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What'cha Reading?

Saturnal Snowqueen

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Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I read this book for English class as a kid and it always stuck in my head since-not just cause of the plot, but because the main character really likes peaches and cream oatmeal. Now I have peach oatmeal in the pantry and it smells amazing.
 

ceecee

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Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America - Garry Wills

Garry Wills is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. As a conservative writer, his work wasn't something I had really heard of (other than The Kennedy Imprisonment, which is a mind-blowing book). And I'm getting what to read next help from Matthew Sitman from the Know Your Enemy podcast.
 

Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America - Garry Wills

Garry Wills is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. As a conservative writer, his work wasn't something I had really heard of (other than The Kennedy Imprisonment, which is a mind-blowing book). And I'm getting what to read next help from Matthew Sitman from the Know Your Enemy podcast.
Tom Wolfe? I read the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, centered around Ken Kesey's crew, and after reading it, I had a less favorable impression of hippies than I had before. And I'm not sure that it's so much that Wolfe is biased against them, Ken Kesey did write a novel about a heroic small business logging company facing off against undeserving unionized employees. Kesey is a great writer, but his politics seem questionable.

The reason I acquired a less favorable impression of hippies is because I ended up getting the impression that the hippies looked down on people engaging in political struggle; that was seen as a very old-fashioned way of being. When people think of the 60's now, these groups are frequently equated, but they were in fact, two different scenes. The hippies (or at least the people participating in and enamored by the Merry Pranksters) weren't the people marching for racial solidarity or against the Vietnam War, or if they were, they weren't those people any longer. The counterculture hippies thought it was necessary to achieve change through consciousness expansion by doing a great deal of drugs, particularly LSD, or something like that.

If it weren't for Sometimes A Great Notion, it would be easy to dismiss this as propaganda from Wolfe, but the fact is that we have an icon of the countercultural movement on record as believing in something not that out of step with what's Republican Party of the new millennium. I'll just drive the point home that many people in the counterculture viewed student activists and other people actively involved in attempts to change society politically as square and doing nothing more than falling into the trap of the establishment's ways of thinking. The assumption is made that all these people had great politics, (which leaves us to wonder what the hell happened to that generation), but the reality is probably that politics wasn't that important to them, and what politics they did have were not particularly great.

But yes, I'm all year for the discussion of Tom Wolfe, particularly in the hope that this topic comes up, which I've never seen anyone else mention.
 
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ceecee

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Tom Wolfe? I read the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, centered around Ken Kesey's crew, and after reading it, I had a less favorable impression of hippies than I had before. And I'm not sure that it's so much that Wolfe is biased against them, Ken Kesey did write a novel about a heroic small business logging company facing off against undeserving unionized employees. Kesey is a great writer, but his politics seem questionable.

The reason I acquired a less favorable impression of hippies is because I ended up getting the impression that the hippies looked down on people engaging in political struggle; that was seen as a very old-fashioned way of being. When people think of the 60's now, these groups are frequently equated, but they were in fact, two different scenes. The hippies (or at least the people participating in and enamored by the Merry Pranksters) weren't the people marching for racial solidarity or against the Vietnam War, or if they were, they weren't those people any longer. The counterculture hippies thought it was necessary to achieve change through consciousness expansion by doing a great deal of drugs, particularly LSD, or something like that.

If it weren't for Sometimes A Great Notion, it would be easy to dismiss this as propaganda from Wolfe, but the fact is that we have an icon of the countercultural movement on record as believing in something not that out of step with what's Republican Party of the new millennium. I'll just drive the point home that many people in the counterculture viewed student activists and other people actively involved in attempts to change society politically as square and doing nothing more than falling into the trap of the establishment's ways of thinking. The assumption is made that all these people had great politics, (which leaves us to wonder what the hell happened to that generation), but the reality is probably that politics wasn't that important to them, and what politics they did have were not particularly great.

