When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?: Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life Info

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Reviews for When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?: Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life:

3

May 06, 2011

It's a cliche, but I sometimes judge a book by its cover. This one offers a clever design with the words "Cat" and "...Being in Touch with Life" in the title. I'm an almost single girl with three cats, trudging through the rough terrain of chronic illness and divorce. Like the cats, the book was coming home with me.

Self-help books are anathema to me. I'm sure they help many people; unfortunately, dusty stacks of said books purchased by my thrice-married mother left an indelible impression. It's a cliche, but I sometimes judge a book by its cover. This one offers a clever design with the words "Cat" and "...Being in Touch with Life" in the title. I'm an almost single girl with three cats, trudging through the rough terrain of chronic illness and divorce. Like the cats, the book was coming home with me.

Self-help books are anathema to me. I'm sure they help many people; unfortunately, dusty stacks of said books purchased by my thrice-married mother left an indelible impression. Montaigne was a famous French philosopher, though. He lived through bloody religious civil wars in 16th century France. He felt the combined loss of his father, brother, best friend, and first-born child keenly. This man knew pain and suffering (having also inherited his father's kidney stone condition).

Montaigne's sense of loss and grief proved so great, in fact, that he retired as magistrate to live out his days in his tower library. At this time, a Christian life was one of stoic struggle while alive, happiness and peace occurring only after death. And when Montaigne begins writing what becomes his famous Essays, he seemed content with that arrangement.

I gather the role of shut-in, isolated from the rest of the house (and his family), bored and unsettled Montaigne. Stoicism, he realized, was not for him. Simply put, he decides life is meant to be lived, not squandered waiting for...well, for what? Why be given this life and not enjoy it? He even turns the agonizing pain of a kidney stone passing into a positive, productive event. His surmise--without the pain, how can one appreciate the absence of it?

Despite the pain, Montaigne decides a European tour is in order, as he discovers within himself a burgeoning curiosity about the world in which he lives. For a man of the 1500's, he develops pretty modern ideas on religion, sex, race, cruelty, and violence. If you're like me, a lover of Shakespeare, you discern Montaigne's influence on the playwright. Remember, it was during this time that sex became increasingly taboo and legislated; now read or remember Measure for Measure (already thought to be a play ahead of its time), and you'll have a greater sense of the philosopher's impact on the Bard.

Learning about Montaigne's transformation from stoic to lover and student of life and introspection, both good and bad, had a profound effect on me (the right book at the right time). It wasn't a quick read, as it's dry at times (with sloppy editing); in the end, however, it was time well spent, as became Montaigne's life. ...more
4

Apr 29, 2011

I am a sucker for a few kinds of books--books about Montaigne are one of them. The problem is that it can get hard to say anything new or to say the same things in new enough ways to make them interesting. I think this would be a wonderful introduction to Montaigne for someone who hasn't read about him before. I think I couldn't do the book justice, especially having just recently read yet another book on him (Bakewell's "How to Live). But Frampton writes well and makes one want to read (or I am a sucker for a few kinds of books--books about Montaigne are one of them. The problem is that it can get hard to say anything new or to say the same things in new enough ways to make them interesting. I think this would be a wonderful introduction to Montaigne for someone who hasn't read about him before. I think I couldn't do the book justice, especially having just recently read yet another book on him (Bakewell's "How to Live). But Frampton writes well and makes one want to read (or re-read) Montaigne--and how much more can one ask?

"The task of philosophy, therefore, is not to dig down to firmer, more resolute foundations, or to rise up into the beyond, but to show us where we already stand; not to shake off the body, but to shake its hand." Chapter 12 ...more
4

Aug 25, 2012

I was inexplicably drawn to this book in Barnes and Noble, Union Square, New York. I'd never read anything about Montaigne before, before I have to admit that I am overly receptive to pretty covers, and attractive bindings. This is a lovely soft-covered book that is a joy to hold, and that probably got me to open the cover and look inside.

