As I do my best to ignore the vomitaceous Wee Bush revival meeting, I find myself offering thanks to Jonathan Franzen for this bit of wisdom:
Q: If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
I wouldn’t presume to require our current president to read anything, but the Vargas Llosa novel wouldn’t have been a bad choice for our previous president, who I suspect could have used some help in imagining the human costs of righteous wars. Nor would “The Flamethrowers” — which, among other things, gives a subtly damning view of a powerful man through the eyes of the ambitious but pliable young woman he sleeps with — have been a bad choice for the president before that.
With the whole of that interview in mind, how about a thread on good stuff we’re reading…and or what you think 44 or any of his predecessors ought to tackle.
I’ll lead off.
I got a pretty good load of nothing for the presidents, though, aping Franzen, if I could turn back time I’d ask Bush the Less
oer to read The Quiet American, to no great effect, I’m sure. Perhaps, given the intelligence failures he now invokes for his grotesque decision making, I might have assigned him Our Man in Havana instead. Which is just a brilliantly, brutally funny read even now.
For my own part, I’m nearly done with, and slowing down so I can enjoy it longer, Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road — which I picked up almost by accident as a remainder at my local real-live bookstore (Brookline Booksmith, if you’re asking.) I’m also re-reading William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, which is a fine book, though not as commanding to me second time out. It’s one of those that picks up resonance at the end, I think, and right now I’m still stuck in plot development while tryng to summon up the effort of will it takes for me to follow Gibson into his passion for material culture. And I’ve just finished the sample chapter on Kindle of Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad, and am debating if I can risk the time and emotional equilibrium diving into the whole thing will take. My wife just finished his book on the fall of Berlin, and I know that’s not one to dare when tending towards gloom. He’s a fine, fine writer and researcher, though — that’s bloody clear. (Or bloodily…)
ETA: I stopped reading Franzen’s interview to grab the answer above, and so hadn’t yet encountered this:
As with a lot of writers of my generation, it’s “Harriet the Spy.” My recollection is that her creator, Louise Fitzhugh, died in her 40s. Did she have any idea how many young people decided to be writers after reading her two books about Harriet? I hope she had at least an inkling.
I haven’t thought of Harriet in years, but I remember the shock of recognition I had after I had stolen my big sister’s treasured copy and just ate that up. What a book. Gotta buy it, read it to my son.
Image: Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Librarian, 1570.
Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly.
Laura Bush said Bush had tears in his eyes over 9/11 sometimes. Nancy Reagan said Ronnie cried about the Beirut Marines.
All I can think of is My Pet Goat. I wonder if that’s in the “library”.
Chuck Dickens’ Hard Times is in my backpack right now.
This is cheating a little, but:
My commute right now is a little over an hour, each way. I’m contemplating a move (to Maryland, so my partner and I can get married after 26 years), and my commute from there will be about an hour and fifteen minutes. So my sanity depends on audiobooks. I’ve discovered that a talented reader can make an enormous difference in my enjoyment, and Simon Vance is a huge, scintillating talent. So I’ve been devouring every book he’s read, without much regard for the material. As it happens, he reads good stuff – I have finally, despite two advanced degrees, gotten around to Charles Dickens. Simon has read me A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield. Simon has also read me the first installment of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander series. Wonderful stuff.
I’ve also had read to me Caro’s masterful LBJ biography, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, and the first volume of Shelby Foote’s history of the Civil War.
Audiobooks are a gift from FSM, second only to the Almighty Meatball.
Well I definitely wouldn’t recommend any books by former “ex-gay” poster boy John Paul:
He does seem genuinely sorry, though who knows how many lives suffered from his BS.
Tom, you are a Brookliner? I have not lived there since 2006, but I miss it. Was a town meeting member down in Brookline Village for a couple years, too.
Speaking of Brookline, what to give JFK to read? Like the case where Clinton could have used some insight on his self, maybe Jack could have used a novel told properly from a female narrator’s point of view. Would a little Doris Lessing have helped?
Just finished The Price of Inequality by Stiglitz and I can only conclude from it that we’re all dooooomed.
The politics seem hopeless at the moment.
Davis X. Machina
@elmo: For reading O’Brien, Patrick Tull’s your only man.
I don’t think there’s any book that would fix what was wrong with W. You could have a book about exactly what he was planning to do with a lead character named President George Walker Bush, and he wouldn’t change his mind. His ignorance was carefully cultivated by excluding any idea that contradicted his preconceptions, and no amount of teaching is going to solve that problem.
Thank you for highlighting what I find the most annoying feature of these NYTimes “By the Book” articles — that question about what Obama should read. It’s typical Times, like Obama needs the advice of Barbara Kingsolver or whoever. It’s usually a pretext for more supercilious tut-tutting by self-righteous liberals. Good for Franzen that he didn’t bite.
Shrub would have been best served to read any Sinclair Lewis novel.
