This Nation – 4/5 Stars
What makes this good and not bad is that it is not an impassioned plea for civility and tolerance and anything like that. I woke up this morning kind of pissed that I had to decided whether or not bad people who promote genocide and violence, who are allowed to cast doubt about the murder of trans people, endanger journalists, and promote violence against people in general, people like me, and people I care about are to be pitied or defended against moderate violence they actively instigated and courted. Turns out, I don’t care. Anyway, this book falls into the category of this question.
Jill Lepore uses her experience and expertise as a historian to define and qualify the debate about liberalism and nationalism. Recently the president of the United States clearly didn’t know what classical liberalism was in a question from the press and conflated it with the simulacrum definition that people call “liberals” in the US. He’s an idiot, and I am not saying my own sense of geopolitics is as sharp as it needs to be, but I am not president.
This book provides a solid, if condensed history of the concept of nationalism in the US and provides concise arguments for why the concept of the “nation” is not a dead metaphor and needs to be taken seriously by anyone engaging in the debate. It’s a lay text, but it comes from a place of knowing. You may or may not agree with every conclusion Jill Lepore reaches, and I don’t, but she’s creating a serious text here.
Aug 9 Fog 1/5 Star
This is not a book and the author of it is a grifter by best I can reckon. It’s a journal that was supposedly and probably culled from an estate sale and what we have here is a reprinting of sections of that journal.
That’s it. It sells for $18 dollars and is clearly a self-indulgent and shameless book created in order to leverage some kind of book deal for the “author” later on, which apparently worked.
The journal itself may or may not be interesting (I actually that it is outside of some general sense of what the daily life of this older woman from 1968-1972 felt, did, and wrote about in that time of her life. But this book is barely 100 pages, only produces 1-2 snippets of text per day or per page, and then takes credit for it.
There’s basically nothing here that the person making money off this book has done except type up someone else’s words and call it something…kind of found poetry, but there’s not commentary, there’s no real crediting or framing devices at work here. And worst, for me, is that my library fell for this and bought this book, and as a result didn’t buy some other book, that might actually have some value. This book should have been self-published (but actually not published at all), but instead someone pulled some strings and their dumb selfish project is out here.
The Apology – 4/5 Stars
Eve Ensler, of Vagina Monologues fame and credit, writes a kind of memoir, kind of fiction in the form of a long apology letter written from her dead father to herself. So much of this book is premised on the idea of her father’s soul being at a state of unrest in a kind of afterlife. We learn about her father’s sense of discomfort at being an older father who never really wanted kids, had made it until his late 40s until he met a woman to marry, and seemingly never wanted a family. And so as a consequence, he lacked patience, sympathy, and tolerance for that family.
At first glance this seems like a path of possible redemption for a complicated figure looking back on a family life that was full of missed opportunities and misunderstandings.
A turn comes when it becomes clear this wasn’t simply a father who didn’t know how to love, but someone who took whatever and ultimately inconsequential pain he felt through this discomfort and used it to commit unflinching and devastating pain and violence on his daughter. He explicitly describes the sexual violence he commits against the desperately young Eve, who through this violence completely shuts down her emotional life as protection against him, and how this violence had physical and emotion impact throughout her adolescence and adult life while he was still emotionally abusive.
It’s a difficult book to read because of the violence, but it’s an attempt to reconcile herself with a father who would never in his life look to apologize for the pain he caused.