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review 2018-11-14 15:44
What is fascism?
The Anatomy of Fascism - Robert O. Paxton

Over the past few years, the word "fascist" has been deployed increasingly to describe modern-day political movements in the United States, Hungary, Greece, and Italy, to name a few places. The word brings with it some of the most odious associations from the 20th century, namely Nazi Germany and the most devastating war in human history. Yet to what degree is the label appropriate and to what extent is it more melodramatic epithet than an appropriate description?

 

It was in part to answer that question that I picked up a copy of Robert O. Paxton's book. As a longtime historian of 20th century France and author of a seminal work on the Vichy regime, he brings a perspective to the question that is not predominantly Italian or German. This shows in the narrative, as his work uses fascist movements in nearly every European country to draw out commonalities that explain the fascist phenomenon. As he demonstrates, fascism can be traced as far back as the 1880s, with elements of it proposed by authors and politicians across Europe in order to mobilize the growing population of voters (thanks to new measures of enfranchisement) to causes other than communism. Until then, it was assumed by nearly everyone that such voters would be automatic supporters for socialist movements. Fascism proposed a different appeal, one based around nationalist elements which socialism ostensibly rejected.

 

Despite this, fascism remained undeveloped until it emerged in Italy in the aftermath of the First World War. This gave Benito Mussolini and his comrades a flexibility in crafting an appeal that won over the established elites in Italian politics and society. From this emerged a pattern that Paxton identifies in the emergence of fascism in both Italy and later in Germany, which was their acceptance by existing leaders as a precondition for power. Contrary to the myth of Mussolini's "March on Rome," nowhere did fascism take over by seizing power; instead they were offered it by conservative politicians as a solution to political turmoil and the threatened emergence of a radical left-wing alternative. It was the absence of an alternative on the right which led to the acceptance of fascism; where such alternatives (of a more traditional right-authoritarian variety) existed, fascism remained on the fringes. The nature of their ascent into power also defined the regimes that emerged, which were characterized by tension between fascists and more traditional conservatives, and often proved to be far less revolutionary in practice than their rhetoric promised.

 

Paxton's analysis is buttressed by a sure command of his subject. He ranges widely over the era, comparing and contrasting national groups in a way that allows him to come up an overarching analysis of it as a movement. All of this leads him to this final definition:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. (p. 218)

While elements of this are certainly present today, they are hardly unique to fascism and exist in various forms across the political spectrum. Just as important, as Paxton demonstrates, is the context: one in which existing institutions are so distrusted or discredited that the broader population is willing to sit by and watch as they are compromised, bypassed, or dismantled in the name of achieving fascism's goals. Paxton's arguments here, made a decade before Donald Trump first embarked on his candidacy, are as true now as they were then. Reading them helped me to appreciate better the challenge of fascism, both in interwar Europe and in our world today. Everyone seeking to understand it would do well to start with this perceptive and well-argued book.

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url 2018-11-10 04:05
A Treasure of Great Spiritual Stories
A Treasure of Great Spiritual Stories - Sukhraj S. Dhillon

Truthful and spiritually oriented books help us refine sense of right and wrong in a confusing world. http://goo.gl/HfyE7e 

Source: amzn.to/ev4LrW 
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-11-07 06:19
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations - Arthur Pober,Charles Dickens,Eric Freeberg,Deanna McFadden

This is possibly the oldest book in my to-read pile. My copy of it has "28 Mar 2008" scribbled on the title page, so it had been sitting on my shelf unread for over 10 years (I even found the Goodreads thread where I told a friend that I had just bought it at a discount). Finally crossing it off my list after all these years feels like a huge accomplishment.

I must say the story dragged a bit for me. Every once in a while something interesting happens but then it goes back to its plodding manner, until the third and final part of the book where things really run along. However, some details or minor characters which didn't really interest me earlier or didn't seem like they really matter turn out to be important in the end, so credit is due to Dickens for that. I also liked the comical touches which provides a nice balance to the dramatic plot and Gothic elements of the novel.

The orphan Philip Pirrip (Pip) as the central character of the book—I wouldn't call him a hero—is not exactly a sympathetic personality. He starts out innocently enough but after meeting the rich Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter Estella, he becomes ashamed of his simple country boy upbringing and of his brother-in-law/father figure, the kind but uncouth blacksmith Joe Gargery. Pip is then adopted by an anonymous patron with the promise of making him a gentleman and giving him a large inheritance. Instead of becoming more humble and using his relative prosperity to even better himself, he takes on an extravagant lifestyle and ends up accumulating debt. He can't stand Joe's unmannerly ways and basically cuts off contact with him. He also seems to have a low opinion of servants, errand boys and other people he now considers to be beneath him. Except for him reciprocating his best friend Herbert Pocket's kindness by secretly providing him with a livelihood, Pip's behavior makes it rather hard to root for him as a main character.

