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Samnell wrote:


I'll have Kolchin done tonight. Then it's Political Economy of Slavery before the big book. At present rates, that should take me about five days. I think I'll go straight in, which would put the big book starting on the sixth and probably done on the 18th.

Well, I'll start now and you'll probably tortoise and hare me. Except I'll be the tortoise and go first and the you, as the hare, will still beat me to the end.

Samnell wrote:

Hit on my first semi-sympathetic explanation of Genovese's ideas about paternalism in the Kolchin book. It's...not good. Kolchin is admittedly written a very quick survey and tells you upfront that nuance is out the window, but if all Genovese really means by the term is that enslavers saw the enslaved as people I bet you could find that in Jamestown in 1619. Seeing them as people and treating them well don't correlate at all in my mind but, per Kolchin, Genovese wants them to.

Going to end up reading Genovese anyway, but even the highlights version has me thinking more that Genovese was just a weird dude.

So, as has happened before, I've never really understood your animus against Genovese. We must be coming at him with different background knowledge, but I've read two books by him and I didn't really pick up anything about prettifying the slaveholders in 'em.

I don't recall anything specific about his use of "paternalism" in The World the Slaveholders Made and In Red and Black, but I vaguely remember that was his attempt at denoting slavery's semi-feudal feeling set of class relationships vis a vis Yankee capitalism; mostly I remember him using when talking about Brazil or the Carribbean (In Red and Black, IIRC, is mostly essays about the new, at the time, field of comparative slave studies) where the slavemasters self-consciously thought of themselves like European feudal nobility and sometimes actually were.

But, I notice, Part 1 of Chapter One is entitled "On Paternalism" and he even begs our patience in the preface, so, we'll see, I guess.


Looking for clues, I found his memorial article in The New Republic, but although it hinted at the controversies, it was pretty adulatory.

From Radical to Right-Wing: The Legacy of Eugene Genovese


Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
So, as has happened before, I've never really understood your animus against Genovese.

I take that back. I guess I just compartamentalize Left Genovese from Right Genovese in my head and then forget about right Genovese, but I guess RG was around for twice as long as LG.


Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
So, as has happened before, I've never really understood your animus against Genovese.
I take that back. I guess I just compartamentalize Left Genovese from Right Genovese in my head and then forget about right Genovese, but I guess RG was around for twice as long as LG.

It is that. His later work still gets favorable citations, but by the time he's a rightwing op-ed guy I have the sense that a lot of people go out of their way not to say too much.

Hahn's profile is a fair portion of where I get my impression of him as a person. I also read a few pieces about how RJR dominated the field to its detriment for way too long, though that's not Genovese's fault so much as it is the result of a hard turn toward cultural history in the Eighties. I suspect that as a student he would have wowed me -I love a good lecturer and big knowledge drops give me a massive brainer- and for the most part I like him as a writer. He's nasty to his critics in a few ways that read...familiarly. :)

There's clearly valuable insight in Genovese. Sometimes I even see right where he's coming from. If you take a pretty dark view of humanity, which is second nature to a lot of people who study horrors and/or self-identify as fairly far from the mainstream, many of the basic inclinations just follow. I get what he means when he says the Southern Agrarians had a better grasp on human nature than 19th century antislavery types. I think he's wrong, but you can make the case.

Genovese's paternalism is not usually considered good history anymore and none of the outlines of it that I've seen lead me to think that's a misjudgment. There are touches of it in PE, but that's really what I'll be watching for in RJR. I wonder if part of the problem is just that he chose a poor word. Paternalism does convey a familial connection, but most of us probably see those bonds as pleasant and non-violent. At least I hope we do.


I've finished rereading Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things, and since it included an American Gods novella, I'm now rereading that novel. (I wish our cable package included Starz so I could watch the TV series. I'm just going to have to wait for it to hit Netflix or video.)

My birthday was a couple days ago, and I received copies of Gaiman's Trigger Warning and The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler. Those go in the queue next (probably Wheeler first, just as a change of pace from all the Gaiman).


