Review: ‘The Club: Johnson, Boswell, And The Friends Who Shaped An Age

What began as an admirable effort to show the wide ranging influence of an eighteenth century London club whose members included Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Joshua Reynolds, and Edward Gibbon rapidly devolved into an unsatisfying biography of Boswell and Johnson.

On the other hand, I learned that the classic nursery rhyme, ‘Do you know the muffin man,’ likely has salacious organization and I was inspired to do some googling and found that you can rent Boswell’s ancestral Scottish manse for your holiday.

‘The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future’ Is Marvelous Example Of Post-Colonial, Neo-Imperialist Condescension

Apparently, and I didn’t know this before, no one really explored the Mekong River until intrepid white folks arrived. Sure, many of them were racist, cruel, and exploitative, but we should admire them for… reasons.

I mean, I get it. They were courageous. But for what good g——-d reason?

There is a nice but underwritten section about medieval Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. But mostly it’s just infuriating.

And did you know that the author has many friends who are Asian? He does. We should admire him for that, is the implied lesson.

The only good bit is a lengthy discussion of various proposed infrastructure projects, especially dams, on the river. A little boring, but well worth publication in a specialty outlet focusing on foreign affairs.

Bridge Over The River Kwai

I bought this at World at the CornerWorld At The Corner. Because it takes place in Thailand, it seemed appropriate.

My in-laws took me to see the river. Which, incidentally, you have been pronouncing. If you end on a long i sound (like ‘my’), you are saying water buffalo. It should be end on a vowel sound more like that in ‘hey.’

The book itself is written in a strange style. Weirdly matter of fact, like Hemingway without any emotional adjectives. Or like a report which tries not to interrogate motives. Very different from our collective memories of Alec Guinness sabotaging William Holden’s sabotage.

‘The Four Loves’ By C.S. Lewis

I bought this because I had recently read a book about the Inklings and because Solid State Books has a wonderful selection near the bar (yes, they have a bar) on the philosophy shelves.

While I always bring my nook with me to Thailand, I always bring at least one paperback book. Something that is not too big and which stands rereading. Past international travel selections have included Wordsworth and Wuthering Heights (which I once read three times on a summer trip to Spain).

I had forgotten what an engaging writer Lewis can be (the last book I read of his was the turgid conclusion to his Space Trilogy). He reminds me of Thomas Merton and the G.K. Chesterton of Orthodoxy. Perhaps more like Chesterton’s conversational style, but even more so. I know that he honed a lot of his style via radio broadcasts and this has that feel of a fireside chat to a small group of curious acquaintances.

A Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet

Space opera but almost totally lacking in shots fired. Those fired are key to the plot but, notably, the protagonists never fire back.

A good ensemble piece that steals greatly, but not badly, from Firefly (but with aliens).

I enjoyed it and agree with all the great reviews, but it felt a little thin on its own. In honor of the Firefly reference, it felt like the pilot to a very good show. The pilot is good, but is really intended to set up the season. I’d rather it had felt like a whole season than just the pilot.

World At The Corner

As it turns out, World at the Corner is a barely two week old bookstore in Bangkok (thank you, May, for letting me know about it). You may know my love for bookstores if you follow me at all.

It is a small but lovely, mostly English language bookshop near the royal palace. They specialize in art books, literature in translation, and generally books that, as the owner’s brother (and a famous photographer), Nat, said, show you new horizons.

I bought, in honor of the country, Bridge Over the River Kwai. My daughter bought Cat Is Better. Note: she is not getting a cat.

But I saw a dozen books that I wanted to get, including several I had never seen anywhere else (and I visit a lot of bookstores).