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I've finished Elizabeth Peters' Crocodile on the Sandbank and moved on to its sequel, Curse of the Pharaohs (much of which feels familiar, so it may be one of the books in the series that I'd read previously).

Coming up in the queue are:

The Parthenon, by Mary Beard. A guide and history, which my wife bought me when we visited the replica Parthenon in Nashville last month as part of our weekend eclipse road trip.

The Nazi Occult, by Kenneth Hite. A mix of real-world history on the subject with speculation on what the Nazis might have done with genuine occult powers. Hite's writings about alternate history and secret history are always fun, so this should be a good read.


"Yobgorgle, the mystery monster of Lake Ontario" by Daniel M. Pinkwater.
I needed something to read while waiting for my father this morning so I read this. Haven't read it in about 25 years, so there was a lot I'd forgotten. Still entertaining.

The Exchange

Finished "The Thousand Names" (The Shadow Campaigns #1, by Django Wexler), and now back to Rise Of Empire, which got interrupted halfway through by this book (more on that in the spoilers).

The Thousand Names thoughts (spoiler free):

I went into this one with somewhat low expectations. While the concept of "flintlock fantasy" (supposedly a subgenre of fantasy featuring 19th century technology) is intriguing, several factors discouraged me. First, this is a military fantasy, and I found that a lot of the joy in military stories disappeared for me as I'm entering my second year of service. Second, this one is often compared to the Powder Mage trilogy, and is actually the least popular of the two. I tried reading Powder Mage but found it seriously lacking. Lastly, this is a debut from an author who appears to have his fanbase but isn't incredibly popular.

I got to trying this book by a rather roundabout path. I bought a used copy on a whim one day when browsing a local book store, to support the place. I stashed it for later in the doomed section of the shelf, where all the sad ones that never quite make it out of the TBR book lurk. However, a couple days later I found myself leaving home in a hurry and realizing that the batteries on my kindle are drained. I made a snatch for a dead wood relic, and the rest is history.

All this to say, despite being predisposed to not really like The Thousand Names, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a solid, fun and thrilling story with a lot of personality. The writing is crisp and imbues characters with humanity, setting with believability, plot with urgency and action with intensity.

The book starts slow, by setting up a situation headed towards a conflict that none of the PoV characters actually care about, and actually takes quite a while before the first musket is shot. This time is used well, however, to create some buildup and to introduce the characters and make us care about them. Once the fighting starts, however, the pace becomes relentless, with events napping each other in the heels. Wexler pulls off an impressive balancing act that prevents the pace from feeling hectic, though, and I was constantly eager to read on.
The military action is for the most part very well done. Mass combat is depicted clearly and cleanly in a way that still conveys the chaos and confusion of the battlefield, and there's a nice mix of combat description with strategy and tactics, with characters often coming up with unusual tricks to turn the tide.

To genre savvy readers the many twists and turns of the plot may seem predictable (I was able to call all of them well before they happened), which doesn't make them and less clever and in some cases original. I didn't much appreciate the way magic was introduced to the story - mostly through people talking about it and explaining it, and only very little actual demonstrations of it. However, I have reason to believe this will change in later books.

All in all I had a great time with The Thousand Names and think it is a shining example of a 4 star fantasy book. I liked it so much that I decided to focus on finishing the 5 part series in the upcoming months. And if this is Wexler's debut, I can't wait to see what he delivers next in his career!


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

They just get better. I still haven't recovered from the climax of Guns of Empire (book 4 of The Shadow Campaigns).

And you have to love a writer who decides to write a space opera short story with the combat based on what it's like playing Total Annihilation.

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Recently finished: Turn Right at Machu Picchu (spoiler: farmers were living at the site when Hiram Bingham "discovered" it; also, the Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu is appallingly overpriced) and The Bridge at San Luis Rey (he didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition!).

In progress: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (recommended by numerous friends as professional development) and The Fire of Peru, which I can't read for too long at once or I get too hungry!

Next up: The Subversive Copy Editor and ongoing browsing of Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition.


