C. Alan Loewen

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C. Alan Loewen

C. Alan Loewen’s book reviews

Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian (1859–1943) was an American rationalist and secularist of Armenian decent. Is Life Worth Living Without Immortality? is a lecture delivered he delivered in 1910, twenty-five years after he abandoned his ordination in the Presbyterian church for what he called Rationalism.

Not an atheist, Mangasarian became an agnostic and an advocate of Epicureanism.

There is little of merit in this essay. Even though educated at Princeton, his ignorance of various Christian doctrines such as the problem of evil and definitions of basic words such as faith and sin show a surprisingly shallow understanding. Sensible people, whether rationalists or metaphysicians, will balk at his comment that non-white races don't commit suicide as they are not intelligent enough to understand existential despair or that physically healthy Rationalists are only those capable of experiencing true happiness (and Mangasarian's definition of happiness is amazingly shallow).

Best to look elsewhere except for those interested in historical pieces of philosophy.
01/22/2013
Percy F. Westerman (1876 - 1959) was a prolific author of what was called "children's literature and in his lifetime he wrote 178 novels. Airship (more correctly titled, The Airship "Golden Hind") was his 41st novel and tells the story of Kenneth Kenyon and his buddy, Peter Bramsdean getting itchy after World War I from a life of inactivity. Receiving a summons from their former wing-commander, Sir Reginald Fosterdyke to undertake a race around the world in a dirigible of Fosterdyke's invention, the three men with their intrepid crew sail the Golden Hind to Gibraltar and set off to make history.

However, there is a bad guy waiting in the wings,--pun unintended--Count von Sinzig who will not pause to commit any evil to win the race in his own zeppelin.

The book is filled with period slang that can make for difficult reading, but the action, though predictable, makes the book an interesting quick read and the introduction of "brodium," a non-explosive gas lighter than helium gives the book a steampunk flavor.

This book would go well with role playing game masters looking for a quick steampunk/pulp scenario as well as steampunk authors looking for a period feel for their own work.

10/30/2012
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The literary work of Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) was highly respected by H. P. Lovecraft who wrote, "He is the one absolute and unquestioned master of weird atmosphere."

Jimbo is Blackwood's first novel and is reminiscent of the style of Lord Dunsany. In this tale, a young boy is badly injured and he finds himself in a sort of world between life and death centered on The Empty House with its residents, the bogeyman Fright and the children he has trapped in the past.
09/25/2012
I am a big fan of Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) especially after being so moved by his short story, The Willows which I consider one of the best horror tales ever written.

The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories was Blackwood’s first collection of short stories (I respectfully disagree with ManyBooks. This collection was published in 1906, not 1916) when the author was 37 years old. Though lacking some of the finesse he developed later in his career and suffering from very abrupt endings, the collection is more than just ghost stories tackling themes such as a murder mystery, demonic possession, and an intriguing take on lycanthropy.

The stories in order are:

The Empty House
A Haunted Island
A Case Of Eavesdropping
Keeping His Promise
With Intent To Steal
The Wood Of The Dead
Smith: An Episode In A Lodging-House
A Suspicious Gift
The Strange Adventures Of A Private Secretary In New York
Skeleton Lake: An Episode In Camp

All in all, the collection is an enjoyable romp through another time and culture with some genuine chills thrown in for good measure.

C. Alan Loewen
http://literary-equine.livejournal.com
07/22/2012
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/
01/14/2012
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/
09/17/2011
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/
05/09/2011
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.

04/28/2011
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/
04/19/2011
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.
01/31/2011
 Adam Nicholls & Jay Nadal - Private Eyes, Detectives and Psych Thrillers
FEATURED AUTHOR -  Adam Nicholls grew up in the southwest of England, where he studied creative writing while working a variety of full-time jobs. When his Mason Black series was first published, he quickly became a bestseller and then went on to create a name for himself in the thriller genre. Adam now lives with his wife in Bristol.