SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

It’s that time of year again:  summer!  That means we’re due for The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2021!

After publishing the list a bit later than usual last year, I’ve decided that the list should be a midsummer event—just in time for Independence Day.

But, like Sunday Doodles—a perk for $5 a month subscribers—my philosophy is “better late than never!”  And with the Independence Day holiday approaching, it’s a great time to do some reading.

For new readers, my criteria is pretty straightforward.  To quote myself from the 2016 list:

The books listed here are among some of my favorites.  I’m not necessarily reading them at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Pretty vague, I know.  Additionally, I usually feature three books, plus an “Honorable Mention” that’s usually worth a read, too.

For those interested, here are the prior two installments:

With that, here’s The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2021:

1.) Thomas Harris, Hannibal (1999) – I recently wrote a review of the novel Silence of the Lambs, the second book in a series containing the charismatic, devilish cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  I very much enjoyed the novel, but having seen the film, I already knew many of the plot points.  That did not diminish the quality of the novel—Thomas Harris is an exquisitely descriptive writer—but it did take away some of the thrill.  The point of a good thriller is to be constantly in a state of suspense; when one already knows the major plot points, that sense of suspenseful uncertainty is diminished.

As such, I was quite excited to read Hannibal, the third installment in what might be called Harris’s “Hannibal Cycle.”  I did not know any of this story going in, beyond some whispers about the outcome of the magnet relationship between Dr. Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling.  The book takes place seven years after the events of Silence of the Lambs, with Dr. Lecter on the loose and living secretly as an academic in Florence, Italy.

Meanwhile, one of Dr. Lecter’s former victims, pig tycoon and sadist Mason Verger, has put a hefty bounty on Dr. Lecter’s head, and employs a ruthless team of Sardinian kidnappers—and a corrupt, disgraced Italian cop—to hunt down the fugitive.

Tossed into the mix is Clarice Starling, who finds herself increasingly disillusioned with the bureaucracy and careerism present in the upper echelons of the FBI and the Department of Justice.  Her mentor, Jack Crawford, is creeping towards retirement, and is no longer the robust agent he once was.  Meanwhile, a lecherous deputy attorney general—working hand-in-glove with Verger—sets about destroying Starling’s reputation at the Bureau, both to undermine her search for Dr. Lecter, and because she rebuffed his sexual advances.

Whereas Silence of the Lambs portrayed the FBI glowingly as a competent, professional organization with the means and tenacity to track down the slipperiest serial killers, Hannibal resonates much more with the modern reality of the FBI—a venal, corrupt organization that, rather than solving actual crimes, uses its power to oppress and harass law-abiding citizens.  The corruption on display, with highly-placed government officials attempting to advance their professional and political careers by working with wealthy scumbags, rings true.  In the eleven years between writing Silence and Hannibal, it appears Harris had a real change of heart.

Overall, I can highly recommend Hannibal.  Be warned that it is a long read, with 103 chapters and around 560 pages, but it’s rarely a slog and always a chilling pleasure.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Memorable Monday: Happy MLK Day 2019 – Suggested Reading

It’s another Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States, which means another day off for those of us in the cushier fields (in my case, education).  As I wrote in last year’s MLK Day post, it’s a holiday “that feels like an excuse to have a little taste of the recently-departed Christmas holiday.”  I went on in the post to contend that

Contra the whole “make it a day ON” virtue-signalers, [MLK Day] really is the perfect day to crank up the heat, brew some coffee, and enjoy reading with some fried eggs (over medium, please) and toast (and, for us Southerners, a hearty helping of grits).  It’s one of the last taste[s] of the hygge before the warm weather creeps back in (which occurs sometime in late February or early March here in South Carolina).

Here’s to the hygge, my friends.  In the spirit of wintry coziness and relaxation, I decided to look back to my first MLK Day post from 2019, which offered up some suggested reading.  Some of the suggestions I made are a bit dated, like the Conrad Black piece on Brexit, while others are solid perennially (such as photog’s reviews of The Twilight Zone).

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Here is January 2019’s very brief “Happy MLK Day 2019 – Suggested Reading“:

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, TPP readers!  I don’t have a full post today, just this quick message wishing you all a happy and safe day off (for those of you fortunate enough to be off).  Last Monday’s post about race would probably have been better saved for today, so feel free to go back and read it.

