wonkette world o' books

A Wonkette Guide To Political Summer Reading (Ha, Not Really!)

Incorporating Washington Post Book World.It’s been a while since the last installment of Wonkette World o’ Books, and heavens how the world has changed since that time of economic chaos and meaningless violence here and abroad. Oh, we’re kidding, for there is nothing new under the sun (which is known to feast on human hearts). But as a blind Argentinian (not Diego Maradona, that’s more like a blinG Argentinian, ho ho!) once wrote, “The world is inexhaustible.” In that spirit, let’s take some quick looks at a few books. In nooks, with cooks.

Americapedia: Taking the Dumb Out of Freedom by Andisheh Nouraee, Daniel Ehrenhaft, and Jodi Lynn Anderson is an amusing satirical survey of American history and politics intended for the Teenagers. Even though your reviewer is no longer a teenager, he can well remember being one, and thinks his teenage self would probably have enjoyed Americapedia. It seems to be kin to Jon Stewart’s America: The Book: Lots of funny pictures and so on. And jokes! Yes madame, are there ever jokes. How can you not like a book that includes a picture of an adorable Labrador next to a brief section on “Nuclear Watchdogs?” Nuclear watchdogs! Your reviewer is chortling just thinking about it. Anyway, buy it for the Children (and visit the Americapedia website, which will give you some idea of what the book is like).

We were most impressed by the fact that the three authors include a long section on American foreign policy, which has something to do with inscrutable foreigners.

Speaking of foreigners, how about those Israelis and their Palestinian cubicle-mates? Israelis are up in arms about housing prices and other social justice issues at the moment, pitching tents in Tel Aviv (Pitching Tents in Tel Aviv would be a fine title for a small film production) and marching with strollers, because, well, it’s expensive to live in Israel. We’re not sure about Tel Aviv, but we know that the going rate in certain areas of Jerusalem is something like Lots of Money + Not Being Arab. Which is pretty steep, for some people.

Anyway, Jeremy Ben-Ami, who heads the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street, has written a book titled A New Voice for Israel. It makes the case that 1) not every American Jew is uncritically pro-everything Israel does, 2) that AIPAC doesn’t speak for every Jew in America, and 3) you can be Jewish and still support the creation of a Palestinian state (Ben-Ami and J Street favor the possibly past-its-sell-by-date two-state solution). This book is in many ways a fine thing, and probably necessary for introducing a different perspective into the dumb “debate” about this subject in the U.S., but your reviewer can’t say it’s revelatory. Which perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

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If it’s revelatory you want, we recommend the wonderful Israeli novelist Yoel Hoffmann, who’s a “new” voice of a different kind. His writing doesn’t have anything to do with the Ongoing Crisis, thankfully. Instead he writes odd and gorgeous stuff about obscure topics like love, death, people and animals in a strangely youthful, ever-fresh style.

What else has happened in the world lately? Markets tumbling then resurrecting then tumbling again, of course, always. Just what is “money,” anyway? If you’re looking for a good “book about finance” to set on your shelf next to the complete works of George Soros, your reviewer highly recommends Frozen Desire: The Meaning of Money by James Buchan. It’s not a technical book, and it won’t teach you to how build a hedge fund or make millions trading corn syrup futures. What it is is an elegant book about the history and philosophical implications of this Age of Money whose end we’re currently witnessing.

Yes, money is over. In the near future we’re just going to barter with each other, and the only widely available goods will be truck nutz and hobo flowers.

Meanwhile, London’s reserve supply of mobile phones and Playstations has been almost totally confiscated by drunken 12-year-olds and their permanent-underclass 40-year-old parents. Pundits and bloggers of all stripes have tried to understand the trouble by dispensing sage Analysis (i.e. dusting off readymade stock phrases/opinions and applying them to a situation where they don’t apply at all). Especially in America, where everyone (very much including nice U.S.-ian liberals) seems to have a terrible time not seeing everything through an American prism and framing every problem as something that reminds them of something over here. “It’s a (somewhat misdirected and regrettably surly) uprising against unemployment/public spending cuts/capitalism! Take note, GOP!” is as moronic as “it’s the browns and blacks and immigrants and Mooslims, even though they’re burning the homes and businesses of browns and blacks and immigrants and Mooslims.”

