Friday, November 16, 2007
"Investigators for the congressional library have told lawmakers on a House oversight committee that its review of the retrieval system for the general collection concluded that a 17 percent of materials requested could not be found."
"The number of not-on-shelf books has dropped each year. A quality assurance team in the past several months has reduced that rate to 10 percent," said Deanna Marcum, the associate librarian for library services. Established in 1800, the Library of Congress is one of the world's largest research facilities. It has 135 million items, including almost 20 million books, 59.5 million items in the manuscript division, and nearly 3 million sound recordings and radio and television broadcasts. It has 615 miles of shelving.
Here is an Atkinson bibliography: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Atkinson
- (1989) The Long Gray Line. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-48008-6.
- (1993) Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-60290-4.
- (2002) An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-6288-2.
- (2004) In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-7561-5.
- (2007) The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-6289-0.
At Amazon, they're promoting a new paperback version of Darwin's The Descent of Man: The Concise Edition.
Concise is good, considering how Victorian Darwin was. We might describe him as long-winded by today's short-attention-span standards. But there is a lot to like about Darwin. He was an amateur before know-it-all professional experts got the public to believe that experts know everything and ordinary citizens know nothing.
In part because he married his wealthy cousin (they were part of the family that became wealthy making Wedgewood china), Darwin had the luxury of being able to devote himself to interesting projects without having to worry about getting paid for them. He had his basic idea at a relatively young age, like most scientists, apparently. But he mulled over the idea and let it gestate. He spent a long time gathering evidence and collecting his thoughts into a well articulated and coherent statement. In part Origin of Species is so long because he had collected so much data to support the thesis. Our country would be better off if we had more people who devoted themselves to collecting data to support interesting theories. It doesn't happen often now. Maybe it happened rarely in the past, too. Anyway, I think we lack people like Darwin who are careful about making bold assertions and who make bold assertions after gathering a lot of evidence. I admire Darwin.
www.infidels.org/library/historical/charles_darwin/descent_of_man/ - 10k -
This site purports to be the complete works of Charles Darwin online: http://darwin-online.org.uk/contents.html
Monday, November 12, 2007
From: William Abbott (wbabbott3 comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--aliterate
Maybe I am an achronoliterate (I made that up), someone who does not
have enough time to read everything that he wants to read!
If there's a word for a person who is interested in reading but doesn't have enough time to read all the books he wants to read, then it must be a pretty common phenomenon. This came up in the context of the word "aliterate," which Garg says is a person who can read but is not interested enough to do so.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The professor, Pierre Broyard, says talking about books that you did not read constitutes "an authentic creative activity." Broyard says, the reviewer tells us, "All education should strive to help those receiving it to gain enough freedom in relation to works of art to themselves become writers and artists." I want to thank Professor Broyard for allowing me to engage creative activity without reading any of these books I have noted in this blog. I also like the idea that someone else is doing what I am doing--not reading particular books, but talking about them nonetheless. If we can extrapolate from my own experience, I'd say it was a social trend, since there's a book and a blog about books the authors haven't read.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Gordon S. Wood writes reviews in The new York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/authors/53
Infamous Scribblers is an entertaining account of where we came from: http://www.declaration.net/news.asp?docID=5607&y=2007
A WRITER'S "concerns are with all mankind," wrote Thomas Paine in 1777, "and though he cannot command their obedience, he can assign them their duty." "Poor Paine [is] not the most prudent man in the world," wrote an American a few years later. These books support both judgments.
Tom Paine, by John Keane (Little, Brown, 644 pp., $27.95): John Keane's biography is hard going, thanks to its clumsy and cacophonous prose. To take one instance out of hundreds, Keane writes, of the style of Rights of Man, that "its author presented himself as a burping, farting rebel" -- and he means it as a compliment: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n9_v47/ai_16920443
Thomas Paine, the great writer of inspiring (some said inflammatory) texts that sparked the Revolution, clearly felt that church and state should be separate, according to author Harvey J. Kaye in his book, “Thomas Paine and the Promise of America.” Kaye writes:
“Paine’s appreciation of America’s religious diversity and the need to divorce church from state, along with his skillful articulation of Bible story, American history and providential intent, also appealed to many of Virginia’s smallholders, the great majority of whom were Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists, who strongly resented the power and authority of the colony’s Anglican establishment” (page 55).
So from their earliest times Methodists and America share a reciprocal, informal influence – among other things, an independent spirit and an affinity for Trinitarian order (witness our common identity of legislative, executive and judicial branches in our respective governments).
