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A Cynic Looks at Life Hardcover – January 1, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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About the Author

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (born June 24, 1842; assumed to have died sometime after December 26, 1913) was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist. He wrote the short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and compiled a satirical lexicon The Devil's Dictionary. His vehemence as a critic, his motto "Nothing matters" and the sardonic view of human nature that informed his work all earned him the nickname "Bitter Bierce". Despite his reputation as a searing critic, Bierce was known to encourage younger writers, including poet George Sterling and fiction writer W. C. Morrow. Bierce employed a distinctive style of writing, especially in his stories. His style often embraces an abrupt beginning, dark imagery, vague references to time, limited descriptions, impossible events and the theme of war. In 1913, Bierce traveled to Mexico to gain first-hand experience of the Mexican Revolution. While traveling with rebel troops, he disappeared without a trace. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 108 pages
  • Publisher: Aegypan (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603129502
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603129503
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,591,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Published in 1912, Bierce cynically (but it would seem fairly accurately) covers a few topics in the course of this brief work and finalizes it with a few of his own epigrams and aphorisms. A quick read that may offer the reader a new, interesting or unconsidered perspective into the topic material. While the primary issue is brevity, I think Bierce was attempting to keep it concise and moving linearly - which in some cases hurts and in others seems to help his argument.

(Potential Spoilers)

On Civilization - the general theme of this work implies that England (and Europe in general) is more intelligent and moral than the United States. The latter having adopted the system they were trying to escape but infusing it with the freedom of a variety of `culture' has essentially created only a `competent fool`. Civilization is good only to promote knowledge and increase one's happiness, for happiness is the be-all end-all in our naturally selfish egotism. This section also seems to have a eugenics type lean to it - "If you confess the importance of race and pedigree in a horse and a dog how dare you deny it in a man?" He also speaks of our proclivity for war-mongering.

The Gift O'Gab - An argument against those that use lots of fancy, empty words.

Natura Benigna - A detailing of how people persist to live in places horribly stricken by deadly natural phenomena. Bierce believes people live here because they have no choice - in the end something will get you.

The Death Penalty - Maybe the best argument in this short book. Basically Bierce states how the penal system is often times better than the outside (comfort, amenities, privaleges, etc.
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Good book.
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Although not a writer of the first rank, Bierce is enjoyable and has something of value to offer today's reader.
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