This isn’t the first time London has experienced incredibly stupid riots, of course. Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge, set during the Gordon Riots, might be worth revisiting while the consumerist fires burn. The Gordon Riots were different from the current revolt in important ways, though. The 1780 riots were about empowerment through terrorizing Catholics. This has given way to empowerment through terrorizing everyone (small grocers, pub landlords, working class people oppressively trying to live their lives in reasonable calm). Progress, innit?

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Hola wonkerados.

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92 comments

    1. DahBoner

      They also have these stores that sell these "books".

      They look scary, never set foot inside one….

        1. flamingpdog

          Not quite out of business yet – advertising large-percentage-off sales. New slogan: Run for the Borders (Before They Close for Good).

  1. elviouslyqueer

    (Pitching Tents in Tel Aviv would be a fine title for a small film Hasidic gay porn production)

    There, fixed that fer 'ya, Greer.

  2. Oblios_Cap

    Pitching Tents in Tel Aviv would be a fine title for a small film production firm

    From your lips to Vivid Entertainment's ears!

  3. littlebigdaddy

    And I thought everything was going to be fine on Knifecrime Island once they came out with pint glasses made of safety glass!

  4. EatsBabyDingos

    I used to use books in the outhouse when the Sears catalogue was missing. Now I use the "Kindle," but it makes my but itchy and does nothing for the dingleberries.

    1. flamingpdog

      Why is the Starship Enterprise like toilet paper? They both wipe out Klingons around Uranus.

  5. Oblios_Cap

    Especially in America, where everyone (very much including nice U.S.-ian liberals) seems to have a terrible time not seeing everything through an American prism and framing every problem as something that reminds them of something over here

    There are other ways to look at things? Really? But are they as fuckin' "A" exceptional as ours?

  6. YouBetcha

    If I can't eat it, wank to it, or wipe my ass with it, I'm not interested. Take your liberal garbage elsewhere, Wonkette.

  7. user-of-owls

    a blind Argentinian

    Ah, so Mark Sanford's Argentine paramour was blind. Oh that explains so, so much now.

  8. DahBoner

    "This isn’t the first time London has experienced incredibly stupid riots, of course. Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge, set during the Gordon Riots, might be worth revisiting while the consumerist fires burn…"

    But, but, but, what if we learn the lessons history has to teach us?

    How can we then make the mistakes of repeating them?

  9. ThundercatHo

    "Taking the dumb out of Freedom" is completely aimed at the wrong audience. Children of nice, socialist, education promoting parents might stick it under the old yule tree this winter soltice (to the chagrin of their offspring who are already dreading the Tofurkey) but ain't no way the inbred offspring of redneck, kissin' cousins are going to ever get a chance to read this book.

    1. FNMA

      Or any book.
      It doesn't matter. They don't understand satire and would think that Labradors really do protect us from nuc-u-lar war.

    2. littlebigdaddy

      They're too busy putting out the yuletide flames from a. the methlab explosion, or b. the accident with the deep fryer (I tawld yew yew kint put a frozen turkey in that thang!) to bother with reading books.

  10. Barb

    I just got a Kindle and a snazzy Burberry plaid cover for it. Now I just need someone to come and show me how to get the books into it and I should be good to go. Um, that is until I will need someone to come over and show me how to turn it on and turn the pages.

    1. Mumbletypeg

      You think that's intimidating, this "Kindle"? Just imagine with the "Nook"… so archaic-sounding I don't think there's anyone alive anymore who'll remember how to safely clean its dust-cover.

    2. JustPixelz

      I have a kindle too. My current technique is to put books on top of it on the night stand. I assume gravity will eventually push the word things down into its kindley-soul. The reason I use that technique is Amazon charges a lot of money for books. And I live across the street from the library, which doesn't charge anything.

    3. CapeClod

      I think its called "Kindle" as a not-so-subtle suggestion as to what to do with that stuff you use to read made out of dead trees.

    4. Chet Kincaid

      It's easy! You just have to scan all the books in your library, page-by-page, by placing the Kindle face-down and flipping the on-switch. Then you can burn 'em all!

    5. PristinePantalones

      I'll be right over. Do the rewards for this volunteerism include some of that fabled cooking, of which I've heard so much? Hmmm???

  11. freakishlywrong

    I think the whole "pedia" thing has run it's course. We need to stab pedia in the neck and dispense with it already.

    1. FNMA

      I've read reviews of that and may seek it out.
      I just finished The Good and the Ghastly, set a thousand years in the future, a world where Visa owns everything, people keep deer as pets and the theory of natural selection is attributed to Sarah Palin. It's a pretty fucked up world.