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Here's a URL for NYT review (it's different on line from the one that appeared in the newspaper)(signing may be required): http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/02/books/02book.html
The guardian's review appears on line here:
Here's a sentence from the Guardian review: "Graham Robb's first aim in this elegant, entertaining and occasionally brilliant overview of France past and present is to argue that France still matters - but not for the reasons that we usually ascribe to 'la Grande Nation'." The Guardian disses France, but the UK takes a different angle from the one in the US.
The Middle Stage HOMEPAGE, by Chandrahas Choudhury, wrote this:
His new book takes the reader into the mental and physical universe of the millions of faceless people who, over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were at the work of "discovering France" – gradually working their way into a sense of a world larger than that of their immediate village and province. The word pays, Robb observes, is translated today as "country" but it derives from pagus, or the area controlled by a tribe, and refers not so much to the abstract nation but to a smaller region that people thought of as home: "A pays was the area in which everything was familiar...To someone with little experience of the world, the pays could be measured in fields and furrows."
Graham Robb's books:
# Baudelaire: Lecteur de Balzac (1988), ISBN 2-7143-0279-3 (French)
# Baudelaire (1989), ISBN 0-241-12458-1, translation of 1987 French text by Claude Pichois
# La Poésie de Baudelaire et la poésie française, 1838-1852 (1993), ISBN 2-7007-1657-4, criticism (French)
# Balzac: A Biography (1994), ISBN 0-330-33237-6
# Unlocking Mallarmé (1996), ISBN 0-03-000648-1
# Victor Hugo (1997), ISBN 0-330-33707-6
# Rimbaud (2000), ISBN 0-330-48282-3
# Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century (2003), ISBN 0-330-48223-8
# The Discovery of France. A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War. (2007), Illustrated, 454 pp. WW Norton and Co.
http://www.tcd.ie/history/euroseminar.php. Here's what the web site says: Professor Kramer scarcely needs any introduction. Co-author, with John Horne, of the award-winning German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial (2001) and author of The West German Economy 1945-1955 (1991) along with many, many articles, Professor Kramer’s latest book, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War has just been published by Oxford University Press.
Montefiore, the Times reviewer, has a Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Sebag_Montefiore
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I attended a program today sponsored by the Columbia Jou4rnalism School. Jay Rosen was a panelist. Very insightful. For lovers of the First Amendment, he said that bloggers expand the number of individuals participating in the benefits of the First Amendment.
All about "information suppression, warrantless wiretapping, torture memos, treaty violations, detention, rendition, a compliant Supreme Court and a supine Congress"
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
These working journalists exemplified that charm and good looks help a lot in addition to good writing and quick thinking. You don't get to cover the White House by being a bomb-thrower. They described it as professionalism and asking reportorial-style questions. It's the meta message that counts, not the particular kinds of things they say.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Five leading figures in the world of books came together on Sept. 19 for a panel in the Lecture Hall to discuss "The Decline of the Book Review," a topic also explored in the September issue of Columbia Journalism Review. Panelists debated why American newspapers are cutting back their book coverage. To listen:
Suskind '83 Delivers Annual Poliak Lecture
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind '83, author of several books, including "The Price of Loyalty," and "The One Percent Doctrine," implored journalism students to remain committed to truth and disclosure despite resistance from the administration and the public, saying “Each of you has to be an avatar, a champion and a guardian of truth.” To listen:
Here's the link for "The Price of Loyalty":
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Even if forcibly spreading democracy were feasible, is it actually desirable, the NYT Reviewer , Geoffrey Wheatcroft, asked. "...almost everywhere there are free elections, the American-backed side tends to lose."
We're backing the wrong side, what d'ya think.
The WSJ said this: "Her blunt style and strong defense of liberty will be missed. "
Here's apparently the text of Kirkpatrick's speech to the 1984 Republican convention:
"stimulating manifesto aims to galvanize today's progressives"
From Paul Krugman's blog:
The great divergence: Since the late 1970s the America I knew has unraveled. We’re no longer a middle-class society, in which the benefits of economic growth are widely shared: between 1979 and 2005 the real income of the median household rose only 13 percent, but the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans rose 296 percent.
Most people assume that this rise in inequality was the result of impersonal forces, like technological change and globalization. But the great reduction of inequality that created middle-class America between 1935 and 1945 was driven by political change; I believe that politics has also played an important role in rising inequality since the 1970s. It’s important to know that no other advanced economy has seen a comparable surge in inequality – even the rising inequality of Thatcherite Britain was a faint echo of trends here.http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/
Conservative science fiction is described in this obituary for Robert Heinlein.
