Didn't realize part of the reason Arthur left was to write a book.
This is his first novel. While this is a work of fiction, virtually everything is based on true stories, inspired by his grandparents and father escaping from Nazi agents in a Krakow train station in 1943.
Did an hour's worth of browsing at Barnes & Noble (not Borders) the other day and saw a few books that looked good but will have to wait until I can find some more free time.
Infamous Scribblers by Eric Burns: If you read enough American history you realize that the partisan nastiness of the blogosphere really isn't anything new. The technology is obviously different but the things written by partisans about Hamilton and Adams (two of the Founders I've recently read biographies of) are just as obnoxious and vehement as anything said about our current lot of politicians. From the publisher:
Infamous Scribblers is a perceptive and witty exploration of the most volatile period in the history of the American press. News correspondent and renonwned media historian Eric Burns tells of Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Sam Adams-the leading journalists among the Founding Fathers; of George Washington and John Adams, the leading disdainers of journalists; and Thomas Jefferson, the leading manipulator of journalists. These men and the writers who abused and praised them in print (there was, at the time, no job description of "journalist") included the incendiary James Franklin, Ben's brother and one of the first muckrakers; the high minded Thomas Paine; the hatchet man James Callender, and a rebellious crowd of propagandists, pamphleteers, and publishers. It was Washington who gave this book its title. He once wrote of his dismay at being "buffited in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers."
The journalism of the era was often partisan, fabricated, overheated, scandalous, sensationalistic and sometimes stirring, brilliant, and indispensable. Despite its flaws-even because of some of them-the participants hashed out publicly the issues that would lead America to declare its independence and, after the war, to determine what sort of nation it would be.
Sounds like a timely book to me. Another book that looked worth picking up in the near future is The Twins Platoon written by a veteran of the Vietnam platoon of the title. I couldn't believe what I was reading as I read the back of the book.
In the evening of June 28, 1967, 150 young Americans were sworn into the Marine Corps as part of the pre-game ceremonies of a Minnesota Twins baseball game. Before the end of the fourth inning these volunteers were being hustled on to buses, on their way to boot camp. It was a journey that would take them from a boyhood of baseball in the American heartland to manhood on the killing fields of Vietnam. Christy Sauro was one of the Twins Platoon, and in this book he tells what it was likeâ€"from the pomp and ceremony of induction to the all-too-real initiation by fire that would shortly follow: in mere months, he and most of the Twins Platoon were on the ground in Vietnam and promptly faced with some of the toughest fighting of the war, the Siege of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive, including the brutal Battle for Hue. From baseball to boot camp to brutal combat, his is a firsthand story of American life being lived at the limitsâ€"and changed forever.
Was this a program that had at all the ballparks then? I think I need to read this one.
I've been moderately busy with other things and pretty lazy to post much recently but that doesn't mean I don't think about things to blog about. Really, in my head this is a great a blog but not so much in the real world. Anyway, I'm about 3/4 of the way through Army of Davids and have a rough outline of a post I would write about it in my head. I was actually going to work on that tonight but then I read Jim Geraghty's review this morning and decided anything I'd write would be redundant because Geraghty says pretty much what I would have.
So “Army of Davids” is not just a good book; it’s better than I expected because it does, perhaps inadvertently, help explain why Glenn has earned the title of “Blogfather” and why “Instalanche” has become a verb.
In 268 pages – a meaty thought-provoking read that goes by quickly – Glenn explores, just deep enough, his experiences with home-brewing his own beer and how microbreweries changed the field’s biggest companies, the change from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based one, the eroding of the Dilbert-style corporate world, how panhandlers and hassles from folks in public spaces helped facilitate the growth of privately-owned “third place” meeting spaces like malls and Starbucks, how Internet distribution is completely changing the way musicians bring their art to listeners and customers, how smart, quick-responding citizens acting as ‘a pack, not a herd’ are a powerful, underutilized tool in the war on terror, what blogs do better than the mainstream media and what they don’t, what makes good blogging, how Americans saw the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit as illegitimate social engineering, the upside of Internet porn and violent video games, nanotechnology, lengthening the human lifespan, private sector space exploration, and, in perhaps the most speculative chapter, he discusses “the approaching singularity.”