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Reading Elias Lonnrot's compilation of The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. My translation garbles the exact meaning slightly in order to preserve the repetitions and cadence, and I have to say, the 8-syllable lines making up the stanzas sound really cool at first, but get a bit repetitive after an hour of reading.

Verse I just wrote:

Said the reckless Lemminkainen, said the hero to his mother,

"I will eat no salmon tonight; I will go without my supper."
Said the foolish hero, Kouki, ungrateful son denied a fight.
No salmon for a hero's meal, no supper did he get that night.
Said the hero's mother to him: "You are a brat, my little one!"
Spanked right soundly with a broomstick; sent to his room to wait the sun.

Pretty cool from a game standpoint, though, because we learn that Gygax's character Mordenkainen really should have been a bard.


Tariq Ali's bio of Lenin turned out to not be a biography so much as a rambling series of essays about whatever tickled Tariq Ali's fancy. Sure, there's some about ol' V.I.'s personal life, but then there will be two pages about Ernest Jones who died a year before the former was born, a page about the origins of Japanese Marxism, etc., etc.

If you've ever seen Tariq Ali's show on Telesur, this book is like is his interviews: erudite, learned, and a bit too much in love with the author's ability to show off. I enjoyed it, though.

Then I read Imperialism in the 21st Century: Updating Lenin's Theory a Century Later which I bought from a visiting tankie about a year ago but then didn't read in disappointment at my smart shopping skills when it turned out to be an 80-page introduction to a reprinting of Lenin's Imperialism, which I already have multiple copies of. The 80-page intro was fine, but I don't think it was worth fifteen dollars.

Yesterday, we traveled two and a half hours each way to attend an anti-alt right rally in Augusta, Maine. That was enough time in the car to re-re-read an old pamphlet by Trotsky's called "What Is the Permanent Revolution?" which is on the internet under its original title Three Concepts of the Russian Revolution.

Fiction-wise, not too much, just a couple plays in the Euripides collection. I swear I'm going to start Arundhati Roy next.

The Exchange

I read Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart. It's about the first woman deputy sheriff in New Jersey during the nineteen-teens, when she goes up against gangsters threatening her farm. It wasn't as hilarious or suspenseful as the jacket copy led me to believe, but it is a solid, lighthearted historical crime novel. I'd recommend it to people who enjoyed "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries."

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I just finished re-reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I had forgotten pretty much every detail of it. I think it was a "big idea" book that was just pretty good the second time around. It was kind of a disappointment, but not horrible. Maybe I just had really big expectations.

I just started Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein. So far, the POV narrator is reminding me a lot of Ernest Cline's POV narrator from Ready Player One, even down to the 80s nostalgia. I'm less than 100 pages in, but they still haven't gotten to the main storyline yet. They're inching around the edges of it. Even the characters in charge of telling the POV what happened are being vague to the POV about what is happening. It's weird that they're not being clear about what happened, especially since the book jacket and all the synopses about tell you what's going on.

Also:
Also, the footnotes are getting REALLY annoying, if only because my eyes are getting old and the font is too tiny. I think the author would have been better served with spoilers like this. Except, you know, it doesn't work with actual dead tree books...


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Strange article that came across my feed:

How ‘Hobbit Camps’ Rebirthed Italian Fascism--From 1977, crowds of militant youth gathered to discuss Tolkien and totalitarianism.


Makes perfect sense to me.


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Been a while. Looks like I was reading Winthrop Jordan at last account. Very good. Very dense.

Then it was This Vast Southern Empire which was ok, but I think reaching really hard in some places. Like most reviewers, I think he's much stronger on the later parts than the early. It's never quite clear that he should really be speaking of slaveholders as a class doing things rather than an element of enslaver opinion.

Then came Stamped from the Beginning which is far more poppy than it lets on. It's not bad and might make a decent first book to read on racism, but it oversells itself. It's a survey of anti-black racist ideas specifically. It also falls into the same tedious trap I've seen elsewhere of assuming poor whites must be deluded in order to accept the advantages of whiteness as an acceptable deal.

