Friday, September 24, 2010

A Potomac Weekend Meander

46 comments:

  1. Looks like we need a new meander for the weekend. This one really is the Potomac.

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  2. If you haven't seen the review, B. R. Myers (Reader's Manifesto) savages Franzen's Freedom.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/10/smaller-than-life/8212/

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  3. If one wants to sell books, it's important to get some negative reviews.

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  4. I just received my copy of the Atlantic and look forward to reading it.

    I picked up Freedom at Costco the other day -- they had it for $15. But then I put it down again after reading a couple random pages. Life is too short.

    By the way, loved Stoner. My copy of the Dylan history is at the post office, but will have to wait until Monday to pick it up.

    Also bought Williams' "western" so may read that next while I wait for all the book review materials to catch up with me.

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  5. I haven't read "Butcher's Crossing" but it sounds a little like Patrick White's "Voss."

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  6. I haven't read Voss either. The more I read, the more I realize how little I've read.

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  7. I just posted Jonathan Yardley's review of Carter's book -- can't remember if I ever posted this one or not, but some of his reviews are history in the making:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/05/AR2010030501716.html

    And his colleague's video review of Freedom was, well.... see for yourself (I'm pretty sure I posted this one earlier, but just in case here it is again). I think this is when I decided not to get on the (Oprah!) bandwagon:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2010/08/30/VI2010083003847.html

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  8. Anything by Patrick White is worth the time put into it; Voss is perhaps the best, but not my favorite.

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  9. I understand that the temptation is great to go after religious conservatives like O'Donnell, but all Maher does is call more attention to her by pressing his case for an appearance on his show,

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100925/ap_en_tv/de_delaware_senate_maher

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  10. I think that O'Donnell is getting far too much press coverage. She won in Delaware by 1500 votes of only Republicans. I just listened to the audio podcast of last week's Real Time (Bill Maher) while I was walking Friday evening. They spend too much time on the MSNBC prime time shows on her as well.

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  11. They don't seem to realize (or maybe they do) how much sympathy persons like O'Donnell get when ganged upon by the likes of Maher and co.

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  12. You hear more and more of these stories,

    http://finance.yahoo.com/college-education/article/110724/digging-out-of-student-debt

    young persons unable to pay back their private student loans, which were apparently a dime a dozen a few years back when interest rates were so low, but now result in massive burdens on persons such as Angela Moore. What a fucked up system!

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  13. Hear, hear, gintaras. It's one of the traps I'm determined to help my daughter, now in the elaborate (almost said excruciating) college application process, to avoid.

    avrds: If you have trouble with recent presidential administrations qualifying as "history"--check out "This Day In History" for today!

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  14. If you have a first printing of Operation Dark Heart, the Pentagon graciously just upped its value tenfold,

    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/09/25/books.destroyed/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

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  15. Wasn't it just censored book week?

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  16. It was. The American Library Association keeps track of books that get banned. Over the years Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men seem to catch the most heat, with The Color Purple a close third.

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  17. I'm really surprised Oprah would have anything to do with Franzen after the fiasco over The Corrections. I don't remember whether it was this book or Frey's faux memoirs that led her to disband her "book club" for awhile. Both are total asses.

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  18. I have a copy of Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, which won the National Book Award for fiction in 2007. It is covered in blurbs, one of which is by Franzen: "The God I want to believe in has a voice and a sense of humor like Denis Johnson's." As blurbs go, I guess it isn't the stupidest I've ever seen.

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  19. Oprah appears to be acting like the characters she promotes in her book club -- a victim who has risen above her oppressor. But what's Franzen's excuse? This is an "endorsement" he really doesn't need at this point.

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  20. And the next victim of the Bush agenda:

    “There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/business/27libraries.html

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  21. I think the banned book commemorative week started yesterday; that's how it is on the SF calendar. AWAD also thinks it's this week. We could easily be wrong, however; I find that true of myself now, more than ever (except for how I vote).

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  22. Yes, it is this week, Carol. In this case as most, you are correct. I was ahead of myself as usual.

