Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone – Book

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone – Book

A space opera of world building, world destroying, planet eaters, strange goddesses who stride across space, like the Suicide Sisters, and a “ragtag” group, united by a mission – Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone is a mashup of Star Wars and a complex video game, all brought to life with words rather than actual graphics.

Viv knows only Earth. She is a businesswoman. She has not been truly ruthless, but she has been heedless of other’s feelings as she climbed her way to the top of the business world. Just as she is in an enormous server room about to finish uploading a program which could give her dominion over her world, the Empress of Forever, very green and powerful in ways Viv has never even imagined reaches in and grabs ahold of Viv’s heart and zaps her into a place in space called High Cacereal. How is Viv still alive? How will Viv get home? How will she get back to Magda to make sure she is safe? How will she find out what happened when she sent out her virus before it was completely loaded?

Well the answers to those questions will not be quick in coming. Viv first saves the Empress’s enemy Zanj, a feisty space pirate who has been imprisoned for 3,000 years, one of the once-famous Suicide Sisters. Zanj, never one to sit still can use the Cloud to travel through space. The first of the group hunting the Empress that Zanj and Viv meet is the loveable Hong, a monk with lots of courage and common sense. Then Xiara of the piloting Ornclan is added, and Gray of the Grayframes. Of course our band of Empress-haters must travel to every corner of Max Gladstone’s  and Zanj’s world to see the damage the Empress has wrought.

Since Viv arrives in this world from the world of business she brings with her the wisdom success in business has taught her. This blend of How-to-Succeed-in-Business book lore, self-help psychological teachings, warcraft, and science fiction is kind of dazzling. How do people think up this stuff? It’s Linked in, Instagram, and World of Warcraft all rolled into one.

Despite this odd marriage of disciplines, Max brings his fantasy-built world richly alive for us. The novel is fun to read and as Viv learns the lesson that would have sealed her success as a businesswoman or made winning irrelevant, so do we. There is no I in team, but having the support of a truly connected team allows you to realize the very best version of yourself. Empress of Forever introduced me to a whole other kind of fantasy/science fiction novel for the computer age, perhaps intended for younger readers. Still, I found it fascinating to see how the genre is being transformed, and I made some new fictional friends.

Civil War 2.0

When the Civil War was won and the Confederacy surrendered, feelings of resentment ran high in former slave states. The fires may have been slowly banked after the war, but underneath all they still burned white hot and are still easily stirred to conflagration. A war that never really ended now confronts us once again as Civil War 2.0.

In those long ago days, former slaves believed that freedom was real and that they would be permitted to enjoy the full freedoms of the American republic. They wanted to own land and run for public office, go into business, and put the past behind them.

But many Southerners believed that these former slaves were inferior to white folks right down to their genes and that they should not be allowed to become fully accepted citizens of a postwar South. They were still beaten by their former owners who were joined by southerners who could never afford to own slaves, their land was stolen from them, and they were kept under firm control by white authority figures. They were rounded up and killed if they gathered in a group that might take revenge for the ways they were treated under slavery. Fear of retribution was a big motivator for the slaughters, the lynching, the KKK intimidation which I found graphically described in Ron Chernow’s book Grant.

Southern whites put pressure on Grant who became the President after the war. They insisted that no Federal troops would be tolerated to defend black folks against white backlash in Southern communities. Posse Comitatus laws were passed to give local sheriffs control over local matters. Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) showed us that these laws are still cited today, as they were in the Cliven Bundy matter when the Department of the Interior sent armed Federal employees to stop Bundy from grazing his cattle for free on government land. The ‘Feds’ were sent packing by armed militia, even though they were acting on Federal land, because this rule, which says Federal troops cannot operate in a state, is still valid.

(This Posse Comitatus rule has some value, we don’t want Federal troops storming into our states every time there is a confrontation, but giving local law enforcement carte blanche to deal with situations where their biases might affect their reactions was harmful in the case of the aftermath of the Civil War and could be/is harmful again.)

One result of Grant’s decision to pull Federal troops out of the South was to allow a beaten Confederacy to vent all its frustration on their newly freed slaves. You would think all the hate expressed in such disgusting displays of violence, bloodletting, and hate would have led to decades of shame, bowed heads, and white remorse. However, as we all know, that is not what happened.

The Confederacy has been romanticized and any white remorse is “Gone With the Wind” as somehow a whole nation came to mourn the end of the Plantation system in the South (with its now-invisible companion, slavery). The nation somehow felt sorry for the losers, and the South’s private belief that they would “rise again” (as signaled by the ubiquity of statues to Confederate “heroes” throughout the South, and by the equation that said that the Confederate flag equals patriotism, and by the fact the Confederate flag is often allowed to fly alongside the American flag) went basically unchallenged for one hundred and fifty years. But alongside the misplaced sympathy and the desire to give the losers time to lick wounds, alongside this tendency to allow a group that rebelled against the government and lost to continue to take pride in a now defunct way of life, Grant’s decision made it hard for the Federal government to step in against the KKK and other hate groups. Freed slaves died by the thousands.