This is a jaw-dropping breadth of knowledge and thought. And it helps suggest why Glenn has become the de facto News Editor of the Blogosphere – he’s got a stunningly wide range of interests, knows enough about enough topics to sniff out spin and bad information, and is enthusiastic about bringing this information to readers. He’s also fair, acknowledges the downsides and costs of phenomenon that he likes, and writes as if he’s smiling.
I think there are a lot of bloggers who look with envy at Glenn’s traffic, his awesome power to launch a book to near the top of the Amazon list (Dear Glenn, please remember to do this for my book later in the year!), and his unofficial title as the MSM’s designated spokesman for the blogosphere. Well, Glenn’s earned his spot up there in the Blogospheric Penthouse; to get up there, you/we need to develop his breadth and depth of knowledge, as well as his curiosity about seemingly everything, and his ability to persuade without histrionics or pounding the table. Perhaps someday some other blogger will come along and do that, but for now, it’s Instapundit’s blogosphere; we just live in it.
That was going to be my point. Not so much a book review as just an admiration for Prof. Reynolds as a guy whose judgment I've come to trust over the years. Aside from his own commentary and the probably thousands of links from Instapundit to other sources that I've read by clicking through, I can name about a dozen books I've read recently on Glenn's recommendation. There are probably another dozen he's mentioned that I'm likely to read soon too.
But let's back up a bit. Everybody who's looking at this could be said to be a part of a reading culture. I'm sayin' - you're here, looking at something I wrote. Is that because of me? Of course not. It's because you already liked to read. That's how you got here in the first place. You read for pleasure and for information. And you didn't just start doing it on the 'net. You've been doing it. Well again, going back to the definition I proposed earler, that's a culture. A lot of my students don't come from that culture. So I have a challenge.
I like to read. I like to write too. Always have. Maybe not always-always, but I've liked to read and write since long before I could do either. (Maybe one time I'll get into "scribble talk" and how it precipitates reading and writing, but for now just suffice it to say that I scribbled for meaning and talked stories long before the marks on the paper held any correlation to what I was saying.) I read the encyclopedia for fun. That's how I was raised. Not so for some of my students.
I like the notion of a "reading culture." He's absolutely correct that that's why I read blogs, because on a baseline level I'm always reading. I may not retain all that I read, but when I'm watching TV I feel completely unsettled if I don't have a book or magazine wedged in the cushion. I may only read a couple of paragraphs during a commercial but I feel compelled to do it.
When I was in kindergarten, I was one of three kids who could read. (Or the teacher knew who could read.) The parents were invited to come in for a little show. Me and the other two kids took turns reading Where the Wild Things Are while the rest of the class marched around the room like dummies with brown paper bag monster masks.
If hints like, "I want this book for my birthday," are properly understood I should be receiving a copy of Prof. Reynold's An Army of Davids in a few weeks. And I'll admit that TigerHawk's review got me a little pumped to read it. Also the trolling in the Amazon reviews are fantastic. Excerpts:
I'd rename the book "Amry of Warmonger Chickenhawks Who Pimp For Wal-Mart and Karl Rove."
Reynolds pretends conservatism but in reality is another failed neo-con shill.
The author is basically encouraging people to corrupt our social democracy for fun and profit...replacing "big" media with Fox News and blogs, replacing unions with Wal-Mart, replacing democracy with the increasing theocratic, capitalist and authoritarian GOP rule.
Those are all by different reviewers. Also, how is it possible that there are only 10 reviews for this book? By now there should be at least a couple of hundred reviews sprinkled with insights like above.
...Nevermind, found 'em all at the HuffPo--in the comments, Arianna's review is positive.
I just received an email from Amazon about a new Neal Stephenson book, King of the Vagabonds : The Baroque Cycle #2, which is being released next week. At only 400 pages (and in paperback) it seems unlikely that this is a true sequel to the original trilogy which ran about 800+ pages a pop. My hope is that this is a collection of side-stories about "Half-Cocked" Jack that Stephenson couldn't work into the original series. My fear is that it's just excerpts of the stories about Jack from the books I've already read. The Amazon description is unclear either way and Stephenson's website doesn't make mention of it. The Baroque Cycle Metaweb doesn't seem to have anything on it either. This is either an extremely exciting event or a wholly disappointing tease.