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  23. Thus, many more days left for the Pentagon to purchase and burn books they don't want us to read.

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  24. My Dylan book arrived today -- look forward to reading it.

    I couldn't find Butcher's Crossing -- not sure what I did with it -- so picked up another "western" from a similar time period: Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage, a Montana writer who has recently been "rediscovered." Bo, he was the writer profiled in Montana Western History.

    What a writer! And this apparently isn't even his best book. I need to finish it before I start reading about Dylan.

    I leave for Phoenix at the end of next week so plenty of reading time ahead. I'll catch up with you then if not before.

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  25. Still waiting on my copy. Hopefully, it will come this week.

    As a consolation, Amazon Vine sent me an advance copy of Colonel Roosevelt.

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  26. That's cool! I see Washington is also out now, too.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/books/28book.html

    I almost finished the novel last night, so will get after Dylan tomorrow or Thursday for sure. In the meantime, I've been listening to his music -- research. I didn't realize how many CDs I have of his.

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  27. I think she is indeed a "genius" -- from the NY Times on this year's round of Mac Arthur awards.

    ......Annette Gordon-Reed, 51, whose book “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family” (W. W. Norton) won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History and the 2008 National Book Award for nonfiction. Ms. Gordon-Reed investigated the story of the slave family that included Sally Hemings, a slave owned by Jefferson who scholars widely believe bore his children. A New Yorker, Ms. Gordon-Reed teaches law and history at Harvard. Some of her grant will go toward travel expenses as she researches another book on the Hemings, she said......

    I think the Hemingses is the single best written book of history I've ever read -- certainly the most influential. I don't think the practice of history will ever be quite the same after her book. Books about Jefferson won't be.

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  28. That's a pretty strong endorsement. I had never been too interested in the Hemings because of the many attempts to establish Jefferson paternity, but with you giving the book such high marks it sounds like it is worth reading.

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  29. You won't regret it, Gintaras. I don't even know why I read it because, like you, the paternity question never interested me much (I took it as fact of life) and after being enamored of all things Jefferson I had pretty much lost interest in him.

    But this book totally changed the way I viewed Jefferson, Hemings (and it is about the entire family since he basically inherited them), and even the institution of slavery.

    Because she's not a "historian" but a legal scholar, Reed looks at all of this through the lens of law, which is also illuminating.

    I read this at around the same time as I read Passing Strange about Clarence King, another book I really liked. Sandeweiss also uses unique sources to get at history -- i.e., King's African American wife and family who also tended to be invisible -- but her book just paled in comparison to Reed's since it revolved around one (stunning) revelation -- that King was "passing" as a black porter within his family, per the census.

    I think it will be very difficult now for other historians to look at Jefferson's life without directly addressing Reed's work. Henry Wiencek had been writing about Jefferson and his slaves -- I'm sure he must have withdrawn the book at least for the time being after Reed's book came out.

    I think her scholarship will also influence how historians are able to reconstruct the history of slaves, workers, and others who aren't represented in the "official" records.

    I recommended this book to my committee chair who was filling in teaching a graduate seminar in early American history. I'll have to ask her how she and the students liked it.

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  30. Does Reed give any credit to Pearl Graham, whose article, "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings," appeared in The Journal of Negro History in 1961? I assume she must.

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  31. I just checked the Index of Reed's book online and notice that she references Graham only once on page 682. That is a little surprising. Then again, maybe it isn't.

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  32. You should post some info on that article, Rick!


    Reed has a lengthy foot note on 682-3 on what is known about Jefferson's other potential children. In the 1940s Graham spoke with Hemings descendants and others who "painted a picture of Jefferson as promiscuous with 'colored women.'"

    The resulting children of the women named would have been, according to Reed, Madison Hemings' brothers as well as uncles. Reed does not think he could not have known that if it were true.

    She concludes "In sum, there is simply not enough information at present to support the idea that Joseph Fossett and Wormley Hughes were Jefferson's sons...."

