Portentious

I went back to the White House and talked to the President for a long time… As I was leaving, he said, making reference to Abraham Lincoln, “This is the night I should go to the theater.” I said, “If you go, I want to go with you.”

— Robert Kennedy, Thirteen Days

Takes place the afternoon Khrushchev accepted the offer that ended the Cuban missile crisis. By the time he wrote this, JFK had already been assassinated, so I guess RFK was aware of the grim irony of the president’s joke. In light of that, why would he have included his followup line?

Communism vs. Capitalism

The difference between capitalism and communism is that under capitalism, Man exploits Man, and under communism it is exactly the opposite.

— David Levy (paraphrasing)

Accidental Power

Nothing in all the known world of politics is so intractable as a band of zealots, conscious that they are in a minority, yet armed by accident with the powers of a majority.

— Samuel Morley

Books Read in 2017

Fiction (19)

The only fiction title I read that’s genuinely great is The Drawing of the Dark. The Mistborn universe is a lot of fun, though, and I emerged very impressed with Sanderson’s ability to engineer a consistent set of magical rules and then use them to the hilt in a plot that’s intricate but completely believable, at least internally.

This was my second attempt at reading The Gardens of the Moon, and while I still didn’t finish, I got far enough to count it. All it does is remind me of how much I liked The Black Company but it lacks the lived-in feeling of that superior work.

  • 100 Great Fantasy Short, Short Stories by Isaac Asimov (1987)
  • The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers (1999)
  • Walkaway: A Novel by Cory Doctorow (2017)
  • The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov (2012)
  • To Build a Fire by Jack London (2013)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much by G. K. Chesterton (2017)
  • Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (2005)
  • Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (2006)
  • Universal Harvester: A Novel by John Darnielle (2017)
  • Earth Abides by George R. Stewart (2006)
  • The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur) by Hannu Rajaniemi (2012)
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (2012)
  • Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (2016)
  • Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth (1967)
  • The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (2012)
  • The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (2009)
  • The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (2009)
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (2007)
  • The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (2015)

Non-Fiction (36)

  • A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand (1985)
  • Thirteen Days by Robert F. Kennedy (1969)
  • Vacationland by John Hodgman (2017)
  • Tremendous Trifles by G. K. Chesterton (2016)
  • Viking Book of Aphorisms by W. H. Auden (1981)
  • White Working Class by Joan C. Williams (2017)
  • How the Economy Works by Roger E. A. Farmer (2014)
  • Tour de Lovecraft: The Tales by Kenneth Hite (2008)
  • Epigenetics Revolution by Carey, Nessa (2012) Paperback (1709)
  • The Brain-dead Megaphone by George Saunders (2008)
  • What became of Jane Austen? And Other Questions by Kingsley Amis (1971)
  • New Maps of Hell by Kingsley Amis (2012)
  • Wilson’s Night Thoughts by Edmund Wilson (1961)
  • Graphic Design: A New History by Stephen J. Eskilson (2012)
  • The Paris Review Book by The Paris Review (2003)
  • Judge This by Chip Kidd (2015)
  • Resolute by Martin W. Sandler (2008)
  • Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield (2012)
  • The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific As Told by Selections of His Own Journals 1768-1779 by A. Grenfell Price (1949)
  • Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits by Bertrand Russell (1994)
  • Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks (2007)
  • A Commonplace Book by Alec Guiness (2002)
  • Hitchcock (Revised Edition) by François Truffaut (1985)
  • A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind by Robert A. Burton (2014)
  • The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning by Taylor Larimore (2011)
  • The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth (2014)
  • Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing by Charles Bowden (2009)
  • The Godfather Notebook by Francis Ford Coppola (2016)
  • Everybody Behaves Badly by Lesley M. M. Blume (2016)
  • A Splendid Savage by Steve Kemper (2017)
  • The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer (2014)
  • Sweet Theft by J. D. McClatchy (2016)
  • Samuel Johnson: The Struggle by Jeffrey Meyers (2008)
  • Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane (2004)
  • Atlas of Improbable Place by Travis Elborough (2016)

Rereads (4)

Not as many rereads this year as I’d have liked. The Book of Swords remains one of the great fantasy premises, but the actual story was not as great as I thought it was at age 12, reading all three books, as well as some of the follow-on series at a campsite with my dad.

My reread of Lovecraft was to fill in gaps: I skipped the ones I remembered reading in high school. The edition was Blood-Curdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by Robert Bloch, the same one I stole from my brother’s bookshelf, though I bought this one on the Portland trip to Powell’s.

  • The Second Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen (1991)
  • Third Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen (1988)
  • The Best of H. P. Lovecraft by H. P. Lovecraft (1982)
  • First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen (1983)

 

Conscience

A psychologist once said that we know little about the conscience except that it is soluble in alcohol.

— Thomas Blackburn

We’ll get there someday

The sun and the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago… had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands.

— Havelock Ellis