@elmo: Anton Lesser is my personal must have voice, or at least high on the selling point voice. Maybe now I’ll find another — even as a print addict, there is a luxury of being read to.
And, to the point and this one surprised me. Tale of Genji. Mostly because it so completely warped me into an utterly different world — temporally, spatially, culturally. Still not sure it’s my final best choice. And don’t I just love that Harriet came up on both the reading lists for Pre-teens and Presidents.
I would have had Bush read this…particularly chapter VIII concerning Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo and how well meaning Westerners who are ignorant of local customs and conditions can well and truly fuck things up without intending to do so.
@Davis X. Machina:
Blasphemy. Sacrilege. I don’t know what it is about Simon Vance, but I’ve just about developed a crush on the guy just from his voice. I love listening to him.
However! Since I’ve only listened to the first installment, I’ll give Tully one shot — ONE SHOT — to convert me. And thanks for the tip.
Oh, I forgot to mention — all of the Dresden Files books, save one, are narrated by James Marsters. And if either of those references are unfamiliar, I reject you and all your works, unbeliever.
(Dresden Files is an urban wizard fantasy set in Chicago; James Marsters is the actor who played Spike on Buffy.)
You’ll finish the Beevor very quickly, it’s an excellent, engaging read and you’ll rip right through it. After that, pick up Rick Atkinson’s trilogy — An Army at Dawn, Day of Battle and the third volume which comes out in May.
I’m reading The Brothers Karamazov for the 1000th time. I don’t think I’d recommend it to Bush. Although Laura Bush did say once that “The Grand Inquisitor” was her favorite book.
I have a hard time getting into audiobooks, but G had Audible’s Neil Simon Collection on audio for our drive to Arizona a few weeks ago (7 hours each way) and I ended up really enjoying that, in part because it was a whole cast performing the play and not just one person reading.
The major downside of that particular collection is that some dummy decided to put the plays in alphabetical order instead of chronological order, so (among other problems) the Eugene trilogy is completely out of order.
LA Theater Works is another good source for audio plays — I keep meaning to get their version of Ibsen’s “A Doll House” with Calista Flockhart since that’s one of my favorite plays and I’m curious how it turned out.
Be careful, be very very very very careful. Once you get through M&C you’ll become irreversibly immersed in Post Captain and then you’ll be so engrossed you’ll forget who Simon is. The 20-book series is the finest historical fiction ever written. Brilliant, wonderful work.
@elmo: Elmo, once you’re done with Dickens, move on to Anthony Trollope. While I love Dickens, Trollope is just amazing. Infinitely subtler about plot and character, much more intricate plotting. The Pallisers novels (6 in all) are wonderful about politics with wonderful diversions and have more than a few similarities to today. He wrote, I believe, something like 35 novels, some in series, some are one-offs, so he’ll keep you occupied for years of commuting.
Higgs Boson's Mate
Except that Bush wouldn’t recognize the critiques in, say, Babbitt, any more than George F. Babbitt would.
Working my way through “The Dressden Files” novels, because I enjoy my pulp noir wizard junk food.
If I was looking for a strictly academic novel, I’d recommend “Thinking Fast And Slow”. It’s a great introspection into how the human mind works, and – from a political angle – a decent antidote to the idealized notion of perfect human independence. Kahneman demonstrates the degree to which your environment shapes your views over time and the fragile nature of your ability to reason, particularly in the face of distraction and stress.
War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges is the best book I’ve read in a long time.
The last piece of shit to hold the office was a sociopath, completely incapable of feeling the pain of others and unwilling to imagine. Assuming the tiny brained asshole could read (and was sober enough to comprehend what it read) nothing would have changed anyway. The fucker might just have well read Lolita for what difference it would have made.
The current occupant should be forced to read all the works of Hannity, O’Riely and Limbaugh as he seems to not understand the depths of depravity he is up against. Same for the wimp patrol in Congress
edit: if it were pre 1999 I wish Boy Blunder had read Final Exit, maybe he could have prevented the worst things that happened from 2000-2008. Too late now though
Ian Tregillis’ Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War. Depressing alternative reality books about WWII and the Cold War, with the human cost of war really driven home. Characters with plenty of flaws as well. Sobering reads. The third one in the series (final one, I believe) is due out next week.
Thank you for the Simon Vance head’s up.
Plan to finally get around to Dickens via audio as well. (Have read “Tale of 2 Cities” and “The Christmas Carol” and that’s it. Believe he wrote a few more?)
Also planning on Mark Twain.
Nails it. The lack of empathy in Bush the Lessor and his entire administration is breathtaking. Actually, that describes the GOP.
I can tell you I was positively delighted with M&C. I gave the series to my career-Navy Dad about twenty years ago, and he loved it; couldn’t tell you why I didn’t pick it up at the time.
