At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I'm not sure about this one; the topic is up our alley, but if some of these reviews are correct then the book would be too pamphleteering for an academic library.


Morone, James A. Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History. Yale.

Choice: “Fascinating. This refreshing treatment of religion as politics deserves to be read by social and cultural historians, political scientists, sociologists, and theologians.” Library Journal: “Recommended.” Booklist: “Readers trying to peer into the nation’s post-9/11 moral future will thank Morone for clarifying the path along which righteous fervor has already impelled us.” History: Review of New Books: “Lengthy but otherwise accessible.” Review of Politics: “Almost overwhelming in its breadth and demonstrates a remarkable familiarity with diverse periods in American political history. The author succeeds in delivering his argument in language that is accessible, witty, and often a pleasure to read. Yet the book has many weaknesses. His conceptual tools for understanding cultural politics are weak. Furthermore, Morone’s disdain for ‘Puritans’ is not even thinly veiled.” Christian Century: “Morone is a political science professor, not a historian, and his knowledge of American cultural history seems to have come largely from reading secondary sources. He gets some of the details of that history wrong, and he sometimes seems to be out of touch with recent developments in historiography. Morone displays a surprising lack of interest in all aspects of history that do not have to do either with the Puritans or with people who can be seen as heirs of the Puritan tradition. Moreover, his attempt to analyze America’s various religio-moral discourses lacks nuance. But his aim seems to be to meditate on the long history of Christian-based political movements. He wants to encourage people to rethink the possibilities and limitations of the American tendency to conflate religion and politics. He has succeeded in meeting these worthwhile goals, and he has done so through a set of engrossing narratives. Hellfire Nation is actually fun to read.” Journal of Church and State: “Polemical and impressive. Morone is at his best when providing rich illustrations of the provocative, startling, amusing, and sometimes frightening similarities among the events he analyzes. But what of his interpretive theory? First, Morone’s second form of Puritanism (i.e. community) is required to carry much more weight than it can bear. Second, how well would his general interpretive theory fare in discussing other public policy issues such as the space program, transportation policy, the environment, the budget, taxes, and foreign aid? Finally, we need to ask whether America is as ‘exceptional’ in employing the tools of demonization as may be assumed.” Virginia Quarterly Review: “Remarkably intelligent and ambitious. While this book has some real reflectiveness, it is more a chronicle whose provocations emerge from its recounting of history.” American Historical Review: “Throughout the work, Morone fails to grasp a crucial element of Reformed theology: the central role of original sin. This is a book with enormous strengths and insights, but in some instances, its flaws parallel and almost match its strengths.” First Things: “Frequently sensationalistic. Tendentious and overheated.” New Republic: “Morone has unfashionably humane political instincts, but in the end Hellfire Nation disappoints. Its abundant typographical errors and misspellings of proper names would be tedious to enumerate. It omits some of the most significant moral crusades, and it pays minimal attention to the enormously important subject of foreign policy. Morone does not seem to understand the distinction between belief and morality, between yearnings for salvation in heaven and for a righteous community on earth. Morone is determined to understand sin in sociological categories—specifically the race, class, and gender mantra that dominates contemporary scholarship in social and cultural history.” Nation: “There’s an obvious pitfall awaiting any liberal secularist who tells such stories. A glib condescension can slip into one’s prose, leaving the impression that the God infested zealots shouldn’t be taken too seriously. On occasion, Morone gives in to the temptation himself. As with many a contemporary scholar of American studies, Morone’s own moral tale turns primarily on matters of race and gender. He’s too quick to reduce what he calls ‘moral panics’ to their political meaning. He also neglects abundant evidence that public piety has repeatedly crossed the color line.”

Friday, August 27, 2004

Anyone know Czech? Posted by Hello


English, Richard. Armed struggle: a history of the IRA. Oxford, 2003. 486p bibl index afp ISBN 0-19-516605-1, $35.00.

Choice: “All academic libraries will want this excellent work. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.” Contemporary Review: “This book must at least help the reader to understand the motivation of the IRA in its several guises over the last century. There is evidence of remarkably detailed research.” Publishers Weekly: “Balanced and complex. A provocative and essential book for anyone trying to understand Northern Ireland’s tempestuous recent history, providing even better insight into the IRA’s ideology than Ed Moloney’s recent A Secret History of the IRA.” Booklist: “Without discernible bias, English provides a readable history of the modern IRA.” Economist: “Despite its mealy-mouthed pandering to the sensibilities of murderers, and its eagerness to breast-beat over the excesses and failure of the British state, Mr. English’s well written book convincingly demonstrates the ghastly futility of the IRA campaign.” Library Journal: “Whether he intended to or not, English seems to justify the IRA’s violence. In page after page, he chronicles the IRA’s bombings, killings, and attacks as tragic but necessary within the political context and Protestant response as just vengeful. Ultimately, what is most frustrating is that English doesn’t explain precisely how peace has come to pass. This is not the history of the IRA but only the latest history—and a tendentious one at that.”

Thursday, August 26, 2004


Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History. $695.

