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Throwback Thursday: Three Stories

Three short stories from 2006.

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Book review History Politics

Zweites Buch. Adolf Hitler (1928)

Where Mein Kampf is a sprawling, ill-organised rant overflowing with hateful conspiracy theories, Zweites Buch is a succinct, mostly cogent, well-reasoned statement of Adolf Hitler’s foreign policy views. The ongoing German-Italian crisis regarding the South Tyrol has motivated Hitler to critique Germany’s current foreign policy, and develop a suitable alternative. This he does in the context of considering abstractly the proper motives and goals of any nation’s foreign policy. Zweites Buch is an aetiology of politics itself. If Mein Kampf was an endless parade of Hitler’s destructive delusions and obsessions, Zweites Buch is a glimpse into the mind of an astute politician, a committed if misguided patriot, and a man both “logical and fanatical,” as one observer put it. Zweites Buch puts antisemitism and antibolshevism mostly on the backshelf, and articulates the broad points of the policies Hitler was soon to enact. This analysis of problems and potential solutions – of economics, international rivalries and inequities, and fierce competition over limited natural resources – is a unique window into an important mind, and remains relevant in global politics today

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Poetry

Throwback Thursday: Two Poems: “When Thisbe Was Dead” and “In the Bath”

Two poems from 2011 in Muse India.

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Short story

Courage Anniversary

A magic realist story about a co-dependent relationship in the city of lights.

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Book review

Adam Bede. George Eliot (1859)

Adam Bede is one of my favourite novels. Its setting is idyllic; its cast is diverse, spanning skilled labourers, prosperous tenant farmers, and landowning gentry, speaking a range of Derbyshire dialects, expertly captured; its pace is slow but sure; its story a mature tragedy shot through with hope and acceptance; and everything is suffused with Eliot’s empathy, humour, and grace, already fully matured here in her debut. I first read Adam Bede when I was ten or eleven; it holds up well to rereading.

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Flash story

They Told My Friend

This flash story was originally published by Bandit Fiction on 05 September, 2021. Image Credit They told my friend: “Stop washing your face.” Daniel kept the cleanest face at school – before our mums pulled us out to work. He’d been a good student; he was saddened. Then he laughed and fell to fieldwork.  Daniel […]

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Short story

Biding Time

This story was originally published by uRevolution. Image credit 11:35am.  Almost time for almonds.  They strolled up the walkway towards Halebid  temple.  Dhrub in his arms, Rishab walked slowly.  So slowly, Rita wasn’t sure they were moving.  Were they moving backwards? Whoosh!  They were moving backwards.  Only Rita felt it.  Rita, starved-stoned.  “It’s depressing, visiting […]

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Book review

Letters To A Young Poet. Rainer Maria Rilke (1903-1908), trs Herter Norton (1934)

Written during Rilke’s formative years, his advice in Letters To A Young Poet is a guide not just to artists, but to anyone who wants to live well. Ranging over topics as diverse as vocation and art, sex and solitude, nature and literary criticism, Letters is a lyrical and spiritual guide to living, reading, feeling, and loving. Quick to read, this tiny book will stay with you long afterwards, and hold up to frequent rereadings. Like a holy book, it is best read often and briefly: peep at one passage, savour it, and turn it over on your tongue.

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Book review

Berlin Alexanderplatz. Alfred Doblin (1929). Trs. Michael Hoffman (2017)

Whether you’re looking for an examination of crime and decay, a multi-disciplinary origin-story of individual consciousness, or a landmark in modernism literature that has influenced generations of writers, or just a jolly good narrative – Berlin Alexanderplatz will change the way you read and think.

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Short story

Re:Birth

A magic realist journey of recovery from trauma.

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Book review

Buddenbrooks (1902). Thomas Mann. Trs. H. T. Lowe-Porter, 1922

Buddenbrooks is the four-generation saga of a wealthy 19th-century German merchant family. The Nobel Prize is generally awarded for an oeuvre; Mann’s 1929 citation was primarily for Buddenbrooks: an unusual choice which this novel justifies. Mann’s first novel, written in his early twenties, shows a prodigious talent for observation, an eye for character, an ear for dialogue and dialect, and a canvas ably spanning the better part of the 19th century. Buddenbrooks regularly tops Must-Read Lists of German literature; it has already become one of my favourite novels.

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Book review

Death in Venice (1912). Thomas Mann

Death in Venice records the struggle between discipline and leisure, respectability and abandon in the person of aging writer Gustav Aschenbach. This quasi-autobiographical novella captures the conflict between social mores and primal desire; between the love drive and the death drive.