If you’re looking for some good reading on your day off, check out my list of favorite writers, or my old 2016 Summer Reading List.  In case you missed it, I’d also recommend this piece on Marxist infiltration in Great Britain.  And blogger photog at Orion’s Cold Fire is reviewing EVERY episode of The Twilight Zone, which is quite entertaining (read the first episode review).

Also in Great Britain/Brexit news:  Conrad Black has an optimistic piece about Brexit that I’ve yet to digest; stay tuned for analysis.

Finally, if you haven’t yet gotten around to it, check out Tucker Carlson’s 3 January 2019 monologue (a nice birthday present for yours truly).

We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled bloviating tomorrow.

agriculture barley field beautiful close up

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.  NEW TIER: $3 a month gets one edition of Sunday Doodles every month!

It’s that time of year again:  summer!  That means we’re due for The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020!

I’m actually a bit overdue for this list.  I typically publish it in early June, to give those of you blessed to enjoy summer vacation a chance to look them up.  But my long illness for the first couple of weeks of the month waylaid a number of plans, and last weekend I was occupied with family festivities, so the list is a few weeks later than I like.

But, like Sunday Doodles—a perk for $5 a month subscribers—my philosophy is “better late than never!”  And with the Independence Day holiday approaching, it’s a great time to do some reading.

For new readers, my criteria is pretty straightforward.  To quote myself from the 2016 list:

The books listed here are among some of my favorites.  I’m not necessarily reading them at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Pretty vague, I know.  Additionally, I usually feature three books, plus an “Honorable Mention” that’s usually worth a read, too.

For those interested, here are the prior two installments:

But that’s enough yackin’.  Here’s The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020:

1.) Richard Weaver, edited by George M. Curtis, III and James J. Thompson, Jr., The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver (1999) – Regular readers know I love Richard Weaver, and I featured his masterpiece Ideas Have Consequences on the 2016 list.  The Southern Essays feature a collection of Weaver’s writings on the South.

Weaver was a literary critic and English professor at the University of Chicago, but his roots were in Asheville, North Carolina.  He possessed a deep and abiding love of and respect for Dixie, particularly its writers.  Weaver’s background in literature and poetry is evident in these essays, in which he ruminates on the abundance of prolific Southern literary types.  He also brings some nuance to the question of the American Civil War and the South’s role therein.  I believe it was in this collection that I first learned of John Randolph of Roanoke, the great, ornery Virginian who resisted federal overreach in the early nineteenth century.

Weaver’s writing can be a bit dense, but once you get used to his mid-century style, his ideas are easy enough to absorb.  I highly, highly recommend you pick up this collection.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Lazy Sunday XXIII: Richard Weaver

I’ve been fan-boying a great deal lately about Richard Weaver.  He’s one of my favorite authors, even though I’ve read comparatively little of his work.  Weaver died during the prime of his academic career, but before his premature death he managed to bequeath a rich heritage of scholarly works about literature, religion, and his beloved Dixie.

As I’ve written again and again, I always enjoy rereading the introduction to Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, and hope to reread the entire book again soon.  The introduction sums up the modern West’s maladies starkly and clearly, tracing their origins to the nominalism of William of Occam.

I found one podcast in which two conservative commentators summarize and discuss the book, chapter-by-chapter; it’s a good, quick overview if you’ve got fifty minutes in the car:

That said, while I reference Weaver quite a bit, I actually have not written as many posts about him and his work as I thought.  Nevertheless, while I’m in the midst of my annual Weaver Fest, I thought it would be the perfect time to give the great academic his own Lazy Sunday:

1.) “Capitalism Needs Social Conservatism” – a #TBT post from the TPP 2.0 era, this post was part of a series on social conservatism, which I dubbed the “red-headed stepchild” of modern conservatism.  The post is more inspired by Weaver than it is about him, but I mention the paradox of prosperity near the end when I discuss Weaver’s drunk.

That’s my phrase for a metaphor Weaver employs near the end of the introduction to Ideas Have Consequences in which he compares modern society to a drunk.  The more inebriated and alcoholic the drunk becomes, the less capable he is of doing the work necessary to feed his addiction.  So it is with modern man—the more he luxuriates in excess and comfort, the less willing he is to do the uncomfortable work necessary to sustain his opulence.

2.) “Back to School with Richard Weaver” – the subject of last Thursday’s TBT, this little piece was from a 2014 Facebook post in which I quoted from “The South and the American Union,” an essay from Weaver’s Southern Essays.  It contrasts the Southerner’s “Apollonian” worldview of fixed limits and “permanent settlement” to the ceaseless striving and progression of the Northern, “Faustian” worldview.  It’s a fascinating dichotomy that, while controversial, certainly rings true to Southerners like yours portly.

