Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Dolphin Reader
ed. Douglas Hunt

-This is 1000+ pages, an anthology textbook of essays, 1986 edition. There are several editions of this anthology. From what I can tell by a quick look around the Internet, different editions have sometimes very different content. I think it's pretty great; at times it felt like reading a great issue of a giant magazine--a lot of it is magazine-style writing.

It goes high on 2 of my lists: "Books That Give You a Decent Liberal Education w/o Going to College" and "How To Write."

These were some of the highlights:

"Twins" and "Progress and Change"
by EB White
"Lord Bacon"
by Thomas Babington Macaulay
"On a Greek Holiday"
by Alice Bloom
"Why Paul Fussell Thinks He's Better Than You"
by James Fallows
(The section on "Art and Sport" contained the highest number of essays that I really enjoyed:)
"In the Country"
by Roger Angell (I was surprisingly moved by this, about loving baseball, of all things!)
"Georgia O' Keefe"
by Joan Didion
by Ernest Hemingway
"Art for Art's Sake"
by EM Forster
"Benefit of Clergy"
by George Orwell
"Las Meninas"
by Kenneth Clark
"Holy Dying"
by Jeremy Taylor
by Walker Percy
"Writing and Typing"
by John Kenneth Galbraith
"Examsmanship and the Liberal Arts"
by William G. Perry

(Left off this list are some classics which "go without saying," like "Civil Disobedience," "Letter from Birmingham Jail" or "Once More to the Lake" etc. Also Jessica Mitford's muckraking journalism makes a couple of inspiring appearances. She is new to me.)

As a service to future generations, I also kept track of what the LAME! essays, which I thought were either written in a weak or annoying style, or full of bad thinking, usually both:

"The Abolition of Man"
by CS Lewis (I have read this essay/book probably 4 or 5 times over the years, and I grow to despise it more and more. Someday I hope to write more about it...)
"Hugh Hefner" and "The Right Stuff"
by Tom Wolfe (These confirmed for me why my spider-sense has told me to avoid Tom Wolfe over the years. I don't like reading the way he writes.)
"The Middle Class"
by Paul Fussell
"In Defense of Snobs"
by William Manchester
"Going Home Again: The New American Scholarship Boy" and "Mr. Secrets"
by Richard Rodriguez (Not really that offensive...just mediocre navel-gazing.)
"The Poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson"
by Robert Frost
"Suburbia: Of Thee I Sing"
by Phyllis McGinley
"Sunrise with Seamonsters"
by Paul Theroux (I have liked some of his writing in other places, but this was like being told a long anecdote by a person you wouldn't want to hang out with.)
"The Faith"
by David Bradley (skippable memoir)
"No Essays, Please!"
Joseph Wood Krutch (What a name! Not that bad, just particularly skippable.)
"Enlargement of Mind"
by John Henry Newman (This one has some meaty ideas to think about, but Newman is one of THE classic versions of my arch-enemies, the Disingenuous Intellectual Christian Krusader, whose schtick goes something like, "here's an argument showing how I'm right and you're wrong...but by the way, just so you know, also you're going to burn eternally in there's that to consider as well...")

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods
by Umberto Eco