Friday, November 16, 2012

Reader's Corner


While we explore other group readings, I thought it might be nice to pull up a chair in Wilson's library (c. 1921) and discuss some of the other books of American history or culture we're reading.

Right now I'm reading Woodward's The Price of Politics.  After a condescending introduction that suggests Obama is self-centered and totally unprepared to be president, I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm going to stick with it for awhile.  Woodward does have a way of getting access to all the notes from all the meetings that occur behind closed doors.

57 comments:

  1. I kind of doubt that Woodward is privy to so much information. If so, he interprets it in his own subjective way. Just the excerpts of his latest book were enough to turn me off. I admire you for trying to wade your way through it.

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  2. I did a lot of reading up at Lake Tahoe and then Lassen but most of it was natural history.The area around Lassen is so wild nothing but Natl Forest,Alpine meadows with a few cottages here and there.My friend took me off roading on fire roads in his F350 with over a foot of snow on untouched fire roads.The first day I was convinced we were spending the night way out in the middle of nowhere listening to lonely Bigfoot calls.

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  3. I read Woodward's on the early war meetings in the Obama administration and got the impression that he really did have access to information. And he claims to always use two sources, because a lot of it is not attributable. But I admit I read books like this (and Game Change) like others stare at train wrecks -- I can't turn away.

    I read a great quote the other day by PJ O'Rourke who said something like I never read books about current events because I can write that crap myself ....

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  4. I also received copies of the two Jefferson books. From just the opening couple of pages, Weincek is a great story teller, Meacham not my style: Jefferson swung his long legs out of bed and thought about his day ... or something like that.

    Other than putting his feet in a bucket of cold water, which is well documented about Jefferson -- apparently there's a groove worn near the bed he used that bucket for so many years -- I always wonder how biographers know that sort of stuff. Reads like fiction to me.

    But it's never fair to dismiss a book so early, so we'll see how they both read past the openings.

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  5. Bo, your trip sounds great -- and what a great time of year to be up there.

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  6. I finally started the book I brought with me "The First Frontier" on the tain ride back to LA on tues.Very good so far and I ordered "American Canopy" last night.

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  7. I'm currently reading The Brothers Karamazov, but have the Washington Irving book on order. I also picked up Wiencek's bio of Washington, An Imperfect God. Apt title. American Canopy does indeed sound very interesting.

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  8. I'm reading Paul Scott's Raj Quartet and Democracy in America.

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  9. I just started Wiencek's Jefferson book -- left Woodward in the car. So far I'm loving it (Wiencek, not Woodward).

    I'm also sneaking off a quick order for the latest novel by John Banville (Ancient Light). And maybe Pat Barker, whom I keep wanting to read but haven't had the time to tackle the trilogy (yet).

    I have to admit I've never read all of Democracy in America. How are you liking it Rick? Some year I'd like to devote to reading some of the classics that I've missed.

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    1. Nothing like a good old academic dustup to keep interest in a book alive:

      http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/10/henry_wiencek_s_the_master_of_the_mountain_thomas_jefferson_biography_debunked.single.html

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  10. Democracy in America is an incredibly self-assured book. It also makes a ton of sense. Alexis de Tocqueville was brilliant.

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  11. I remember getting into a friendly battle with Goliard over that one when we read it in the old NYTimes forums. He seemed to think it had a big impact on American literature. Curious to hear your take on it, Rick.

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    1. I have never thought of it in that context, and I tended to avoid Goliard.

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    2. Wasn't he the right-wing lover of weather? Never dull, that's for sure.

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    3. I seem to remember him being in the process of translating something, but I can't remember what.

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    4. Goliard was conservative but very intelligent (seemingly an oxymoron these days), however he never gave me a satisfying reason for his comment. I pressed him for it afterward, but all I got was a chuckle. I guess he had other fish to fry.

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    5. As I recall he was an old-world conservative -- he taught Latin. We really did have an interesting group in those days.

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    6. I enjoyed Goliard's comments. He was one of the mainstays of the Nabokov forum and a great contributor in the reading groups and meander.

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    7. Long ago we also considered the bio of de Tocqueville for a group read,

      http://am-perspectives.blogspot.com/2009/10/passion-for-nature.html#comment-form

      Peter Carey had fun with de Toqueville in Parrot and Olivier in America,

      http://am-perspectives.blogspot.com/2011/03/most-excellent-adventure.html#comment-form

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    8. A trip down memory lane. I had totally forgotten the bio of Muir. I tried to read the Peter Carey novel but didn't get very far.

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  12. I'm reading 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart. It's good, but not great (so far). It's about what was going on around the country from the time of Lincoln's election in 1860 through 1861. One chapter is about Ohio as Lincoln was riding on train on his way to DC. James Garfield was a college professor at the time.

    I recently finished two books by Jennifer Worth that were the basis of the Call the Midwife British TV series.

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  13. I liked 1861. I thought he showed how you can write well and tell a good story without making it seem as if the author might be making it up as he went along. Amazingly, that was his first book.

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  14. Wasn't it the Iliad? or something classical.I met Goliard in NYC.A bunch of us book forum folks got together at a Belgian place.Lot of fun.NNyhav was there also and when Arthur passed he described him as an old high church hippie which aply descibed Goliard.

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  15. Here's an interesting list:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-10-best-books-of-2012/2012/11/16/fd937c5e-2eb3-11e2-9ac2-1c61452669c3_story.html

    Why Nations Fail might give us something to really debate and is called a "masterpiece."

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  16. As an aside, I love how the Newt Gingrich "history" post above has "no comment" under it. Should probably stay that way, as should Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, et al.

