Month: January 2019

A History of Venice (John Julius Norwich)

This long but smoothly written book, by the very recently deceased John Julius Norwich, scion of English nobility, covers more than a thousand years of Venetian history. Nowadays Venice is mostly known as an overloaded tourist destination, or as a victim of environmental degradation, rather than as the world power it was for most of its history. Norwich, who loved the city and talks in detail not only about its past but also its architecture, often tying the two together, ably restores the place of Venice in history. And in so doing, he manages to both be interesting and to show us viable alternatives to the dead end into which “liberal democracy” has led us.

The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny (William Strauss and Neil Howe)

I am almost ashamed to review this book. It is like reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey—the mere fact the someone publicly admits he has read it degrades both him and his listeners. My only defense is that Steve Bannon has repeatedly stated this book is a major influence on his thought. He’s a clever man. So I sought wisdom by following his lead, but instead, I got a rotten egg. While I still have a great deal of respect for Bannon, having read this book, the Respect-O-Meter has dropped by roughly 60%. He may gain the respect back, for example by correctly predicting the results of, and the impact of, this coming May’s elections to the European Parliament. But it will be a task, after subjecting me to The Fourth Turning.

Eumeswil (Ernst Jünger)

Ernst Jünger’s Eumeswil, one of the famous German’s last works, published when he was eighty-two years old, is often regarded as an exposition of libertarian thought. This is understandable, but completely wrong. Such a reading attempts to shoehorn concepts in which Jünger had little interest, or toward which he was actively hostile, into an exploration of unrelated themes. Moreover, it ignores that in this book, though somewhat masked, Jünger has more contempt for so-called liberal democracy than dislike for what some call tyranny. Thus, this book is not a call to rework society, or individual thought, along libertarian lines. It is instead a call for human excellence, and a criticism of the modern West for failure to achieve it, or to even try.

On Battlefield V

Last year, the giant gaming company Electronic Arts released the latest version of an extremely popular military game, Battlefield V. Each release in the series takes place in a different time period; this one recreates World War II. Such games are very popular; successful titles can take in considerably more than $1 billion for their makers, and the budget for creating Battlefield V was around $250 million. So this is big business: as big as, or bigger than, Hollywood. But all mega-corporations today kowtow first of all to their real masters, the social justice warriors of the Left, not to their owners, and that, in the context of computer gaming, is what we are here to explore today.

The Language of the Third Reich (Victor Klemperer)

Victor Klemperer is famous today for his diaries covering the Nazi era in Germany. But those were published in 1995, thirty-five years after his death. The only book he published in his lifetime was this one, in 1947: The Language of the Third Reich. Its original title, Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen (i.e., Notebook of a Philologist), with the Latin evoking Imperial Rome, is more precise and informative, but I suppose we’re too uneducated today for that title to be used. Either way, this book is fascinating in its description of the twisting of language by the Nazis, who, like all ideologues, turned words to their own ends of power.

48 Hours (William Fortschen)

I’ve read all of William Fortschen’s books.  They’re among the best of apocalypse fiction, a genre dominated by potboilers, so naturally, I preordered this book.  My big question was if the author could write something new, especially since at first glance it appears the apocalypse in 48 Hours is very similar to the EMP found in Fortschen’s most famous book, One Second After.  Without giving the story away, I can tell you this book is quite original.  And to me, the most interesting matter that Fortschen covers, indeed the plot driver of the entire book, relates to a long-running apocalypse concern of mine.  Namely, that the government, at any level, is not our friend, and would be our enemy in any real crisis where someone has to lose.

West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express (Jim DeFelice)

My great-grandfather’s uncle, William Pridham, was a rider for the Pony Express.  This is not a family legend, as are many Pony Express stories; he is listed in the Appendix to this book, which is a crisp, compelling story of the brief life of that once-iconic American enterprise.  The family connection is really why I picked this book to read, and I was not disappointed in my choice.