Good Album Hunting April 28, 2016: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library moved the semiannual book sale from a location about fifteen minutes from me to a location about forty-five minutes away, plus or minus fifteen minutes with traffic. So I’m only going once this year, and I made a beeline to the record albums. I knew I was going to be in trouble when the second album I touched was Eydie Gorme and The Trio Los Panchos More Amor.

So I bought a lot of LPs.

Don’t bother counting. That’s sixty albums. They had a large number of Brazilian albums, mostly samba and MGB, so I ended up with a pile of them now.

Here’s what I got:

  • Angela Bofill Angie
  • Artie Shaw Tiara Spotlight Series
  • Bent Fabric Alley Cat
  • Beth Carvalho Sentimento Brasileiro
  • Beth Carvalho Suor No Rosto
  • Billy Ocean Love Zone
  • Boots Randolph Plays the Greatest Hits of Today
  • Burl Ives Christmas Album
  • Burt Bacharach Bacharach Baroque: The Renaissance
  • Charlie Barnet Presents a Tribute to Harry James
  • Chick Corea Touchstone
  • Clara Nunes Sucessos de Ouro
  • Dean Martin Favorites
  • Dean Martin Welcome to My World
  • Donna Summer Bad Girls
  • Eartha Kitt The Fabulous Eartha Kitt
  • Elba Ramalho Coração Brasileiro
  • Elis Regina Nada Será Como Antes
  • Elis Regina Vento de Maio
  • Eric Gale Touch of Silk
  • Estela Núñez Uno…
  • Eydie Gorme and The Trio Los Panchos More Amor
  • Gal Costa Fantasia
  • Gal Costa Baby Gal
  • Ginny and the Gallions The Two Sides Of
  • Grover Washington, Jr. Baddest
  • Grover Washington, Jr. Skylarkin’
  • GRP Live In Session
  • Harold Gomberg The Baroque Oboe
  • Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Going Places!!
  • Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Summertime
  • Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass What Now My Love
  • Herbie Mann Waterbed
  • Hiroshima Third Generation
  • Jackie Gleason The Best of Jackie Gleason Volume 2
  • Jean-Pierre Rampal Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano
  • Johnny Mathis and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra Live It Up!
  • Kiri and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra Blue Skies
  • Leny Andrade Leny Andrade
  • Les Elgart Half Satin Half Latin
  • Linda Ronstadt and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra Lush Life
  • Maria Bethânia Alteza
  • Nelson Ayres Mantiquiera
  • Pete Fountain Salutes the Great Clarinetists
  • Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 Herb Alpert Presents
  • Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 Look Around
  • Simone Amar
  • Stargard Stargard
  • The Commodores Midnight Magic
  • The Commodores Natural High
  • The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen
  • The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen Volume II
  • Tony Bennett The Many Moods of Tony
  • Tony Bennett Who Can I Turn To?
  • Toshiko Akiyoshi Notorious Tourist from the East
  • The Baroque Trumpet
  • Baroque Fanfares and Sonatas for Brass
  • Voices of the Middle Ages
  • Sucessos Inesquecíveis Da M.P.B.
  • A&M Records Million Dollar Sampler

I got three albums (Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Going Places!! and What Now My Love and Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 Look Around) because they had better covers than the ones I already have. I got two albums (Blue Skies and Live It Up!) because of the “and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra”.

And I’ve got a couple weeks worth of listening for about $60.

I got three books, too, as you can see. And my children found a Perry Como title in the CDs for me, but when I got home, I discovered it was a copy inside, so I discarded it. I try to be careful about that, but I was too busy worrying about the records to check the CD I guess.

Also, I tested my beautiful wife’s love as never before as I brought in this ten inch stack of records. Followed soon by the greatest test ever of my furniture making skill as I try to create a storage solution for my hundreds of LPs.

Book Report: Mountain Rampage by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book is definitely a better entry in the series than The Invisible Assassins. Bolan doesn’t light a cigarette.

What he does do, however, is infiltrate a terrorist compound in the Colorado Rockies where an assortment of international bad guys are working on chemicals that will make people crazy hyperactive and self-destructive and also a chemical that turns them essentially into controllable zombies. Bolan infiltrates the compound, blows things up, rescues an attractive young lady, and then the book ends 20 pages earlier than I expected because the samples from other novels at the end have the title of this book in the header.