At the eager behest of my father-in-law, I started Vince Flynn's bestseller American Assassin. So far it seems like a typical suburban white rich-kid fantasy -- main character Mitch Rapp is the only non-military guy recruited to a training camp for elite killers, but on arrival he's of course able to easily beat up the head instructor and outlast all his fellow trainees because... wait for it... he played lacrosse in college.

I seriously hope there's more to the backstory that's not being revealed yet, but the author seriously seems to think that the ill-named suburban "boot camp" exercise class is what military training is, and therefore frat boy lacrosse workouts are more strenuous and hence make better soldiers? I don't know; the premise is so absurd that my brain can't seem to fathom it. If anyone has read this (or seen the movie), please tell me there's more to it, so that I don't throw my copy in the bayou.


Not been very impressed by 'The Thirteen' so far, in which a perfectly good consprirecy is ruined by the sort of love story when people's bosoms are pierced with burning darts of passion, setting their blood afire with a thousand exquisite agonies and making their fevered brain burst in a Vesuvian eruption of honeyed rapture and so on, for about three pages at a time, completely leaving you in the dark as to what 'The Thirteen' themselves are doing, why they're doing it, and why they're in the bloody book at all, to be honest.

Maybe it'll pick up in the last quarter, but I doubt it.


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I had intended to start on Freud's Psychoanalysis but got seduced by Wodehouse's "Aunts aren't gentlemen".
I cannot help but hear Fry's and Laurie's voices when reading the Jeeves books. I've tried to hear other people but it just doesn't work.


That TV adaptation was pretty much spot on in all respects.

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I just finished book 3 of the Ketty Jay series, The Iron Jackal by Chris Wooding. It was pretty good, but it's becoming evident some members of the crew are dead weight, narratively speaking. Particularly the outflyer pilots. There was even a damned Pod Race sequence that just took up space and wasted ink and didn't advance the plot or develop the characters at all. At least it expanded on the world building big time.

I'm about to read The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence.


Samnell wrote:
Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
So, as has happened before, I've never really understood your animus against Genovese.
I take that back. I guess I just compartamentalize Left Genovese from Right Genovese in my head and then forget about right Genovese, but I guess RG was around for twice as long as LG.

It is that. His later work still gets favorable citations, but by the time he's a rightwing op-ed guy I have the sense that a lot of people go out of their way not to say too much.

Hahn's profile is a fair portion of where I get my impression of him as a person. I also read a few pieces about how RJR dominated the field to its detriment for way too long, though that's not Genovese's fault so much as it is the result of a hard turn toward cultural history in the Eighties. I suspect that as a student he would have wowed me -I love a good lecturer and big knowledge drops give me a massive brainer- and for the most part I like him as a writer. He's nasty to his critics in a few ways that read...familiarly. :)

There's clearly valuable insight in Genovese. Sometimes I even see right where he's coming from. If you take a pretty dark view of humanity, which is second nature to a lot of people who study horrors and/or self-identify as fairly far from the mainstream, many of the basic inclinations just follow. I get what he means when he says the Southern Agrarians had a better grasp on human nature than 19th century antislavery types. I think he's wrong, but you can make the case.

Genovese's paternalism is not usually considered good history anymore and none of the outlines of it that I've seen lead me to think that's a misjudgment. There are touches of it in PE, but that's really what I'll be watching for in RJR. I wonder if part of the problem is just that he chose a poor word. Paternalism does convey a familial connection, but most of us probably see those bonds as pleasant and non-violent. At least I hope we do.

"Imamu Amiri Baraka captures the tragic irony of paternalist social relations when he writes that slavery 'was, most of all, a paternal institution' and yet refers to 'the filthy paternalism and cruelty of slavery.' Southern paternalism, like every other paternalism, had little to do with Ole Massa's ostensible benevolence, kindness and good cheer. It grew out of the necessity to discipline and morally justify a system of exploitation. It did encourage kindness and affection, but it simultaneously encouraged cruelty and hatred." (p. 4)

Tangentially, I've always known Beat poet turned black nationalist, Amiri Baraka as an exponent of some of the more misogynist and homophobic strains of black nationalism, but I only recently learned that he was in the closet for most of his life.