Since I finished that, I've gotten into Masterless Men about desperately poor whites in the antebellum South. It's going to the same places as Stamped did. I get the impression that the author is a trained labor historian who doesn't quite get white supremacy. She's angling for these poor whites as maybe an incipient proletariat that would unite with the GOP and hasn't done much groundwork for that argument yet, despite the book being half done. It's obvious that enslavers fear that, but they also fear that about yeomen, urban white professionals, and their own class. Connecting the dots with the impoverished themselves has not happened at all, though race is the last chapter.


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Another product of the seething literary loins of Le Maitre Offutt, namely 'Deathknight'.

It was OK, if you like rather pervy sword & sorcery, and I do.

Liberty's Edge

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Just started John Muir's A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, which I recieved as a birthday present more than 10 years ago, and Herman Lindqvist's Historien om Sverige: Från istid till framtid, which I picked up at a flea market this year. So far very disappointed in Lindqvist's writing; he makes lots of complaints about modern "politically correct" historians who e.g. don't think the Ostrogoths were necessarily from Sweden. He describes counter-arguments to the traditional claims, for the most part, but in a very unsincere and unconvincing way (and totally neglects obvious rebuttals when he voices the claim that a people described as living as animals in "Thule" were the Sami).

I'm also still reading Feist's Magician, though I switched over to the version in the library here. Some great bits, some bad bits.


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I'm reading through the sorta-real folklore/sorta-fictional Ghost Stories Of Old New Orleans, by Jeanne DeLavigne, last published about 1946 or so. Sadly a lot of the tales she recounts have been beaten to death since her, though she seems to have been the first to bring these legends to a wider audience. Especially the infamous 'Mad Madame LaLaurie' with her attic of horrors.

Another recommendation for the Louisiana State University printing of the book is that it includes the really well-done and macabre etchings from the original printing.

And a question while I'm here -- if you had to choose between collections of short fiction by Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Clark Ashton Smith, and Ray Russell, which would you choose? I'm looking for some recommendations if I can get any.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

There is a fairly comprehensive series of complete works of Clark Ashton Smith on Amazon...I can't recall the name but it's in multiple volumes. It's pretty good, with the editors including copious notes and doing their best to try to find the most "authentic" preferred version of each story

I will say that...as a complete work...it's got a lot of stuff that isn't so great in it. Fantasy and Horror is CAS's strength, and his delvings into space opera/pulp science fiction generally are at best forgettable, and at worst pretty bad.


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Finished Clive Barker's The Scarlet Gospels. Let me start off by expressing my deep admiration for most of his earlier stuff -- Weaveworld, Great and Secret Show, Everville and especially Imagica are inspiring works, and in some cases the awesome sweep of his imagination was positively breathtaking.

Scarlet Gospels had maybe the barest trace of that on the first page, but aside from that faint whiff, it's all gone. Yes, I understand the point of the novel was to kill off "Pinhead," the one character he created that he now despises more than any other in fiction. But, still, come on, Mr. Barker. What starts off with tremendous promise -- a journey through Hell itself, with my all-time favorite Barker protagonist, Harry D'Amour, in the lead -- left me with nothing new, just a trite potboiler that doesn't stand up against some of Barker's least talented imitators.

The good news is that Brust's latest Vlad novel just reached my kindle, nd those almost never disappoint!


Recently:

William Tenn's "Of all possible worlds", a collection of Golden/silver Age SF, which is my favorite kind. I can't recall having heard of Tenn before, but it's very possible he has shown up in one of my SF anthologies. Decent stuff, and I'll pick up more of his stuff should I see it cheap. Possibly even full price.

Sheila Gilluly's "The book of the Painter: The boy from the Burren". A sorta Celtic low magic fantasy. Mostly standard fare; young boy from humble beginnings, apprenticed to a nice old guy who teaches him all sorts of useful stuff, turns out to be the rightful heir to the kingdom, etc.
Nothing to write home about but readable.

Peter F. Hamilton's "Fallen Dragon". Like the rest of his stuff I've read, it's a long, possible overly long, story that takes a while to get anywhere. It's not that it's boring; it isn't. I just feel he makes the story longer than it needs to be or is good for it. With the rest of his stuff I've read there was at least a good build-up and a sprawling tale. In this case it was a long, winding not quite boring tale that took the most of 700 pages to get to the point where the titular entity reveals itself, then we get a hurried and rather dull resolution. Not his best and you aren't really missing out on anything if you skip it.