But yes, I'm all year for the discussion of Tom Wolfe, particularly in the hope that this topic comes up, which I've never seen anyone else mention.
The only issue I have with hippies is that they turned into neolib Boomers (for the most part). Student activism played a huge role in ending the war and protest movements helped shift public policy in civil rights, women's rights, education.. that's a fact. The counterculture was more interested in expanding their mind and experiences - not people who were politically engaged at all.

I've never read any Tom Wolfe books - I thought he was a novelist. I don't read much fiction but I would be happy to if it was something good.

Also I joined the Lefty Book Club, this is something you may really like. They have meeting and authors on Zoom plus reading assignments and other stuff. And it's free plus most of the books are in PDF so also free.

 

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It can be a little dry at times, but the political machinations are intriguing. After all, if two countries are at war with each other and they both have oil money, why not sell arms and vehicles to both sides? :laugh: :fpalm:
 

The Cat

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Finished the Stand yesterday. Started Fairy Tale. Steven King sure knows how to make a person cry at work. Ive never fallen in love with characters faster. If anything happens to Dora I'm going to have to wear ashes and sack cloth, it'll feel like losing my grandmother all over again.
 

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I've recently delved into a new book, "City of Glass," the inaugural installment of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. This captivating fantasy narrative revolves around the enigmatic realm of shadowhunters, invisible warriors tasked with battling demons. Protagonist Clarie Fray finds herself intertwined with this clandestine world, embarking on a journey rife with intrigue and peril. Amidst the backdrop of san francisco skyline images, Clarie endeavors to locate and rescue her mother, navigating through a landscape of warfare, enchantment, and enigma. Brimming with action, romance, and unforeseen plot twists, the narrative's portrayal of the San Francisco skyline serves as a gripping visual element that captivates readers from the outset and holds them spellbound until the final page.
 
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The Cat

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The Drawing of the Three is in the bag and now comes The Wastelands. Blaine is a pain, but Blaine is the truth. See you soon Calvin Tower.
 

Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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There's a teacher in this book I'm reading (This Boy's Life) who has this weird obsession with boys boxing each other. Adding to the fun is the fact that he says at one point that we "were on the wrong side" in WWII. I have a funny feeling I've known someone a little like him, though. He was an evangelical Christian and martial arts instructor, who had a weird obsession with running classes in a militaristic fashion. He probably thinks the people that stormed the capitol were patriots.

I also get a kick of this horrible step-father figure, who is a complete idiot at everything. He pretends to be a great hunter and woodsman but has never brought home anything he didn't deliberately run over with his car.
 
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Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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This would more go in a "Random Book Thoughts" if such a thing existed. (Does it?)

I read in a Reddit thread the same superficial criticism of The Great Gatsby that people always make; the book is not about how rich people are awesome. You're not supposed to come away from the book thinking Tom Buchanan is swell. It's a literary critique of the American Dream, and the unfulfilled romantic aspect of it is heart-wrenching.
 

The Cat

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Well Finished the Wizard and the Glass. Moving on to the Wolves of the Calla trying to get used to a narrator change. Ive grown very attached to the Bumbler. This does not bode well for me.
 

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This would more go in a "Random Book Thoughts" if such a thing existed. (Does it?)

I read in a Reddit thread the same superficial criticism of The Great Gatsby that people always make; the book is not about how rich people are awesome. You're not supposed to come away from the book thinking Tom Buchanan is swell. It's a literary critique of the American Dream, and the unfulfilled romantic aspect of it is heart-wrenching.
Who on earth thinks it's about glorifying the rich? Seriously? Sometimes I despair over mankind.

Since this is the "whatcha reading" thread:

I don't get to read anywhere near as often as I'd like but my tbr-pile (or pile of started books) currently includes:

Die Insel der Tausend Leuchttürme (The Island of a Thousand Lighthouses) by Walter Moers - I normally don't like fantasy at all, but this is very atypical. Moers actually started out making darkly funny comic strips. Then he wrote a novel based on one of his more family appropriate characters (which itself started out as a parody of that genre) and did a shitload of worldbuilding for it. That novel was a great success, I too absolutely loved it, and he only did novels after that. They are all set on the same imaginary continent filled with imaginary creatures and have a lot of humor in them. Maybe you could vaguely compare them to Terry Pratchett's diskworld.