Flicking through the pages, and deciding whether to invest in this book or not, I was drawn to the personable text and containing nature of the narrative. I'm I was inexplicably drawn to this book in Barnes and Noble, Union Square, New York. I'd never read anything about Montaigne before, before I have to admit that I am overly receptive to pretty covers, and attractive bindings. This is a lovely soft-covered book that is a joy to hold, and that probably got me to open the cover and look inside.

Flicking through the pages, and deciding whether to invest in this book or not, I was drawn to the personable text and containing nature of the narrative. I'm currently venturing into reading factual books in the humanities for the first time (I have a medical and science background and for many years have read on technical books and crime thrillers). Previously I've given up on books after just a few paragraphs, but with this one I felt like I could at least make it through several chapters.

I wasn't sure whether this was a biography, an academic work or a pseudo-novel about Montaigne. And I'm still not sure. I think that what it says on the back "An inventive exploration" is probably right. It is an appreciation of Montaigne's work, seated culturally and historically in the context of his life. It is a great introduction to Montaigne, but it does reference a lot of classic philosophy, and if, like me, you're not one for knowing all that stuff - you might find that a bit daunting. However, if you can just go with it, you will enjoy this book and feel like you've had a glimpse of several other worlds along the way.

I'm now reading the Sarah Bakewell Montaigne appreciation - and I'm not sure if I would have preferred to read that first - it is certainly a more gentle and generous introduction to the ancients, whereas this is quite unapologetic in it's name-dropping and referencing.

However, this book must be a success. I bought it, I read and enjoyed it, and I've gone in search of more about Montaigne, including reading his actual essays.

This has been a lovely introduction to the vast realm of the humanities, and it is accessible without being patronising or 'basic'. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a good story, some great history, a glimpse into philosophy or to find out about Montaigne himself. ...more
4

Mar 09, 2013

I picked up this book while visiting London, and it became one of the little joys of that trip. Intrigued by the title and the words "being in touch with life" in the title, I enjoyed this introduction to Montaigne. His approach to life and living were welcome thoughts I embraced and soaked up when I read the book in 2011. "Living happily...is the source of human contentment." Also, I found reading about Montaigne's influence on Shakespeare to be enlightening.
5

May 16, 2011

Picked this up on a whim as it turns out, serendipitously. Frampton does a great job pitting Montaigne against Descartes, the Stoics and religious hard-liners of the time. A great intro study in a compelling worldview.
2

Jul 22, 2012

Nel complesso un po' noioso, non so se dipenda da Frampton o da Montaigne..
4

Jan 03, 2012

Really enjoyed this and now with that great introduction, I want to read Montaigne's actual essays.
4

Dec 22, 2016

An excellent philosophical biography, occupying comfortably the ground between academic and casual; while shunning formal academic rigor, as it should, it engages the casual reader in a fashion that at once relaxes and stretches the mind. Its latter half is particularly enjoyable. Recommended.
5

May 07, 2019

Not having a background in the classics or philosophy, I did not get as much out of this book as the author intended. I did, however, very much enjoy the atmosphere of life in the 1500s, the perils and challenges, and the many descriptions of historical events.
5

Sep 02, 2013

It took me a million years to read this, but it was really remarkably good. I was too young the first time I read Montaigne and I didn't appreciate him. Now, I'm planning to re-read all of Montaigne.
Could have used more velociraptors.
4

Jul 15, 2014

A good introduction to Montaigne. My only real gripe is that the book desperately needed a better editor. Frampton has a horrid habit of starting paragraphs with the word but, sometimes multiple times in a row, and in a few instances starting entire sections this way.
3

Oct 04, 2012

These essays about Montaigne cover a HORRIFIC time of religious wars, plague, famine, and unrest, but Montaigne was an amazing person, who nevertheless relentlessly studied life and studied himself. Author points out that Shakespeare devoured Montaigne's writing, which had a huge effect on his plays. Really interesting. Also the "body arranging" in Renaissance art is intriguing.
0

Mar 02, 2015

I like almost everything written by and about Montaigne, and having just come back from that part of France I'd like to read more. Hearing about the equivalent of Radio 4 in France (existentialism, philosophy, Nietzsche..) makes me think more than ever that France is a socialist country occupied by people of the right and the UK is a right wing country occupied by people of the left.
4

Oct 23, 2018

Good intro to Montaigne for a non-philosophy-reading guy like me. Frampton pulls out some choice quotes and expands upon them, something I wouldn't have been able to manage reading the original texts.

