did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Guest Post - Now read this

1

The reference to Bleak House in the intro also prickles my skin - isn't that primarily known as the Dickens almost nobody gets to or through, not as a must?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:12 AM
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Just about every aspect of that list irritated me.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:13 AM
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There should be a standard warning that the link on which you are about to click will have Matthew McConaughey pointing at you in an "unindicted co-conspirator kind of way."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:15 AM
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I've read almost none of the books on that list. LoTR and Huck Finn. You can add the Bible, Catch-22, and Gulliver's Travels if we're counting things you started but never finished.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:17 AM
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I'm surprised it was published in GQ. I would have expected something like this to appear in Slate or Salon.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:21 AM
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Slate would have been "Don't read 'The Old Man and the Sea'. Do read the label on a package of Old Bay seasoning."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:22 AM
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I have to think Geoff Dyer is making some kind of a joke in suggesting The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as a substitute for The Ambassadors.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:24 AM
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5: It's the age of Contrarian Hegemony.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:26 AM
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This is the standard method of cultural criticism on the internet but I didn't expect it in GQ of all places. "This thing which may seem good is bad because of its politics. Dump it and find something not white and male."

Saying flat-out "Mark Twain was a racist." Yikes.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:27 AM
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Sorry but that list is awful and ignorant and this might be the stupidest bit of all.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:37 AM
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9.2: Kids today.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:38 AM
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"Instead of reading Jonathan Franzen, try eating nothing but cheese for three days and the having two bowls of raisin bran the next morning."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:39 AM
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10: I don't know if you've heard this before, but you look a lot like Walter Matthau.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:40 AM
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I mean, Mark Twain of all people. And tossing in "He was a man of his time, so let's leave him there. We don't need him." No, that's not even right. He was in fact not a man of his time. He was ahead of his time. Nobody of his time was like him. Read some of his antiwar stuff.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:47 AM
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Saying flat-out "Mark Twain was a racist." Yikes.

That was my reaction. I'd be interested in someone making the case, but it's not obvious to me at all, and my suspicion is that anyone who expects me to find it obvious is using an unhelpful definition of the word "racist."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:52 AM
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Also, the article "a" sounds awkward in the sentence "Mark Twain was a racist". It's sort of reminiscent of "the gays".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:54 AM
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"Mark Twain was the racist."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:55 AM
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I have seen similar lists of books before.

Does it mark me as a anti-literature to say that I'd be more interested in seeing a list like that for movies ("don't watch Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, see [something] instead")?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:55 AM
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I have a soft spot for this kind of click-bait list; I'm always interested in critiques of stuff I like. The feminist critique of Vonnegut never occurred to me, for instance, but it's obvious once it's stated.

Barry is right that the criticism of Heller is dopey. But I was talking to a female friend who described many of the books I like -- and specifically "Catch-22" -- as "boy books." That's an insight that I think about a lot.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:55 AM
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10: It really is.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:56 AM
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17 is with apologies to Margaret Cho.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:57 AM
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I'd be interested in someone making the case, but it's not obvious to me at all, and my suspicion is that anyone who expects me to find it obvious is using an unhelpful definition of the word "racist."

I would say that it's a super easy case to make in terms of looking at what he wrote about black people in America, and identifying it as full of contemptuously mocking humor. On the other hand, to the extent he has political opinions related to race and slavery expressed in his writing, they're all unambiguously abolitionist/identifying slavery as arbitrary, cruel, and unjustifiable. So, shrug? Definitely racist, also definitely committed to a society more racially just than the norm for his time.

At which point I don't think anyone's either required to read him or wrong for reading him, and I think calling him a racist is both obviously correct and probably indicative of an attitude not well suited to making useful distinctions among a broad spectrum of nineteenth century literature. Which is a completely optional thing to do -- you could read either nothing that old, or only slave narratives and the like, and be a perfectly well-educated person.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:00 AM
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I haven't read it in a while, but I think black people in his book came across better than white, male pornography enthusiasts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:04 AM
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Our local newspaper had a story on this list that was headlined "GQ says don't read the Bible." So I think they're trolling everybody.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:08 AM
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Dear internet: You're doing the equivalent of pointing out that Dostoevsky was an anti-semite. Worth remembering. Doesn't mean his his books aren't towering works of genius.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:10 AM
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22: Obviously there are many ways to approach work by people in the distant past whose values don't coincide with ours. The author of the list seems to have opted for mindlessly smarmy presentism, which doesn't impress me as a particularly valuable stance. I sometimes think people could do with being reminded that being born in 1995 instead of 1845 isn't actually an impressive achievement on their part.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:11 AM
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They were seriously too long and almost impossible to follow because every Karamozov has like 15 different names and nicknames.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:12 AM
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"I never could get into Joseph Heller's Catch-22. It fails to capture the absurdities and impossible conflicts of war. "

Um, what? I mean, I can grok disliking the book, but if it does anything, it captures the absurdities and impossible conflicts of war.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:12 AM
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28: Yes, it's like saying hip-hop sucks, because there aren't any rhymes.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:14 AM
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Decades after the book was written, the absurdities and impossible conflicts of war are still out there. Plainly, the book failed to capture them. Or it let them escape after capture, one or the other.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:17 AM
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Which is a completely optional thing to do -- you could read either nothing that old, or only slave narratives and the like, and be a perfectly well-educated person.

This is what the list is recommending. It says "Don't read Lonesome Dove" and then clarifies that what they mean by that is "Don't read anything by Larry McMurtry, or anything else vaguely similar to Lonesome Dove". Same thing with Mark Twain, Hemingway, etc. I do see how framing it this way is a good way to draw attention to the books they actually want people to read.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:18 AM
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I do love it. I mean, yes, a 'boy book' in that I think only two women are mentioned, and one's an epileptic whore and the other is a secretary in a fetish uniform, but still great.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:18 AM
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No, wait. Major Major Major Major's mother is mentioned in passing, I think.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:19 AM
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Or it let them escape after capture, one or the other.

Catch 22 And Release


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:21 AM
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I've read virtually none of these. AIHMHB, I love Hemingway, but I read most of his stuff when about 20. OTOH, I greatly disliked A Farewell to Arms, mostly because of the hypocrisy and narcissism of the narrator. Now that I've read more novels, I wonder if Hemingway was doing that deliberately.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:26 AM
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27: But also hilarious and tragic.

