What I’m Reading

A description of the books and articles I’m currently reading.

Godwin’s Law, myth-making, and the Republic

Posted on Mar 20, 2017 | 0 comments

Last Days of HitlerAccording to Godwin’s Law, the probability of “Hitler” being deployed in any online discussion approaches 1 the longer it continues. There is a reason why this law holds and that is because the Second World War is the cataclysm that is closest to our own generation. Many of us have grandparents that fought, and struggled, and died in that conflict. The memory of it is still fresh in our collective consciousness and we dread a repetition of it (at least, we ought to). For some, it is the worst thing we can imagine, and Hitler the worst person, and so he is inevitably employed as a rhetorical weapon.  

I just finished reading Hugh Trevor-Roper’s book The Last Days of Hitler. It’s a fascinating, and chilling, account of Hitler’s death and the end of the Nazi regime. It’s well worth the read for its own sake. But I was struck by elements of Trevor-Roper’s epilogue and how relevant they are to the situation we face today with “echo chambers”, “fake news”, “alternative facts”, etc.. His words read like a warning from a not so distant past and they bear repeating:

The original purpose of the inquiry which caused this book to be written was to establish the facts of Hitler’s end, and thereby to prevent the growth of a myth; and certainly Hitler’s own exploitation of mythology in politics has been sufficiently disastrous for the world to apprehend a repetition. The facts are now clear, and if myths, like the truth, depend on evidence, we are safe. But myths are not like truths; they are the triumph of credulity over evidence. The form of a myth is indeed externally conditioned by facts; there is a minimum of evidence with which it must comply, if it is to live; but once lip-service has been paid to that undeniable minimum, the human mind is free to indulge its infinite capacity for self-deception. When we consider upon what ludicrous evidence the most preposterous beliefs have been easily, and by millions, entertained, we may well hesitate before pronouncing anything incredible.


Gradually success bred confidence; the propaganda of Goebbels, the sycophancy of Keitel, nourished the self-delusions of unchallenged power; no mind, no fact was allowed to contest the dogmas of strategic genius; and at the end, how different had the conference table become! Hitler was still there, still the central figure, still the ultimate authority; but a Chinese wall separated him from the outer world of reality. He listened not to other voices, but to echoes of his own; for none of the surviving courtiers dared speak, or even know the truth.  


Skeptics and republicans, be ever vigilant.


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Gore Vidal dies

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 | 0 comments


Gore Vidal died today.  While he may have led an unconventional life and wasn’t one to keep his usually contrarian opinions to himself, I’ve always been sympathetic to his skepticism about modern elites and American empire.  I most appreciated his novel Julian.  Though I don’t think the writing was top-notch in literary terms, the ideas and historical themes he explores are deeply fascinating.  I like to flatter myself that Julian and The Last Stoic are kindred spirits, at least in terms of intent and underpinning.  Now, I’m looking forward to getting a copy of his novel Lincoln which is even more well-regarded (despite this, I can’t find it in our local library).  From what I understand, it is not just a bit of hero worship.  It gets quite warty.

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An Indecent Death

Posted on Oct 11, 2011 | 0 comments

I just finished reading An Indecent Death by David Anderson.  David was my elementary school teacher in grades 3, 5, and 6 and he was the first person to encourage me to write and to give me the idea that writing seriously was something worth pursuing.  He made a real difference to me as an impressionable child.  So it’s wonderful to now read his own work!

An Indecent Death is an entertaining read.  It features lots of interesting characters to keep you guessing on who committed the crime, plus a quirky and endearing main character (Nicholas Drumm) tasked with solving the mystery.  Drumm exposes a suprisingly seamy side to the outwardly mundane world of elementary schools and their teachers. The book is fast-paced and engaging, and well worth checking out if you are a fan of murder mysteries.

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“Peak Civilization”: The Fall of the Roman Empire

Posted on Jun 14, 2011 | 0 comments


An interesting (if long) article comparing the fall of Rome to other civilizations, including our own. He quotes Marcus Aurelius, “Nature which governs the whole will soon change all things which thou seest, and out of their substance will make other things, and again other things from the substance of them, in order that the world may be ever new.”

Or, as Heraclitus put it, more succinctly, “the only constant is change.”

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The Book of Trees

Posted on Dec 19, 2010 | 0 comments

The second novel by my friend and next-door neighbour, Leanne Lieberman!

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Buying Cigarettes for the Dog

Posted on Dec 19, 2010 | 0 comments

by Stuart Ross. 

A collection of deeply weird, surreal, comic-tragic short stories. 

My favourite:  The Suntan.  A very moving and human exchange between two unlikely characters.

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