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Showing posts from April, 2012

Eugenics and Other Evils

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Of G. K. Chesterton's several thousand essays, the one I stumbled across most suddenly on Project Gutenberg was Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State.  I do not go out of my way to read essays, but the topic had been on my mind recently and, of course, Chesterton's nonfic is even more renowned than his novels.  I thought this would be a good place to start.

Eugenics, in short, is "the study of methods of improving the quality of the human race, esp by selective breeding" (Collins English Dictionary).  The most well-known example of eugenics on a large scale took place in Nazi Germany; however, a more historically obscure example was the support for and practice of eugenics by doctors in the US and Great Britain, pre-WWI--and, in the case of the US, even up through the 70s.

Background is key in Chesterton's book.  I must admit I was hoping for an argument that would deal with eugenics on a broader scale, for all eras and co…

The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems

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I hadn't heard of Tomas Tranströmer until last fall when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature; I placed a library request for two or three of his books, and, for various reasons, did not actually get a copy of either of them until very recently.  Needless to say, I had certain expectations.  This particular book, The Great Enigma, is in a sense "the complete poems of", because it holds all of his poems that were ever published "in book form"--Baltics, The Sorrow Gondola, Secrets on the Way, etc.  It also contains a short memoir, Memories in My Eyes, in which Tranströmer describes certain scenes from his childhood, in Sweden.

I hope it is fair to give this book 3 out of 5 stars.  I'm not well up on contemporary poetry, but I love any good poetry, regardless of style.   I've read several of the classics--Frost, Poe, Wordsworth, Browning, Shakespeare, etc.  And I've written a fair amount of poetry myself.  This is my rating, for what it's worth.

Lik…

The Club of Queer Trades

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If there's one thing that ticks me off about this book, it's this: The Club of Queer Trades is a parody of Sherlock Holmes.  From the protagonist, Basil Grant--who scoffs at facts--to his younger brother Rupert--a wannabe private detective patrolling lamp-lit London--G. K. Chesterton takes a not-so-subtle jab at the Sherlock Holmes series and the science of deduction.  Basil Grant's tools of the trade?  A touch of insanity, healthy intuition, and uproarious laughter.

In fact, I can forgive Chesterton and his maniacal character just for the laughs I got reading this book. Chesterton's word choice is very quirky and witty throughout most of the six short stories and especially the first half.  If you're looking for a light read set in Victorian London, you could give this a try. 

The basic plotline is this: Rupert, Basil, and Mr Swinburne (the narrator/Watson) never agree on who is a suspicious-looking character.  And if either Rupert or Basil sees a suspicious-lookin…