I Almost Didn’t Finish ‘The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American’


Not because he doesn’t make good points, but they are too strident and not new and I wasn’t feeling patient. But I persevered.

I know that George Washington was famously present in church, but would neither stand nor kneel nor take communion.

I know that Franklin tended to think that religion was a useful opium for the masses.

And that Jefferson was not a Christian in any useful sense of the word.

I also know that right wing people are using Christianity as an excuse to peddle corporate tax cuts and their own neuroses.

So if I’m going to read about this, I expect to learn something in the first fifty odd pages, but somehow failed to. And I don’t think it’s my fault.

The Bible has many issues. Or rather, I have many issues with much of the Bible. Seidel lays them all out, but I didn’t pick up a book on why the Bible is contradictory or even hypocritical, but rather (I thought) on constitutional issues. And you lose a certain status which contributes to credibility when you are so gleeful about it.

At some point, I finally realized my objection. Seidel quotes and references Christopher Hitchens several times and it was after reading one, particularly Hitchensesque Hitchens quote that it finally became clear.

I wanted to read a book about constitutional history, theory, and practice.

If I had wanted to read a screed against Christianity, I would have picked up a copy of one of Hitchens many books with such things. While I might not have agreed with his ultimate conclusions, I would have been greatly amused by the last, great eighteenth century political wit of the twenty-first century.

Blood Of Elves


This was on my ‘wishlist’ for a while after reading about this Polish fantasy series. Only later did I learn it was the inspiration for The Witcher video games (which are exactly the kind of game I like to play but which I will probably never play at this point in my life).

I bought this after visiting a Barnes & Noble. I hadn’t planned on getting anything, but one of the staff was so nice and patient with my daughter, helping her with some arts and crafts materials they had set out, that I wanted to reward the store’s bottom line a little, so I bought this for myself and a couple of books for the little one.

Now, I will admit that I had already watched the Netflix series when I started this book. Even though this is the first of Sapowski’s Witcher books, it actually takes place after the events of the series, so there were no serious spoilers, in that regard.

Enjoyable and fun. It is fashionable now to compare fantasy always in terms of Game of Thrones, so I’ll bite. More fun and with a more manageable, but without as much of that special thing that elevated Martin’s still incomplete epic.

And I don’t see anything uniquely Polish about that mythology. Now, I don’t know Polish folk traditions, so I would have expected to find somethings I didn’t recognize, but didn’t really. What I did see where many tropes from Dungeons & Dragons.

It felt… I don’t want to say unfocused. Perhaps… leisureful? Full of leisure. A point to which he was aiming, without necessarily being in a hurry to reach it. The ending was more than a little ambiguous and clearly the story isn’t nearly done.

Also, Blood of Elves is not really a very good title for it. Sure, the topic of those words came up and I can see how they could be even more relevant for a future book, but for this one… no.

The Tenth Muse


A beautiful novel that, once I started, I rushed through. As the father of a mixed race child, like the main character, Katherine, it also made me terrified of the challenges she will face (less now, because the novel takes place in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s; but as a white, heterosexual male, I am also poorly positioned to say with any certainty what obstacles Asian-American women have to overcome).

Like many novels, it seems, Chung doesn’t quite stick the landing. There is a big set up that doesn’t deliver (obviously, Karl his the notebook and we spend something like quarter or more of the book wondering how this will be revealed and what the consequences will be and when it happens, it’s an emotional letdown; I have no problem with that, in theory, but then the meaning of denouement should be that it was a letdown, but this one felt more ‘meh’).

But the writing and the knowledge that the ending must be at least a little sad still made for a beautiful read. And probably a necessary conversation of why it felt sad (a cultural assumption that a woman who has neither a partner nor child must be sad is a trap that I fear I fell into while reading this).

Krondor The Assassins


Don’t mean to keep harping on this, but like its predecessor, there really should be a colon in the title.

I liked the more urban intrigue of this one, but it missed out by not having one of the main characters of the earlier one. This one has one roguish character named Squire James, aka Jimmy the Hand. But it missed his former companion, the roguish and rakish Locklear. Basically, the other protagonists just didn’t hold my attention.

But, it came with a third book and I imagine I will read that one too. Hopefully Locklear comes back.

Katie Woo: The Big Lie


We have a guest blogger today… someone very special to me. She wrote this wonderful essay about the amazing adventures of Katie Woo!

‘Lincoln’ By Gore Vidal


One of his most famous novels (second only, these days, perhaps, to Burr), but I was somewhat disappointed. The quality improves immensely towards the end, but I am trying not let the magnificent writing of the last quarter of the novel (and recency bias) to make me overlook the first seventy-five percent. Part of the improvement is that he mostly drops – until the very end – a subplot about one of Booth’s fellow conspirators: a callow fellow named David. The less of him the better!

His Abraham Lincoln is compelling but too distant. Aaron Burr loomed large and his young protege interested; and in my own favorite, Julian, the titular emperor and his two chroniclers are compelling, catty, and captivating. No one steps up so in the absence of Lincoln.

The writing is good, but not great. I believe that he understands the politics of the time pretty well and he is a good commentator on the realpolitik of eras predating ours. And his small details are wonderful. For example, we generally see General George McClellan as a ditherer, who let the war drag on. But Vidal portrays Washington society as worshipful of the man they called ‘Young Napoleon.’ I hadn’t realized he was so young, much less that he was ever compared to Napoleon, but I trust the author enough to believe it (though I will hold my fire on the venereal controversy).

But it is not enough. Perhaps one wishes that he had dived deeper into Lincoln’s psyche and written from his perspective.

To the reader, Lincoln sits opaquely, fascinatingly at the center, but for much of the book, the characters who orbit the man view him as a weak figure, easily stymied by his generals and hangers on and a man of wan, waffling convictions. I mention this because though I cannot for the life of me remember the title, I recently read a review of a newish history that suggests just that: Lincoln was actually rather weak and most of the credit for victory should go to the so-called Radical Republicans.

Reading ‘The Hobbit’ To My Little One


My mother read The Hobbit when I was seven (I think). A chapter a night, before bed. As soon as she was done, I took it and read it to myself. This began my lifelong love affair with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (allow me to make a pitch for his wonderful, whimsical, non-Middle Earth story, Farmer Giles of Ham).

So it was one of the great joys of fatherhood when, after a few false starts, my daughter was finally ready for me to read The Hobbit to her before bed.

Because she naturally tended to drift off, some parts were lost on her, but things stayed with her. The deaths of Fili and Kili were hard for her and she still hopes that they will come back.

But anyway… I’m reading a new book to her. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.