It’s very straightforward: Bolan comes and the assault begins rather straight away. There are cut scenes to Stony Farm which add nothing but padding. I can almost imagine adding them and the sample pages for four other Gold Eagle books to get this volume to fighting weight.

However, in context of what it is, thinner and straightforward works. And although there’s not a lot of reflection, no Bolan War Journal entries, the book does have a bit of that flavor the previous installment lacked. It’s almost as though the author might have read one of the Bolan books before reading it.

Although if they could stop switching semi-automatic pistols to single fire, that would be nice.

Book Report: Down with Love by “Barbara Novak” (2003)

Book coverI bought this book at an estate sale nine years ago, and it’s often been in the front ranks of a bookshelf when I’m looking for something to read. A couple of times I picked it up and thought about reading it, but put it back. Well, gentle reader, I have finally read it.

The book, if you cannot tell from the cover, is a movie tie-in for the film with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. Remember it? Without the book, I wouldn’t know of it, either. At any rate, it’s a romantic comedy set in the 1960s where a farm girl from Maine has written a female-empowering book that takes the world by storm. Some finagling by her editor gets her an interview in the hottest magazine, written by the womanizing ace reporter nicknamed “Catch.” Hijinks and shopping ensue as they discover eventually that they’re perfect together. All according to her plan. Spoiler alert, retroactively.

At any rate, it sure must have relied on the actors and the filming for the humor, for I didn’t see much. To add depth to the book, the author adds a bunch about clothing, outfits, and shopping. I wonder if that’s the influence of Sex in the City or something. I dunno, although I have a Candace Bushnell novel around here someplace and maybe I’ll eventually be able to briefly compare the two in my own mind.

At any rate, it was a quick, forgettable read. Now I’ll have to find something else to pick up and put down without reading for a decade.

Book Report: So You Want To Be A Wizard by Diane Duane (1983, 1996)

Book coverA month ago, I mentioned Diane Duane, so when I soon thereafter came across this book on my to-read shelves, I picked it up.

Now, I’ve never read the Harry Potter books because I tell people I don’t read young adult books or something. Nobody’s asked me in some time, come to think of it. Harry Potter is so 20th century. But I invented a loophole for this young adult fantasy book: See, it’s from 1983, so the twelve year olds within are my age or a little older. Or something.

At any rate, in the book, a New York girl who is bullied hides in the library to escape her tormentors and comes across a book patterned on career books; this one, however, is about becoming a wizard. She reads the first part of it, says the oath, and she’s suddenly aware of some magic she’s always known about but didn’t know it was magic. She’s also thrust into a plot by the ultimate bad guy to destroy the universe when she goes looking for a missing pen. So she and another young wizard travel to an alternate reality along with a small, sentient wormhole sidekick to try to find a magickal book that can protect the world (all worlds) from destruction.

It’s the beginning of a series, so it must have had some success. Back in the day, I read some fantasy–Jack Chalker comes to mind, and Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series. But by the time I was the age of the protagonists, I’d bypassed the young adult fantasy in favor of adult books. Which is why I hadn’t heard of this series until now. It must have been a pretty good run, as this book was still in print thirteen years later.

It wasn’t my bag, baby. So I’ll probably not look out for the rest of the series. I’ll probably pass this copy onto my young adult reader and perhaps he’ll enjoy it more.

Book Report: The Invisible Assassins by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThere’s generally a tip-off that an Executioner book is going to be sub-par for the series: Mack Bolan lights a cigarette. Bolan doesn’t generally smoke throughout the Pendleton books and into the New War period; if one of the house authors has him lighting a cigarette (see also Return to Vietnam), you can assume the author has no familiarity with the series outside the outline handed to him. Mack Bolan lights a cigarette in this book. So the character does uncharacteristic things.

These books really jump into the 1980s action pop culture zeitgeist; we have Harriers and Uzis in previous books and ninjas in this book. In it, Bolan is called in to watch over a computer expert who is then killed right before Bolan’s eyes. He starts to investigate, and wouldn’t you know it, the trail leads to Japan, ninjas, a wealthy man who fancies himself a samurai warlord, and a plot for World War II-era vengeance via biological warfare. Which Bolan disrupts of course.

