Grammar vs Moby Dick vs Math


025) Mortal Syntax by June Casagrande, finished March 2

Maybe I should get a book like this to read with my freshmen. I'm currently sharing Elements of Style with them every Tuesday, but they just don't love it like I do. On the other hand, although Casagrande's stated goal is to save us from wrong-minded pedants, often---even when her sources determine that they are no more right than wrong---she recommends giving in to their demands just so you don't have to listen to the poor things whine.

So, in the end, not as libertarian as I would like.

But not a bad read. She's entertaining. Though it's amazing how many jokes from 2008 are already ancient.
some few weeks


024) The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo, finished March 1

Mostly I liked it; did have some issues; expect something to show up on AMV the next few weeks.
four or five months


023) Moby Dick by Herman Melville, finished February 28

Where to start?

The first hundred pages are a lark. Utter fun. Then they get on the boat and the story utterly changes. Actually, for most of the rest of the book there really isn't any story at all. Moments of whale killing and the final hunt at the end, but a sizable percentage of the book is taken up in behaving like a satirical encyclopedia and entrances from the Greek chorus. The novel is a madhouse. I honestly don't know quite what to make of it. As a work of fiction, he has significant problems. But it doesn't quite position itself as a work of fiction. Not in any of the expected ways. Even Les Mis, when you take out the sewers, is still a strongly constructed work of fiction. Moby Dick is pretty barebones. It's really not about the story.

Wow. Fourteen months and thinking about what I might want to say and I have no bleeding idea what to say.


I highlighted a bunch of stuff in my Nook. If I figure out how to export it, I'll write another post.

The good news is, my Nook is no longer a virgin now and I'm free to read whatever I want on it.

It's too much freedom!
fourteen months


022) Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis & Christos H. Papadimitriou & Alecos Papadatos & Annie Di Donna, finished February 22

I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. First, it's imperfect. But since it's about the necessity of imperfections, perhaps I should not fault it for that. Also, it's taken this trend in comics (which I've written about before) of layers of story (often including the comix creators as one layer) to an absurd extreme. Often it gets in the way of the story, often it the story, often it is a demonstration of the story. It would be much more difficult to tell any other way, but, frankly, they should have tried. The device of the creators arguing over the story---much like the device of Bertram Russell attempting to tell his own story---results in layers that seem to signify but really go nowhere.

I'm not surprised the book was critically acclaimed. It's terribly ambitious and anyone who hasn't been paying close attention to what comix have been up to the last couple decades might not realize how derivative and uninspired it is.

Me, I'm disappointed because it WAS ambitious in content and I wish the frame, the shape, had not been merely imitative of previous ambition. Read this after Maus and Jimmy Corrigan and Asterios Polyp and Duncan the Wonder Dog and you'll see that this is just part of a genre which has already been plied by masters. And Logicomix just doesn't hold up in comparison.


All that said.

If the intersection of logic and maths and philosophy interests you and you want to read a book that often flirts within shouting distance of a brilliant dance about said intersection, try Logicomix. It only takes a day to read.
one day

Previously in 2013 . . . . :

Books 20 - 21
021) The Complete Peanuts 1985-1986 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 22
020) The Princess Bride: S. Morgensetern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, the "Good Parts" version abridged by by William Goldman, finished February 20

Books 14 - 19
019) Magic Tree House #10: Ghost Town at Sundown by Mary Pope Osborne, finished February 17
018) The Report Card by Andrew Clements, finished February 17
017) Justice (volume one) by AUTHOR, finished February 16
016) The Green Mile by Stephen King, finished February 15
015) Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl, finished February 12
014) The Silver Cord: Book One ~ Nephilim by Kevin Kelly et al., finished February 7

Books 8 - 13
013) Teen Titans: The Prime of Life by JT Krul and Nicola Scott, finished February 2
012) Batman: Vampire by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones and John Beatty and Malcolm Jone III, finished February second
011) Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor by Isaac Asimov, finished January 26
010) Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, Perfect Collection 1 by Hayao Miyazaki, finished January 22
009) The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 21
008) My Letter to the World by Emily Dickinson, finished January 21

Books 1 - 7
007) Spacecave One by Jake Parker, finished January 19
006) The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker, finished January 19
005) The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, finished January 14
004) The Crab with the Golden Claws by Hergé, finished January 14
003) The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham's Treasure by Hergé, finished January 11
002) Using the Common Core State Standards... edited by Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Ed.D., finished January 10
001) Jellaby by Kean Soo, finished January 8


  1. The Elements of Style is nonsensical nonsense. I hate it. Sorry. You're still great even though you're wrong.

    Have you read The Transitive Vampire? It's not nearly subversive or libertine in its approach to grammar as I am, but the sample texts are awesome.

  2. .

    I was never able to get through it, alas. I did try.

    And come on: S&W's not nonsense. It's solid advice for people who need a sense of where to start. And it's the elements of style, not Absolute Rules of the English Tongue. I think that's an important distinction you might be overlooking . . . .