02 January 2013

reading in 2013

The caption for this entry is borrowed from Ross Douthat of the New York Times whose column this past Sunday was entitled "How to read in 2013." He argues that, in this year between the 2012 presidential and 2014 midterm elections, we should consciously read varying opinions. Take out a subscription to a magazine whose politics you don't share, as well as reading that is "outside existing partisan categories entirely." Pretty thoughtful advice and something we got some practice in during the election season this past year.

My sister Carol had recommended a few years ago that I friend a fellow on Facebook that she had discovered in doing her genealogical ramblings. His postings are mostly about quite distant cousins so it was more historically interesting than directly relevant to my near family or even places where we've hung out over the years.

As the 2012 presidential contest heated up in the late summer and into the fall, he started posting items that were strongly in support of Romney and the conservative agenda. Some of them were scary and mind-boggling and sickening ... and informative of what others were thinking. Some of my Facebook friends unfriended folks that supported Romney. Though tempted, I did look at some of the postings from this fellow whose politics I didn't understand, the hatred of Obama and socialism and state-ism that I didn't understand. When he posted a video about how General Motors was about to become China Motors, I added a comment that GM had been buying companies overseas since the 1920s at least. The video disappeared from his feed. That surprised me.

I spent Christmas and most of the week up to New Year's on a round of visits to my older sister Roberta's near Albany, to Amenia for Christmas dinner with Ann and Moira and friends, and then on to Boston for some time with Bill. One night in Boston (actually Cambridge, at the Border Cafe), over dinner with Bill and his sister Martha and Al, I had a rather heated and incredibly enjoyable discussion with Al. He's one of my Facebook friends that unabashedly supported Romney in the election. The main portion of the discussion was over my total opposition to war and the military and his description of it as totally utopian and unrealistic. I'm not sure those were his words but I usually just quietly disagree. Perhaps it was the 1800 margaritas speaking. That's not 1800 margaritas, as in one thousand eight hundred drinks, but 1800 in the sense of aged tequila. We didn't agree in the end but we respect each other and recognize that a one-opinion world would be pretty uninteresting.

My personal suggestion for some interesting reading is Taft 2012 by Jason Heller, one of those treasures I found because I was in a good independent bookstore. I found the book at Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck when I was doing a week of cataloging at Bard in early December. The premise of the book is that President William Howard Taft reawakens in 2012. I'm about halfway through the book and the Taft Party is just getting started. The contrast of the good old progressive Republican party and today's GOP is a good part of the story.

Thinking about independent bookstores, NPR was broadcasting an interview with Ann Patchett (author and owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville) and Ronald Rice (editor of My bookstore) as I drove out of Boston toward home. Patchett was pretty encouraging about the future of independent bookstores but her advice included: don't go to an independent bookstore, find a book, jot down the ISBN, and then order it from Amazon for a few cents of savings. You get what you pay for; you might not have known about that book if you hadn't been in that independent bookstore.

One last thing: Taft by Ann Patchett was on the remainder table at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge. I trust it's OK to pay less than full price at an indie bookstore.

The picture of Taft is from the Wikipedia article on Taft.

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