David in NY
The book I’m recommending lately is Dawn Powell’s “My Home Is Far Away.” Powell wrote in the 30’s, mostly satirical-serious views of literary life in NYC — Lionel Trilling said she was the person who actually said the funny things that Dorothy Parker got credit for. But she also wrote books about Ohio, where she came from, and “My Home Is …” is the best of those. It’s a story of well-meaning, not entirely responsible or honest, midwestern adults, seen through their eyes of their young daughter (Powell herself, in fact) who, with her sisters, has to reconcile the ostensible love of her parents with their manifest fecklessness, not to mention the sheer malice of a new stepmother. Her portrayal of a bright child’s ability to see the facts, but not always reconcile them with the way she believes things are or ought to be, is remarkable.
May help to be older and midwestern, but anybody should be able to relate to Marcia, the heroine.
Wait, Bush is a landlord?
I’m re-reading and blogging my way through Proust again, in honor of the bombings. I heartily recommend the tape version of “Gentlemen of the Road” (Chabon) since you bring it up and since elmo likes taped books. Its a fantastic and delicious road book read by an actor from Homicide with a voice to die for.
Other books that I’ve read recently are The Black Count the story of Alexandre Dumas’ father who was half Hatian Slave and Half French Marquis and all French Revolutionary General. An incredible life. Also (from the Brookline Booksmith remainder table) “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain” by Barbara Arrowsmith about brain plasticity. I’m awaiting the new Wen Spencer (8 something million gods?). I’m also re-reading Painter’s Biography of Proust in a desultory fashion.
It’s short enough that I might manage to believe that even dullards like Bush II had finished it and pointed enough to deflate the most puffed up of “reformers”.
Discussing W-suitable books, and how could we not refer him to some fine kids’ lit recommendations, as discussed a few nights ago? 300+ comments, peeps.
And seconding Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly and Sinclair Lewis.
Tuchman (RIP) could have gotten another book or two out of the Bush administration’s policies.
Is anyone surprised to learn that childhood friends say that the useless piece of shit used to torture small animals as a kid? the GOP should have a beer with Dr. Mengele, I am sure he was a sparkling conversationalist and an all around nice guy
This. Giving him a book to read would be like “giving medicine to the dead,” as someone famous once said.
I’d recommend “1984” if I didn’t think his administration had read it already as a how-to manual.
A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan.
I read Beevor’s books. Loved them. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege and Berlin: The Downfall both.
David in NY
@Shana: May I express my preference for the Barshetshire series — The Warden, Barchester Towers, and The Last Chronicle of Barset. I can’t remember whether was an essay by Gore Vidal or J.K. Galbraith that got me started on them, but they though Trollope was a fine political writer, not on any policy grounds, but in setting out scenes of conflict and its resolution. In the “all politics is local” mode.
only 13 reasons to be glad Boy Blunder is gone
Not to be obtuse but considering his wealth, probably.
I somewhat doubt this is the case, especially given that he probably receives somewhat more detailed briefings from the Secret Service than we do, regarding the really vile stuff that is circulating thru private rather than very public channels.
My best guess is that BHO deliberately overlooks the depths of depravity we are up against for a mixture of reasons, some of them aspirational and some of them pragmatic.
Reading the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovich, a pretty good urban wizard thing. Listening to the Librivox treatment of US Grant’s Memoirs – the audiobooks are perfect to go to sleep to. They (Librivox) have a pretty good catalog but the volunteer readers are a little hit or miss.
For years Evan S. Connell’s “Mrs. Bridge” and “Mr. Bridge,” written in the late ’50s and late ’60s, respectively, had been sitting unread on my bookshelf. Finally plucked them off, and … oh, my. Astonishing. They seem completely modern stylistically; they nail mid-century, midwestern, upper-middle-class parochialism; they’re flat-out mesmerizing; and there’s an eerie, inchoate undercurrent of dread. There was a pretty decent movie made from the two books combined: “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge” (1990), with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodard.
Also Zachary Karabashliev’s “18% Gray,” a contemporary Bulgarian literary (semi-)thriller set mostly in the U.S. and just published in English by Open Letter Books, an imprint of the University of Rochester Press. I admit to Zack’s being a friend (my blurb’s on the back cover), but I tell you, it’s a terrific book — just last week got a rave from the Los Angeles Review of Books.
I would have settled for having someone remind the entire Bush junta, repeatedly and forcefully, that the collected works of Tom Clancy, Stephen Coonts, and Dale Brown are FICTION.
Well, as the old Jewish joke goes “couldn’t hurt.”
WAIT! Do you think the president receives daily briefings on the GOP?!? I am not talking about the CSA/White Christian/end times loons, I am talking about the “main stream” Republicans as represented by these “main stream” proponents of their cause. Rush is the head of their party, not some loon in the weeds
@David in NY:
I love trollope! And you can always also watch the Pallisers just for the gorgeous, absurd, kooky fun of it. Just found out that a dear, dear, dear friend killed himself. I’m just beside myself. What a world. Please keep the book suggestions coming, I feel like I need all of them.
