Saturday, June 12, 2010

Five best books about curmudgeons

For the Wall Street Journal, John Derbyshire named a five best list of books on curmudgeons.

One title on the list:
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

One component of curmudgeonliness is the Cold Eye, seeing humanity plain. Jonathan Swift saw us rather too plain. The "savage indignation" he wrote of in his own epitaph was rooted in the disgust, physical and moral, he felt toward people. His famous satire "Gulliver's Travels"—about an Everyman wandering through "remote nations of the world" and encountering beings of different sizes and sensibilities—can be mined endlessly for insights into the human condition. I never hear the utterances of our high-minded PC-ocracy without thinking of Gulliver's encounter with the nation of horses called Houyhnhnms, whose sleek hides and icy rationality had none of those physical and moral failings that excited Swift's disgust. Casting his own Cold Eye on the Houyhnhnms two centuries later, George Orwell said: "The 'Reason' by which they are governed is really a desire for death."
Read about the other books on the list.

Gulliver's Travels
is one of Neil deGrasse Tyson's 5 most important books and appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best vegetables in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue