Reviews by C. Alan Loewen

Alice in Wonderland

by Alice Gerstenberg

Alice Gerstenberg was a prolific Chicago playwright, Alice in Wonderland being one of her first works.

Actually, the play is a mishmash of Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and characters from both stories pop in and out of the narrative which for this reader was distracting and created to jarring a dissonance for one who knows the original source material very well.

It would have been interesting to see how Gerstenberg worked out the logistics of the play as there are several special effects that are described, but there are no actual notes to reveal how they were pulled off (such as the Cheshire Cat).

All in all, reading the play is a quick, quite diversion to pass an hour, but nothing memorable.

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

Reviewed on 2012.01.14

Arthur Machen

by Vincent Starrett

I confess that this literary essay leaves me slightly confused. Though the author has a deep respect for Arthur Machen and his very impressive body of literary work, I leave this essay wondering if the author believes that Machen was more into promoting evil than good, or demonstrating that evil was more powerful than good.

I cannot deny that the author's main thesis that ecstasy can come from both holy and unholy sources, but to allude that Machen prized unholy ecstasy over holy ecstasy seems to stretch at least my understanding of his stories.

I will leave it to other reviewers to more accurately critique the main point of the short literary essay.

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

Reviewed on 2011.09.17

The Analects of Confucius

by Confucius


Confucius (aka K'ung Fu-Zi) (c. 551 BC – c. 479 BC) was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher whose book, The Analects of Confucius guided Chines culture for well over a thousand years and though Confucianism has diminished dramatically, The Analects still have a tremendous influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today.

The Analects teach the basic Confucian values including social and ritual propriety, righteousness, loyalty, and filial piety, all centered about the central thought of becoming the "proper man" or "gentleman." Interestingly, one can find the Golden Rule within its pages, though stated in the negative: Do NOT do unto others as you would NOT have them do unto you.

However, be aware that The Analects, unlike many other philosophical books, does not translate well into English. Many of the concepts refer to people and places the Occidental mind has no awareness of. The bottom line is that without a well-written and researched commentary, many of the nuances will be lost on the Western reader. However, to understand the Oriental mind, reading and studying The Analects is not an option and there are sections that are easily understandable to an individual seeking to understand the morality and philosophy of Confucius.

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

Reviewed on 2011.05.09

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

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