But the character is out-of-character in torturing and then killing someone offhandedly. The book also lacks the reflective self-consciousness present in other books and focuses on the gore and two-fistedness, so it’s a lesser entry in the series that might have been better in the Nick Carter or Death Merchant series.

A couple of moments of unintended levity: In one scene, Bolan is talking to the head of a martial arts school that teaches an advanced Ninja class which he says is not for beginners, and the sensei gets a phone call during his conversation with Bolan. The guy on the phone wants to know if he can take the ninja class, and he’s got two years of Tae Kwon Do experience. So the sensei agrees he’s ready for the Ninja class. Gentle reader, I can assure you that two years of Tae Kwon Do does not make you ready to be a ninja. At best, it makes you ready for a third year of Tae Kwon Do.

And ahead of the climax, Bolan picks up a gun and a sword and enters a corridor where he see the Ninja at the end. Instead of, I dunno, shooting or stabbing the ninja, he goes hand-to-hand. How cinematic it would have been were it filmed. On the page, though, it was underwhelming as was the climactic sword fight while in hazmat suits in the biochemical lab.

At any rate, if I space these books out, I can kind of forget that their plots are very similar. However, I must read them closely enough together so that I know that the worst of the series is the worst of the series, not the entire series. Otherwise, my children will inherit dozens of unread Bolan novels. I’m hoping they’ll inherit read books.

Book Report: Reinhold Niebuhr by Bob E. Patterson (1977)

Book coverThis book is the first in a series, Makers of the Modern Theological Mind, and it’s a summary view of Reinhold Niebuhr’s work and through for forty or fifty years in the middle of the 20th century. I don’t know where I bought the book, but I know why I picked it up: I’ve been seeing Niebuhr’s name in First Things magazine and some other things I’ve been reading, and I remember from my collegiate studies that he and his brother were considered important thinkers in the middle of the 20th century. So I gave it a go.

The book is a thematic study of Niebuhr’s thought. That is, it is grouped by them, not chronologically. It’s broken into chapters on Sin, Grace, and Love and Justice along with a chapter on his biography and some groundwork for his thought. It’s not a long book, 162 pages with citations and bibliography, so it’s something you can read relatively quickly and feel a little confident you know a bit about where he’s coming from.

Niebuhr’s concept of sin is heavily informed by the Existentialists of the era (and Kierkegaard, which precedes the era). The nature of man is that he is physical, material, and natural and he is self-transcendent and can recognize where he falls short of the ideal (which is Christ). This contradiction leads to the original sin and the knowledge of God. Man has free will, but he will always ultimately fall short and will know it. So I really understood this bit.

In the concept of grace, to make a short summary of Niebuhr’s though shorter, Niebuhr thought the crucifixion provided initial, justifying grace to man and the grace (or Holy Spirit) acting through a justified person was sanctifying. Niebuhr is trying to balance here between faith and works in other words.

Where I really dispute Niebuhr is his concept of Love and Justice. Justice flows from love, and eventually he gets to political institutions as countervailing blocs fighting for their rights. But in his ideal, the people in the blocs are sanctified and justified by grace, so they’re doing the right thing. Which is not where we’ve ended up. As the book is sectioned thematically and not chronologically, as I mentioned, it’s not one hundred percent clear from the text of this book whether Niebuhr evolved to or evolved from this position.

One thing the book does make clear is that Niebuhr’s thought evolved over the decades that he taught and wrote, so sometimes some of his work tighens, refines, or seems to contradict his earlier positions.

So I enjoyed the book, and I’m going to keep my eye out for some of Niebuhr’s primary works.

How To Tell What Brian Is Listening To

At the gym, I’ve finally entered the late 20th century and got myself one of these new Walkmans that play computer files, so I’m always jacked in to something playing at a level too high for my ears.

In case you’re wondering what I’m listening to, here’s a cue:

If I’m turning my head side to side while mouthing the lyrics, it’s Billy Joel’s “I Go To Extremes”:

I fancy myself to be Liberty DeVitto in those moments, I guess.

Jesus Would Like To Have A Word With Ra

Every week, our church has a Children’s Bulletin with puzzles aligned with the message to preoccupy young people in the service.

This week, children were invited to help align the Stargate so Jesus could go free the Israelites from their slavery under the space-god Ra:

Well, that’s what it looks like to a certain kind of science fiction fan/fellow who always wanted to be more like James Spader.

I guess in reality, the children are supposed to skip to every something letter to spell out a bible verse.