The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarcuk - This has been waiting for me for quite a while. The topic and setting (philosophical and social developments in multicultural 18th century Poland) is right up my alley. I have already read another book by her (Empusion) which I really enjoyed and ... she's got a Nobel Price for literature! So nothing should stop me, right? Right? Hmm ...

Lichtspiel (cinema) by Daniel Kehlmann - I absolutely love Kehlmann's writing style. He is best friends with Zadie Smith who had been badgering him for ages to "write something with nazis". Well, now he (sort of) did. It's a novel about the (mostly) true story of Weimar movie director G.W. Pabst and how he first moved to the US into exile to escape the nazis but then voluntarily returned to Nazi Germany because he was unhappy in the US and the nazis promised him a continuation of his previously great career. It's about riding the tiger and thinking he won't devour you.

Those three form the top of the pile and I have started them all. All very nicely written and enjoyable. Let's call them group A.

And then there are those in group B (formally started to give them a try and honestly mean to read them in the midterm future):

Babel by R.F. Kuang - I was skeptical at first because it reeked of wokeness being shoved down my throat with a strong anti-colonialist message of Europe evil, Asia good. But it had been praised by a critic I actually trust and when I gave it a try I had to admit that it is very well written. It's about a slightly parallel world where the British colonialized China (among other countries) by approriating their language and culture and literally turning it into a weapon (why forging magical bullets with translations carved on them).
It's a huge metaphor about knowledge and culture as a weapon and the instrumentalization of translation. As a translator, I'm intreagued.

The Elephant by Sławomir Mrożek - This is an anthology of surrealist satirical shortstories from 1950s Poland. Actually a quick read and highly recommended. This is what political satire could look like behind the Iron Curtain. Also quite poetic.

The War with the Newts by Karel Čapek - This is an entertaining, slightly science-fiction-y story from 1930s Czechoslovakia about humans discovering and then immediately exploiting amphibia with human-like cognitive skills somewhere in the tropics. A huge metaphor for colonialism? Probably. Also really fun to read.

And then there is a considerable reservoir of "others" on my shelves that I'm supposed to get to at some point between now and giving up the ghost.
 

Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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Who on earth thinks it's about glorifying the rich? Seriously? Sometimes I despair over mankind.
I'm glad to hear you agree that this is ridiculous. I was wondering if I felt so strongly because I had a really good English teacher that year who finally helped me appreciate literature, and perhaps the book isn't so easy to understand without that. (I think because of him I considered becoming an English major for a hot minute.)


Since this is the "whatcha reading" thread:

I don't get to read anywhere near as often as I'd like but my tbr-pile (or pile of started books) currently includes:

Die Insel der Tausend Leuchttürme (The Island of a Thousand Lighthouses) by Walter Moers - I normally don't like fantasy at all, but this is very atypical. Moers actually started out making darkly funny comic strips. Then he wrote a novel based on one of his more family appropriate characters (which itself started out as a parody of that genre) and did a shitload of worldbuilding for it. That novel was a great success, I too absolutely loved it, and he only did novels after that. They are all set on the same imaginary continent filled with imaginary creatures and have a lot of humor in them. Maybe you could vaguely compare them to Terry Pratchett's diskworld.

The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarcuk - This has been waiting for me for quite a while. The topic and setting (philosophical and social developments in multicultural 18th century Poland) is right up my alley. I have already read another book by her (Empusion) which I really enjoyed and ... she's got a Nobel Price for literature! So nothing should stop me, right? Right? Hmm ...

