Discussion (14) ¬

  1. Another awesome page as always!

    I know exactly what you mean about the fall and learning. I graduated from college over a year ago and I still miss that first day of classes feeling. The nerves of meeting new teachers, the excitement of getting new books, and then the first homework assignment… okay, definitely not missing that part! Hehe

    I think my favorite school-book discovery has to be “The Canterbury Tales”. Such a nice mix of stories and a great springboard for the imagination and writing. They really stuck with me for some odd reason, and I find myself going back to them time and time again.

    • It breaks my heart that Chaucer disowned them in later life! It’s tough to hit it big when you’re young and rebellious, I guess.

  2. Post secondary, it was “Atlas Shrugged”, by Ayn Rand. Made me realize that the world did not owe me a living and, indeed, didn’t give a darn about me. I also discovered the Conan series of books by Robert E. Howard, and I have loved sword and sorcery even since. I am an omnivorous reader. Reading is a monkey on my back – I must read. I also loved the pulps and pretty much learned to read as a lad with “Amazing Stories” and my dad’s Big Little Books and comic books such as Detective Comics and Tarzan comics. I read the classics in Classics Illustrated comic books long before I read the originals. Moby Dick, Don Quixote, Frankenstein, 20k Leagues Under the Sea, War of the Worlds, Kim, Faust and many others. They made me want to read the originals and took me to the local library where I first became addicted to the written word. Books have taken me everywhere and everywhen.

  3. I have two real favorites and both are history books (appropriate, I majored in it). The first is called, “Marie Antoinette: Queen of Fashion”, I believe. I loved it because it made what initially seemed like a very simple issue (Marie Antoinette was a rich b*tch) into an incredibly complex one. I now have a great deal of respect for the woman and it taught me an important lesson about history in general: nothing is as simple as it seems. The second book is called “The Kindness of Strangers” by John Boswell. Besides being incredibly informative and engaging to read, the book made me fall in love with Boswell. He was a historian who was never afraid to say and do things that hadn’t been said or done before, and that is something I greatly admire. “Kindness of Strangers” was his least controversial book but it was what got me started.

    There are probably many more books from my university days that I would recommend but unfortunately an entire ocean and continent currently divide me from my collection.

    • Those both sound excellent – Boswell has long been on my list of “people I should have read by now” so this sounds like a good starting place!

      Poor Marie Antoinette. It’s easy to make fun of her stereotype, but realistically speaking she was a decent woman who had a lot of strange and extreme demands put upon her almost from birth, and who managed to maintain her position in very rough political seas for far longer than her detractors would have thought possible.

  4. Dylan,

    Just wanted to begin by thanking you for indulging and catering to the history nerd in all of us. I wake up every Friday excited for the next page in the comic, and for your witty, learned, and hilarious commentary.

    As for books, for the sake of brevity I’ll begin by only including two from my thesis: “Court Revels, 1485-1559” by W.R. Streitberger, and Lucy E.C. Wooding’s “Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England”. The former is an incredible analysis and breakdown of the evolution of theatrical entertainments at the early and middle Tudor courts, including the position the Master of the Revels which has become so famous in scholarship on Elizabethan theatre. The latter questions the standing concept of Catholicism (and Protestantism, for that matter) under Henry VIII and Mary I. Although at this point it is no longer revolutionary, it’s a nuanced and intelligent reappraisal of how both Henry and Mary (as well as their advisors) viewed the Church, doctrine, and faith which is well-worth reading for anyone interested in the Tudor period.

    In terms of theory, the most interesting and fundamental to shaping my concepts of history were probably Hayden White’s “Tropics of Discourse,” and Joan Wallach Scott’s “Gender and the Politics of History”. Though not actually for classes, I discovered “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” by Richard Rhodes, “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino, and “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman; three books I think are essential reads for anyone interested in history or considering themselves historians. The first is an incredible example of clean and beautiful prose, wonderfully weaved narrative, and the mind-boggling task (a successful one) of making nuclear physics and chemistry understandable to the average person. The second two address concepts of reality, time, and perspective, and are great, fun reads (both novels).