Makes me want to read more (and more about) Montaigne.

Side note: While reading a foreword to Treasure Island, discovered Montaigne was a favorite of Robert Louis Stevenson.
4

Sep 03, 2016

I really loved this book. Like other reviewers mentioned, I initially picked it up due to the awesome cover. I loved learning more about Montaigne and the political culture of the time. As a classicist, I am already a little familiar with some of the ancient philosophers mentioned but it was fascinating to learn more about Stoicism during the Renaissance. And there's a lot of funny parts concerning Montaigne's recordings of his physical state.

I highly recommend this book!
3

Feb 15, 2011

After thoroughly enjoying Sarah Bakewell's 'How to Live? A life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer' (q.v.)I'm on a Montaigne spree, and this book is another quite recent account of him. I like it but compared to the lively and engaging Bakewell book, it's a bit clunky and reads like a PhD thesis that has been edited for a general readership.

In fact, I think it is.

However, it is quite readable and he brings out different facets of Montaigne that the Bakewell book After thoroughly enjoying Sarah Bakewell's 'How to Live? A life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer' (q.v.)I'm on a Montaigne spree, and this book is another quite recent account of him. I like it but compared to the lively and engaging Bakewell book, it's a bit clunky and reads like a PhD thesis that has been edited for a general readership.

In fact, I think it is.

However, it is quite readable and he brings out different facets of Montaigne that the Bakewell book doesn't, so the net result is that I'm now reading the Essays by the man himself.

That should keep me busy for a year or two.
...more
3

Dec 23, 2014

This reads like an academic thesis: it walks through and builds up arguments about Montaigne's context, influences, and perspectives in a rather formal, academic, almost thesis-like way. Although the approach doesn't really lend itself to casual reading, it wasn't dry and I thought it was informative and very interesting overall.

The arguments are often stretched beyond the point of believability, though -- ascribing ideas and intents to Montaigne which are nearly absurd, and suggesting he This reads like an academic thesis: it walks through and builds up arguments about Montaigne's context, influences, and perspectives in a rather formal, academic, almost thesis-like way. Although the approach doesn't really lend itself to casual reading, it wasn't dry and I thought it was informative and very interesting overall.

The arguments are often stretched beyond the point of believability, though -- ascribing ideas and intents to Montaigne which are nearly absurd, and suggesting he perceived things that he almost certainly did not. I thought the historical context and factual information were great -- especially some of the discussion of philosophical perspectives going on at the time -- and the less-firm interpretative parts were still interesting to read, even if they did distract a bit from (to me) more interesting historical info.

Not bad overall, and an interesting read. ...more
5

Oct 04, 2016

A couple of years ago, I bought a copy of the complete works of Michel de Montaigne for a family member to give to me for a birthday or Christmas (that's how gifts are given to me, unfortunately), can't remember which. Montaigne's name has been known to me for decades and many books reference him, so I thought I should at least have what he's written in my possession, although the book still remains unopened.

Although I'm interested in history, I've always preferred secondary texts to start off A couple of years ago, I bought a copy of the complete works of Michel de Montaigne for a family member to give to me for a birthday or Christmas (that's how gifts are given to me, unfortunately), can't remember which. Montaigne's name has been known to me for decades and many books reference him, so I thought I should at least have what he's written in my possession, although the book still remains unopened.

Although I'm interested in history, I've always preferred secondary texts to start off with, sometimes that's as far as I go. A reason for that is that people thought and wrote differently in the past, even the recent past, and you need context for that. Sometimes that involves the reading of several sources before reading the work of an individual.