Anyway, moving along through the first section of Genovese. Set myself a thirty pages per day goal which I will probably stick to until tomorrow when I pick up the Arundhati Roy novel from the library.


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Kirth Gersen wrote:
At the eager behest of my father-in-law, I started Vince Flynn's bestseller American Assassin. So far it seems like a typical suburban white rich-kid fantasy -- main character Mitch Rapp is the only non-military guy recruited to a training camp for elite killers, but on arrival he's of course able to easily beat up the head instructor and outlast all his fellow trainees because... wait for it... he played lacrosse in college.

That seems to be the backstory of Stirling Archer, which, I note, debuted a year before the novel was published.


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Doodlebug Anklebiter wrote:
That seems to be the backstory of Stirling Archer, which, I note, debuted a year before the novel was published.

The primary difference is that Archer is meant to be a comedy. Maybe Flynn saw it and, lacking a sense of humor, fell victim to Poe's Law?


Went to the library to pick up my interloans (mostly DVDs) and was a bit disappointed to realize that I had inadvertently ordered Arundhati Roy's first novel and not her new one.

I had been reading a couple of reviews of the new one last night and was excited because it was about a hijra and the Kashmir conflict (among other things), but, apparently The God of Small Things features the Communist Party quite prominently (whether it's the CPI or the CPI(M) I am unsure of), so, I guess I'm not too disappointed.


I just finished "Chasing Space" by Leland Melvin. While stating he is the only person to catch a pass in the NFL and fly into space is a slight overstatement (he was cut by both the Cowboys and Lions in training camp without playing in a regular season game), the book is nevertheless an entertaining look into his life story. He describes the difficulties of being a science nerd while playing Wide Receiver in college, and transitioning from a pro football prospect to an engineer. His astronaut anecdotes feel a bit rushed in places, as does his description of overcoming partial hearing loss to return to flight status. Still, it's worth reading if you have at least a casual interest in astronauts or pro athletes.


Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
"Imamu Amiri Baraka captures the tragic irony of paternalist social relations when he writes that slavery 'was, most of all, a paternal institution' and yet refers to 'the filthy paternalism and cruelty of slavery.' Southern paternalism, like every other paternalism, had little to do with Ole Massa's ostensible benevolence, kindness and good cheer. It grew out of the necessity to discipline and morally justify a system of exploitation. It did encourage kindness and affection, but it simultaneously encouraged cruelty and hatred." (p. 4)

Hm. That kind of makes sense on its face, but it still seems like an ill-chosen word.

Finished up Political Economy of Slavery, which was ok. I didn't hate it at all and Genovese didn't drive me up the wall, but he said it wasn't going to be a book about economics and then everything was economics anyway. I learned a few interesting things, saw versions of stuff I know the field has moved past, and his epilogue written by a much later Genovese & his wife, is...interesting. Circa the late Seventies he still thinks Phillips is the best introduction to American slavery studies and there are a couple of swipes at Stampp. Carter-era Genovese agrees that Phillips is a racist prick, mind. He just thinks Phillips gets slavery better.

On a more meta level, I think Genovese had a very narrow idea of what constituted a capitalist society and it was kinda-sorta the North circa 1850 but really more the US during the postwar boom. There's a strong sense that this is inherently capitalist and this other thing is not and consequently backwards. He doesn't say dialectical materialism, but I think I can take it as read.

Anyway, big book time. I thought I gained a day, but I missed that Genovese had a pair of chapter-length epilogues to get through so I wrapped them up tonight right on the revised schedule. My first day is supposed to cover 47 pages. I may squeeze that in before bed and gain that day after all.


I'm on page 133. Further along than I thought I would be, but that's probably because of the pressure. Will be fun to see how quick you lap me. Looking ahead and reading various reviews on the internet, I am reminded of why I never dived in before: it's largely about the development of the black church, a subject that has never really appealed to me before.

Spoiler: The chapter title "Of Concubines and Horses" is a tease.