    2. CapeClod

      I read that too. I also read "World War Z" and "The Passage." I think I'm pining for time when something, (robots, zombies, vampires,) will come along and just put us all out of our misery.

  12. jodyleek

    Hobo flowers?!? Flowers?!? Oh, Jesus Christ! What the hell am I going to do with the metric ton of hobo beans in my basement?

    1. PristinePantalones

      Send 'em right over, and come pick as many hobo flowers as you want to replace 'em. I'm stockpilin' hobo beans for the impending holocaust anyway.

  13. proudgrampa

    (showing my age here:)

    What? No "All About" series on Economics? No "Golden Books" on "The Wonderful World of Politics"???

    1. JustPixelz

      (showing my age here)

      No "My Father at 900. A Memoir of Adam" by Seth. No "Underwater. The Coming Flood." by Noah. "Going Rogue. My Years in the Baal Faith" by Jezebel.

  14. x111e7thst

    I hear books are handy if you need something to make a fire out of. What with the relatively low ignition point (Fahrenheit 450 -something) of paper and all.

  15. user-of-owls

    Stabby days are here again,
    The skies above are seared again,
    So let's loot a keg of beer again,
    Stabby days are here again!

  16. SorosBot

    You know, as one of yesterday's posts noted, Christine not-a-witch O'Donnell has a book coming out in about a week…

  17. SayItWithWookies

    1) not every American Jew is uncritically pro-everything Israel does, 2) that AIPAC doesn’t speak for every Jew in America, and 3) you can be Jewish and still support the creation of a Palestinian state.

    Actually the only American Jew I can think of who is uncritically pro-everything Israel does is Eric Cantor — the evangelicals getting all "Israel right or wrong" are just getting a bit scary here. It's like they thought they were soooooo close to bringing Jesus back when Dubya got elected that they now see opportunity slipping away. They're still not desperate enough to question their worldview, however.

      1. SayItWithWookies

        Oh, crap. You know what the worst thing about forgetting Joe Lieberman is? I never appreciate how pleasant it is until it's over.

  18. CapeClod

    Are any of these books mysteries? With lots of sex? Because who in God's name is going to read that crap in the summertime?

    1. PristinePantalones

      Personally, anything's better than trying to wade through the day's news these days. Shit, I'm reading Keith Weller Taylor's book on Vietnam and just enjoying the crap out of references to the border tribes and the Dong Son bronze culture. ANYTHING but politics, goddammit.

  19. Mumbletypeg

    This must mean books aren’t dead yet? That is, the practice of reading them?
    The good news is: my young nephew still prefers to give books as birthday presents to his peers (the most recent one being: “Encyclopedia of Immaturity”); and his pre-teen sister stays engrossed with lengthy, dense Y/A novels, in-&-around her other routine social-networking/ online-games etc.
    The bad news: *I* am striking out continually with my own impulse-buys of books that were recommended strongly from one source or another; I end up hating them, virtually throwing them across the room. It’s like I’m turning into that guy I once knew, a screenwriter-hopeful who spent 17 years in a 2-room hovel in Hoboken and refused to watch any movies more recent than 1950-something releases… or the guy I still know, in his late 20s, refusing to listen to any genre but jazz.. both bitter in their disappointment or else too attached to what's familiar.
    If I am in league with those fogies, I would be tempted to conclude it’s quality contemporary fiction that’s ‘dead’ but maybe something one day will surprise me. And there’s tons of older stuff on my bookshelves I ought to read first or why else did I buy the things. I’d loan them out but nobody reads books anymore my niece & nephew aren’t old enough for them yet.

    1. FNMA

      There are plenty of good books out there. Like music, you just have to seek it out.
      For instance, I have a novel coming out this fall…

    2. PristinePantalones

      Quality contemporary fiction: may I recommend "The Book of Salt," if you haven't already read it, by Monique Truong. Also (not new, but well worth reading) Anne Michaels' matchless prose in "Fugitive Pieces"; and Indrani Aikath Gyaltsen's brilliant debut, "Daughters of the House." Of course, with my luck, you've read them all already, in which case you should certainly feel free to leave your own recommendations for me – other than "Kindly stick your head up your ass," which I couldn't comply with right now, having thrown my back out.

