Showing posts from December, 2012

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Months before finding this classic at my local used bookstore, I had an exchange with an atheist about morality. He’d insisted that children are born with empathy, inclined to share, and, if not corrupted by society, religion, or a sociopath gene, will grow into adults of a similar disposition. I noted that his faith in human nature was both startling and naïve, that parents and society teach children these virtues, and that it’s a circular argument to deny the inherent selfishness and other vices for which humanity has cornered the market and instead relegate bad behavior exclusively to the insane and the religious zealot. Of course, the atheist must additionally dismiss the atrocities humanity has committed toward one another in the name of political expediencies, as well as crimes of passion, cruelty, and the tendency humans have for self destruction in general. Evidently, the atheist reconciles his faith in humanity’s goodness against human history in general by rendering these ho…

The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce (1911)

Since there’s no plot, no characters to recall, no thesis statement or theme (beyond tongue-in-cheek hostility) to keep track of, this is perfect bathroom reading. Using only one word to describe it, I’d go with sardonic, a word, incidentally, not in this dictionary. Nor is sarcastic, cynical, acerbic, sacrilegious, or amusing. Yet this dictionary is all those things. If you enjoyed Woody Allen’s Getting Even or Side Effects, which I recommend (“You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.”) or Fran Lebowitz’s Social Studies or Metropolitan Life (“All God’s children are not beautiful. Most of God’s children are, in fact, barely presentable.”), then you might enjoy this book. Some choice selections, truncated:
Birth, n. – The first and direst of all disasters. Egotist, n. – A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. Friendless, adj. – Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of tr…