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url 2018-06-20 13:48
Podcast #106 is up!
Nixon in New York: How Wall Street Helped Richard Nixon Win the White House - Victor Li

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Victor Li about his book on Nixon's years between his loss in the 1962 California gubernatorial election and his election to the presidency six years later (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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text 2018-06-20 04:58
Reading progress update: I've read 62%.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson,Richard Armitage
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text 2018-06-20 00:45
Reading progress update: I've read 106 out of 280 pages.
Lloyd George: Statesman or Scoundrel - Richard Wilkinson

Part of me really wants to like this book. Wilkinson isn't a terrible writer by any stretch, and he is quite good at deploying telling quotes, even if they are from previous biographers. But I can't like a book that manages to be so tendentious, especially when its arguments are so poorly grounded

 

A case in point is his section on Passchendaele. Wilkinson summarizes the challenge facing Loyd George nicely, describing how after the failure of the Nivelle Offensive Lloyd George's credibility was shot, depriving him of the ability to resist further the demands of Haig and the other generals to mount their next big offensive. The result was 300,000 casualties for no real gain.

 

And yet, after explaining both Lloyd George's efforts to rein in Haig and the odds that ultimately opposed to him, Wilkinson goes on to declare that it is Lloyd George who should be regarded as the butcher of Passchendaele for failing to stop the offensive. It's as though Wilkinson didn't bother to read his own account explaining why he was thwarted in his efforts to do so. Moreover, Wilkinson provides zero examples of what he might have done further. Was he supposed to dismiss a publicly popular general who had the support of the king?  Announce a unilateral surrender? Run through No Man's Land waving his hands in the air while begging for peace? Wilkinson provides no answers, just a label which he already demonstrates Lloyd George had done the least of all the possible candidates to deserve.

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text 2018-06-19 14:59
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 280 pages.
Lloyd George: Statesman or Scoundrel - Richard Wilkinson

Two chapters in, and I'm already finding myself at odds with Wilkinson's argument. In his early chapters he's referred to Lloyd George as both a "sex-pest" and a sexual predator, yet provides no evidence of this beyond references to his well-known philandering. Does philandering make someone a sexual predator? Perhaps in the most literal sense of someone who actively pursues sex partners, but the use of "sex-pest" suggests that Wilkinson intends a far more pejorative application than that. The problem with that, though, is that he doesn't cite any examples (let alone sources) that Lloyd George's sexual advances were unwanted by his partners; to the contrary, he follows his use of the label by describing Lloyd George as "irresistible to women." It amounts to guilt-by-conjecture, and it's pretty disappointing to see in a book that aims for scholarly credibility.

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review 2018-06-13 22:54
love the premise and the trees
The Overstory - Richard Powers

I love the premise and everything he wrote about trees. I found myself skipping around to read the tree parts. You could argue that it's all about trees, which it is, but the entirety did not consistently hold my interest. In my opinion, that's because the characters needed pruning. It's just too long. He's a great writer but could have used an editor on this one.

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