Saul Frampton provides an insight into the world of Montaigne as well as an appreciation of his thought, and comparison with contemporaries. He contrasts Descartes "cogito ergo sum" with Montaigne's acceptance of reality, that people are, and so observation and reflection on what they do and say. This appears something like John Searle's acceptance of reality, which I find persuasive, not that I deny the possibility of other realities, but that's a different context.

In reading this very readable and often witty book (the wit isn't always successful), I found myself agreeing with Montaigne rather than Descartes regarding approaching what a person is. Then again, I'm not a logical positivist or a subscriber to mechanistic views of the world. I enjoyed his speculations and particular skepticism, as well as Frampton's asides such as an excursus on arquebuses and travel in Montaigne's time. The context of the Wars of Religion was also particularly relevant.

One of the things I didn't know was that Montaigne is the coiner of the term "essay" denoting a piece of writing, the contemporary understanding of which being how I understand myself as a writer. Frampton begins by indicating a meaning of examination, in this case self-examination, towards the end noting its similarity with "assaying."

Ultimately, though he suggests that by essay Montaigne means "tastes" and refers to his several uses of the latter term, as well as his role as a vigneron and speculates it may refer to a disposition, what someone is disposed to think or act. That was really interesting and made me think about how I go about my writing as well as who I enjoy reading, and why.

Anyway, this was a most relaxing read, conducted in the back yard under trees, the front porch amongst other leaves and reclining inside. It was another bargain book.





...more
3

May 20, 2017

It's a bit hard to review this as I am not that familiar with the works of Montaigne. The author spends a great deal of effort trying to convince us that Montaigne is a very modern and relevant writer.
Some sections work much better than others. I found the animal section unconvincing but was drawn in by the travelers tales and the musings on humans as a social animal.

My own academic background focuses on medieval history - and I found this text somewhat lightweight in this area. This made me It's a bit hard to review this as I am not that familiar with the works of Montaigne. The author spends a great deal of effort trying to convince us that Montaigne is a very modern and relevant writer.
Some sections work much better than others. I found the animal section unconvincing but was drawn in by the travelers tales and the musings on humans as a social animal.

My own academic background focuses on medieval history - and I found this text somewhat lightweight in this area. This made me somewhat suspicious about just how accurate this bio really was. Then there was a section near the end where Framton says mirror neurons balance out the selfish gene. Total nonsense. There are some interesting points in this book - but I'd take its main points with a pinch of salt. ...more
4

Jun 28, 2018

Saul FramptonSaul Frampton
When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?
S. Frampton gives the reader a well rounded look at the life and motivations of Michel De Montaigne. Frampton, in a non-liner narrative, provides the picture of one of the ultimate Skeptics in the Age of Skepticism. As the European Renaissance progressed through the tumult of the 16th Century, so too did the criticism of established culture, power, and spirit. As the progenitor of the literary Saul FramptonSaul Frampton
When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?
S. Frampton gives the reader a well rounded look at the life and motivations of Michel De Montaigne. Frampton, in a non-liner narrative, provides the picture of one of the ultimate Skeptics in the Age of Skepticism. As the European Renaissance progressed through the tumult of the 16th Century, so too did the criticism of established culture, power, and spirit. As the progenitor of the literary form we call, and oft dread, the 'Essay,' Montaigne's work is put into the proper context of the age of both immense change and conflict.
The main criticism I have for this work is the order of which events and the life of Montaigne is discussed in the narrative. While the loose outline of the story follows the life of Montaigne through, primarily, the adult decades of his life in a more or less usual order of an individual life, there is a considerable amount of jumping in terms of references and explanations. If you want a clear understanding of the order of events in Montaigne's life, you may have to do some note taking on your own to keep everything clear.
...more
2

Jun 27, 2017

Frampton seems to be pushing a strong anti-Descartes agenda throughout a lot of the book. He makes some pretty remarkable claims about Montaigne being the first author to think/ write/ do this or that - draws some pretty long bows I think - taking all that with a grain of salt.

There's also a pretty thin attempt to find a philosophical basis for morality in Montaigne's concern for speaking honestly, and disliking cruelty etc.

I get the feeling Frampton may be reverse projecting some of his own Frampton seems to be pushing a strong anti-Descartes agenda throughout a lot of the book. He makes some pretty remarkable claims about Montaigne being the first author to think/ write/ do this or that - draws some pretty long bows I think - taking all that with a grain of salt.

There's also a pretty thin attempt to find a philosophical basis for morality in Montaigne's concern for speaking honestly, and disliking cruelty etc.

I get the feeling Frampton may be reverse projecting some of his own 21st century beliefs back onto Montaigne's writing. He's also a little verbose and from time to time uses needlessly complex language.

Should probably read some of Montaigne's essays now. Maybe I'll start with the Sebond. ...more
2

May 06, 2017

Saul Frampton attempts to take us on a tour of the key ideas and themes in Montaigne's writings. The challenge is to do a better job of this than one can have by merely reading Montaigne in the first place, and at this Frampton fails. Montaigne is so entertaining, and so thought provoking that it is hard to beat him at his own game. Reading Frampton just makes me want to read Montaigne, but doesn't make me feel that I've gained much over and above reading the essays directly. If you want to read Saul Frampton attempts to take us on a tour of the key ideas and themes in Montaigne's writings. The challenge is to do a better job of this than one can have by merely reading Montaigne in the first place, and at this Frampton fails. Montaigne is so entertaining, and so thought provoking that it is hard to beat him at his own game. Reading Frampton just makes me want to read Montaigne, but doesn't make me feel that I've gained much over and above reading the essays directly. If you want to read a book that gives you some context for Montaigne, Sarah Bakewell came at this from a different angle in her book from the same period, which was far more successful. ...more
4

Aug 24, 2019

Um excelente livro para introduzir para não leitor costumas de filosofia, o autor destrincha de uma forma peculiar e simples as ideias do Montaigne. Foi uma ótima indicação dada pelo meu pai. Muito bom!
3

Oct 20, 2013

Un escritor, muchos temas. Montaigne parece no haber dejado materia sin tratar en sus Ensayos y aquí, Saul Frampton recorre varios tópicos montaigneanos para componer una visión bastante integral del autor francés. Los puntos tratados son los mismo de siempre (aquellos que solemos encontrar en otras publicaciones, como el estupendo Cómo vivir de Sarah Bakewell): la amistad, la guerra, el amor y el sexo, cuerpo y sus vicisitudes, la conciencia, la moral, el viaje, etc. Pero Frampton no se detiene Un escritor, muchos temas. Montaigne parece no haber dejado materia sin tratar en sus Ensayos y aquí, Saul Frampton recorre varios tópicos montaigneanos para componer una visión bastante integral del autor francés. Los puntos tratados son los mismo de siempre (aquellos que solemos encontrar en otras publicaciones, como el estupendo Cómo vivir de Sarah Bakewell): la amistad, la guerra, el amor y el sexo, cuerpo y sus vicisitudes, la conciencia, la moral, el viaje, etc. Pero Frampton no se detiene meramente a mencionar y glosar esos lugares del pensamiento: también quiere extraer un sentido particular de cada detalle, mediante una lectura muy atenta y cercana. Vinculando la vida de Montaigne con sus escritos, Frampton descubre asociaciones, flujos de significación. Doce capítulos componen el recorrido, y entre ellos no se tiende una continuidad sino que cada uno se aboca a un tema distinto. Expuesto con una prosa clara y cuidada, When I Am Playing With My Cat... constituye tanto una buena aproximación a Montaigne como una profundización en su figura para quienes estén familiarizado con el insigne ensayista. ...more
2

Oct 23, 2015

Thinking I'd know everything about Montaigne after reading this book, I'd have to say now that I was wrong. Of course that would be a bit silly considering the length of Montaigne's essays and the thickness of this book, but still - I encountered too much "side trackings" and history delvings of my liking that I at some point did not even want to continue to pick it up and finish it. It was "okay" (2 stars), contained a lot of interesting links and quotes but that's about it.

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