What I’ve been reading

1. Hitch-22: A Memoir, by Christopher Hitchens.  I delayed reviewing this book, because I found it hard to write about someone who was just diagnosed with esopheagal cancer.  I can say this: a) I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, b) it embodies and channels a way of living, thinking (and drinking), and writing which I totally reject, and c) that is why I liked it.  It's a kind of "bulletproof" book; the more you find in it to reject, the more interesting it becomes.

2. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, by Christopher Clark.  I don't love this period, but I found this to be one of the better history books I've read, ever.  Compelling, informative, and readable on every page.

3. The Squam Lake Report: Fixing the Financial System, by Ken French, Martin Baily, John Campbell, John Cochrane, Doug Diamond, Darrell Duffie, Anil Kashyap, Frederic Mishkin, Raghu Rajan, David Scharfstein, Robert Shiller, Hyun Song Shin, Matthew Slaughter, Jeremy Stein, and Rene Stulz, and maybe some others too by the way I left out the middle initials.  The recommendations and analysis of this book are perfectly reasonable, but it's an object lesson in the diminishing returns to simply stacking intelligence.  Interfluidity, working on his own, could have written something more analytic and more insightful in six months' time.

4. The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century, by Peter Watson.  This book covers too many topics, should have stopped at the Nazi period, and doesn't make every figure in this broad survey spring to life.  Still, I devoured and enjoyed every page.  It passes a key test: does it make me want to run to the library and grab a whole bunch of other books?  Recommended.

5. Gypsy Jazz: In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing, by Michael Dregni.  This perfectly titled book delivers in each of its stated areas and brings its subjects to life, while setting Reinhardt in the proper broader context.

I am still reading the new David Grossman book, about ten pages a day.


Would love to hear someday what in particular you reject about Hitchens' way of living.

Hm: the colonic irritation.

Dragni's Bio of Django is also very good.

My thoughts on Hitchens are nothing so startling. He seems to focus so much on one very particular kind of social information; I don't. I don't know him by the way and while I reject his methods I'm not trying to say he is a bad person; I simply don't know him.

Are you reading grossman in Hebrew or in review copy?

I think the colon is far more common on nonfiction. A fictional title need only deliver a punch, but nonfiction needs that explanatory note. Call a book "Iron Kingdom" and I might think it about all sort of things--mentioning that it's about Prussia helps.

Incidentally, since I married a woman from Saxony, I've been particularly interested in the character of August the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. Savvy in that he understood that the best way to counteract Prussian military might was to become an artistic sponsor, he still essentially brought Russian dominance over Poland through a costly war with Sweden. Interesting contrast of successes and failures.

I've just picked up Watson's The Modern Mind, half of which likely could be called The Modern German Mind. All highs and lows, those Germans.

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