Author Archives: Richard Smaby

Einstein and Rational Argument

Reading the essays in Ideas and Opinions, I was struck by Einstein’s variety of expression of different types of ideas. “E=MC2” 1946 represents Einstein’s scientific writing for a popular audience (with his characteristic clarity of thought). I will not quote … Continue reading

Posted in 2017 Selections, Albert Einstein's Ideas and Opinions | 1 Comment

Words in Fin de siècle Vienna

Schorske loves words. He uses fifty cent words, French words, and German words with aplomb. He appears to know what those words mean. But does anyone really know what a word means? I am particularly interested in the words: liberal, … Continue reading

Posted in 2017 Selections, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna | Leave a comment

My John Steinbeck Assignment

A Saigon Boulevard The girls, or are they women? The women sit open crotches in the humid heat, lining the boulevard in front of the mini bars that have sprung up to service soldiers. It’s hard to judge the age … Continue reading

Posted in 2017 Selections, Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath | 3 Comments

John Locke according to Tristram Shandy

My enjoyment of Tristram Shandy consists largely in Sterne as iconoclast, most notably for me his critique of John Locke’s theory of language and ideas. But more generally I revel in his tongue-in-cheek renditions of the hubris of the Enlightenment! … Continue reading

Posted in 2016 Selections, Tristram Shandy | Leave a comment

January 2017 Selection: Working Days, Grapes of Wrath

“Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath” 1938 – 1941 by John Steinbeck, edited by Robert DeMott. “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck Working Days consists of journal entries describing the 100 days he spent writing The Grapes … Continue reading

Posted in 2017 Selections, Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath | 1 Comment

Translating Poetry into Prose in Omeros

The following is my attempt to translate into straightforward prose a part of a chapter in Derek Walcott’s “Omeros.” The original is Part III of Chapter XXXII. The question I wish to ask is what is it about the poetic … Continue reading

Posted in 2015 Selections, Omeros | 1 Comment

November Selection: Omeros (1990) by Derek Walcott

I chose Omeros not only because it is one of my favorite books, but also because it offers something for everyone in the club. Some will want to analyze the poetry, others colonialism and history, others the allusions to the … Continue reading

Posted in 2015 Selections, Omeros | 5 Comments

George Lakoff – The Linguist

I first heard of, and heard George Lakoff at advanced seminar presentation he gave to the University of Pennsylvania Linguistics Department. He presented on his research for his dissertation, later published as Irregularity in Syntax. He set the context as … Continue reading

Posted in 2015 Selections, George Lakoff Books | Leave a comment


There is an article in The New York Times on a major revision by the College Board to the SAT exams. (Bill Hagens shared this in a recent email.) The College Board says its current college admission exams do not … Continue reading

Posted in 2014 Selections, The New School | 1 Comment

Applying the Fales’ Method to Current Events

For me the two books we have just read raised a question How to do the right thing. Both books emphasize that acting is important. Dimock tortures us with the need to act and how to know what the right … Continue reading

Posted in 2013 Selections, Fear and Trembling, George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Times | 1 Comment