and how it fit with the rest of the story. A lot has been said on the Deep and Deeper Magic and what that means for the resurrection, but what I really noticed this time is that the idea of resurrection is built into the very fabric of the story. Narnia is a country frozen in winter and therefore frozen in death, but Aslan's return brings Narnia back to life. The cycle of seasons and their relationship to life and death have been part of myth-making and storytelling pretty much since its inception (e.g. Persephone). I love how the villain's colour is white in this book. It takes you off guard at first, because you think the villain's colour is always black, but it makes sense if you think about it. White is a lack of colour, and therefore a lack of life. Aslan, by contrast, is not black, but vibrant gold. Another classic mythical archetype relating to life and death that Lewis utilized is the cycle of the sun, another cycle of death and rebirth (e.g. Re). Aslan's resurrection occurs during the sunrise. Aslan breathing on the statues and "reviving" them is another example of rebirth as is Edmund's redemption and transformation ( we are told that by the end of the story, Edmund looks like himself again before he "began to go wrong"). All of these examples of rebirth are related to Aslan, so it's only fitting that Aslan himself should go through a rebirth of his own.

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis (re-read)

I also read the second book of the Narnia series last month. What I really took from Prince Caspian this time around was how it related to ideas in one of Lewis's non-fiction books The Abolition of Man. This time Narnia has been conquered by the Telmarines, the trees and streams have become silent, the mythical creatures live in hiding, and the Talking Animals have started to go dumb. It reminded me of what Lewis and others have said in nonfiction. The trees and streams have become silent, because the Telmarines have made them silent through lack of mythology and poetic expression. Part of a tree's reality is lost when we cease to think of it as a Dryad or a beautiful object. We quantify it into what it's made of or what it can be used for rather than what  it is. The same goes for animals, stars etc.