On to "The fall of Kings" by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. The prologue was...a prologue, but the first page of the story proper was pretty good. If the rest of the story is like that, I'm going to be pleased. A lot of recommendations for their other work by people whose work I like, which may or may not mean anything.


Just started David McCullough's biography of John Adams. He was awarded the Pulitzer for this one, so I'm expecting some pretty good stuff. We'll see; I've enjoyed other McCullough books I've read.


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Kirth Gersen wrote:

Finished Clive Barker's The Scarlet Gospels. Let me start off by expressing my deep admiration for most of his earlier stuff -- Weaveworld, Great and Secret Show, Everville and especially Imagica are inspiring works, and in some cases the awesome sweep of his imagination was positively breathtaking.

Scarlet Gospels had maybe the barest trace of that on the first page, but aside from that faint whiff, it's all gone. Yes, I understand the point of the novel was to kill off "Pinhead," the one character he created that he now despises more than any other in fiction. But, still, come on, Mr. Barker. What starts off with tremendous promise -- a journey through Hell itself, with my all-time favorite Barker protagonist, Harry D'Amour, in the lead -- left me with nothing new, just a trite potboiler that doesn't stand up against some of Barker's least talented imitators.

The good news is that Brust's latest Vlad novel just reached my kindle, nd those almost never disappoint!

I'm really looking forward to that one, when I can find it in hard copy.

Recently, I've been reading 'The Book Of The New Sun' parts 3 & 4, in an omnibus edition, 'The Modern Prince' by Gramsci, and 'Swordswomen (?) and Sorceresses', an anthology of S&S short stories with female protagonists, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which was particularly good.


Let's see, don't think I mentioned this on this website before, but back at the end of September, Mr. Comrade and I resigned our membership in Socialist Alternative, U.S. section of the Committee for a Worker's International. Since then we've been courted by a half-dozen further left groups but we have decided, for now, to constitute ourselves as the Class Struggle Education League (CSEL) and launch our initial reader's circle on "Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!" so I've been spending a lot of time re-reading The New Jim Crow, Black History and the Class Struggle pamphlets and essays and pamphlets about Marxism and the Afro-American struggle.

On top of that, am mostly through Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Dartmouth (the New Hampshire Ivy League school) lecturer Mark Bray, who's made quite a name for himself over the past couple of months. Anyway, first three chapters is chock full of interesting history some of which is new to me (43 Group), some of which I was all too familiar with (the campaign against the World Church of the Creator in the early 2000s). Was surprised about how many quotes there were from punk rock mag Maximum Rock'n'Roll which was kind of a bible for me back in the mid-'90s.

Also, finally started Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things which takes place in the Indian state of Kerala. A family drama, thus far, there are enough mentions of communism and communists (as the accompanying wiki page suggests) to include under the Comrade Anklebiter hat. Enjoying it thus far, but not too far into it. Have to spend a lot of time putting down he book and looking up Indian vocab and geography.

The Exchange

Finished Rise Of Empire (Riyria Revelations #2 by Michael J. Sullivan) and am currently reading Emperor Of Thorns (Broken Empire #3 by Mark Lawrence).

spoiler free Rise Of Empire thoughts:

This is actually a combined tome of two books in the series, being the third and the fourth out of six.
I don't know what to make of the Riyria Revelations. I tried the first one because it was getting some very good buzz over in reddit and Goodreads, but very quickly realized two things: these books are kind of bad, and I feel like reading them anyway.
All the flaws I noticed in the first duology (Theft Of Swords) are still here - the writing is subpar, characters are superficial, and even as fluff it is rather short on the doze of adrenaline I expect. Really on the bottom line, the books revolve around a pair of legendary thieves for hire. From the reviews I expected them to be an awesome duo who played off each other well, with some snappy bantering and awesome ass kicking. In practice they are little more than "good hearted fighty one" and "cynical sneaky one". They, and other minor character around them, do gain some depth as the story go on. But it seems as if they barely ever do anything. They get a couple of nice set pieces to do their thing (fight and/or sneak and/or solve complex problems) each book, but spend most of the story being passive and going along with the flow of things. Additionally, while in the first couple of books I felt like I really don't know where the story is going, how's the real bad guy and what's gonna happen, by this point I am able to call all twists and major story event hundreds of pages before they happen.

