The following is a compilation of three brief book reviews.
The Razor’s Edge
The Razor’s Edge is a Great Gatsy-esque story of high society characters and their path in life after the Great Depression. It focuses on Larry, who has returned from the First World War scarred by what he has seen. He has passed on the pursuit of wealth and career unlike his friends and chose to seek out enlightenment through reading and travel.
Most of the book features annoying rich people who care immensely about what others think of them. They place more stock in their social climbing than experiences, only to find out that their “friends” are temporary.
I think I could probably arrange a liaison for him with an older woman. It would form him. I always think there’s no better education for a young man than to become the lover of a woman of a certain age and of course if she is the sort of person I have in view, a femme du monde…[…]
Marriage is a serious matter on which rest the security of the family and the stability of the state. But marriage can only maintain its authority if extraconjugal relations are not only tolerated but sanctioned.[…]
it’s not the first time she goes to bed with him that counts, it’s the second. If she holds him then she holds him for good.”[…]
Almost all the people who’ve had most effect on me I seem to have met by chance, yet looking back it seems as though I couldn’t but have met them. It’s as if they were waiting there to be called upon when I needed them.
Larry’s search takes him to India, where he studies Eastern philosophy (this may seem like a cliche today but the book was written in 1944, before the trend began). He commits to nothing and perplexes his friends about his true intentions while they face their own ups and downs.
At the end of the book, Larry shares everything he has learned in a long monologue about god and reincarnation. The payoff didn’t quite make it for me.
Read More: “The Razor’s Edge” on Amazon
The Way Of The Sufi
The best way to describe Sufi is ancient Islamic wisdom. This little book contains anecdotes and quotes from Sufi masters. The bits are rather fragmented and difficult to read, with no all-encompassing set of rules like you would encounter in Buddhism or Stoicism. Here are the highlights:
None attains the degree of truth until a thousand honest people have testified that he is a heretic.[…]
The honour of man is his learning. Wise people are torches lighting the path of truth. In knowledge lies man’s opportunity for immortality. While man may die, wisdom lives eternally.[…]
Kings rule men, wise men rule kings.[…]
Man, you enter the world reluctantly, crying, as a forlorn babe;[…]
Man, you leave this life, deprived again, crying again, with regret.
Therefore live this life in such a way that none of it is really wasted.
You have to become accustomed to it after not having been accustomed to it.
When you have become accustomed to it, you will have to become used to being without it.
Meditate upon this contention.
Die, therefore, ‘before you die’, in the words of the Purified One. Complete the circle before it is completed for you.
A donkey stabled in a library does not become literate.[…]
If he is your teacher, he will make you benefit from his luminescence, whether you know it at the time or not.
When you meet him, he will act upon you, whether you know it or not.
What he says or does may seem inconsistent or even incomprehensible to you. But it has its meaning. He does not live entirely in your world.
His intuition is that of the rightly guided, and he always works in accordance with the Right Way.
He may discomfort you. That will be intended and necessary.
Overall, the writing here was obtuse and difficult to grasp. For this style of ancient wisdom, I think zen would be a better starting point.
Read More: “The Way Of The Sufi” on Amazon
Lord Of The Flies
A group of school children end up deserted on an island with no adults. They elect a leader named Ralph who directs construction of shelters and maintenance of a signal fire. Another boy, Jack, begins ignoring him to hunt with his pack of followers. Jack’s success in hunting causes Ralph to lose power. Tribalism takes hold.
It’s said that the book serves as a metaphor of civilization, with reason on one end represented by Ralph and primalism on the other represented by Jack. Ralph’s insistence on logic and doing the right thing was not serving the primal needs of the boys, so they gravitated towards Jack’s leadership as time went on. Modern society offers a balance between these two extremes, or at least it’s supposed to, but in the book we see a total degeneration of the boys into an animalism that leads to group murder despite the boys’ proper upbringing.
“I got this to say. You’re acting like a crowd of kids.”
The booing rose and died again as Piggy lifted the white, magic shell.
“Which is better— to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?”
A great clamor rose among the savages. Piggy shouted again.
“Which is better— to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”
Again the clamor and again—“ Zup!”
Ralph shouted against the noise.
“Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”
The writing can be choppy at times, but it was a quick and enjoyable read. I believe you can learn more about group psychology and leadership from this book than any academic text.
Read More: “Lord Of The Flies” on Amazon