Guest post – Brian

Today I’m pleased to post an interview with Brian, who blogs at Babbling Books. He loves the classics, Shakespeare in particular, and what I love about his reviews is that they reflect not only his opinion, but a desire to go beyond the words and into the heart of the writing itself.

Final Book Shot 1. Who are you?

First, I am a person who is all about relationships with people in my life. My wife, my family and my friends mean everything to me. They come before everything else.
Second, I am about morality and ethics. Trying to do what is right and absolutely essential to who I am. I do not look to a divine power for guidance here, instead it is based upon my own reason and feeling.
Next, I am a conscious being who strives to understand the Universe and humanity’s place in it. This means I am always curious and always learning about science, especially the “big questions”, as well as history, art, literature, philosophy and lots of other stuff.
All of the above sounds very serious. I am also a person who likes to enjoy life, including some of life’s material aspects. I really like having fun!

2. Why do you blog and what is your blog about?

I started a blog because I wanted to be heard. I love to share my ideas. As reading is my primary life’s hobby, and because I can relate reading to just about all my three interests, I choose book blogging. Of course it is not all about me; the interactions with others relating to my blog, and to reading, are an essential reason for my blogging. I do this via my comments section, through email, twitter, etc. This communication with others is so valuable and rewarding, it alone would make blogging worth it.

3. Who are your 3 favorite authors?

My favorite authors are:
William Shakespeare who is incomparably great. His characters, themes, language and humanity are so rich and unequaled by anyone else.

Hermann Hesse is admittedly a flawed writer who probably does not belong in an objective list of all time great authors. Yet his explorations of the human personality as they relate to history, art and human existence are right up my alley. He pushes all the right buttons for me. Thus for personal reasons he is among my favorites.

Albert Camus depicts a secular and gloomy view of existence that is infused with compassion and caring for other humans. This odd mix just does it for me.
Honorable mention to Anthony Trollope – I am tempted to add him as a fourth name. I find that his depictions of people and their interactions may be the most realistic out of all the authors that I have ever read. I really need to read more of his books before I actually put him on the list.

4. Kindle or paper book?

This is an enormously controversial subject! Though this confession may vex some of my friends, I must sheepishly admit that I love e-readers. When using one, I take a lot of notes and highlight text. I would never do this with a real book, as this would damage the tome. In addition the cutting and pasting feature is invaluable when including quotes in blog posts. Of course being able to order or download a book whenever I want it is so very advantageous.
Folks often mention that they lose the aesthetic feel of a book when using an e-reader. I confess that I find it difficult to appreciate the aesthetics of a paperback or even a low cost hardcover. I do appreciate aesthetics of higher quality hardcovers. However I really cannot afford to collect those anyway.

Though I know that sales of old fashioned books have stabilized, I am not sure that low cost physical books will survive indefinitely in the digital age. I do foresee a possible future where people mostly read digital books but where some people maintain collections of high quality hard bound books. I am thinking of something similar to the way that some folks have gone back to collecting vinyl records with high quality packaging.

5. Best book to take with you on a desert island.

I tried to come up with something intellectually rich and comprehensive. Obviously I would want my choice to be long so I choose “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare”.

6. Best book to use as a doorstop.

Though I think that there are a lot of bad books out there, I would contend that the worst books champion ideas that are detrimental to people and society. I must first note that I am not in favor of censorship or the suppression of ideas. I am in favor of criticizing certain ideas however.

I choose two Ayn Rand Novels as doorstops. They are “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead”. In certain quarters, particularly in the United States, these books, as well as Rand’s ideology, exemplified by these novels, are all the rage. The books simplistically categorize all group efforts, particularly efforts initiated by the government, as “collectivism”. Furthermore such group efforts are depicted as harmful to human well-being. Furthermore the books espouse an extremely narcissistic and cold form of individuality, over all other human values. Rand goes even further and tends to demonize characters – those who do not adhere to her dogma. These days this ideology is having an extremely strong influence in American government and politics and is helping to drive really bad and extreme political and social decisions. Though occasionally insightful, the ideas here are more often sophomoric. As final word on these books, I must mention that I find Rand’s storytelling skills to be downright awful.

