Archive for February, 2009

On Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition

February 13, 2009

This is the opening paragraph of W. H. Auden’s review of The Human Condition (which was reprinted in Arthur Krystal’s compilation A Company of Readers): “The normal consequence of having read a book with admiration and enjoyment is a desire that others should share one’s feelings. There are, however, if I can judge from myself, occasional exceptions to this rule. Every now and then, I come across a book which gives me the impression of having been especially written for me. In the case of a work of art, the author seems to have created a world for which I have been waiting all my life; in the case of a ‘think’ book, it seems to answer precisely those questions which I have been putting myself. My attitude toward such a book, therefore, is one of jealous possessiveness. I don’t want anybody else to read it; I want to keep it all to myself. Miss Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition belongs to this small and select class; the only other member which, like hers, is concerned with historical-political matters, is Rosenstock-Hussey’s Out of Revolution.”

What Obama Should Read

February 13, 2009

Twenty-five books the new president should have by his bedside. Here is what Jacques Barzun wrote: “I recommend that the new president read William James’s The Will to Believe and George Santayana’s Character and Opinion in the United States. Both books serve a useful purpose to anyone trying to understand America in an overarching sense. They are products of two of our best minds and tell us something of our national character and preferences.”