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Friday, July 1, 2022

RAW (and Tyler Cowen) on Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift painting by Charles Jervas

Tyler Cowen at a June 23 post: "Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, some cheap paperback edition.  I did a quick, non-studied reread of this, in prep for the new Cambridge University Press reissue edition due out June 30, which has excellent notes and I will study and reread in more detail.  One of the very best books!  Not only is the story fully engaging and deeply humorous, but it is one of the seminal tracts on progress (largely skeptical), a blistering take on political correctness, wise on the virtues and pitfalls of travel, and one of the first novels to truly engage with science and politics and their interaction.  Straussian throughout.  Swift is one of the very greatest thinkers and writers and his output has held up remarkably well."

Compare with what Robert Anton Wilson wrote in an article on "Brain Books" (reprinted in Beyond Chaos and Beyond, still a bargain at $5 for the Kindle): "Jonathan Swift. All of Gulliver's Travels. There are some anthologies which contain not only this, but a selection of his other writings, too. Swift does a great job of tearing apart conventional ideas about almost everything. He's very, very liberating; almost psychedelic in some passages."

I re-read Gulliver's Travels periodically and always enjoy it. Many years ago, I belonged to a book group in Lawton, Oklahoma; at each meeting we would give each other suggestions on what to read next and agree on the next title. I persuaded everyone to read Gulliver's Travels. I was quite excited to discuss it, but when I showed up at the next meeting, I discovered everyone else had not bothered to finish the book! And of course, I always faithfully read my homework assignments from everyone else.

I could not place the source of the RAW quote cited above until I looked at my copy of Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. I keep a Kindle copy of my phone; it's handy quite often when I need to look for something. 

1 comment:

Rarebit Fiend said...

I really enjoy Swift. I've read Gulliver's Travels a few times. A Tale of a Tub is an amazing satire/meditation on religion and religious sectarianism.