Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ditching A Book (but cheerfully!)

First up, I'm feeling much much better today. An evening of solitude followed by a good night of sleep was just what I needed. Plus I realized that a lot of what's bothering me is caused by the time change messing with my body clock. The older I get the harder it gets to get in the groove after "springing forward".

This morning I made myself hop out of bed as soon as the alarm went off at 6:15. If I can continue to force myself to do that for a few more days I should get back on track. I'm comfortably sleepy tonight already, so I'm hoping to get to bed earlier than I have been these last two weeks.

Now, to the subject of ditching a book. One of the books on my "To Read in 2008" list was Plato and A Platypus Walk Into a Bar...Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. My plan was to listen to this on CD because I thought it would be a somewhat light treatment of a heavy topic and not to hard to absorb aurally.

Well, I made it through the intro and one chapter before getting really fed up with it. If I had to describe the tone of the book in one word it would be "snide". As I was listening to it I felt like I was being tested to see if I was eligible to be in the authors' elite club. If I got the jokes then I could belong, but if I didn't think the jokes were funny...well, that just proved their point about people like me.

The jokes weren't funny. They seemed lame and contrived. Now I will admit that this might just be because I'm not smart enough to understand the inherent humor in philosophy. And I suppose explaining jokes ruins them. But if your subtitle is "Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes" one really gets the idea one might be helped by the jokes to understand philosophy.

There are two other factors that might be causing this disconnect. One is the fault of the authors and the other isn't.

Throughout the intro and first chapter there is a running theme of snarkiness about "Intelligent Design" that really got on my nerves. It was kind of a "nudge nudge" thing...a "well of course, so and so wouldn't have understood because he probably believed in intelligent design (eyes rolling)" kind of thing. I didn't expect the authors of this book to be believers in creationism or intelligent design. When I read secular books like this I generally expect the authors to be Darwinists unless I have some reason to believe otherwise. This snide approach to expressing their disgust with ID came off as childish.

The other factor is the narrator of the audiobook. I've listened to other books this man has read and have liked them. I think one of them was Victory In the Pacific by Albert Marrin. His voice has a sort of swaggering, macho twang to it that worked really well with this book about WWII. But somehow it just didn't work for me with philosophy. I got the feeling Johnny Heller didn't think the jokes were funny either but was acting like he did as he read. When the narrator doesn't come across as "getting" the book he's reading it makes it even harder to delve into the book and learn from it.

Fortunately I didn't spend money for this book. :) So it just went on its merry way back to the library shelves. The library also has it in regular book form, and I might...might check that out. It's possible that it's a decent book that doesn't come over properly read aloud. So, we'll see. Right now I've got enough other books in the line-up that I know will be helpful and readable that I really don't need to force myself to get through this one.

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