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  #161  
Old Sep 27th 2009, 11:01 PM
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Default Re: What are you reading?

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Inquiring minds want to know! Tell us what you are reading, what you've recently read or are planning to read in the future.
"The Death of the West," by Patrick J. Buchanan.
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  #162  
Old Sep 27th 2009, 11:12 PM
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Default Re: What are you reading?

Just finished Watership Down for the third or fourth time. Still one of my all time favorites.
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  #163  
Old Dec 8th 2009, 02:22 AM
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I just polished off Karen Horney's (it's pronounced Horn-eye, but she's dead, so feel free to take liberties--I do) Self-Analysis and Neurosis and Human Growth for a research paper. I take psychology with a tablespoon of salt, but she is very, very fun. Anyone familiar with her? She felt neurosis (a term she uses pretty broadly to describe mental "unhealth") came from basic problem developed in childhood--a prevailing feeling that the little future neurotic was all alone and defenseless in a world that was potentially hostile. To fix this, lil' neuro comes up with one of three solutions to make things more manageable: move away from people (disengage), move toward people (cling to and need others, and delight in martyrdom), or to move against (power, glory, manipulation). I thought it was interesting that, for all the different mentally screwed people I know (that I assumed were mentally screwed in different ways), and for the 297 disorders that are now in the DSM-IV, she could sort them all into 3 categories--and they all fit perfectly. And the more details I read as she these types, the more they seem to fit. Too bad she doesn't really have much of a solution for it. Of course, if you could fix neurosis, who would be left to entertain me?
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  #164  
Old Dec 8th 2009, 05:50 AM
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Default Re: What are you reading?

I've just recently started reading, for a second time, Paradise by Toni Morrison. This novel has a most intriguing opening line: "They shoot the white girl first."

Morrison won both a Nobel Prize for Literature and a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
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  #165  
Old Dec 8th 2009, 12:26 PM
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Default Re: What are you reading?

I have been reading 1984 when I have the time.
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  #166  
Old Dec 8th 2009, 01:27 PM
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Default Re: What are you reading?

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I have been reading 1984 when I have the time.
That book is famous for being famous, not necessarily because it is a good book to read.

I actually think the book itself is quite lame. The ideas behind it are brilliant, but the book/novel itself seems rather boring in fiction format.
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  #167  
Old Dec 8th 2009, 06:09 PM
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Default Re: What are you reading?

I've been reading Dante's Divine Comedy in my breaks from work.
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  #168  
Old Dec 15th 2009, 10:41 AM
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I just gave up on my fourth attempt to read Children of Hurin.

I get about halfway through the first chapter and my eyes glaze over. This novel is so badly written it is unreadable. The first two paragraphs on the first page introduces no less than a dozen character names. I counted abut thirty names introduced in the first three pages. It makes for a jumbled mess.

Everyone named includes their father's name and their mother's kin name and tribal name. After the first dozen I just can't even bother to try to remember who's who.

I got the book given to me for xmas about a half-dozen years ago.
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  #169  
Old Dec 15th 2009, 05:46 PM
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Default Re: What are you reading?

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I've just recently started reading, for a second time, Paradise by Toni Morrison. This novel has a most intriguing opening line: "They shoot the white girl first."

Morrison won both a Nobel Prize for Literature and a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Toni Morrison is really, really fun. I usually hate race-relations literature. It always strikes me as too contrived. Morrison actually takes the time to write well, and not just racially. One of my favorite short stories is her "Recitatif." It is about two little girls grow up and interact with the world, and you're never told who is black and who is white.
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  #170  
Old Jan 15th 2010, 12:14 PM
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Default Re: What are you reading?

I'm in the midst of reading a large collection of books on the American Revolution, the Confederation, and the Early Republic.

This morning's reading was particularly good, so I thought I'd recommend it and share my brief write-up of the book (I try to crank these out for each book I read so I can quickly remind myself what it's about later). If you're interested in an enjoyable and clever analysis of the origins of the American Constitution that steers a course between the idealists and the economic-determinists, this is a good candidate.


