What I’ve been reading

by on August 6, 2017 at 1:39 am in Books, Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad.  At first I feared it was too trendy, but I ended up engrossed.

2. Stephen R. Platt, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War.  Pseudoerasmus calls this the best book on the most underrated big war in human history; he is right.  It also gives you a good sense of how 50-100 million people might have died.

3. Mark Bowden, Hue 1968: A Turning Point in the American War in Vietnam.  Both a very good Vietnam War book, and a very good Vietnam book.

4. Rousas John Rushdoony. The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church.  Uneven in argumentative quality, but brilliant in parts, this is one of the conceptually most interesting books on early Christianity.  It turns out your views on Christology really do shape your politics, and furthermore there is a coherent version of libertarian Calvinism, except it isn’t very libertarian, and it comes from…having the right Christology.  Recommended, it opens up new worlds for the reader.

5. Thomas Mann, Der Zauberberg.  I had never read this in German before.  For all its extraordinary intellectual and emotional peaks, it is also remarkably witty.

1 Steve Sailer August 6, 2017 at 2:57 am

Colson Whitehead’s book plays out my childish assumption when reading about the Underground Railroad in c. 1968 that it really was an underground railroad.

Whitehead’s first novel, The Intuitionists, was about elevator inspectors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Intuitionist

So I presume he has a thing about mechanical transportation systems.

2 uair01 August 6, 2017 at 10:42 am

“The intuitionists” is great! The premise is that there are two competing tribes of elevator inspectors: the classic mechanical ones and the mystical ones, who become one with the soul of the specific elevator. He makes this crazy idea work!

3 msgkings August 6, 2017 at 9:51 pm

+1, I really liked The Intuitionists. Whitehead is a gifted writer.

4 cthulhu August 7, 2017 at 11:43 am

Sounds like a riff on Pynchon, especially some parts of Against the Day.

5 Ray Lopez August 6, 2017 at 5:26 am

TC is a beast! He speaks fluent Spanish and reads German too? “I had never read this in German before”.

6 A clockwork orange August 6, 2017 at 10:42 am

I’ll check it out.

7 peri August 6, 2017 at 11:52 am

“… It is also remarkably witty.”

Let’s have a specimen of that wit, shall we?

8 Pensans August 6, 2017 at 7:16 am

OK, Cowen is the only person now qualified to talk about Rushdoony. I’ve heard him vilified a thousand times by people who have never come close to reading him.

He should move on to his hard-charging libertarian son-in-law/protege Gary North and his Economic Commentary on the Bible: https://www.garynorth.com/public/department158.cfm

9 Guy Makiavelli August 6, 2017 at 7:22 am

#3 I’m told that even German readers like Lowe Porter the best

10 rayward August 6, 2017 at 7:23 am

4. I’m pleased that Cowen is recommending this book. Not that I am familiar with this particular book about the early history of Christianity, but I do study the subject and believe that self-described Christians who are ignorant of that history would be both better Christians and better human beings if they too studied the subject. “Christology” relates to the nature of Jesus (i.e., His divinity). The early Christian writings (including Mark, the fist canonical Gospel written) weren’t much concerned about the subject, being that the authors were certain that the Last Judgment as imminent (as indicated in Mark). When the Last Judgment kept not happening, the focus shifted from God to Jesus, which required a better explanation of Jesus. Was Jesus divine? And if so, when did he become divine? At His birth? At His baptism (by John the Baptist)? At His resurrection? Such adoptionistic views were the prevailing views in the early years, but by the time the Gospel of John was published (the last of the four canonical Gospels), adoptionistic views had become a dangerous heresy: Jesus always was. But that view conflicted with monotheism: if Jesus always was, then there must be two Gods, God the Father and God the Son. Clever theologians came up with the novel explanation that we know as the Trinity. New Testament scholars say that if you understand the Trinity, then you don’t understand the Trinity. Of course, this evolution in the nature of Jesus was happening in the context of the Jesus movement shifting from a small band of Jews located in Jerusalem led by Peter, James, and John (Jesus and all of His Disciples were Jews and Jesus preached only to Jews in His lifetime) to a predominantly Gentile religion centered in Rome. It was not surprising that the movement shifted from exclusively Jewish to predominantly Gentile since the defeat and enslavement of Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE by the Romans resulted in very little demand for a Jewish Messiah, in particular in the vanquished center of Judaism. Jewish followers of Jesus didn’t give in to the Gentiles without a fight: read the Letter of James for the last-ditched effort to retain a Jewish foundation for the faith. But the effort failed (Paul taught that Christians are justified solely by their faith in Jesus and without regard to works of faith – or observance of Jewish Law), and at the First Council of Nicaea (from which Christians received the Nicene Creed recited by Roman Catholics and Episcopaleans as part of the liturgy), called by Emperor Constantine, order was imposed among the faithful. That Christianity would become a Gentile religion centered in Rome and the official religion of the Roman Empire even though Jesus and His Disciples were all Jews and Jesus was crucified for inciting insurrection against the Roman authorities in Jerusalem is but one of the many ironies of the faith.

11 Pensans August 6, 2017 at 9:00 am

This is a tendentious regurgitation of an anti-Christian view, fashionable among Enlightenment atheists. If you read the Gospels or the Epistles, this twaddle is exposed for what it is.

12 Dick the Butcher August 6, 2017 at 9:46 am

Jesus said that one needs the faith of a little child. There are many questions and few answers. We Catholics call them “Mysteries.”

Read the Gospels. Read the various saints’ Letters/Epistles. Contemplate/meditate on the Apostle’s Creed.

Jesus knew that human nature and intellect could not grasp what was happening.

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, when on the holy mountain Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. This occurred immediately after Jesus revealed to the Apostles that he must suffer and die. When Peter protested, Jesus said, “Get thee behind me Satan, Thou savorest the things of man not God.” [Not sure of the quote]

Regarding The Resurrection think of Jesus’ glorious triumph when on the third day after his death he arose from the tomb and for 40 days appeared to His blessed mother and disciples. Think about the Ascension when 40 days after His glorious Resurrection and in the presence of His disciples, Jesus ascended to Heaven.

13 dearieme August 6, 2017 at 2:59 pm

But what if I’m not gullible?

14 Dick the Butcher August 6, 2017 at 7:20 pm

You and I will learn when we assume room temperature.

15 peri August 6, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Yeah, those Gospels – they just destroy all comers. 🙂

16 AnthonyB August 6, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Read this book recently reviewed in the New Yorker:
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/10/the-radical-origins-of-christianity

17 rayward August 6, 2017 at 10:56 am

One can be both a faithful Christian and a student of history. But one cannot be a faithful Christian and ignorant of history. The New Testament is a theological document, not a historical document; indeed, the four canonical Gospels conflict with each other, requiring fundamentalists to engage in all manner of contortions and distortions to reconcile the differences. Appreciating the difference between theology (faith) and history (knowledge) strengthens my faith. I am a cradle Episcopalean, and I attend an Episcopal Church with special dispensation to use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The liturgy is so ingrained that I can recite the entire Holy Communion from memory. And I believe (faith) every word of it, including the Nicene Creed.

18 Ray Lopez August 6, 2017 at 12:23 pm

rayward says: “distortions to reconcile the differences” – yes, that’s the problem, trying to make sense of the differences. The cleaner way is to just acknowledge the differences and don’t try to reconcile them, and to ignore the Baptist attempt to take the Bible literally. I’m re-reading the excellent short book “Evolution” by Edward J. Larson, a law professor, and you can see the giants of evolution, such as Cuvier, vainly trying to reconcile the fossil record with the literal interpretation of the Bible. It doesn’t work. The same arguments they made back in the 1800s they are making today.

Bonus trivia: evolution was reviewed back in Cuvier’s time, and by his followers, as revolution, as in political revolution (Napoleonic upheaval; Spencer imperialism). If you were for stability and the status quo, against imperialism, against racism, you were against Darwinian evolution. Hence politics did shape your views on evolution back then, and still does so today. I bet TC might be ‘skeptical’ about Darwinian evolution (even Huxley called it a hypothesis, though he was for it) while Steve Sailer would probably be for Darwin, since it meshes nicely with Spencer’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ racism.

19 peri August 6, 2017 at 12:33 pm

My husband brought home a piece of petrified wood the other day, and in the course of googling what formation it came from, I learned that petrified wood looms large in the schematic of creationists. Indeed the best description of petrifying methods came from some Institute of Creation Science. At the bottom of the page, almost as a throwaway, it mentioned that all this was compatible with the Great Flood.

20 peri August 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm

schematic?

21 Ray Lopez August 6, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Right you are peri! And did you know this: who was the first to say and try to prove that the dinosaurs were intelligent, complex, and warm blooded? Yes, warm blooded. The CREATIONIST scientists of the early 19th century! Specifically, the pious Richard Owen was making that case (he also makes it into history for positing “homologies” like the whale flipper, the bat wing and the human hand, are all the same, picked as a template by the Creator, which is actually standard evolutionary theory today). Many creationists advanced science by trying to make the case for intelligent design.

Bonus trivia: imminent computer scientist and chess international master Kenneth W. Regan believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and attempts to prove it. The German historical school of the 19th century went the other way and posited Christ did not perform any miracles, and all miracles had a scientific explanation (e.g., ‘walking on water’ was simply Jesus walking on temporary sand bars close to the surface of the water).

22 Ray Lopez August 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Read this book –reissued on Kindle for a modest fee–if you want to read about historical fiction of Darwin destroying the native people of Tierra del Fuego: Who Will Remember the People by Jean Raspail. In fact these people helped shape Darwin’s view of evolution, as Darwin considered them the ‘lowest form’ of human life (like the USA’s California native Americans, or Japan’s Ainu?! they were a pitiful bunch, living very close to nature, not unlike wild animals). Read this book for a “Steve Sailer” type scenario by the same author with the French whites fighting the African blacks for survival (written in the early 1970s! prophetic!): The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail

23 Pensans August 6, 2017 at 11:47 pm

It’s a strange way to assert your faith in Christ by mentioning your memorization of a liturgy. Perhaps, given your claims about knowing and affirming Christian theology, you should consider why there has never been any Christian theology that taught faith is demonstrated by memorization or strengthened by conceptual distinctions. Whatever you intend by posing a distinction between faith and knowledge, theology has always intended to be a form of knowledge, one that arises from faith and truth.

24 peri August 6, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Dunno. Close friends have no books in their lives other than the Bible and evangelical stuff about how to hear God talking to you, stories about children on the operating table who spoke to Jesus, etc. They know nothing about how the Bible was constructed, nor have they any interest in Judaism. I find this strange. But they spend much of their time engaged in charity (and also good deal in prayer or study of their one book, which is a waste of time that would displease God as I conceive of Him, but hey, it seems to prime the pump for their more worthwhile activities). I have to conclude their ignorance is inseparable from their piety and their goodness.

25 peri August 6, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Indeed, upon once accidentally stumbling into the subject of the early church and Paul and the subsequent history of the Jews, and the possible origins therein of anti-Semitism – at that point unaware they hadn’t even the grounding in Biblical history/hermeneutics that even my long-dead grandmother had – the wife teared up a little; and the pass they have always given me with respect to proselytizing – was in danger of being revoked.

26 Ray Lopez August 6, 2017 at 3:54 pm

LOL that’s a good one. I once tried to tell a fundamentalist Christian what “Ichthys”, an early Christian acronym, means in Greek, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichthys (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour) and the Christian looked at me like I was trying to convert them to atheism. Such appalling ignorance, but, as you say, some of them are pious, though I find a lot of their piety seems fake.

27 peri August 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm

My friends are wholly sincere. They lay-founded a church, presumably to be free of the worldly taint of the mainstream denominations, and it functions as a sort of modern mission. His ego is involved in all this, I can see, but he is very kind; and she would be performing good works and making life sweeter for all no matter where she was placed. Their church amplifies their activities and makes their personal asceticism respectable instead of ridiculous. It works, and I don’t think greater “understanding” would enhance it.

Baffling as their faith may be to me – and, make no mistake, I am unconvinced of its net positive effect on the world – I like them very much. I actually think I much prefer them to more “thoughtful,” or intellectual, Christians. I would not have predicted this, so – yet another failure of understanding on my part.

28 VG August 6, 2017 at 7:21 pm

I understand where you (Rayward, Peri, Ray) are coming from, but Nietzschie (Schopenhauer really) was right that any religion that is analytically studied is a dead religion to that individual. The will is what matters in belief, not knowing that New Testament was written in Greek or even whether or not the world has existed for millions of years. Critical study never has and never will produce a will to action that can change and guide one’s life. The early Christians believed that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The great initial mass of believers were surely ignorant of Pythagoras, Euclid, and Hippocrates…but the will in their belief was sufficient to lay the foundations of something that has set the course of the world like nothing else.

29 Student August 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

You have a point about many Christians being ignorant about the early church… particularly Protestant fundamentalists. There are probably many reasons but the big ones are that most people are ignorant of history in general and Protestants don’t want to study the early church, for as John Henry Newman once said, “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”.

That said, your point about Mark being ambiguous on the divinity of Jesus is wrong.

Mark had a different goal… which was to convey a suffering savior to a people that had just undergone crushing defeat. The goal wasn’t to impress upon readers his divinity as was one of Johns primary goals writing later.

Some examples:

1.) the first verse of the Gospel, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,…”
2.) 1:3 – John the Baptist is referring Isaiah 40:3 to Jesus (which was a reference to god himself“. . . the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’”.

3.) How about… “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son;with you I am well pleased’” (1:9-11).

4.) 1:23-24 – “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God’”.

5.) Jesus is able to forgive sins committed against God. “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’” (2:5).

6.) Mark writes that Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man of Daniel 7, who is the Lord of the Sabbath. “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath’” (2:27-28).

7.) Demons fall down before Jesus and recognize Him as the Son of God. “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God’” (3:11).

8.) Jesus’ words are put at the same level as God’s words. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (13:31).

9.) The author of Mark lists Jesus claiming to be the Christ as the proof needed for his death sentence, “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ And the high priest tore his garments and said, ‘What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy’” (14:61-64).

10.) Mark writes much about the epic scene on the cross where Jesus references Psalm 22. The point there (while so often misunderstood) is that Jesus is calling himself the savior and the Christ and that his end is that foretold in psalm 22. (15:33-38).

This is just a quick list. The idea that Christ’s divinity wasn’t conveyed by the author of Mark is just silly.

30 Thiago Ribeiro August 6, 2017 at 7:32 am

An Economic Commentary on the Bible: Genesis to Revelation by Gary North (Rushdony’s son-in-law and former protegé and Ron Paul’s right hand man) may be (I haven’t read it all) may be the most comprehensive work presenting Calvinist “libertarism”.

https://www.garynorth.com/public/department158.cfm

31 Pensans August 6, 2017 at 8:57 am

Beat you to it, but strange that we both described North in such similar terms.

North wrote another earlier work, I think his dissertation, on the catastrophic failure of early Puritan socialist projects as the experiential foundation for American commitment to market economy: http://www.garynorth.com/puritan_economic_experiments.pdf

32 Thiago Ribeiro August 6, 2017 at 9:34 am

Maybe not so strange. After all, North’s family relationship with Rushdoony is the perfect hook linking the old dean (maybe even the creator) of what can be called Calvinist libertarism and the “new” guy (70+ years old). And he was Rushdoony’s protegé and wrote an obituary when his father-in-law (although I think they had a serious divergence regarding some Old Testament dietary rule or another – still I think North has open access to the Chalcedon Foundation), although I think North influenced Rushdoony views on “honest money” versus fiat money (so it was a two-way highway).

33 Potato August 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm

You forgot to change your handle back.

34 Thiago Ribeiro August 6, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Which handle? I am myself. Do you think Brazilians can not read American books? Also Brazil is predicted to become a protestant-majority country the next decade. Brazil has recently become a non-White majority country. No one cares, Brazil is not America, racism and sectarism is frown upon in Brazil. We are all siblings.

35 Thiago Riveria August 6, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Brazil is in a mood for no home. Vagabond style. John dos Passos, who served on the Mutiny Convention in a fazenda north of Bahia known as Salvador, never had a question for anyone. Brazil has no choice. No Brazilian has ever done a foolish thing. As far as soup, Brazilians have never been tepid on the matter. H.L Mencken and G.K Chesterton read the BFG to children on this fazenda.

36 msgkings August 6, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Yeah one clue is when Thomas/Thiago writes in perfect English with no mistakes…once you called him out the grammatical errors reappeared.

37 Thor August 7, 2017 at 1:29 am

That accent in the word protege. Nice.

38 Thiago Ribeiro August 7, 2017 at 7:11 am

Portuguese has the best diactrics in the world.
“once you called him out the grammatical errors reappeared.”
It depends on the device I am using.

39 Ray Lopez August 6, 2017 at 3:55 pm

I thought this was the Nobelist economist Douglas North but no.

40 Modest House August 6, 2017 at 8:36 am

I swallowed (hard) my resentment about “The Underground Railroad”‘s unprecedented exposure in the New York Times Sunday Review of Books, the pre-publication hype, and the “great black male novelist hope” atmosphere surrounding its release, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was an okay book, with some striking situations. It might have been possible to push the magical realism a lot further without detracting from the story’s serious reflection on the horrors of slavery, and have produced a real classic, a “One Hundred Years of Solitude” for North America. But you only get one Gabriel Garcia Marquez per generation or so.

41 JCW August 6, 2017 at 5:05 pm

That was an awfully long walk just to throw some shade.

42 uair01 August 6, 2017 at 10:38 am

Linking back to a previous post about Austrian writers. – Yesterday I saw this Thomas Bernard book in the German bookshop: Städtebeschimpfungen (City-tirades). From A to Z (Altaussee, Zell am See) it’s a collection of wild rants against specific places. Vienna: “How old and life-less a city, how big and by whole Europe and the whole world forgotten and deserted graveyard is Vienna, what a monumental graveyard of crumbling and moldy curiosities.” – Also: a wonderful book, the only one by this author. It paints the social, cultural and even economic life of a small Austrian provincial town in 1890. The author was a lawyer and spending time outside of Vienna was a compulsory part of the judicial career. Hans Adler, Das Städtchen. – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7107416-das-st-dtchenhttp://www.suhrkamp.de/buecher/staedtebeschimpfungen-thomas_bernhard_46074.html – Enjoy!

43 Anonymous August 6, 2017 at 11:19 am

Has it occurred to anyone else that Tyler cannot possibly have time to actually read all more than a small percentage of the books he claims to be reading on this blog?

44 dearieme August 6, 2017 at 3:03 pm

He skims them. He boasts of skimming them. Maybe on the sound basis of the Division of Labour he subcontracts the skimming of them.

45 Anonymous August 6, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Skimming and reading are not the same thing. The posts should be entitled “Books I’m skimming right now”.

I would love for Tyler to answer whether he accepts money or gifts in exchange for mentioning books on this blog. For example, do publishers send him free books in exchange for favourable mention?

46 Todd K August 6, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Rumor has it that Cowen knows braille just in case there is a power outage. How does one skim braille?

47 li/arlington August 6, 2017 at 11:00 pm

(Only the first seven sentences of this comment are relevant to this comment thread). Sigh, This has probably been explained dozens of times on this blog. Tyler, like other good readers, probably reads books that need to be read slowly – such as Hamlet, or Isaiah, or Finnegans Wake, or Chirelstein on Contracts or Keynes on Logic, just as slowly as such books need to be read. There is a vast middle field of books which require less attention, the way that someone who smokes blunts and Romeo y Julietas gives less attention to the former. And then there are books that are written by people who, like a chess opponent at a 40 on one simultaneous exhibit (event), have the possibility of being intermittently interesting. Finnegans Wake level books – no skimming, read every word. Books in the middle field – read for the good parts and skim the mediocre parts. All the other books that are worth paying attention to – give the author the same level of attention a chess master gives to an unknown competitor, who might have a good move or two, but probably no more than that, up her sleeve. Harold Bloom has claimed that he is a superfast reader, but he also memorizes that which he thinks is worth memorizing. Can’t get slower than that. Some people are as good with words as a good piano player is with sixteenth and thirty-second notes and rapid chord changes. As for me, I eschew paragraph breaks in my comments because I think of my ideal reader – generally (and, to be fair, I am being sincerely humble here) (less than one ideal reader, on average, for each of the comments I post on what are more or less virtual bulletin boards in the basements of the (in the present case) social science buildings of universities that may as well be living in the Victorian era or the 22nd century for any real connection with the people I see every day – and I know, just as much as I know that the 70th anniversary of the Korean War concert will have just as many latecomers, with a sad look on their face at the realization that they missed the first, the most heartbreaking song of the concert being held on the other side of campus (they would have been on time if they had not chosen the wrong parking lot on that confusing campus in the midst of what used to be fields and woods on the Southern end of the Great Northern winter-fashioned Woods…..), as the 60th anniversary had – as I was saying, I know the stuff I write for ‘publication’ (publication in quotes because there is no quality barrier) on the bulletin boards in the virtual basements of the academic buildings of someone else’s (not mine) beloved alma mater – would not be improved by the internet equivalent of the “pride of life”: i.e., spacious and proud paragraph breaks. (Oaks, elms, tulip trees, maples, lots of grass, one species of birch, the southernmost: mulberry trees, and a statue of Mencius – the religious sage – at the corner of the pond, as if one lived in a world where the First Amendment did not say what it says and did not mean what it means. I am fine with that, Mencius and me would have been pals, I think: but I would have had so much to say to him about his creator that he would not have known! Poor guy! and of course who wants their portrait to be a statue? Not me, for sure,and probably not you.)…(the list of trees describes the typical trees on a generic Mid-Atlantic campus: the proximity of that list to the earlier statement about “basements” of “social science buildings” on “campuses” may strike someone as sort of poignant, in its way, at least if one is willing to picture those trees, mildly swayed by mild Virginia winds, on a cloudy late August afternoon…. the reference to Mencius is a reference to statues of Asian religious figures on state university campuses where statues of other religious figures would be immediately removed: in this case, a statue of Mencius, near an acre-sized pond which, at the moment, is being visited by lots of dragonflies, attracted to the stagnant “corners” of the pond where the center-pond fountain (for keeping the water less stagnant) is too distant to effectively diminish the regenerations of very small and very young insects near the reedy shores. Not long ago, there was a concert in commemoration of the first casualties of the Korean war, and, in fact, several people who really wanted to hear the first song missed the first song, because they had been confused about the parking on the campus. The world is sort of complicated and sort of not complicated at the same time. Yes, I know I would be more readable with more paragraph breaks. Then again, I would also be even much more readable than that if you imagine Ralph Richardson reading this comment on a lonely stage on a summer night a decade or two before the average current Oscar winner was born. (For the record, one of the sentences in this comment was the best pastiche I am capable of with respect to the “remarkable humor” of Goethe. Or not (maybe it was the sentence with the words Mencius and pals in it). Thanks for reading, anyway. I am glad the lack of paragraph breaks did not bother you much.

48 li/arlington August 6, 2017 at 11:14 pm

according to Harold Bloom, in a recent book that has very few reviews on Amazon, the greatest theatrical event in his life was attending a play in old Manhattan where Richardson was given the role of Falstaff, half a century ago. I am not dropping names here for their own sake – for all I know, someone reading this is a friend, with 8 removes, of Shakespeare (actuarial science would indicate that being an 8-removed friend of Shakespeare would be a four sigma event in the English speaking world and a five sigma event elsewhere.) I just like the fact that Richardson, an actor who has made me laugh and has made my friends laugh ( I remember, my friend!), got a shout-out all these years later from the Yale Sterling Professor of Humanities. Actually, I just wanted to write, in an authentic way, I remember, my friend! Thanks for the four minutes of your time it took to read this. Sorry if it did not make any or much sense until the part where I said I remember, my friend!

49 li/arlington August 6, 2017 at 11:29 pm

the 2 AM train left Penn Station on the Montauk line a couple hours after the performance of the Falsaffiad. In the middle of the night (actually, a couple hours before sunrise) the whistle of the train could be heard in Remsenberg, where Wodehouse, an early riser, was sleeping. I have been on that train (the 2AM from Penn station). Nobody was discussing Falstaff, but I did give a few bucks to a young guy (these were the mullet years and he could have, but did not have, a mullet (or a mustache or a beard) (that is all I remember about his appearance) who had been told by the conductor that his ticket was only for a stop that had long ago been passed. Tired of their bickering, and feeling generous, having spent a nice day in Manhattan (Raphaels, superb knishes, a long hopeful walk in Central Park, and no I did not know what the long years ahead had in store for me and no I did not know how many people I woud have liked to spend (then-future) time in Manhattan with would never ever again be able to spend time with me or anyone else there or anywhere else – in short, I was young) I paid his fare, in the amount the conductor indicated, all the way to Montauk, if that was where he wanted to go. I don’t remember giving him my address, but weeks later he sent me the money back with a nice note of thanks. I did not save the note, I wish I had.

50 Thor August 7, 2017 at 1:32 am

I liked this. Cheers

51 li/arlington August 7, 2017 at 11:38 pm

Thanks, I enjoy your comments too. It was just one Raphael (Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, in the Metropolitan Museum) and just one knish (bought somewhere in the 40s along Fifth Avenue), with a type of mustard that I have only tasted in Manhattan. So Raphaels (in the plural) and knishes (in the plural) were not completely accurate but the rest was more or less accurate. The part that makes me saddest on rereading is the reference to the people I will not now ever share long hopeful walks in Central Park with, not ever in this world, anyway.