While waiting for the return of Easy Rawlins (on my birthday, no less), I can unhesitatingly recommend all of the Leonid McGill series to fans of detective fiction. Mosely’s still got it.
William Gibson has been tweeting about his next as he writes it. Set in two futures — one near and one far. In the near future all manufacturing has become cottage industry due to maker revolution. Far future is almost unrecognizable.
@celticdragonchick: The Nostromo was property of the Weiand Yutani corporation, not this Conrad person.
Nixonland for Obama.
Book recommendations for Bush? You can’t reach someone who’s willfully ignorant like that. I agree with Burns at comment 44.
I was on vacation last week and finished re-reading Roger Ebert’s Great Movies essays, and watched a few of the ones he listed that I haven’t seen, like Blow-Up. I also read Bill Bryson’s little book about the life of Shakespeare, which I liked. I’m back to reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses now.
@Schlemizel: As much of an Obot as I am, I often think he would benefit from a good dose of Balloon Juice and DKos.
@elmo: Audiobooks are the best things for long car rides and walking! I use Audible. Sarah Vowell reading her book, “Assassination Vacation” is one I particularly enjoyed. In general I like it when the author reads his/her own material.
Probably not while I was there visiting relatives. He certainly never came to Malaysia, alas, despite all the emails we exchanged.
Recommended books for one Bush, George Walker,
While in prison: Ulysses – James Joyes
Every single effing book by Hemmingway. And, Moby Dick for the humour.
I’d recommend A Farewell to Arms or Parade’s End for W to read.
The whole Democratic party would benefit from a spine transplant. BJ would be a start
@Schlemizel: Also reading Markos’s book Crashing the Gates would benefit the Dem officials.
Heh. I sure wouldn’t mind a Democratic Party that had the same makeup as BJ – right mix of “Obots” and “firebaggers.” (And the trolls, but sometimes that’s fun too)>
@Rossco: No book caught me off-guard more than Bright Shining Lie. On another note and in another era, David Hackett Fischer’s “Washington’s Crossing” is a wonderful read as well.
Heh. Recent events have reminded me of the Dixie Chicks episode. When they said they were ashamed of Bush, the wingnuts did not wring their hands and say “woe is us — people are saying bad things about us.” They said “Fuck you.”
I wish we collectively were as confident in our correctness as the wingnuts are in their wrongness.
Finally getting around to Battle Cry of Freedom. The early chapters feel depressingly current.
Ahhhhh HARRIET THE SPY… I have ALWAYS wanted a dumbwaiter since reading that book! I still do. Someday!
I wish they had the passion, sensitivity and desire to do whats right as the folks around here. Even when we piss off each other our intentions are good. The same can’t be said about enough of our elected reps.
@elmo: I am an audiobook fan too, for similar reasons. Amazing what a good reader can do!
And I second (or however many have agreed) Tuchman’s book.
Yeah, I get that. What I’m saying is that he probably is exposed to a broader spectrum than we are of stuff ranging from the truly vile and criminal to loyal opposition stuff, and is better placed to judge where the GOP’s current leadership falls on that spectrum of contemporary speech, and additionally being a big fan of Lincoln he also has the background to put the current opposition into a longer term context.
The latter is I think especially important. I don’t think many Americans understand how deeply this nation is, if left to its own devices, naturally fissiparous, unless somebody continually re-invests in creating the social capital that keeps us together. And if the POTUS can’t or won’t do this, who will? Nobody else has as much leverage in this regard.
Imagine for a moment ten administrations in a row, i.e. roughly a half-century, in which the sitting President (of either party) acted with word and deed in as divisive and polarizing a manner as W did while he was in office, and in which the damage caused by each prior President was compounded by the next one. How much closer would we be to becoming Yugoslavia with nukes, if that happened?
W damaged this country, not just from a policy standpoint, but in terms of polarizing and dividing us. My guess is that BHO sees repairing that damage as one of the tasks his administration is burdened with, and one of the things which has to be prioritized. That the current GOP has no interest in meeting him halfway on this and worse yet is actively trying to widen the damage is beside the point, it still remains a task which needs to be done, and overlooking the worst apsects of the domestic opposition in favor of seeking out the better angels of their nature is part of that task.
dance around in your bones
Gads, on kindle daily deals I was offered Family of Secrets for $2.99. I hovered over it for a bit, and then thought ‘ya know? I’ve read enough about this shit-ass family. Why should I subject myself to more of this crap?’
So, I didn’t buy it, even for $2.99.
I really love the idea of salting G.W. Bush’s Presidentin’ Librey with copies of My Pet Goat. Hahahahhahah!
I have been saying that for a few years. The current crop of goopers is exactly equal to antebellum South minus the human bondage part.
I’d want Texas Chimp to stop reading The Pet Goat on the morning of 9/11 instead of sitting there like a deer in the headlights for seven minutes, and actually lead the country instead of just posing like a male model trying to show “resolve.”
