It surprised me to find this book by Sam Harris so helpful in my own search for a deeper meaning in life; and I was more surprised still to discover, halfway through, that Harris's path had led him to the study and practice of Dzogchen Buddhism -- into which, thanks in good part to McLeod's book, I have been delving in my meditation practice.
It took only a few pages for me to recognize that Richard Flanagan is an exceptional writer. True, he writes about Australia in an unmistakably Australian accent (how do we hear accents when we hear no spoken words?) but it takes little imagination to transpose the post-9/11 Australia he writes about to America today.
The book is a wonderful addition to the bedside table, to be picked up from time to time to indulge in the pleasure of a couple of stories, picked at random, to be transported into a magical world far from our own, but a world that operates according to its own laws, its own social mores, its own logic.
Aside from its compelling narrative, then, and the universal appeal of a disaster tale, Larson's book invites us to contemplate these questions about war, and the mass murder it has now inevitably become; and about the morality of those who lead us into it, and through it, with necessarily little regard for the individual human lives caught up in it.
The seriousness and profundity of this inquiry is what sets Morphesis's work apart from that of many of his contemporaries. In a culture that often seems content to skirt the surface of those things that affect our inner lives, I find his work to be not only emotionally provocative and intellectually engaging, but also remarkably courageous.
In New York last week, I made it a point (no pun intended!) to see "Tail! Spin!", a hilarious political satire on our wayward politicians and their penises. It's a riot. impeccably re-enacted by a fabulous cast, with all their excuses and explanations, their deflections and -- finally -- their unconvincing, if abject apologies.
Amelia Earhart buffs might be surprised to learn that the remains of her aircraft, widely reported to have gone down off Howland Island in the South Pacific, made it all the way across the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Monica Bay, where it was only recently rediscovered and successfully raised from the ocean floor by the artist Dan Van Clapp.
From bright cafés to sultry brothels and bleak hotel rooms, from rumbling trains to -- in this case -- rusty tubs fighting roaring seas, he creates a compelling world populated by diplomats and spies, dangerous enchantresses and jaded aristocrats, all on the make in one way or another, all engaged in the battle for survival in a world that is rapidly falling apart.
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, by Ben Macintyre is a gripping account of that period, beginning in the 1930s, when bright -- and privileged -- young people on both sides of the Atlantic looked with empathy at the post-Depression plight of the working classes and thought to find in communism an answer to injustice, poverty, and war.