3.) “The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2016” – my classic, original reading list; naturally, Ideas Have Consequences tops the list!  As I wrote at the time, if you’re going to read just one book this summer, make it Ideas Have Consequences!

4.) “Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction” – I wrote this little summary for my History of Conservative Thought course.  It’s my quick rundown to help breakdown the main ideas from the introduction to high school juniors.  Hopefully it worked!

Well, that’s it.  Enjoy Weaver Fest 2019!  It’s back to school for me tomorrow.

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Lazy Sunday XXII: Reading

Summer is drawing to a close, and with it free time for reading.  One of my enduring frustrations as a student was the lack of time to read what I enjoyed (even though my English and history courses in high school and college often presented me the opportunity to read many excellent works).

As an adult, the situation has improved only marginally, as work often eats up most of my time, both during the day and at night.  As a blogger and politics junkie, I also tend to read vast quantities of quick news stories and opinion pieces, while neglecting longer-form works that would be more satisfying.

Reading short articles on the Internet is like scarfing down a box of Cheez-Its:  it’s enjoyable in the moment, but it just raises my blood pressure and leaves me unfilled: an unhealthy indulgence in large quantities.  A good book, or even a well-crafted short story, is like a steak dinner:  filling, satisfying, and sustaining.

I’ve released two reading lists, in 2016 and 2019 (the full 2019 list is a SubscribeStar exclusive), but I thought this Sunday I’d feature some recent posts on books, short stories, and pieces I’ve enjoyed:

  • McClay & Sheaffer on American History” – This piece examines a new American history textbook from Wilfred McClay, who once mailed me a copy of the Italian novel The Leopard after I wrote to him (he’d written about the book for a conservative publication).  My girlfriend’s father actually owns a copy of this book, and I had an opportunity to flip through its glossy pages while in New Jersey.  My post offers up an analysis of the state of American history education.
  • Summer Reading: The Story of Yankee Whaling” – I was still in the process of reading The Story of Yankee Whaling, a fascinating account of America’s whaling heyday aimed at younger readers, when I wrote this post.  It was a charming—and hugely informative—book, which gave me access to an entire forgotten industry and its role in American history.  The book dealt with its subjects sympathetically and unapologetically; there is no hand-wringing about whether or not it was right to kill whales for their blubbery oil.  Instead, it simply detailed—and what thrilling detail!—the tough lives of whalers, and the gory particulars of their bloody, necessary trade.
  • Reblog: Conan the Southerner?” – This post dealt with an interesting piece from the Abbeville Institute, a Southern history website with a strong Jeffersonian streak.  The original post details the influence of rural Texas and its mores upon the creation of the Conan the Barbarian character.  Strength, honor, integrity, hard work—these are the hard-won morals of the titular barbarian king, and they are deeply rooted in the Southern tradition.
  • Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Mother Hive’” – my History of Conservative Thought class read this chilling short story one morning as an icebreaker.  It’s about the insidious infiltration of a dangerous foreign element into a proud but aging beehive.  The infiltrator—a wax-moth—fills the heads of the young bees with abstract claims of a utopian society, all-the-while laying its eggs and creating great strains on the hive.  Fewer healthy bees are born, much less willing to work to support the colony, so more and more work is shouldered by a diminishing number of healthy workers.  It all ends in a fiery blaze, with hope for the future, as a young Princess and her loyal retinue escape to rebuild.  Written in 1908, the story sounds like it describes the modern West today—a terrifying warning that, I fear, we have not heeded.

So, there you have it.  A little extra summertime reading for you before the academic year resumes.  Teachers at my school report back in the morning, and students are in the following week.  Yikes!  Where did the summer go?

Enjoy your Sunday,

TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Lazy Sunday XVIII: SubscribeStar Posts

For the past few weeks I’ve been pushing my SubscribeStar page more regularly, as readers have no-doubt noticed.  I’ve picked up one subscriber; naturally, I hope more will sign up!

Here’s the pitch:  I post a new, original essay exclusively to my SubscribeStar page every Saturday.  I also made #MAGAWeek2019 a SubscribeStar exclusive—that’s four posts about people or ideas that made America great (this year’s listJohn Adams, Alexander Hamilton, President Trump’s Independence Day Speech, and fast food).  For just $1/month, you get access to these essays.