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  17. I suppose, but I thought it was worth sharing.

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  18. On a completely different note, I have just come across this incredible website:

    http://www.mobydickbigread.com/

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  19. Watched this replay last night on C-SPAN's:


    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/AidaD


    The authoress is the widow of distinguished scholar David Herbert Donald is who is well known and highly respected in this forum.

    Perhaps we should consider this for a future reading.





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  20. I hope everyone is registered now and can log on with their user names because I'm afraid I'm going to have close the forum to anonymous posts given the fun one spammer seems to be having at our expense.

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  21. I wasn't aware that you were plagued by a spammer. And what do you mean by being registered?

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  22. Some person(s) has (have) been leaving unwanted messages and links in a couple of old posts, and we are getting more and more unsolicited ads. I think I will go back to members only, and let only those who have joined this site be able to comment. If you are logging in under a different name than that which appears in the Members group on the side bar please join this site again. If you are using the same name as that on the Contributors list then you will continue to be able to post and comment as before.

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  23. Okay. I am still using the same name I've always used to login.

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  24. Gintaras has been great at deleting most of the spam. I've caught a few more.

    Any real "anons" can always sign up -- I'm sure we can arrange to get them an invite.

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  25. We don't seem to me moving any closer to a consensus. Maybe the Washington Irving bio is the way to go?

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  26. Irving? OK. I'll send a request to my local library right away ....

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  27. Unless I hear any objections, I'm going to slate Washington Irving: An American Original for our next reading group discussion

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  28. ^ sounds like an ideal choice to me!


    :)

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  29. Oh $ĦįŦ ~ I requested that the book be sent to our Bookmobile which stops in front of our building but misread the schedule. It won't be here until next week! I sent a note requesting that it be re-routed to the neighborhood branch instead. Hopefully, it will be there by Friday and I'll be able to read it by then.

    Dyslexia is a $ĦįŦ and a half, I tell ya. How I wish it was possible to be rid of this @#$#@ condition.

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    1. Well, finally got the book and it looks like a real gem.

      BTW, I took my old copy of "Gone With the Wind" and had the librarian put the binder back on to it. She did an expert job on the book. In the past she did this often but now finds that few people ask her for help in fixing their old books. I will now be able to keep my copy in good shape and will pass it along some day ...

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  30. So I see you are still getting the unwanted advertisements.

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  31. You have to personally use adblock to screen the ads out. Seems no way to screen them out through the blogger.

    Adblock for Chrome:

    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/adblock/gighmmpiobklfepjocnamgkkbiglidom

    Adblock for Explorer:

    http://simple-adblock.com/

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    1. So someone can place ads on your blog and benefit from any clicks they receive? Sheesh.

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    2. I take that as the price of having a blog hosted by google -- although they sure don't seem to do a very good job at targeting them here. Interesting that they also provide a "block" at the same time.

      I'm more irritated by the "Hi, there! What a great blog you have! Here's mine: piano lessons!" Or "golden goose!" Or whatever.

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  32. I'm reading an interesting book right now on the history of the demise of the moderate wing of the Republican Party -- Rule and Ruin. Never thought I'd find that of interest, but it does seem to be extremely relevant.

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  33. You can sell your own space through google but if it is so easy to scab onto someone's blog, who's going to bother to pay? As Kurt Vonnegut would say, so it goes.

    Seems the Bros. Karamazov is going to keep me busy for awhile. Not Fedya's best book but entertaining nonetheless.

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    1. Bros Karamazov movie is available on you tube:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECkS7Qu-vYw

      Perhaps it is now public domain.

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    2. I have the Russian version,

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BqyR6b48Vk

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  34. I'm hoping I'll get to read some novels again in my life .... I ordered Banville's new one just in case. They are usually very short. At the other extreme, I still have John Sayles 19th century tome waiting in the wings, along with thousands of others.

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  35. I like moving between fiction and non-fiction. I'm curious about the Sayles book but don't feel like indulging in it at the moment. Looking forward to the Irving bio.

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  36. Some historical pics for your enjoyment:

    http://www.kuriositas.com/2012/11/1910s-america-in-color.html

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    1. Pics are great, Trip! I borrowed a couple of them.

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    2. GREAT photos. And interesting overview of photo history.

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  37. I don't ever agree with Dick Morris (didn't he work for Clinton?) but I'm reading the history of the demise of moderate Republicans after Eisenhower and this seems to be exactly what happened last month:

    "For many, many years the Republican Party has been a group of committed conservatives who believe in limited government who live in a sea of people that don’t really see it that way. And the Republicans have survived and stayed in power because the turnout of everybody else was lower and their turnout was higher."

    How they sold senior white Americans on limited government (other than through their appeal to their race) is a little difficult to grasp, but if you can count on those being the only people who show up to vote, the conservatives had a fighting chance.

    The quote is from http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/dec/20/how-and-what-obama-won/

    Nothing particularly new here, but he does provide a nice wrap up of the election.

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  38. No surprise. The peak of Republican turnout was 2004 when Bush pulled in over 60 million votes. Obama pulled in 69 million in 2008 and around 61 million in what was an off year for him this year. The question becomes do the Democrats have someone else who can energize the party the way Obama has done, otherwise we may see the Republicans back in the WH in 2016. If 58 million vote for Romney, that means they can easily pull in that number again.

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  39. Yeah, 58 million near-automatic votes which is what is scary about American politics.

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  40. I assume many of them were no votes but it still scary that so many persons actually think the Republicans offer a better alternative. More bothersome is that Democrats were unable to make very many in-roads into state legislatures and governerships, which remain lopsidedly Republican. I'm hoping that we can turn that around in 2014.

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