Karamozov

That makes 16.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:26 AM
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22: I'm deeply skeptical of pro-canon arguments. I mean, I suppose there's some Shakespeare that Americans ought to read, and the Bible, too. But not much else. So you won't get any argument from me on this:

you could read either nothing that old, or only slave narratives and the like, and be a perfectly well-educated person.

But I wonder how we ought to think of Twain and race, and I'm not sure I agree with you on that.

People say: "Everybody is racist." That's a statement that is true and obvious, but it's not helpful when describing the racism of specific individuals, or even groups of people.

"Lincoln was a racist," however, is a true and interesting statement that I think has content beyond the broad general statement.

But I'm provisionally going to agree with Ned in 14 and say that Twain, even by the standards of our time, holds up pretty well. The antiwar stuff that Ned cites is suffused with an anti-racist sensibility, even when it's not explicitly anti-racist. The US invasion of Iraq -- like the US domination of the Philippines that Twain criticizes -- was founded on racism.

Here's a typical bit of Twainthat might support me and Ned, or it might not. Take this quote, spoken by a woman who had been a slave:

An' we had chil'en - seven chil'en - an' we loved dem chil'en jist de same as you loves you' chil'en. Dey was black, but de Lord can't make no chil'en so black but what dey mother loves 'em an' wouldn't give 'em up, no, not for anything dat's in dis whole world.

I'd argue that Twain is making a joke here. But even if we concede that, I'd still have to make the case that it's not a racist joke. And I'm inclined to do that, too.

The story itself strikes me as a rather remarkable commentary on white privilege. But I can see a counter-argument that presents it as an example of white privilege.

I dunno. I'm still working it out.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:29 AM
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And why is it Brothers Karamazov and Brothers Grimm but not Brothers Marx?


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:30 AM
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39

Brothers Smothers, Brothers Flying Burrito


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:32 AM
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40

For my own, I'd say read Franzen's The Twenty-Seventh City instead of Freedom or The Corrections (not that I have anything against either of those books, but I think Franzen has taken a lot of undeserved flack based solely on reading of his later books).


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:33 AM
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I've never read Franzen and insult him purely because I've got Orpah's back.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:34 AM
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42

Got her backwards, even.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:35 AM
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43

And Moby, Franzen is BTW a very Midwestern writer. He said something like "my books are just about Midwestern families". Which may or may not be of interest to you.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:37 AM
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I've had enough of that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:38 AM
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42: Moby is going by her birth certificate.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:40 AM
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46

For mine, I would also say don't read Tolstoy, at all. I don't have a good substitute though. My Russia history is all nouveau regime.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:41 AM
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"War or Peace" would make a good "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:43 AM
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"I never could get into Joseph Heller's Catch-22. It fails to capture the absurdities and impossible conflicts of war. "

Because you just know that the editors of GQ have deep experience of the absurdities and impossible conflicts of war. Heller only flew 60 missions as a bomb aimer, what does a guy like that know?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:45 AM
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Actually Dispatches is a good book too.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:46 AM
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50

Being or Nothingness would be a good alternative title for Hamlet.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:46 AM
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51

Weiner's Legacy of Ashes instead of Kingsolver's The Lacuna. Not that that's canonical, exactly.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:51 AM
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But it will be canonical once people like the ones writing this list get to set the curriculum.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:52 AM
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13 Thanks for the compliment.

28.last It's almost as if the book coined a popular catchphrase summing up the absurdities and impossible conflicts of war. If only I could remember what it was...


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:52 AM
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As others have said, the guy is a posturing moron.

The phrase chasm of such yawningness is easily worse than any four consecutive words written here by anyone, even Pauly Shore.

Bleak House is one of Dickens truly great novels, the appalling Esther chapters notwithstanding.

I think the problem with drawing up a list like this (or an equivalent for music or films) is that it makes competitive posturing really easy-- maybe not even maliciously. There are for instance definitely books I'd like to have appreciated more than I actually did, let alone books I have but have not actually read even though I found the time to watch Bob Odenkirk on TV last night.

All that said, here are a couple of books that really affected the way I think and that I still like, and which I think are underappreciated:
Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
Auden's Caliban to his Audience
Okrent's Last Call

from recent reading,
The sections of Peter Gay's Weimar Culture that I can understand (my not actually knowing much about say German theater) were both really interesting and very clearly reasoned.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:57 AM
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Everyone says read Crooked Timber, but you should really read Unfogged.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 9:59 AM
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Instead of DeLillo's Underworld, DeLillo's Cosmopolis.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:01 AM
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I only read Crooked Timber up to the part where it linked Unfogged.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:02 AM
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BTW, it's not one idiot who wrote that list. It's 21 fucking idiots.



Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:02 AM
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46. Gogol is quite good, and I think Chekhov basically invented the short story-- his best are really wonderful.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:04 AM
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Much love for 55.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:04 AM
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Gardner's Grendel instead of Heaney's Beowulf. Or indeed anyone's Beowulf.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:07 AM
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58: I hadn't caught that. I guess that explains why the choices on both the initial and alternate lists felt sort of random.

My verdict was "He's trolling, but he's not trolling hard enough." I guess too many cooks spoil the contrarian posturing.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:08 AM
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Moby Dick was really long, weird, and depressing. Read the novelization of Free Willy instead!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:12 AM
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So are they right about the books that we SHOULD read? Anyone familiar with the more obscure ones (#1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20)? I had not heard of any of those except The Worst Journey In The World which I will borrow from my parents some day.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:13 AM
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65

Ulysses is very hard to understand and only has a few good sexy parts. Read 50 Shades of Gray instead!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:15 AM
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66

Actually, instead of War and Peace, Moby-Dick. Although long and weird and arguably depressing, it's also almost always interesting and in a whole swathe of ways represents a polar opposite to the profoundly toxic ideology of Tolstoy.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:15 AM
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You should definitely read Earthsea, but not for the reasons given. And I assume you've done that already.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:18 AM
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I was OK with War and Peace until the last chapter(s?), where Tolstoy dropped any pretence of telling a story and simply launched into a meandering "allow me to hold forth on my opinions about everything under the sun" screed that seemed to go on forever.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:19 AM
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I wasn't ok with any of it, except the bit where the stupid little kid gets shot. Fistpump.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:20 AM
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Anyway, instead of reading War and Peace you should watch the episode of Cheers where Sam reads War and Peace in an attempt to impress Diane.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:25 AM
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66: Do you care to elaborate on that? I don't know what "profoundly toxic ideology" you are referring to -- and no idea how Moby Dick could represent the polar opposite.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:27 AM
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64: I have OPINIONS on:

#6: DO NOT READ The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard, which focuses way too much on inexplicably, infuriatingly precocious children; BUT DO READ The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard, which joins her indisputably fine prose to much better characters and architecture; AND ALSO THE EARLIER The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard is quite good.

