Sopoforic Agents in Childhood

Just another weblog

Posts Tagged ‘books’

General Chemisty by H. G. Deming

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 7, 2011

As I was looking through my library, searching for a reference on chemistry, I came across this book: General Chemistry, 5th ed., by Horace G. Deming. The first edition was copyrighted in 1923, and this edition is copyrighted 1944 (though this particular book is from the fifth printing–October 1945). I skimmed through it a bit, and it seems like a really excellent book–better, anyway, than the chemistry books I had in school.

I’ve since read the first chapter, and I’m reminded why I like old books so well–the language used in modern books is so boring by comparison. For instance, Deming defines’ metallurgy as “the art or science of winning metals from their ores.” Of course, much of the ‘interesting’ word choice is due to simple shifts in language, and wouldn’t have been especially unusual at the time, but even so, older books often had some character not present in modern books; authors often wrote rather poetically, compared to the much simpler prose of modern books, devoid of ‘needless’ complexity of language. And, I find that language aside, there are many times interesting comments from the authors. For example, at the end of the first chapter (of fifty), “What Chemistry Is About”, Deming writes:

Thus, for those of us who make only a brief study of chemistry, the benefits to be expected are of an indirect nature. Increased capacity for enjoyment, a livelier interest in the world in which we live, a more intelligent attitude toward the great questions of the day–these are the by-products of a well-balanced education, including chemistry in its proper relation to other studies.

I would not expect such an aside in any modern chemistry textbook. Perhaps, for most students, it would not be a useful thing to say, but I would hope that some would have their fires of interest stoked by this comment. It’s a very optimistic view of the value of education, but I do not think optimism is a vice. And, of course, if I did not agree with the sentiment, I certainly wouldn’t have begun such an ambitious project as I have, to read many of the more important works of the Western canon. Naturally, ensuring I have a solid grounding in the sciences goes hand in hand with that.

So, I’ve set out a plan to read this within the next few months. Even reading quite slowly, at should finish the book in at most 90 days, and I don’t expect to actually take that long–the book is not quite 700 pages, counting the appendix. Of course, I shan’t be reading at quite the pace I might read some random novel, so I don’t expect to finish in a day or two, either; I must take care to read the book thoroughly, and not merely let the words pass from the pages to my eyes without continuing on to my brain.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Posted by Tracy Poff on February 17, 2008

A few days ago, I read Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, published 1998 by Picador, ISBN 0-330-33277-5. 320 pages.

This one was moderately enjoyable, although I liked it less than Pride and Prejudice, to be honest. Despite that Bridget Jones was a fairly sympathetic character, I didn’t feel like she was very likeable. From the start, Bridget is placed in some rather unenviable situations: paraded before a strange man by her friends and family, having various difficulties with Daniel, thwarted by chance (and a hair dryer) from having her first date with Mark Darcy. Unfortunately, her responses to these situations are somewhat less that admirable; regularly, she reacts by getting blind drunk and insulting the male half of the species, usually while eating and smoking quite a lot more than she ought to, given her goals of losing weight and stopping smoking. I do not mean to say that her reactions are not understandable, but they don’t tend to lead me to like her very much.

Bridget is set up in a role meant to be analogous to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, but where Elizabeth is funny, confident, and sometimes unfortunately powerless, Bridget seems merely acerbic, irresolute, and fairly useless. Even in the moments that she is meant to seem admirable, it feels forced. Take, for example, a situation near the end of the book. It is necessary to convince Bridget’s mother to come downstairs, and Bridget attempts to do this:

‘OK. Leave it to me,’ I said, and walked to the bottom of the stairs.
‘Mum!’ I yelled. ‘I can’t find any savory doilies.’
Everyone held their breath. There was no response.
‘Try again,’ whispered Mark, looking at me admiringly.

Granted, this book is written as Bridget’s diary, so it is she who is interpreting his look as admiring rather than, conceivably, exasperated, irritated, or annoyed, but it is not Bridget’s interpretation that concerns me. Rather, it is Fielding’s writing, for it is her responsibility to convince us to suspend our disbelief, to cause us to come to like her heroine, to cause us to feel worried for Bridget’s sake; in my opinion, Fielding fails at these tasks quite prodigiously.

I have considered that perhaps Bridget Jones was not meant to be a likeable character; perhaps she was intended as an anti-hero of sorts. Wikipedia tells me that “Fielding often lampooned society’s obsession with women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan and criticised wider societal trends in Britain at the time.” If Bridget was not intended to be likeable, then certainly Fielding may be forgiven for not making her so, but that would still leave me in the situation of having read 320 pages about the trials and tribulations of a woman I don’t much like, whose problems do not much interest me. As an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’s Diary was worth reading, but I think I would not have read it otherwise, and I do not foresee myself reading it again for pleasure.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »