What I’ve been reading

by on November 3, 2017 at 12:52 am in Books | Permalink

1. Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant.  Published in 2002, this sure sounds like 2017.  Your mileage may vary, but it has a strong, unique voice and it looks more relevant than ever.  It reminds me of the in-your-face directness of Amiri Baraka, another underrated figure who ought to be rediscovered just about now.  If you are going to read only one Dworkin book, this is the one.

2. Gordon S. Wood, Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  This is a high quality work, as you might expect.  Still, I am numb from the oversupply of material on the Founding Fathers, and so I could read no more than a third of this one.  If only it had come out twenty years ago.

3. George William Van Cleve, We Have Not a Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution.  The best book I’ve read on the Articles period, most of all a revision of Merrill Jensen.  Van Cleve details clearly and analytically why the Articles did a poor job on fiscal, trade, foreign policy, and Western settlement issues.

4. Augustine, Confessions, new translation by Sarah Ruden.  This is the most readable translation I have encountered.  While I cannot vouch for the accuracy, Ruden has very strong qualifications as a classical translator.

5. c n lester, Trans Like Me: a journey for all us.  A memoir of sorts, might this be the best introductory book on its topic?  It is already out in the UK, not until June in the US.

Jason Brennan, Bas van der Vossen, and David Schmidtz, editors, The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism, my blurb reads: “This is the best contemporary anthology introducing the reader to the basics of libertarianism.”

Joshua Clark Davis, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs.  Covers African American bookstores, head shops, businesses in the women’s movement, and natural foods stores, a good revision of Milton Friedman on the social responsibility of business.

1 Anonymous November 3, 2017 at 1:31 am

“If you are going to read only one Dworkin book, this is the one.”


2 So Much For Subtlety November 3, 2017 at 6:14 am

The problem with Dworkin is that it is impossible to work out what was true and what was not. Was she raped? At all, ever? In particular even her colleagues did not believe was was raped in 2000. Did she suffer domestic violence? She seems to have been very unlucky in the men she met. But then we are learning a lot about feminist men so perhaps she did. Did she try to smuggle heroin into the US? It was certainly nice of the man organizing it to give her a plane ticket anyway.

Given her obvious problems with, you know, reality much less the truth, an autobiography is the *last* book you should read on Dworkin.

3 Robert November 3, 2017 at 2:48 pm

SMFF — women do not lie about rape and should always to be believed…thus sayeth mama Hilliary during the 2016 campaign. And we all know HRC would never lie ………. just as Bill Clinotn is not a sexual predator.

4 carlospln November 3, 2017 at 1:47 am

What’s a head shop?

5 clockwork_prior November 3, 2017 at 2:15 am

Kemp Mill or Penguin Feather in the DC area a generation ago, for example. But the 1st Amendment does not protect the right to sell what the government forbids, and the Reagan era laws against ‘paraphernalia’ are still on the books – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_paraphernalia#United_States

6 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ November 3, 2017 at 1:57 am
7 Anonymous November 3, 2017 at 2:15 am

We really need a “report spam” button.

8 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ November 3, 2017 at 10:03 am

“Inconvenient truth” maybe.

9 clockwork_prior November 3, 2017 at 2:10 am

‘and it looks more relevant than ever’

Why, because people calling for the 1st Amendment to be restricted in promotion of their idea of virtue is new?

10 The Other Jim November 3, 2017 at 10:40 am

Tyler has been using that phrase a lot in the last year.

Just substitute “It totally captures the anguish, despair and status-loss that I’ve been feeling since my tribe lost the election.”

11 Enrique November 3, 2017 at 2:24 am

I wrote up “mini-reviews” of some of the essays in the Routledge libertarian collection here: https://priorprobability.com/2017/09/28/routledge-handbook-of-libertarianism/

12 Matt November 3, 2017 at 5:48 am

The libertarianism volume seems like it would be pretty good. I’ve not read it yet, but skimming through the TOC, it looks like it avoids the common problem of just preaching to the true-believers (see, for a volume doing that, the Blackwell companion to Ayn Rand, which is a big circle-jerk that will have no influence on anyone but insiders). The contributors are all well-respected, a mix of younger, mid-career, and older people, and a wide rage of topics. My tendency would be to be skeptical of such a volume, but it looks pretty good.

13 y81 November 3, 2017 at 6:15 am

1. I guess Tyler thinks calling Condoleeza Rice a whore is the kind of political rhetoric we need more of. What a disgusting, hypocritical post.

14 Art Deco November 3, 2017 at 3:10 pm

An appreciation of Andrea Dworkin is status-maintaining in the GMU rathskellar. Telling the truth about her – that she was a hideous head case who said and did not one thing of value in her misbegotten life – is status-lowering.

15 y81 November 3, 2017 at 11:18 pm

Agreed. And likewise for someone as politically correct as Amiri Bakara. Noticing the incredible misogyny in black nationalist or Muslim circles would be very status-lowering in the circles in which Tyler moves.
“Dare to be a Daniel/Dare to stand alone/Dare to have a purpose/Dare to make it known”–not the recipe for obtaining tenure.

16 Eric November 3, 2017 at 11:56 pm

I met her once at a party when I was about twenty-three and she and her partner, John, were very nice to me even though I was a nobody and was a bit out of place at the party. They both seemed like gentle and reasonable people. I never saw her again, and I’ve never read her books, but the half hour she spent taking to me was a thing of value–at least to me.

17 msgkings November 4, 2017 at 10:24 am

I guess you think Trump calling everyone he doesn’t like every childish name under the sun (when he isn’t disrespecting disabled reporters, POWs, or females) is the kind of political rhetoric we need more of (for example, in the presidency). What a disgusting, hypocritical post.

Hey Dworkin, keep it classy. But also MAGA!

18 rayward November 3, 2017 at 7:00 am

2. I’m not sure why Wood would write another book about Jefferson and Adams. Maybe as a lesson in today’s polarized America. While it’s true that Jefferson and Adams, two very different personalities and long-time political adversaries, became dearest of friends, that didn’t happen until after they left the public stage. I am of two minds about Jefferson (who isn’t?). A brilliant man, yes, but his brilliance was often overshadowed by his flaws, flaws that seemed to derive from either insecurity or his belief in his own brilliance. It was Jefferson who fomented political division in the early years of the republic, although his surrogates did the dirty work. It was Jefferson and Madison who promoted the partisanship that has bedeviled us since. I don’t doubt that Jefferson justified his actions by a noble purpose, not unlike those who foment division today. It was Jefferson’s vice president, Aaron Burr, who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and who would later lead an insurrection against the very government and nation he claimed to support. Maybe Jefferson liked drama. He certainly liked the French Revolution, which he witnessed first-hand and encouraged, even after it was clear to everyone else that it wasn’t so much a political revolution like ours but a murderous rampage carried out by anarchists and worse culminating in a dictatorship by Napoleon. And then there are Jefferson’s slaves. Adams, on the other had, was Jefferson’s opposite. He owned no slaves and opposed slavery. Eschewing drama, Adams was more of a technician: a successful lawyer, diplomat, political theorist, and loyal servant to his family, his friends, and his country. Yet, Wood concludes that Jefferson got the better of the two men: “In the end, however, Wood, almost against his inclinations, declares Jefferson the winner of this philosophical smack-down. The proof of the theory is in the eating. Jefferson explained, as well as anyone, how democracy could work; since America has endured, it is at least possible that Jefferson was right.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/books/review/friends-divided-john-adams-thomas-jefferson-gordon-s-wood.html Maybe that’s Wood’s point: in these tumultuous times, simple survival is proof of America’s greatness. That’s a pretty low bar in my book.

19 Ray Lopez November 3, 2017 at 7:45 am

Gordon S. Wood is quite the authority on American colonial history; I have one of his books on the Revolutionary War.

Bonus trivia: the US pretty much lost every battle vs the British except for the very end, at Yorktown, with a little help from the French. If the British wanted to fight more they might have even won after the reversal at Yorktown.

20 rayward November 3, 2017 at 8:01 am

Evidence that the British didn’t have their hearts in the war? The British relied on mercenaries to fight the war, approximately 30,000 Hessians. As mercenaries go, they were, as one might expect from Germans, merciless, partial to placing the severed heads of patriots atop poles to frighten the enemy. My great, great, great, great grandfather fought in the war. He survived the war with his head still atop his body rather than atop a pole. He died long before I was born so I never was able to ask him about the Hessians.

21 rayward November 3, 2017 at 9:30 am

“In a chapter titled “History the Weapon,” [Arthur] Schlesinger [Jr.] acknowledges what he sees as the valid complaints of multiculturalists: “American history was long written in the interests of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males. My father, growing up in the 1890s in Xenia, a small Ohio town containing large contingents of Germans, Irish and blacks, one day asked his father, who had come from Germany as a child and whose hero was Carl Schurz, the American general, politician and reformer, why the schoolbooks portrayed England as the one and only mother country. My grandfather’s wry comment was that apparently the only Germans worth mentioning were ‘the Hessians who had fought on the wrong side in the War for Independence.’” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/books/review/arthur-m-schlesinger-jr-multiculturalists-monoculturalists.html

22 Ted Craig November 3, 2017 at 10:23 am

The battles they lost were pretty important, especially in the South. And the loss at Saratoga convinced the French they could win a bet placed on the colonists.

A rewrite of this sentence offers some insight:

“the US pretty much (won) every battle vs the (North Vietnamese).”

23 dan1111 November 3, 2017 at 8:18 am

Survival for well over 200 years under the same form of government is not a “low bar” for nations. How many nations can beat 228 years under the U.S. constitution? Possibly, nobody.

England (then the UK) has a longer period of continuity in governance, probably going back to the Bill of Rights in 1689. But their government has evolved quite a bit since then, especially the monarch being reduced to an effective figurehead, and the power of the unelected House of Lords being curtailed. I can’t think of anyone else who might have a claim.

24 Art Deco November 3, 2017 at 7:46 am

Stole the title of my book “Cuck like me”

25 Dworkin lobbied for mass castration November 3, 2017 at 11:21 am

No Tyler, it’s not worth reading her book. This isn’t like Hitler’s book, which while it might be a despicable little turd written by the asshole that shat out despicable little turds, has enough historical relevance to be interesting. This isn’t interesting. It’s got the same status and stature of a piece of dogshit on the sidewalk after it’s been stepped on by booted feet.

26 Dmitri Helios November 3, 2017 at 12:18 pm

If you’re going to read one thing about Dworkin today, read the 2005 classic by John Dolan in the Exiled. Among other things he exposes the hypocrisy of mainstream American feminism with regards to Dworkin, a real feminist who meant it and paid the price.


27 Thor November 4, 2017 at 1:06 am

That was fascinating, thanks.

28 Dmitri Helios November 3, 2017 at 12:41 pm

From the John Dolan piece on Dworkin linked above: “We’re supposed to know that you don’t take it seriously — you don’t live as you speak. What I revere about Dworkin is that she never realized that. Dworkin is hated so intensely simply because she accepted first-wave feminism fully. She blurted naively the implications of that ideology. And that appalled and embarrassed millions of smoother women, who liked the cool, fashionable tune feminism gave their bitching but had never had any intention of letting it get in the way of their romantic career plans.”

And “For the revolutionary, the point is not to screw in your own class but to stop getting it on with the enemy. And this was something America’s avid, proud young lesbians-until-that-first-big-job never, never promised to do. They’d made their point by licking girls; after that, they had every intention of fucking, or as Dworkin would insist, getting fucked by men.”

“In the end, the most remarkable thing about Dworkin is that there was only one of her. Hundreds of millions of women more sly, raised with the notion of compromise and an immunity to ideology, scrambled away from the inconvenient implications of liberation rhetoric. She alone stood their on her famously arthritic knees, doing her simple best to fight the jihad she’d been fool enough to believe would actually take place.”

29 Thor November 4, 2017 at 1:08 am

More people should read that.

30 cthulhu November 3, 2017 at 1:01 pm

What sin did Tyler commit that he feels the need to self-flagellate by reading Andrea Dworkin? Yeah, Straussian and all, but there’s gotta be a better way…

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