But... I still want to read on and find out what happen. I'm not really sure why, really. Something here grabs me and I want to follow this story through to the end. I will probably be reading books 5 and 6 at some point next year, and we'll see if the journey was worth it or not...

Dark Archive

Lord Snow wrote:

Finished Rise Of Empire (Riyria Revelations #2 by Michael J. Sullivan) and am currently reading Emperor Of Thorns (Broken Empire #3 by Mark Lawrence).

** spoiler omitted **

From the sound of the protagonists, you might enjoy some of the earlier Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser books. (Later books turned into erotic fanfiction, IMO...)


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Brust's Vallista delivered on every level - as a Vlad story, as a haunted house story, as an excuse for Brust to show off his literary erudition*

*

Spoiler:
Every chapter name is a pun on the title of some literary work related (however tangentially) to the events in that chapter, with the title twisted just enough to also describe the events in the chapter itself. I suspect that at least two of the characters were named simply to make this possible.


Also read Clive Barker's novella Chiliad last night. The idea of there potentially being a more depressing work out there is hard for me to contemplate.


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Set wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:

Finished Rise Of Empire (Riyria Revelations #2 by Michael J. Sullivan) and am currently reading Emperor Of Thorns (Broken Empire #3 by Mark Lawrence).

** spoiler omitted **

From the sound of the protagonists, you might enjoy some of the earlier Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser books. (Later books turned into erotic fanfiction, IMO...)

That's probably why I liked 'em...

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw. It's about a physician to the differently human: vampires, were-creatures, and their ilk.


Just reading about Collin de Plancy's demons. Getting me in the Halloween mood.


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Who could resist 'Imaginative Sex' by Gor's John Norman, for just £2? Certainly not me!

I wonder if I'll get arrested if I try reading it on the bus?

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

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Reading Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution by Peter Andreas, an amazing true tale of family dysfunction and leftist international politics of the late 20th century. I'm enjoying it, but am glad to have been spoilered in advance that...

Spoiler:
everyone in the family survives the main period covered by the book (the book's frame is that the eponymous mother had recently passed away, but of natural causes at age 71).


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I think I remember reading reviews of that when it came out.

Got Pyotr Kropotkin's The Great French Revolution 1789-1793 out of the library. If I finish it before returning it to the interlibrary loan program, it will be, by far, the longest book I've ever read by an anarchist.


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'Imaginative Sex' was alright - some of it sounds quite fun, if you're both into That Sort Of Thing - but I might have known that Wonder Norm couldn't go through a whole book without going into Full Throttle RantyBalls Mode. It will still have an honoured place on my bookshelf next to Tim and Beverly LaHaye's 'The Art Of Marriage'

Now I'm reading Giacomo DiGrassi's 'The Art Of Defence', for homework, and 'Vallista' by Steven Brust, which is ace.


A couple of chapters into Olaf Stapledon's "Sirius". Having only read "Last and First Men" and "Star Maker" previously - both of which I highly recommend - it's odd to read a book of his with actual characters.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Corum by Michael Moorcock. One of my gaming buddies convinced me to try reading a classic. It's a trilogy about Swords, I guess.


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I liked 'Corum' an awful lot. I hope you do too :)

Dark Archive

SmiloDan wrote:
Corum by Michael Moorcock. One of my gaming buddies convinced me to try reading a classic. It's a trilogy about Swords, I guess.

The hand and eye (perhaps the inspiration for the Hand and Eye of Vecna) were super-cool.

For recent books, I've just read the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The concept of Allomancy is pretty awesome.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I hope it gets better. I JUST started reading it, and it was like "Twelve people live in the castle. Here is a list of their names and stuff. 1. King Yadayadayada. 2. Queen Blahblahblah. 3. Ed Cetera." So I got bored. I'm going to read more later.

