Detective Fiction and the Case of Adam Dalgliesh

There’s a lot to enjoy in detective stories. I have pounded the mean pavements of Chicago with the ill-organised V. I. Warshawski, marvelled at the low-life losers who hang out with Kinky Friedman, admired the technological acumen of Liz Carlyle, and laughed out loud at the failure of the Feng Shui detective, speaker of a learned but not idiomatic form of English, […]

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Ian Morris’ Why the West Rules – for now (ii)

The Index of Social Development devised by Ian Morris awards precise numbers for the social development of both West and East at different times in the past.  Being incompetent at maths, most historians are disinclined to crunch numbers and feel vaguely uneasy about attempts to do so in a meaningful way. But this is no reason not to take Morris’ Index seriously, and it […]

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Christopher Cook’s The Philokalia and the Inner Life On Passions and Prayer

This recent book (2011) examines the teachings of the Philokalia, a collection of texts on Orthodoxspiritual life written between the fourth and fifteenth centuries, from the perspective of a psychiatrist with a particular interest in addictive behaviour who is also an Anglican priest. Starting with an arresting notion of Evagrios that humans are shepherds whose thoughts are to be cared for […]

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Two Helpers

We seem to be living in a world that is changing quickly. I remember reading once that there may be an error of vision that leads us to see things this way; in a row of telegraph poles, the distance between the two nearest us seems larger than the distances between all the other poles combined.  Nevertheless, it looks as though we […]

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Jane Austen’s Mr Bennet

Among the inexhaustible pleasures of Pride and Prejudiceis the character of Mr Bennet. Married to a vulgar drama queen and the father of five daughters, three of them deeply disappointing, he passes the time reading in his library, from which he emerges to savour the foolishness of those around him, willfully fail to communicate with his wife, and utter unforgettable lines: ‘You […]

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Guy Deutscher’s The Unfolding of Language

Have you ever wondered how the majestic case structure of Latin nouns came about? Every one of them has a number of suffixes that identify it as being in a particular grammatical case (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative or ablative; some nouns have specific vocative or locative forms as well), usually in both singular and plural forms. Latin is awash with […]

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Thoughts on the Novel

The winning of the Nobel Prize in Literature by Orhan Pamuk in 2006 (posting 2011/06/08) adds his name to the increasingly lengthy list of laureates from non-Western countries. What’s going on here?   There may be an element of policy on the part of those who award the prize; one cannot help noticing that the ranks of female winners are expanding at […]

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Orhan Pamuk’s ‘My Name is Red’

This novel opens with the murder of a miniaturist in Istanbul late in the sixteenth century that we learn of in the words of the deceased; it is entirely told in the first person, different voices succeeding one another in a technique that is initially confusing but ultimately yields some very clever story telling. From this murder, not the last one, ripples spread that encompass different […]

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