    Finally, I will plug two completely different pieces of literature: a play and a collection of letters. If you’ve never read anything by J.M. Synge, you’re missing out on one of the great playwrights of the turn of the 20th century; and “Riders to the Sea,” though a short one act, is in my opinion his greatest work. The Paston Letters were written to and from members of the East Anglian Paston family throughout the calamitous 15th century. They provide perspective on the end of the Hundred Years’ War, the Wars of the Roses, and all of the social and political upheaval attendant to the period. The language takes a bit to learn and get used to, but it’s well worth it. The best version is the one edited by Norman Davis (three volumes), which came out in the early 2000s.

    • Oh, excellent! This will keep my hold list at the library well-stocked for the next few months – thank you.

  5. Typewriter Girl by Olive Rayner! So beautifully written.

  6. Other than the entire Sandman series, which I plowed through my first semester as a freshman *circa 1999* I would have to say Tom Robbins Jitterbug Perfume. Book changed my life forever, including the way I picked up fiction.

    And of course, I kept all my old school texts of how to draw the human anatomy.

  7. Many books came to me in college, and an entirely new toolset of methodologies through which to dissect and understand the world, but one book stands out in its profound effect on my life, my consciousness and my status with the Universe. That was the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

    The book was assigned as part of my readings in Roman history, and I forget at this late date the exact class, but I sat down with the Meditations expecting dusty insights of a misfit Emperor stuck fighting barbarians in the Godsforsaken wilderness… and instead encountered resonance. Stoicism was not a new concept; the ideal of self-denial of Zeno and how they differed from the sybaritic embrace of life’s comforts by the Epicureans I had known since high school days. Aurelius, however, sitting alone and writing to reinforce his own thoughts on meeting life on Roman terms, did not so much reach me as he reached out and shook me.

    I couldn’t complete the book for class. Fortunately it didn’t affect my grade. I could not tell even my professor how the Meditations had shaken me. I did, however, bring it home to my mother, and asked her to read it. She had much the same reaction I did. She was a child of the Depression, and self-denial had been pretty much enforced by the times, but the ideas of Aurelius struck her, too, as resonant. She told me that she could hear her father say the very same things to her, only in the original Polish.

    The Meditations didn’t change me. They didn’t confront me with new truth which I was forced to acknowledge. It was more like they confirmed me. I had led, am living, a Stoic life, but had not encountered anyone else who had struggled to master the idea or the consequences as Aurelius had. This road was no longer empty. This life was no longer singular. There was more to it than just me, and that was a great comfort. A beacon shining above the wavetops on a dark and pointless sea. Suddenly there was proportion, scale, meaning, understanding.

    To this day I have not read the whole of the Meditations. It remains by my bedside as a sort of tonic and help, to which I turn when weary, confounded by events or people, and need my bearings. Aurelius’s efforts to make Stoicism comprehensible, Roman and proper, to himself now do the same for me. I know no others who are so strongly affected by the book, but then, I imagine Stoics are not too numerous in these Epicureanized days. It matters not. I know who and where I am; the tumult shall pass me by as it has before, and I shall remain.

    I knew this, with less certainty, before the Meditations, but since discovering them I am more sure. More steady. More Stoic, if you will. More importantly, I am more myself.

    • Marcus Aurelius was a fascinating man – one of those figures from the past whom it’s almost impossible not to feel kinship with despite the distance of time and culture. Good choice!

  8. Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain. It was a really short, really fun read that introduced me to everything great about the grand old fellow in the white suit.

  9. Naomi, by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō
    The Short Stories of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke
    teacher selected readers with stories of Edogawa Rampo and Abe Kōbō.

    I had the opportunity to take an amazing class called “Gender, Sexuality, and Love in Japanese Literature” while I was at the University of Kansas for my undergrad. It was really eye-opening to see that concepts/emotions we often take for granted as “universal” are not, and to see how those ideas evolve over time. Also pre-modern Japan was definitely not prudish…(bonus) :)

  10. Glad to see the story moving along ^_^ Another great page!

    As for books…
    More of a re-discovery, really. “La Casa de Bernarda Alba” by Federico García Lorca. I played María Josefa in our High School’s production. Once in college, mired by way too many “Intro to–” textbooks, I jumped up to the challenge to replay the character during a García Lorca festival. It was a nice break from the endless drone of schedules and introductions.