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346Philosophy and Literature many of whom turned out to be self-serving farceurs) to the concluding pipe dreams about an "Anarchist University," there is here more than a touch of what Marxists righdy deride as Utopian socialism. David Hume's sound remark on other-worldly men of his day speaks even more pointedly to this-worldly activist-Utopians of our own: "A delicate sense of morals, especially when attended with a splenetic temper, is apt to give a man a disgust of die world, and to make him consider the common course of human affairs with too much indignation." Rumson, New JerseyWill Morrisey The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia, by Bernard Suits, with drawings by Frank Newfeld; 178 pp. Boston: David R. Godine, 1990, $10.95 paper. Philosophers are not generally known for fine writing, but once in a generation or two a book appears out ofnowhere, unclassifiable, inspired, amazing, mesmerizing, wonderful, classic. What books are these? Well, Alice in Wonderland and Through tL· Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, and Either/Or and Fear and Trembling by Kierkegaard, four of the greatest philosophy books of the nineteenth century. Before that there was Candide by Voltaire and Rameau's Nephew by Diderot, and in our own century there are Wittgenstein's Tractatus and Bachelard's TL· Poetics ofSpace. These are books that shock, entertain, instruct, and edify, that can be reread many times for profit (how do they do it?) and pleasure (they do it so well!). Do what? For one thing, in a book in this class the intensity of its author's vision is sustained at its highest peak throughout. You read it the way you watch a tightrope walker, with a great, contented sigh when the end is reached, as perfecdy balanced as the beginning. These are usually marginal books, in the French sense, if not wayward philosophically , at least out of the way, as is, for example, another tour de force, Willie Master's Lonesome Wife by William H. Gass. Occasionally one, say Nietzche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, or the Tractatus, careens into the lead on philosophy's autobahn to be pursued madly by lesser vehicles for awhile. Many have trouble finding a publisher. In 1978, having been rejected by a dozen other publishers (including Oxford University Press, whose guardians "almost" took it but in the end found it unsuitable), TL· Grasshopper by Bernard Suits was released by the University of Reviews347 Toronto Press. It was received with a few rave reviews and mosdy silence, and soon went out of print. But though such books often die, they also rise again, and now that marginal if not wayward (but possessed of impeccable taste) independent publisher, David R. Godine, who prints always only what he likes, has resurrected TL· Grasshopper. Good. TL· Grasshopper is in the form of a Socratic dialogue, only more so. When Prudence asks near the end, "And do you really believe, Grasshopper, that there w some Agency which controls our destinies?," the Grasshopper replies, "More specifically, I believe that there is some Author who writes our dialogue." And when Skepticus suggests that this Author is playing the game ofPirandello with them, the Grasshopper responds drily, "I think he is writing a treatise on the philosophy ofgames." And so he is: "To play a game is to attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs (prelusory goal), using only means permitted by rules (lusory means), where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means (constitutive rules), and where the rules are acceptedjustbecause they make possible such activity (lusory attitude) . . . playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles" (p. 41). One need not be a philosopher to rise and cheer at the succinct elegance of that summation after 41 pages of feinting to get there. But then the counterexamples begin: the annoying triflers, cheats, and spoilsports; the batde to worse than death between Ivan and Abdul; the sexual act; the frustrations of Sir Edmund Hillary who would climb a mountain for sport; the adventures of Porphyryo Sneak, the greatest spy in the world, and of Bartholomew Drag, the greatest bore; the counsel of the therapist Dr. Heurschreck; and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 346-347
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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