52 rayward August 6, 2017 at 11:21 am

Is there a common theme running through these books, a theme that Cowen has been repeating as of late? Or am I just seeing the image of Jesus in my mashed potatoes?

53 dearieme August 6, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Heretic! Jesus appears as a Jerusalem artichoke, obs.

54 chrisare August 6, 2017 at 11:50 am
55 Slugger August 6, 2017 at 12:01 pm

A former S. Vietnamese officer told me that in his view the war changed profoundly on November 2, 1963, when Ngo Diem was assassinated. This killing was widely believed to be instigated by US intelligence agencies, and it turned what was seen as a civil war between North and South into a war between the US and the Vietnamese people. He believes that the CIA unwittingly undermined the will to resist in Saigon.

56 Thiago Ribeiro August 6, 2017 at 12:56 pm

According to Wikipedia:
“Upon learning of Diệm’s ouster and assassination, Hồ Chí Minh reportedly stated: ‘I can scarcely believe the Americans would be so stupid.’ The North Vietnamese Politburo was more explicit:

‘The consequences of the 1 November coup d’état will be contrary to the calculations of the US imperialists … Diệm was one of the strongest individuals resisting the people and Communism. Everything that could be done in an attempt to crush the revolution was carried out by Diệm. Diệm was one of the most competent lackeys of the US imperialists … Among the anti-Communists in South Vietnam or exiled in other countries, no one has sufficient political assets and abilities to cause others to obey. Therefore, the lackey administration cannot be stabilized. The coup d’état on 1 November 1963 will not be the last.’
To be fair, the South Vietnamese killed Diêm, he had treaded on many people. And well, juntas and military rule are like that. Ask the Argentinians.

57 Slugger August 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm

I was in the sauna when this guy came in. He was slender with a mustache. I told him that he looked like Cao Ky, which pleased him. He then told me his theory. According to him, the killing of Diem was widely believed by the people to be a CIA action. He said that in a war between the South and the North, support of the war came easy. When the perception changed to a war between Vietnam and the US, support for the war effort declined. He was an ARVN officer and thought that this story explained the lukewarm efforts of the South after that.
This was a casual conversation, and I can’t vouch for any of it.

58 Thiago Ribeiro August 6, 2017 at 5:32 pm

I understand. The problem, I think, is there was too many cooks in Saigon. The Southern leaders never could settle which military officer was in charge and who (Catholics, Buddhists, etc.) was running the show. But since everything that happens in a country must be the fault of the powet that supports it (Castro ressented Khruschev for having retreat at the Missiles Crisis, he did not want to give the weapons up), the coup against Diêm was left at America´s door (to be fair, Americans found Diêm too much compicated and did’´t try to save his skin).

59 Jens B Fiederer August 6, 2017 at 1:49 pm

I enjoyed Der Zauberberg, one of the few novels that actually has a punchline.

But I couldn’t help but feel sorry for anybody that might have read all the pages in German only to find out he’d have to be able to read French to finish the book! (I was lucky, but if they’d continued in Russian…..)

60 chrisare August 6, 2017 at 6:36 pm

What is an underrated war?

61 Thiago Ribeiro August 6, 2017 at 7:24 pm

The Paraguayan War.

62 AnthonyB August 6, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Do you mean the War of the Seven Reductions, which is memorialized in “The Mission,” a wonderful De Niro film?

63 Thiago Ribeiro August 7, 2017 at 7:20 am

No, although it sew theseeds of later fights and was the matter of one the most important works of Brazilian Literature. I am talking about the 1864-1870 war between Brazil (sometimes helped by Argentina and the rogue Cisplatine Province against the Paraguayan invader, who tried to conquer Brazil).

64 John Thacker August 7, 2017 at 9:51 am

The War of the Triple Alliance is indeed comparatively unknown for a way that ended up killing by some estimates 60-70% of the male population of Paraguay.

65 Igulohi onke August 7, 2017 at 3:04 pm

I like reading rich dad poor dad is interesting book that will educate the younger fox on how to be self employed and create wealthy for themselves by improving the economic standard of any nation

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