Pearsall's Books

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Friday, October 15, 2004


Hello, this is my first post. This blog will be dedicated to reviewing the books I read because, well, I like to read, and also because I feel like writing about them and passing the information on to others. It's simply a (potentially) wider forum for me to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes, lecturing people about somewhat obscure facets of history and current events. Trust me, I've seen that somewhat glazed expression in the eyes of friends and family members enough to know that my own personal obsessions are not shared by everyone! Having not written seriously since I finished my History degree at the University of Edinburgh last year I will start with an overview of the 'finished' contents of my bookshelves, the books I've read since the start of this year. These posts will be subdivided by region (the Middle East, eastern Europe, Africa, the US, etc) as well as by theme. Once that is out of the way and I feel like my writing has become a bit more fluent and a bit less awkward than it does at the moment (there's nothing like spending a lot of time on internet message boards to dull down your expressive abilities), then I shall move on to writing proper reviews of books as I finish them. In addition to talking about books, I will also try to provide links to the sort of sites I frequent on the net and the sort of individual voices thrown forward by this new medium that I admire so much.

So what do I read? Well, I read about wars. And conflict. And suffering. Mostly (but more on that in a moment). Why? Simply because I am another urban white twenty-something guy that lives a moderately boring life doing dull clerical work, having a few beers with friends from time to time, and making the odd snide joke about people behind their backs, and, if I am completely honest with myself, because it is a very safe, conventional life. I am old enough that I no longer do 'crazy' things (I certainly won't go out Friday night and come back Sunday any more), but I am not yet at the point where I am going to get married and have kids and propagate the continuation of America. It's just that mid-20's limbo. And I enjoy it. I love it. I get a bit paranoid walking through the ghetto neighborhoods in New York City (which themselves are nowhere near as horrible these days as places like Detroit or New Orleans), so I know I'd shit myself completely in Grozny, or Karachi, or the Congo, or Fallujah, or Medellin, or somewhere else of equal horror. So, in a frankly voyeuristic way, I like to read about these suppurating sores of the human condition at arm's length, because I am fascinated by the workings of the world. The ways that different people react to situations, the interconnectedness of modern history, how events in one place can ultimately mean so much somewhere else in a completely different context and culture; how big events move like a daisy cutter, and how seemingly small events can ripple outwards and affect all kinds of different places and peoples in unpredictable ways. How the Cuban Revolution and its aftermath would have such an impact on Ethiopia in the 1980's, that sort of stuff. History never ended; in the United States there was just a ten year period of pretending it no longer applied. It's back in our faces with a vengeance now. And from my vantage point overlooking it all (well, my desk in Queens), I am going to add my voice to the cacophony of explanations and theories.

Like all blogs, this is a narcissistic project. Anyone who publishes a blog is operating under the assumption that other people are interested in reading what they have to say. I, of course, am no different. It's not sports, it's not clothes, it's not movies or music or celebrities or even the narrow partisan combat of much of the biggest political blogs on the web (and I should say that I really enjoy those blogs) but my own little attempt to scrape up a corner of that wider picture or, failing that, to try to point people in the direction of the sort of information not presented in the major media, especially the longer-term trends. It won't be all horror, all the time, as I'll be discussing some books that discuss sports, and music, and movies, but mostly it will be about the bad things that happen to people elsewhere, as well as a certain amount on the country I live in, its endless strengths and bottomless weaknesses.

I hope you enjoy it.

|| RPH || 7:16 AM || |