Lichtspiel (cinema) by Daniel Kehlmann - I absolutely love Kehlmann's writing style. He is best friends with Zadie Smith who had been badgering him for ages to "write something with nazis". Well, now he (sort of) did. It's a novel about the (mostly) true story of Weimar movie director G.W. Pabst and how he first moved to the US into exile to escape the nazis but then voluntarily returned to Nazi Germany because he was unhappy in the US and the nazis promised him a continuation of his previously great career. It's about riding the tiger and thinking he won't devour you.

Those three form the top of the pile and I have started them all. All very nicely written and enjoyable. Let's call them group A.

And then there are those in group B (formally started to give them a try and honestly mean to read them in the midterm future):

Babel by R.F. Kuang - I was skeptical at first because it reeked of wokeness being shoved down my throat with a strong anti-colonialist message of Europe evil, Asia good. But it had been praised by a critic I actually trust and when I gave it a try I had to admit that it is very well written. It's about a slightly parallel world where the British colonialized China (among other countries) by approriating their language and culture and literally turning it into a weapon (why forging magical bullets with translations carved on them).
It's a huge metaphor about knowledge and culture as a weapon and the instrumentalization of translation. As a translator, I'm intreagued.
I never thought about translation that way, but I have thought of archaeology and how it doesn't always occur in a political vacuum. In any case, it suggests that knowledge is a tool, and as such, it can be used for good, or ill.

The Elephant by Sławomir Mrożek - This is an anthology of surrealist satirical shortstories from 1950s Poland. Actually a quick read and highly recommended. This is what political satire could look like behind the Iron Curtain. Also quite poetic.

The War with the Newts by Karel Čapek - This is an entertaining, slightly science-fiction-y story from 1930s Czechoslovakia about humans discovering and then immediately exploiting amphibia with human-like cognitive skills somewhere in the tropics. A huge metaphor for colonialism? Probably. Also really fun to read.
The guy who invented robots? This may sound dumb, but I didn't realize he ever wrote anything else besides R.U.R.
 
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Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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The only issue I have with hippies is that they turned into neolib Boomers (for the most part).
Right. The question I'm interested in is why. It seems to have happened over only around 10 years. I feel like their convictions must have been founded on pretty shaky ground. Their ideology must not have been built on anything solid or incorruptible. I'm inclined to think that they were probably more self-absorbed than the mythology would indicate, and this eventually grew into the "me" decade. I think many of them had issues with unions (it comes up often in books from and about the period) which had its start in the anti-war movement (hippies vs. hardhatts), but ended up becoming a key feature of conservative politics. I have personally heard old hippies cast aspersions on unions (no, not my parents; my parents were not hippies, and they were the first people I heard say anything positive about unions); so I'm convinced there's something here.

Student activism played a huge role in ending the war and protest movements helped shift public policy in civil rights, women's rights, education.. that's a fact.
One question motivating my concerns is that student activism in the aughts was nothing like it was in the 60s; it was much smaller and weaker. I once believed it was because of some fault in our generation, who couldn't face the struggles of the day the way our mighty forefathers and foremothers did, and who simply chose instead to navigate life in a carefree manner. I don't think that anymore.

There is an important difference: there was no draft in the aughts. This will reduce the involvement of people significantly. It makes sense that people would rather pound Natty Ice and listen to Soulja Boy. At least, it makes as much sense as listening to Soulja Boy can make (Insert disclaimer about how I like rap music, just not Soulja Boy). Conversely, in the 60s, it wasn't simply because of some sense of outrage at what the government was doing to people in some far off land; there was a real concern that the war would affect their lives, because it actually could.

In the aughts, the occasional fear might be expressed that they were going to bring the draft back. This never happened. I assume, if it was ever on the table, that it was determined that this would make things too difficult to manage, perhaps strengthening the anti-war movement to a risky extent.