No actions were really taken to fight the hate until 100 years after the war was over. “Jim Crow” bought a dishonorable peace to the South. And although the North should have been a haven for freed slaves, we know it wasn’t. These days Confederate flags wave from truck beds even in states in the North which opposed slavery and fought the army of the South in the Civil War.

We are constantly reminded by modern Republicans that the Democrats were the party of slave owners before and during the Civil War. There were rabid segregationists in the party who argued that the “races” should be kept separate, and that black folks are inferior to white folks. But the parties switched ideologies after the Civil Rights Act was passed in the mid-sixties. A few segregationists hung on in the party because, perhaps, they thought they could fight integration more successfully from inside the party, but they were reviled and were an embarrassment to the party.

Who knows if the Civil Rights bill would have ever become law if it wasn’t for Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and the four children who lost their lives when the 16thStreet Baptist Church was bombed, if it wasn’t for the fire hoses, and the mirrored sunglasses, and the buses that brought white and black people in from Northern states to show solidarity and to bear witness.

Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Bill we see the old hatreds flare up again, the Confederate flags – adopted by militia folks who are white supremacists, and now Trumpists, still interested in living separate from black and brown Americans. Sometimes it feels like the Civil War never ended and that we are fighting it once again under the direction of Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the Freedom Caucus. All those Southern accents once again reincarnating the Old South, as the anger that has simmered for a century is reflected outwards each and every day from the Senate floor.

And Trump, just a white supremacist, no legacy in the Confederacy, smiles on it all as if the reasons for his behavior don’t matter, as if he is finally one of the “good ole boys” Look at the map. Red states and Blue states clearly parallel the old Union and Confederate divide, with Red States actually multiplying. Losing the war may have ended the very profitable Plantation system (which depended on slavery) but these men, resentment stored up in their hearts, will be damned if we take away their millions, their factories, and their fossil fuels and spend money on ‘deadbeats’.

The Civil War is not over. It is being fought by a Republican Party, bloodlessly, through an organized strategy of suppressing votes, of districts which are drawn so that they will reliably elect Republicans, of obstructing legislation in the Senate, of stuffing the courts, of building pipelines, of making public lands private, of drilling in the Arctic, of refusing to credit climate change even if it threatens their own homes, of unfettering an already empowered Capitalism.

Just think of Mitch McConnell as the new Robert E. Lee, although he hardly can be said to have any nobility or charisma. If the Democrats lose this continuation of the Civil War, this Civil War 2.0, the loss could be as devastating, or even more destructive than winning the war was in 1861. Republicans do not mind disregarding our Constitution and our norms and they have turned religion into a bizarre anti-religion which sounds nothing like the beliefs I learned about in Sunday school. If they win, our future slips away into some segregated, divided Conservative state for who knows how long.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Washington Monthly

 

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner – Book

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is a sort of a “cover” of the classic book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This time there are only two girls in the Kaufman family who live in a little “Dick and Jane” house on Alhambra Street. They are named Jo (Josette) and Beth (Bethie) – the mom is Sarah and the dad is Ken.

My initial negative reactions to Mrs. Everything were decidedly generational. In Alcott’s book Jo and Beth didn’t have sex. Jo had ambitions that were not considered feminine, and she was aware that she would find it difficult to fulfill those ambitions, but she did not seem to struggle with her sexual identity, hardly an acceptable topic when Alcott wrote her novel.

However I got over myself. After all I am a child of the sixties. I did not find Bethie’s “rebirth” odd. I heard more than a few primal screams in my time. What bothered me more was the stereotypical presentation of the two sisters differing prepubescent personalities. Not every girl who likes sports and doesn’t care to play with dolls or wear dresses is a lesbian or has a sexual identity anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. The only saving grace for the lack of research into the subject can be found in the fact that the characters were intended to parallel the character differences between Alcott’s Jo and Beth.

Modern Jo knew that she was attracted to girls when she was in high school and she had quite a long relationship with her best friend. Her heart was broken for the first time when her first love got married to her high school sweetheart, a boy. Jo could never have pleased her mother by being as feminine as her mother wished her to be, and once her mother learned of Jo’s true sexual orientation, Sarah’s constant disapproval insured that Jo would be happy to leave for college.

Bethie (Beth) was every bit as feminine as her mother would wish her to be. She got lots of positive reinforcement. However, the lives these sisters actually lived most likely will not match the trajectory you think they are on.  They were born in a decade of change. Trite but true, life happens.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is about identity and reality, bravery and duty, social pressure, love, and broken hearts. It did not push the button in me that said “eureka, this is a great book”, but perhaps the way readers experience the quality of this book will turn out to be generational.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Chicago Tribune

Look for me on nbrissonbookblog.com and Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

“Spanking” Social Media: Donald Calls a Summit

“Spanking” Social Media: Wrong President, Wrong Reasons

A conference/investigation/summit is being convened at President Trump’s request Thursday afternoon, 7/11/19 to accuse social media of being biased against him and his peeps. This is patently ridiculous. Although there are a number of issues to discuss about the unexpected outcomes of having free speech on social media platforms that are open to global participation, this President will not explore any of these valid topics. That is why no major social media representatives are invited to this summit, only Conservatives. Even some Trump allies on the right are excluded from the list of invitees.

