What I’ve been reading, and viewing

1. Stephen Witt, How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy.  Most of all, Learned how much hard work and ingenuity was behind the MP3 standard, in any case a good and useful book.

2. P.W. Singer and August Cole, Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War.  More of a speculative exercise than a traditional novel — what if the Chinese could beat the Americans? — but still a fun read and a book that people are talking about at high levels.

3. Vendela Vida, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty: A Novel.  To the point and lots of fun.  A recently divorced woman travels to Morocco and surprises start to happen.  Occupies that intriguing space between “not deep” but also “not superficial.”

4. Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend.  This writer has been called a “female Neapolitan Knausgaard,” arguably a deliberate oxymoron.  It took me my second read through to “get it,” which I suppose means I am not the natural target audience.  But I am very glad I gave it that second read, and this is in fact the female Neapolitan Knausgaard, in four volumes by the way.

5. Red Army, a film documentary about the hockey team of the Soviet Red Army, its rise and fall.  Chock full of social science, I loved this movie, philosophical too, even though I am not especially interested in hockey.  One of my favorite documentaries.


'a book that people are talking about at high levels'

High levels inhabited by such people as NYT columnists, undoubtedly.

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War. Is it in the style of The Riddle of the Sands?

2. A war in which everyone is directly involved, unlike recent wars fought by only a few. It's an interesting idea, and raises the interesting question whether direct involvement in war will make us more or less enthusiastic about war. Neocons are often criticized for their enthusiasm for sending other people to war, but is that correct: are neocons enthusiastic about war because they are involved albeit only from a distance? Are the vast majority of Americans ambivalent about war because they know they won't be involved directly? When it comes to war and the enthusiasm for it, I'm reminded of the scene from the movie Reds in which the leader of the "Liberal Club", an older bombastic fellow, shouts "I'm ready to be called!" Of course, the conventional wisdom is that those who have actually been in war are less enthusiastic about another war, but Robert E. Lee supposedly said that "[i]t is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it". How terrible must it be for us not to grow too fond of it? [On the real possibility of war with China, the TPP is supported by those who see it as an alternative to military engagement with China, even though by its terms China could not be a participant (because China denies the "freedoms" necessary for participation). In the early 20th century, America chose to challenge Japan militarily (with military bases and a colony in Japan's so-called sphere of influence) rather than to challenge Japan diplomatically. That we would choose the same path with China makes one question whether war is the goal.]

Regarding "Red Army", does the film reveal which team members were KIA in Afghanistan after losing to the USA?

Tyler, any comment on the new Stephenson?

I watched "Red Army" (on a flight) recently and thought it was really great. I'm also not a real hockey fan, but it's an excellent window into the Soviet, and later Russian, mind.

Why read contemporary fiction at all?

What you should have been reading:

Modern Political Economics: Making Sense of the Post-2008 World


"What Recovery?" Monthly Review, April 2003:
"The great irony in these circumstances is that the U.S. economy is being propelled forward in the present weak recovery largely by growth in personal consumption, even as real wages are declining. The main factor holding up consumption is borrowing on the basis of increased home values—or a housing bubble. With the stock market and many other investment opportunities appearing unattractive, significant amounts of money have shifted into real estate, driving up prices."

I just read the second book of Ferrante's tetralogy and liked it better than the first (which I did enjoy reading).

Is the first one necessary, then? Not well-versed in these dense Continental novel series.

Ferrante's tetralogy is really just one long novel published in four parts. It is not particularly "dense" either. Unlike Knausgard, Ferrante's novels are full of events, narrative thrust, ellipses and move along pretty quickly.

I have no idea whether E.F. has written good books or not, but one of the titles is, roughly translated, "Those who Left and Those who Stayed." I don't have many "favorite" writers, being in the late stages ("one hopes", or "dread words") of the Purgatorio equivalent of what probably misleadingy seems to be the misanthropic later cantos of life, where one considers almost all prose writers and even most even real poets to be, at best, situational producers of strings of words that only enchant for a short - and unretrievable - time... time that maybe should not have been traded in for other things (Proverbs 8, or 23?) but I do still have a few I remember very fondly, and of those few, only a few have settled on titles (a l'ombre de jeunes filles en fleur, korol' dama valet, the call of the wild, joy in the morning, platero y yo, korset, there and back again, pushkin figure this out) as good as "Those who Left and Those who Stayed". So, whether I ever met you or not, in my youthful days in Europe, my dear E.F., thank you for that, at least.

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