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Interviews | September 2, 2014

Jill Owens: IMG David Mitchell: The Powells.com Interview



David MitchellDavid Mitchell's newest mind-bending, time-skipping novel may be his most accomplished work yet. Written in six sections, one per decade, The Bone... Continue »
  1. $21.00 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    The Bone Clocks

    David Mitchell 9781400065677

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Customer Comments

Wendell Bowerman has commented on (10) products.

Phaedo by Plato
Phaedo

Wendell Bowerman, August 9, 2012

There are many translations of the Phaedo, and several of them are quite good, including this one by David Gallop. The dialogue is set in Athens, in the prison where Socrates is spending the last day of his life, discussing the immortality of the soul with several of his friends. The dramatic side is quite powerful, especially if you have already read Plato's Apology and Crito which take place respectively at Socrates' trial and while he is in prison, when a friend urges him to escape.

Some of the arguments for the immortality of the soul are complex and difficult. Most of the annotations in the recent translations attempt to clarify these arguments, with mediocre success. There are two separate books on the Phaedo which do a much better job; unfortunately they are very expensive to buy, but perhaps you have access to a college library where you can borrow them or at least read them in the library. These two are (1) Kenneth Dorter, Plato's Phaedo an Interpretation (Toronto, 1982) and (2)David Bostock, Plato's Phaedo, (Oxford, 1986). Dorter's book is a comprehensive commentary and explication of the Phaedo, paragraph by paragraph. Bostock's book is focused on the philosophical arguments, with critiques of their validity and weaknesses. While they are not exactly easy reading, they are well-written and quite lucid.
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Sidetracked: Kurt Wallander Mysteries # 5 (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) by Henning Mankell
Sidetracked: Kurt Wallander Mysteries # 5 (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

Wendell Bowerman, September 16, 2011

This is the first Kurt Wallander mystery I've read; I liked it enough to begin searching for the rest of the series. In this one, the reader knows from the beginning who the murderer is, so the suspense turns on the effort of the police to figure it out and capture him. The murderer's motive also gets clearer as the police uncover it; the process that Wallander goes through to direct the search, and his self-doubts about his procedures, add a great deal to the interest of the book.
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American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza by Peter Reinhart
American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza

Wendell Bowerman, September 15, 2011

This is the "everything you always wanted to know but didn't know how to ask" book on Pizza. Mr. Reinhart covers the territory, not only how to make pizza dough but how to make your oven simulate a pizza oven; and the first part of his book is about the places in Italy and in the USA where he finds interesting pizzas; this part will also tell you a lot about what he regards as the criteria for a great pizza. He also provides recipes for a variety of toppings; my only criticism is that his toppings tend to be skimpy (and he admits that for him, less is more); I've eaten good pizza in the USA and in Italy and I've never seen a pizza with as little topping as he recommends. I'd suggest that you double his amounts, for starters.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)



Bought and Paid for: A Jan Phillips Novel
Bought and Paid for: A Jan Phillips Novel

Wendell Bowerman, September 9, 2011

This is an intellectual's summer read, not too serious or heavy, but not mindless. The plot is based on one a traditional gay themes: rich older man "buys" (literally in this case) the company of a younger man. But Halfhill does well at getting inside the head of his young man, Jan Phillips. And he adds some twists... involving Jan's mother in the story, and involving a world-wide conspiracy of older gay men who attempt to defuse international crises and attacks.
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The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages by Harold Bloom
The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages

Wendell Bowerman, September 8, 2011

Harold Bloom is one of those astonishing people who seem to have read everything about everything and remembered it all. Unfortunately, his arrogance matches his knowledge, and that makes his book tendentious in many places. But it is an excellent series of essays about 26 major writers from Dante to Samuel Beckett, attempting to explain what makes each of them so unique and so important.
This book is one of Bloom's contributions to the great debate about whether there are books that one HAS to know in order to be "cultured," or whether the definition of culture is relative or even arbitrary. Obviously, Bloom comes down on the side of a permanent canon of "great books" and composes an elegy on the thought that the canon is in danger of being lost/forgotten.
At the end of his book, Bloom provides a list of canonical works. Anyone can pick the list apart, both for items included, such as all of the works of Samuel Johnson, and for items omitted [it’s a Western Canon, so there is no hint of the literatures of Asia]. In general, it’s a useful checklist if you want to know what “great” works of Western literature you’re missing. I’ve been using it as a reading list for the past couple of years.
The list is of literature, not philosophy [although he does include the Pre-Socratics, Plato, a bit of Aristotle, Plutarch (!), Lucretius, one essay of Cicero, Rousseau and Nietzsche] or history [except Herodotus, Thucydides, Froissart and Gibbon], or the social sciences [except Hobbes, Vico, William James, and Freud]. All of these non-literary authors are either highly literary themselves or have had an immense impact on literature of their own and subsequent eras, but their inclusion and the exclusion of so many other philosophers, historians, and social scientists, indicates a major weakness of his list.
I raise this issue of what non-literature is included only because one of the most tantalizing features of Bloom’s book is what he refers to as the “independence of the aesthetic.” He seems to think or imply that the literary experience can serve as the basis for a philosophy of life. I haven’t tried to tease it out but it is an interesting idea, one that especially appealed to the German Romantic writers.
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