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The book report for February 2023

The book report for February 2023
Photo by Micky White

Or, seriously, Tao Te Ching twice?

Lingering covid-19 symptoms, plus a new cold and possibly bronchitis, provided Dr Essai with a ready excuse for neglecting the writing in favor of reading this month. Utter balderdash as excuses go but work with him here. All five titles completed this month could be read as explorations of how to live. Or not. Hard to say how much covid has affected one’s brain chemistry, which was dodgy to begin with.

The doctor spent the latter half of the month engrossed in a pair of tomes-with-many-pages, books he won’t complete until next month, one a classic American novel long untouched on the shelf, the other a biography of a poet and musician whose mind fascinates more than his music. Or so it seems to your faithful correspondent.

The February list:

  • The Creative Act: A Way of Being, Rick Rubin. Seems superficial in its first few pages, like so many books about creativity and the creative life. But stick with it, for Rubin’s plainspeak prose contains insights.
  • Just Kids, Patti Smith. A re-read. On first reading a few years ago, Dr Essai found the book disappointing. He wondered at all the fuss that attended its publication. Then, after admiring M Train and Year of the Monkey, he gave Just Kids another go, and was much taken with it. These things happen. The later section about her becoming a rock star feels cursory, which seems odd—does she discount it for some reason?—but overall a fine book.
  • Natural History, Andrea Barrett. Barrett is a superb writer. These are quiet, thoughtful linked stories, mostly free of drama, but deeply affecting. Whole on its own, but features characters from other of Barrett’s books if you’re a real fan.
  • Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu (Gia-Fu Feng, Jane English trans.). Regarded by Ursula K. Le Guin as the best extant translation.
  • Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu (Ursula K. Le Guin trans.).  Not a translation, but a careful interpretation with intent to preserve the poetry. Read in sync with the Feng-English translation, it illuminates the second. The Taoist way and the creative path seem closely twined to Dr E, though see the covid caveat mentioned above.

What have you been reading? The comments section is open. There are cats, books, and bourbon, so c’mon in.

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