The Savage Noble: Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan of the Apes stroked her soft hair and tried to comfort and quiet her as Kala had him, when, as a little ape, he had been frightened by Sabor the lioness or Histah the snake.
Once he pressed his lips lightly upon her forehead., and she did not move, but closed her eyes and sighed. She could not analyze her feelings, nor did she wish to attempt it. She was satisfied to feel the safety of those strong arms, and to leave her future to fate, for the last few hours had taught her to trust this strange wild creature of the forest as she would have trusted but few of the men of her acquaintance.
Now that I've reached the 20th century, the western canon now includes "popular fiction". the good news is, I get credit for reading 'classics' for something like the original "Tarzan". The bad news is, classics from a century ago generally haven't aged well.
the premise of Tarzan of the Apes is that a baby born to jungle-marooned aristocrats and raised by apes necessarily grows into a great character because he is descended from English Aristocrats, and therefore has their inherent cultural superiority and noble character running through his blue blood. As opposed to, you know, the human inhabitants of the African jungle, who are just savages, closer to beasts than humans. Nope, nothing problematic about that at all.
And also, because he is raised in a state of nature, he is not made effeminate by the artificial trappings of civilization. Unencumbered by manners and riches, he grows to the natural human height of seven feet tall or so, with huge knotted muscles that are to civilized man what a man is to a mewling baby...but because he is white and rich by birth, he can think and can rule the jungle.
the book is at its best when he has no more than animals for company, and he swings through the trees on vines, calling his yet-to-be-trademarked Tarzan yell. when he starts playing tricks on the native villages, it becomes racially offensive, and when he meets another marooned party (that includes the woman called "Jane", a comically senile professor, and a man who just happens to be Tarzan's kinsman the new Lord Greystoke, it needs content notes for English terracentric rubbish.
But hey. It's Tarzan. What did one expect?
Timid New World: Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke
This morning, I looked out of a window in the Eighteenth South-Eastern Hall. on the other side of the Courtyard, I saw the Other looking out of a Window. The Window was tall and dark; the Other's noble head with its high forehead and neatly trimmed beard was framed in one Corner. He was lost in thought as he so often is. I waved to him. He did not see me. I waved more extravagantly. I jumped up and down with great energy. But the Windows of the House are many and he did not see me.
It's Hugo Award season once again, and once again I get to read six novels that have been nominated by fandom as the year's best genre fiction. Piranesi is the first one I read, because it was the only one without reserve holds at my local library on the day the nominees were announced.
"Piranesi" is the name whimsically given to the narrator-protagonist by the "Other", the apparently only other living inhabitant of a city-sized building of endless rooms containing little but statuary. the building has an ocean among it, that floods dangerously on occasion. And the narrator wanders from room to room, taking many notes, and reporting back to the Other.
That's how the short novel begins. the concept seemed a bit boring to me at first, but I'm glad I persevered to learn the backstory, the spoilery plot twists, and the fate of the two characters. Not gonna spoil it here, but please trust me that it was well worth the read and earned its spot on the Hugo list. Or don't trust me, and gamble a couple of hours of your time to find out for yourself. High recommendations.
Feminist Economics: the Value of Everything, by Mariana Mazzucato
Adam Smith was of the opinion that markets needed to be shaped. Contrary to the modern interpretation of his work as "laissez-faire" (leave the market alone), he believed that the right kind of freedom is not the absence of government policy, but freedom from rent extraction. Smith would have been baffled by the current understanding of economic freedom as a minimum of non-private activity.
See this February's Bookpost for The Entrepreneurial State. Mazzucato's earlier book about the ways corporations socialize scientific innovation and then patent the results for their private profit. I liked that book enough to go looking for more Mazzucato, whose jacket photo is what I think an economist should look like.
In The Value of Everything, Mazzucato takes on rent-seeking activity by billionaires who bribe their media and government sock puppets to chant that billionaires are too important to have to pay taxes. Mazzucato is English, and her data tends to be anglocentric, but there's enough skewering of the United States for Americans like me to see things we recognize. the book is dedicated to the radical notion that nurses, teachers, and civil servants produce value while the financial industries and overpaid CEOs extract it, somehow ending up claiming ownership of much more wealth than they ever created.
I recommend it as useful ammo for anyone who has to deal with those sock puppets who hate public employees and other underpaid workers (until they need them) and who think having nice things and freedom from narcissistic bosses is some kind of evil.