Amazon's review says about Heinlein's Starship Troopers: "Many consider this Hugo Award winner to be Robert Heinlein's finest work, and with good reason." It's #5,788 on Amazon's best-seller list.
Stranger in Strange Land is # 15,963. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is #7,761. That's pretty good for 50 year old books.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
On September 26, 2007, it's #25 on the Amazon best seller list.
Here's a comment by Glenn Greenwald on Salon about Halberstam's findings:
Amazon quotes Publishers Weekly this way:
At the heart of David Halberstam's massive and powerful new history of the Korean War is a bloody, losing battle fought in November 1950 in the snow-covered mountains of North Korea by outnumbered American GIs and Marines against the Chinese Communist Army.Halberstam's villain is not North Korea's Kim Il Sung or China's Chairman Mao or even the Soviet Union's Josef Stalin, who pulled the strings. It's the legendary general Douglas MacArthur, the aging, arrogant, politically ambitious architect of what the author calls the single greatest American military miscalculation of the war, MacArthur's decision to go all the way to the Yalu [River] because he was sure the Chinese would not come in.Much of the story is familiar. What distinguishes this version by Halberstam (who died this year in a California auto crash) is his reportorial skill, honed in Vietnam in Pulitzer-winning dispatches to the New York Times. His pounding narrative, in which GIs and generals describe their coldest winter, whisks the reader along, even though we know the ending.Most Korean War scholars agree that MacArthur's sprint to the border of great China with a Siberian winter coming on resulted in a lethal nightmare. Though focused on that mountain battle, Halberstam's book covers the entire war, from the sudden dawn attack by Kim Il Sung's Soviet-backed North Koreans against the U.S.-trained South, on June 25, 1950, to its uneasy truce in 1953. It was a smallish war but a big Cold War story: Harry Truman, Stalin and Mao, Joe McCarthy and Eisenhower, George C. Marshall and Omar Bradley, among others, stride through it. A few quibbles: there were no B-17 bombers destroyed on Wake Island the day after Pearl Harbor, as Halberstam asserts, and Halberstam gives his minor characters too much attention.At first MacArthur did well, toughing out those early months when the first GIs sent in from cushy billets in occupied Japan were overwhelmed by Kim's rugged little peasant army. MacArthur's greatest gamble led to a marvelous turning point: the invasion at Inchon in September, when he outflanked the stunned Reds. After Inchon, the general headed north and his luck ran out. His sycophants, intelligence chief Willoughby and field commander Ned Almond, refused to believe battlefield evidence indicating the Chinese Communists had quietly infiltrated North Korea and were lying in wait. The Marines fought their way out as other units disintegrated. In the end, far too late, Truman sacked MacArthur. Alive with the voices of the men who fought, Halberstam's telling is a virtuoso work of history.
Here's a link to David Halberstam's thoughtful words on uses and misuses of history:
Halberstam reports that MacArthur did not spend the night in Korea after reviewing the troops; in fact, he did not spend the night there during the entire time he commanded. That's hubris.
This is a bibliography of Bernstein work; he has been active in NY Review of Books:
Publishers Weekly - as quoted on Amazon
Physicist and former New Yorker staff writer Bernstein presents a scientifically rigorous (equations and all) but clearly written explanation of the recondite reasons why plutonium is supremely suited for bomb-making material—and little else. From the discovery of uranium in 1789 to the Manhattan Project, Nazi attempts at a nuclear bomb and the post-WWII efforts of the U.S.S.R. to become a nuclear power, Bernstein reviews the element's storied past. Although the discovery of the atom's structure has been covered before, Bernstein spins an accessible, insightful description of how the great scientists Curie, Bohr, Rutherford and Fermi, among others, deconstructed the atom through a combination of individual brilliance, a spirit of collaboration and serendipity. He also brings his acquaintance with several Los Alamos scientists (he interned at the laboratory in 1957) to the less canonical subject of the scientific and engineering problems inherent to building a working nuclear bomb.
Here's what it says at Amazon:
"Rhodes reveals the early influence of neoconservatives and right-wing figures such as Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz. We see how Perle in particular sabotaged the Reykjavik meeting by convincing Reagan that mutual nuclear disarmament meant giving up his cherished dream of strategic defense (the Star Wars system). Rhodes’s detailed exploration of these and other events constitutes a prehistory of the neoconservatives, demonstrating that the manipulation of government and public opinion with fake intelligence and threat inflation that the administration of George W. Bush has used to justify the current “war on terror” and the disastrous invasion of Iraq were developed and applied in the Reagan era and even before."