Thought about following it up with McPherson's Ordeal by Fire and then Foner's Reconstruction to do a whole Antebellum slavery--Civil War--Reconstruction triptych thing; Battle Cry of Freedom would be a better choice to avoid repetition, I agree, but I've read BCoF twice thus far in my life and I haven't read ObF in...oh, I'd guess twenty years. Then started thinking I should also re-read Stampp, then remembered that article from Comrade Dwarf's old thread and thought I should read some Walter Johnson.

Then remembered that new bio of Lenin that a comrade lent me is still kicking around the parlor, then remembered I've got all those Brust novels to read, the Elric re-read I wanted to do, Scott Lynch, Margaret Atwood...then I started to cry.


Further thoughts:

I think his praise of Phillips is what's usually meant in the obits when they refer to his perverse tendency to heap praise on reactionaries. There's a forty-page essay about UBP in In Red and Black, although, tbh, I only vaguely remember what it says.

I also notice he has an appendix in IRaB about Gramsci and that your first day's reading will end on the chapter about (capital H) Hegemony.

Last night, I had to field one of those depressed, angry, self-loathing calls from La Principessa. She was supposed to be reading/editing a translation from Spanish of an article on Trotsky and the Fourth International for her new group (splitter!) and she couldn't make heads nor tails of it. "I'm so stupid!" she started (that's the self-loathing) before pulling an emotional 180 and shouting "I don't give a f$!% about Gramsci!" (that's the anger).

Gramsci seems to have that effect on people. (What he was doing in an article about Trotsky and the Fourth International, I still don't know.)


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Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
then remembered I've got all those Brust novels to read, the Elric re-read I wanted to do, Scott Lynch, Margaret Atwood...then I started to cry.

Life becomes so much better when you think of it as being able to choose freely among stuff you want to read and never running out, rather than weeping at all the stuff you don't have time to read.

I keep telling myself this.


Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
I'm on page 133.

Forty-nine here. Ended up doing a double chapter read last night. I was about to finish right before the Hegemony of Law chapter, but I was still awake and Genovese is much more readable in RJR than he was in Political Economy. The law chapter was still a bit of a slog, but that's because legal history is hard to make interesting to people without law degrees.

I have mixed feelings about the study of slave religion. It's obviously important, but almost everything I've read on it basically repeats the same information. It's hard to study illicit activity among subaltern populations in the best of times. Someone (I think the dick undergrad who tried to con me into doing his homework last year.) recommended a book on Islam in American slave communities that sounded more original. Will probably get to it at some point.

Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
Spoiler: The chapter title "Of Concubines and Horses" is a tease.

Damn it all! :)

Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
I'd guess twenty years. Then started thinking I should also re-read Stampp, then remembered that article from Comrade Dwarf's old thread and thought I should read some Walter Johnson.

Johnson is great, even a little funny a few times. Soul by Soul is probably is more important work but it's a fairly narrow history of the domestic slave trade centered in New Orleans. River of Dark Dreams is his more wide-angle history of slavery in the South, notable in part for its interest in integrating filibustering. Filibustering is weirdly neglected in the anglophone academy.

Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
Then remembered that new bio of Lenin that a comrade lent me is still kicking around the parlor, then remembered I've got all those Brust novels to read, the Elric re-read I wanted to do, Scott Lynch, Margaret Atwood...then I started to cry.

I feel you...my book list is about five hundred items long. If you strip off the side interests and peripheral stuff then it's probably still four hundred.


Samnell wrote:
Comrade Anklebiter wrote:
Then remembered that new bio of Lenin that a comrade lent me is still kicking around the parlor, then remembered I've got all those Brust novels to read, the Elric re-read I wanted to do, Scott Lynch, Margaret Atwood...then I started to cry.
I feel you...my book list is about five hundred items long. If you strip off the side interests and peripheral stuff then it's probably still four hundred.

That's why I read all the short, light fantasy and SF first. Only way to get the list down quickly. :)

Of course, I'm reading Capital in the 21st century now, breaking my own rule. It's definitely interesting, but dense and long. I am amused when he makes points about 18th century economics by referencing Jane Austen novels.


