Monday, August 3, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt three)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

From a distance I noticed old Salamano standing on the doorstep. He looked flustered. When we got closer, I saw that he didn’t have his dog. He was looking all over the place, turning around, peering into the darkness of the entryway, muttering incoherently, and then he started searching the street again with his little red eyes. When Raymond asked him what was wrong, he didn’t answer right away. I barely heard him mumble “Stinking bastard,” and he went on fidgeting around. I asked him where his dog was. He snapped at me and said he was gone. And then all of a sudden the words came pouring out: “I took him to the Parade Ground, like always. There were lots of people around the booths at the fair. I stopped to watch ‘The King of the Escape Artists.’ And when I was ready to go, he wasn’t there. Sure, I’ve been meaning to get him a smaller collar for a long time. But I never thought the bastard would take off like that.”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt two)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

We went upstairs and I was about to leave him when he said, “I’ve got some blood sausage and some wine at my place. How about joining me?” I figured it would save me the trouble of having to cook for myself, so I accepted. He has only one room too, and a little kitchen with no window. Over his bed he has a pink-and-white plaster angel, some pictures of famous athletes, and two or three photographs of naked women. The room was dirty and the bed was unmade. First he lit his paraffin lamp, then he took a pretty dubious-looking bandage out of his pocket and wrapped it around his right hand. I asked him what he’d done to it. He said he’d been in a fight with some guy who was trying to start trouble.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt one)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

We all had some coffee, served by the caretaker. After that I don’t know any more. The night passed. I remember opening my eyes at one point and seeing that all the old people were slumped over asleep, except for one old man, with his chin resting on the back of his hands wrapped around his cane, who was staring at me as if he were just waiting for me to wake up. Then I dozed off again. I woke up because my back was hurting more and more. Dawn was creeping up over the skylight. Soon afterwards, one of the old men woke up and coughed a lot. He kept hacking into a large checkered handkerchief, and every cough was like a convulsion. He woke the others up, and the caretaker told them that they ought to be going. They got up. The uncomfortable vigil had left their faces ashen looking. On their way out, and much to my surprise, they all shook my hand—as if that night during which we hadn’t exchanged as much as a single word had somehow brought us closer together.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

the last book I ever read (Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, excerpt sixteen)

from Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow:

Everything in Alexander Hamilton’s life pointed to the fact that he would not dodge a duel or negotiate a compromise. He was incapable of turning the other cheek. With his checkered West Indian background, he had predicated his career on fiercely defending his honor. No impulse was more deeply rooted in his nature. This outspoken man was always armed for battle and vigilant in deflecting attacks on his integrity. On six occasions, Hamilton had been involved in the duel preliminaries that formed part of affairs of honor, and three times he had been attached to duels as a second or an adviser. Yet he had never actually been the principal in a duel. His editor, Harold C. Syrett, has observed that, until the summer of 1804, Hamilton “was obsessed with dueling in the abstract, but not with duels in fact.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

the last book I ever read (Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, excerpt fifteen)

from Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow:

The 1800 triumph of Republicanism also meant the ascendancy of the slaveholding south. Three Virginia slaveholders—Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe—were to control the White House for the next twenty-four years. These aristocratic exponents of “democracy” not only owned hundreds of human beings but profited from the Constitution’s least democratic features: the legality of slavery and the ability of southern states to count three-fifths of their captive populations in calculating their electoral votes. (Without this so-called federal ratio, John Adams would have defeated Thomas Jefferson in 1800.) The Constitution did more than just tolerate slavery: it actively rewarded it. Timothy Pickering was to inveigh against “Negro presidents and Negro congresses”—that is, presidents and congresses who owed their power to the three-fifths rule. This bias inflated southern power against the north and disfigured the democracy so proudly proclaimed by the Jeffersonians. Slaveholding presidents from the south occupied the presidency for approximately fifty of the seventy-two years following Washington’s first inauguration. Many of these slaveholding populists were celebrated by posterity as tribunes of the common people. Meanwhile, the self-made Hamilton, a fervent abolitionist and a staunch believer in meritocracy, was villainized in American history textbooks as an apologist of privilege and wealth.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

the last boo I ever read (Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, excerpt fourteen)

from Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow:

In writing an intemperate indictment of John Adams, Hamilton committed a form of political suicide that blighted the rest of his career. As shown with “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” he had a genius for the self-inflicted wound and was capable of marching blindly off a cliff—traits most pronounced in the late 1790s. Gouverneur Morris once commented that one of Hamilton’s chief characteristics was “the pertinacious adherence to opinions he had once formed.”

Hamilton found it hard to refrain from vendettas. He would be devoured by dislike of someone, brood about it, then yield to the catharsis of discharging his venom in print. “The frankness of his nature was such that he could not easily avoid the expression of his sentiments of public men and measures and his extreme candor in such cases was sometimes productive of personal inconveniences,” observed friend Nathaniel Pendleton. Even Eliza in after years conceded that her adored husband had “a character perhaps too frank and independent for a democratic people.”

Monday, July 27, 2015

the last book I ever read (Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, excerpt thirteen)

from Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow:

Whatever his disappointments, Hamilton, forty, must have left Philadelphia with an immense feeling of accomplishment. The Whiskey Rebellion had been suppressed, the country’s finances flourished, and the investigation into his affairs had ended with a ringing exoneration. He had prevailed in almost every major program he had sponsored—whether the bank, assumption, funding the public debt, the tax system, the Customs Service, or the Coast Guard—despite years of complaints and bitter smears. John Quincy Adams later stated that his financial system “operated like enchantment for the restoration of public credit.” Bankrupt when Hamilton took office, the United States now enjoyed a credit rating equal to that of any European nation. He had laid the groundwork for both liberal democracy and capitalism and helped to transform the role of the president from passive administrator to active policy maker, creating the institutional scaffolding for America’s future emergence as a great power. He had demonstrated the creative uses of government and helped to weld the states irreversibly into one nation. He had also defended Washington’s administration more brilliantly than anyone else, articulating its constitutional underpinnings and enunciating key tenets of foreign policy. “We look in vain for a man who, in an equal space of time, has produced such direct and lasting effects upon our institutions and history,” Henry Cabot Lodge was to contend. Hamilton’s achievements were never matched because he was present at the government’s inception, when he could draw freely on a blank state. If Washington was the father of the country and Madison the father of the Constitution, then Alexander Hamilton was surely the father of the American government.