(I just used the word "either" in three consecutive sentences. Awful.)
I bought the Hamilton bio on the "Currently Reading" sidebar back in March, lent it to my dad, then forgot about it. I found it on his bookshelf the other day and just got started.
I don't mean this in a creepy way, but reading about Hamilton (and the other Founding Fathers) always reminds of Sheila's "obsession." If you're looking for something to read check her archives. Her enthusiasm for what they were, what they did, and all of their flaws is really amazing.
I don't normally do book reviews but what the hell.
I can highly recommend Generation Kill which I first blogged about here. One of the weird things about reading the book is how "historical" it can seem at times when you consider that the events in the book are only a few years old. Without counting the prologue and epilogue, the book spans from March 11, 2003 through May 4th, 2003. That's the time-frame that the author, Evan Wright, is embedded with the First Recon Marines. While there are hints of the disorder and insurgency to come following the fall of Baghdad, this book is pretty much a snapshot of the above time period.
As far as Wright's style, I'd give him high marks for his descriptions of places and people. He also does a commendable job in making the Marines the story. The only discussions about the pros and cons of the war come from the Marines themselves, not from Wright. If Wright betrayed any strongly held feelings about the war one way or the other, they're pretty subtle. While Wright highlights plenty of the bad decisions made by Marines from the boots all the way up the chain of command, he's also honest enough with the reader to make it clear that he's counting on the Marines he's riding with to keep him alive.
The book focuses around roughly 12-15 Marines. The story Wright tells is theirs. Every book about a small group of soldiers will have a "Band of Brothers" feel; GK is no exception. The men fight for each other as much as they do for George W. Bush or America in general. Wright is there to record the bull sessions when the Marines go off about everything from the warrior culture, to girls, to racism. One Marine daydreams about a Communist-inspired "kill whitey" race war in America.
Wright also does a good job describing the scenes of destruction the Marines leave in their path as well as recreating the tenuous moments where the Marines (and his) lives could end from enemy or friendly fire.
Ultimately, I recommend this book for both supporters and opponents of the war. For supporters, it offers insight into not only the heroic image we have of the men in harm's way but the realization that there are some fuck-ups there as well. There are several instances where over-zealous and possibly mentally damaged officers go off and the boots have to reign them in and even disobey orders to save civilian lives as well as their own.
And opponents of the war would perhaps have a better understanding of the men who are fighting and the difficult scenarios they face every step of the way. These men made great sacrifices and the ambiguous situations they've been put in aren't all George Bush's fault. The book offers scenes of humanity from our Marines who are faced with fighters out of uniform and suicide bombers. The choices to shoot or hold your fire are not easy and decisions need to be made in split-seconds. The non-uniformed enemy fighters are the ones who bear the brunt of responsibility for putting civilians in harms way.
So I guess what I'm saying is read the book. You'll definitely enjoy the lighter moments of Marine humor and get a little closer to understanding exactly why it is that "war is hell."
I'm less than 100 pages in, but I can assure you that Generation Kill is a must-read. This is one of those books I've had in my hands every time I go to the bookstore but I finally bought it the other night.
The invaders drive north through the Iraqi desert in a Humvee, eating candy, dipping tobacco and singing songs. Oil fires burn on the horizon, set during skirmishes between American forces and pockets of die-hard Iraqi soldiers. The four Marines crammed into this vehicle -- among the very first American troops who crossed the border into Iraq -- are wired on a combination of caffeine, sleep deprivation, excitement and tedium. While watching for enemy fire and simultaneously belting out Avril Lavigne?s ?I?m With You,? the twenty-two-year-old driver, Cpl. Joshua Ray Person, and the vehicle team leader, twenty-eight-year-old Sgt.
Brad Colbert -- both Afghan War veterans -- have already reached a profound conclusion about this campaign: that the battlefield that is Iraq is filled with ?fucking retards." There?s the retard commander in their battalion who took a wrong turn near the border, delaying the invasion by at least an hour. There?s another officer, a classic retard, who has already begun chasing through the desert to pick up souvenirs thrown down by fleeing Iraqi soldiers: helmets, Republican Guard caps, rifles. There are the hopeless retards in the battalion-support sections who screwed up the radios and didn?t bring enough batteries to operate the Marines? thermal-imaging devices. But in their eyes, one retard reigns supreme: Saddam Hussein -- ?We already kicked his ass once," says Person, spitting a thick stream of tobacco juice out his window. ?Then we let him go, and he spends the next twelve years pissing us off even more. We don?t want to be in this shit-hole country. We don?t want to invade it. What a fucking retard."