I really tried reading Brandon Sanderson, but I can't. Allomancy is pretty awesome, and the action scenes are great, but the characters are super blah.... I just can't.


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Just finished a bunch of Lansdale (Savage Season, Captains Outrageous, Rusty Puppy, Leather Maiden, and halfway through Vanilla Ride, with Blood and Lemonade waiting).

After that, I'll indulge my annual guilty pleasure: Lee Child's new Jack Reacher thriller.

After that, maybe I'll finally finish the Kalevala?


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I was very happily enjoying The God of Small Things when after 100 pages I ran into a child molestation chapter. What with all else that's going on in the news, my stomach couldn't handle it, so I put it down and picked up an Edgar Allan Poe collection and decided to read the three C. Auguste Dupin stories. 'Cuz an orangutan slitting Parisians throats and stuffing dead women up chimneys is more palatable to my American tastes.

[Puts on Comrade Anklebiter hat]

Non-fiction-wise, Kropotkin's going swell, but I wish I had read it sooner in life. It's surprisingly dry, and skims over the narrative in favor of class analysis and economic investigation (like most of the French Marxists I've read) more than I thought it would have. I was hoping for more rousing depictions of orators declaiming "De l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace et la Patrie sera sauvée!" and whatnot. But, if you haven't read an anarchist or communist history of the French Revolution and were yearning to, I, thus far, recommend Pyotr's.

As a sidenote to Comrade Samnell: Mr. Comrade and I, after resigning from our former sectarian Trotskyist organization, had a meeting with some comrades up from New York from a competing sectarian Trotskyist organization and we got to talking and I ended up buying more of their literature than I could afford, and in one of their pamphlets entitled "Marx on Slavery and the U.S. Civil War" I ran across the following paragraph:

Spoiler:
The capitalist nature of plantation production using slave labor has also been elaborated in several recent studies, notably by James Oakes, Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South (1998), and Joyce Chaplin, An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South, 1730-1815 (1993). Much of this scholarly literature was in response to Eugene Genovese, a former Marxist become reactionary, who praises the reactionaries of the Old South. In his first major work, The Political Economy of Slavery (1961), Genovese polemicized against references to "planter capitalism" and those who saw "the plantation system inseparably linked with the international development of capitalism," arguing that planters were "precapitalist, quasi-aristocratic landowners." The bankruptcy of this analysis is mirrored in Genovese's own evolution."

One of the comrades who made the trip told me that he took courses with Oakes about twenty years ago and Sam might be interested to hear that he said Oakes was just as nasty and arrogant as Genovese was reputed to be.


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I just realized now that it's highly likely that I've confused Stephen Oates (John Brown biographer) with James Oakes (who used to be a pretty good historian but seems to have gone badly to seed in the last decade). Reception for his last book was basically: WTF, dude? Are you high? Anyway, having read some of Oakes -Slavery & Freedom, an essay or two- I believe he's a major dick.

Anywho, remember when I used to talk about what I read here? Good times.

So I finished Masterless Men not long enough ago. It's bad. Bad enough that I kind of want to yell at the author. That's not going to happen for a bunch of reasons, some of which are good.

Let's start with the good: as an ethnography of desperately poor Southern whites, it seems perfectly fine. They're an under-studied demographic and she's done good work there and provided some valuable pushback against the Southern Agrarians -a pack of reactionaries who were an influence on Genovese- that needed to happen. She rightly calls one of 'em out for basically writing about the South he wanted to believe in rather than one supported by crazy stuff like evidence.

Now let's move on to the bad, which is in the previous sentence. There are tremendous methodological issues with studying subaltern people, compounded when those people don't leave us much or any written record of their own. Those can't be helped. What could have been helped was bothering to support the main argument of the book with, well, anything. She absolutely gets how the enslaver class feel that very poor whites are a problem for the maintenance of slavery, but the work to go from that to showing that really are? Basically jack. The idea that they're allies for the Republicans? Handwaved by reference to interracial friendships and situational cooperation.