#15: DO READ Angels by Denis Johnson, but ahead of that, especially if you have speculative-fiction sympathies, DO READ Fiskadoro by Denis Johnson, AND ALSO EVERYONE'S CONVENTIONAL WISDOM SAYS OF COURSE DO READ Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson.

#18: DO READ Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal AND ALSO DO READ PRETTY MUCH ANY HRABAL YOU CAN FIND WITH ESPECIAL REGARD TO Closely Watched Trains and I Served the King of England.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:31 AM
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In fairness, I haven't read most of the "read this instead" books, and obviously you shouldn't read Salinger after age 17, but it seems to me that you can write off most of the recommmenders on the GQ list as ignorant, preposterous philistines. Now let's read the comments!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:31 AM
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Oh good peep gets me. Fist bump, bro hug.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:33 AM
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The whole article is rubbish enough that I doubt I'll ever be tempted to click on a link to GQ again but to me the most egregious entries were the Huck Finn pair b/c both authors are simply dumb and wrong (but thank you Caity Weaver for reminding me that although Peter Theile is definitely a dick I still don't have to feel all that bad about dead Gawker) and the Slaughterhouse 5 one because it'd be a real shame for hungry readers to miss both Vonnegut's voice and uncommonly non-nostalgic/triumphalist take on how shitty WWII was for the Germans, too. It's also hard for me to think of Vonnegut as a big ol' sexist (although, maybe? what do I know?) when the only reason I ever read anything of his was b/c of the enthusiasm of a proudly feminist academic friend who is a superfan.

Barry really does have a point about Catch-22, though.


Posted by: Swope FM | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:33 AM
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65 ftw.

Actually, most of the pairs on the list are either "Read both, they're amazing!" or "Why would anybody read either of these turkeys?"

Also, I like the fucking Bible. I don't believe a word of it (/oversimplification) but it's a rich and varied read and anthropologically fascinating. And of course the cretin at GQ hasn't read it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:33 AM
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62 gets it right. At times it hits the right inspired trolling notes, I wasn't expecting the Bible but it's a good troll, but most of it isn't up to say Slate's trolling standards. For example, I basically didn't feel personaly trolled at all, there were no books that I love on the list. Where's the Great Gatsby? War and Peace? All the substitutes are actual books and not like graphic novels or TV shows or tumblrs, or even like a YA novel. Also literally all of the "don't reads" are by white men, can't you find some don't reads by white women? No one wants to step up to the trolling big leagues and pick Jane Austen? Or some sexist black canonical works? A better troll would have Invisible Man or the Autobiography of Malcom X. Also it would have some nesting, like "Don't read Dracula, read Frankenstein" and then later on the same list "Don't read Frankenstein read Angels. (Which I'm sure is wrong, you should read Frankenstein.) Basically more of the "don't reads" should actually be books you should read.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:34 AM
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And Barry, and maybe CN! Fist bumps, bro hugs all round.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:34 AM
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79

Hugs for everyone!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:36 AM
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80

Didn't see 65 and 70 while I was writing that comment, but they're perfect. Don't read War and Peace, watch Pretty Little Liars.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:37 AM
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76: The further I get from my faith, the more astounded I am by the authentic letters of Paul as truly remarkable bits of history to have survived. It's like a historians dream. If only we still had one of the letters from the Corinthians back to Paul.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:39 AM
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Right back atcha RH


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:41 AM
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64. The book listed in 18, Hrabal's Too Loud a Solitude is lovely, idiosyncratic and strong. But Hrabal's prose style is pretty unique and is an essential part of his writing-- I haven't read the English translation, but it would have to be exceptional for the result to work well.

Worst Journey is completely fantastic.

Don't know about the others. I guess it's nice that GQ is writing about books at all. I went to dinner the other night and the restaurant had bookshelves with page-side-out books as decor.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:41 AM
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If only we still had one of the letters from the Corinthians back to Paul.

"Dude, it's over. Stop sending us these letters and just move on."


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:41 AM
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81 gets me.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:42 AM
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"Paul - please add me to your LinkedIn network"


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:44 AM
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I also haven't read any of the suggested alternatives, and now I never will since they were recommended by idiots.

Instead of reading War and Peace, read Resurrection which is not only actually funny in parts but vastly shorter. Or, if you're determined to spend a whole lot of time reading about Russians being miserable and killing each other, read And Quiet Flows the Don.

Instead of reading Atlas Shrugged, do literally anything else. But I guess that's an obvious one.


Posted by: Swope FM | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:45 AM
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Geoff Dyer lazily dismissing The Ambassadors makes me feel better about never having gotten into Geoff Dyer.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:49 AM
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87.1 Some of them are good. I mean Dispatches, as noted above, is pretty damn good.

I even like the books of one of the idiots, Jeff VanderMeer, although this makes me want to my own recommendation, don't read the Southern Reach trilogy, do read Roadside Picnic.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:50 AM
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can I add that Hemmingway's image is now so unfashionable that it seems to be taking the good books down with it? Sure Old Man and the Sea is maybe just OK but at least as of maybe ten years ago A Farewell to Arms seemed legit great, especially the Caporetto scenes


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:50 AM
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Ten yrs ago when I read it


Posted by: RH | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:51 AM
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71: I haven't though this through deeply, and don't remember either in great detail (especially Tolstoy), but:
War and Peace : Moby-Dick
xenophobic : cosmopolitan
aristocratic : technocratic
hierarchical : egalitarian*
agrarian : (proto-) industrial
rentier capitalism : managerial capitalism
forced labor : wage labor (stock-options, even)
fatalism : free will**
social stasis : social mobility
nationalist : globalist
I think this can be summed up as:
anti-enlightenment : pro-enlightenment
Which IIRC is one of the takeaways of Berlin's fox/hedgehog analysis.
*Of course the ship's company is hierarchical, as is the army; but the civilian societies are totally different.
**Which ends badly. But Tsarism ended worse.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:53 AM
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The early stories of In Our Time also don't deserve to be thrown out with the bathwater.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:53 AM
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Ooh, instead of Lolita read Ghost World.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:54 AM
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W&P is bad in exactly the ways that Tolstoy thinks it's good, but it's good in exactly the ways that Tolstoy thinks he doesn't care about. Read it purely as well-crafted soap opera.