7. Favorite quotes

Carl Sagan from “Pale Blue Dot”.
The below quote refers to a picture of the earth taken from the Voyager 1 spacecraft when it was four billion miles from Earth. In the picture the Earth is just a speck.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The below quote is from William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. I am not always so nihilistic about life as this quote implies, but I do think it does put some things into perspective.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

8. Three tips for book bloggers.

1. Write as much or as little as you want. It is your blog.
2. Even if you are blogging about a limited subject, strive to express something about your beliefs and feelings about life and other important ideas into your blog. This is your chance to be heard.
3. Reach out. There is a dynamic and friendly blogging community out there. Engage with others. Comment on the blogs of others. Consider guest blogging or inviting others to write posts on your site. Join in on reading events, read along events, etc.

9. What are you most passionate about?

I tend to be passionate about social and political issues. These are the things that affect the most people. It is in these areas where much of our morality is played out. Though I believe that my views are moderate and reasoned, I feel very strongly about them and I am not shy about expressing them.

10. Last book that made you cry.

Though it was not the last book that made me cry, there is a passage from a book that never fails to make me emotional when I think about it. This is true years after reading it. It comes from “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse. When the main character, Siddhartha, has sunk into the deepest depths of despair as a result of the vacuousness of the world and the hollow life that he has created for himself, he attempts suicide by drowning. As he nears the end he hears the sacred word “Om”, which at least in the context of this story, is symbolic of the harmony and balance inherent of the Universe. At this moment Siddhartha chooses not to die. Though I am not a believer in external spirituality, I do place a high value in finding meaning and strength in life based upon one’s own positive values as they interrelate to the Universe at large. I find this passage to be enormously impactful and affecting in a positive way. Thus, this scene never fails to bring tears to my eyes when I contemplate it.

11. Ask me a question.

What book has influenced you or affected you the most?

That is an easy question because this book is also my favorite – Don Juan by Josef Toman, a Czech author. I love the mix of history, religion, the battle between good and evil and the strong positive message in the second half of the book. I have never met a person who has heard of it or read it, although one or two people have done so at my recommendation. That makes me sad, because it’s an incredibly beautiful book who deserves to be out there next to the best historical fiction. I own a Romanian translation and thanks to a good friend I met in the blogosphere, an English translation from 1958. The book came out in 1944.

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51 Responses to Guest post – Brian

  1. Delia says:

    Thanks again for doing this interview, Brian.
    Poe and cats go together well, don’t they? I love the way your cat looks at the camera – perfect picture.
    I’m not surprised you would choose Shakespeare as your companion to have on a desert island – there’s enough in his work to keep one busy thinking about for a really long time.
    I haven’t read Ayn Rand’s novels but have watched Atlas Shrugged and liked it. To me however, it was just a movie, nothing more. I’ll have to pick up one of her books and see about her writing. You’ve made me really curious.
    I love that quote from Macbeth, so beautiful and melancholy (and true).

    • Brian Joseph says:

      Thanks again Delia.

      That is Truffle. Perhaps she is a little too white to match with Poe.

      Don Juan by Josef Toman looks to be a good book and I want to read it.

      If you decide to read those Ayn Rand Books I would love to know what you think.

  2. parrish says:

    Great selection of books, especially Camus, who I’ve a great fondness for & for similar reasons to yours.

  3. Tracy Terry says:

    Great to see Brian, one of my favourite bloggers, featured here with some great questions and answers.

    Nice to have met you Delia. I’ve enjoyed having a browse around your blog.

  4. Wonderful interview! It’s great to learn more about you, Brian.

  5. Caroline says:

    How wonderful to get to know you better, Brian.
    I enjoyed your interview a great deal.
    I’d love to discuss that scene from Siddharta with you. You make me want to re-read to Hesse. I love Camus as well btw.
    I’ve heard a lot of awful things about Ayn Rand. I don’t think I’d like to read her at all.

  6. I love this post! It’s so nice to get to know you, Brian, through your deep and heartfelt answers. I have really enjoyed our interactions and reading your blog.

  7. Thoughtful answers to some insightful questions. Your choice of writers and comments reflect a love of reading that I respect. Shakespeare in particular is an author I read and reread. Glad you are sharing your thoughts about blogging and reading.

  8. Maria Behar says:

    This is such an interesting, entertaining interview! I love the questions you’ve asked, Delia, and Brian’s answers are totally fascinating! This is a wonderful idea, too, interviewing a fellow blogger!

    Shakespeare, I think, probably tops most people’s lists of favorite authors, so I heartily concur with Brian. I was also delighted when he mentioned Hermann Hesse as one of his favorites, because that author happens to be right up there on my list, as well. I especially enjoyed reading “Narcissus and Goldmund” years ago. I’d like to revisit it, so as to review it on my blog.

    Thanks for bringing us all such a terrific interview!