Dr. Johnson Not Cited

Internet hoaxers aren’t even trying any more.

An article on the Daily Mail (UK) Web site linked by Instapundit bears the headline Women DO judge men on their penis size: Researchers say it is ‘as important as a man’s height’.

However, one the Internet one should be skeptical of everything, especially those sourced like this:

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (a journal commonly known by its initials as PNAS), Brian Mautz, Bob Wong, Richard Peters and Michael Jennions use a clever experimental manipulation of computer-generated imagery – CGI – to test the effects of variation in penis size relative to height and torso shape (shoulder width relative to waist width) on the attractiveness of male bodies to women.

This cannot be real, can it?

I’ve looked at the universities listed with the authors, and only Richard Peters actually is at the place where it says he works (but he’s not in the Department of Zoology).

However, the study (and the news article) are three years old. So perhaps they moved on. If they ever existed.

You’re saying to yourself, Brian J. sure is working hard to discredit this study. Does it make him feel bad about himself?.

I’m not going to dignify that with a response.

Old Timey Brian J.

Mr. Hill just celebrated 20 years of blogging. Me, I’ve only been at this stream for 13 years, but I’ve appeared online for almost twenty years myself.

Here are a couple of early bits elsewhere:

Role Playing Research in the newsletter of the Central Nebraska Writers Network.

Meeting Robert B. Parker at Bullets and Beer, a Spenser fan site from way back.

After almost 20 years of working on the Internet and blogging and whatnot, anyone who Googles me is going to find a lot of feldercarb out there.

Amazon Conditioning Me Away From Amazon Prime Shipping

I’ve been kicking around the thought of ordering a DVD copy of Idiocracy for a while, so I’ve searched for it on Amazon a couple of times.

I see now that Amazon will ship it to me for free if I pay through the nose:

Thirty bucks for a DVD when it’s available on Amazon through third party shippers or on Walmart.com for a reasonable price:

What could account for that?

It fits my theory that Amazon is trying to get people used to paying for shipping again and will move Prime exclusively to a content deliver service.

Book Report: Bad Publicity by Jeffrey Frank (2004)

Book coverI read Frank’s earlier novel The Columnist in 2005; some number of years later, I picked up this book at a book sale here in Springfield, and it will take me at least another decade before I read another Frank book.

This book is billed a satire (and the book flap even compares Frank to Jonathan Swift, a fact I didn’t know when I picked up the Frank book right after Gulliver’s Travels). However, I didn’t find much mirth in the book since it, like the earlier novel, lacks a sympathetic character. It describes a number of interconnected people in Washington in late 1987 and 1988 whose lives intertwine at the end of the Reagan presidency and what most assume will be the beginning of the Dukakis era.

There’s a former Pennsylvania congressman who lost his seat after divorcing his wife for his assistant. His marriage to the younger woman ends ugly even after he’s forced out of his post-Congress job after making some overtures/compliments to a young female attorney with the firm who presses for his discipline with the firm because she’s tired of men treating her as a sex object, although it’s not as bad as she makes it out to be in her own mind. She conspires with a man whose wife works with the local news anchor who is going insane to get the word out about the former congressman and to get him denied a position in the White House. The former congressman consults with an image management firm and gets assigned to a down-to-her-last-client chain-smoking publicist whose assistant happens to be working closely with the local anchor who is going insane. There’s also an academic at a think tank who’s not working on his book on social reform and who’s been supplanted on the scene by a new expert in his subject matter and, well. Washington people and The Columnist Brandon Sladder appears in all the coolest restaurants at all the best parties.

So these people do their silly things and conjugate in their silly ways, and there’s nobody really for someone outside the northeastern corridor to identify with (and hopefully nobody that most people in the business would really identify with either). I got the sense while reading it that Frank didn’t really like anyone he was writing about, either.

So I didn’t care for it. There’s no mirth for me in laughing with the cooler-than-thou kids at schmucks, even if they’re schmucks ruining the country.

Book Report: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1948)

Book coverI found this book to be very approachable and readable for something written 50 years before the Declaration of Independence; eventually, it dawned on me to check the title page. It’s part of the Young America Classics editions, which I don’t collect. To be clear: unlike Classics Club editions and Reader’s Digest editions, I only have one Young America Classics that I’m aware of. This means I have more Young Americans than Young America editions, and I’m fine with that.