Ooh, here's a good one "Don't read War and Peace, watch Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812."


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:56 AM
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Instead of "Moby Dick" read "One Fish, Two Fish."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:57 AM
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92: This sounds like you're contrasting 19th century U.S. with 19-century Russia.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:57 AM
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Forgot the main point of 95.1, which was to bring it back to the Berlin thing from 92, which is that Tolstoy is a fox who thinks he's a hedgehog. Tolstoy completely misunderstands his own talents.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:58 AM
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95. Anna Karenina is even more interesting this way-- LT likely intended to write a realistic morality tale, he inadvertently made Anna and Vronskii into characters trapped by their author.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:59 AM
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90: I agree and find the situation regrettable. Although I may not really know what I'm talking about since the only Hemingway novels I've ever read all the way through were Old Man and Islands in the Stream. But the short stories (and Islands really reads like several short stories stuck together), of which I've read nearly all, collectively made a strong impression on me and seem too good to throw out with Hemingway's reputation.


Posted by: Swope FM | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:03 AM
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I think I know what 95 is getting at, certainly it's hard to imagine anyone who likes novels at all for fun not liking War and Peace at a superficial soap-opera level once you get into it. OTOH, and I can't really remember it well enough to do an actual defense, but I doubt a changed or modified or cut-down version would improve it, it felt like a pretty unified whole. Eh, this comment is not value-adding.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:04 AM
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97: I think the books do actually embody the countries (and the countries' images of themselves*) quite well.
98: Yes. Where I part from Berlin, and you, is that I see no virtue at all in Tolstoy's work. He can write good descriptive passages, but very rarely does so. Even granting the bones of a decent soap opera are in there, they're buried in a mound of extraneous crap.
*The US image at least. Don't know about the Russians.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:04 AM
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And IIRC Berlin said Tolstoy was a fox who wants to be a hedgehog, which makes him all the more despicable. A genius who wants to be a moron. Fuck him.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:08 AM
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The scene in War and Peace where you go into Napoleon's head as he's looking at an allegorical painting of his infant son (I think?) bestriding the world is one of the funniest things I've ever read.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:14 AM
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All the substitutes are actual books and not like graphic novels or TV shows or tumblrs, or even like a YA novel. Also literally all of the "don't reads" are by white men, can't you find some don't reads by white women? No one wants to step up to the trolling big leagues and pick Jane Austen? Or some sexist black canonical works? A better troll would have Invisible Man or the Autobiography of Malcom X.

Yeah, even for a list of "things you don't have to read" that people already don't want to read because they were assigned them in high school, it's not a very interesting list.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:15 AM
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Anyhow, since the thread is oddly turning into a Tolstoy referendum, I think this Michael Wood review from ten years ago is good on the book's virtues and limitations.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:18 AM
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That's a really long review.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:20 AM
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Maybe we should go back to calling him "Count Tolstoi" like people did in his day.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:28 AM
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Anyway, instead of reading War and Peace you should watch the episode of Cheers where Sam reads War and Peace in an attempt to impress Diane.

Was this the same one where Frasier tarted up Tale of Two Cities to keep Norm, Cliff, & etc interested? A classic...


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:18 PM
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Don't read Moby Dick, which doesn't have any women. Instead watch the Friends episode where Joey reads Little Women.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:20 PM
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Instead of Moby Dick, read Moby Hick.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:21 PM
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War and Peace is fucking amazing, and Mossy should be imprisoned. The funniest scene in it to me is when Pierre is wandering around Moscow with a plan to kill Napoleon, and he runs into a French soldier who wants to know the best way to pick up Russian women. I love it that the stereotype of the French men in Russia in 1870 is exactly the same as the stereotype of French men in the US in 2018.

101: I originally started reading an abridged version, and it was really bad. I'm not sure why, because it's not the most efficiently told story, but it really wrecked the pacing. The theory of history chapter could be cut, but I have to give Tolstoy credit for putting the theory in a book about Napoleon, which immediately disproves his theory.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:23 PM
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109: That was great.

"It's a far, far better ass kicking I give today than any ass kicking I have given before."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:24 PM
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I think Wood is too generous. The theory of history is stupid and incoherent; if Tolstoy did this consciously he's either bullshitting or trolling.
The characters aren't just helplessly pushed around by fate and nature, as a microcosm of the forces of history, they're actively stupid and vicious people. And there's no moral theory being advanced in that: the stupidity, and at least some of the viciousness, is explicitly and repeatedly praised and eventually rewarded.
And I don't see reason to interpret the idiocy as a knowing ironic analysis of reality when, as Wood points out, Tolstoy's later life and philosophy are consistent with a genuine belief in the virtue of ignorance, backwardness, and most of the vices I listed in 92.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:29 PM
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19.2: It has an intensely male point of view, so I think "boy book" is fair. The most prominent female character in the book is Nately's whore, whose name we never learn (I think).


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:33 PM
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112 last: Except that isn't a meta-ironic move, because Tolstoy argues at great length that Napoleon actually wasn't a good general, because he supposedly fucked up his dispositions in various ways. Where the supposed point of the theory is that nobody's dispositions mattered at all, because human agency is always overwhelmed by events (or God, Mother Russia, or something; see "incoherent"). I read that as Tolstoy either being an idiot, or realizing the transparent falseness of his theory and therefore trying to downplay the effects of Napoleon's agency.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:44 PM
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I don't know how he was at arranging armies, but he sure knew how to arrange different flavors of ice cream.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:46 PM
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Dammit I was going to buy ice cream today.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 12:47 PM
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Napoleon's preserved penis is (for real) kept in New Jersey in the home of a doctor, which frankly supports Tolstoy's theory of history.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 1:48 PM
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116: No, it's not ironic. Tolstoy clearly believes his stupid theory. A normal person wouldn't have juxtaposed his theory to the obvious counterexample, however.

I have a crank theory of my own, that the secret to great writers is that they have incomplete control over their output, and that there is a gap between their intention and their result. Why does Shakespeare put the best speech into the mouth of the villain of Merchant of Venice? Because it sounded good and he got carried away. As soon as authors get complete control over their output, they instantly suck. This is eventually what happened to Tolstoy.

War and Peace is great because it has literally everything in it. It has battle scenes. It has dinner party scenes. It has at least one cross-dressing scene. It has an incredible richness of detail all through the book.