Holton, Woody. Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. New York: Hill & Wang, 2007.

Holton explores the makings of the Constitution, particularly the motives of the Framers and the ways in which the protestations of 'unruly' lower order Americans (e.g. small farmers and debtors) forced the Framers to alter their original plans, most notably by accepting the addition of the Bill of Rights. Thus, Holton argues, it was the unruly Americans who opposed the Constitution, not the Framers in Philadelphia, who were responsible for some of the nation's most cherished liberties.

Holton frames the debate between two perspectives of the "critical period" between Confederation and Constitution, both of which saw the Articles of Confederation as failing. On the one hand were the elite Framers (such as Madison), who bewailed the "excesses of democracy" that made the state assemblies too responsive to the popular will. They lamented the willingness of the states to hand out tax relief, suspend courts, print paper money, and drag their feet in raising continental funds. On the other hand were the debtors themselves, men like Daniel Shays, who perceived the burden of taxation as crushing and found tremendous difficulties in obtaining any sort of currency with which to pay their debts. They believed the state legislatures were not sufficiently responsive to the people and that the troubles in the land stemmed from the misrule of the elite.

When the debtors and farmers could not obtain their ends through the state legislatures, they escalated the confrontation through 'rebellion', refusing to pay taxes, shutting down courts, and assaulting officials. When Madison and the Framers were unable to achieve their objectives under the existing system, they took the fight to the national level and sought to create a Constitution that could do what the state assemblies would not, a federal government that would be more insulated from popular opinion and less democratic.

In seeking out the motivations of the Framers, Holton acknowledges but rejects Charles Beard's argument (The Economic Origins of the Constitution of the United States) that they were driven primarily by their own self-interest as creditors and the holders of government bonds. While some of the supporters of the Constitution certainly fit that category, other prominent figures (such as Madison and Hamilton) do not. Holton also acknowledges the competing ideological claim (Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic), that the Framers were holding to their revolutionary Republican views that called for a virtuous populace willing to sacrifice for the good of the many, and feared that self-interested demagogues had taken over the state governments and would destroy the nation. In looking at the context of the debate and the writings of the Framers, however, Holton finds "a still more pressing motive": the fear that "unless the federal government was thoroughly overhauled, the American economy would never be able to attract capital." (23) Their overriding goal was to make the new nation economically viable: by empowering the federal government to pay its debts (both foreign and domestic), to secure the sanctity of contracts, to remove native Americans from Western land which could then be surveyed and sold, to enforce treaty agreements that the various states were violating, and to collect taxes on imported and exported goods. These methods, it was believed would decrease the tax burden on small farmers and encouraged capital investment. And indeed the Constitution did achieve these goals.

Yet, Holton notes in concluding, however much the Constitution may have benefited (and been meant to benefit) the general populace, "what [the Framers] meant to give the ordinary citizen was prosperity, not power." (277) Holton's analysis strongly implies that the Constitutional approach was one solution to the Confederation's economic and social troubles; but it may not have been the only one. The state's strenuous efforts to collect taxes and enforce contracts ended up creating some of the very problems the Constitution was created to solve (rebellion, inflation, and debt relief); the alternative approach, lessening taxation and increasing the money supply in order to increase the prosperity of the middle and lower orders, was not truly attempted. In his final pages, Holton again reflects on the irony that the Constitution's most cherished liberties (enshrined in the Bill of Rights) are primarily attributable to the men who opposed the Constitution itself.

An example of Holton's nuanced approach to economic causes:
Holton suggests that, pace Beard, elite securities speculators did not directly bring about the Constitution's clauses on taxation in order to secure repayment; they lacked the influence for this. Rather, they put pressure on the state governments, which in turned put pressure on their tax base, which in turn demanded relief. The states responded to these demands by issuing paper money and interfering with the collection of debts, and it was this, as much as anything, that encouraged men like Hamilton and Madison (who were not speculators themselves) to take steps to terminate such relief in order to secure America's good credit. (64)
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