On one hand, he’d probably have fucked things up worse. On the other hand, his years of lazy, self-centered inattention to the job allowed the Cheney/Rumsfeld neocons to augur the nation into the ground.
So sorry to hear that. Awful,terrible news.
I’m reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which details the absolute insanity of the U.S.’s food delivery system. Really well written and compelling reading but it makes you want to scream. I’m sorry I didn’t read it earlier and am looking forward to getting his other books.
Also found a stack of English “self-sufficiency” books from the 60s at the thrift, mostly written by women who went to live either by themselves or with husbands in the Welsh/Scottish/Irish countryside in unplumbed cottages and tried to make a go of farming. The most relaxing reading, ever. I can highly recommend The Hovel in the Hills if you can find it.
Harriet the Spy blew me away when I was a young girl. How sad that there are only two of those books.
It’s never going to happen. Unlike the GOP, the soul of the Democratic Party is with its rank and file, not its leaders. While we have had some great leaders, as a whole they will always be a few steps behind where we want them to be.
Just Some Fuckhead
My Pet Goat, this time for meaning.
I enjoyed his book but have a problem with some of his conclusions. I do not think we could feed 350 million people with his preferred method of agriculture. We need A LOT fewer people around here but that aint happening until the mass extinction event
this is pretty interesting & it shows the true power of Mush Lamebrain and his radio wrecking crew.
I just rewatched a miniseries from 1990, Mother Love with Diana Rigg. It’s really great, terrifying and hilarious at the same time (fabulous acting, especially by Rigg and by James Grout, and with very cute David McCallum whom I’ve loved since Man from Uncle), and I’m wondering about the book it was based on (by Domini Taylor, which is a pseudonym for someone I can’t remember who, but the actual name is also not famous). I’ve already got Bring Up the Bodies and Gone Girl waiting in my slush pile for whenever I finally finish The Way We Live Now, for whenever classes finally end, but I’m wondering if Mother Love might be a good read.
You can’t ask Dubbya to read anything or listen to an audiobook. He has zero interest and no curiosity in anything except for what is going to make himself comfortable. I’m not even he would put his needs below those of his Laura and his kids. Watching the Library dedication today reminded me yet again why I dislike this man so much.
Anyhow, the dedication is worth a watch. For whatever reason, Rosalynn Carter did not seem to be having a good time. I don’t know if she’s tired of the pomp or if she has zero respect for the Bushes or if she was just having a bad day. BTW, Jimmy Carter looks in much better health than Bush Sr. and they’re the same age.
The kind of blind arrogance and out-of-hand rejection of all criticism that wingnuts and other fanatics mistake for “confidence” is the same thing that condemns them to drive right off a cliff sooner or later, and renders them unable of any course corrections. The fact that we’re not like that is a feature, not a bug.
The inevitable result of having one party made by and for the 1% and another by and for the people. It’s just two completely different outlooks on life.
(It’s also part of the explanation for why DC has always been “wired for Republicans.”)
Ohhhhh, Diana Rigg. Best of the Bond girls.
Go soonest to YouTube and watch “Mother Love.” She’s past her Bond girl prime but still gorgeous, and she tears it up in this performance.
I think everyone who aspires to politcal power should read Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir, especially the first installment, March Violets. The novels follow a former-police-detective-turned-PI in Germany/Austria during the immediate prewar, wartime and postwar eras, and they’re full of characters cocksure that they can use the Nazis’ rise to power to their own ends and remain above the fray only to be sucked into the morass. Not that Bush would see himself in any of the characters; even if he has rare instances of introspection, his next thought is, “Hey, I’m saved, so it doesn’t matter!”
I would like to see us be more confident. I don’t think that requires us to engage in “blind arrogance and out-of-hand rejection of all criticism.”
dance around in your bones
I absolutely loved that book. You described it perfectly – a submersion into another culture so complete that you almost feel like you lived it. But then, that’s what happens to me when I read books. I’d get so completely into the zone….ever since I was a kid; it was like I was in another reality/time zone.
I hope I never lose that ability to submerse myself into literature.
@elmo: I also have recently discovered the joys of audiobooks. I was kind of a snob about it, but I have had really bad rheumatoid arthritis for 34 years and even holding the light Kindle sometimes can be painful enough to make me put it down. My public libraries (the joys of living in a blue state means I belong to a city one and a county one) seem to have more audiobooks than Kindles available on Overdrive and the wait times are pretty short, so now I am hooked. I agree that the narrator makes all the difference. It’s like a whole other dimension.
Right now I am struggling to finish Jon Meacham’s book on Jefferson. I know it won a Pulitzer, but I keep hearing Morning Joe’s voices in my head as I read it and think I’m going to just skip all the narrative and read the excerpts of his letters.
I’m not so sure, but I don’t know. The system as it stands, however, seems completely insane. It benefits a few folks at the top and the rest of us are mired in toxic shit. Literally.
