Glenn A Knight

Glenn A Knight
In my study

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Change to Reading List: Kissinger: 1973, The Crucial Year

Horne, Alistair. Kissinger: 1973, The Crucial Year. New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: Simon & Schuster, 2009. xvi + 457 pages. Acknowledgments. Notes. Bibliography. Index. ISBN: 978-0-7432-7283-4. $30.00. Hardcover.

Read May 7-June 19, 2010.

Change to Reading List: The Wooden World

N. A. M. Rodger. The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy. New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. 445 pages. Index.

Read March 5-April 24, 2010.

Have you ever wondered where authors like Patrick O'Brian get all those details about life on board sailing ships? Well, N. A. M. Rodger provides an example of the kind of research that can be a great assistance to the author of such tales. The Wooden World is a fabulous book covering the lives and careers of sailors and officers, the organization of the navy, and that great concept: discipline, for which the word hardly existed in the 18th century. Yes, the 18th century naval vessel was a much more cooperative enterprise than you'll have gathered from Nordhoff and Hall or many other novelists.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Change to Reading List: Reporting World War II

Reporting World War II: American Journalism 1938-1946. With a Preface by Stephen E. Ambrose and an Introduction by Samuel Hynes. New York: Library of America, 1995, 2001. xxiii + 874 pages. Chronology, 1933-1945. Maps. Biographical Notes. Note on the Texts. Acknowledgments. Notes. Glossary of Military Terms. Index. ISBN: 1-931082-05-7. $18.95. Paperback.

Read February 20-April 14, 2010.

I believe I've commented on this book before. This is a wonderful source of contemporary writing about World War II. The contemporaneity gives the writing a punch and liveliness that no historian, however well-intentioned, could match. Classic writing about important events.

Change to Reading List: Roadside Geology of Arizona

Chronic, Halka. Roadside Geology of Arizona. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1983. xiv + 321 pages. Glossary. Index. ISBN: 978-0-87842-147-3. $18.00. Paperback.

Read April 16-May 25, 2010.

If you're not familiar with the Roadside Geology series, the next time you're planning a road trip, either close to home or farther afield, pick up the book covering the appropriate state. I would suggest that you read over the chapters covering the route you plan to take before you leave, or, at least, read about each day's itinerary the previous evening. When you hit the road, you'll know what you're looking at. It makes travel more interesting to realize that you're crossing a gigantic lava flow, or that the little ridge you just crossed is a dike of igneous rock thrust up between layers of sediments.

Last fall we dipped into the northwest corner of Arizona, from Sleeping Ute Mountain up in the Four Corners, down to Chinle and Canyon de Chelly. Lots of rocks, mountains, canyons, outcrops, and formations to see. Roadside Geology of Arizona is an excellent source for understanding why the scenery looks the way it does.

Change to Reading List: Tales of Los Alamos

Brode, Bernice. Tales of Los Alamos: Life on the Mesa 1943-1945. Los Alamos, NM: Los Alamos Historical Society, 1997. 165 pages. Glossary. Glossary of Names. Index of Names. About the Author.

Read April 17-May 8, 2010.

This is a very good book, giving a personal view of one of the most important scientific and military developments in American, and world, history. It is well-written, and the photographs alone would make this a book worth reading.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Independence Day, George Will!

I used to read George Will's columns all the time. That was when I subscribed to Newsweek, and Will's column was one of the many items that magazine picked up from its parent newspaper, The Washington Post. I'm not such a fan anymore, partly because George turned out to be a hypocrite on family values, like so many "conservatives," and partly because I now prefer The Economist to any of the American newsmagazines.

This column, from April 28th, is pretty good, however. I might note that one of the Senators on the Judiciary Committee actually asked Elena Kagin one of Will's suggested questions. (It was the one about Thurgood Marshall's statement that "You do what you think is right and let the law catch up." She dodged the question by pointing out that, if confirmed, she would be Justice Kagin, not Justice Marshall. That's trivially obvious; the point is: Would she make decisions on the basis of Justice Marshall's dictum?

Will supports Justice Scalia's notion that the Constitution doesn't change, and that, in fact, the purpose of constitutions is to prevent change. That's fair enough, but this whole original intent idea founders, it seems to me, on one fact. From the text of the Constitution, as ratified, it is clear that the intent of the framers and ratifiers was to count slaves as 3/5ths of free people. It is also clear that no one, no one, at the Constitutional Convention actually liked this provision. The Southerners wanted to count their slaves as full people, not out of regard for human rights, but because that would have given them a lock on the House of Representatives, as well as the Senate. Many Northerners didn't want to count the slaves at all, because the slaves were not allowed to vote and lacked the other rights of people included in the citizenry. In other words, the original intent was to make a compromise between incompatible positions, so that the Constitution could be completed. I don't see where a modern judge gets a lot of guidance from that, except for Abraham Lincoln's point: It's all about the Union.