      1. Mumbletypeg

        Sorry about your back! I have a recurring glute issue, bursitis or who knows, that's cramped my ability to gadabout like I prefer most weekends, so I will browse the online local-library thing for your recommends shortly, appreciate those offerings.

        feel free to leave your own

        I stopped enjoying current fiction late 1990s when I was employed by an indie bookstore; now I read more bio and nonfiction (David F Wallace's essays; "Misquoting Jesus" by Ehrman) and revert to older works out of desperation: Charles Portis' "Norwood" (1966); "Cider House Rules" by Irving and "The Lover" by Marguerite Duras slayed me. Recently discovered Mary McCarthy's "The Group" which despite its length I finished easily. Now I'm rereading "Master & Margarita" by Bulgakov, again unique and from another time.
        While working as a bookseller I came to love "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby & reread that last year; "Giant's House" by Elizabeth McCracken and "Mister Sandman" by Barbara Gowdy; "Ray" (1981) by Barry Hannah; each quirky in its own way & I've never yet read anything else by those authors, which is probably wrong, but there's too many others to pursue.
        My all-time favorite short fiction author you've never heard of, Mark Richard, happens to be married to George Allen (R)'s sister and his autobiography "House of Prayer #2" I *nearly* flung across the room when I saw it was written 2nd-person, à la McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City" which I loved & reread recently but felt he mastered the point of view uniquely. However, Richard's anecdotes are so full of crazy I remembered why I loved his work.

        1. PristinePantalones

          Wow, thanks for all those recoms! What a pal!

          I love Nick Hornby (although I resisted him mightily at first, don't ask me why), and that was a good book. The Master and Margarita is simply brilliant, isn't it? Bulgakov, mm-mmm! I've got something on the shelf by McCracken, but it's not that title, so will go find it. Did you read Duras in French, or English? I'm always annoyed that I've never been able to read Russian writers in the original, since for reasons yet unknown to me, it's their convoluted, complex stories I seem to love the best. Mark Richards, eh? Will investigate. Wonderful list!

          I try to put together a book list at the beginning of every year, no more than 60-200 books that I will read for the year. Regrettably, the past three years has seen me hip-deep in history, specifically of Asia, WW II, Southeast Asia, and, right now, military and security conflicts (VN, Korea, Indonesia, Philippines). The fiction will provide some light relief. Again, thanks!

  20. proudgrampa

    I have found that re-reading some of the older books is rewarding.

    I am currently re-reading (and in the middle of) Pynchon's "Against the Day." Still think the "Chums of Chance" is the funniest book series ever: "The Chums of Chance in the Bowels of the Earth" Hah!

      1. proudgrampa

        Here are all the titles (from Pynchon Wiki):

        Chums of Chance and The Evil Halfwit,
        Chums of Chance and The Curse of the Great Kahuna,
        Chums of Chance at Krakatoa,
        Chums of Chance Search for Atlantis,
        Chums of Chance in Old Mexico,
        Chums of Chance and the Bowels of the Earth,
        The Chums of Chance and the Ice Pirates,
        The Chums of Chance Nearly Crash into the Kremlin,
        Chums of Chance at the Ends of the Earth,
        Chums of Chance and the Caged Women of Yokahama,
        Chums of Chance and the Wrath of the Yellow Fang,

        Uh, you know this isn't really a series, right?

        Love,

        proudgrampa

        ps. As far as I'm concerned, all of Pynchon's work is worth reading more than once.

        1. PristinePantalones

          See, I read Pynchon when I was a teenager. The parental units were a little odd about what they permitted the sproggen to read/watch. I think I was 13 at the time, which is just not the age for that sort of material. Recently I have gone back to the authors I favoured in those years and re-read much of their work. In the event, Pynchon, as I discovered only recently, wasn't boring or shocking or unpalatable, just as I have finally discovered the fine art of reading Nabokov's immortal prose. So, no, I don't know much about Pynchon at all, and will happily undertake this new leg of my lifelong literary journey, and I appreciate your recommendations greatly. What other writers do you enjoy as much as Pynchon? I have recently discovered Yoko Ogawa, and she has slain me with the starkness and beauty of her work (in translation, yet.)

  21. metamarcisf

    I would like to recommend "The Secret of the Caves" by Franklin W. Dixon. Sample dialogue: "What happened to Joe?", Chet ejaculated.

  22. orygoon

    This librarian says bor-ing, and recommends stiff, er, stuff like zombie-live-girl love stories, like "Warm Bodies". Or books about puppydogs. Or about food.

    But yes, for your reading enjoyment, we'll provide Serious Things, also.

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