Austen was on the short list, too, but she has long since been bumped (I somehow avoided her all these years; in college I always got assigned books by the Brontës instead).


thejeff wrote:
That's why I read all the short, light fantasy and SF first. Only way to get the list down quickly. :)

I was almost out of reading entirely before I got back into history a few years ago. Now I'm seven books ahead of my expected progress on the goal for the year, according to Goodreads. I may have a problem. :)

thejeff wrote:
Of course, I'm reading Capital in the 21st century now, breaking my own rule. It's definitely interesting, but dense and long. I am amused when he makes points about 18th century economics by referencing Jane Austen novels.

Oof. Historians can be pretty terrible writers, but economists seem to start out below the low end and go down.


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Comrade Anklebiter wrote:

Further thoughts:

I think his praise of Phillips is what's usually meant in the obits when they refer to his perverse tendency to heap praise on reactionaries. There's a forty-page essay about UBP in In Red and Black, although, tbh, I only vaguely remember what it says.

I also notice he has an appendix in IRaB about Gramsci and that your first day's reading will end on the chapter about (capital H) Hegemony.

Last night, I had to field one of those depressed, angry, self-loathing calls from La Principessa. She was supposed to be reading/editing a translation from Spanish of an article on Trotsky and the Fourth International for her new group (splitter!) and she couldn't make heads nor tails of it. "I'm so stupid!" she started (that's the self-loathing) before pulling an emotional 180 and shouting "I don't give a f#@* about Gramsci!" (that's the anger).

Gramsci seems to have that effect on people. (What he was doing in an article about Trotsky and the Fourth International, I still don't know.)

It probably had to do with:

1) Organic intellectuals
2) War of position vs. war of manoeuvre
3) Hegemony
4) Thomas the Tank Engine and the Affair of the Dirty Barges

That's all I can remember about Gramsci. It's still easier to follow than the bloody Grundrisse...

I'm reading 'The Four Musketeers: The True Story of D'Artagnan, Porthos, Aramis and Athos', by Kari Maund and Phil Nanson. It's pretty good.


Speaking of historians, La Principessa and her new group, Maoist-Inclined (although less so than before) Independent Red Historian Rival for La Principessa's Affections (Since Vanquished) recently got an article published on their website:

The Oath: The Story of the Jewish Bund

[Heads back out to porch to sit in wading pool and read Genovese]


In a second, anyway:

Article I came across while googling earlier:

Class, Religion and Capitalism in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion

Umaru Musa Yar'adua University, in case you're wondering (I was), is in Nigeria.


Made it to page 96 on Genovese. Almost went further but I was getting a little tired. The whole "enslavers treated the people they enslaved SO WELL" thing is wearing a touch and makes Genovese sound much more like Phillips. I didn't check the footnotes, but the in-text stuff leaned heavily on the reports of observers who traveled the South but didn't live there. He's good about pulling back and saying that for every good egg there was a bad one, but I think he may be grasping a thin reed. The prevalence of postwar narratives (I suspect mostly WPA) except for Solomon Northrup and Frederick Douglass is also a little conspicuous.

Possibly I'm confusing something he wrote in RJR with a passage in PE, but he was leaning heavily on Barrow's plantation diary for whipping stats, which he borrowed off Time on the Cross. I looked into those a while back and the results were...not good. TotC in general is a book one should cite with exceptional care or not at all but Genovese published in '76 and the best dissection of TotC didn't come out until '75, by which point he was probably already at press. No sense being unfair.

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Finished reading my SF classic for the year, THE FOREVER WAR - ironically doing so during a shooting practice day that displayed a staggering amount of the military foolishness that the book captures. I next picked up Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5/Wax & Wayne 2 by Brandon Sanderson). It's shaping up to be a fun romp, but I'm starting to miss the more serious Sanderson novels.

The Forever War thoughts:

Such an odd and interesting book. All I knew going is that this is a classic military piece of SF written by a Vietnam veteran, and that it won a dragon's hoard of awards. As such, I imagined it to be a strong emotional piece, with lots of battlefields and a strong focus on the soldiers and their emotional reactions to war.

