Reviews by C. Alan Loewen

The Book of Tea

by Kakuzo Okakura

Okakura Kakuzō (1862–1913) was a Japanese scholar who contributed to the development of arts in Japan. Outside of Japan, he is chiefly remembered today as the author of The Book of Tea.

The Book of Tea is truly a beautiful work in spite of its harsh criticism of the West, but at the time it was written, Japan was sacrificing its traditions and its culture in favor of Occidental trappings. Kakuzō’s desire was not to have Japanese art remain in stasis, but mature and evolve along lines untouched (or “untainted” as Kakuzō would probably say) by Western influences.

In this book, Kakuzō goes into great detail about the spiritual development of Japan and how the celebration of tea, seen at that time more as an artistic and spiritual art form, developed from a fusion of Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism.

Alas, as important as Kakuzō’s work was during his lifetime, today Japan is one of the most secular countries in the world having embraced a more materialistic worldview. The West has won.

This would have saddened Kakuzō, but would not have caught him completely by surprise as the Japanese Tea Ceremony teaches all things are ephemeral and that all things, including countries, pass away.

So I leave you with this quote from the book before we once again turn and submerge ourselves into our sterile and secular world:

Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.

Reviewed on 2011.04.28

Werwolves

by Elliott O'Donnell

Elliott O'Donnell (1872-1965) was a prolific Irish author specializing in the supernatural and was a renowned ghost hunter.

His book on werewolves is of little value to the study of the folklore of the creatures. A true believer, O’Donnell embellishes his stories with drama and an omniscient viewpoint which calls his scholarship and objectivity into question.

However, for some surprisingly good stories on lycanthropy, the book has quite a number of them for those readers who enjoy werewolf tales mixed with dark castles and gloomy woodland cottages.

C. Alan Loewen
http://literary-equine.livejournal.com/

Reviewed on 2011.04.19

Spring Heeled Jack

by Anonymous

Published in 1886, Spring Heeled Jack: The Terror of London is a rare example of what is historically known as the "penny dreadful," a cheaply, mass produced pamphlet aimed at the lower classes for their reading pleasure.

Ironically, though there were many penny dreadfuls published, few have survived because of the cheapness of the paper.

Historically, Spring Heeled Jack was either an apparition or an urban legend (depending on your personal viewpoint) who terrorized London and its environs from 1837 to 1904, a British version of the Jersey Devil.

This story reveals Spring Heeled Jack as a young man wronged out of his inheritance and, in an attempt to get it back, dons an odd costume and a technologically advanced boot that gives him the ability to jump great distances.

Like any penny dreadful, it is full of drama and melodrama and is worth the short read for a tale that sounds reminiscent of America's Batman.

C. Alan Loewen
http://literary-equine.livejournal.com/

Reviewed on 2011.04.07

Gleanings in Graveyards

by Horatio Edward Norfolk

Written in 1861, this short book is a collection of epitaphs found in graveyards in the British Isles.

Ranging from humorous to tragic, from bearing awful puns to downright sarcastic, it is amazing what people allow on their tombstones, the most cynical epitaph being the gravestone remarking on the purity and innocence of the twelve-year-old child buried beneath, but some wiseacre added the inscription saying that she had not yet reached the age of thirteen.

Reviewed on 2011.01.31

more reviews ->