  9. Maria Behar says:

    P.S. I’m an ardent lover of the printed book, so I fervently hope that such books never disappear! Since I have SO many of them already, I really need to read them. I do have some e-books on my cell phone. They don’t take up space, of course, and they’re much cheaper. Still, not all e-books are cheaper than physical books. i have seen some priced at $9.99 and higher. Well, for that price, I don’t want a simple download, but a REAL book to hold in my hands!

    There was a Star Trek (TOS) episode in which viewers got to see Captain Kirk’s private collection of real books…..oh, I do hope physical books will NEVER become that rare…..

    • Brian Joseph says:

      Hi Maria – I actually was thinking of you when I wrote what I did about Ebooks 🙂

      I know how you love the real thing. I do hope that they will always be around in one form or another.

    • Delia says:

      I love the printed books as well, Maria. My Kindle is more like plan B, if I can’t find the physical book I’ll consider a download. It’s nice to have the option but given the choice…

  10. Suko says:

    Brian Joseph has put a lot of thought into his answers, as he does in his book blog posts. Delia, your questions are direct and bold. Very well done!

  11. JacquiWine says:

    It’s great to get to know you a little better, Brian. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your responses to these questions. I’m not surprised to see Shakespeare’s name in your selection of favourite authors…I really must make a start with Trollope!

  12. Brian Joseph says:

    Hi Jacqui – Thanks!

    I think that you will like Trollope. It seems that most folks who read him do.

    I will soon be putting up a series of posts on him.

  13. Great to see Brian featured here and to find out more about him, brilliant questions too. I also love the ease of highlighting when reading ebooks, and must admit I like them more and more, though I’ll always love a good quality hardback edition of a special book to keep, too. Thank you for the tips for bloggers, too, in particular no. 1. Great interview!

  14. Vishy says:

    Thanks for hosting this guest post with Brian, Delia. This is a wonderful interview!

    It is wonderful to get to know you better, Brian. I loved your three favourite authors. I first read Hermann Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’ many years back and I have read it many times since. It is a book that has many insightful wonderful passages. The scene you have described from it is one of the very beautiful ones. I also love his ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’ and I hope to read his ‘The Glass Bead Game’ one day. I remember reading the first lines of Camus’ ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ – they were brilliant and stunning. That William Shakespeare quote from ‘Macbeth’ made me laugh 🙂 Because, though I am not nihilistic either (atleast most of the time), I think those lines are very true. I also loved that Carl Sagan quote – it puts things in perspective. It was interesting to read your thoughts on Ayn Rand. I haven’t read an Ayn Rand book yet, but she was very popular during my student days among my college friends and she still seems to be popular in college campuses. I think the brand of individualism she champions in her book inspires young people, but when we grow older we realize that the world is not as simple as that. I hope to read ‘The Fountainhead’ one day and see whether I like it.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Brian. It is nice to get to know you better.

    • Brian Joseph says:

      Hi Vishy – Thank you so much for reading the interview.

      I highly recommend The Glass Bead Game. It is different in many ways and it is one of the most unique books that I have ever read.

      It is interesting how folks who are not nihilism sometimes get so much from small doses of nihilism.

      Indeed young folks are often drawn to the ideas of Ayn Rand. In the United States we also have some middle aged politicians who also are.

  15. Brian Wadman says:

    Great interview… Enjoyed going thru his catalogue and share much with him in his impressions of the life, humanity and most importantly, novels. Will be reading his blog soon. Thanks for introducing him Delia – good choice!

    • Brian Joseph says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by and reading Brian

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,
      I’m enjoying these interviews a lot. I often wonder about the person behind the blog and this is a good way to find out a bit more about them.
      Brian’s latest posts also remind me I should read more classics, something I’ve been neglecting to do this year.
      Thanks for your visit and for your comment.

  16. ian darling says:

    I really agree with Brian about Ayn Rand. It is the rather creepy totalitarianist slant on libertarianism which gets my goat (totalibertarianism!). She is though, sad to say, with Orwell the most influential political novelist of the 20th century.

    • Delia says:

      Well, I will have to at least try to read one of her books, just to see what all the fuss is about.

    • Brian Joseph says:

      Hi Ian – Good point about rands influence. I have to think if any novelist is more so after Orwell.

      Though I still disagree with him, I find Robert Heinlein’s take on Libertarianism to be much more humane and democratic. His philosophies were laid out in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

  17. JaneGS says:

    Wonderful interview! I am totally with you on the Ayn Rand books as doorstoppers. I try to keep an open mind about authors and their pov, but I find her simply maddening!

