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February 01, 2015

Sunday Morning Book Thread 02-01-2015: Scoundrel Time [OregonMuse]

Rome Library.jpg
Rome – Angelica Library (Biblioteca Angelica)

(library photo stolen from the HuffPo who got it from this guy)

Good morning morons and moronettes citizen morons (I hope we all got ace's memo on this) and welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Or kilts. Kilts are OK, too. But not tutus. Unless you're a girl.

Book Quote

In a good book the best is between the lines.

-Swedish Proverb

The Counter Narrative

Using the influence of his magazine, National Review, William F. Buckley effectively excommunicated the John Birch Society from the conservative movement in America. The banishment was so thorough and so effective that the JBS has been more or less a fringe group ever since. The usual joke used to express contempt for the JBS, even among conservatives, is that the JBS was fond of finding a communist hiding under every bed in America.

But then a book like Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters - Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler comes out and then I wonder if perhaps the joke is on us.

From the review of Hollywood Traitors in the Washington Times:

At last. After more than a half-century there is now available a book that thoroughly discredits all the movie industry protestations that there were no Communists in filmmaking during and after World War II, when in fact there were hundreds.

Here is irrefutable evidence that they were very adept at using the screen to pound pro-Soviet propaganda into the heads of unsuspecting Americans in theaters coast-to-coast.

The more than 500 pages of "Hollywood Traitors; Blacklisted Screenwriters - Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler" expose in detail and with infinite documentation the pro-Soviet propaganda machine, including during the 22 months when Stalin and Hitler were allies.

This book is probably going to be very depressing to read when you discover the depths of betrayal and perfidy that went on during those years, and the extraordinarily successful efforts made by the communists to push their counter narrative of completely innocent, yet persecuted writers and directors. Lillian Hellman's book Scoundrel Time is perhaps the best known example of this.

I think they even teach this to school children nowadays.

Another interesting review of this book is here, starts out with this anecdote:

Once on a British talk show in the early 1970s, anticommunist actor John Wayne startled the host by acknowledging that there was indeed a Hollywood blacklist. Wayne's follow-up, however, made the host's jaw drop even farther; the blacklist, he stated, wasn't wielded by industry anticommunists against Communist Party members, but by the reverse. It was for this reason, Wayne stated, that he enlisted in the anticommunist fight in order to defend conservative screenwriters and get them back on the payroll.

Wayne, regarded by the Old and New Left, as a fascist, was in actuality more of a rebel against the establishment than they ever would be.

I am reminded of Diana West's monumental American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character which not only angered progressives who didn't like their commie roots brought out into the light, but also a number of ex-red-diaper-baby conservatives who grew up worshiping FDR and did not like their idol blasphemed with the truth. The furor over this book was so intense that West felt compelled to write a second volume, The Rebuttal: Defending 'American Betrayal' from the Book-Burners, to defend the first.

Incidentally, Diana West is also the author of The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization, which sounds interesting.

And the 'Booklist' review at the Amazon link is hilarious:

Writing in the Washington Times and elsewhere, West has proven to be a caustic critic of contemporary popular culture as well as a hawkish detractor of Islam. With this book, she fleshes out her archconservative worldview by arguing that today's popular culture is complicit in the threat posed to America by Islamic terrorists, and that the 1960s counterculture is to blame. In rejecting time-honored notions of adulthood (read: modesty, self-discipline, respect for authority) in favor of decadence and inclusiveness, she argues, the baby boomers inaugurated a culture of perpetual adolescence that erodes Western cultural identity. Channeling Samuel Huntington, West claims that this erosion of identity renders us incapable of countering potentially existing threats with adequate resolve and harshness. Although its first chapters weave together some anecdotal musings about the rise of youth culture, readers primarily interested in historical analysis might do better elsewhere. Readers seeking a sweeping polemic against the cultural Left, however, will enjoy this jeremiad's fiery indignance and playfully cutting prose.

You can just see the reviewer wrinkling his face with disgust, as if someone is holding a small turd under his nose. And I especially like his usage of "archconservative", a word typically used by old-school liberals, but not so much now. And sometimes a book is worth reading just because the right people hate it.

On her author's page at Amazon, West writes:

Shortly after I began researching and writing "American Betrayal" back in 2009, I began to feel as though I were forging a new genre, "investigative history." As I mined the discarded documents and memoirs and came across new (to me) historical figures and even heroes of the past, I realized I was engaging in an effort to reclaim what stands as a lost history -- our lost history.

There is more to find.

Of that, I have no doubt.

This brings up a point that others have made, but bears repeating: we're going to have to wait many decades, and maybe even centuries, before someone writes a reasonably accurate history of our times. It will be a long time before a history professor can publicly admit, without fear of losing his tenure or his employment, that, say, Alger Hiss was a communist spy or that the 1980s anti-nuclear "peace" movement was funded largely by the Soviet Union.

Are You Ready For Some Football?

This being Super Bowl Sunday and all, all of you 'rons and 'ettes citizen morons are invited to chime in with your favorite football books. Here are a few famous ones to get you started:

First up, there's Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback by George Plimpton, a bit of participatory journalism where joined the Detroit Lions at their preseason camp as a 36-year-old quarterback, and remained with the club through an intra-squad game before the paying public a month later, and the result is a behind-the-scenes look at professional football as it was played in the mid 1960s. I doubt if this could be done nowadays; the money involved and the seriousness of professional football is just too great for these amateur theatrics.

