Friday, 22 December 2017

"How To Live' by Henry Alford

   What a strange book!  Strange and entertaining!
Let's agree that the cover is pathetic, but the author is a humorist and I think I missed the point. 
   The sub-title is "A Search for Wisdom from Old People".  
   A strange topic for a humorist and he certainly attacks it in a strange way. Actually, it is like a 'dog's lunch'. He goes from deep talk about 'wisdom' to uninteresting 'blathering'. His interviews with fascinating elderly people are interspersed with the continuing story of his mother and stepfather divorcing.  In fact, the divorce happened right after he interviewed them for this book on 'wisdom'.

   The first person he interviews is Granny D (Doris Haddock) who wrote a book called "Granny D: Walking Across America in my Ninetieth Year".  That is what she did - walked from Pasedena to Washington, D.C. (3200 miles). It took 14 months.  I cannot find a copy of her book but it was interesting to read about her in this book "How To Live".
    Harold Bloom is an expert on literature.  Having taught literature at Yale for 53 years, his expertise is used to write introductions to many of the classics.  He is now 87 and living in New York.  I enjoyed reading his interview.  He taught himself to read English, Yiddish, and Hebrew by age 5.  In his youth, he was able to read 1000 pages in an hour.  Extraordinary!

Henry Alford
   And here is the author, at 45, taking on the topic of 'wisdom'.  I think he proved in this book that 'older is not necessarily wiser'.
  His research showed that there have been 8 million definitions of 'wisdom' over the course of history.
   He quoted Confucius, Buddha, Socrates.
Yes, it was a 'dog's lunch' from the sublime to the ridiculous.
"Where shall wisdom be found?"

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