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Letter # 17

The latest news to keep you informed

to you all

My book-bag this week contains a couple of very interesting books: Bertrand Russell's "The Conquest of Happiness" and Patrick White's autobiography "Flaws in the Glass".

Russell's monograph, written by him at the age of 58 (he lived to 98), is what we would today call a self-help book. As Russell put it, the book contains "no profound philosophy or deep erudition," and was "aimed only at putting together some remarks which are inspired by what I [Russell] hope is common sense." And how wonderful those remarks were.

A nice combination of philosophy and self-help guides the reader through what makes a person feel the way they do and how to change it. It is divided well: because first you'll want to know what's wrong, then things that make it better, then the total person to walk away as. Many of his examples of what makes us unhappy are definitely around today, retaining much of what made the book poignant. Surely, it is dated. Russell explains to the reader how much of a stress it must be to see planes in the air. Stuff like this does not change the flow of the book to a modern reader though. His general arguments still apply.

Patrick White's "Flaws in the Glass", published in 1981, is an amazingly frank self-portrait. In this he reveals the truths about his homosexuality; his feelings of inhabiting different personae and sexual identities; his lifelong feud with his mother; his alcoholism, and his later political radicalism. It certainly helps to understand his complex fictions, but more importantly his relationship with Australia. Here is a chronology of his life.

Best wishes and from the Riverbend Quartet!
Peter & Padma & Malty & Rover
10 July 2004



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