Anyway, the title page doesn’t say it’s abridged, but it is Edited, with an Introduction, by May Lamberton Becker, which looks as though it means adapted by. The book collects three of Gulliver’s travels (to Lilliput, to Brobdingnab, and to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan. It omits the fourth, the Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms for some reason. Perhaps this was a darker bit not suitable for Young America right after World War II.

I assume you know some of the story. Although, in the 21st century, perhaps that’s optimistic. Gulliver, a ship’s surgeon, is shipwrecked at various times and finds himself in a land of tiny people (Lilliput), of giant people (Brobdingnab), and a land of a floating island and strange academics (Laputa et al). The book is satire, almost 300 years later some of the elements of the satire is lost. For example, I’m not sure what elements Swift is making fun of in Lilliput, or whether he endorses or mocks the society of Lilliput where:

Whoever can there bring sufficient proof that he hath strictly observed the laws of his country for seventy-three moons hath a claim to certain privileges, according to his quality and condition of life, with a proportionate sum of money, out of a fund appropriated for that use; he likewise acquires the title of snilpall, or legal, which is added to his name but does not descend to his posterity. (p54)

I can’t tell here if he’s advocating what the contemporary left calls a living wage or if he’s making light of it.

Other lines seem completely relevant today. For example, Gulliver explains to the Brobdingnabian king how the government works in England, and the king there replies:

“My little friend Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country; you have clearly proved that ignorance, idleness, and vice are the proper ingredients for a legislator; the laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose interests and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them. I observe among you some lines of an institution, which, in its original, might have been tolerable, but these half-erased, and the rest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions…”

In Lagado, Gulliver learns how everything went amok:

The sum of his discourse was this: That about forty years ago certain persons went up to Laputa, either upon business or diversion, and after five months’ continuance, came back with a very little smattering in mathematics, but full of volatile spirits acquired in that airy region. That these persons, upon their return, began to dislike that management of everything below, and fell into schemes of putting all arts, sciences, languages, and mechanics, upon a new foot. To this end they procured a royal patent for erecting an academy of projectors in Lagado; and the humor prevailed so strongly among the people, that there is not a town of any consequence in the kingdom without such an academy. In these colleges the professors contrive new rules and methods of agriculture and building, and new instruments and tools for all trades and manufactures; whereby, as they undertake, one man shall do the work of ten; a palace may be built in a week, of materials so durable as to last forever without repairing; all the fruits of the earth shall come to maturity at whatever season we think fit to choose, and increase an hundred-fold more than they do at present; with innumerable other happy proposals. The only inconvenience is, that none of these projects are yet brought to perfection; and, in the meantime, the whole country lies miserably waste, the houses in ruins, and the people without food or clothes. By all which, instead of being discouraged, they are fifty times more violently bent upon prosecuting their shcemes, driven equally by hope and despair: that, as for himself, being not of an enterprising spirit, he was content to go on in the old forms, to live in the houses his ancestors had built, and act as they did, in every part of life, without innovation. That some few other persons of quality and gentry had done the same, bute were looked on with an eye of contempt and ill-will, as enemies to art, ignorant, and ill commonwealth’s men, preferring their own ease and sloth before the general improvement of their country.

The third of these voyages seems the most readily accessible to modern audiences, especially if those people have already read Atlas Shrugged.

So it took me a while to get through it, but I enjoyed the book. I was ashamed to learn the source of the word Brobdingnabian; although I have an album by the Brobdingnabian Bards and run across the adjective from time to time in writing, I hadn’t really learned or retained its source. I have now.

Also, I learned a bit about the history of seafaring. Not so much because Gulliver travelled the seas; instead, it’s because he’s excited about the prospects of immortality when he learns of a group of immortals:

I should then see the discovery of longitude, the perpetual motion, the universal medicine, and many other great inventions brought to the utmost perfection!

Of those, we only got longitude, and not that long after this book appeared. It makes a lot more sense the conceit of a bunch of undiscovered lands when you realize that mariners for hundreds of years (by hundreds, I mean thousands, except I really only count the hundreds of years of Western voyaging out of site of land) could tell how far north and south they were, they had no real idea how far east and west they were. Whoa.