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Novellas & Novelettes

Zeus and His Things

“Zeus and His Things” is a humorous speculative novelette inspired by (a) my decades-long love of Greek mythology, and (b) the question: What if things don’t really behave systematically, as we expect them to? This novelette published in four parts in Bewildering Stories Volumes 911 & 912 is a lighthearted engagement with the philosophy of science.

Categories
Novellas & Novelettes

Zeus and His Things

“Zeus and His Things” is a humorous speculative novelette inspired by (a) my decades-long love of Greek mythology, and (b) the question: What if things don’t really behave systematically, as we expect them to? This novelette published in four parts in Bewildering Stories Volumes 911 & 912 is a lighthearted engagement with the philosophy of science.

Categories
Novellas & Novelettes

Zeus and His Things: Part 2/4

“Zeus and His Things” is a humorous speculative novelette inspired by (a) my decades-long love of Greek mythology, and (b) the question: What if things don’t really behave systematically, as we expect them to? This novelette published in four parts in Bewildering Stories Volumes 911 & 912 is a lighthearted engagement with the philosophy of science.

Categories
Novellas & Novelettes

Zeus and His Things: Part 1/4

“Zeus and His Things” is a humorous speculative novelette inspired by (a) my decades-long love of Greek mythology, and (b) the question: What if things don’t really behave systematically, as we expect them to? This novelette published in four parts in Bewildering Stories Volumes 911 & 912 is a lighthearted engagement with the philosophy of science.

Categories
Book review Philosophy

Siddhartha, An Indian Tale (1922). Herman Hesse

Siddhartha is the fictitious biography of a man who shares a name, and temporal-spatial proximity, with the Buddha, and who echoes many notes of the Buddha’s development. This spiritual journey into the self unfolds in rolling lyrical language, develops psychological insights in vivid imagery, and reconciles the cacophonous conflict between the worldly and the spiritual in a symphony of joy. Siddhartha is most memorable for its portrait of its protagonist: who combines amiability with an openness to endless change, and becomes a role-model for spiritual seekers everywhere.

Categories
Book review Politics Psychology

Group Psychology and The Analysis of the Ego (1922). Sigmund Freud (trs. James Strachey)

Group Psychology summarises the existing research, and offers the rudiments of a unifying theoretical framework: based on the ego-related processes of suggestibility and object cathexis. In the twin human drives of libido, and of identification with an external object, Freud locates the building-blocks for group psychology. A century on, Freud’s monograph remains a useful tool to understand phenomena of mob behaviour: the preponderance of primitive emotions, the suspension of self-interest, and the moral lows and highs between which mob behaviour often swings.

Categories
Book review Politics

In Dubious Battle (1936). John Steinbeck

Inspired by real-life events, In Dubious Battle is a vivid behind-the-scenes portrait of an agricultural strike during the Great Depression. Ingénue Jim joins up with seasoned communist agitator Mac to organise migrant labourers striking for a living age. Good intentions miscarry, priorities are tested, and the mob rises and wavers in this gripping human drama.

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Short story

Fault

Short story “Fault” published in Commuter Lit. This story in five acts, narrated in alternative scenes by the two protagonists, examines exploitation and unassertiveness within the unstructured environment of a PhD in an India institute, and asks: Whose fault is this?

Categories
Book review

Howards End. E. M. Forster (1910)

Howards End is a novel of ideas, an experiment in reconciling idealism and pragmatism via Forster’s panacea: “personal relations.” Written under the shadow of the Great War, the novel is an allegorical plea for peace between Germany and Britain: a peace based on mutual compromise and humility, and the surrendering of fatal ambitions. Howards End analyses a Britain undergoing rapid economic change and social fragmentation: with cars racing across country roads, but social mores and sexual double standards stuck in the last century. Forster offers compelling interior portraits of its protagonists, Meg and Helen Schlegel, and of a handful of secondary characters across the social spectrum. While the plot is problematic, and the resolution rushed, the novel’s poetic philosophical and psychological speculations remain with the reader long afterwards.

Categories
Biography Book review History Politics Psychology

A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler: His Life & Legend. Walter C. Langer, US Office of Strategic Services (1943/1944)

A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler is of historic value to students of personality and of psychoanalysis. Historians have questioned the validity of its sources; the contemporary reader will be amused by the explicit focus on psychosexual development; several of the report’s conclusions are dubious at best; its terminology varies widely from those of contemporary psychopathology. Nonetheless, the Analysis offers plausible reconstructions of Hitler’s history and self-image, and constitutes an imaginative reconstruction of Hitler’s psychological economy.