You would expect a scholar in this position to anticipate counterarguments, which she does. What about white supremacy? The idea that poor whites too fear a world racially leveled, or the results of a slave revolt, or otherwise have investment in whiteness? That's -I am not kidding, this is what she says- something that future historians are going to have to look at, but they'll find that she's right.

What.

I spent the back half of this book trying to figure out how something like this could even happen.

After that I read one of the few books on slavery in the North, The First Emancipation. It came to me all the way from Wales and it was pretty good but basically what it says on the tin.

Black Slaveowners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860 was next and a bit of a trip. It's surprisingly spare for a microhistory and not expansive enough to be a survey, so it suffers on both ends. Paragraphs are just "here are ten people who worked in this trade." But that's almost the only thing said about them, aside from their owning other people. The author's main point is to push back against the benevolent interpretation of small-scale black enslaving (most black enslavers are presumed to own loved ones and friends and treat them as free). It does that, but the more the book goes on the more clear it becomes that the author assumes black enslaving is exploitative by design and intention, which is contradicted by his own earlier chapters. Hazards of pushing back too hard on an old argument, I guess.

Then it's John Brown biographies. David Reynolds' John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights is good but gushy. I understand from some reviews that Reynolds maybe didn't do all his homework either. It's also a cultural biography so it's more about John Brown's world than Brown himself. He's the star, but it's not really a life. He also thinks John Brown didn't have a racist bone in his body.

I've read enough of Brown's own prose to know that's not true. He's certainly way less racist than most whites, sometimes stunningly so, but he also has a condescending white savior thing going on. I genuinely like Brown quite a lot. I'm primed to dig the guy by just about everything. I would like to believe Reynolds, but there's no way.

With those issues in mind, I ended up dropping it right after Pottawatomie in favor of picking up Stephen Oates To Purge This Land With Blood which is older but way better at getting into Brown's head. I basically picked it up with Brown in the stage of his life right before he goes to Kansas. He's out of there now, working on a new plan for activities elsewhere. Something about a ferry.


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Speaking of 19th century American history, Mr. Comrade and I stumbled across this 2006 History Channel program about Reconstruction that was pretty awesome.

Especially the second part. I thought I knew something about Reconstruction, but I had never heard of the four incidents of anti-Klan organizing that the film demonstrates: Parson G. Brownlow, the self-proclaimed "Rebel Ventilator" and governor of Tennessee who faced down Nathan Bedford Forrest and the first iteration of the KKK; D.P. Upham, a Union soldier from Massachusetts who moved to Arkansas after the war, became a successful "carpetbagger" and then, if the dramatization is to be believed, became a one-man 1860s antifa; the Lowrie gang, Lumbee Indians from North Carolina who waged war against the white supremacists and, in a move of great bravura, stole the $20,000 reward money that was posted for their capture; and Lewis Peacock, an East Texas "scalawag" who...well, actually I already forget his story.

Anyway, I looked them up in all the books I've got on Reconstruction (Foner, DuBois, etc.) and only Brownlow showed up in the index (of some of them).

Later that week, we attended a "teach-in" about the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, and I sold my copy of Foner's Reconstruction so now I need to get another copy before he comes and visits Lowell in the spring.

Anyway, Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War


A collection of the Maquis de Sade. Three novels (Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Eugénie de Franval), some letters, a couple of introductions that make him out to be, I suspect, better than he was. i mostly skipped the introductions once it became apparent that they were more like an analysis/pedestal-putting of the author rather than proper introductions. I'm usually fine with spoilers but having scene after scene, event after event talked about before I've read the books in question just lessens the experience.

I've only read a couple of the letters so far and those make him seem like a serious drama queen.

Liberty's Edge

Gark the Goblin wrote:

Just started John Muir's A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, which I recieved as a birthday present more than 10 years ago, and Herman Lindqvist's Historien om Sverige: Från istid till framtid, which I picked up at a flea market this year. So far very disappointed in Lindqvist's writing; he makes lots of complaints about modern "politically correct" historians who e.g. don't think the Ostrogoths were necessarily from Sweden. He describes counter-arguments to the traditional claims, for the most part, but in a very unsincere and unconvincing way (and totally neglects obvious rebuttals when he voices the claim that a people described as living as animals in "Thule" were the Sami).

