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January 25, 2004



Okay - I now have Sari's permission for doing this: Since she's giving us her list of 32 (cheater!) in these tantalising little droplets, I shall reply by waxing lyrical on my own 21. Some of them are bound to overlap with hers, but then we can have a good and proper argument over *why* those particular books are so important.

I have never really warmed for Austen, possibly because the good bits (like The Letter) are fairly rare gems in the middle of a lot of faffing about the more boring characters going through really stupid misunderstandings. The good bits, though, are really good. I prepare to be lynched for having this opinion...

My first book shares certain characteristics with dear J.A., particularly by being both engaging and civilised. I haven't ruled out work books from my list (which would be very difficult, since work is English literature...), and this is one I came across during my PhD research. Susan Haack's "Confessions of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays" (I can't make a link for Amazon in this commentary - Sari, help?) is a collection of writings on philosophy, science and literature, and you would be hard pressed to find a clearer, more reasonable and yet more emotionally satisfying voice to speak about such things. Haack shares Austen's wit and compassion for people who enjoy thinking as much as they enjoy feeling. Particular favourites are an essay called "We Pragmatists", which is a dialogue between pragmatist philosophers Peirce and Rorty, and is composed entirely of direct quotations of their own writings, as well as a new definition for many recent views concerning the impossibility of truth as "preposterism"...


I allowed HTML in comments so you can do your own linking from now on and linked to Haack's home page.

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