Book Notes No. 1, July 2018

Posting here has obviously been light, lately–seven posts since February, all about books, and mostly about my book, Sanity. Others have taken care of things quite nicely in the  the politics/government/social commentary department; if you haven’t yet, do go over to Social Matter and sign up for the email list, which will get you “This Week in Reaction,” which will likely be plenty.

I’m sure I’ll do some more essays, someday. For now I’ve found my groove with books, writing them and also spending more time reading them and less on “news” and commentary. So just to keep the blog on some kind of regular schedule I’m going to do at least a monthly book post. This is No. 1. Continue reading

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Richard Carroll Reviews “Sanity” at Thermidor Magazine

Richard Carroll, refined literary blogger at Everything is Oll Korrectreviews Sanity in Thermidor Magazine.

At Thermidor: “Our Aesthetic is lucid madness.” Interesting how well that does fit with one of the things I was trying to do with Sanity, explore the balance of Apollo and Dionysius, reason and ecstasy, in a well-lived life.

It’s a generally favorable review, but more important to me is that Richard took the time and had the intellectual chops to understand the book and communicate that. There’s nothing a writer wants more, deep down in his soul.

A sample:

I bring this all up because preachiness was my main concern going into today’s novel, Sanity, written by Neoreactionary blogger Neovictorian. Since I only know him through his articles and am unaware of any previous experience he may have writing fiction, I feared that his book would turn out as either a political tract thinly disguised as a story or a wish-fulfilment fantasy. Though there are NRx and broader dissident Right gang signs all over the joint, they never get in the way of the narrative and the end result is, I’m happy to say, a genuinely good novel that stands well on its own as a novel.

You can follow Richard and read his most interesting takes on a universe of topics at @CheshireOcelot

Sanity, the Paperback

The paperback of Sanity is now available. I’m with the crowd that still prefers real books–though reading on a screen has its times and places.

Turns out that preparing a book for print is far more difficult than the e-version. I fiddled with the images and the layout for days.

You’ll note there’s a different cover. Let’s not get into the technical details of that. I think it looks sort of cool and faintly menacing, though. So I’m good with it.

If Mike Hammer had a son with Dagny Taggart, he might have turned out something like Cal Adler, the hero of Sanity. Just in case you were wondering.

Some Background on Sanity – the Novel

I’m pleased and grateful for the comments and feedback I’ve received on Sanity so far. I thought a bit of background on the origin, the sources and the writing process would be interesting to some readers. Just a taste, though. As with a woman, mystery about the thing is vital to continuing interest.

Like many of you I’ve been an avid reader from the beginning, that is from the earliest days I can remember learning to read. Anybody who has read a good book and has a spark of creativity has thought about writing one themselves, how it gets done and what it takes, the time and the struggle. I remember when I was 15 talking to a woman at our church who had published several successful “Young Adult” books: “I have so many good ideas for books!” She just smiled and said: Continue reading

Sanity – a Novel is Published

It took longer than gestating a real baby, but I published the novel yesterday, for Kindle only so far. The print version requires a lot more work to get right, but there will be one within the week–I personally like to read books.

The eminent Nick B. Steves was an early reader and I trust he won’t mind me quoting a bit of his response:

I had the chance to read in on a flight to Phoenix. It was dynamite. Couldn’t put it down…

SANITY is soaked in an anti-modernist critique that long-time lurkers will find as comfortable as an old shoe. It doesn’t preach, but rather assumes the sale. For those who’ve drunk deeply at the NRx water-cooler, there will be many cleverly hidden Easter Eggs.

I previously posted about the process of writing and the part fiction could play in making our culture and society less worser. I hope you will buy and read the book and if so inclined, review it.

I’ll have more to say about the details soon. One more time:

Sanity – a Novel

 

Back with a Book, But Liberalism Unsteelmanned

A full two months ago I posted Steelmanning Liberalism (I), the (I) being a kind of warranty express and/or implied, but (II), which was supposed to be about how Liberalism (ostensibly) prevents civil war, won’t be appearing; it just wasn’t coming out of the unconscious depths from whence all my good writing emerges.