Friday, September 21, 2007
The Constitution was the result of the work of "highly pragmatic men who were pursuing limited and self-interested goals." Too bad we lack such men in high places now.
The author respond to a book review on Mary L. Dudziak's Legal History Blog:
It's possible that interpreting the Constitution based on original intent just isn't possible because the compromisers that got the Constitution written and adopted did not all mean the same thing.
Here's the link to the transcript of Goldstone's appearance on the NPR Tavis Smiley show:
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
- Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire - http://books.google.com/books?id=tSrKgv8UIBsC&pg=PP1&dq=inauthor:Chalmers+inauthor:Johnson&sig=yBjR-MHnYh1pnLo3clwMyIwMHJg#PPA5,M1
- The Sorrows of Empire - http://books.google.com/books?id=WqwPZGBnf3IC&dq=inauthor:Chalmers+inauthor:Johnson
- Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic - http://www.radioopensource.org/chalmers-johnson-and-his-nemesis/
Johnson said about his book The Sorrows of Empire:
"I suggested the sorrows already invading our lives, which were likely to be our fate for years to come: perpetual war, a collapse of constitutional government, endemic official lying and disinformation, and finally bankruptcy. At book’s end, I advocated reforms intended to head off these outcomes but warned that ‘failing such a reform, Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, waits impatiently for her meeting with us.’ … "
http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0115-08.htm - Johnson has the courage to say that America dominates the world by the use of our military.
CHALMERS JOHNSON is president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, a non-profit research and public affairs organization devoted to public education concerning Japan and international relations in the Pacific. He taught for thirty years, 1962-1992, at the Berkeley and San Diego campuses of the University of California and held endowed chairs in Asian politics at both of them. At Berkeley he served as chairman of the Center for Chinese Studies and as chairman of the Department of Political Science. His B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in economics and political science are all from the University of California, Berkeley.
Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, by Alex von Tunzelman, Henry Holt & Company.
The reviewer in the NY Times wrote: "The truth is that Britain wanted to quit India with dignity if possible, but speed above all; the cost in human lives was of secondary importance." Sounds like a prelude to Iraq.
Wodehouse: A Life, by Robert McCrum
P.G. Wodehouse: A Portrait of a Master , David A. Jasen
The Life of Kingsley Amis, by Zachary Leader, Pantheon
Michael Lind called it "an impressive achievement" in the NYT
Here's the book's own page: http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=046508186X
"George W. Bush's presidency is another era of overreaction at the expense of constitutional rights, but the prospects for a quick correction are not auspicious. Nothing has helped end earlier bouts of repression so much as the fact that the wars themselves came to a close, and nothing has so exposed our liberties to indefinite jeopardy as the conception of a "war on terrorism" with no end." - http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/21/opinion/main1334435.shtml
Starr is Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, and Stuart Professor of Communications and Public Affairs, Princeton University; Co-editor, The American Prospect -
Here's Starr's home page:http://www.princeton.edu/~starr/
I've been reading the big biography of David Lloyd George, and this is a period that we Americans don't know much about, but the controversies are not so different from our times today.
The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World by Frank Lambert, Hill & Wang
White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves, by Giles Milton, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
I don't know why we're so surprised by today's heirs of those 1950's predecessors of today's Washington bosses.
The Supreme Court : The Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America, by Jeffrey Rosen, Times Books
Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court, by Jan Crawford Greenburg, Penguin
Empire of the Stars: Obsession, Friendship and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes, by Arthur I. Miller, Houghton Mifflin
Conflict in the Cosmos: Fred Hoyle's Life in Science by Simon Mitton, Joseph Henry Press
The Scientist as Rebel, By Freeman Dyson, New York Review of Books
Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About our Lives, by David Sloan Wilson, Delacorte Press
The Fellowship: Gilbert, Bacon, Harvey, Wren Newton and the Story of the Scientific Revolution, by John Gribbin, Overlook
The NYT reviewer calls the book "awesome, thrilling and deeply strange" -- sounds great.
Referred to as a book that is so good that the reviewer doesn't know what to say:
Reviewed in both NYT and WSJ this weekend.
This sounds like a book I would like to read. Provocative.
Here's the review from the American Prospect: