Friday, December 7, 2018

This morning I'll be heading south for a planning meeting for a high school writing residency . . . step 1 in my forthcoming extreme teaching schedule. This particular job is going to involve a long commute, which does not delight me, though when I think back to my Harmony car life, I don't know why I'm complaining. I drove the better part of two hours every day to pick up my kid at school. But it's been easy to lapse into no-driving, and that is doubtless why Tina the Subaru required a visit from AAA's battery guy yesterday.

One thing about having all my books around me again: I can't stop taking them off the shelf and diving into them. So I've decided to let that approach run rampant. I spent a few days with the Bate bio of Keats, and now I'm swimming in Paul Johnson's The Birth of the Modern: World Society, 1815-1830, a wonderful messy tome that stews together war, poetry, typhus, colonial expansion, music, the uses of horses, obstetrical medicine, et al., into a giant pot of historical minestrone. [What a silly metaphor.]

Anyway, here's a couple of quotations you might enjoy . . . and find disturbingly familiar:

"One of [Andrew Jackson's] early biographers, James Parton, wrote that his 'ignorance of . . . everything which he who governs a country ought to know, was extreme. . . . His ignorance was a wall around him, high, impenetrable. He was imprisoned in his ignorance, and sometimes raged round his little, dim enclosure like a tiger in his den." A powerful image, but perhaps misleading. Jackson, like Cecil Rhodes at the end of the century, lacked schooling, but, as with Rhodes, a powerful intelligence and an even stronger will gave a strange force to his writing and still more to his speech. Throughout his life, it helped to inspire dread in his opponents, racial and political." [Unfortunately, we now have a so-called president who fits that description far better than Jackson did . . . and without any caveats about "powerful intelligence."]

"[Jackson] was an orphan at fifteen. Two years later he turned to a life in the law, which was in practice a blend of land grabbing, wheeler-dealing, office seeking and dueling, and perhaps could not have occurred in precisely this combination at any other time or place." [Maybe things were different in 1991, when Johnson publishing the book, but this description of lawyer seems to describe Cohen and Avenatti and Giuliani and their ilk pretty well . . . sans the dueling. Would more lawyer dueling mean less trouble for the American people?]

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