The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts will be taking next week off for a family vacation. To be honest, I really, really need this. In the first six months of this year, I have written four articles, a book chapter, a book manuscript, and an awful lot of Spoiler Alerts columns. I’ve revised at least three other papers. I’m a bit tired, is what I’m saying.
One of my favorite ways of unwinding is to read. I am still working my way through “These Truths” by Jill Lepore, which I recommended six months ago and have been savoring in small doses in the late evenings. My only objection to it is that Lepore writes so well it makes me angry that I cannot craft prose like that. Beyond Lepore’s book, however, I’ll also be perusing the following:
James H. Banner (editor), “Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today.” Fun fact: in May 1974, as the House Judiciary Committee was contemplating the impeachment of Richard Nixon, the committee commissioned a group of historians to review prior accusations of presidential misconduct, to develop a frame of reference. Nixon had resigned by the time the historians produced their report, but the result was a fascinating survey of alleged presidential misdeeds. With the exception of William Henry Harrison, every president has been accused of misconduct. This edition updated the 1970s effort by including every president from Nixon to Barack Obama. It seems like this frame of reference will be sorely needed this year as well.
Michael Cohen and Micah Zenko, “Clear and Present Safety: The World Has Never Been Better and Why That Matters to Americans.” It is pretty easy to feel skittish about the current state of the world. Donald Trump is not exactly a steady hand at the foreign policy tiller, though I agree with my colleagues Elizabeth Saunders and Michael Horowitz that an actual war is unlikely. Still, I’ve been pretty wary about how waning levels of interdependence can increase the chances of a great power war.
Maybe I am being too pessimistic, however. Cohen and Zenko have long argued that the foreign policy community’s threat perception has been exaggerated. In this book, they go further, warning about the dangers of the “threat-industrial complex.” I am less sanguine that I used to be on this question, but I really, really want Cohen and Zenko to be right.
Thomas Harris, “Cari Mora.” Harris has only written five book in the last 50 years. One of them is very good, and two of them are outstanding. I reread Harris’s “Red Dragon” and “Silence of the Lambs” on a regular basis. Harris’s subsequent novels about Hannibal Lecter have caused some to forget just how good “Silence of the Lambs” really is. Anyone who can write the sentence “Problem-solving is hunting; it is savage pleasure and we are born to it” is someone worth reading.
So I was excited to see that Harris had a new novel coming out this spring. I was even more excited to learn that this novel had absolutely nothing to do with serial killers. Instead, Harris explained to the New York Times’s Alexandra Alter that he wanted to write about Miami, where he lives. If “Cari Mora” can even come close to “Silence of the Lambs” in quality, I will be a very happy man on vacation.
See you all in July!