Categories
Book review History Politics

The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich (1969). William L. Shirer

This monumental tome doesn’t just document the rise of the Nazis and the lifespan of the Third Reich – it also traces the roots of Nazism deep in German history. With meticulous research and mostly able narrative, Shirer offers compelling portraits of Hitler and his closest associates – from the competent and passionate Goebbels, to the vain and bungling Ribbentrop. Notwithstanding frequent back-and-forths in time, a prejudice against German culture as exceptionally repressive, and pejoratives typical of the time but nonetheless distracting to a contemporary reader – this is an impressive work of scholarship, accessible to a lay audience, and a comprehensive introduction to the Third Reich.

Categories
Book review History Politics

Hitler Was My Friend: Memoirs of Hitler’s Photographer (1955). Heinrich Hoffman

Hoffman’s memoirs offer an entertaining glimpse at life in the Nazi inner circle, and at Hitler himself. A light, brisk, anecdotal narrative chronicles Hoffman’s own artistic career, and the course of his professional relationship and personal friendship with Hitler. This modest, self-avowedly apolitical work nevertheless offers some key insights into Hitler and his associates, and makes for entertaining light reading.

Categories
Book review History Politics

Look Who’s Back. Timur Vermes (2012)

What if Adolf Hitler came back to life in contemporary Germany? How would he go about getting a platform to work his way back to power? *Look Who’s Back* captures Hitler’s single-minded drive and prosy voice to present us with a personable if misguided leader. Vermes analyses the dynamics of profit-driven viewer-hungry media, and of a politically disenfranchised populace, in the (re)making of an extremist.

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Flash story

Promises

A flash story about the promises we make ourselves.

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Flash story

The Hours

A flash story about the deracinated, isolated contemporary worker struggling to keep track of the hours and the seasons.

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Book review

A Creek Named Sorrow. Judith Kelly Quaempts (2016)

*A Creek Named Sorrow* is a competently narrated crime/mystery novel that juxtaposes the beauty of a rural New England landscape with human crime and misery. But a dizzying cast of mostly undeveloped characters, and a striking lack of sympathy for/insight into its criminal crharacters, make this novel a less-than-satisfying read.

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Book review

Tiny Novels in A Flash: 30 Short-Short Stories. William LaFond (2020)

*Tiny Novels In A Flash: 30 Short-Short Stories* delivers maximum story in minimum word-count. This book is a rainbow collection of characters and moods. Its themes range from comedy through life-lesson through love and loss. Its settings span the American landscape; most of the stories are contemporary; a few are set at various key moments in U.S. history. Each of these 30 standalone stories is a delectable read for a few spare minutes. Together, they demonstrate an impressive range from this debut author.

Categories
Biography History Politics

I Was Hitler’s Buddy (1939). Reinhold Hanisch. Article in New Republic

This short memoir by a fellow vagrant from Hitler’s prewar homeless days in Vienna provides insights into how early experiences with destitution and hopelessness shaped a tyrant.

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Personal Essay Politics

You’re Cancelled. Please Exit, Stage Left. Next!

Cancel Culture displaces individual responsibility, creates a hollow sense of satisfaction, and fails to resolve systemic injustice.

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Biography History Politics

The Young Hitler I Knew (1953). August Kubizek

Kubizek’s memoir constitutes one of the few reliable sources of Hitler’s years in Linz, and in Vienna before penury made Hitler homeless. Kubizek’s account is sympathetic but balanced. Combining character analysis with narrative of shared ideas and adventures, it provdes not only insights into the gestation of a tyrant — but a delightful read.

Categories
Personal Essay Politics Psychology

Sticks, and Stones, and Words

Political Correctness solves nothing, and sidesteps the hard work of institutional reform. Language reflects material circumstances – and it is material, economic injustice that must remain our focus. Banning words is high-profile, low-impact virtue-signalling that polarises groups and forbids honest dialogue.

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Book review

Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865). Charles Dickens

*Our Mutual Friend*, Dickens’s last finished novel, revives many familiar Dickens tropes, but unites them with lively social satire, a spare cast (by Dickens’s standard), and a mostly sound narrative. With characteristic ease, *Friend* traverses the socioeconomic spectrum from low to high. Its settings range from the grotesque and morbid, to scenes of fevered fancy and domestic bliss. *Friend*’s social satire is caustic as always. *Friend* is Dickens at his acme.

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Advice on Writing Personal Essay

Take Your Time. Let the Wine Mature.

