Confessions of a Failed Egoist by Trevor Blake

Book: Confessions of a Failed Egoist

Author: Trevor Blake

Type of Book: Non-fiction, essays, philosophy, memoir

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: SubGenii Unite!

Availability: Published by Underworld Amusements in 2014, you can get a copy here:

Comments: This book showed me in many ways that I have become a very bitter woman. I don’t think I am an egoist because I am sort of filled with self-loathing and seldom know what the right thing to do might be and therefore have no business using my own self as a life philosophy, but I can still see the charm in this book of short essays and articles dealing with everything from egoism to the sexual lives of the disabled to selling used books.

Blake’s style is erudite yet irreverent and breezy, almost to distraction at times. And god this book could have been better edited. It actually fell outside of my bitchy upper limit of what I can endure in regards to errors in books, but it was charming and intelligent enough to make it still worth discussing. You will also encounter words like “siphonophore” (a sort of man-of-war water creature) and improving your vocabulary via arcane words is a good thing.

Let’s begin this discussion with Blake’s definition of egoism:

Egoism is the claim that the individual is the measure of all things. In ethics, in epistemology, in aesthetics, in society, the Individual is the best and only arbitrator. Egoism claims social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual. Such impediments may be tolerated but they have no special standing to the Individual, who may elect to ignore or subvert or destroy them as He can. In egoism the State has no monopoly to take tax or wage war.

Yeah, yeah, I see the appeal but in this respect I’m a pedant and anti-intellectual to boot – if I can’t see it working in real life I can’t really discuss it in much depth. Philosophies that end up stating that one of their tenets is that the State cannot tax or wage war cause me to want to discuss whether or not Ariel the Mermaid should have exchanged her fins for legs and if the exchange was worth it. Both discussions occupy the same head space in my brain.  Let’s discuss how many mermaids can dance on the head of a philosopher!

But even if I am philosophically stunted these days,  there is much in this book that resonated with me.

Every Cradle Is a Grave by Sarah Perry

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book:  Every Cradle Is a Grave:  Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide

Author:  Sarah Perry

Type of Book:  Non-fiction, philosophy

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  Pretty self-explanatory.

Availability:  Published by Nine Banded Books, you can get a copy here:

You can also order a copy directly from the publisher.

Comments:  Sarah Perry wrote this book from a place of philosophical intellectualism and factual integrity.  She exhaustively researched the hows and whys of suicide and procreation and makes a very compelling case for making suicide accessible for people who do not want to live and for considering whether or not it is ethical to continue to create new humans whose lives may be more a burden to them than a gift.  As she deftly picks apart the arguments against suicide and antinatalism, she bestows upon mankind a dignity and respect for self that anti-suicide and pro-birth crusaders deny us as we are asked to suffer and to mindlessly recreate ourselves because of tyrannies of tradition and religious mores.

I very much want to discuss this book in a bloodless manner because the subject matter is so fraught with emotional reaction, much of it knee-jerk, that makes the topic hard to discuss in an intelligent way.  When you speak to people whose loved ones killed themselves, you hear them speak of the cowardice and selfishness of suicide.  When you talk of people who did not have children, you all too often hear others dismiss ethical childlessness as selfish, or insist that if only one had a child, one would know, really know, what true love means.  To approach a counter to such topics with emotion is pissing in the wind because the very basis for avoiding suicide and encouraging procreation is steeped in emotion.

But given my personal history and recent events in my life, I can only approach these topics – especially suicide – from a place of emotion and personal anecdote.  I hope that as I write from my id I do this topic justice.  This book really is a paradigm changer, and you don’t have to adopt an antinatalist world view for that to happen.  It is a book that argues against some of the most deeply ingrained habits of human existence – to remain living at all costs and to spread one’s seed far and wide – and it makes the case that our reason and self-awareness are not entirely a great gift and that possession of them should permit us to control how we decide to die rather than be used as a manipulative tool to keep us living.

And there is no way to discuss the entirety of this book.  Know that I will be unable to discuss large amounts of this book and that you need to read it yourself.  All I can do is discuss what I experienced when reading this book and how it relates to my life.

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, edited by Richard Brian David

This post originally appeared on I Read Everything

Book: Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy

Author: edited by Richard Brian Davis

Why Did I Read This Book: I got it in January, a release clearly meant to tie in with the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland cinema release. It seemed interesting to me, so I grabbed it. I am not a person for whom deep philosophy holds much resonance but I reckoned I could hold my own in a book from the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture collection. Turns out I was mostly correct in that respect.

Availability: You can get a copy here:

Comments: Whenever I think of Alice in Wonderland, I always think of a passage from Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman, wherein one character is going on at length about his theories and another tires of his monologue:

“The very latest approach to Alice is just to dismiss it as a rather charming children’s book.”

That was always my opinion, too, that it was an outlandish story told to amuse a little girl and that all the analysis many put into the book was all so much hot air. However, there was always a niggling idea that Carroll could have hidden meaning that did not register in my young mind when I read the book. I wondered how differently I might look at Alice in Wonderland if I read this book. I already had the drug culture down, thank you very much Grace Slick. So it was possible there was more to the book and varying ways of interpreting it.

Overall, this book was a disappointment to me, and that may be a user problem, I am ready to admit. I wanted this book to explain the philosophy of Alice in Wonderland. Several articles used Alice in Wonderland to explain philosophy, and if that seems like a fine distinction, it really isn’t. The former explores philosophical points in the book. The latter uses book elements to illustrate philosophical points. You can do the latter with anything. I could, if I tried long enough, find a way to illustrate any philosophical tenet using my cats, organic bathroom cleaners or the content of the junk drawer in my kitchen. You can use just about anything to prove a theory if you don’t mind stretching a metaphor until it almost breaks. That seems to happen a lot in some of these articles, and while it wasn’t what I particularly wanted, the book is titled Alice and Wonderland and Philosophy, which means that my complaint is just me… well, complaining. The book didn’t misrepresent itself. I just wanted something else.

Of the essays that discussed the philosophy in Alice in Wonderland, several were quite informative while still being entertaining to me. “Wishing it Were Some Other Time: The Temporal Passage of Alice” by Mark W. Westmoreland and “Reasoning Down the Rabbit Hole: Logical Lessons in Wonderland” by David S. Brown both satisfied my need to explore the philosophy in Alice yet were easily read and understood by a philosophical layman like me. There were several other very good essays in the book but those two stood out for me as the best.

However, despite the fact that about half of this book was quite good, two of the essays were so bad that I wondered if perhaps it was my lack of philosophical grounding that caused my reaction, but ultimately, I decided it was that the articles were, in fact, not that good.