I was concentrating my mental energy on my novel Sanity, and I’m extremely pleased to report that my “final draft” is complete. Here’s the current, if somewhat inscrutable, synopsis: Continue reading

Steelmanning Liberalism (I)

I’ve loved the term “steelmanning” ever since I first read it, somewhere in Slate Star Codex. Scott Alexander seems to have used the term many, many times and I don’t know exactly in which piece I first saw it, but credit where credit is due.

I was reminded of it again a few days ago when the estimable Geoffrey Miller pointed out that Conor Frieders… okay, I don’t want to get into that, or him. Let’s just leave it that the tweet inspired me to at last begin a post I’ve been contemplating for some time:

Steelmanning Liberalism

As to what liberalism is, what it is exactly that we’re steelmanning here, let’s refer to La Wik, for its universalism (heh):

Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programmes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality and international cooperation

I’m sure that my target demographic here experiences a certain distaste, perhaps even physical revulsion to “Liberalism” because for the discerning, the term conjures up images like this:

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Or perhaps this:slt

These are the seeming fruits of liberalism, and by their fruits ye shall know them; all of us experiencing sanity feel a natural and healthy revulsion at such things. But let’s be honest. These are the strawmen of liberalism, or, perhaps one could say, merely the products of mental illness. What are the very best arguments for liberalism? What are the Steelmen?

I identify four, in descending order of importance:

  1. Liberalism prevents or makes very unlikely destructive war between nation-states
  2. Liberalism prevents or makes very unlikely civil war within nation-states
  3. Liberalism in general prohibits and discourages the killing of individual humans
  4. Liberalism provides the maximum opportunity for individual humans to develop their “human potential”

Today, we focus on (1). Obviously if this were true,  it would be a powerful argument that everyone, everywhere should adopt a liberal political system. War does not further good “reactionary” values like strong families with a committed father and mother in their complementary roles, like subsidiarity, like voluntarism and local control and craftsmanship. War produces single moms and orphans, national emergency governments running roughshod over all forms of local outlook and control, the involuntary military draft and mass production of material that is not for construction and admiration but for the express purpose of destruction and dealing death.

The notion that “Democracies don’t fight each other” was expressed by George W. Bush in 2004 and by his almost equally liberal predecessor Bill Clinton in 1994, but as helpfully pointed out by the BBC:

Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace, [was] published in 1795. Kant’s theory is that democratic leaders are restrained by the resistance of their people to bearing the costs and deaths of war. And a democratic culture of negotiation and conciliation, plus the hurdles to taking swift action, favours peace.

For simplicity we here use “democracy” and “liberalism” interchangeably. In Current Year, all significant “liberal” regimes are democracies, whether parliamentary or American-style, and all actual “democratic” systems (those with voting and a regular, peaceful transfer of state power) are considered “liberal” under the definition above. The fact that a number ill-liberal nations hold sham elections is, in itself, significant. The fact that many “democracies” still have (powerless) monarchies is irrelevant. Luxembourg is as cute as a button; we will discuss it no further, unless it goes to war.

Now, it’s possible to dispute whether, in fact, liberal regimes or democracies have never, ever, gone to war with each other; the Guardian provides a helpful summary of possible exceptions. The best the good Professor could come up with was the (maybe, possibly) the War of 1812 and the Peloponnesian War.

Athens’s attack on Syracuse refutes the hypothesis, yet it is questionable whether the Athenians knew that Syracuse possessed a democratic polity or whether the rule of democratic peace applies to ancient warlike republics.

Color me unconvinced. One could argue that the US-Mexican War of 1846-8 qualifies, but the Mexican government in 1846 wasn’t liberal, or indeed outside of Mexico City much of anything but a mess. So I’m not buying. Some fools try to claim that Hitler was “elected” (he was appointed Chancellor). Germany was a democracy in 1933. Anyone want to make the case that it was still in 1939?

The American Civil War of 1861-5 belongs to Part II.

Liberalism has, arguably, been around as an important idea since Locke and other thinkers of the 17th century (see Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle for a great fictional treatment of the era). Modern liberal political regimes have been around since 1776. They have steadily increased in numbers since then, and they’ve not gone to war with each other. If all nation-states were liberal in construction, war would be extinct, or very, very rare.

This is the most important fruit of liberalism.

Consider it Steelmanned, Part I.