Then there's Semi-Tough, by sportswriter Dan Jenkins, a satirical novel that one Amazon reviewer says "...is incredibly politically incorrect, replete with satiric racial and sexist slurs, full of (as the song goes)cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women."

Next up, North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent, who played wide receiver for Dallas for 4 seasons, a novel chronicling 8 days in the life of aging player Phil Ellliot. Unlike the others, a Kindle edition is available, and it's only $1.99.

High school football is huge in Texas. I remember visiting Houston some years ago and going through the sports section of the local newspaper and being amazed at page after page after page of high school football scores. Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream by H.G. Bissinger, is an account of one season in the life of teh Permian High School Panthers of Odessa, a small town in West Texas that boasts the winningest record in Texas high school history, and how the devotion to high school football shapes the town and the people in it. Destined to become a modern classic.

I must confess I haven't read any of these. But I have read Black Sunday, a political thriller (and debut novel) by Thomas 'Silence of the Lambs' Harris, which concerns a Palestinian terrorist plot to detonate a bomb at the Super Bowl stadium during the game. I remember the movie adaptation, with Bruce Dern and Robert Shaw, being pretty good.

So what have you all got?

Here There Be More Dragons

Apparently, there's going to be another Dragon Tattoo book:

A sequel to late Swedish author Stieg Larsson's bestselling Millennium crime trilogy will go on sale in at least 35 countries from August, the book's publishers said on Tuesday.

I've never heard of the author, David Lagercrantz, and, more frustratingly, the Guardian article doesn't say how he landed such a sweet writing gig.

How sweet? This sweet:

[T]he first three books in the Lisbeth Salander series have sold in the region of 80m copies worldwide since the first book.

So you know Lagercrantz will be raking in serious krona from a worldwide audience.

This sequel is going to be called That Which Does Not Kill.

The book will continue the story of the troubled but resourceful heroine Lisbeth Salander first made famous in Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I think everybody could have guessed this.

And of course, there's this:

"What I wanted to make use of in the book was the vast mythology that Stieg Larsson left behind, the world he created," Lagercrantz told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, adding that he remained loyal to Larsson's writing style which weaved criticism of social and political issues with criminal intrigue.

I hope this doesn't mean that it's going to be a left wing sermon. Stieg Larsson was an out-and-out commie (not some weak-kneed liberal patsy), but he mostly reined it in when he was writing his Dragon Tattoo series, at least, I didn't notice it much. Don't know about this new guy, though.

What'll you bet there'll be a sympathetic Muslim character?

R. I. P.

Another famous author has passed:

Colleen McCullough, author of the bestselling novel "The Thorn Birds," died Thursday at age 77. She had suffered from ill health in recent years and died in a hospital on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific.

The publication of "The Thorn Birds" compelled her to quit her day job:

The novel, about a priest's affair with the wife of a rancher in Australia in the early part of the 20th century, raised McCullough's profile so much she felt she had to quit her research job. "There were threats, and all sorts of weirdos popping out," she told The Times in 1990.

But she wrote other novels, too:

McCullough often switched genres, writing a series of historical novels set in Rome, crime novels set in the 1960s in the U.S., and a science fiction novel titled "The Third Millennium." Her last book was 2013's "Bittersweet," about sisters in New South Wales in the 1920s.

Word Usage

This HuffPo piece that lists some words that are commonly misused is mildly interesting. I knew most of these, but here is one that caught me by surprise

Enormity: Most people think this word describes something huge or momentous. It makes sense -- enormity sounds a lot like enormous, after all -- but its primary definition is not bigness but badness. Merriam-Webster defines it as "a shocking, evil, or immoral act" or a "great evil or wickedness." However, the persistent misuse of the word has caused the definition to expand and shift over time.

That last sentence is a reminder that ultimately, words are not defined by the dictionary, but rather how people use them. Which is why it's painful to hear Joe Biden speak before veteran groups and refer to American KIAs as "fallen angels". I know what he's trying to say, but as Jonah Goldberg noted, doesn't he know that "fallen angels" are actually demons? That is, they're angels fallen from God's grace and hence have become evil. It was obviously not Biden's intent to call American servicemen demons, but that's what he kind of did.

I just hope his usage doesn't catch on.

Moron Recommendations

I received a recommendation in e-mail earlier this week for the mystery novel Woman With A Gun by Philip Margolin. I really can't shorten this Amazon blurb very much

Visiting an art museum displaying a retrospective of acclaimed photographer Kathy Moran's work, aspiring novelist Stacey Kim is stunned by the photo at the center of the show - the famous "Woman with a Gun," which won a Pulitzer Prize and launched the photographer's career...

The image captures Stacey's imagination, raising a host of compelling questions. Has the woman killed her husband...? Is she going to commit suicide? Is she waiting for someone she plans to kill? Obsessed with finding answers, Stacey discovers that the woman in the photograph is Megan Cahill, suspected of killing her husband...But the murder was never solved.

...Stacey finds that everyone involved has a different opinion of Megan's culpability. But the one person who may know the whole story - Kathy Moran -isn't talking. Stacey must find a way to get to the reclusive photographer or the truth may never see the light of day.


So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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