So it’s a good adventure story and classical literature, so I’m glad to have read it. I’m almost afraid to see what happens in the Jack Black movie based on it. Probably not as much satire as the original included, but I’ll understand the humor of crass 21st century better than the finer points of 18th century satire.

Just to Clarify

Police: Man used handgun as hammer at Missouri school:

A man has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and child endangerment after police say he used a handgun as a hammer while working on a project at a southeast Missouri elementary school.

The unlawful use is not because he used his gun as a hammer; it’s because he had it at the school:

(10) Carries a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use into any school, onto any school bus, or onto the premises of any function or activity sponsored or sanctioned by school officials or the district school board; or

So it doesn’t look like a violation to use it as a hammer. Or a decoration, which is cool, because I have a couple flintlocks on display here at Nogglestead.

Of course, in looking up the statute, I read the first section:

(1) Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use; or

Which means I’ll have to remember not to put my martial arts training weapons in my bag when conveying them to class. Otherwise, according to my reading of the law, I’d be breaking it.

When Max Allan Collins Comes Around

I noticed a couple days back in my referrer logs that someone from Muscatine, Iowa reading the book report for Dead Street.

Muscatine, Iowa, as I learned when I was researching the book report, is the current home of Max Allan Collins, the author of Dead Street. So I was pretty sure it was the man himself.

Given that he linked the report on his blog today, I’d say I was correct.

Collins joins Diane Duane, author of the Star Trek novel My Enemy, My Ally and Joe Clifford Faust, author of A Death of Honro as people whom I can honestly include in the plural “you, gentle reader” in my continuing posts. Although in most cases it’s an honorary title. Given my blog traffic these days, plural is an honorary title when referring to my readers.

Also, it’s why although I’m not at Nick Hornby levels in positivity (as his book Ten Years in the Tub indicates, his magazine editors prefer he only have nice things to say about books he reviews), I try to keep snark to the minimum: because the authors are people, too. Besides, all of these people have sold far more books than I have.

Also also (which is my blog equivalent of P.P.S., which nobody uses any more), this is why I’m thinking about ending my book reports with boilerplate “It’s not as good as MY NOVEL!” Just to see if I can get any self-Googling real author to spend a buck on it.

Book Report: Life in the Age of Charlemagne by Peter Munz (1971)

Book coverAs I just read The Carolingian Chronicles, when I saw this book on my shelves, I knew I had to read it next.

It seems almost magical that from my thousands of books, I can often find different books on the same topic if I get interested in it. However, that’s only because I tend to accumulate books in certain areas that I’m interested, and then when I get interested in them, I have a bunch to choose from. So it’s not magical, but I think it’s neat once I read a book and find a related book on the same topic.

This book, unlike Carolingian Chronicles and The Life of Charlemagne, is not a primary source; instead, it relies heavily on social anthropology to explain how these backwards people were. As such, you have to look at it as though it the prism of someone in the 1960s applying his or her own theories into the historical record. You get that with any history, of course, but in this case, the distance between then and then and then and now require a bit more distance.

Especially as this book is not narrative in nature; it does not tell the history from start-to-finish, year-to-year. Instead, the book takes different topical matters (The Rich, The Poor, Government, The Church, and so on) and then discusses that topic from a historical anthropological perspective about how they relate to one another. Here’s a hint: It was brutish for the poor and slightly less brutish for the rich. The book talks about the Christianity of the Franks, but repeatedly emphasizes that it was a cynical tool for controling the conquered people. It’s hard to get into the heads of contemporary people, and it’s probably impossible to get into the heads and hearts of people who lived over a thousand years ago, so contemporary–or fifty year old–attempts are suspect. Short of a handwritten diary, we really can’t know the interior motives.

Aside from that quibble, the book also has some repetitiveness that it should not. In a number of places, thoughts and even phrases are repeated to convey the same thing, sometimes mere paragraphs later.

So it was a quick read and reinforced some of the names and dates that I read earlier (I hope). I’ll have to sometime soon explore my stacks to see what else I have in this vein.

One side note about the book: The volume I have is an ex-library book from the Cor Jesu Academy in St. Louis, Missouri. It still has a card in the back, but the mylar dust jacket had a barcode on it. The card has stamps from 1980 to 1991. So the book itself might have resided there from about the time of my birth through at least my college years; when I was in high school, several girls my age borrowed this book to write reports. And now I’ve read it for fun and for a simple blog book report.