There have been a bunch of recent TV shows that were well-regarded in their first seasons, but were eventually dismissed as soap operas as they became increasingly melodramatic. (Think Homeland or Scandal.) Early on they can keep all of the ingredients in proper balance, but the need to keep the story going makes them force the pace. War and Peace is one of those really good first seasons, but for the entire length of the book.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 2:12 PM
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51: I would like to subscribe to your newsletter and also hear more about this.

In actual no-read-this news, don't read Hillbilly Elegy (duh) but instead read What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 2:23 PM
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120 is a nice idea, lots of supporting writers. There are meticulous writers for counterexamples though-- Bulgakov, Gibbon, Hazlitt, Victor Hugo...


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 2:27 PM
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I have a crank theory of my own, that the secret to great writers is that they have incomplete control over their output, and that there is a gap between their intention and their result.

I think of it as tapping into the music in their brain, versus scripting every note. I think it about comics, too. That what makes them quick is sometimes that they're operating on a faster, tic-like channel.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 2:28 PM
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I only skimmed the GQ list, but the weirdest part to me was that one of the "read this insteads" was Death Comes for the Archbishop, which is at least as dated as many of the "do not reads" and pretty damn racist as well.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 2:34 PM
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Of all those selections, even the Twain, the craziest is #19. "Don't read this great if overstuffed Pynchon novel, arguably one of the best American novels of the past fifty years; instead read this slender Pynchon novel--but not The Crying of 49, which is much shorter and also a vastly better book; read the one that could be pleasantly replaced by The Big Lebowski."


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 2:49 PM
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Anonymous 125, you are the MOST right


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 2:57 PM
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The obvious response is "don't read: A magazine that spends 48 pages talking about pocket squares if you want insightful literary advice".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 5:04 PM
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Dismissing Goodbye to All That for a bit of incidental racism and suggesting Dispatches instead is a master stroke though.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 5:05 PM
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125 was not me but I wish it was.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 5:10 PM
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What devilry is the linked story, where the pictures don't load until you scroll to that part of the page and start reading, at which point the text jumps down because the picture loaded? I can only hope all sites adopt that style because then I would finally quit the internet.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 5:19 PM
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TPM does that, unless you give them money.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 5:22 PM
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I gave them money.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 5:27 PM
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I did too. That means it works.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 5:28 PM
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121: Yes! I'm semi Appalachian and read several books before deciding on that one as my don't-read-that rec. Gawd, I hated Hillbilly Elegy.


Posted by: Blank Stare | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 6:03 PM
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134: I've successfully (and slightly guiltily) avoided reading it, but both she and her book are great.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 6:12 PM
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Keep on avoiding! I only read it because so many well meaning midwesterners said they liked it. I should have made them read the Catte book first.


Posted by: Blank Stare | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 6:19 PM
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If you go to Midwest school, they teach you how to fake sincere well meaning.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 6:21 PM
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I really hope GQ makes terrible literary criticism a regular feature of their publication. It'll be like the NYT style section, but like, highbrow.

The Slate editors are already panicking.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 6:36 PM
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Or like the NYT book review, but stupider.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 6:38 PM
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(125 was me. Stupid browsers.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 6:53 PM
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I'm probably never going to read him anyway.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 7:46 PM
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128 Yes, they're both great books.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 7:51 PM
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121: The theory goes:
0. The Lacuna contains two books. The first one, in Mexico, is excellent and unobjectionable.
1. The second one is in America, and is about McCarthyism. This one is crap. It's obvious, uninteresting, and totally lacking in fictive justification for its political point; and said point has already been conveyed to every likely reader back when they did The Crucible in high school.*
2. So, instead of reaffirming one's lefty preconceptions by reading Kingsolver's shitty novel, step a bit outside the echo chamber and read Weiner's book, which points out that sometimes there are in fact witches in the world, and that the CIA has a deep history of sucking at witchunting.
*Which is not to deny that the point is valid and worthwhile; just that reaffirmation of free speech isn't a sufficient response to the world. Sometimes security concerns are legitimate too.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 7:59 PM
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142: yes; and neither entirely devoid of incidental racism, either, if I'm remembering Dispatches right.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 10:55 PM
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Anyone who disses Goodbye to All that is dead to me forever. It's not a perfect book, and no doubt his treatment of Egypt is racist, but as a portrait of the horror of WW1 and the virtues that made it possible, I think it is unsurpassed, though not unequalled.

Of course, when I first read it, aged 13, I thought the important passages were those dealing with the brutality and horror of his public school, and that the war bits went on too long.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:03 PM
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I have a crank theory of my own, that the secret to great writers is that they have incomplete control over their output, and that there is a gap between their intention and their result.

Kipling would have agreed with you:

I had learned to distinguish between the peremptory motions of my Daemon, and the 'carry-over' or induced electricity, which comes of what you might call mere 'frictional' writing.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:05 PM
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as a portrait of the horror of WW1 and the virtues that made it possible, I think it is unsurpassed, though not unequalled.

It's worth remembering, though, that Graves does not really differentiate between "things I saw happen", "things someone told me happened" and "things that I think sound good even if they never happened". You can't make tea in a machine-gun cooling jacket, nor can you turn your machine gun into a syncopated jazz machine gun by taking some of the bullets out of the ammo belt.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 11:48 PM
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Next thing you'll be telling me is that Elizabeth Jane Howard's father did not once save the day by pissing on the barrel of an overheating Lewis gun.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 1:05 AM
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146: Der grösste Zauberer wurde der sein, der seine Zauberungen selbst wie fremde, eigenmächtige Wesen vorkämen

(The greatest magician would be he whose tricks themselves appeared even to him to be foreign, independent forces)

Lessing, I think. I may be misquoting slightly towards the end.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 2:53 AM
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Although I may not really know what I'm talking about since the only Hemingway novels I've ever read all the way through were Old Man and Islands in the Stream

The thing about Islands was that Hemingway gave up on the book because he thought (pace Nelson Jakes the tall communist from To Have and Have Not) it was shit. After his death, the family dug it out of a drawer, edited it, and published it for the greater glory of literature and the Hemingway Foreign Rights Trust.

Also, people are throwing shade on Goodbye to All That? What? I haven't read Dispatches for a while and I fear that it might be like a lot of Hunter Thompson's work - fun the first time around and when you're 21 but maybe not the second.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 3:03 AM
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A better troll would have Invisible Man or the Autobiography of Malcom X.

Actually, a much better list would be "which of these books should you not read, but read another book of the same name instead?"

