Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What I've Read Recently

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford was at once entertaining and educational. So much of how Genghis is portrayed in popular media is negative, it is almost ridiculous. Before I read this book I knew that the mongols terrorized and exacted tribute from the Rus but more importantly united them and they benefited from their example and their contact. Almost all of the lands that the Mongols conquered benefitted in the long term from their subjugation. Europe benefitted the most, they didn't get pillaged and raped but recieved technology from the Far East and mathematics from the Middle East. The Mongol rule made possible the dissemination of language, technology, plants, and most importantly ideas. While they ruled it was the safest time to travel the silk road, and trade was easy because they had a common currency from the Black sea to Korea something that till this day hasn't been achieved again.
Genghis didn't start trying to conquer people other than his own till he was 40, yet he conquered twice as much as any other man in history. I will leave you with two quotes directly from the book, both are from page xxiv of the introduction.
Seemingly every aspect of European life-technology, warfare, clothing, commerce, food, art, literature, and music- changed during the Renaissance as a result of the mongol influence. In addition to new forms of fighting, new machines, and new foods, even the most mundane aspects of daily life changed as the europeans switched to mogol fabrics, wearing pants and jackets instead of tunics and robes, played their instruments with the steppe bow rather than plucking them with the fingers, and painted their pictures in a new style. The Europeans even picked up the Mongol exclamation hurray as an enthusiatic cry of bravado and mutual encouragement.
Genghis was pimp as demonstarted by the next quote.
Unlike any other conqueror in history, Genghis Khan never allowed anyone to paint his portrait, sculpt his image, or engrave his name or likeness on a coin, and the only descriptions of him from contemporaries are more intriguing than informative.
As you can tell there is too much to tell here so I suggest you read the book.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert is said to be one of the top ten novels of all time. You can do without reading it though. I say that because it is so depressing, in fact the whole novel is about Emma Bovary being depressed and unsatisified with her life. I was made very uncomfortable by the parallels in the book and my psyche. I guess I would suggest it anyways, it was a very good book. Dostoyevsky can make me cry but Flaubert makes me suicidal.
Emma is so dissatisfied with everything that comes her way, cheating on her husband brings joy into her life till the relationship fails. She barely cares for her daughter and is disgusted by her devoted husband. I like depressing books and this was more depressing than I really like. I like to fight fire with fire but this book was too much. Imagine me on the porch drinking scotch and reading Flaubert wishing I still smoked cigarettes and that a bolt of lightning would hit me.
I will leave you with two quotes from the book.
Everything, even herself , was now unbearable to her. pg 215
He did not dare question her; but, seeing her so skilled, she must have passed, he thought, through every experience of suffering and of pleasure. What had once charmed now frightened him a little. Besides, he rebeled against his absorption, daily more marked, by her personality. He begrudged Emma this constant victory. He even strove not to love her; then, when he heard the creaking of her boots, he turned coward, like drunkards at the sight of strong drinks. pg 208

It really is a good book.

1 comment:

  1. Love the necklace from the last post (it's so different! I love that!) and your brother's wedding ring--you did a fantastic job! :)