Nico Mara-McKay Posts

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Classics 978-1-59474-344-4, 319 pp. (incl. Reader’s Discussion guide), 2009

Jane Austen’s works have recently come out of copyright, allowing anyone to republish the texts. Some have been a little more innovative. There’s a new film, Pride and Predator, expected to come out in 2010, and, of course, the mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Austen’s original classic interspersed with martial arts and zombie mayhem by Seth Grahame-Smith.

While I’ve read some Jane Austen before, I hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice. I corrected this, then proceeded to read one of the silliest books I’ve ever read.

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris

W. W. Norton, 978-0-393-32765-6, 348 pp. (incl. notes, bibliography and index), 2004

I picked up Sam Harris’ The End of Faith after watching The Four Horsemen, a two hour atheist roundtable he appeared in with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. I found many of Harris’ comments on spirituality intriguing, though I found myself repulsed by bigoted comments regarding Islam.

The End of Faith deals with several themes surrounding religion and why it’s no good (to put it mildly). Harris rightly states that “most religions offer no valid mechanism by which their core beliefs can be tested and revised, each new generation of believers is condemned to inherit the superstitions and tribal hatreds of its predecessors”. Worse, religions tend to decry critical examination of any kind.

The bulk of  Harris’s criticism of religion is is focused on Christianity and vitriol towards Islam. While the underlying sentiment is sound – that religion induces people who might otherwise make good friends and neighbours to kill and maim one another at the behest of grotesquely cruel imaginary beings – the conclusions Harris draws regarding what is to be done about these irrationally harmful beliefs is disquieting, to say the least.

New Tree

I dislike gardening, so it’s fortunate that I only have a small front garden, and a tiny vegetable patch in the back yard.

Today I planted a little tree in the front garden, which annoyed my neighbour, who proceeded to advised me that he intends to prune any branches which cross the property line. After saying he was fine with the tree.

He’s concerned that it will hang over his non-existent car in his non-existent driveway. Which he will pave. One day. And the tree’s ok. Except he’ll prune it if it crosses the little fence to his property line. But it’s fine.

Right. I think I have  a few years.

How to Travel with a Salmon & Other Essays, by Umberto Eco
Harcourt, 0-15-600235-X, 248 pp., 1992, 1994

I always feel behind in my reading: many of the classics, certain authors, certain works by certain authors. No matter often I remind myself that there’s only so much time to read in any given day, or that I’m relatively young and will have time to catch up, this feeling of being behind persists.

Thus, when I think of Umberto Eco, it’s usually as a novelist. In this capacity he is probably best known as the author of The Name of the Rose (1980, made into a film in 1986), Foucault’s Pendulum (1988) and, more recently, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2006). But he’s written far more non- than fiction; on philosophy, linguistics, literary criticism, and the present selection of delightful parodies. And I had no idea he could be so funny.

As Eco explains

I read a fair bit. Perhaps not as much as Sarah Weinman, but she’s a professional reviewer with the luxury to spend all her time reading, and by day I serve as a senior business analyst. Still, I do ok.

Inspired by Weinmen, and a few friends who track what they read, for the first time in my life I’ve started keeping a list. It only includes books I’ve finished reading, and while I’m listing the graphic novels, I’m not counting them. Not because they’re not “real literature” (though that may be debatable), but because they’re so short. As of today I’m at 25 for 2009.

I tend to read several books at once. Some books make great subway reading. Others prefer a quiet afternoon and a nice cup of chai. Others still keep me up all night wondering what’s going to happen next, when they’re supposed to lulling me to sleep.

While I’m not a career reviewer, I do write reviews for websites and magazines, and also to better organize my thoughts, interpret and integrate what I’ve read.

Titled with a with a cute wink the apocalypse, The Four Horsemen features Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. On September 30th, 2007 they sat down together and filmed a two-hour unmoderated discussion. It’s a wonderful thing.

While I’m an atheist, this isn’t a requirement to appreciate four brilliant men philosophizing brilliantly about religion, atheism and the state of the world.

I’ve read a couple of Dawkins’ books (namely The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker) and two by Hitchens (Why Orwell Matters and God Is Not Great), but this is the first time I’ve really heard any of them speak.

The video, filmed by Josh Timonen, has been provided by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (what a name!) and has been available on YouTube for about a month in two, one-hour segments.

Naturally, with their genius so well publicized, they require no introduction, but for the uninitiated, from left to right they are Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.