Aside: I watched the movie version of M*A*S*H once (I've only seen an episode or two of the television series), expecting to see this great antiwar comedy, and I found myself extremely underwhelmed. First, I think I don't like Robert Altman as a filmmaker, and find his movies boring and hard to follow, full of a bunch of mumbling characters coming in and out of focus. Second, the movie's politics are not that great, to be charitable with it. I think the ultimate source of the disconnect for me is that the movie doesn't make very many grand statements or indictments of war. There's some gore at the beginning which Slavoj Zizek (whom I like) thinks is making some kind of great statements as to the horrors of the conflict, but the movie adaptation of Catch-22 does this much better. In this film, it didn't register at all. It would be more accurate to say that the movie is against the draft, not the war. I don't think we're supposed to care if Frank Burns or Margaret gets killed by the North Korean forces. We are meant to feel bad for these doctors who don't want to be there and didn't sign up for any of this, and cheer on all their escapades, most of which I didn't find very charming. We don't get a Korean perspective or even any characters except for this one Korean boy that Hawkeye trains to be his personal bartender. (Many things about this movie don't hold up, and this movie has aged worse than a lot of films from decades prior; the best way to get this movie to work for me is if you remade it in the spirit of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with Hawkeye and co being like Mac, Charlie, Dennis, etc.)

(Short version of the aside: The movie version of M*A*S*H sucks; Mike Nichols' Catch-22 is much better)

I love the music of the era, and I think the hippies did some great things, but there should be more attention paid to their flaws and failings.

This is perhaps more about the counterculture (although it may work on a more metaphorical level), but I wanted to put in a clip from Beyond the Black Rainbow, but it's not safe for work so it shouldn't go here. I suppose you're better off watching the whole movie, anyway. So, I'll include this, because it's beautifully written, and encapsulates the same basic idea:

Hunter S. Thompson said:
That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary's trip. He crashed around America selling "consciousness expansion" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously... All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force - is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.
 
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ceecee

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Right. The question I'm interested in is why. It seems to have happened over only around 10 years. I feel like their convictions must have been founded on pretty shaky ground. Their ideology must not have been built on anything solid or incorruptible. I'm inclined to think that they were probably more self-absorbed than the mythology would indicate, and this eventually grew into the "me" decade. I think many of them had issues with unions (it comes up often in books from and about the period) which had its start in the anti-war movement (hippies vs. hardhatts), but ended up becoming a key feature of conservative politics. I have personally heard old hippies cast aspersions on unions (no, not my parents; my parents were not hippies, and they were the first people I heard say anything positive about unions); so I'm convinced there's something here.


One question motivating my concerns is that student activism in the aughts was nothing like it was in the 60s; it was much smaller and weaker. I once believed it was because of some fault in our generation, who couldn't face the struggles of the day the way our mighty forefathers and foremothers did, and who simply chose instead to navigate life in a carefree manner. I don't think that anymore.
Student activism was weakened significantly after the 60's as the establishment figured out their strategies and techniques and either passed laws to stop much of it and/or created private armies and militarized police (1033 program) to nip it in the bud or destroy anyone who tried (2020 is a great example). I'm not saying protest is pointless at all. I am saying that unless it's backed by allies in local, state and federal govt. it won't go as far as it should or once did. Get your protesters and protest leaders in office - now we're talking.

There is an important difference: there was no draft in the aughts. This will reduce the involvement of people significantly. It makes sense that people would rather pound Natty Ice and listen to Soulja Boy. At least, it makes as much sense as listening to Soulja Boy can make (Insert disclaimer about how I like rap music, just not Soulja Boy). Conversely, in the 60s, it wasn't simply because of some sense of outrage at what the government was doing to people in some far off land; there was a real concern that the war would affect their lives, because it actually could.
I think there are plenty of people protesting because their lives are at stake (shootings, lack of health care, barely surviving). There will never be another draft in the US. We already have one and it's called poverty.