President Trump does not like, cannot tolerate, dissent. Trump has filled his administration with “yes” men and women, who do not oppose even his most undemocratic wishes but rather help him find creative ways to get his wishes fulfilled, no matter how damaging they might be to the form of government we inherited from the nation’s founders. Now the President wants a nation full of only affirmation of his every whim, full of “yes”. When has any leader had this kind of support from a nation without using the fear of death to inspire it?

Whenever the media, in any form, criticizes Trump, which thank goodness it still does, Trump lets us all see that if he had his druthers he would ruin that particular media outlet or make life so existentially difficult for them that they would have to get in line and praise his “very stable genius” every day and in every article. That would be fun, wouldn’t it. (I am sticking my finger down my throat in that don’t make me puke gesture.) How many media outlets could survive such toadyism? We would only need one state newspaper, one TV station, etc. We would be Russia.

Every book I have ever read about how to succeed in business warns against the danger of surrounding yourself with only those who agree with you (or pretend to). Eventually your ideas will become stagnant and there will be no infusion of new energy and you begin to lose your market share to companies that encourage more diversity and fresher ideas. This can happen to countries also. Once again look to the example of Russia which seems to exist on a sort of perpetual mobius strip, going forward and yet doomed to go backward in an endless loop. So not only are Trump’s tendencies unconstitutional in a republic such as ours, but to require the constant stroking, and the absolute acceptance that he alone knows what is best for America, is also counterproductive.

What Trump intends is to punish social media for allowing people to dissent. He wants to claim victimhood again. He wants social media to create algorithms that will send comments that say negative things about Trump and his policies to the trash and to take membership on social media away from individuals who post dissenting opinions.

Although he should be trying to be sure there is no foreign meddling in the 2020 election and that fake accounts, bots, and memes that are offering false information do not get into the social feed, that is not his main concern in this meeting. Instead he is whining about the unfair coverage he gets, this time from some of the American people, and he is blaming social media for letting this happen.

Free speech is a difficult thing. When, if ever, does free speech step over a line? Is using a bot a free speech right or, in the case of elections, is it a cheat? Do we really want hidden foreign intervention in our elections? Aren’t we producing enough home-grown propaganda? The issue of what constitutes free speech on social media is complex and it will be on-going because as one clever attempt is banned, new techniques, cleverer ones, will pop up. Can we ever “clean” the web the way Panera says it cleans food? What will we lose if we are able to stop bad actors from abusing social media? Will good things be lost also? Will the whole world find free speech curtailed to the detriment of the thing many call “the liberal world order”. A lot of people are very concerned about the answers to those questions.

The world seems to have devalued democracy these days and “illiberal” democracies (dictatorships) seem all the rage. Will America throw away 243 years of relative freedom to join the ranks of those who put their trust in one person only. If we follow where Trump seems to lead and where the GOP functions as his wing man then we will find our freedoms disappearing one by one. Trump sees the media as the enemy and thinks he can kill all media opposition to his authoritarian style and his thuggish policies, his style that uses lies and distractions to manipulate the media and the people until it sounds like he rules, oops, governs by affirmation. Then he will be the most popular President ever – or else! Social online media is replacing print media and is currently in a position of power. It probably will not be so easily “spanked”.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Daily Beast

Blame the Stock Market for Economic Inequality

Sometimes when you sit in the cheap seats, up in nosebleed territory, the world below seems far away and small. Although the individual actors may lose definition, the view offers compensations in terms of seeing overall patterns, movements and strategies. Watching the economy from the cheap seats is very different because all the action is above where all the rich folks are, and the cheap seats are below, sometimes far below. When doom befalls those in the pricey seats, the fallout reaches to the cheap seats, and although the impact is less, it makes already difficult lives tougher. But in the pricey seats there can be mayhem – some win – some lose – some topple back to the cheap seats. When those in the expensive seats, the box seats, win, the people in the cheap seats can watch the celebration but they are not invited to the after-party.

What my analogy says is that you don’t have to be an economics major to know about the ebb and flow of money in the world. And you don’t have to be an expert to draw some interesting conclusions. Listen to the news. Pundits quite often point out that people at lower income levels do not own stocks, but most economic decision-making must consider how bills, laws, regulations, taxes, all things economic (even tariffs) will affect the stock market. That means that the economic needs of folks who do not own stocks don’t matter much in decisions that affect the economy. Even so, the whole economy, top-to-bottom is affected by whatever economic measures are taken. The poor can get poorer, or there may be times when a flourishing economy at the top temporarily lightens economic stresses at the base.

Progressives blame Capitalism for the economic inequality that has become increasingly apparent both in American and globally. But if you listen from your cheap seat you eventually understand that a lot of the blame belongs with the stock market. Capitalism can and did exist without stocks or stock markets, but once the stock market turned investment into a game that anyone with money could play, it was as if Capitalism went on steroids.

In order for the partnership to work, industry and business have to keep the investors happy with ever-bigger profits, rising stock values and higher dividends (if they are offered). This means that workers only get higher wages after owners and stock holders get paid. Since businesses get more investments when profits go to stock holders than when they go to workers guess who gets robbed?

When there were strong unions, workers could demand a share of the pie and then stop working (walkout, go on strike) if they were ignored. Conservatives have always opposed unions, but in the past decade they have managed to weaken unions by passing right-to-work laws which have stripped workers of much of the power they once had to act as a balance against the demands of stock holders. The market is doing well, worker incomes are not.

The profits that go to shareholders keep making those who have stocks and those who own businesses richer, and since money equals power, these particular citizens are able to exert a lot of pressure in Washington and can keep getting laws passed that favor those who are already wealthy. Lobbyists, PACS that fund elections, laws like the Supreme Court decision that gave free speech (and votes) to dollars (money equals speech, corporations are people) have expanded the power of wealthy Americans who own stock. And because those who cannot afford stocks know that everyone is hurt if the stock market tumbles they are afraid to oppose even the most outrageous legislation (like the Trump tax cuts) because they don’t know how their opposition will affect the overall economy and their own everyday lives.

The stock market becomes a rocket that delivers more and more money to those who already have it and turns workers into statistics in a global worker market where American salaries already seem too magnanimous.

If it is the stock market that is responsible for a lot of the economic inequality that exists then do we do away with the stock market? Well, good luck with that. And although this conclusion was reached in the cheap seats, when the question was put to the “Google” it was clear that there are already expert articles which show that economists were ahead on this. It can take longer to draw valid conclusions about money when you have always been in the cheap seats.

https://promarket.org/how-market-power-worsens-income-inequality/

“With income, the story is a familiar one of rising inequality. In 1989 and 2016, the poorest fifth had 3 percent of pre-tax family income. But the top fifth of families saw their share of income rise from 57 percent in 1989 to 64 percent in 2016. Put another way, the bottom group’s share remained miniscule, the top group’s share rose by 9 percentage points (or one-sixth), and middle America saw its share diminish.

For corporate equity, we find that the lowest-income fifth of families had 1.1 percent of corporate equity in 1989, and 2.0 percent in 2016 (over the same timespan, the second-bottom quintile share went from 3.5 percent to 1.6 percent, so the total share of corporate equity of the bottom 40 percent fell). By contrast, the highest-income quintile had 77 percent of corporate equity in 1989, and 89 percent of corporate equity in 2016. Hence, corporate equity is considerably more skewed than expenditure or income, and has become considerably more skewed over the past three decades.

Even if the shares had remained unchanged at their 1989 levels, excess market power would have exacerbated inequality, because stock holdings were considerably more skewed than consumption. But because consumption inequality remained little changed, while inequality in stock holdings worsened, the effect of market power on inequality was even more substantial in 2016 than a generation earlier.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304387817300858

https://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/uer/vol15/iss1/7/

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/07/business/us-stock-market-income-inequality.html

A solution I like better than trying to close the stock market (which would be even harder than passing sensible gun laws) is for everyone to “inherit” some stocks when they turn 18, or 25, or, even better, at birth – and not risky stock, good solid stock, in accounts they cannot cash in until a real need arises (college, training, buying a house, starting a business) that also will serve as an investment. Medical emergencies would be handled in another way. Then everyone would have a reason to follow the market, to wish the economy well, to learn about investing and to experience an opportunity to have an economic goal and to reach that goal. This would also go far to lessen economic inequality, and reparations could be managed by giving those who have been held back by racial discrimination a larger share in the market.

You can start laughing now – but it could work and it would be so much more peaceful than a revolution.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Wall Street Journal, Giphy.gif

 

 

 

2020 Citizenship Question: Wrong Time, Wrong Administration

 

2020 Census Citizenship Question: Wrong time, Wrong Administration

As it turns out questions about citizenship have apparently been included on many census questionnaires throughout the decades, but it is not a mandated question, and sometimes it does not appear on a particular census. Deep in the first term of the Trump administration, and as we head toward a Presidential election, however, seems like a particularly suspicious time for the President to be so intent on including a citizenship question that he would be willing to defy a ruling by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, in June 2019, upon learning that information found on hard drives of a late Republican consultant named Thomas Hofeller, had shown the Republicans the way to use a citizenship question to their advantage decided against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The information specifically revealed to the Court the Republican plan to use the citizenship question to “rig” the vote by creating paranoia among immigrants “both legal and illegal” which would result in, it is estimated, at least 6.5 million Americans avoiding the census altogether.

