Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I think about when I think about reading

No posts today or yesterday; yesterday I cooked something boring and today I had sandwiches at a club meeting. Instead, it's time for a final book update before the semester really kicks in and my reading time plummets:

Because I Was Flesh, by Edward Dahlberg: I cannot recommend this enough. As I mentioned in a previous post, while I'm usually not an autobiography/biography fan, this one is a must-read for Dahlberg neophytes (which I continue to be). He is one of the quirkiest men of letters I've ever encountered (literarily, I mean; you don't run into too many of them at med school these days), and the autobiography elucidates why in the best of ways. Plus, Dahlberg loves the word "shibboleth," e.g. "He wished to avoid his wife, who was an unleavened mass of orthodox Jewish shibboleths." I think the word is used three times in the book. As this may intimate, it's not necessarily the easiest read, what with the deluge of references to testaments new and old and various mythologies that must be looked up by the unlearned (i.e. me). I do, however, pride myself on a good vocabulary, but nevertheless I occasionally had to consult a dictionary while reading this.

Fatelessness and Kaddish for an Unborn Child, by Imre Kertesz: Kertesz is a Hungarian Nobel laureate who was interned in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He writes about Holocaust experiences, but in a totally different way than, say, Elie Wiesel. Kertesz did not identify strongly--or at all, really--with Judaism. In the semi-autobiographical Fatelessness, the 15-year-old narrator rather accepts the Nazi party line decreeing that tightening restrictions on Jews and the forceful reworking of Hungarian society was all for the good of the people; he would not likely have much argued with the idea that arbeit macht frei before his experiences in the camps. The ending of Fatelessness proves Kertesz's different (and here I stopped myself from writing "refreshingly different") take on the Holocaust experience. Kaddish for an Unborn Child is similarly semi-autobiographical; in it, a Holocaust survivor explains why he could never cause a child to be born into a world that allowed the Holocaust to happen. Kaddish is more of an apologia than a prayer, and it once again expresses far from typical sentiments in re the Holocaust.

Against Relativism, by Ruth Macklin: I've just begun this, so I can't give a full assessment or claim full understanding. With a heavy biomedical emphasis (Macklin is a bioethics professor at Albert Einstein School of Medicine), the book discusses conflicts between clinically applied ethics and the ideals of ethical relativism. Macklin also appears determined to elucidate how ethical colonialism and imperialism are not necessary consequences of a rejection of ethical relativism. I am intrigued.

No comments:

Post a Comment