So, read "The Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, don't read "The Invisible Man" by HG Wells. Don't read "Last Call" by Daniel Okrent, read "Last Call" by Tim Powers.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 3:42 AM
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Don't read the Grundrisse, read "Foundation".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 4:04 AM
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Don't read Atlas Shrugged, read an Atlas ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 4:09 AM
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143. Also, don't read Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible," read Achebe's "Things Fall Apart." The former is a pile of trash, the latter is a gem.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:11 AM
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Don't read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, read The Alchemist by Ben Jonson


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:13 AM
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OT: On the one hand, this is a horrible situation. On the other hand, it's good to see confirmation of my stereotypes about Philadelphia, people who do "marketing", and people who post sappy stuff on Facebook.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:26 AM
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More evidence that when "quiet" or "sleepy" modifies a town in a newspaper article, it means mostly white.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:34 AM
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Mostly white and murdery.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:36 AM
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Or with headless horsemen.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:37 AM
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Contrary to what you might think from television shows starring elderly ladies and vicars, hardly any exurban whites are murderers.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:38 AM
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But everybody who post stuff about how their spouse is the center of their universe is cheating on them or contemplating murder or both. No exceptions.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:42 AM
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Anyway: Read "Full Fathom Five" by Max Gladstone, don't read the music to "Full Fathom Five," composed for the lute by Robert Johnson to accompany the original production of The Tempest. On second thought, do, that sounds awesome.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:43 AM
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159: A subset of "murdery".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:43 AM
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149: Google tells me it's »Der größte Zauberer würde der sein, der sich zugleich so bezaubern könnte, daß ihm seine Zaubereien wie fremde, selbstmächtige Erscheinungen vorkämen.« from Novalis.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:50 AM
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re: 162

Bonus. Lute tablature is actually letters.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:57 AM
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Don't read My Struggle, read the shorter one by the less irritating guy.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 5:59 AM
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Things Fall Apart did not impress me.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:00 AM
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I thought "Falling Down" was pretty good, as far as Michael Douglas movies go.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:01 AM
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Also, people are throwing shade on Goodbye to All That? What?

Only as part of a larger campaign to not read anything old for fear of being infected by racism.

143. Also, don't read Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible," read Achebe's "Things Fall Apart." The former is a pile of trash, the latter is a gem.

I think the latter is already more prominent.
A) I read it in school and did not read the former in school
B) There were lots of questions about Things Fall Apart in school quiz competitions indicating that everyone had read it in school.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:09 AM
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47: I had a friend who would read only the romance novel parts of war and peace once a year.

the catch-22 doesn't capture the absurdities of war thing is the dumbest but this is a close second, "tristram shandy at least has the virtue of occasionally being funny." occasionally funny? occasionally? tristram shandy is hilarious from start to finish, like, one of the funniest books of all time. this is a case in which the click-baity author has not only not read the book he disprefers, but neither has he read the one he recommends.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:15 AM
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165: Ooh, indeed!


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:16 AM
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"disprefers" is so outside of my idiolect that, combined with being primed by a discussion of an old book, my eyes initially parsed the 'f' as a long s.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:19 AM
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"Life, liberty, and the purfuit of happiness."


Posted by: Opinionated Woody | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:31 AM
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I agree with 125. Another choice that triggered me, though, was the John Adams couplet. Nothing against the author of the recommended book, or the late Pres. Garfield and his doctors, but really now, you're reading non-fiction, and you're going to substitute for the guy who was an active participant in the foundation of the country a story about medicine and quackery?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:33 AM
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Quackery was at least strongly subtextual in the foundation of the country.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:36 AM
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Anyway: Read "Full Fathom Five" by Max Gladstone, don't read the music to "Full Fathom Five," composed for the lute by Robert Johnson to accompany the original production of The Tempest

Don't read Hustler, watch The Hustler.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:49 AM
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Here's a typical bit of Twainthat might support me and Ned, or it might not. Take this quote, spoken by a woman who had been a slave:

An' we had chil'en - seven chil'en - an' we loved dem chil'en jist de same as you loves you' chil'en. Dey was black, but de Lord can't make no chil'en so black but what dey mother loves 'em an' wouldn't give 'em up, no, not for anything dat's in dis whole world.

I'd argue that Twain is making a joke here. But even if we concede that, I'd still have to make the case that it's not a racist joke. And I'm inclined to do that, too.

One way Mark Twain WAS a man of his time was in spelling out the pronunciation of ethnic or foreign (or just uneducated) characters in now-unreadable pseudo-accurate dialect transcriptions that make it look like he's insulting them. But I really don't think he's being condescending to these characters. It's just what people did back then. Maybe he only did it for black characters and in that case that's a problem.

Either way, transcribe that quote in normal English and suddenly it sounds like if anything, the woman is making a very sarcastic and satirical point.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:49 AM
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175 oh sure, but what with the Adams family being early adopters of the smallpox vaccine, there's anti-quackery as well..


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 6:56 AM
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I have no opinion on Adams or McCullough, but Paul Giamatti is a fucking god.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 7:00 AM
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180

He's right that Merlot sucks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 7:23 AM
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I mean, it's better than chardonnay, but not near as good as Pinot ***** or generic "Red".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 7:27 AM
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If wine were supposed to taste buttery, it would come out of cow teats.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 7:27 AM
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And if I wanted to drink something that tasted like apples, I'd get cider.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 7:32 AM
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184

http://www.unfogged.com/archives/comments_10305.html#1138870


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 9:54 AM
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What is the status of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich among historians these days? I thought it was held in pretty low regard, but I realize I don't know much.

My father always claimed that The Ambassadors made him drop out of his M.A. program in English, and he would read the tortured sentences on the first page aloud so we could all join in the scorn. When it was my turn to read it in grad school, I decided to keep an open mind, and thought it was fantastically great, a huge surprise. Maybe I should recommend Geoff Dyer's books to my dad, though?

Anyway, taking orders from a listicle -- particularly about what not to read, for some reason -- is so far beneath contempt that, seen through the telescope, it appears merely curious and perplexing.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 9:56 AM
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I don't actually know what rotting eucalyptus tastes like, but it has to be worse than Mogen David.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 9:59 AM
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I think that sentence would probably work as well as with "rotting" removed.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:03 AM
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What is the status of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich among historians these days?

IANAH but my impression is that book basically sucks balls and (like so many on the list) reveals the recommender's ignorance.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:09 AM
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Best food ever!


