Viewing posts tagged book review

Voluminous Description

Finally finished Kershaw's biography of Hitler.  I've been working on it - both volumes, unabridged - for years, picking it up for a bit, putting it down for a bit, etc.  (This is how I usually tackle mammoth reading projects.)

Can't help feeling underwhelmed.  I mean, I'm in absolute awe of the scholarship and knowledge and patience and effort involved in such a massive and detailed project... but it fails to live up to the hype from the middle-brow and/or reactionary reviewers - Paxman, Sereny, Hastings, Burleigh, etc - that is splashed so proudly all over the back covers.

Kershaw has produced something that is, at least for long stretches, narrative history.  The narrative history of one protagonist.  This would be fine if the protagonist possessed fascinating and complex (if vile) interiority.  Hitler, however, did not have anything of the kind.  He appears to have been a nonentity, a psychological nullity, a hazy cloud of pedestrian neuroses, a reflex machine made of clockwork prejudices, a lazy fool, a windbag, a crashing bore, a plodder, a cold and self-involved man, a man with little capacity for any passion other than fury, and little ...

Review: 'The Reactionary Mind' by Corey Robin

The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah PalinThe Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin by Corey Robin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Superb.

As an historian of ideas, Robin concentrates on the patterns of thinking within conservatism, but never seems to say that conservative actions and policies stem entirely from ideology. Indeed, he frequently points out the ruptures between theory and practice... yet he can usually find hidden resonances within the conservative idea/s that are consistent in ironic, unexpected ways, ways that often make seemingly paradoxical dissonances between theory and practice seem much more explicable.

Disjointed, of necessity (since this is a compilation of previously published essays on a variety of subjects), there are still clear and original linking ideas which are spelled out mostly in the new introduction. Conservatism is fundamentally a reaction to the loss of privilege, or the challenge to privilege from the oppressed. Conservatism is much less enamoured of stasis, familiarity etc than it thinks it is. Conservatism is much more depressive and melancholy than many people think. It is dependant upon left-wing ideas to provide it with negative stimulus. It is animated by a preoccupation with violence. It is more revolutionary than it pretends, being often as ...

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