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Karl Marx's Interpretation of History by M.M. Bober

One of the things I've noticed about the books I've been reading in my library's history section, especially the older ones, is that they generally do not have the pseudo-impartial, no-usage-of-the-first-person style I've come to expect in academic writing from wikipedia and high school English class. Instead, the authors will talk about the time period they currently live in, their opinions on other historians and philosophers and philosophies-of-history, and their personal opinions on the long dead people they talk about, which tends to make me feel less like I am reading Absolute Facts and more like I'm personally having... not a conversation with these authors, since I can't exactly comment back, but it's more akin to sitting down with them after dinner somewhere and politely listening while they infodump at me about their research. It's a bit exasperating sometimes and amusing at others, but I think I actually appreciate it in some ways over more impersonal academic writing. And I've gotten into the habit of googling the names of these authors, trying to find information on them which helps put their writing into further context.

Which brings me to this book, which was a bit of a departure from that- the first 3/4 or so of the book were mostly an impartial summarizing of many, many, many aspects of Marxism, though with the occasional bit of "this theory is flawed because X" criticism or "Marx and Engels were very vague on this point"- but it isn't until the last quarter of the book that Bober sits down and starts chewing out all the various flaws he sees in Marxist theory, particularly Marx's, er, interpretation of history.

About Bober himself I was able to find out about Bober himself is that 1) His full name is Mandell Morton Bober, 2) He is/was a scholar at Harvard University, 3) He seems to identify as a conservative, 4) He states that after the publication of the first edition of the book he received a lot of "abusive letters" from Marxists, and seems to consider Marxists overly worshipful of the guy, and 5) The second edition (the one I read) was probably being written during the mid 1940s, while the Great Depression was still weighing on people's minds. Meanwhile, I can't find any information on him through google beyond that he wrote this book, which was a bit of a surprise after being able to find wikipedia articles on authors I thought would be too obscure for people to bother with.

Anyway, this probably does not tell you much about the book itself, so I'm just going to copy+paste what I wrote on goodreads about it:

I found the book a bit tedious to get through, though I believe a lot of that had more to do with my general lack of background knowledge and interest in the subject, rather than any lack of quality on the book's part. When I did understand what the author was saying, I found the book very informative; there are a lot of little citations and it's very clear that the author knew what he was talking about and had put a lot of work into this.

The first few sections of the book mostly go into various aspects of Marx's theories, going over them and explaining them, dissecting bits of Marx and Engel's writings from over the year and trying to unify them into clear theories where possible. While bits of criticism get through, the first parts are mostly neutral. It isn't until the last section that the author really starts breaking down Marx's theories and pointing out why he doesn't agree with a lot of them; though the author considers Marx very intelligent and groundbreaking in terms of economical and philosophical theory, he considers various things Marx wrote to be demonstrably wrong, and that Marx's basis of economics as the only explanation for various social phenomena to basically be forcing a square peg through a round hole.

tl;dr: A bit long-winded, but informative.

The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

The fourth volume in Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series, which I'm now giving its own tag. It took me a while to get my hands on this one- it was always checked out whenever I tried to look for it. I was really pleased to find it though, enough that I immediately snatched it up in spite of it being a busy day for me and having a backlog of other books I need to go through. I'd say it was worth the wait- in fact, I think this particular volume is in some ways stronger than the previous two were.

Anyway, in the last volume Emily and the gang had found the way to Cielis, where they were planning on meeting up with the Council of Cielis, a group of  Old And Important stonekeepers, to ask for their help in taking down the Elf King. They met a Council-hopeful named Max Griffin, a stonekeeper who I think is around Emily's age- but god knows, since I've missed things like Trellis being a Literal Teenager before- and a couple of mostly unimportant guards. Everyone got on a ship and they were headed for Cielis. This volume opens up with them on the ship, and Emily having a dream conversation with her stone, just before they arrive at Cielis.

Upon arrival, Luger and Trellis are dumped into a prison, the Hayes family brought to Council headquarters where Max and the others are insistent that Emily will undergo a dangerous trial to try and join the Council, and the furry brigade are told to just enjoy Cielis, whatever. Unfortunately, not only are the Elven duo imprisoned, but Emily- and Leon/Enzo/Enzo's Pal I Forgot The Name Of- discover that something is deeply, deeply wrong with the city of Cielis and the Council. Meanwhile, Miskit and Cogsley are rescued from a wyvern's nest by a stonekeeper named Vigo, who turns out to have a connection with their creator, Silas.

And here I'm going to copy paste my rambling/speculations from my tumblr.

So first off, I think this volume is where one of Emily’s major character traits really struck me: She’s kind, or at least has merciful tendencies- she’s not a loner and prefers to make allies to enemies, and she isn’t ruthless. I mean, this has been a thing since the first volume, where she makes a deliberate choice to spare Trellis in spite of him kidnapping and poisoning her mother, but this one also emphasizes it.
 
This is something she probably gets from the influence of her mother, based on the scene where Mrs. Hayes’s advice boils down to “I know Cielis seems weird but if we stay together and try to do the right thing as long as we’re here, things’ll work out.”
 
(And it’s particularly interesting because Emily’s demeanor is a bit of a contrast with it? Your typical “merciful girl” character is probably a lot more expressive and positive seeming than Emily. But Emily, as Silas points out, comes off as pretty serious. Her default expression is a sort of neutral frown.)
 
