Literary Cage Match: Part 2

ImageWhen I paired up this contestant cage match, I was—well, let’s just say the content doesn’t align much. I comfort myself with the fact that most of the TOB (Morning News Tournament of Books, 2013 results here) matchups didn’t necessarily have anything in common other than the fact that they were both books. & yep, both my contestants fulfill that qualification.

Travels with Epicurus is not so much a travelogue as a meditation on growing old, philosophy, and ways of living. The subheadings are things like “On solitary reflection”; “On existential authenticity”; “On mellowing to metaphysics.” & those sound pretty damn intimidating, but honestly, this is not a book that takes a Ph.D. in philosophy to understand.

It’s written in the slow, relaxed, conversation speech of an old man that has come to accept the fact that he is, in fact, old. He’s gone to an island in Greece to hang out & experience life there—specifically to read Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher one generation more recent than Plato with some ideas about how to live.

Epicurus’s basic idea is that you should maximize happiness in life, which seems, well, pretty obvious.

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Here are some of my favorite takeaways:

“Nothing is enough for the man whom enough is too little.” (Epicurus)

“Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.” (Epicurus)

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“What, then, is the right way of living? Life must lived as play.” (Plato)

“An old man does not have to fret about his next move because the chess game is over. He is free to think about any damned thing he chooses.” (this one is quoted directly from the author, I just think it’s AWESOME)

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” (Kirkegaard)

If deep thoughts aren’t your jive, you probably won’t like this one. But I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s just for old people—I mean, come on, we’re all getting older. Who doesn’t wonder at some point [even if it’s just after one too many…drinks] why we’re here? & what we’re supposed to be doing? & why that stupid kid from college got the amazing job that I wanted so badly? Etc.

This is about those questions.

So going back to my criteria that I can basically manipulate however I want:

1. Successfully accomplishing what the author set to accomplish: I would say basically yes. He set out to talk and write about old age & ponder how you can age gracefully or live gracefully. I do think that he did this better in the first few segments; the last two or so seemed a little…without conclusion, but that’s kind of the point too. A- because I liked it.

2. Speaking truth—I would say absolutely on this one, if only because he quoted a whole lot of philosophers with some really awesome things to say. A

So I’m going to give this one an A—as a work of page-turning fiction, this one is…not that, but it’s a quiet, reflective book that I really enjoyed.

So grade-wise? This one kicked the pants off Seduction for me.  But I am open to discussion and disagreement on that.

Also, I think if Jac & Mr. Klein (TwE author & narrator) had a conversation, Jac would totally get fed up with his questions & pondering and leave, so she’s disqualified anyway.

Have a great hump day tomorrow!

 [I received this ARC free from NetGalley]

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