One of the most delightful segues between songs on the epic concert DVD Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 belongs to Joni Mitchell when she says:
“That’s one thing that’s always, like, been a difference between, like, the performing arts, and being a painter, you know. A painter does a painting, and he paints it, and that’s it, you know. He has the joy of creating it, it hangs on a wall, and somebody buys it, and maybe somebody buys it again, or maybe nobody buys it and it sits up in a loft somewhere until he dies. But he never, you know, nobody ever, nobody ever said to Van Gogh, ‘Paint a Starry Night again, man!’ You know? He painted it and that was it.”
Then she giggles.
Joni’s point could also be extended to books. Nobody ever said to Hemingway: “Write A Farewell to Arms again, man” either, although knowing Papa’s propensity for revision—he reportedly wrote forty-seven different endings for that novel—he may have later longed for such a moment. Of course, quality art and quality literature do not belong sitting up in a loft somewhere or on the forgotten back stacks, but should be admired and read, respectively, by successive generations.
Galleries display art, but who displays books? Millions sit on shelves in libraries and bookstores across the globe, but to channel an old clichéd phrase, you can’t judge a book by its cover—or it’s spine, for that matter! Who brings books to the attention of new readers beyond, say, tenth grade English teachers? Books are reviewed shortly before publication or upon release, but with the exception of certain literary commentaries, are rarely evaluated again for a general audience.
Until the Regarp Book Blog came along.
At the Regarp Book Blog you will find reviews of books published recently—The Awakening: A History of the Western Mind AD 500-1700 was published in August 2020 and Thomas Jefferson’s Education in October 2019—as well as much older ones: Hemingway’s Across the River and into the Trees dates to 1950, and Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder hit the bookstores in 1988. The oldest books reviewed are The Epic of Gilgamesh from 2100 BCE, and The Iliad from circa 8th century BCE, although these versions are much more recent translations. I was flattered to receive an email from the author of a book—originally published in 1987, which I reviewed in 2018—who was clearly thrilled that someone was talking about his work again. This is as it should be.
You will find a lot of nonfiction here, especially history, but also biography, science, religion, philosophy and more general works. But there’s also literature, from novels to short stories to poetry to epic. There’s also a smattering of Young Adult (YA). Podcasts have recently been added for those who want to listen to reviews on the go. The goal is to pique your interest to explore books old and new from an eclectic array of genres. All of the reviews are written by Stan Prager and I bear the sole responsibility for the content, interpretation, and opinions expressed herein. As author or reader, you are welcome to post your comments on the blog, although no post containing inflammatory language nor political polemic will be approved. Most of all, if you find the reviews interesting, you are encouraged to go out and buy these books and read them.
Books are brain food—feed that hungry brain! – Stan Prager