The war began twenty-four hours ago as a series of explosions that rumbled across the Kuwaiti desert beginning at about six in the morning on March 20th. Marines sleeping in holes dug into the sand twenty miles south of the border with Iraq sat up and gazed into the empty expanse, their faces blank as they listened to the distant rumblings. There were 374 men camped out in the remote desert staging area, all members of the First Reconnaissance Battalion, which would lead the way during considerable portions of the invasion of Iraq, often operating behind enemy lines. These Marines had been eagerly anticipating this day since leaving their base at Camp Pendleton, California, more than six weeks before. Spirits couldn?t have been higher. Later that first day, when a pair of Cobra helicopter gunships thumped overhead, flying north, presumably on their way to battle, Marines pumped their fists in the air and screamed, ?Yeah! Get some!"
?Get some!? is the unofficial Marine Corps cheer. It?s shouted when a brother Marine is struggling to beat his personal best in a fitness run. It punctuates stories told at night about getting laid in whorehouses in Thailand and Australia. It?s the cry of exhilaration after firing a burst from a .50-caliber machine gun. Get some! expresses in two simple words the excitement, fear, feelings of power and the erotic-tinged thrill that come from confronting the extreme physical and emotional challenges posed by death, which is, of course, what war is all about. Nearly every Marine I?ve met is hoping this war with Iraq will be his chance to get some.
Marines call exaggerated displays of enthusiasm -- from shouting ?Get some!? to waving American flags to covering their bodies with Marine Corps tattoos -- ?moto." You won?t ever catch Sgt. Brad Colbert, one of the most respected Marines in First Recon and the team leader I would spend the war with, engaging in any moto displays. They call Colbert the Iceman. Wiry and fair-haired, he makes sarcastic pronouncements in a nasal whine that sounds a lot like David Spade. Though he considers himself a ?Marine Corps killer,? he?s also a nerd who listens to Barry Manilow, Air Supply and practically all the music of the 1980s except rap. He is passionate about gadgets -- he collects vintage video-game consoles and wears a massive wristwatch that can only properly be ?configured" by plugging it into his PC. He is the last guy you would picture at the tip of the spear of the invasion of Iraq.
Read the article, read the book.
And you'd think that Rolling Stone would be able to format their articles correctly so that apostrophes and quotes don't show up as question marks.
I finished Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver last night and at 916 pages, boy are my...
As a man who knows his limitations, I won't attempt an actual book review. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait a month to begin the second book of The Baroque Cycle, The Confusion. I've pre-ordered the paperback version which is due out on June 3rd. It's not so much the cost difference between hardcover and paperback as it is I have Quicksilver in paperback and like to keep my collections uniform. It's unclear at this time how long I'll have to wait for the third book (System of the World) to make it to paperback. Stephenson also states in this October 2004 interview that The Baroque Cycle could possibly end up being 7 or 8 books by the time it's he's done.
More than anything right now though, I sort of miss it already. I'm deeply involved in the story and I'm itching to get started on The Confusion. There's a lot of shit going on in his books and if you're reading them be sure to check in on his Meta page. Here's the annotations for Quicksilver.
I've been dilligent about avoiding any reviews of the series for fear of spoilers because I was going to read them anyway. Glenn Reynolds did a review for the Weekly Standard back in December which I'm very tempted to read at the moment but I will fight that urge.
I did read this post (and comments) that has a good discussion on Stephenson's stuff in general. If you're tempted to put your life on hold and read The Baroque Cycle but are on the fence maybe it'll push you one way or the other. If you want to ease your way into his stuff, start with Snow Crash.
...Also because I'm very immature, I'll just point out one of the funnier sections of Quicksilver. Start here at the paragraph which begins "The corsairs rifiled the holds..." and read on to the next page. I guess this would be a spoiler if you are in fact planning on reading the book.