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The May Book List

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I am having one of those days when everything about me is restless and distracted, which means writing did not go well, which means I’m In No Mood.

This happens to me every once in a while and, as far as I can tell, has no significance of any kind, except that it bodes ill for my mood for the rest of the day, and my children can see it coming.

At any rate, the list:

 28) Marion L. Starkey. The Devil in Massachusetts.

 29) Perry Miller. The New England Mind: From Colony to Province.

        f) H.P Lovecraft. “The Dunwich Horror.”

        g) H.P. Lovecraft. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”

        h) H. P. Lovecraft. “The Colour Out of Space.”

        i) Stephen Jones. “Afterword: A Gentleman of Providence.”

        j) Eric Flint. “Fanatic.”

 30) Catherine Drinker Bowen. Miracle at Philadelphia.

 31) Raymond Chandler. The Big Sleep.

 32) Niall Ferguson. Civilization: The West and the Rest.

I’ve already discussed some of these here, especially the Chandler, so let me just add a few notes.

In my opinion, the Niall Ferguson Civilization:  The West and the Rest isn’t worth the bother.

He gets his facts wrong where I know the facts, and he does some VERY odd things with numbers (a friend who’s also read it called it cheating; what bothers me is that it assumes an innumeracy so vast as to consider his readers to be imbeciles).

But maybe that is, in the end, the point–the whole thing is lightweight and sloppy and feels as if it were written for people whose educations have been either very minimal or very bad. 

He is endlessly and forever stating as truth without qualification the sort of seventh grade social studies conventional wisdom that was exploded long ago.  Maybe it hasn’t been exploded in seventh grade social studies textbooks.

The book was a significant best seller, which is a little depressing.

The Eric Flint short story “Fanatic” is a science fiction thing written by one of the secondary writers of a series one of my sons really loves. 

In spite of being everything I really don’t like about science fiction, it has some things to recommend it.  For one, there’s the title character.  He’s not a point of view character, but he’s very well done.  And he’s an interesting idea for a character, if that makes sense.

There’s also a glancing look at the end of a society called The People’s Republic of Haven.  Which is–how to put this?–something of a pip.

Perry Miller remains one of the best sources out there for the intellectual history of New England.  I read The New England Mind:  From Colony to Province right after I read Starkey’s The Devil in Massachusetts. 

Starkey takes the great witch scare very seriously.  So does Miller, but there are times when everybody involved is behaving like such unalloyed idiots that he just can’t help himself, and in the middle of  unraveling the gross illogic of the witchhunters, he resorts to rapid-fire exclamation points.

I sympathize.  The illogic deserves the exclamation points.

But the virtue of an intellectual history is that it does unravel the illogic, point by point. 

As with the Starkey, I ended up feeling that a lot of it sounded familiar.

And now, I have Stuff To Do.


Written by janeh

June 1st, 2013 at 8:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'The May Book List'

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  1. I’ve read Ferguson. His facts were wrong or distorted often enough when I knew the facts to make me very suspicious of everything else he wrote.

    I will now sound like the worst sort of literary snob. This was written with the intention of being a television series–which it was–and this probably didn’t help matters. Television loves the visual, and isn’t notably given to fact-checking. Nor does it do footnotes. (And there was some reference to the presumed ignorant and innumerate audience?) One of the reasons I dislike film and television as sources of information is that you can get away with so much.

    However, if the subject interests, I would strongly recommend C. Northcote Parkinson, EAST AND WEST. Parkinson starts with Homer and Herodotus, and knows the difference between the essence of a civilization and its techniques. It’s about 50 years old now, and much of what he predicted has already come to pass. The East would take all the West could teach, he wrote, except the value of the individual. Well, we shall see.


    1 Jun 13 at 10:09 am

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