Well, fair enough. It’s just, in your example with the Dixie Chicks, they weren’t being “confident” – it was just “my Gehd, you criticized Dear Leader! YOU BITCHES!” I’m okay with us not having that reflexive “fuck you” response.
Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism
@elmo: Marsters is terrific. And if someone else had to step in for a book, I’m glad it was John Glover. I’m also a huge fan of Kate Reading.
I’m afraid I found Patrick Tull offputting. I’ll have to try a sample of Vance’s version.
I think this is a collective action problem.
We can each individually be confident without being blindly arrogant; that is hard work and takes real thought and effort, but it can be done. But when you take a wide diversity of different opinions like that and try to wield them together into a single collective voice, you end up with cacophony. But then when individuals react to that latter problem by trying to tone it down a bit out of respect for others in the group with different viewpoitns, then it is very hard for that change in tone not to translate into speaking less forcefully and coming across less confidently in terms of what the collective voice sounds like.
It really is hard to say in effect: “We say what we mean and mean what we say dammit, that is as soon as we get around to figuring out whatever the hell it is. So don’t mess around with us, or else, ummm something. Things will happen if you cross us. Stuff that is. Stuff will happen. Can we get back to you on that?“
That sounds really interesting.
We’re saturated with portrayals of Evil Nazis in our culture (deservedly so just to be clear – besides, I love the Indy movies). There hasn’t been nearly enough justice done to all the different kind of fellow-traveling assholes who enabled their rise to power for their own purposes.
For grown-ups: (but maybe not GWBush): Piers Brendon’s ‘The Dark Valley: a Panorama of the 1930s’ chronicles the whole deep dark tide that swept the world to WWII. I wish that this book had been written when I was in high school 40 years ago, because it is well-written, with high drama and details, that even a 15-yr-old might have found interesting, considering that high-school history books 40 yrs ago stopped at WWI, if that.
For grown-ups and younger folks: ‘Harriet the Spy’,’From the Mixed up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankenweiler’ and all three volunes of ‘His Dark Materials’.
If some people believe Obama doesn’t know what some on the left wing blogs and right wing blogs are saying about him then you are dead wrong. The president even made a joke a few years ago to a group of students about the purity left accusing him of being a corporatist wall street shill while the right wing called him a socialist, and communist. The President and the group of students laughed and he said both can’t be true. He then went on to talk about Lincoln and the fact that he along with many great leaders compromised to make the Union more perfect because in a Democracy you can’t get perfection (everything you want). He also told them to imagine Huffington Post and today’s blogs/ media covering the emancipation proclamation (which was a compromise and did not totally ban slavery in all territories) with the headlines ” Lincoln sells out Slaves”.
Sorry for the rant but the point I was trying to make is that Obama knows what many are saying about him whether it be from the left, center, or right.
That’s a fair point. I don’t know what the solution is, but I think that dynamic is damaging to our side.
#5 – Elmo – The Aubrey/Maturin books are made for audio. Patrick Tull is the reader to get – that man pulls you in with the first two words: “Chapter One.” He could keep you listening to the phone book for your whole commute.
I used to love Trollope, and I’ve read the Barsetshire and Palliser series, plus many others. But I’m tired of books about people who think that not having to work for a living is the natural order of things. (You never hear or see a servant in Trollope unless he or she is absolutely essential for a plot point, yet to live like they do, these folks must have been surrounded by armies of servants at all times. Plus, he managed to write two novels about an Irish member of Parliament in the 1860’s – Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux – without once mentioning the Famine.) Still, I enjoyed Trollope for years and you may enjoy him as well.
The one Trollope novel I know of that hasn’t dated is The Way We Live Now. That one still has a sting.
Soon (May 4th) coming to a Dr. Who episode near you.
I would suggest Frederick Lewwis Allen’s book from the 50s “The Big Change”, about the social and economic changes here from the cusp of the twentieth century to the end of the Depression, with all the changes wrought by the New Deal. I don’t think he’d get it, though. Maybe he should read a good biography of president George W. Bush.
I’m reading Mortal Sins, about the Catholic Church predatory priest scandal, riveting.
Just finished Sickened by Julie Gregory, about a Munchausen by Proxy survivor.
A Visit From the Goon Squad was my last book. I hated to have it end. Now, I am turning my attention to John Scalzi for the first time.
Old Man’s War?
It reminds me of the time I was sitting on the sofa watching TV with one of my sons and an advertisement for an upcoming football game came on. It featured our team vs somebody else we don’t like. My son declamed with great gusto “WE’RE GONNA KICK THEIR ASS!!”. This enthusiastic outburst was followed by a silent pause lasting about 3 seconds, and then he added “..hopefully.” in a quiet, plaintive voice.
The footnotes always fuck everything up.