Aside: I watched the movie version of M*A*S*H once (I've only seen an episode or two of the television series), expecting to see this great antiwar comedy, and I found myself extremely underwhelmed. First, I think I don't like Robert Altman as a filmmaker, and find his movies boring and hard to follow, full of a bunch of mumbling characters coming in and out of focus. Second, the movie's politics are not that great, to be charitable with it. I think the ultimate source of the disconnect for me is that the movie doesn't make very many grand statements or indictments of war. There's some gore at the beginning which Slavoj Zizek (whom I like) thinks is making some kind of great statements as to the horrors of the conflict, but the movie adaptation of Catch-22 does this much better. In this film, it didn't register at all. It would be more accurate to say that the movie is against the draft, not the war. I don't think we're supposed to care if Frank Burns or Margaret gets killed by the North Korean forces. We are meant to feel bad for these doctors who don't want to be there and didn't sign up for any of this, and cheer on all their escapades, most of which I didn't find very charming. We don't get a Korean perspective or even any characters except for this one Korean boy that Hawkeye trains to be his personal bartender. (Many things about this movie don't hold up, and this movie has aged worse than a lot of films from decades prior; the best way to get this movie to work for me is if you remade it in the spirit of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with Hawkeye and co being like Mac, Charlie, Dennis, etc.)

(Short version of the aside: The movie version of M*A*S*H sucks; Mike Nichols' Catch-22 is much better)

I love the music of the era, and I think the hippies did some great things, but there should be more attention paid to their flaws and failings.

I don't give the Boomers, as a group, an inch of leeway. They were given unprecedented education, opportunity, freedom and funding to do it. More than any generation before or since by their Greatest Generation parents that sacrificed and saw exactly what fascist promises are, what genocide looks like and what a world in total turmoil looked like. And what have they done? Destroyed the planet, destroyed this country with greed that is unmatched by anyone anywhere and for a greater length of time. The largest transfer of wealth in history is on the horizon. And they'll vote for Trump and the GOP again because it benefits them and no one else. I got mine - fuck you - should be stamped on every one of their headstones.

I agree with your MASH assessment lol. I liked the show - it was ubiquitous when I was a child. I have never seen the movie in its entirety. But I prefer the Gang and It's Always Sunny.

Hunter S. Thompson said:
That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary's trip. He crashed around America selling "consciousness expansion" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously... All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force - is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.

I think this is an honest assessment of the reality of the hippies and their desire for freeing minds. The bad part is that some of those cripples and failed seekers ended up in Congress and Wall St making everyone pay for the life that they felt they were entitled to but never got.
 

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I am currently reading, "I've Been Thinking," by Daniel Dennett.
 

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@ceecee my copy of Christopher Hitchens: What He Got Right, How He Went Wrong, and Why He Still Matters arrived today. I associate him with providing cover for some pretty nefarious stuff, and the fact people other than me rarely brought this up always struck me as odd. Today, I'm inclined to view it as troubling, as it implies that it wasn't something that mattered much to people, which implies other troubling things.

I'm interested to see what this book has to say.
 
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ceecee

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@ceecee my copy of Christopher Hitchens: What He Got Right, How He Went Wrong, and Why He Still Matters arrived today. I associate him with providing cover for some pretty nefarious stuff, and the fact people other than me rarely brought this up always struck me as odd. Today, I'm inclined to view it as troubling, as it implies that it wasn't something that mattered much to people, which implies other troubling things.

I'm interested to see what this book has to say.
I love Ben Burgis' books and this one was no exception. I think he's worth reading about now - if nothing more than to observe a person go from socialist, anti-Vietnam War protester to totally gone around the bend 9/11 truther and Iraq War superfan among other things. And of course he is wonderfully quotable. Also, I loved his Mother Teresa book and the Trial of Henry Kissinger. No matter what else, he was a great writer and if he had stuck to that and not turned out to be a smug polemicist, eh, maybe he wouldn't be revered by the right. Anyway, let me know how you liked it. Do you ever watch Ben's show on YT? I do sometimes so all of his writings I read in his voice lol.
 
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