I don’t believe I’ve talked yet about good books to read about the main players in this modest story arc. Antonia Fraser gets a double nod – her “Royal Charles” is a great book not only for clearing up Charles II’s reputation as The Whore King (yes, he loved his prostitutes, but there was also a political subtlety that his successor could have benefited from), but for giving an overall sense of 17th century England. Her biography of Marie Antoinette is more personal, perhaps because the topic of the French Revolution is so hyper-covered in the literature that she felt we don’t need quite as much setting of the scene. They are both great, and their bibliographies are gold-mines for dedicated alibris junkies like you and me. She pointed me to a number of memoirs by those close to Marie Antoinette that are just fascinating on their own, and if you’re up on your French, are worth the time.
For Sagan, the big one is Keay Davidson’s Carl Sagan: A Life, which combines a healthy awe of Sagan’s educational accomplishments with a sense of fairness about his personal failings, particularly with regards to his family and the university work he would often neglect on his road to scientific superstardom.
Edmond Halley is a tricky one to nail down. He usually pops up in books about other people, and in particular the Hooke biography I recommended back in the day has a number of lively bits on his contributions to seventeenth century science. The full biography I have on him is Edmond Halley: Genius in Eclipse by Colin A. Ronan from 1969, and I have rather a soft spot in my heart for it, if for no other reason than its quoting of Flamsteed’s often hilariously huffy letters to Newton in their original spelling.
Lessee here, what else? Oh, for Kristeva Kelly Oliver is pretty much the go-to – both her introduction to The Portable Kristeva and her stand-alone book Reading Kristeva often do better jobs of making Kristeva’s ideas palatable and engaging than Kristeva did, keeping technically faithful without being pompous and needlessly jargon-dependent, as many commentators tend to be (cough… Boundas’s Deleuze Reader Intro… cough). A good introduction to Searle is the collection of essays edited by Barry Smith – there are a couple of Eh ones in there, but generally they are a fascinating sweep through an exciting era in linguistic theory.
Okay, that should keep y’all busy for a while! Oh, and if you happen to be in the Bay Area on July 13, we’re going to have a bit of a booth at the Castro Valley Pride rally, so stop on by and get a gay-pride-themed sketch of your choosing!
– Count Dolby von Luckner