What I did not expect was hard science fiction that was more about the military life between battles and the alienation from civilian society that combatants may feel, than about the actual "forever war" itself. I think I like this concept better than what I originally had in mind.

This is a very good science fiction book in this regard - the physical phenomenon of time dilation plays a major factor in both making the war interesting and unique, and helping to create an unbridgeable divide between homecoming soldiers and the people they supposedly fight to protect. When the characters realize the only place they could ever feel remotely at home in is the cold hell of military life, the reader can understand them.

As far as the actual societal change and concepts of warfare in the book go, though, neither is very well executed. Somehow humanity seems to mostly just get more gay (more inclined to homolife, to use the term from the book) as time goes on. Hard to judge the book in being ever so slightly creepy on the issue - it was written decades ago, and it did include the prediction that homosexuality would be conceived differently in its future - but still causes an eyeroll or two. The concept that the future would seem absurd and weird and possibly terrifying to someone who just skipped hundreds of years into it is a fascinating one - I just wish there was more on this in the book, even with the cost of slowing things down somewhat.
Warfare is another issue - I just couldn't understand why humans are even needed in this strange war. Space battles are fought between drones and in such huge accelerations that humans need to be comatose in pressure suits to survive them. Ground battles are fought on planets that don't have any strategic value - no resources, no ability to intercept an enemy wishing to pass by (all the enemy needs to do is approach with relativistic speed and literally be unstoppable). When bases are actually attacked, the fights tend to be over in fractions of a second, the humans involved either dying pointlessly or surviving without doing anything.

I am also (slowly) realizing that perhaps reading military stories while serving in the army - even a service as remote as possible from combat as mine is - may just not be a very good idea. There's a certain romanticizing you can grant an occupation only if you've never quite experienced anything like it. But multiple times reading this book I've encountered scenes that reminded me of actual events I've experienced, and I understand just how... mundane they are. It strips away some of the enjoyment. I imagine most sailors don't get a rush of adrenaline reading a description of beckoning horizons and a strong salty wind over crushing waves - they've lived that a hundred times and can't see it as magical anymore. Might just be the same for me and military stuff.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Modules, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It's nuts.

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Kajehase wrote:
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It's nuts.

Ha!

:-D


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Modules, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, cause the TV-series was pretty darn good.

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Kajehase wrote:
Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, cause the TV-series was pretty darn good.

You're in for a treat, the books are about five times better.


Was making good progress on Roll, Jordan, Roll and then all my free time got sucked up going to solidarity stand outs for undocumented workers, Fight for $15 and a nurses strike.

Anyway, finished Part One of Section Two and am pleased to report that my fears were groundless and Genovese's explorations of the roots of the Afro-American church were much more interesting than a 20-year-old Doodlebug would have expected.


Comrade Anklebiter wrote:

Was making good progress on Roll, Jordan, Roll and then all my free time got sucked up going to solidarity stand outs for undocumented workers, Fight for $15 and a nurses strike.

Anyway, finished Part One of Section Two and am pleased to report that my fears were groundless and Genovese's explorations of the roots of the Afro-American church were much more interesting than a 20-year-old Doodlebug would have expected.

I'm about fifty pages from done. It's gotten really bad, but has picked up a little bit again. Basically, Genovese gets his thumb more and more obviously on the scale in favor of "it wasn't all THAT bad!". His informants for that are, so far as I've checked them, almost completely WPA narratives of known dubious reliability; you can recognize them by the thick eye dialect, which isn't a thing in contemporary narratives. They're usually written in standard 19th century English. You have whites in the Jim Crow South asking people who were enslaved as children to air dirty laundry about people the interviewers often have personal connections to or who otherwise still have prominent kin in the area. Plus they could use lots of leading questions even if someone missed the power dynamic, which would have been nearly impossible.


In addition to that, I thought I read a part earlier in the text, don't remember where, in which he said the WPA narratives had to be taken with suspicion because most (all?) of the interviewees would have been children under slavery and were being asked questions during the Depression when they most probably would have been destitute and would have thus colored their responses.