To put that in perspective:  I’ll probably buy a pizza today for $12.  That’s what a one-year subscription to my SubscribeStar page will cost.  That’s at least fifty-two (52) original pieces, not including bonus content and current and future #MAGAWeek posts.

Even if you can’t read them on the Saturday they’re released, they will always be there!  And with new content every week, your subscription gains value with each post.  Right now there are ten SubscribeStar exclusive posts, including the #MAGAWeek2019 ones, and that number will continue to grow.

I’ll also post additional special content from time-to-time, in the vein of the #MAGAWeek2019 posts.  The long-contemplated Portly Politico Podcast, should it ever launch, will also be exclusive to SubscribeStar.

With all that said, this week’s edition of Lazy Sunday is dedicated to looking at the great SubscribeStar Saturday posts that are already on the site (excluding the #MAGAWeek2019 posts, which were the subject of last week’s Lazy Sunday).

  • The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2019” – The long-awaited successor to “The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2016,” this list of recommended summer reads will give you plenty of conservative brain food to feed your mind and your soul.  I give detailed reviews of my four recommendations.
  • Asserting Conservatism” – This essay argues for defining conservatism in positive—that is, on its own—terms, rather than as merely against the Left.  Standing athwart history, shouting “STOP” was a necessary step in the Buckleyite days of old-school National Review, when international Communism threatened to infiltrate and topple our institutions.  Culture Marxists have accomplished what Soviet Marxists could not, and it’s time to push back, not merely stem the tide.  Doing so will require a vigorous articulation and defense of conservatism—and a willingness to fight against Leftists.
  • Christians Protect Other Faiths” – Christianity gets a bad shake, considering it built Western civilization (with an alley-oop from ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel).  The tolerance Christianity teaches is a boon to believers of other faiths, as Christ teaches conversion through persuasion, and the basic dignity of all people, Jew and Gentile.
  • Immigration and Drugs” – This piece pulls from a couple of posts at VDARE.com, which linked illegal immigration from south of the United States border to the opioid crisis.  One solution from the author:  bomb the poppy fields in Mexico, not just Afghanistan.
  • Mid-Atlantic Musings” – During #MAGAWeek2019, I was in New Jersey.  This post is a reflection of my visit (spoiler alert:  I very much enjoyed it).  It also details my one-day trip to Coney Island, which is basically Myrtle Beach in Brooklyn.
  • The Real Color of Environmentalism is Red, Not Green” – Yesterday’s post, in which I compare Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ludicrous Green New Deal to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s original New Deal.  Both rely on excessive federal and executive power, and the Green will ruin the economy and our nation just the way the original one did.

So, there you have it!  There’s a lot of great material, with more coming every Saturday.  Please consider subscribing to my SubscribeStar page for just $1 (or more!) per month to gain access to these and other essays.

Happy (and Lazy!) Sunday!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Summer Reading: The Story of Yankee Whaling

I released the Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2019 on my SubscribeStar page a few weeks ago, which features a few books I highly recommend.

After dashing off yesterday’s post on Sunday night, I picked up a little book I’ve had in my private collection for some years now, The Story of Yankee Whaling.  It’s part of the now-defunct American Heritage Junior Library series of history books for young readers, and it’s a charming little volume about the grand adventures and brutal lives of whalers in colonial and nineteenth-century America.

The first edition of the book was published in 1959, but my edition is a slender paperback edition from 1965.  It is rich in primary source documentation, as well as sketches and woodcuts from the high watermark of whaling.  The author is Irwin Shapiro, who worked closely with Edouard A. Stackpole, the then-curator of the Mystic Seaport Marine Historical Association in Mystic, Connecticut.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2019

Today’s post is the first in my SubscribeStar Saturday series.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page.  For the first installment of SSS, ALL subscriber levels, including the $1 tier, will have access to this list.

Three years ago, I released my popular “The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2016.”  It featured three must-read books for your summer, including a fourth “Honorable Mention.”  The same criteria from 2016 will apply to this year’s list.  To quote myself:

The books listed here are among some of my favorites.  I’m not necessarily reading them at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!  These books have shaped my thinking about the many issues I’ve covered over the past two months.  I highly encourage you to check them out.

In that spirit, here is the definitive Summer Reading List 2019:

1.) Patrick J. BuchananThe Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority (2014) – I have to be honest—I’ve been reading this book off-and-on for nearly two years, and am about 75% through it.  That pace is not because it’s a bad book.

