Weekend Reading: November 11, 2016

 

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Quote of the Day: The Easter Rising

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On this day in 1916, Irish rebels rose up around the country. The short-lived Easter Rising to establish a free Irish Republic was put down by British forces on April 29.

From W.B. Yeats’s commemorative epic poem, “Easter 1916“:

We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse —
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Screening Room: ‘Where to Invade Next’

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For his newest film, agitprop documentarian Michael Moore uses the anthology approach instead of going after one problem. This time out, he’s pretending to be on a mission from Pentagon to go “conquer” various other Western nations, steal all their best ideas on topics America is having trouble with (education, health policy, law and order), and bring them home for us to profit from. This would never happen, of course, because this is America and if the idea didn’t originate here then, well, it clearly couldn’t be any good. Moore knows that, thusly the quixotic nature of this serio-comic broadside.

Where to Invade Next is opening later this week. My review is at PopMatters:

Moore starts in Italy. There, hanging out with a pair of serious vacationers, he does a good job of making just about every employed American in the audience sick with envy by pointing out the weeks and weeks of paid leave the average Italian gets just by dint of being Italian. The look of disbelief on the Italian man’s face when Moore tells him how many weeks of legally paid vacation Americans are entitled to (“None”) is so profound it is as though he has been told Americans still believe that the world is flat…

Here’s the trailer:

Reader’s Corner: Paul Theroux’s ‘Deep South’

Deep South-coverPaul Theroux has spent decades traversing the world and writing about it. Although some of his fiction has been set in America, his travel writing has always been the sort of thing that required a passport. In his newest book, Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads, Theroux rectifies that oversight with a deep dive into the American south and its beautiful and fraught contradictions.

Deep South hit stores last week. My review is at PopMatters.

There’s an essay called “The South of the South” that Theroux published last year in the Smithsonian magazine that will give you some idea of what he was after in this book.

Book Flashback: The Iraq War ‘Gamble’

American tanks patrol Baghdad on April 14th, 2003 (U.S. Marine Corps)
American tanks patrol Baghdad on April 14th, 2003 (U.S. Marine Corps)

thegamble-coverAs the ISIS campaign to topple Iraq’s government roars on, it seemed worthwhile to look back at the many books written on Iraq to see what predictions had been made about what could happen after the last American unit moved out.

I posted “The 2009 Book that Foretold the (Possible) Collapse of Post-American Iraq” at Re:Print:

For years, especially after the American troop drawdown, it seemed as though Iraq would muddle along in a chaotic but eventually stabilizing way familiar to many Middle Eastern countries with oil wealth. Although the bombings continued, it was possible to believe that the conflict was in fact done. What the recent events have proven is that [Thomas Ricks’s The Gamble] was right: the 11-year-old Iraq War is far from over…

New in Books: ‘The Sixth Extinction’

Men standing with bones of a mastodon, which were likely hunted to extinction by humans in North America over 10,000 years ago (Library of Congress)
Men standing with bones of a mastodon, which were likely hunted to extinction by humans in North America over 10,000 years ago (Library of Congress)

book-sixthextinction-kolbert-cvr-200According to scientific writer Elizabeth Kolbert (Field Notes from a Catastrophoe), there have been five waves of mass extinctions in Earth’s history. They all had natural causes. In the current epoch — called by some researchers the Anthropocene in recognition of humanity’s transformative effect on the planet’s ecosystems — there is another wave of species disappearing, and it’s because of us.

The Sixth Extinction is on sale now. My review is at PopMatters:

In Kolbert’s account, the Anthropocene is marked by accelerated change and disruptions recalling the natural calamities of the past. In other words, humankind is the new asteroid. There’s the ocean acidification and increased carbon dioxide concentrations destroying everything from frogs to coral reefs (increased “biotic attrition” in one of the book’s more memorably clinical terms) … Interlocking webs of travel networks make continental boundaries meaningless, mixing flora and fauna together at higher rates of speed, dooming even more. The result, Kolbert writes, is much the same as the pulses of “megafauna” extinctions that started occurring some 40,000 years ago when humans began sweeping across the Earth and wiping out megaherbivores like Cuvier’s North American mammoths. “It might be nice to imagine there once was a time when men lived in harmony with nature,” Kolbert notes dispassionately. But “it’s not clear that he ever really did”…

You can read an excerpt of The Sixth Extinction in Audubon magazine.

Another victim of the Anthropocene: the passenger pigeon (Louis Agassiz Fuertes, c.1910-1914)
Another victim of the Anthropocene: the passenger pigeon (Louis Agassiz Fuertes, c.1910-1914)