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Phrenology was in the Espasa, a century ago. And it, or a little bit of it, is in the sampler of this encyclopedia I bought this year. I flipped the volume open, and for reasons I am sure are insignificant, this subject was the first I came across. So I read it. Didn’t learn much. If […]

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Horror at an English Country Manor

 

Ishmael Jones hunts monsters. He solves mysteries and uncovers dark secrets. He works for Britain’s Organization, which does not officially exist within government. He feels like he is doing some good there, and working for the Organization allows him to maintain his anonymity.

“The Dark Side of the Road”, a science fiction novel by Simon R. Green introduces Ishmael Jones. Jones is a man apart; someone who respects only the Colonel, the Organization’s chief. Jones has worked with the Colonel on numerous field assignments. Two days before Christmas the Colonel contacts Jones requesting Jones join the Colonel for Christmas at the Colonel’s family home.

It is the first time the Colonel has invited Jones to meet his family. It must be important. The Colonel asks as a personal favor and says he will discuss the reason why Jones is needed when Jones arrives. Jones leaves London that night in a rented car for the drive to Belcourt Manor in rural Cornwall. Despite a vicious blizzard that has the roads shut down.

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  Since both Daniel Boorstin and I have presumed to draw a comparison between Marquis de Custine’s travels in Czarist Russia with Toqueville’s travels in America, I thought it worthwhile to read Toqueville, instead of (as so many do) only reading about it. Preview Open

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Fans of Brandon Sanderson know about his incredible Kickstarter campaign last year that became the biggest of all time, doubling the previous high, for his Four Secret Novels project. The first of those novels has been released and is now available on Amazon. Contributors to the campaigned received their electronic and audio copies at the beginning […]

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Quote of the Day: Lewis Knew His Place

 

Yesterday, I wrote a post in praise of the fiction of C.S. Lewis. Thinking about him led me to remember this quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which amused me greatly as a kid:

A large crowd of people were standing all round the Stone Table. But such people! They were the most terrible looking people you can imagine.  If I tried to describe them, your parents would not let you read this book!

C. S. Lewis Was a Bad Writer? Now That’s Fiction

 

I enjoy listening to Andrew Klavan – when he had a daily podcast on Ricochet I listened almost every day. His reflections on Trump through the last few years have often mirrored my own, appreciating the many unexpectedly good policy decisions the man made, while being quite critical of the man’s character. Klavan is often insightful on matters of culture and faith, and I was encouraged by his memoir, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. He is also very, very funny.

But I have never cared for him as a fiction writer. I struggled all the way through his novel Empire of Lies. The characters never came alive to me; they were rather cardboard spokespeople for points about the mainstream media’s attacks on Christians and conservatives. I’ve tried to read a number of his other novels, but they’ve never captured me. (Including Werewolf Cop, and believe me, it takes a lot to make me put down a book about werewolves. The idea of crime-solving wolf man was done much better in Nicolas Pekearo’s The Wolfman.)

As far as his screenwork, I very much enjoyed A Shock to the System. It’s a clever, cynical thriller with Michael Caine, but it is based on someone else’s novel. I haven’t seen One Missed Call, but Klavan says that the screenplay was butchered by the director. I have seen True Crime, a Clint Eastwood film based on a Klavan novel, but I don’t think there are many Eastwood fans that would find a place for that film in Clint’s top twenty.

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There is a brief passage early in the book that got my attention so forcefully that I am compelled to report it here: Custine, traveling to Petersburg by steamboat, comments on a group of Russian ladies (apparently, all of them princesses) and their tolerance of the vulgarity of a French businessman also on board: Persons […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Professor Roosevelt Montás, Director of the Freedom and Citizenship Program at Columbia University, and author of the book, Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation. Professor Montás shares his background as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who attended Columbia, and what inspired his appreciation for the Great Books tradition. He explains the deep connection between philosophy, liberal learning, and a good life, why this tradition matters for advancing liberal education, and its implications for K-12 students in a world that is increasingly centered on technical skills, and that has become overly politicized. They delve into lessons from works like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, about how literature and art can ennoble our young people and elevate our democratic ideals. Professor Montás concludes with a reading from his book.

Stories of the Week: Chronic absenteeism, or missing more than 10 percent of the school year, has likely increased dramatically since the pandemic, and can lead to increases in school-related stress, social isolation, and decreased motivation, all of which contribute to behavior problems. Veterans Affairs officials will now receive greater authority to adjust funding for housing, work-study programs and other education benefits for students relying on the GI Bill, after the COVID-era shift to online-only classes prompted stipend reductions and emergency legislation.

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This is one of those random books that have been on my shelf for many years, the how and why of its arrival now long forgotten. Having followed Napoleon into Russia and back (see my post of August 19, 2022), and now entering the dark days of winter, I have a renewed curiosity about Russia, […]

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Central American countries are small, and within any given one there are few highways or railroads or navigable rivers, so on a trip thereabouts, one should not get sidetracked. Not very far anyway. This however did not keep Aldous Huxley from a long dissertation on world politics and human nature. I read and read and […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-host Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Mary Connaughton talk with Prof. Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, and the world’s foremost expert on Charles Dickens and his works. They discuss some of the main elements of Dickens’ brilliant, prolific, and complicated life, as the 19th century’s most influential, best-selling writer of memorable works, from Oliver Twist to Great Expectations. Professor Slater describes Dickens’ early childhood, having been separated from his family, who were incarcerated in debtors’ prison, and how this heart-wrenching experience inspired his writing as an instrument of social reform. Prof. Slater concludes with a reading from A Christmas Carol, a tale of ghostly salvation which was enormously influential in shaping our popular conceptions of this holiday, and in drawing attention to the need for greater charity.