Image credit The best writing advice I’ve received, scattered over twelve years, was from three people, none of them a writer. # I was 20, and struggling to make my writing work. I thought I just had to produce more. More words. More stories. A friend and I were moon-gazing. She remarked that meditating helped […]

Categories
Biography Book review History Politics

Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography (1976). John Toland

“My book has no thesis, and any conclusions to be found in it were reached only during the writing, perhaps the most meaningful being that Hitler was far more complex and contradictory than I had imagined. ‘The greatest saints,’ observes one of Graham Greene’s characters, ‘Have been men with a more than normal capacity for evil, and the most vicious men have sometimes narrowly evaded sanctity.’ Deprived of heaven, Adolf Hitler chose hell – if, indeed, he knew the difference between the two.”

Categories
Flash story

Trio

Blue Pepper Literary Magazine published my flash play “Trio.” Image Credit *** ETHEL: You didn’t let me go last year. Now, I’m going. #3: Look what she’s packing. Two bits of string – to wit, a bikini. HANNAH: That’d look lovely on you, darling. It’s just your colour – #3: That bulge-eyed Mr. Geil is […]

Categories
Flash story

Holiday

Meet Cute Press republished my flash story “Holiday,” previously published in The Bookends Review. Image credit *** “Is it really possible to stay awake for four days?” said Jaya.  “Will we even enjoy it?” Four days.  That’s all we had.  Two of which we’d spend in the train, coming and going.  I decided: we mustn’t […]

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Book review

De Profundis. Oscar Wilde (1905)

“Nothing in the world is meaningless,” Wilde declares, “And sorrow least of all.” Wilde is writing De Profundis in his second year in prison. His first year was full of physical illness, bitterness, and cynicism. Wilde’s embrace of suffering now is motivated not by pessimism but, on the contrary, by self-love.

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Book review

Sketches by Boz. Charles Dickens (1836)

Joyce reputedly said that if Dublin were razed, it could be recreated from his descriptions of it in Ulysses. Dickens could’ve made the same claim regarding London and Sketches. Here, London emerges into the foreground as the main character. Dickens develops the city’s neighbourhoods, times-of-day, and inhabitants into the portrait of a vibrant city. It is a portrait monumentally detailed, full of humour and colour.

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Book review

Trust Exercise. Susan Choi (2019)

*Trust Exercise* squanders the potential of Part One’s promising narrative about ambition, love, and sexual power politics with Part Two’s dreary postmodern writerly devices.

Categories
Book review Philosophy

Waiting for Godot (1953) & Endgame (1957). Samuel Beckett.

*Waiting for Godot* and *Endgame* are pure. Pure existential angst. Their plots are constructed, with extravagant meticulousness, out of nothing. Their characters discuss, painstakingly, nothing. Meaninglessness saturates these short plays’ atmosphere: leaving the reader airless, suffocating. These plays are twin peaks of artistic achievement – and are deeply disturbing.

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Advice on Writing Book review Philosophy

Poetics (335 BCE). Aristotle.

*Poetics* is a bite-sized treatise combining commentary on the evolution of literary genres with still-relevant advice to writers on how to develop characters, construct a good plot, and evoke appropriate emotions in the reader.

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Artists & Scientists Interview

Interview with Ana Vidosavljevic, author of Flower Thieves

Today I interview Ana Vidosavljevic about authoring and publishing her short story memoir collection, Flower Thieves.

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Book review

Flower Thieves (2020). Ana Vidosavljevic.

Flower Thieves is a promising debut by a writer with an eye for character, a gentle humour, and a gift for simplicity.

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Book Excerpts & Overview History Philosophy

Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introduction to: Poststructuralism

“Existing meanings are not ours to command. When we use a language, we inherit & reproduce, usually unintentionally, the language’s cultural legacy & moral attitudes… This is the way in which language as it exists necessarily imposes limits on thought.”

Categories
Book Excerpts & Overview Economics History Politics

The World Is Flat

Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat a key book, arguing that advances in communication technology, transportation, supply chain management, & geopolitics – have empowered people across geographical & class boundaries to educate themselves, find or create fulfilling work, run their own businesses, recruit teams & supplies across boundaries, & keep learning new skills.

Categories
Book Excerpts & Overview Mental Health Psychology

The Beauty Myth

I’ve featured Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth here before. I’ll keep featuring it. It changed my life. BM analyses how the pursuit of a standardised, impossible, high-maintenance physical beauty claims women’s time, money, health, sanity, & humanity. It’s a book every man & woman should read: it’s incisive about the ways in which advertising, industry, commerce, popular culture (inc. films & women’s magazines & porn), & even the healthcare industry collude to create a reality where health & happiness become almost impossible for millions of educated, sane citizens. (This is also why I repeatedly feature works on the Third Reich, inc. on & by Nazi leaders.)