This trait, meanwhile, seems to be the core of her conflict with her amulet. The stone spirit, as I’ll call them- and I’m also going to try and go with they/them pronouns here because ‘it’ has dehumanizing implications and whether good or evil, the stone spirit is clearly an individual in their own right- thinks that Emily needs to grow more ruthless if she’s to become truly powerful. This sentiment is echoed by Max when he tells her “Someday you will learn to make sacrifices for the greater good,” and in a brief conversation between Aly and Cecil: “…Whoever is creating these illusions must not care very much about other people.” “Unfortunately, that is the mark of many powerful stonekeepers.”
 
So I think this is why the stone spirit doesn’t really tell Emily much before she heads into Cielis, despite clearly having a good idea- I think they want Emily to suffer through the consequences of Max’s treachery and manipulation, because it will be a blow to her merciful and trusting tendencies. The more she loses those the more relentless she can be in going after her goals- which may be the stone spirit’s idea of “helping” or it may make it easier for the stone spirit to use her, the way the Elf King and others’ stones wound up taking over their keepers.
 
And sure enough, almost immediately after Max’s betrayal Emily is able to unleash her most powerful offensive attack yet, decimating a hoard of ghouls while we’re reminded of the stone spirit’s conversation with Emily.
 
 
We also learn some more information about the stones themselves in this volume, which is making me even more desperate to see another stone spirit properly. Specifically, we get some history and information on the origin of the stones: The earliest settlers of Alledia discovered a gigantic magical gem containing “tremendous energy” which they called the Mother Stone. Bits of it could be chipped off and provided to various settlers, granting them magical powers. Over the centuries hundreds of these amulets were created, although many also were destroyed, usually along with their keepers. In the end only one small shard of the Mother Stone remains, enough to create one last amulet- one that will be a powerful superweapon at that. Silas wanted it destroyed before it fell into the wrong hands, while the Council wanted to keep it as an insurance policy- in the end Silas has been proven right, as the Mother Stone’s fallen into the hands of Max and perhaps the Elf King. (Or, as Trellis suspects, the Stone-Puppeted-Corpse-That-Was-Formerly-An-Elf.)
 
So with that established: What the hell does this mean from the POV of the stones themselves? It seems pretty clear to me at this point that the stones are all individuals- is the mother stone made up of multiple consciousnesses which attach themselves individually to the bits that get chipped off? Is it basically one big consciousness and the bits that get chipped off pretty much become individuals after being cut off from the mother stone? Do the stones not really have any meaningful form of consciousness until they’re removed from the mother stone? I want the stones to tell me about themselves!!!
 
On a related note, even though all the stones we’ve seen so far seem to be presented mainly as corrupting influences, I can’t help but feel a bit bad for them. The stone spirits seem to be pretty much helpless on their own without someone keeping them, and the price of this is that they’re kind of stuck being tools for whoever owns them, except for when they take their keepers over. It strikes me as a fucked up situation not only for the keepers, but for the stones themselves.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


First book in a series called The Raven Chronicles which I decided to pick up after seeing a tumblr post from the author (spoilers spoilers spoilers) about Which Disney Characters The Five Main Characters Would Be and decided I was intrigued. 

The story starts with a sixteen year old teenage girl called Blue Sargent, who lives in a house with her psychic aunt and various other psychic ladies who are like aunts and cousins and friends of her mother. Blue herself is not psychic but has the weird ability to amplify other people's psychic powers and is pretty much a giant rechargeable battery for psychic energy stuff. Blue also has the slight issue where every psychic she's met ever has pretty much taken one look at her and gone "You're going to kill your true love when you kiss him." Blue plans on dealing with that by not falling in love, ever.

Unfortunately for Blue's best laid plans, she's off on Saint Mark's Eve helping her Aunt Neeve do Psychic Errands by figuring out who's going to die soon based on who Aunt Neeve spots on the Corpse Road, when she encounters the ghost of a boy called Gansey. Neeve concludes if Blue is seeing him then that means she's destined to either A) Kill him or B) He's her true love, and in any case since he's there he's probably going to be dead within a year.

Gansey, as it turns out, is a boy at the local Rich Boy's Private School known as Aglionby, whose primary passion in life is the paranormal and tracking down a mythical Welsh king known as Glendower, who he's pretty sure is somewhere in the area. Gansey is accompanied by his friends Adam, overworked scholarship student with intense baggage thanks to his shitty abusive family and his need To Prove Himself, Ronan, walking attitude problem with Dead Dad Issues, and Noah, who is very quiet.

Gansey's quest to find Glendower and research into the local ley lines leads to him eventually crossing paths with Blue and her family- okay, his quest and the fact that he and his posse sometimes eat at the diner where Blue works- and things steadily become more and more worrying. Especially because a teacher at Aglionby- the unfortunately named Barrington Whelk- is also very interested in the ley line, and he happens to be a giant pissbaby.

Entertaining, and made me a bit nostalgic in an odd way since the random paranormal elements and things like the heroine whose specialness derives from her lack of specialness reminds me of the sort of stuff I tried writing as a teenager. (Which... probably sounds like an insult but was not intended as such. The writer is good at what she does.)

My main issue is really just that I'm sort of undecided on the romance elements- True Love as a concept is usually kind of creepy and this book isn't really an exception: Blue's vision in the magic tree of herself in love with Gansey while he pleads with her to kiss him is weirdly terrifying to me. This book series also looks like it's going to go in a Love Triangle direction since Blue and Adam are mutually attracted to one another but Gansey is probably her True Love, although in general there aren't any firmly established 'ships by the end beyond Blue/Adam having a mutual attraction that they've got too much shit on their plate to really confront as of yet and Blue liking Gansey as a friend and having awkward moments of attraction/Destiny Says I Should Be Attracted. Anyway, while love triangles aren't an immediate "nope" for me they can be just sort of uncomfortable to read.

That said while I like Gansey a bit better than Adam personally, I'm currently leaning more towards Blue/Adam.
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