    The chapter I just read in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was about the books you read when young that triggered your love of reading (or need to read) and how they remain beloved even after you’ve “moved on,” and I’m wondering if that is the case with your love of Hesse. I never actually read Hesse though my brothers tried to get to read his stuff when we were young. They still like him, and I’m still ambivalent.

    I’ve not embraced ereaders though I ‘ve tried. I like the notion of being able to annotate and mark, so maybe I should try again with that in mind.

    Your tips for book blogging are spot on–could not agree more! Well said.

    I’ll have to check out Don Juan by Josef Toman, as I’ve never heard of it.

    • Brian Joseph says:

      Hi Jane – Though one does need to try to be open minded and consider other points of view, when a belief is faulty and harmful I think that it is important to call it out.

      The E – Reader thing is so subjective! I am not sure if folks will ever agree on it 🙂

      I did read Hess first when I was fairly young. But a lot that I like has to do with his themes which I am still drawn to. Oddly enough he is at times an awkward storyteller, as he “tells rather then shows”. This is a flaw but makes his themes easier to interpret. Perhaps it is laziness on my part, but I find that makes him easy to read while not being superficial.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Jane,
      Thanks for visiting. I hope you get to read Don Juan. As far as I know, you can only find second hand copies of the book.

  18. Lainy SMBSLT says:

    What a great feature, always nice to get to know the peoples blogs you visit a bit more. Will have a wee look around too 🙂


  19. Emma says:

    Hi Brian,

    It was really nice to hear about you and know you better.
    I liked the quotes you picked and I must say I’m not surprised you’d take Shakespeare on a desert island. Perhaps you should pack Himadri ( with you and this island wouldn’t seem so desert to you anymore. 🙂

    I’ve never heard of Ayn Rand but it seems I don’t need to bother.

  20. Emma says:

    Hi Delia,

    Thanks for this interview, it was an excellent way to know more about Brian.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Emma,
      I’m glad Brian agreed to answer the questions. It’s nice to find out more about the people behind the blogs. And I was just thinking about posting a link to Himadri’s blog but you beat me to it. 🙂
      Thanks for visiting.

  21. Brian Joseph says:

    Thanks for reading Emma.

    Himadri and I very much share a love of Shakespeare and we have discussed his work a bit. He is one of my favorite bloggers.

    If you lived in the United States you would have likely heard of Rand. We now have a Presidential candidate who claims to have based his beliefs upon her philosophy.

  22. Kate Love says:

    Hi Brian,

    I enjoyed getting to know you better through this interview – I’m glad you linked to it from your blog!

    “It is a tale
    Told by an idiot,”

    I love this quote – thanks for sharing it.

  23. Brian Joseph says:

    Hi Kate – Thank you so much for reading.

    That really is some quote.

  24. Wonderful interview, Delia! Through your interviews, I meet a lot of interesting bloggers. Thank you again! 🙂

    Hi Brian,

    I am glad to have been introduced to your blog.

    ‘Siddhartha’ is one of my all-time favourite books, and I love the scene that you have mentioned. Quite often, I read a lot of passages from the book over and over again. It was one of the first books that I read on my Kindle. For some reason, I want to enjoy the story through a physical copy again. 🙂 And, as a family, we love ‘Siddhartha’. When my father discovered the book in my tiny library, he was proud. I was prouder, when I discovered the book in the attic, where my dad keeps his old (very old) books. 🙂

    Also, I used to be a passionate lover of Ayn Rand’s works. I was about 22 when I read ‘Atlas Shrugged’, and I read ‘Anthem’ and ‘The Fountainhead’ when I was 24. Almost half a decade after my first rendezvous with Rand’s book, I must admit that her works, ideologies don’t appear THAT stunning to me anymore. While I love some of her characters, I don’t think I would re-read her books. However, I often think of Francisco d’Anconia. In my humble opinion, he was the only pragmatic personality in ‘Atlas Shrugged’.

    Thank you for sharing your intriguing thoughts. I really liked your interview, and I intend to visit your blog often.

    • Delia says:

      It was my pleasure to have Brian as my guest, Deepika. I’m glad he agreed to answer the questions.

    • Brian Joseph says:

      Hi Deepika – Siddhartha is really a special book. It is interesting that I go back and reread certain passages again and again. If I ever do start a collection of high quality books I think that it would be one of my first acquisitions.

      I think that it would be interesting if you went back and read Rand again. I find that reading books years later yields a lot of surprises.

  25. Harvee says:

    I’d take Shakespeare on a desert island too, Brian. Great interview!

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