I don’t promise to keep this up regularly, but wanted to give it a try — talking a bit about some books I read and shows I see. Few of the books and none of the shows will be very new, and some may be very old.
I’ve got a few more chapters of Paul Krugman’s The Conscience of a Liberal (2007) to read. I’m reading it slowly, and admiring it deeply.
Krugman persuasively shows that America from the Roosevelt administration through the Nixon years was a nation of remarkable economic equality, social enlightenment, and genuine two-party government, (which we all took for granted as the way America is), and that the Republican goal, from Reagan on, has been to reinstate extreme economic inequality, halt or undo social improvement, and refuse political compromise and co-operation, thus derailing the democratic process.
Krugman writes with grace and clarity, and is probably the only economist I’ve ever been able to understand.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, campaigning in 1936:
We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering…. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob…. [These forces] are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.
So the “old enemies” are with us again, but what Democrat now faces them with Roosevelt’s defiance? Only the Occupy movement has that courage.
And Dwight David Eisenhower, writing to his brother in 1952:
Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H.L.Hunt…, a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
What’s terrifying about this is how Eisenhower’s party in just a few decades has proved him wrong, wrong in everything he says except, possibly, the last word.
I wanted a novel to read at night in bed (when too dim-brained to follow an argument I still can follow a story) — so I went to my To Read shelf.
It’s low on novels just now. I tried the one Tove Jansson I hadn’t yet read, Fair Play. I wanted to like it but found it predictable, and written with a kind of smugness or self-admiration that put me off, so I gave up. This doesn’t weaken my admiration for the madly original Moomintroll books, or her beautiful novel True Deceiver (my review of it is on this site among the Book Reviews.)
So I started the one Kent Haruf I haven’t yet read, Where You Once Belonged. Am about halfway through now. Haruf is terrific. Very quietly great. (The critical/prize-awarding people have, predictably, paid him little attention — an ABA runner-up for Plainsong, which should have walked off with the Pulitzer.) The two early books are so solid and beautiful, and Plainsong fully comparable to the best of Willa Cather (to whom I’m sure he’s tired of being compared, but if you write about the Western Middle West, you can’t get away from Willa.) Here are his four books:
- The Tie that Binds, 1984
- Where You Once Belonged, 1990
- Plainsong, 1999
- Eventide, 2004
It’s time for another, please, Mr Haruf?
We finally had to get onto Netflix when our lovely video store down the street got killed by Netflix. I hate this. I HATE it. I HATE being controlled by corporations. I HATE CORPORATIONS.
So, last night we had Syriana. We gave up halfway through.
Probably we were just too tired and stupid for a fast-paced complex thriller. I found the cutting self-conscious to the point of self-parody — scene after scene a few seconds long, then cut — cut — cut again — Makes for fast pace, sure, but it’s too much like two hours of Tourette syndrome. And it intellectualizes the story. Shock without affect. Time only to figure out what’s happening where — never why, hardly even who. Allatime you’re figuring out. Well, I don’t watch movies to figure out. I don’t enjoy it. So, Syriana goes back.
Finished Krugman’s Conscience of a Liberal. It was written just before the housing market crash and the rise of Obama to the Presidency. Reactionary “movement Republicanism” has gone fast and far since then, belying much of Krugman’s hopes expressed in the last section. It is, however, a very good, very useful book, an aid to clear thinking.
A final quote from it (guess who said this, and when):
The strange alchemy of time has converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party in the country — the party dedicated to conserving all that is best and building solidly and safely on these foundations. The Republicans, by contrast, are behaving like the radical party — the party of the reckless and embittered, bent on dismantling institutions which have been built solidly into our social fabric.
The first election I could vote in was 1952. I don’t forgive Eisenhower for defeating my candidate. Though Ike was a moderate with no ideological program, yet I think with his election our long trip to the wilderness of reactionary thinking began. Adlai Stevenson, who knew what true conservatism is, lost. And now we live with the regressive fantasies of “the party of the reckless and embittered.”
See Ursula K. Le Guin’s ebooks in the Book View Café eBookstore.