Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #50: The Dark Tower, Volume 1: The Gunslinger Born by Stephen King

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The Gunslinger Born acted as a call to action, of sorts, for me. With The Wind Through the Keyhole, King’s quasi-sequel to The Wizard and the Glass, I took my relative disappointment as a sign not that I had changed as a reader, but that King had changed as a writer. Now, I’m not so sure it’s not, in actuality, the former, and only by re-reading the series can I say for sure.

Albeit a marginal improvement over The Wind Through the KeyholeThe Gunslinger Born fails to fully shed its drawbacks. Mainly, the manner of speech rang, to me, as artificial once again. Not throughout, mind you, but often enough that I began to wonder whether or not it was to do with the execution or the style itself.

Could it be that there was always that awkwardness to the way it was written and I’m just now noticing? Perhaps I’d grown accustomed to it as I read through each book of the series in quick succession, helped along by Frank Muller bringing the words to life in a staggeringly real fashion with his audiobook forThe Drawing of the Three, the entry that kick-started my love for the series and sent me headlong through all the others.

Or does it have, merely, to do with the two books in question, one written almost as an afterthought eight years from the book that, for a while, marked the end of the series and the other as more of a collaborative and supplemental release? For answers, I only have the the original seven books to turn to.

Upon re-reading them, I’ll either come to think of them much the same way as the two aforementioned, which is to say a hodgepodge of new and old, fantasy and reality that works only intermittently, or see them as well-deserving of being named my second favorite series, behind only The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

When they’ll get put to the ultimate test, I can’t say, since I currently have, among others, the 1000+ page long Infinite Jest starting at me from my bookshelf, and am not generally the type to re-read, due to having so much else left out there to read first. That and I’d also like to continue through the graphic novels a little while longer.

Though I might have to drop the “little” from that sentence on account of this being the only one my local library has available. For better or worse, coincidences like that seem to follow the series as a whole. First I had to resort to the Frank Muller read audiobook of The Drawing of the Three, as the Pitt Book Center carried books one and three through seven, yet not it, and then I find not a single copy of The Gunslinger Born in the Carnegie library system, yet the same library which lacks copies of Fight Club and The Stand, among others, has it available.

Whichever way I proceed, and however long it takes, I hope it results in “long days and pleasant nights,” as opposed to even more disappointment.

 

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

Pheagan’s #CBR5 Review #4: Logicomix by Apostolis Doxiadis

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Logicomix purports to be a comical history of Bertrand Russell, philosophy’s prolific giant, and through him an account of how the logical positivist school of philosophy came to be.

A brief background. At the beginning of the century, philosophy experienced a split. Some philosophers, many of them mathematicians, grew interested in applying mathematical rigor to the field of logic, which at that point hadn’t progressed much further than Aristotelian syllogistic logic (the old “All men are philosophers, Socrates is a man; therefore Socrates is a philosopher” schtick). If we use logic to argue, and we hope to get anywhere instead of disputing the same problems over and over again (and believe me, this is kind of a Thing in philosophy), then the tools we use must be capable of providing the same kind of clear and obvious answers as mathematics. This is also known as the Anglophonic school of philosophy or the Vienna circle, since anti-Semetic sentiment on the continental side pushed a lot of amazing Jewish mathematical logicians to pursue their project among the English philosophers, and they most often met in the neutral territory of Vienna. This brain drain also explains why Continental philosophy is such dreck. Kidding, sort of. That is the basic prejudice among students who come up in English-speaking philosophy departments, and I for one would take Wittgenstein over Hegel any day.

Since I love comics and philosophy, I was destined to read this comic. It’s pretty well done, but doesn’t offer a whole lot for a philosophy student. The basic genesis and movement of the project is sketched pretty well for the layman and serves as a good entry point for anyone who’s interested in this kind of thing. I would certainly offer it in a 101 course. It also does a great job at illustrating just why this stuff is important– I mean, if you’re going to read Russell’s early articles about logical atomism it can be hard to see why anyone could care about the difference between “all” and “every”– John Searle says the mark of a philosopher is an obsession with things that most people consider trivial and take for granted. What makes the logical positivist project such a compelling adventure and such a tragic failure is that it is an absolutely earnest search for the truth– and Doxiadis gets this. I’d almost call this comic dangerous because it makes philosophy seem so much more exciting than it really is (get ready to debate whether a truth-functional or probabilistic analysis of counterfactuals is best, guys!). Also, the analysis is so simplistic that I think more than one student of the anglophonic tradition would straight up disagree with Doxiadis’s characterization. That being said, it was a very nice history. It was pleasing to see Russell’s interactions with Frege and Whitehead, and seeing Wittgenstein’s brand of crazy is always fun– you don’t even need to be interested in philosophy to find a biography of that guy entertaining. I would most recommend it to computer programmers– for those of you who find philosophy useless, not only can you trace computer coding back to philosophers, you can thank Thales of Miletus for the futures market.

While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as anything more than candy for the serious philosophy student, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in seeing what philosophy is about now. We’ve gotten past “I think, therefore I am”. And please stop asking me about the meaning of life.