Sunday, July 30, 2006

Having plowed through Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, I was fascinated by the depiction of the England of that era and so I picked up Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities". I hadn't read Dickens since being assigned "Great Expectations" in high school. I think when we see the news of the violence in the Middle East that Dickens speaks to us when he says of the killing of the French Revolution, "Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind."

Or in modern terms, political window dressing and "regime change" will not bring peace to the middle east, only raising the standard of living and encouraging civil society will. Western governments seem unwilling to accept that the Palestinians embrace Hamas and Hezbollah largely because they help the common people. What are we doing for the common people of Afghanistan and Iraq? Not much. We would probably be better off to step back and assist indigenous organizations in providing social services.

But back to Dickens, this is a great book. The early scene of the stage coach travelling at night in fear of robbers and brigands, stopped by a solitary rider for an exchange of mysterious messages, is intriguing and atmospheric. I think Stephenson would have been proud of the gritty reality of the scene. The later descriptions of the French revolutionary woman watching and knitting is frightening in its evil and impressive in its literary restraint. The description of the Doctor's regression into a cringeing cobbler is also very modern, a moving evocation of the trauma of solitary confinement.

You really ought to read this book if you haven't.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006 of the most concise directories of fake book pdf files I've found is at eleonorengland.