Jan of Warsaw, Poland writes,
Would you please start a series of posts akin to the "Saturday Night at the Oldies" except about books? A few books presented every week, each with a one sentence description, from as wide a thematic range as possible -- fiction, history, philosophy, biography and others. I would profit from it immensely, as would many others.
An excellent idea. So, in keeping with my masthead motto "Study everything," here are (some of) my recent reads. Disclaimer: Much of what follows are quick bloggity-blog remarks scribbled mainly for my own use. They are not intended as balanced reviews.
1. Hugh J. McCann, Creation and the Sovereignty of God (Indiana University Press, 2012).
I am finishing a review article about this book for American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. Three sentences from the introduction: "Hugh McCann is an old pro in action theory and the philosophy of religion whose expertise is well-displayed in the eleven chapters of his magisterial Creation and the Sovereignty of God. [. . .] McCann’s central conviction is that God is absolutely sovereign, so much so that God is not only sovereign over the natural order, but also over the moral order, the conceptual order, and the divine nature itself. [. . .] The book can be summed up by saying that it is a detailed elaboration in all major areas of the consequences of the idea that God is absolutely sovereign and thus unlimited in knowledge and power.
2. Greg Bellow, Saul Bellow's Heart: A Son's Memoir (Bloomsbury 2013). Held my attention to the end. A son comes to grips with his relation to his famous conservative father. I found the son's uncritical liberalism annoying in places.
3. Colin McGinn, Problems in Philosophy: The Limits of Inquiry (Blackwell, 1993). One-sentence summary: The central problems of philosophy have naturalistic solutions, but we are prevented by our cognitive architecture from ever knowing them. Here is Peter van Inwagen's review. (A tip of the hat to sometime MavPhil commenter, Andrew Bailey, for making PvI materals available online.)
4. Marcia Clark (with Teresa Carpenter), Without a Doubt (Viking, 1997). Marcia Clark was the lead prosecutor in the ill-starred O.J. Simpson trial. Simpson was accused of first-degree murder in the brutal deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, but acquitted. Clark's side of the story. I'm at p. 159 of 486 pp.
5. Dominick Dunne, Another City, Not My Own: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir (Crown, 1997). Another book about the Trial of the Century as Dunne calls it (the Simpson murder trial) by the late novelist, socialite, reporter, and gossip. Aficionados of that vast, sprawling monstrosity know as the City of the Angels will find this and the previous title of interest. I'm from there, so that helps explain my interest.
6. Aurel Kolnai (1900-1973), Ethics, Value, and Reality: Selected Papers of Aurel Kolnai (Hackett, 1978). I thank my young friend Kid Nemesis for bringing Kolnai's work to my attention. One of the ten papers collected here is Kolnai's seminal "Forgiveness" (orig. in Proc. Arist. Soc. 1973-74). David Wiggins and Bernard Williams co-author a useful introduction to Kolnai's life and work.
7. Josef Pieper, Hope and History: Five Salzburg Lectures, tr. D. Kipp (Ignatius, 1994, orig. publ. as Hoffnung und Geschichte by Koesel-Verlag in 1967). The German Thomist meditates on hope with the help of Kant, Teilhard de Chardin, Franz Kafka, and the Marxist Ernst Bloch. Pieper very politely criticizes Bloch's Marxist idiocies which cumlinate in the simultaneously outrageous and hilarious Ubi Lenin, ibi Jerusalem!
8. Ralph C. Wood, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South (Eerdman's 2004). A study of themes from the work of a Catholic novelist in the fundamentalist South.
9. Daniel C. Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking (W. W. Norton 2013). Is Dennett a philosopher or a pseudo-philosopher? He is undoubtedly brilliant, as brilliant as he is sophistical, snarky, and unserious. I find the man and his works repellent. But Colin McGinn, atheist, naturalist, and apparently also a liberal, I find simpatico. McGinn is a real philosopher! You want to know my criteria? Some other time. My Dennett drubbings are here.
Correction. Monterey Tom correctly points out that " the title 'Trial of the Century' should go either to the Hiss Case or the Rosenberg case, both of which had social and political ramifications far beyond the mere sensationalism of the Simpson fiasco. The only reason why so few college graduates, even graduate students specializing in national security affairs, are familiar with the Hiss and Rosenberg cases is that both trials disprove one of the essential tenets of PC, namely that there never were any Communists in the first place. Of course, only a system as twisted as PC could require people to believe at the same time that while there never were any Communists they were good people."