Sunday Book Reviews – 9/9/18

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Common Ground : How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America by Cal Thomas & Bob Beckel (2007, William Morrow)

This is a fascinating book to dissect, a decade after its release.  The concept behind it is simple: American politics are becoming more deeply polarized even as the politicians themselves are yearning to become less so and the majority of the country desires an end to the bickering.  

In the book they outlay what they feel are the points of commonality between nearly all Americans and chart successful political actions that can lead the country back toward reasoned debate.

This is a subject which is near to the heart of many readers today.  Where it fails, and fails utterly, is historical context.  For a book like this to be successful there need to be some level of trust in the authors.  They are presenting themselves as experts, after all.  Both of the authors here are, in fact, political experts; their resumes demonstrate that.  But in the intervening years between the publication of this book and the current day, President Trump was elected and Republican politics shifted.

Bob Beckel, long an experienced Democrat voice who wanted to talk rationally with Republicans, was fired from Fox in a way that he feels was orchestrated, and he has lost faith in most Republicans.  Cal Thomas has gone from being a moderate on many issues and a staunch conservative on others to being a Trump cheerleader who engages in the exact rhetorical techniques the book denounces.

None of that changes the merit of the arguments contained herein; it merely adds a level of bemusement as a reader is left to wonder if they ever meant what they were writing at all.

Shadows 8 edited by Charles L. Grant (1985, Doubleday)

This is a normal installment in the 11 book Shadows series edited by Charles L. Grant, and by normal I mean excellent.  Grant produced the anthologies of what he termed “quiet horror” as a way to showcase the talents of particularly gifted wordsmiths and the subtly disturbing stories he loved.

He had some regulars for the anthology series: Steve Rasnic Tem, Tanith Lee, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Alan Ryan.  Their styles fit the stories Grant was searching for, and they would usually submit for each annual production.  The rest of the slots were filled with famous names and gifted newcomers.

The stories were horror, absolutely.  They were not necessarily sterile and they were not necessarily free of violence, although most of the stories included no overt physical harm.  The idea was to disturb, to frighten, to unnerve and to cause unease but not to disgust or revolt.

In a time when horror stories were trying to lower themselves to the basest literary level, Grant was attempting to elevate them.  For the most part, he succeeded.

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About AlienMotives 1992 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.