The hard drives also revealed why Republicans thought this plan would achieve two cherished goals on their list of strategies for winning elections. 1) Including a citizenship question would result in an undercount of Democratic voters, which would allow for redistricting, and change the number of votes in the electoral college in states with large numbers of immigrants (and Democrats) – New York, Florida, and California for starters. 2) It would affect federal budget appropriations to the states because appropriations-math involves population figures, which would then be distorted by low participation of minorities in the 2020 Census (affecting the same states and, hopefully, other blue states).

Because the hard drives clearly laid out an underhanded partisan political strategy to “rig” votes in an election the Supreme Court turned down the citizenship question until a better rationale could be provided.

But, we should be aware that there could be far more disturbing reasons to ask a citizenship questions in a year when the President wants to deport a million undocumented people. Usually the names on individual census forms are not revealed, although census records do keep track of where census completers live. If you have worked on your family tree you may have benefited from the fact that a census saves such information. Lots of other data is mined from the census without naming the respondents individually.

Trump once asked every state to turn over to him their voter rolls (Jan., 2017). He said he wanted to prove that there are people voting more than once, or that “illegal” immigrants vote. Since Trump cheats constantly he sees cheating all around him and he seems to have always believed that there are thousands of illegal votes cast in American elections, although studies suggest this is not so. Voter rolls would have given Trump names and addresses of every voter in America. Who knows what kind of “witch hunt” he might have gone on if so many states had not declined. However, the census gives him another source for the information he seeks.

It is also not impossible to conclude that a census that includes a citizenship question strikes 45 as something that may help him ferret out and arrest immigrants who may be too fearful not to obey a government decree and will fill out the census to their detriment. Then it becomes a matter of “I know where you live”.

Given the attempts to end legal asylum practices, the separation of children and parents, the appalling conditions in the detention centers and the fact that time constraints in the law are being ignored – given the all-consuming nature of the President’s passion to evict immigrants – to allow only highly-skilled Christian, Europeans (or Norwegians) to come to America, it hardly seems far-fetched to fear that Census information about whether someone is a citizen or not could be abused for either taking away voting rights or in a “witch hunt”. A lawless President does not, by definition regard or follow our nation’s laws, as we have seen so often. Will Trump defy the Supreme Court or will the Supreme Court cave? Will Trump’s chaos strategy inspire enough fear to keep many Americans, who are already paranoid about government, from filling out the Census?

Need more proof: Try this article from the NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/07/us/politics/ice-drivers-licenses-facial-recognition.html

 

July 4th 2019 – Celebrate or Mourn?

July 4, 2019 – Celebrate or Mourn

Some of us want to celebrate July 4th this year as we do every year because it marks the birth of this nation we love. But we can’t. We think we may have to mourn the demise of the government our forefathers bequeathed us. We’re too sad to celebrate (although we do love fireworks). I feel sadder today than I did during the Vietnam War. The opposition to the war split America much as it is split now. In fact, this divide may date all the way back to the days of that unjustifiable war – which we lost. However the opposition was so energetic then and the war was only one issue, not a complex Gordian Knot of conflicting ideas and behaviors as we are faced with this Independence Day.

Republicans wanted to take us backwards, but they just wanted to take us to a past before contraception, before the end of the peak of the Industrial Age, to a time when Americans went to church, to a time when we could burn all the coal, gas, and oil we pleased, to a nation where the South won the Civil War (it sounds more sinister as the list progresses, doesn’t it).

Well, we are going backwards, but to a time we never had to experience in America, not the way Europe did. We have a lawless authoritarian President and so this July 4th, because of him, we have “camps” at our Southern border and a President who ignores a ruling of the Supreme Court so he can suppress the vote of Democrats, who he sees as enemies. These awful facts (and many more) make this July 4th feel more like any of the years when Europe fell under the thrall or the tanks of a mad, racist dictator – and he almost won.

Now there is opposition to our own leader who we are reluctant to see in quite such desperate terms, but Americans seem too sad, too dispirited and exhausted to call forth any of that old sixties energy. On this Independence Day we have tanks on the mall in Washington. Is this display of power just for our President’s ego, is it supposed to impress other nations, or is it perhaps seen as a bonus that it might serve to intimidate Americans who oppose this president?

We can celebrate and ignore Trump’s rally because, for now, we still have our democracy/republic, but it is in greater danger every day. So, many of us will prepare to mourn the end of our legacy of freedom until we see the white supremacist, the man who tramples on our Constitution, that person who currently occupies our White House, led away in handcuffs.

Cheers to the home of the brave and the land of the free, for now.

 

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Getty Image (News and Guts), NPR, The Washington Standard, The Verge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 2019 Book List

July 2019 Book List

If you are a fan of real space travel, there is a list of books related to the Apollo 11 moon landing, which happened around the same time as Woodstock, 50 years ago this year. I also found both interesting fiction and nonfiction available in June, enough titles to make me wish I could read faster. Print the list out, mark it up. Remember you can almost always find a summary on Amazon and at your library or your library’s web site. Some people get a lot of reading done in the summer. Happy 4 th of July.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes  *

Deep River by Karl Marlantes

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess  *

Stay and Fight: A Novel by Madeline Ffitch*

Very Nice: A Novel by Marcy Dermansky  *

The Great Unexpected: A Novel by Dan Mooney  *

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead  *

The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel by J. Ryan Stradel

The Most Fun We Ever Had: A Novel by Claire Lombardo *

In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark *

Mysteries and Thrillers

Lock Every Door: A Novel by Riley Sager

Lady in the Lake: A Novel by Laura Lippman

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

The Possession (The Anomaly Files) by Michael Rutger

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Friend: A Novel by Joakim Zander

The Need by Helen Phillips

Wanderers: A Novel by Chuck Wendig *

The New Girl (Gabriel Allon) by Daniel Silva *

Big Sky (Jackson Brodie) by Kate Atkinson  *

Biographies and Memoirs

Stronghold: One Man’s Quest to Save the World’s Wild Salmon by Tucker Malarkey

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir by Daniel R. Day

Hitler: A Life by Peter Longrich

This is Not a T-shirt: A Brand, a Culture, a Community – A Life in Streetwear by Bobbie Hundreds

The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip by Jeff Guinn

Casting into the Light: Tales of a Fishing Life by Janet Messineo

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Elsinger, Steven Scott, illus. Becker – Memoir

The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing and Coming Out by William Dameron

George Marshall: Defender of the Republic  by David L. Roll

The Life of John F Kennedy Jr.: America’s Reluctant Prince by Steven M. Gillon

Nonfiction

Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It all with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey through the Heart of America’s Fast Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Killer of the 21stCentury by Maureen Callahan

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis

The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History and of the Outbreaks to Come by Richard Preston

Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein *

I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch by John Zada

Science Fiction and Fantasy

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

Wanderers: A Novel by Chuck Wendig  *

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep: A Novel by H. G. Parry

The New York Times Book Review

June 7

Fiction

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Loudermilk by Lucy Ives

Bakhita by Véronique Almi

Spring by Ali Smith

Crime

This Storm by James Ellroy

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

Murder in Bel-Air by Cara Black

The Body in the Castle Well by Martin Walker

The Shortlist

The Selected Works of Abdullah The Cossack by H. M. Naqvi

There’s a Word for that by Sloane Tanen

Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe by Evan James

Nonfiction

The Queen by Josh Levin

No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder

Generation Wuss by Bret Easton Ellis

The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum

The Pioneers by David McCullough

Range by David Epstein

Gropius by Fiona MacCarthy

Moneyland by Oliver Bullough

June 14

Nonfiction

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

L.E.I.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated Female Byron by Lucasta Miller

The Death of Politics by Peter Wehner

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro

Clear and Present Safety by Michael A. Cohen and Micah Zinko

Women’s Work by Megan Stack

The Conservative Sensibility by George Will

Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks

The Case for Trump by Victor Davis Hansson

Fiction

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Where We Come From by Oscar Cásares

The Short List (from France)

Life of David Hockney by Catherine Cusset, trans. by Teresa Lavender Fagan

Exposed by Jean-Phillippe Blondel, trans. by Alison Anderson

Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, trans. by Molly Ringwald

June 21

50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Hasselblad and the Moon Landing by Deborah Ireland

Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landing by Roger Launius

Shoot For the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan

Apollo To The Moon: A History in 50 Objects by Teasel Muir-Harmony

Chasing the Moon: The People, the Politics, and the Promise that Launched America Into the Space Age by Roger Stone and Alan Andres

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by David Brinkley

One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman

Nonfiction

The Plaza by Julie Satow

War and Peace by Nigel Hamilton  *

Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer

The White Devil’s Daughters by Julia Flynn Siler

Assad or We Burn the Country by Sam Dagher

Fiction

Original Prin by Randy Boyagoda

Orange World by Karen Russell (Short Stories)

Strangers and Cousins by Leah Hager Cohen

Big Sky (Det. Jackson Brodie) by Kate Atkinson  *

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

The Poison Thread by Laura Parcell

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Children of the Ghetto by Elias Khoury

Walking on the Ceiling: A Novel by Aysegül Savas

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames *

All the Good Things by Claire Fisher

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

June 28

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner  *

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates

America Was Hard to Find by Kathleen Alcott

Juliet the Maniac by Juliet Escoria

Riots I Have Known by Ryan Chapman  *

Nonfiction

Democracy May Not Exist But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone by Astra Taylor

The Problem of Democracy by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein

The America: The Case for The Nation by Jill Lepore

Never Lovely So Real (Nelson Algren Biography) by Colin Asher

People, Power, and Profits by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Ill Winds by Larry Diamond. *

Spying of the South by Tony Horwitz

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

Bottle of Lies by Katherine Eban

Picnic Comma Lightning by Laurence Scott

Publisher’s Weekly

June 7

Elderhood, Redefining Aging, Tranforming Medicine, Reimaging Life by Louise Aronson (NF)

Bunny by Mona Awad (F)  *

Recursion by Blake Crouch (Thriller)

Honestly We Meant Well by Grant Ginder (F)

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Rosalie Lim (F)

The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason (Thriller)

The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History by Marc Stein (NF)

Paris, 7 A. M. by Liza Wieland (Based on life of poet, Elizabeth Bishop) (F)

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner (F)

The History of Living Forever by Jake Wolff (F)

June 14

The Body Lies by Jo Baker (F)

Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (F) *

Roughhouse Friday: A Memoir by Jaed Coffin (F)

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone (Science Fiction). *

The Capital by Robert Menasse (F)

Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel (NF)

Conviction by Denise Mina (Thriller)

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda (Thriller)

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (F) (YA to Adult)

Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life by Darcey Steinke (NF)

June 21

Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler (NF)

Happiness, As Such by Natalia Ginzberg, trans from Italian by Minna Zallman Proctor

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (F) *

The Maze of Transparencies by Karen An-hwei Lee.(F) *

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O’Neill with Dane Piepenbring (NF) (True Crime)

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada, trans. from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai (puzzle mystery)

The Friend by Joakim Zander from Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel (Thriller)

June 28

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21 st Century by Maureen Callahan (NF)

The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Vol. 4 by Neil Clarke (Science Fiction Short Stories)

Second Sight by Aoife Clifford (Crime Novel)

Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky (F)  *

Betrayal. In Time: A Kendra Donovan Mystery by Julie McElwain (F)

Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff by Anthony McCann (NF) Cliven Bundy and Son)  *

Maggie Brown and Others by Peter Omer (Character Sketches)

The Me I Used to Be by Jennifer Ryan (F)  *

Lock Every Door by Riley Sagar (Thriller)

The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity, and Promote Equality by Genesh Sitaramen and Anne L Alstott (NF) (Favors public opinion)

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig (F)  *

 

 

If Donald Wins in 2020 Blame the Mainstream Media

Reading the reactions of pundits and press to two nights of Democratic Party debates should actually soothe Donald Trump’s anxieties. The press, especially the mainstream press along with a few temporary volunteers from the Conservative Party, is going to do Trump’s job for him. We are being whipped up into a sense of panic for a number of reasons, all related to the reactionary judgments of people who have reached “a certain age” and beyond.

The angst over the use of the word socialism could be enough all on its own to put DT back in the oval office. Progressives are not trying to turn America into a socialist nation. Some progressives may one day manage to overturn capitalism, but not today. Most Democrats see ways to be progressive without displacing the capitalist system we have. Admittedly it would be much easier if wealthy capitalists pitched in to help keep America’s core values alive, but change can be legislated step-by-tedious step if necessary. Or we can start with blue states and use envy to get working Americans to insist that their red state follow suit. If we the people decide to make a budget that offers social programs rather than an obscene tax cut for billionaires, it’s a democracy, we can do that. All we have to do is get enough other Americans to agree. As long as the media keeps asking Democratic candidates about their view of socialism this will remain an unsettled question in the minds of many voters. Democratic socialism is not the same as socialism.

As more Democratic candidates design more and more programs to meet the needs of parents in a world where two parents probably work, or where there are many single-parent families, the mainstream media raises questions about their ability to get these things done. As long as they vow to pay off everyone’s college loans, pay reparations to Americans of African Descent who have been held back economically by discriminatory practices, offer everyone free medical care even though you might have to pay taxes that are a bit higher (offset by free medical care), make the economy more equal, and many more great ideas, the mainstream media passes on the message that these left-wingers are fringe people who will not be able to deliver on their promises. Then the media reminds us of how centrist most Americans are, and implies that we the people don’t want these things and will, as usual, vote against our own best interests. Clearly it is unlikely that all these benefits can accrue to working Americans at once. There are designs that must be debated, bills that must be written and passed. These things take time. And, although all of these programs would be paid for by the federal government they would be paid for with our money and most likely would be run by free-standing agencies with federal oversight.