The Mirror for Magistrates was intended to be read by people in power. It recounts the various horrible ways real courtiers died when they fell out of favor with their rulers. Also, second on Tuchman’s March of Folly and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake made quite an impression on me when I was young–it has its flaws, but it still is a profoundly sobering look at the folly of the Vietnam War. Nixonland. Legacy of Ashes. Schlessinger wrote a great book about the 1960 Republican convention (the base wanted Reagan and almost successfully rebelled against the Wall Streeters, who–although holding their noses–had chosen Nixon and weren’t about to be denied. Also, he’d won his delegates. He was a hard worker.). The poet W.S. Merwin was once given the assignment of selecting the few books that would fit on the one-shelf library of a nuclear submarine. He included Emily Dickinson.
I loved “Gentlemen of the Road”. Thanks for reminding me about it. I enjoyed “Pattern Recognition” also when it first came out, and bought the his two subsequent novels Spook Country and Zero History, but still have not managed to read them. Some many books, so little time …
So did your team win?
When a party that is “by and for the people” reappears, send up a flare. Right now we have two parties, while slightly different in branding, that are led by very similar folks who seem to have very similar career goals. Therefore both parties pay similar homage to the same vested interests.
@Rossco: Agreed. A Bright Shining Lie is a great book.
@Chris: The Android’s Dream and then next Agent to the Stars
Yes. But losing was a realistic possibility, given that the other team was very good.
It cracked me up, the way he cycled from wild enthusiasm to pragmatically accounting for the correlation of forces, all within the same declaration.
Haven’t read those. Only ever read the OMW trilogy, actually. Let me know how those other books are – I, in the meantime, heartily recommend OMW.
That’s what I DON’T like about watching sports. Nothing you can do but cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Just wrapped up an excellent memoir, for those who sully themselves with such trash: Catfish & Mandala, by Andrew Pham. His story–boy on the boat whose Vietnamese family survived rescue, immigrated to California and was so successfully Americanized that he biked across Vietnam to shake off ennui as a very typical GenXer–is woven so tightly you can’t see light through it. Well done.
The other book I just finished was a novel, written in the voice of a child but definitely not a children’s book. Never Fall Down is the story that an adult Arn Chorn Pond told to the author, Kathleen McCormick, about his experience surviving the revolution in Cambodia. If you have ever asked yourself, as my kid recently asked me, “Why would anyone make children fight in a war?”, the survivor’s narrative offers some answers. Not peace of mind, but answers.
@Baud: That’s a cute story and I understand the value in needing to visualize a path to a happier ending, but I can’t sidestep the notion that you are being much too generous to the careerists at, and near, the top of the Democratic pyramid.
Career politicians come with democracy.
@Chris: Well, as I’m fond of saying, Hitler didn’t kill a single Jew, but shitheels currying the favor of Nazis murdered 6 million of them, and Berlin Noir really helped crystallize that notion with me.
Various historical figures make appearances in Berlin Noir, but as I recall, only Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Müller (the Berlin Gestapo chief) figure especially prominently into the action. But even Heydrich, one of the chief architects of the Holocaust, although he’s hardly portrayed sympathetically, is at least understandable and recognizably human; Kerr essentially makes him a careerist, albeit a cravenly sociopathic one. The overarching, inescapable theme of the novels is those who seek accommodation with evil are, invariably, consumed by it. The novels are impressive in their historical accuracy and thus are truly horrifying and represent the absolute darkest of romans noirs.
Gawker’s 50 reasons you despised GWB’s presidency:
Someone should forward to Jennifer Rubin:
@Chris: Also the best Queen of Thorns
Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism
Wonder if we’ll start seeing voters’ remorse anytime soon.
Records show that nearly all of Burns’ political giving was handled by the Charlotte offices of Moore & Van Allen, the law and lobbying firm where McCrory worked until days before he was sworn in as governor in January.
That’s Chase Burns, who is in the Allied Veterans mess up to his eyeballs.
Thanks, I needed that.
Kind of hope # 50 is true, in a way. My opinion of my country would be ever so slightly better if I knew he’d stolen both elections.
@dance around in your bones:
Thank you for reminding me that I’ve been meaning to read the Tale of Genji for for-ever. Also a non fiction book came out a few years ago called “The world of the shining Prince” about that period which would make a good companion piece. Also, also, also, for all the flaws in it Shogun is a fantastic book. It completely sweeps you away.
Politicians, sure, and functionaries and apparatchiks and advisers, and pundits and…and….
@Keith G: Didn’t care for Goon Squad. A book that I enjoyed that I read that same summer was The Namesake. Both books had interesting descriptions of NYC, which coincided with my visit to that fair city.
@Jeremy: I know Obama has referenced HuffPost, but do you really think he’s sitting around reading comments at BJ? I would like to think that, but I don’t…(I think he’d be the better for it)
Mike in NC
@HumboldtBlue: Volume 3 due out just next month? Cool!
What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?