Posted by: Opinionated Koala Bear | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:09 AM
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Instead of "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", read Werner Klemperer's diaries.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:12 AM
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I read it when I was, like, ten. I thought it was impressive and alarming at the time, but probably more because I was reading a big people book on serious stuff. Doesn't hold up?


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:13 AM
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190 was me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:13 AM
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188: Putting aside the question of how well The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich holds up as history, the idea of it as something to read as a substitute for The Ambassadors is so clearly preposterous, that I am clinging to the idea that it has to be a joke, even though I concede that I don't get the joke at all.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:14 AM
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More charitably I'd say it reveals the recommender's cynicism about the assignment. "Um, hmm, I can give this five minutes... let's see, I hated The Ambassadors and... I stayed up until 5 a.m. finishing The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, so okay, savvy GQ readers, you should, uh, read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and not The Ambassadors, lol. Done! Here's my invoice! Thx!"


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:22 AM
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190 - well played!

191 - it ignored basically all scholarship even at the time and has lots of embarrassingly wrong Sonderweg nonsense. Or so I've since read, I skimmed RAFOTTR when I was maybe 13 and haven't glanced at it since.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:23 AM
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188, 195-- what's a good single-volume substitute? I reread the section about the invasion of Norway last year, didn't see cause for complaint. His treatment of Molotov-Ribbentrop was also OK.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:32 AM
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Actually no, I think the joke is recommending a book loads of (ignorant) people have heard of and regard as the major work on the subject, in place of a book no one besides me and my dad actually regards as obligatory. But I'm sure it's also sincere.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:33 AM
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Let's see, here's a possibility from a few months ago: https://www.thenation.com/article/the-men-who-made-the-third-reich/

This book, therefore, offers a series of important correctives to Shirer's narrative, based on a comprehensive knowledge of the research carried out in the half-century and more since The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was first published. Yet, in the end, it doesn't provide a satisfactory substitute. Perhaps this is the fate of any book that tries to compress such a momentous period into one volume: Its coverage will inevitably be uneven--in this case, with too much on the Nazis' rise to power and Hitler's early life and career, at the expense of more general historical developments and features of the Third Reich itself. Childers has provided his readers with a smooth, readable, and reliable narrative that deserves to be widely read. But it should not be the only book that people read on this topic, as Shirer's Rise and Fall too often is. And we are still waiting for a one-volume account that pays equal attention to Nazi Germany and the Hitler dictatorship in all their aspects.

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:39 AM
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196 - I dunno! A one-volume survey seems tough. I haven't read or seen the thing recommended in 198 but why not try it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:46 AM
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Although the not-so-subtle message of the review in 198 is "read my three-volume summary instead" which isn't a terrible idea -- i read vol 1 of the Richard J. Evans trilogy and it is legitimately super excellent.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:52 AM
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Thanks for 198. I am happy to look other places for Weimar and broader social issues in the rise to power. I am mostly looking for a single volume that has a concatenation of elections, military/police events, actions of significant people, concise explanations of what say the Abwehr was and the like. Shirer was a journalist and in my eyes does that well.

I guess I'm basically saying that I don't care much if his broader explanations are off. I kind of liked his descriptions of the rallies.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:55 AM
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My favorite thing about that review: first you read

'Blind obedience to temporal rulers,' Shirer asserted, had been instilled in Germans since the time of Martin Luther. Such a crude view of German history ignored the currents of opposition represented, for example, by the Social Democrats...

Then you scroll down to the cover of the latest issue of The Nation, which is Martin Luther in a MAGA hat.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 10:59 AM
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Bingewatching Hogan's Heroes is an answer whose time has come and gone in this thread.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 11:53 AM
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202 - if the Nation hadn't already lost me many years ago, I would have cancelled my subscription. Fuck you!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:04 PM
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Luther would have a MGGA hat, which is harder to pronounce.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:05 PM
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Luther's experience in the tower is the pee tape of the Reformation.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:07 PM
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That's what happens when you eat too many worms.

Deadline? What deadline?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:16 PM
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Honestly, that piece was bigoted propaganda against Protestantism roughly on par with, but maybe even less subtle, than Pam Gellar on Islam. I mean I guess who cares about anti-Lutheran propaganda since Lutherans aren't exactly a marginalized group but still -- fuck you.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:19 PM
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I think it's safe to say that most people with a sexual interest in pee are German or of German ancestry.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:21 PM
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Well, the Catholic Church has certainly never gone for cults of personality, fascism, or anti-democratic practices.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:24 PM
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War and Peace is long, but yeah, it's worth it. That said, there are other great Russian writers. I personally found Turgenev to be gripping. Torrents of Spring and First Love -- what can I say? Completely fucked-up human relations, and completely gripping. I mean, really, really fucked-up, in that 19th-century way that involves no violence or drugs. So amazing.

Herr's Dispatches -- I read that just a few months ago, and you can really see why he's a writer on Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. I've never been in a war, but maybe his way of describing his thoughts in war, gets closer than anything else I've read.

Shirer's Rise and Fall -- you all read Tooze's The Deluge, and I'm reading that right now. I found his Wages of Destruction to be a brilliant economic history of the Nazi regime. A different way of looking at things, than a straight historian's account, but still really gripping.


Posted by: Chetan Murthy | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:44 PM
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"Israeli soldiers recently killed dozens of peaceful protestors in Gaza. Some say this doesn't reflect badly on Jews as a whole, but did you know that in the book of Deuteronomy the Jews are called upon to massacre people including children? Clearly, the Jews as bloodthirsty monsters is deeply baked into history, and we shouldn't be surprised that they are monsters today." It's literally argument at that level.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 12:45 PM
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Sorry, Halford; I found the irony amusing and didn't investigate further. Our brain cells might be safer sticking to the book reviews: this one reminded me that I still haven't read Railroaded.

In his impressive new book The Republic for Which It Stands, the latest volume in the ongoing "Oxford History of the United States," White links the Gilded Age with Reconstruction--the two "gestated together," he writes--and, in so doing, casts both in a different light while raising new questions about a nation born in the cauldron of civil war. Indeed, there's a sense in which White has the Gilded Age effectively encompass the Reconstruction era; both periods, he argues, were defined by ongoing, and often explosive, struggles over the fundamentals of society and state in postbellum America...