Everyone who offers Progressive ideas admits that we will have to raise taxes on those at the top of the economy. There are justifications for this. Whether you think they are valid depends on your own ideological bent and perhaps how big you bank accounts are. (Most of us have only one bank account; some of us have none.) The biggest argument offered up so far is the “you did not build it”/”you did not build it alone” impasse in which some people say (“the makers”, in this scenario) that without the business they established society would be poorer. They call the rest of us “the takers”. Well that can’t be right. Without workers they could never have made such great products or offered such in-demand services and they would have stayed very small or failed. What they mean is that, now that they have found new workers, cheap workers, they don’t need us anymore. Except now we are their best consumers. And we can’t consume as much as they would like because they did not share the wealth with us. Workers did not think of themselves as “takers”. It’s insulting. Workers thought of themselves as partners, as family, but now they have been disinherited. New worker families are reaping the benefits of corporations and they are slowly becoming new consumers.

Are corporations American corporations, or do they belong to whatever country has the least expensive workers? If they can switch nationalities for economic reasons, haven’t they switched their nationalities altogether. If they strive to pay as few taxes into the government of the nation they still like to claim as their own, are they still patriots? If they pay no taxes can they still lobby as insiders for more favors from a federal government they no longer support? If they do not contribute to the federal budget should they have any say in deciding how the budget is divvied up?

I believe that if corporations continued to invest in America and American workers this nation would blossom and could, once again, become the hot crucible of innovation that it used to be. The media keeps telling Americans how centrist they are, how moderate. They do not ever get Americans excited about how lifting away some of our worries might free the nation to explore new technologies, medicines and medical treatments, ways to keep the planet clean and healthy and to solve lots of pesky problems that seem inherently solvable, but never get solved.

And finally, Progressive or Moderate, whoever becomes the Democratic candidate must not be obstructed by a moderate mainstream press from having a real shot at beating Donald Trump because he is an existential threat to our democracy/republic. Unless we have decided to stop flirting with authoritarianism and to actually become an authoritarian state; unless we kiss the forefathers goodbye – you tried, you lasted two and a half centuries – but close only counts in horseshoes and (I forgot the other one) but Google says it’s hand grenades. In the 2020 election there are only two choices, Trump or the candidate the Democrats choose. You cannot afford to be an independent voter. Not this time. You cannot afford to sit this one out. And if you saddle us with Donald Trump for four more years we may not be as nice to you as we have been so far.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Left Voice

Normal People by Sally Rooney – Book

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Two people, two Irish people, one male, one female, one from a wealthy family, one from a working class family, child of an unmarried mom are the focus of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People. Marianne’s and Connell’s worlds would not naturally connect, but in this case Connell’s mom cleans the house that Marianne’s family lives in. Connell’s mother is supportive and loving, doing all she can to provide for her son and to let him feel that he can talk to her and rely on her. Marianne’s father was abusive towards his daughter and his wife. Even with her father gone, Marianne’s family provides no haven of security. Her brother continues the abusive pattern of the father through a campaign of constant criticism and actual bullying which the mother refuses to intervene in. The absence of loving parents leaves Marianne alone to contend with her brother, although it is obvious she has no strategies to help her succeed against him.

Connell is a success in high school, despite his absent father. He is a football player and he’s an excellent student. Marianne uses awkwardness to keep everyone at bay in high school because she has no faith in her appearance or in her social skills. She does not try to look attractive or to make friends, but her isolation adds to her lack of self-esteem. She and Connell begin a secret and, at first, sexual relationship, but as they also talk to and confide in each other the relationship deepens and they begin to become more than friends but not an actual couple.

Connell’s academic skills and his relationship with Marianne give him the confidence to imagine escaping his working class roots and he goes off to the same upper class Trinity University that Marianne will attend, instead of going to Galway where his accent would not set him apart, instantly telling his schoolmates his background. He is a sort of fish out of water at Trinity, however.

Marianne is in her element at Trinity and she begins to fit in. The abuse she was subjected to in her family still has her choosing partnerships where she submits to cruel men. In fact as Marianne seeks out men who will treat her badly, she physically becomes thinner and thinner, frailer and frailer. (I did not like the idea that as she became more invisible, almost disappearing, she also, according to the author, became more and more beautiful. This equation which says the thinner you get the more beautiful you become is not necessarily either true or healthy.)

Connell and Marianne come together and part. They try to have relationships with other people but their unfinished business with each other keeps bringing them back into each other’s orbit, while their personality challenges keep driving them apart. It is a dance that is less about love and more about therapy. Can people repair childhood damages in each other? Can they do this without forming a lifelong commitment to each other? Maybe. Is this a bit frustrating to a reader who always wants characters this addicted to each other to find a happy ending? Of course.

Since this is a character-driven novel, do the characters ring true? Almost. They are just a bit too two dimensional for us to really care about them. This is not Anna Karenina. But of course modern Ireland, once quite as tragic as a Russia in transition, now has problems similar to those of any modern nation. These characters could come alive in a movie, but they are not quite that absorbing in Rooney’s book, Normal People. I did enjoy the rare occasions when Connell’s “Sligo” dialect was reflected in the text and I wished that we heard it more often. It is probably impossible to write a perfect book and although some authors come close it is always possible to find flaws, so despite my complaints this was still a novel that I enjoyed reading from cover to cover.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – NPR