Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Civilization and its discontents

I think that it would be good to have a little change of pace in the IS reading materials, and would like to propose a bold step, based on a couple of suggestions from IS members. I suggest that for the next meeting the topic be something about civilization and its discontents and that the readings include both "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" by Charles C. Mann and "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond. This is ambitious. These are both long books. However, they should be easy to read and it will probably be a long time before the next IS meeting.

I also like the idea of a field trip to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We could go early on a Saturday, hang out in Brooklyn for a while, and then return to my place (or elsewhere) in the evening for the IS meeting.

About all of this, one of our members has commented: "I really liked 1491. Mann's a pretty pedestrian writer, but his subject material is great -- basically a thorough updating of everything I thought I knew about the archaeology of the Americas. I also liked Collapse, though Diamond as a writer occasionally comes off to me as a bit too smugly certain of himself. Still, they are both easy and fairly quick reads, and would make a good bundle together with some apocalyptic sci-fi. BTW, thanks to Elliot for the suggestion and Philip for his copy I have been enjoying Box Nine: a kind of twisted Ellroy take on a Tim Burton style Metropolis, complete with a neurolinguist named Woo and a psychotropic drug that whacks both the speech and pleasure centers. Definite I.S. material!"

Simon sez: "I received 1491 as an unexpected gift last year, and it turned to be one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. The Diamond book (Collapse) also looks brilliant. Ditto Box Nine, and even the crazy Williamsburg trip. Sounds like we have a winning lineup!"

It looks like a go, so we will next work on possible dates for early fall and then will post an announcement. In the meantime, get reading and have a nice summer!!

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