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Sunday afternoon book reviews

What are you reading?

I just re-read Terry Pratchett's Jingo -- I have a bad habit of rereading books I've already read. It's re-assuring, somehow.

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a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

by Jeb Rubenfeld.

In 1909, Freud visited New York City (along with Jung and Ferenczi) on his way to receive an honorary degree at Clark University. After that trip he refused ever to return to the United States and expressed very negative attitudes about the country and its people. Near the end of his life he told a friend, "My suspicion of America is unconquerable."

Rosenfeld has taken this trip to NYC as the frame for a fictional murder mystery. In this tale, the morning after Freud's arrival, a young woman is found dead in a penthouse, bound and hanging by her wrists from a beiling fixture, whipped, cut with a blade, and strangled. The next morning another young woman is found similarly abused but still alive, although unable to talk or to recall what happened to her. The mayor asks Freud to treat this young woman and he passes the job off to Dr. Stratham Younger, who is one of Freud's American supporters, saying that he will supervise.

Thus Younger and Freud become involved in what turns out to be a very nasty business indeed, in which nothing is as it seems. Along the way there are wonderful discussions of Freud's theories, and Younger's ambition to find an interpretation of Hamlet's famous soliloquy which will make psychological sense. Probing the mystery of what has happened to the two young women brings Younger to doubt some aspects of Freud's theories, in particular the centrality of the Oedipal complex.

The three aspects of the story - the murder mystery, the exploration of the young woman's psychological trauma and the re-evaluation of Freudian theory it leads to, and the interpretation of Hamlet - are neatly braided together. Historical figures mix with fictional characters in a very satisfying way.

Jeb Rubenfeld is a professor of Constitutional Law at Yale, but has studied Shakespeare at the Juiiard School of Drama and wrote an undergraduate thesis on Freud. I believe this is his first novel. It is a very rich novel of ideas as well as a compelling mystery story. I hope that he has more in store for us.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

I work in marketing and it's a great reference for the nuts and bolts of how that "magic" works. Everyone is always throwing jargon around without knowing what it really means.
It's a plane ride length and fun to read.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

All The King's Men.
Robert Penn Warren is one of my favorite authors. Watched a bit of the old bw movie last night and wanted to pick up the novel. It's a re-read too and also reassuring.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

I figure the times call for it. Phillips does an amazing job in pulling back the curtain to expose the long history of the wealthy, powerful few strangling our democracy. I remember reading it five years ago and thinking our democracy was hanging on by a thread and how truly extraordinary FDR's New Deal was in rolling back the plutocracy. The Reagan Revolution has been utterly disastrous for our democracy on multiple levels, but right now the financial crisis is front and center and I honestly don't see the Obama team bringing us back from the brink.

Here's Phillips discussing his new book, "Bad Money."

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

historical overview of WWII.

"states of grace" fiction about the printing press and religious wars and cnx b/w the two in 17th c europe.

"soldier of arete" about an ancient greek soldier who fights with the persians and loses his entire memory every 48 hrs.

"the year's best science fiction, 6th ed" 1989 collection of that year's shorts (collected and edited) by the Master Editor of Our Time, Dozois.

"Unaccompanied Sonata" by orson scott card, short stories of his that are odd. "Kingsmeat" is my favorite one in it. "but he kept them alive..."

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

Avi Shlaim's biography of King Hussein, Lion of Jordan, which I mentioned last week. (All 623 pages)

It has caused me to think differently, or to wonder, about some of the individuals involved in the agreements between Israel and Jordan, and Israel and the PLO. For example, Shamir and (unsurprisingly, I guess) Rabin come off well, whereas Peres is presented as a kind of a loose cannon, unable to keep his mouth shut at a crucial moment, and somewhat self-promoting. The real loose cannon seems to have been Netanyahu, and apparently during the King's last illness it was joked by his staff and family that he had the "Netanyahu virus". I did not know that Hussein had implicitly endorsed Netanyahu when he defeated Peres for Prime Minister, which possibly contributed to his victory (although Peres did not really run much of a campaign). This was at a time when Hussein was very popular in Israel and his opinion would have carried a great deal of weight. But he must have regretted that almost immediately after the election when it became clear just what sort of a leader Netanyahu would be.

Anyway, well worth reading for a new look at some important recent history.

And coincidentally, I've also just seen Queen Noor's approving essay about Hillary Clinton as SoS.

pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

Political, yes.

Not for the faint of heart.

The unqualified need not apply.

Please don't.

flotsam's picture
Submitted by flotsam on

I’m reading Curtis White’s The Spirit of Disobedience: Resisting the Charms of Fake Politics, Mindless Consumption, and the Culture of Total Work. It has its moments of clarity, but parts of it are just so-so (or “meh”, as you young hipster doofus bloggers would say). Probably the best part of the book is White’s interview with James Howard Kunstler.


chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

me? someone else? i wanna know.

come on, an' strike direct, n shit. or if not, set phasres 2 ignore. but i hate the cryptic crap. it's so spineless, so petty. got a complaint? make it. in plain language. yo, i can hack it if you mean me, and i'm curious and out of the loop, if you mean someone else. TP has moved on, that's his/her choice. those of us with spine and stomach remain. let's dance. wut you talkin bout, willis?

/sunday snark/