Happy Leap Day from The Movie Snob!
1776, by David McCullough (2005). I think this the first book that I’ve read by the prolific McCullough. I must have found it on sale somewhere, because I’m not a big Revolutionary War buff. (Quick, in what year did the British surrender at Yorktown? 1781. Thanks, Wikipedia!) Anyway, this is a brisk and engaging tale of George Washington’s Continental Army in 1776. (I got the impression that some significant events were happening down in the Carolinas, but we don’t hear about them.) It was pretty much all news to me. First, Washington’s army drove the British out of Boston. Then he moved his army to New York, where the British soundly defeated him. They chased Washington’s ragtag army into New Jersey and then Pennsylvania. All might have been lost, but for Washington’s inspired sneak attack on Trenton, followed by another successfully sally at Princeton. I was surprised to see how inept a commander Washington was in the early going of the war, but apparently he always learned from his mistakes. The book is good, but it could have been MUCH improved by a few battlefield maps to show us exactly what was going on at each of the critical points.
New book review from The Movie Snob.
Considerations of the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline, by Montesquieu (translated by David Lowenthal). I learned about this book the same way I learned about Memoirs of Hadrian—from Joseph Epstein’s book The Ideal of Culture. This one didn’t impress me like Memoirs did. The book is only about 200 pages long and purports to sweep from Rome’s humble beginnings to the fall of the Byzantine Empire some 2000 years later. As a result, it moves quickly and lightly over events, and it made little impression on me. Epstein calls it a work of genius, but if it is it went over my head.
The only political podcast I listen to is the Commentary Magazine Podcast. Commentary is a monthly magazine about politics and culture; it is conservative in outlook, and, given that it was founded by the American Jewish Committee, it gives a lot of coverage to Israel and Judaism. In the twice-weekly podcast, magazine editor John Podhoretz dominates an hour-long conversation with three other pundits about current events. I started listening in 2019, so many or most of the shows I’ve listened to have focused on either the Trump investigations or the Democrat primaries. It makes me feel decently well-informed without actually, say, reading a newspaper or watching a debate. And the podcast’s tenor suits me—conservative, but generally finding lots of folly to marvel at on both sides of the red–blue divide.