I'm also still reading Feist's Magician, though I switched over to the version in the library here. Some great bits, some bad bits.

Wow. Muir sure got racist fast.

Still plugging away at Lindqvist's history of Sweden. Moved on to the Iliad, translated to Swedish (sure has some old f$$%ing words), and Ett kollektiv av röster: 100 år av systerskap, an anniversary collection of feminist writings from members of Sweden's Vänsterpartiet. I'm a fan of Kata Dalström.


Gark the Goblin wrote:


(sure has some old f~##ing words)

For instance...?


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

A collection of the Maquis de Sade. Three novels (Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Eugénie de Franval), some letters, a couple of introductions that make him out to be, I suspect, better than he was. i mostly skipped the introductions once it became apparent that they were more like an analysis/pedestal-putting of the author rather than proper introductions. I'm usually fine with spoilers but having scene after scene, event after event talked about before I've read the books in question just lessens the experience.

I've only read a couple of the letters so far and those make him seem like a serious drama queen.

I got hold of '120 days of Sodom' over the weekend. I will start reading it, but I imagine that I'll get bored pretty quickly. I think it's got the Simone de Beauvoir essay included, too.


Finished the Brown biography tonight. I did end up dropping Reynolds. He's not useless, but Oates is way more useful for me. I don't think I need to read both. For that matter, I didn't read all the early life stuff in Oates because it was largely repetitive from Reynolds and not that important.

Now, because I am terrible at emotional self-care, it's going to be Terri Snyder's The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North America. Thought I might dodge that one for a while, but a friend had a copy and I am interested. I know far too little about the lives of the enslaved.

Probably Exchanging Our Country Marks about the transformation, or really the creation, of African identities among the enslaved/

Then I need to get my hands on a copy of Disowning Slavery to complete the standard texts of slavery in the North. And get back to boning up on the Transatlantic slave trade. And the development of racial theory.


Gark, du vet vad alla svenskar har läst? Astrid Lindgren. Pippi Långstrump, Bröderna Lejonhjärta, och gärna andra också. Tove Janssons böcker om Mumintrollet.


'An anthology of black humour', ed. Andre Breton, which I absolutely love, especially the bit by Fourier where he recommends breeding anti-lions in order to secure humanity's future.


Tim Emrick wrote:

I've finished Elizabeth Peters' Crocodile on the Sandbank and moved on to its sequel, Curse of the Pharaohs (much of which feels familiar, so it may be one of the books in the series that I'd read previously).

Coming up in the queue are:

The Parthenon, by Mary Beard. A guide and history, which my wife bought me when we visited the replica Parthenon in Nashville last month as part of our weekend eclipse road trip.

The Nazi Occult, by Kenneth Hite. A mix of real-world history on the subject with speculation on what the Nazis might have done with genuine occult powers. Hite's writings about alternate history and secret history are always fun, so this should be a good read.

Since I posted this (a couple months ago), I've finished the Peters and Hite books, and have started the Beard.

I'd heartily recommend Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries to other fans of Egyptian history and archaeology, or period mysteries in general. Personally, I rarely hold onto books of this genre to reread later, so I'll probably pass these onto my mother, who is the hardcore mystery enthusiast in the family.

The Nazi Occult lived up to my expectations, and (like most Hite books I own) will be a major reference if I ever run a weird history/conspiracy campaign, even if it's not set during WWII.

I'm currently reading The Parthenon. I've been interested in Greek history, myth, and art since early childhood, so this is a fascinating read. It covers the whole history of the site, from before the Parthenon's construction up to the present (2010, for the Revised Edition I have).

I also have a subscription to Smithsonian. This month's issue was all about the flu--both the 100th anniversary of the 1918 pandemic, and the state of current research into preventing the the next one. A pretty solid issue, if a rather depressing one.


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Breezed through Elmore Leonard's Tishomingo Blues and started on John Bellairs' The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull. I plan to read that and whatever of his other YA I found at the used book shop, then re-read James Ellroy's Lloyd Hopkins trilogy.

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