If you think Stalingrad is depressing try what I’ reading: Detroit, an American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. It’s just as destroyed as Stalingrad and there wasn’t even a war.
dance around in your bones
“Send me out into another life
lord because this one is growing faint
I do not think it goes all the way”
― W.S. Merwin
One of my favorites.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
I can’t respond rationally to any post that cites Jonathan Franzen in any capacity. He managed to make David Foster Wallace’s death all about Franzen, and he did so in a hideously heartless way. I got angry about it all over again when Robbie Robertson pulled the same stunt a year ago when Levon died.
@What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?:
Unless you count the War on
dance around in your bones
The Tale of Genji is so eminently worth reading. I loved Shogun as well as Taipan by James Clavell. The tv miniseries of Shogun is stellar.
But please read The Tale of Genji if you have not, yet. Such an incredible tale, and written in the 11th century? Sometimes called the world’s first novel. Just so lyrical and moving.
@a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):
I read an interview with Franzen after his last book was published. I thought for a minute that Franzen was Moses with the tablets, but then I saw that he didn’t look like Charlton Heston.
@Keith G: both fun, especially Agent.
The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
Well, the thread will be dead by the time I read it all the way through, so I don’t know if this has been mentioned already, but I would force every political or economically prominent person to read Voltaire’s Bastards by John Ralston Saul.
The joke went even further, since Sulaco…the troop transport in the second movie Aliens is the name of the port city in the same book by Conrad. Very, very inside baseball humor.
Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism
@aimai: Try to get your hands on the recent translation by Royall Tyler. The Seidensticker is good, possibly more readable to a modern Westerner as a novel. The Tyler is truer to the original and has a lot of supplemental material. Comparisons of the major translations, with sample texts, here.
Oh, and a handy phrase to remember while reading it: Genji, you skank!
The Fat Kate Middleton
@dance around in your bones: Never mind that I’ve always wanted to read this book … the mere fact that my eight-year-old grandson’s middle name is Genji (after his great-grandfather) requires that I read it. Thanks for the reminder.
Also – I’m very tentatively starting to read “Wave” by Sonali Deraniyagala. I just don’t know if I’m ready yet to deal with the pain of a mother writing about the loss of her sons and husband in the tsunami of 2004.
@Svensker: The Botany of Desire is the book of Pollan’s that I liked the most.
dance around in your bones
@The Fat Kate Middleton: It’s just a wonderful book.
Takes time to read it, but worth the trip. I’m actually not sure which translation I read (it was long ago) but probably the Arthur Waley one? It was just like a wonderful dream.
@David in NY:
The great things about Trollope are first, that unlike Dickens, he’s not melodramatic, and second, his sense of humor. It’s very, very subtle. You read 150 or 200 pages of rather unexciting exposition, during which very little happens, but in which you get to know the characters. And then he tells a joke which is so hilarious you laugh out loud for ten minutes — a joke which, if you hadn’t slogged through the previous 200 pages, you wouldn’t even recognize WAS a joke.
BTW I agree with you about the Barset chronicles, mostly because I adore the Archdeacon.
@elmo: Simon Vance is my favorite narrator ever. The Roman doctor mysteries starring Gaius Ruso (by Ruth Downie) are very easy and fun.
I would like the President to read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. It’s also in audio form narrated by Campbell Scott – very good. It carries genetic modification and over-trust in drug companies to their logical, and dystopian, conclusions.
@Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: thank you so much for that link! Fascinating. Now I feel like I want to start with Wesley and then read tyrell.
Ted & Hellen
Oh. You must be the one in which your current president is participating, thus further legitimizing the ongoing coverup and rehabilitation of the Iraq War monsters.
@Ted & Hellen: Yes, that one, you stupid punk. If Obama spurned the event it would have given us at least two years a fake butthurt outrage that would have been used by the MSM to damage Obama and the entire party. Wel all would end up worse off.
You really don’t understand how the game is played.
If poetry is your thing, I found myself this evening reading through Anne Carson’s new “Red Doc)” in a single sitting. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered a book of poetry so similar to a page-turner. Heracles has PTSD, and he, with his former lover, Geryon the red, winged monster, the nymph Ida, and a prophet named 4NO all end up in a mental hospital – Batcatraz, as it is affectionately known…
@a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):
I thought I was the only one who thought that! Franzen may be the most horribly overrated writer today.
At the other end of the spectrum, I just finished reading The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. It’s being compared to O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, which I can’t argue with. He does write like a poet, though, which is quite a contrast to the situations he describes.
@Davis X. Machina:I second that. His delivery is amazing.
Wanted to give a shout-out of support for Greene’s The Quiet American. That novel is phenomenal: “God save us always from the innocent and the good.”
I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Ben Fountain’s book from 2012, Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk. It’s fine civilian meets soldier satire as a team of Iraq war heroes (portrayed as the young, horny, vulgar boys they are) is paraded about in a whirlwind tour by the Bush administration that culminates in a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving football game.
Not so much about Bush, though, as America, and I’m sure Georgey would read it and say, “I don’t remember those boys,” and reach for the remote.