Notes on To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson

This book surveys the development of Socialism by summarizing and analyzing various thinkers, starting with Michelet and ending with Lenin. I became interested in the book after reading about it on NPR’s You Must Read This series, which has provided me several good recommendations over the years. This book, so far, looks like it will be added to that list.

As other threads like this one, I’m going to use it to jot down rough thoughts and impressions.

One more thing, for what it’s worth: Wilson is a good writer, both in terms of his prose and insights.

Notes on The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz

Along with Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism, this was one of the books that individuals I respect recommended during Trump’s presidency. I finally got around to reading it.

Milosz, a Polish poet and writer, wrote this in 1950, and he draws on his experience living in a Soviet controlled country. I came into this wanting to learn about authoritarianism and the way individuals psychologically accept or even embrace this. The book does address this by profiling four writers, describing the (mostly psychological) path they took to work for the Soviet-controlled government.

But their journey’s didn’t stand out to me. What stood out more is what I learned about Soviet-style Marxism, which I guess could be described as Stalinism? (Or Leninism?) While I don’t know enough about Marx, Communism, or Socialism to make precise distinctions between them, some differences did come to light, and this interested me the most.

I want to use this thread as a way to crystallize my thoughts and absorb the book.

Notes on The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski

Joe Posnanski, who is one of the best writers about baseball I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a ton), serialized a countdown of his 100 greatest baseball players in The Athletic this past spring. I’ve been meaning to share here the great Phil Niekro story he tells about Niekro’s 300th victory but boiling it down to a reasonable length was a challenge I wasn’t up for.

Here is the whole thing in one book, released yesterday. The publisher describes it as “Longer than Moby-Dick and nearly as ambitious.” Of course I preordered it. The only hesitation was whether I wanted the physical book (I did) or would settle for the ebook for practical reasons (I did; practicality won out this time, which is an odd thing for me to say about myself).

Notes to come. I especially encourage you to wait for #83. Phil Niekro. 🙂

Notes on “The Hedgehog and the Fox” by Isaiah Berlin

Thread on the famous essay. One quick point. I was first attracted to this essay because of hedgehog and fox dichotomy. Berlin suggests that thinkers can (or tend to be?) one or the other. Simply, foxes know many things, while hedgehogs know one big thing. I wanted to learn more about the two categories. Unfortunately, the essay says very little about this. The categories are mostly a springboard or a backdrop for an investigation into Leo Tolstoy’s conception of history, epistemology, and philosophy. Still, I ended up learning and thinking about the way people fall into different categories, in terms of their outlook, thinking, and personality, and the way this seems seems to frame or influence debates about key topics in philosophy and politics. I’ll try to go into that in the next comment section.

Four Pieces of Writing That Must Be Read in the Trump Era–to Protect the Republic

I really enjoy the experience of coming across a new idea that changes my perception or understanding in a significant way. I’ve been thinking about four pieces of writing that did that for–all of them crucial, I would say, to Americans. I list those articles, with a brief description, in the first comment. (Note: The title is more of an attention-getter than something I literally believe.)

Notes on Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012) by Susan Cain

I read this book shortly after its publication, in order to write a review of it for my side gig. I have to admit I didn’t take my time, and not much of it really stuck, although I was impressed by how scholarly and accessible it is.

Since then, of course, the book has become something of a conversation-starter all over the country, especially in workplaces, and Cain has become a champion for an interesting cause. Also since then, I’ve grown to admire other writers who call her a friend and colleague (most notably Adam Grant). I haven’t seen her TED Talk yet, because mostly I don’t care for TED Talks, but I think I’ll give it a look when I get through this re-read.

2020 is my year of finishing unfinished books (2019 was my year of re-reading long-loved titles from my past), so I’m starting with Quiet, a book I technically finished but didn’t actually finish since I read it so quickly. Here will be some notes for posterity.