I suppose we could also expand the field to include periodicals you shouldn't bother reading and periodicals you should read instead.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 1:02 PM
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213: Speaking of single volumes, the Oxford History of the United States--which is more like a collection of single-volume period overviews--is generally great, and at worst boring. The Glorious Cause is a snoozer, but What Hath God Wrought and Battle Cry of Freedom are amazing. If nothing else, they have great titles.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 1:12 PM
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Oooh, thanks for 213-- Railroaded was great, strongly recommended. Adding this one....


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 2:32 PM
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213 - I read both Railroaded and The Republic For Which It Stands. I liked the first OK at first but now think that it's ultimately a deeply unsatisfying book (mostly, he deals with all kinds of management problems but then fails to discuss, at all, how those problems were eventually solved by the JP Morgans of the world, and it's also way too ideological and angry).

The second is I think legitimately a great book but also, ultimately, pretty disappointing. I have a few beefs, but the most important one is that he makes extremely confident assertions about economic history, to the point of making them the (or a) centerpiece of the book, without appearing to want to deal carefully with economic history at all. For example this book -- which in fairness didn't come out until afterwards! -- basically seems to refute or complicate most of his major themes. And is also pretty much an insanely interesting American history book, though it could use more punchy and less equivocal writing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 2:36 PM
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TBH, I don't care much about the "what's hot, "what's not" part of the GQ list (I was never intending to read Tolkein or Keith Richards or any more Franzen, god knows. And yeah, wtf with Inherent Vice instead of Crying of Lot 49?!) but I liked it as a jumping off point for recommendations for books that I will add to a long list of books I hope to get to someday. I knew I could rely on Unfogged to separate the idiosyncratic wheat from the subjective chaff.

(Related to reading books: IT'S 16 DAYS LEFT UNTIL MY LAST DAY IN THE OFFICE!!)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 2:37 PM
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"local lawyer has takes re important, excellent historian"


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 2:38 PM
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216. Maybe unsatisfying if you already knew the ground he covers. But his Vaudeville of corruption and fraud (both public and private) as the foundation for getting the railroads built was fantastic, and new to me.

He could have gone into more detail about steelmaking to my taste-- I don't know when Brirish and French steelmakers worked out how to cast steel competitively to Krupp, but pretty sure the american ones were behind them.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 2:47 PM
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OT: Whoever had 4/25/18 for the day Michael Cohen took the 5th wins.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 3:26 PM
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I was rooting for him to take the Third. ("I refuse to answer on the ground that soldiers may not be quartered in my house in times of peace without my consent.")


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 3:32 PM
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Just out of random curiosity, if your lawyer takes the 5th Amendment, would it have any bearing on whether attorney-client privilege was voided by communication was made in furtherance (lawyer word, right?) of a crime?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 3:33 PM
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The fact that GQ had Big Daddy Drew making book recommendations was all I needed to know. And I like Big Daddy Drew!

Dispatches is great. I can't read the Russians because I literally can't keep the names straight. I would buy translations that changed all the names to simple Anglo names.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 3:35 PM
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223.2: I'm glad to hear that because I thought that was just me (see 27).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-25-18 3:36 PM
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I mean, it's better than chardonnay

Have you ever drunk a really good white burgundy?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 2:05 AM
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Werner Klemperer's diaries

Victor, no?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 2:18 AM
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He could take the Thirteenth. "You can't force me to talk in court! That's work! Therefore involuntary servitude!"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 3:13 AM
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226: Go and set and Standpipe.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 5:28 AM
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225: Probably not. I didn't even know white burgundy was a thing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 5:30 AM
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White burgundy is definitely a thing; it's awesome and it's made of chardonnay.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 5:38 AM
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My Harper Lee jokes aren't working today. "Go and set a Standpipe."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 5:38 AM
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230: I might try it if I see it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 5:40 AM
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227 must have happened in one of those 60s things about lazy beatniks.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:13 AM
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It probably happens all the time with assholes who don't want to pay income tax and thing they're the first person to have read the Constitution right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:14 AM
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A test for the lawyers!

"There is perhaps no more impenetrable jungle in the entire law than that which surrounds the word...." What is this word?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:31 AM
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"person"


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:33 AM
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236: Good guess! But wrong!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:34 AM
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"member"


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:35 AM
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238: TMI!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:37 AM
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"reasonable"?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:47 AM
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"grope"


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:48 AM
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I see that I'm wrong. I will now retire to a cave.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:48 AM
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"Impenetrable jungle" = profit opportunity. I know the answer but only because I couldn't resist cheating.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 6:53 AM
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"selfie"


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 7:03 AM
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185: "What is the status of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich among historians these days?

Twenty-odd years ago when I did graduate work in German history, it was held in the regard that historians generally have for hugely popular journalistic accounts of their specialized area of research. A lot of things have changed since then, but that probably hasn't.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 8:32 AM
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226: Werner Klemperer's diaries

"Victor, no?"

In that he survived the war, definitely a Victor.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 8:47 AM
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214: Try Page Smith's series, A People's History of the United States. I started at volume three, the young republic, and went all the way to the end, but haven't looped back to the first two which cover the Revolution and are actually his specialty.

I found the series best at covering and enlivening what are usually dead periods in US history: the early republic, the antebellum period, the late nineteenth century.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 8:50 AM
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Late and also who-caresily, it drives me up a tree when people reflexively diss Catcher in the Rye. Yes, Holden is an asshole. Enormous surprise, it's 1951 and he's an adolescent male. Yes, it's still a good and important book.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 10:11 AM
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We need some kind of Klemperer family Victor/victor Otto/auto Werner/weather joke, ideally with a Hogan's Heroes twist, but I can't make it work.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 11:11 AM
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Also 248 is probably right, though Catcher in the Rye is one of those books where it feels like the door for reading it has just closed post-adolescence. I could be wrong! Maybe it's now old enough that it just feels like a purely historical artifact.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 11:24 AM
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I have read it within the last ten years and think it's a very good book. I find myself wondering if people only want to read about people they'd like to be friends with.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 11:29 AM
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They had rye, but not in a way we can understand.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 11:29 AM
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251: And vampires they want to have sex with.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 11:30 AM
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They had rye but they caught it all, so the class of 2018 has never known what rye was.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 11:33 AM
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Even leaving aside risks if being killed, sex with a vampire seems like a bad idea.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 11:37 AM
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They had Rye but no Cooters.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 12:10 PM
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if people only want to read about people they'd like to be friends with.

Significant subset of readers, I think. Close second, reading about people one can half-pleasantly imagine being, guilty pleasure allowed.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 12:42 PM
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A classic.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-26-18 2:43 PM
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