Sentence of the Day: Waterloo, May 1815

Currently reading: Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles, by Bernard Cornwell

It’s very fleet. Self’s barely begun (p. 28) and already Napoleon has escaped from Elba and mustered an army of 200,000 men.

Opposing him are the British, the Prussians, Russia, and Austria. In very short order, Napoleon finds himself confronting generals like the “mercurial and fearesome” Michel Ney and another named Marshal Forwards, who “had the habit of shouting his men forward. He was popular, much loved by his troops and, famously, prone to bouts of mental illness during which he believed himself pregnant with an elephant fathered by a French infantrymen.” With generals like these, how can these armies expect to defeat Napoleon?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books About Eleanor Roosevelt: Reviewed in The Economist, 29 October 2016

  • Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939 – 1962, by Blanche Wiesen Cook (Viking)
  • Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady, by Susan Quinn (Penguin)

It is tempting to think that in a different era, Eleanor Roosevelt could have become president of the United States. Widely loved, the longest-serving First Lady was on the right side of history on virtually every subject including civil rights, acceptance of European refugees and the need to end Empires.


“She understood his needs, forgave his transgressions, buried her jealousies, and embarked on her own independent career . . .  FDR encouraged her independence and when he silenced her did so for reasons of state.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

To the Last

Obama:  How do we make sure that we don’t change, even as we protect our people?”

— quoted in The Economist, 26 November 2016

The Economist Books of the Year 2015

Yes, self is a year behind in her reading of The Economist. So pathetic.

Anyhoo, here are the books self picked to add to her reading list: four histories, three works of fiction, one book on Culture, Society and Travel.

HISTORIES

  • Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, by Susan Southard — “a searing account of five teenage survivors of the bombing of Nagasaki”
  • Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles, by Bernard Cornwell — “a great and terrible story of a battle . . . fought 200 years ago, told with energy and clarity”
  • The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East — “how a multinational Muslim empire was destroyed by the first World War”
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard — “about Rome from its myth-shrouded origins to the early third century”

CULTURE, SOCIETY AND TRAVEL

  • Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, by Rebecca Herzig — “a curious account of hair-erasing, and why people have tried clamshell razors, lasers, lye depilatories, tweezers, waxes, threading and electrolysis to try and free themselves from hairiness”

FICTION

  • Seiobo There Below, by Laszlo Krasznahorkai — Seventeen stories, “a fitting winner of the 2005 Man Booker International Prize”
  • Submission, by Michael Houellebecq — “France under Muslim rule,” 2022
  • An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, by Jessie Greengrass — a “spectacularly accomplished, chilly debut collection of short stories about thwarted lives and opportunities missed”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amwriting: “I Eat Bitterness”

Self is writing a 9/11 story called “I Eat Bitterness.”

About a businessman who commutes into Manhattan from his home in Connecticut. On the day of the attack, he’s late for work because he had a fight with his wife. His thoughts on the train are broody and dark. He arrives at the World Trade Center at half past 9 in the morning.

As self explores this story, she occasionally turns to her reading of back issues of The New Yorker and The Economist.

In the 29 October 2016 issue of The Economist, this:

Who will uphold the torch of openness in the West? . . . Hillary Clinton, the probable winner on November 8th, would be much better on immigration, but she has renounced her former support for ambitious trade deals.

Heart breaks.

Stay tuned.

Two 1/2 Years Later, Nothing’s Changed

The Economist, 14 June 2014: Terror’s New Headquarters

  • Perhaps Iraq’s humiliated army will muster the resolve to make a stand, or even retake Mosul. But, with its symbolic victories and an endless supply of young men, that will be of little comfort. ISIS aims to withdraw the map of of the Middle East by creating a Sunni state, starting with Eastern Syria and the heart of Iraq. Its brand of militancy is spreading poison and terror across the Arab world. One day, if they have their way, ISIS’s suicide bombers will also target Europe and America. Without a change of heart in Baghdad and Washington, groups like it will continue to cause mayhem. Even with a new approach, it will be hard to stop the jihad.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

American Quests

Self loves signage, she does not know why.

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dscn9934

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An Ed Ruscha, Seen at the de Young in Golden Gate Park

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE WAY TO THE SPRING, p. 117

Self would really like to thank Ben Ehrenreich for The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. The book’s been well-reviewed (She got interested in it after reading a featured review in The Economist) so Ehrenreich certainly doesn’t need self’s approbation or anything like that. But it took courage to do what he did, write from the point of view of an encircled, really powerless people. Who seem to be operating out of sheer nerve.

Ehrenreich writes:

  • From a distance, it was easy to mistake velocity for hope. (p. 117)

She cannot get an image out of her mind: the image of a house in Gaza, cut off from its neighbors, completely encircled by Israeli-constructed fences and barbed wire. The occupants of the house were told they could have fifteen-minute intervals in which to come and go. The rest of the time, they were virtually prisoners. The owner of the house at first refused to accede to this, but then the Israelis kept the locks on the gates for two weeks. So they learned to accept the new restrictions.

A few Palestinian villages are organized enough to keep up a sustained program of resistance, one of these villages being Bab al-Shams (The name means “The Gate of the Sun”). There is a lot of hope in the first months of resistance. But when Ehrenreich returns to Bab al-Shams after an absence of several months, he finds that the village was not, after all, “the beginning of a new stage of resistance, but the climax of an old one. Everything goes in cycles.”

Self picked up a copy of The Economist, a few weeks ago, and in it she learned that the occupation in Gaza, which has dragged on for seven long years, has no end in sight.

Still, despite knowing that most of the characters in Ehrenreich’s book are as oppressed as ever, despite how very depressing this knowledge is, she has sworn to finish the book, and to read all the way to the bitter end.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Special Report, The Economist: Technology and Politics

The piece (26 March 2016) begins:

  • Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for the American presidency . . .

Is self dreaming? Aaargh, aaargh, aaargh. She must be dreaming.

Because here it is May. And Trump IS going to be the Republican nominee.

Stay tuned.

More From The Economist’s What Is the Deadliest Sin? (June 14 – 20, 2014)

Surely self doesn’t need to remind readers why she is reading a copy of The Economist dating from last June?

Here’s novelist Will Self on PRIDE:

“Most men can withstand adversity,” Abraham Lincoln said, “but if you want to see a man’s character, give him power . . .  It’s impossible to see how power can be exercised without pride, since to consider yourself capable of directing the hearts and minds of others is, ipso facto, to embrace the notion that you are superior to them. Since most power is gained arbitrarily, this is never demonstrably the case.”

Fantastic!

BTW, Will Self is also a travel writer. He wrote a book about walking from England to the far reaches of America. Which self thinks is rather a quaint notion. Because, for one thing, to get from England to America, one has to ride a plane. Self explains this part (how he leaps the Atlantic). The book Will Self wrote about the journey is Psychogeography.

Stay tuned.

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