I also think I read, maybe somewhere else (one of the obits?), that he was one of the first historians to have mastered the WPA material.

I haven't really noticed much of a "Slavery wasn't ALL that bad" skew except in the parts comparing the material conditions (working hours, diet) of slave life in the South to other American slave societies, Eastern European serfs, workers during the Industrial Revolution, but, I admit, I still have 300+ pages to go.

Looking ahead, what, in your opinion, would be a good book to counterbalance this "Slavery wasn't all THAT bad" skew?

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Not reading anything serious now. I finished a sci-fi novel: Shadrach in the Furnace, by Robert Silverberg. A lot of the stuff he explores about body-switching and body-farming was already becoming cliche by 1967 but, as with most Silverberg, he carries it off with panache and lots of focus on fallen-empire window-dressing that he so loves (and that he does quite well compared to, say, Michael Crichton).


A long, long time ago I was at a friend's apartment playing some variant of D&D and the topic of Ernest Hemingway came up. She said something like "Guess what are my favorite and least favorite Hemingway works" and I instantly said "You're least favorite was Old Man and the Sea" (I never read it, but it seems to be the one that's most taught in American high schools, and, thus, the most hated) "and your favorite is..." I thought for a couple of seconds "the story which is all about abortion but he never uses the word."

Well, I guessed correctly, and I was reminded of that not very consequential encounter when I ran across this on my Facebook feed:

HEMINGWAY’S “HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS” FROM THE “THE GIRL’S” POINT OF VIEW


Finished Genovese a few days ago. Got to be a slog.

Good on him if he's the first to master the WPA narratives, but I think he's too reliant on them. They're almost the only slave voices we ever get. I didn't hate the book, but I do see his historiographical thumb firmly on the scale. On paper he's being sort of even-handed, but I read a whole lot more mitigation of horrors than acknowledgement. Both are there, but it came off like he structured most sections around how slavery wasn't so bad, then tacks on a note somewhere that really it was. The point that there's a constant dynamic of tension is a good one, but I felt like he only cared much about the one end. It was especially grating to me in the discussion of violence, where he uncritically relies on Time on the Cross for the Barrow stats. Those are problematic for a few different reasons.

There's a book that's a specific response, Oakes' The Ruling Race, which I haven't read. (It's on the list.) I honestly think Stampp is the better general survey, even though it's twenty years older. Kolchin's American Slavery is broader chronologically but so short it's not really in the same ballpark. Johnson's River of Dark Dreams is a much better history of the Lower South, but it's not as wide-ranging. Soul by Soul is a necessary companion for a bit more of the selling people end and the more direct counterpart to Genovese's interest in master-slave dynamics. Neither is easy reading for the obvious reasons.

Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told handles slave testimony much better, but his main innovation is on the economic end and is under dispute for reasons I don't quite follow. (Complicated econhist stuff, some of which sounds like protesting too much and some of which looks like him being really sloppy. Plus he cites his own unpublished research, which is just rude.)

The Exchange

Finished listening to "Neverwhere" (by Neil Gaiman) in audio. Next up is "The Emperor's Blades" (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1, by Brian Staveley).

Neverwhere thoughts:

Frankly, while the book had potential to be great, it ended up feeling a lot like a 2-parter Doctor Who episode - complete with a clunky plot, villain and ending.

The writing is charming, witty and flows nicely and pleasantly. Mr. Gaiman has some serious talent as a narrator as well as a writer, and I think hearing the story read from him adds a lot to the experience - I would actually recommend the book in audio over reading it, which is quite rare from me.

Of the characters in the book I really only liked Mr. Croop and Mr. Vendermar (I think that's how you spell their names, based only on my phonetic impressions) who were intimidating in a cool and twisted way. Most of the cast - Door, Hunter, the Marquee - are well realized but not terribly interesting. Richard (our P.O.V) is funny and likable, but his character development was a bit underdone.

