‘Thomas Jefferson: The Art Of Power’ By Jon Meacham


Did I need to read another Jefferson book? Probably not. My fifth in the last two years, though the first traditional biography (the others being guided by conceits or else by Christopher Hitchens and so read to understand him rather than Jefferson).

No. What I need to do and what I have started to do is read Jefferson’s own writings.

It’s a good biography, don’t mistake me, but my interest is in his thinking and as the founder or spiritual godfather of a certain Americans intellectual tradition, not in his use of power. Though, it should be noted that I am not sure that this book actually does all that much to explain Jefferson’s view of the art of power. I think it was settled upon more because it was a cool title than a genuine descriptor of the book’s unique contribution. But an important though not unique note: …we see that Jefferson the practical politician was a more powerful persona than Jefferson the moral theorist. [478]

In terms of things I gained from the reading, I did appreciate hearing Meacham’s perspective, such as his defense of Jefferson’s behavior as governor of Virginia for a few years during the Revolution.

PS – Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

Ace Double: The Sun Smasher & Starhaven


Edmond Hamilton’s The Sun Smasher is a surprisingly slow paced (but not boring nor lacking in excitement) novel for something barely one hundred pages. A man on earth is told his life is a lie and he’s actually the brainwashed heir to an old empire. Swift, but not blunt hints are dropped that maybe that old empire wasn’t so great. An apocalyptic weapon too powerful to ever use. Oh, and giant psychic spiders.

Ivar Jorgensen’s Starhaven isn’t as good and is also something like 25% longer. Some interesting ideas (also involving, like its companion volume, brain wipes and implanted false memories), but a little disappointing after the more traditionally exciting Sun Smasher. Somehow, he made a rogue planet of criminals living in a social Darwinist paradise kind of meh.

The Cold Commands


He lost me. Seven hundred odd pages culminating in some poorly explained gobbledygook that reminded me of a lot of earlier gobbledygook, albeit less densely packed, that I had deigned to overlook.

You see, Morgan does some exciting fight scenes which encourage the reader to overlook how underexplained his fantasy world is, but when the poorly explained junk comes so fast and furious, you can no longer forgive.

Bret Easton Ellis In The LRB


Just going to briefly make a pitch in favor of reading James Walcott’s article on Bret Easton Ellis in the May 23 edition of the London Review of Books. Technically, it is a review of his latest book, White, but a nice and balanced and clear eyed appraisal of his career, recognition of the value and failure of books like American Psycho, and taking a nuanced look at his late career shift as a middle aged, conservative, would-be provocateur. It even made me less angered by his wrongheaded and shallow retorts to younger generations.

China Rich Girlfriend


Some eighty-five percent of the way through this novel, I realized that it’s actually a nineteenth century novel (a touch more explicit about the sex, but arguably with slightly less sex overall than its predecessors). The coincidences, the interrelations, the series of deus ex machina (what’s the plural for that?). Arguably, this one was better than Crazy Rich Asians for embracing its origins (though lacking the newness of that first book). I just hope the movie finds away to make sure Michelle Yeoh gets plenty of screen time.

Now it’s time to ask for the library to hold a copy of the third book for me.

The Curse Of Chalion


I can’t remember where this was recommended to me as an excellent fantasy novel by a female writer whose work is in danger of being overlooked these days, but it made enough of an impression that I bought this when I saw it at library book sale near my house. Unfortunately, Ms. Bujold will boy get royalties on the dollar I gave the Southeast library. Fortunately, I did get a good book. I devoured it as quickly as I could over the first few days that I had it.

A damaged hero. A princess (not meant for the hero; but he has his own love interest, holding a more suitably lesser status). Interesting and brutal (though not unnecessarily grim) politics and a religious system that I suspect George R.R. Martin of having borrowed from and an interesting magical ecosystem. The setting, despite stabs at new nomenclature, is basic western medieval. The ending drags on, but that’s not the worst sin.