    But then she adds this (again, this is all in footnotes):

    "It is nature and right to consider all possibilities when a slave owner frees, formally or informally, a much younger person. But not all the slaves Jefferson freed, or the ones he was very fond of, were his children. We should avoid treating interracial sex as something akin to an addiction or chronic disease -- if he had sex and children with one enslaved African American woman, he must have had sex and children with others. The standard for coming to this conclusion must remain the same for each individual case -- not primarily for Jefferson's sake, but for the sake of the enslaved people who had lives and identities that must be treated with as much care and respect as the lives of those who enslaved them...."

    This is how she builds her argument throughout. She may draw the wrong conclusions based on the evidence she has, but she's very thoughtful and explicit in the way she uses the records available to her. That said, she reads deeply into them, which is why the book is so amazing.

    We should read and discuss this book here at some point.

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  33. The article is available if you have access to the JSTOR database. Just do a search on either the title or Pearl M. Graham. I found it while compiling a list of acceptable secondary sources for my American lit sudents.

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  34. Absolutely, avrds, and thanks so much for posting that. (Beginning new TBR/C'mas/other occasion wish list right NOW.)

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  35. I will put the book on my wishlist, av. Maybe we can get a group read going in January.

    I was looking through my "advance copy" of Colonel Roosevelt and was a bit disappointed to see so many pictures missing. Looks like I will have to buy a copy in the end to add to the previous two hardbacks on my shelf.

    Dylan has yet to turn up, but will post a new thread for the book on October 1 just the same.

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  36. One very interesting thing that I vividly recall from the book -- it's been a couple years now since I read it -- is how she looks at how families name their children. There are often patterns in the way they do so (particularly naming them after other family members or whatever).

    All of Sally Hemings children are named after friends or family of Jefferson, which broke the pattern in Hemings' family. As I recall, Reed doesn't over state this case, but think of it.... Jefferson named his children with an enslave mistress after those he was closest to (e.g., Madison Hemings). Doesn't seem like he was trying to hide anything at the time and indeed may have even been openly proud of his children.

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  37. Not exactly American History, but the new book by Oliver Sacks,

    http://www.oliversacks.com/books/the-minds-eye/

    made me think of what Robert has been going through.

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  38. Avrds: Perhaps I don't know enough about America but Freedom didn't ring true. The History[sic.] sections seemed artificial. My favourite American novel is Bellow's The Dean's December.

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  39. Thanks, Parsons. You saved me a few days reading time.

    I appreciate what he is trying to do with the Corrections and this one -- bring back a big family-centered novel that reflects on American culture. And the excerpts I've read from the new book are amazingly well written. But the more I read _about_ the book (because they released it to reviewers in advance of its availability) the less I was interested.

    I haven't read the Dean's December. Sounds like another one I should add to my academic novel series.

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  40. And my local bookstore has a copy. Next time I'm over there I'll pick it up.

    Any other favorite American novels out there?

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  41. Sunday Routine -- Pete Seeger:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/03/nyregion/03routine.html?ref=music

    Thought some of you may like to see this.

    “My lefty reputation kept me out of the spotlight, but now I’ve blown my cover. I have to say no to all sorts of good people who want me to listen to their CD, read their book....”

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  42. Thanks, Marti! That was great.

    ....ONE MORE SECRET It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.....


    I am huge fan of his. The entire Seeger family has already made an appearance in the book, and I'm assuming they will continue to make appearances.

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  43. Avrds: You know that I am a sucker for academic novels. My latest discoveries are P F Kluge and James Hynes.

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  44. Just started Dylan.The Seeger influence is fascinating. Pete had a large following in OZ during the cold War years, especially among the Socialists and the Left unions.The children of these activists -moi!- moved on to Dylan.Their children...?

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  45. I met Pete Seeger once in Grand Central Station. I was playing flute with a harpist (small folk harp for this venue) with our Music Under NY permit. Seeger came over and spoke to us. I don't recall specifically what we were playing before he came over, but we were doing mostly Irish folk ballads and jigs, Renaissance tunes and light classical music when we were out there.

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