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The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Library of America Paperback Classic (The Library of America Paperback Classics Series) Paperback – December 31, 2009
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Older brother of novelist Henry James, William James (1842-1910) was a philosopher, psychologist, physiologist, and professor at Harvard. James has influenced such twentieth-century thinkers as Richard Rorty, Jurgen Habermans, Michel Foucault, and Julia Kristeva.
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The edition I am talking about in this review:
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Trinity Press (September 5, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 7.9 x 9.8 inches
Cover art: Sun on the horizon in the background with arm and hand in front of the sun in the foreground; all in sepia tones.
Here and there throughout the text there are typographical errors. The most common is that one sentence will end with a period and the next begin with no white space between. For the most part, just when this happens seems to be arbitrary. It does seem to occur consistently any time a sentence ends with a close quotation mark. These typographical errors happen so often that it became quite annoying to me.
Sometimes a period will appear somewhere in a running sentence, requiring several re-readings to untangle what is going on. Likewise, an opening or closing quotation mark will be left out in running text, again calling for multiple re-readings. For example on p.24 you find "The simplest functions of physiological life," he writes may be its ministers. Every one of who...[and on for nine more lines, until]...that promises to bear us towards it." This involves going back up ten lines to find the typographic error "The simplest functions of physiological life," he writes[, "]may be..." If this sort of thing happened a few times in the entire work, that would be one thing. Instead, these editorial errors happen so often that reading becomes a pain.
Just go on to the top of the next page (25) and find "...it makes our task difficult to have to deal so muck with..." It should read "deal so much with..."
Throughout James gives long quotations from primary sources. In this edition these long quotations are not set off in indented blocks as one would expect, but instead run as body text and are merely enclosed in quotation marks. Further, these long quotations are often run together with the resumption of the body text without starting a new paragraph. Again, this happens so often that it became quite annoying to me.
Given that this work has been continuously in print since 1902, there is no excuse for the editorial disaster of this edition. Further, there is no copyright page giving the information about this edition and the publisher. Is this even a legal edition?
I felt the best part of the book was the section on conversion stories. Those were lively and interesting. Then there was some minor information on mystical experiences. William James was obviously very well read as he quotes passages from books at every turn. In fact this book is made more interesting by these quotations and gives insight into the minds of many other authors.
This book seems to have been compiled for those who are looking for a more scientific viewpoint of religion. The author does seem to reject the Old Testament view of God and thinks the realities of hell are too harsh for the modern mind. I have to wonder what this author would have thought about all the positive and negative near-death experiences we read of these days.
So I would say this book is worth reading if you are serious about mastering the classics. It is going to take about a week or more to read if you read for a few hours a day. The only thing that disappointed me was that there was not a lot of information on many other religions besides Christianity. As far as studying the entire subject of religious experience all over the world, this book falls short in that way.
~The Rebecca Review
The book is old but the story is always new again for each born individual. This book may have an answer for you but even if it doesn't you will gain a deep and wide appreciation for the vastness of the human psyche and its varieties of experience.
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And if William James had written it with his thumbs on a Kindle, he'd still be writing it...