While Pip assumes all along that his benefactor is Miss Havisham, I had already been aware prior to starting the book that his true benefactor is the former convict Abel Magwitch, so that part didn't surprise me. What did surprise me, though, was Pip's persistence in his misguided idea that Miss Havisham as his supposed patron intends for him to marry her ward Estella, when he already knows from Herbert that Miss Havisham raised Estella to carry out revenge on all men. She even bluntly tells Estella, in Pip's presence, to break his heart. Maybe his love for Estella just makes him blind. Speaking of Miss Havisham, she is the most bizarre character with the strongest presence in the whole novel, and therefore the most interesting for me. Another favorite character of mine is a supporting one: Pip's ally Wemmick, who maintains a strict, cold demeanor at work as a lawyer's clerk but loosens up and unleashes his eccentricity at his tiny castle-like home.

Dickens is known for his improbable coincidences—which I had felt in A Tale of Two Cities—but some of the coincidental twists in this novel seem rather pointless. That Estella's birth mother is the housekeeper of the attorney Mr Jaggers, Pip's guardian, and that her father is in fact Magwitch don't seem to be very important in the grand scheme of things, since these facts are never revealed to Estella herself. Magwitch being her father also doesn't serve to endear him to Pip, as Pip's opinion of his true benefactor has already softened before he finds out about this. Magwitch's archenemy Compeyson being Miss Havisham former lover who scammed and jilted her years earlier is another revelation which doesn't go anywhere, since Miss Havisham never finds out about it and their relationship happened before Magwitch met Compeyson, so the former had no part in ruining Miss Havisham's life. It just felt like some the coincidences are purely for the shock factor and in order to have the characters connected in some way.

Despite his shortcomings Pip redeems himself near the end, as he comes to appreciate how much Magwitch has done for him and realize how badly he has behaved towards Joe and Biddy, his faithful childhood friend. The most delicious twist in the book happens when Pip, who has given up on Estella and intends to go and propose to Biddy, assuming she has been waiting for him all these years, returns home only to find that Joe and Biddy have just married. It's what Pip deserves, really.

The ending has him reunited with Estella, now a widow after having been ill-treated by her late husband, but it remains vague whether he and Estella truly end up together. Dickens actually wrote that ending after revising the original one, where they meet again after Estella has remarried and there seems to be no hope of them being together. In my opinion there has never been any romance between them to begin with as Pip's sentiments are entirely one-sided throughout the novel, and any feelings Estella might have developed are more likely to be regret borne from her suffering rather than love. But it's left to each reader's imagination whether they will end up together or it is just another one of Pip's great expectations which doesn't turn into reality.

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text 2018-11-01 19:38
COYER Winter Edition 2018 Participation Post
You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain - Phoebe Robinson,Jessica Williams
Cheer Up Love: Adventures in depression with the Crab of Hate - Susan Calman
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars - Nathalia Holt
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women - Kate Moore
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic - Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Radio Girls - Sarah-Jane Stratford
Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War - Jennifer Robson
Ellis Island - Kate Kerrigan
London Belles - Annie Groves

Sign up at http://coyerchallenge.com/2018/11/01/coyer-winter-is-here-going-back-to-basics-again/.

 

Considering I only buy ebooks on sale, the restrictions this go around seems really easy. There are only a few books I have on my 2019 reading that don't fit the restrictions. My problem will be library borrows, as the winter editions don't allow library reading to count. 

 

My COYER TBR is just 15 books, which will allow for non-challenge reading.

 

1. You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson (memoir)

2. Cheer Up Love by Susan Calman  (memoir)

3. Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt (women's history)

4. Radium Girls by Kate Moore (women's history)

5. Mary and Lou and Ted and Rhoda by Jennifer Armstrong (pop culture)

6. The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin (historical romance)

7. A Dance with Danger by Jeannie Lin (historical romance)

8. North to You by Tif Marcelo (contemporary romance)

9. Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford (historical fiction)

10. Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner (historical romance)

11. Deliver Me by Farrah Rochon (contemporary romance)

12. Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson (historical fiction)

13. Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan (historical fiction)

14. Star Dust by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner (historical romance)

15. London Belles by Annie Groves (women's fiction)

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text 2018-10-30 16:57
Chipping away at the Great American Read list
Anne of Green Gables Novels #1 - L M Montgomery

Picked up the audible version a while ago and finally getting to it. I'm very surprised by just how much I'm enjoying this book.

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