Quite the contrary, The Greatest Comeback is a must-read for any political history junkies.  After twin defeats in the 1960 presidential and 1962 California gubernatorial elections, Nixon was a national loser.  Buchanan, who worked for and traveled with Nixon during the long decade of the 1960s as a researcher and writer, gives a first-hand account, culled from what must be a filing cabinet’s worth of handwritten notes and newspaper clippings, of Nixon’s historic, unlikely rise to the presidency.

Nixon’s reputation now suffers from the railroading that was the Watergate scandal.  Lost in the Left’s never-ending victory lap is how shrewd Nixon’s political instincts were.  Nixon’s tireless support for Republican congressional candidates in 1966 led to historic gains in those midterm elections, likely hastening Lyndon Johnson’s political demise and restoring Republicans’ spot as a viable alternative to Democrats.  That loyalty paid off for Nixon in spades.

Consider, too, the challenges that faced Nixon going into the 1968 presidential election:  he had to defeat liberal Republicans within his own party (Buchanan expends a great deal of ink explaining the odious treachery of George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller), while also fending off potential challengers to his right, namely California Governor Ronald Reagan.  An increasingly-unhinged anti-war (and all-too-often pro-Communist) Left reviled the old “Red Hunter,” and their dominance of the press continued to hound Nixon’s every move.

And through it all, Nixon persevered, engineering the titular “greatest comeback.”  He would go on to win a forty-nine-State landslide in 1972, losing only deep-blue Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.  For that story, check out Buchanan’s sequel, Nixon’s White House Wars:  The Battle that Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever (2017), which I will probably finishing sometime during Nikki Haley’s second presidential term.

To read the rest of The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2019subscribe now for $1/month or more on SubscribeStar!

State of the Portly Update – Summer 2019

As of today, my glorious summer vacation has begun.  Time to whip out the Hawaiian shirts.  Everyone knows the three best reasons to teach:  June, July, and August.

In all seriousness, I thought it would be useful to do a “State of the Blog” update now that TPP 3.0 has been going strong for nearly a year.  With summer ahead, it’s an opportunity to work on the blog a bit more, and to get cracking on some long-delayed eBook ideas.

With daily posting, I’ve found that readership has gradually increased.  It seems that I get the most views when I have posts ready to go at 6:30 AM, perhaps because they’re in readers’ inboxes when they awake.  I’ve also been sharing links to relevant posts in comments on more prominent bloggers’ pieces, which has really driven traffic to the site.

The daily readership on average has gone from around thirteen per day at the beginning of the year to around twenty-two per day.  The overwhelming majority of readers are from the United States, but I’ve had visitors from all over the world (even one guy from Nepal!).

As far as changes to the site, most everything will stay the same.  I’ll continue to post daily (schedule-permitting), maintaining my average of ~670 words a day (but, of course, focusing on quality, not quantity… hopefully).

One minor change:  I’ll be designating Saturdays as “SubscribeStar Saturdays.”  I’ll give a short “teaser” of the Saturday post on this website, then link to my SubscribeStar page for the rest of the post.  Subscribers will have instant access to these posts.

One of the first posts there will be my 2019 Summer Reading List.  I haven’t done one since 2016’s list, which was quite well-received, and I’m overdue for a new one.

Re: SubscribeStar:  as I start pushing out some longer-form essays and short eBooks, subscribers at the $5-per-month level and above will gain access to those works as they’re published (likely as PDFs) as part of their subscription.

I’m still kicking around the Portly Podcast idea, which will mainly depend on my schedule this summer.

Speaking of, outside the blog I’m running a course called History of Conservative Thought.  I’ve had the idea for this course in the back of my mind for some years now, but decided to offer it this summer at the little private school where I teach.  This first run will be an independent study, but I’ll be sharing some updates on the course as we go through the history of conservatism.  We’re starting, of course, with the American and French Revolutions, particularly with Edmund Burke, as well as the question “what is a conservative?”  I’m quite excited.

On the non-political front, I’m gearing up some more gigging.  I’m also working on some new songs; perhaps I can slam out another EP or a full-fledged album one of these days.  If you want to learn more about my musical noodling, visit my website, or listen to my tunes on Bandcamp.  I wrote an entire song cycle about the rise and fall of civilizations… with unicorns!

That’s it for today.  Back to regular programming tomorrow.

Happy Summer!

–TPP