I think the reason most people would be interested in this book is the setting. A magical London coexisting with the real one yet entirely invisible to those of us who don't live in it. There's real potential in this kind of premise, and an opportunity to weave lore, history and sense of place into the fantasy and create a surreal mix of all the little things that make London what it is with an author's imagination.
The setting is indeed very present in the book, but it never captivated me as much as I wanted it to. Somehow the magic just wasn't there - perhaps because my familiarity with London is very basic and a lot went over my head, but I feel like it should be possible to give me the sense of things even if I do not actually understand them all the way through.

Overall, "Neverwhere" was a decent book. At no point was I bored, I chuckled more than once and overall this is just an example of solid craftsmanship on part of the author. It did fall somewhat short of expectation and most certainly is nothing like the masterpieces Gaiman produces every now and then.


Kajehase wrote:
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It's nuts.

I read volume 1 recently. It was OK, but dang, there are a lot of jokes in the painfully tiny footnotes...

I'm on a family vacation at the moment, so started reading my birthday gift books. The Arcanum, by Thomas Wheeler, was a shortish secret-history romp: In 1919, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Harry Houdini, and Marie Levaux have to solve the murder of the occultist who brought them together as the Arcanum several years before. As a long-time Lovecraft junkie, I'm still making up my mind about whether I like Wheeler's take on him--the plot hinges a bit too much on Christian Apocrypha for Lovecraft and his Mythos to feel like they really fit in, but the story was still entertaining.

I've started Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning. So far, it holds up pretty well against his other short fiction. It includes an unusual little Sherlock Holmes story, and I'm looking forward to the Doctor Who and American Gods stories, which are later in the collection.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I just finished the Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence. Book 3 of the Red Queen's War. It was OK. It concluded the trilogy adequately.

I just started The Perdition Score by Richard Kadry. More Sandman Slim shenanigans in secret magic LA. I think the author is trying a little too hard to be "cooler than thou." But it's only the beginning, so maybe he's just trying to bring the reader up to date with the main characters. It weirdly reminds me of Charles De Lint, who does hippy-dippy urban fantasy instead of hitty-gritty urban fantasy. At least Kadrey isn't breaking his arm slapping himself on the back like De Lint does with his in-character music references.


Samnell wrote:

Finished Genovese a few days ago. Got to be a slog.

Good on him if he's the first to master the WPA narratives, but I think he's too reliant on them. They're almost the only slave voices we ever get. I didn't hate the book, but I do see his historiographical thumb firmly on the scale. On paper he's being sort of even-handed, but I read a whole lot more mitigation of horrors than acknowledgement. Both are there, but it came off like he structured most sections around how slavery wasn't so bad, then tacks on a note somewhere that really it was. The point that there's a constant dynamic of tension is a good one, but I felt like he only cared much about the one end. It was especially grating to me in the discussion of violence, where he uncritically relies on Time on the Cross for the Barrow stats. Those are problematic for a few different reasons.

There's a book that's a specific response, Oakes' The Ruling Race, which I haven't read. (It's on the list.) I honestly think Stampp is the better general survey, even though it's twenty years older. Kolchin's American Slavery is broader chronologically but so short it's not really in the same ballpark. Johnson's River of Dark Dreams is a much better history of the Lower South, but it's not as wide-ranging. Soul by Soul is a necessary companion for a bit more of the selling people end and the more direct counterpart to Genovese's interest in master-slave dynamics. Neither is easy reading for the obvious reasons.

Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told handles slave testimony much better, but his main innovation is on the economic end and is under dispute for reasons I don't quite follow. (Complicated econhist stuff, some of which sounds like protesting too much and some of which looks like him being really sloppy. Plus he cites his own unpublished research, which is just rude.)

Yeah, I had decided on Stampp, mostly because I already have it (there it is on the table between DuBois and Colonel Higginson!), but partly because I read the two carried on a polemic for decades. The Oakes book looks interesting, too.

I am also saddened to report that the spine of my copy of Roll, Jordan, Roll gave out around page 275. At first I was like, "Piece of shiznit book!" but then I was like, "Well, it was printed the year I was born and my body certainly doesn't stand up the way it did twenty years ago..."

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