Saturday, July 21, 2007


I just finished A THOUSAND DEATHS, the George Alec Effinger collection of Sandor Courane stories published by Golden Gryphon. Like the other two posthumous Effinger books edited by Marty Halpern for GG, it's a very strong book. It reprints THE WOLVES OF MEMORY, a novel which Effinger regarded as his best (and which I also think is possibly his best), a dark but fast-moving allegorical novel which turns the protagonist into a Christ figure. There are also seven short stories with Sandor Courane as the protagonist. None of have been included in any of Effinger's books before, except for "The Thing From the Slush," previously reprinted in the poorly-circulated "Author's Choice Monthly" title, "The Old Funny Stuff." Effinger was a Cleveland native, but I haven't seen anything about the new book in the local press. For more on Effinger, see my Effinger pages (includes FAQ).

Monday, July 09, 2007

A new take on the Goths

I just finished reading ROME'S GOTHIC WARS by Michael Kulikowski, an important historian of late antiquity. It's short, but rare for such tomes, it is also really well-written and succeeds in being a book which is written well enough to aim for a general readers but also very scholarly. Kulikowski's most interesting academic heresy is an argument against the Gothic heritage cited by everyone ( that they originated hundreds of years before the fall of Rome, in Scandinavia, as per Jordanes). He argues, convincingly I think, that they arose in the third century on the frontiers of the Roman Empire, similar to the process that gave birth to the Franks and Alamanni. Perhaps, less convincingly, Kulikowski also takes aim at emperor Theodosius the Great, arguing that he is remembered as "great" only because Christian apologists liked his willingness to force Nicene doctrine on everyone. This puts Kulikowski in the position of having to explain away Theodosius' unbroken record of success. (Theodosius was the last Roman emperor to rule an intact Roman Empire.) After a "losing battle" against the Goths in the wake of the Battle of Adrianople, Theodosius somehow negotiates a peace treaty incorporating them into the Roman army (page 153). He defeates Magnus Maximus because of "the superior skill of Theodosius' generals" (page 159). Arbogast is a "much better general" than Theodosius, but the emperor defeats the usurper Eugenius because the wind blows the right way (page 163).

The suggestions for further reading in the back of the book are unusually thoughtful and detailed.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

About the libertarians

I just finished an excellent book, Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty, about the history of the modern libertarian movement. Very well, researched, very well written. (Before I plunged in, I took the precaution of looking up Robert Anton Wilson in the text, so that I could verify that he was treated respectfully. He was, so I went ahead and read the book.) This is a book you'll want to read with two bookmarks -- one for the text, and the other for the notes in the back, where Doherty puts much of his interesting facts and gossip.