Stories of the Week: In Kentucky, the state Supreme Court struck down a law that established a tax credit, the Education Opportunity Account Act, that would have helped families cover private school tuition. They’re the backbone of modern classrooms, helping to record school attendance, discipline, assignments, administering exams for hundreds of millions of students – but how much do we know about Learning Management Systems (LMS)?

Adventure in Planetary Space

 

Dave Walker is a newly-minted spaceship engineering officer, aboard his first vessel: a clapped-out tramp freighter near the end of its useful life. While not much, it gets him off Earth, his life’s ambition. His other reason to make a pierhead jump to this ship? His stepfather is trying to kill him.

“Summer’s End,” a science-fiction novel by John Van Stry, is set in the near future, several centuries from the present. Humans reside throughout the Solar System, but Earth still dominates, especially in terms of population.

There is one world government on Earth. Ostensibly a republic modeled on the United States, in actuality it is an oligarchy, run by the elies, the upper-class elite. Most of the world’s population are doles, supported by the government for the votes that keep the elies in power. Dave is prole, the fraction making up the middle class. The only ones on Earth that work, their labor keeps the planet running. They work whether they want to work and for what the government gives them. Or else. That is why Dave wants to leave Earth so badly.

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There was some. Maybe there was a lot, but my attention to the genre, from any era, has been spotty. A little Rosita Forbes, a little Helen Eva Yates, perhaps too little of Norman Lewis, a lot of Peter Fleming. It was the last who had, quite unintentionally, led me to a book titled Doctor […]

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Books I Should Be Reading

 

Last year I posted a list of books I was hoping to read over the coming year, and invited y’all to chip in with suggestions. Thank you for your help. I figured I should report back as to what I actually read this year. Okay, that’s part of it, but mostly I’ve been tarrying overlong in giving my Mom a Christmas list. If you have suggestions, I’m sure she’d appreciate them. Right, let’s start with books from that post that I’ve actually read.

Books I Read Last Year

The Horatio Hornblower series, by C.M. Forrester. I’ve read the first three of these so far, will pick up the others as time allows. I enjoyed them quite a bit, first because they’re solid adventure stories, and second because some of the devices are genuinely  new to me. If you recall the rice from Mr. Midshipman Hornblower you’ll know what I mean. I’m reserving the rest of the series as fun reads, and will read them as needed. From there, I’ll move on to the Aubrey Martin and the Sharpe series (thanks @Clavius and @KevinKrisher for the suggestions)

A Past that Poisons the Present

 

Father Gabriel was once married and a scholar. He became a priest only after the death of his wife, whom he met while at England’s university town of Cambridge.

“Death of a Scholar: A Father Gabriel Mystery,” by Fiorella De Maria, the fourth mystery in the Father Gabriel series, returns Father Gabriel to Cambridge. The series is set in post-World War II England. Father Gabriel is visiting an old friend, Arthur Kingsley.  A secondary goal is to face the ghosts of his past, in the form of his late wife’s family.

Gabriel and Kingsley became friends when they attended Cambridge together following World War I. After a few years in the chemical industry on the Continent between the two World Wars, Kingsley returned to Cambridge, where he is now a senior fellow at the fictional St. Stephen’s College. It is the first time the two have been together in many years.

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I realize I am coming late to this latest (last?) installment in the Honor Harrington Saga. I am a big fan of David Weber, but I will confess that my enthusiasm for this series has waned more than somewhat over the last several volumes, for reasons similar to those I pointed out in a previous […]

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There’s nothing quite like a radical change in lifestyle, location, and vocation to bring out the podcaster in Ricochet’s Dave Carter.  After a year and a half’s hiatus, Dave is now safely and happily ensconced in Florida, on “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches.”  As it turns out, the thing he most wanted to accomplish after getting settled in was setting up his in-home studio and firing up the microphone to talk with us.  And we’re glad he did!  Rob Long joins the fun, talking with Dave about the contrasts between New York City and Florida and pausing to counsel Dave on his unique sense of ebullient pessimism over the country’s trajectory. The conversation changes pace with Rob advising Dave on his new line of work in radio sales before the two discuss tentative plans regarding an upcoming Ricochet Meetup in New Orleans. The conversation concludes on a fun note, but not before Dave makes a shameless plug for his new internet radio station called The Tiger, Bayou Blues & Rock (which includes some notable and notably funny Christmas music for the holidays).

Finally, Ricochet’s Jenna Stocker calls in and Dave doesn’t miss the opportunity to solicit a comparison between the balmy weather in Florida and the single digit temps in Minneapolis where Jenna resides with her husband and delightful one year-old son.  The two discuss Jenna’s remarkable writings on her substack page, as well as The Federalist, Newsweek and elsewhere. Then Jenna turns the tables on our host and interviews Dave to find out exactly how his move to Florida went and what life is like now that he’s settled in (Hint: Dave’s attitude on the Christmas holidays has radically changed). You’ll want to listen in to learn more about this one.

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Recently, I read The Exorcist. It was OK. What it mainly was was vintage 1971. What a depressive time, if literature is any guide. Fortunately if you’re in junior high, though you might sense large cultural trends, you miss large cultural moods. Well, I did! But for the “reading” “public”…the book had what appeared to […]

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