Reference and User Services Quarterly: “Each of the articles is written with minimal technical jargon. Several points of entry make using this title straightforward. This work accomplishes what it set out to do, giving an excellent historical overview of the intersection of economics and mankind from prehistoric times to the present. Contributors provide concise yet meaningful entries that are presented in an organized and easily understood manner. It is a wonderful complement to other more narrowly focused economic history resources, or an excellent reference for a collection that lacks any other. Although written with an eye toward undergraduates and general readers, graduate students and faculty may also find this work useful.” Booklist: “A valuable interdisciplinary reference tool. There is no source comparable to this. Highly recommended for all academic libraries as well as larger public libraries.” Choice: “Effective use of cross-references leads readers to broader or narrower topics. Highly recommended.”Library Journal: “Comparative coverage is surprising in some cases...Bibliographies at the end of articles usually contain a dozen or more fairly recent references..An extensive index makes fairly esoteric subjects accessible...The set’s scholarly articles are well written in an academic style. Because of its price, focus, and noted flaws, however, the set would be a useful purchase only for larger academic libraries.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Another minor crisis at the library, but this one may partially be my fault--you be the judge. This morning the boss walked up to my desk with the latest report from our business office and said "According to this we're $40,000 under budget." This was puzzling because I kept a close watch on our balance throughout the year and I was, if anything, afraid I might have gone a couple of hundred dollars in the red. I won't bore you with the details of my subsequent three-hour investigation, but finally I discovered that the Excel spreadsheet my predecessor created had one fatal flaw: the formula used to determine each division's slice of the pie did not involve the variable name of the spreadsheet cell (e.g. Q32) containing this particular year's total budget, but instead the specific dollar amount of the total budget a number of years ago (e.g. $62,340). (That explanation isn't especially clear, I admit.) Anyway, the upshot is that for the past few years we've been going increasingly under budget because the spreadsheet formulas weren't taking into account budget increases. I'm not sure how much responsibility to feel for this fiasco. I didn't create the spreadsheet, but I did assume that it was properly designed without checking it over first. And I noticed last year that we were about $10,000 under budget, but I had attributed this to the fluctuating prices of one of the book vendors we use.

Despite being under budget, I had some difficulty getting all the money spent, so this year, with the properly inflated figures, I can be a real spendthrift.


Big news: Bob Dylan to publish first volume of memoirs this fall.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

East of Amarillo, TX Posted by Hello


Penguin Publishing advises men on holiday to keep the fantasy books at home if they want to pick up the chicks.

Sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox said: "On a beach, with so little on, a book can tell you far more about someone than their choice of swimming trunks or a beach towel. Pick a classic and woman will swoon at your sensitive nature."

Do you think the fact that Penguin publishes more classics than fantasy novels has anything to do with this advice? Anyway, since there aren't any beaches within 678 miles of here, it's a purely academic matter for me, but I really want to find these women who get aroused by Dostoievsky and Yeats. I don't think they're living in West Texas.


Reuters: Significant numbers of non-Christians are coming to Marian shrines to venerate the BVM. Since [WARNING: Protestant bias ahead] the Catholic cult of saints arose in the first place as a syncretistic compromise between Greco-Roman paganism and Christianity, this turnabout seems only fair. Speaking of bias, for those of you who doubt that the mainstream media has a liberal slant, check out these quotes from the article:

"They have sinned against God and given scandal to the faithful," thundered the U.S. monthly Catholic Family News.

Challenging that view earned the respected theologian a secretive three-year investigation by the Vatican's stern doctrinal chief, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Monday, August 23, 2004


Sounds interesting, but might be too specialized for a small library like ours.

Flanders, Judith. Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England. Norton, $34.95.

Library Journal: “absorbing and thoroughly researched…Reasomely entertaining and yet a wonderful addition to academic literature, this book is sure to become a classic. Highly recommended.” Publishers Weekly: “brims with delightful description and discussion…absorbing…working-class life is overlooked…intelligent and unromanticized.” NYT Book Review: “Nimble social history. This book can be used to decode the domestic symbolism of the period’s literature.” Booklist: “So fascinating that it yields at least one surprise on each page.” Wilson Quarterly: “An engaging, informative book. Its strength is Flanders’s research. Picky readers might sometimes wish for less matter and more art, but even they will never again see a Victorian house in the same old cozy, comfortable way.” Atlantic Monthly: “Flanders, who writes smoothly and cleverly, renders a detailed and engaging portrait of middle- and upper-middle-class domesticity in London from 1850 to 1890. Although vivid, Flanders’s rendition is somewhat distorted, largely because of the sources she’s used. But readers will perforce turn to the simplicities of books like Flanders’s until the academy learns to write again.”

A couple of more on the Bavarian beer-hall theme:

Bavarian government cuts grants for families to purchase traditional Oktoberfest garb. I think it's fun that there is a "Bavarian Livery Association."

NM student fined for beer glass theft in Germany. I remember a drunken German lad stumbling through the crowds at Oktoberfest yelling (in English, for some reason): "I stole a mug! I stole a mug! I stole a mug!" I guess it's quite an accomplishment.