Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Library Post, 5/16/2011

Hey! It's Monday! And here's a post!

Four books this week, which is, frankly, ambitious, since I've been averaging two a week, but classes are done, my grades are due on Wednesday, and so I'll only have family to get in my way for a week or so.

Sally Spencer - Rendezvous with Death

It's a murder mystery, set in London during Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (1897). It's the first of the Inspector Blackstone novels - the most recent of which (set in New York in 1900) was on the new bookshelf, but I like to be introduced to characters in a natural way, not willy nilly in the middle, so. This prompted a discussion of pen names with my eldest, because it was originally published under the name Alan Rustage, so I had to explain why an author might choose to publish under a pen name. I gather that I was less fascinating than I thought, because she wandered off towards the end of my explanation.

Francis Fukuyama - The Origins of Political Order

Fukuyama is mildly controversial in the History discipline because of his book length essay, The End of History and the Last Man, a book which most historians (at least, as far as I've been able to tell) didn't actually read. Fukuyama was, in the early '90s, a neo-liberal, but has mellowed somewhat since then. His big work argued that, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, we could stop looking at capital "H" History as a societal driving force, and start studying it as a discipline again. Further, we should start seeing the rise of free market democracies to take the place of socialistically ideological states. Or so I recall. I did read the book, but a long time ago, and Fukuyama is a writer of fairly dense prose; an historian of the literary turn, even, full of Derrida and Foucault, neither of which believed in transparent prose. This is the first volume of a two volume attempt to explain why we have politics, and why it looks like it does. This book covers everything from the dawn of time to the American and French Revolutions; the second book will cover the rest of human history. Mr. Fukuyama does not think small... Anyway, I'll be teaching the politics of the American Rev next semester (again), so it might be a good idea to keep up with the literature.

To that end,
Maya Jasanoff - Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World

A book about the Loyalists; the Americans who remained loyal to the British Crown during the War of Independence, and what happened after the fall of New York at the end of the war. It's always good to look at historical matters from as many angles as possible.


China MiĆ©ville - Kracken

MiƩville writes "weird fiction," and I, at least theoretically, like weird fiction. Thus far, I've steered clear, because his stuff looks very dense and complicated in ways that I don't enjoy - playing games with language designed to show off how smart the author is, that sort of thing (which may well be unfair - if I like this one, I may go back and look at some of his other stuff). This, however, seems to trigger the same enjoyment circuits as Vonnegut, Pynchon, and Tim Powers - a world slightly to the side of our own, or an aspect of our world which runs tangentially to the rest of the world. Conspiracies and doomsday cults, and a giant squid int the London Museum. It looks good, I'll take a chance.