Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Normal blogging will resume next week. In the meantime, here are a few unrelated points:

1. Happy New Year!

2. This looks like a dream conference. I'll be spending a lot of time trying to think what I can write to get a paper accepted so that I can go.

3. I'm likely also to spend some time thinking about Coetzee's In the Heart of the Country. It's just about the perfect novel for me: short, philosophical, tragic, and horrifically violent. And it cries out for interpretation, being seemingly full of references to Wittgenstein, Dostoevsky, Kafka, T. S. Eliot, and so many others that I wonder both how many I have missed and how many I am only imagining.

4. Taking a cue from Jean Kazez, here are the top posts from this blog from 2010:

  1. The argument from tigers    11 comments, 873 Pageviews
  2. Against nature   12 comments, 107 Pageviews
  3. An idea of a university   7 comments, 103 Pageviews
  4. Generic blog post   79 Pageviews
  5. Does New Jersey moral philosophy corrupt youth?   8 comments, 48 Pageviews
  6. Abstract mysticism   10 comments, 47 Pageviews
  7. Letter to the editor   12 comments, 42 Pageviews
  8. Wonder-Safety-Guilt   12 comments, 42 Pageviews
  9. Philosophy & Animal Life III   16 comments, 40 Pageviews
  10. Total nonsense  10 comments, 37 Pageviews

Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.

5. I don't have a top ten of movies, books, or albums from 2010, but the one song from the past year that really caught on in our house is this:


  1. Happy New Year! (Thanks for the baby monkey video?)

  2. Thanks. I only have to play that video for a few seconds at home and the kids start singing the rest of the song. Anything that gets them singing has my approval.

  3. Happy New Year to you too.

    Sweet video! I'm going to play it for my daughter. She's into both monkeys and pigs, not to mention babies, so she's sure to love it. Thanks.

  4. You're very welcome, vh. I hope your daughter likes it as much as mine does.

  5. An absolute success! We just watched it twelve times. My daughter's dancing and singing in her broken english as I write.

    Thanks for your point no. 3, by the way. I'll have to re-read that book. I read In the Heart of the Country a long time ago and have only faint memories of it, but I remember that I was impressed. I did read Life & Times of Michael K upon your recommendation. I agree with you that that's a great novel too, though I still think Disgrace is his best.

  6. I'll have to re-read Disgrace some time. It was the first Coetzee novel I read, and I liked it a lot. But I've wondered since then whether it is his best known work because it lends itself so well to political discussions about sexual harassment and race relations. I can imagine teachers assigning it for that reason. It could also simply be a matter of taste though. There is a certain kind of ethical perspective that I associate with Nietzsche's idea of Christ and, in some ways, with Wittgenstein. It's an ethic of doing no harm, living very quietly and non-egoistically. There is something Buddhistic, Schopenhauerian, and Simone Weil-ish about it too. And I think we see it nicely exemplified in Michael K, with its opposite in In the Heart of the Country. Since I'm interested in this kind of ethic (although I'm not wholly sure about it, for reasons Nietzsche gives--it seems a bit joyless and maybe even anti-life), I find these books interesting. Perhaps the daughter in Disgrace is another of the Michael K type.

  7. I agree that Disgrace does lend itself to certain political discussions. But still I like it a lot. It was my first Coetzee novel too. Perhaps that's why? -- it was fresh. And: at the time of reading it I was very interested in human-animal relationships. (I was writing my thesis back then.) I had just read R. Gaita's The Philosopher's Dog, which made, for me, at that time, quite a few useful points about the relationship between philosophy and literature, and, using the case of David Lurie, said some important and deep things about the (possible) meaning of animals and dead bodies.

    Disgrace was a useful book to me: It played an important part in an important part of my life. So maybe my taste says more about me than about the book...

    Alongside Wittgenstein, Buddhism and Michael K, I also think of Gandhi and Tolstoy. I had never thought of the daughter in Disgrace in this context, though. You might be right. (I'll have to read it yet agian.) Thanks.

  8. Yes, Gandhi and Tolstoy belong in that group too. And I haven't read The Philosopher's Dog, but will have to do so. Thanks for the reminder.