Saturday, September 10, 2022

A Few More Books

 We are midway through a jury trial which is the culmination of four years' hard labor, most of it solo while DOB was recovering even though litigation is not my preference. Despite the disjunction, it all seems to be coming together. And DOB is noticing that his strength and stamina are even notably improved from the trial we did in April. Mine, alas, has not changed and regardless a multi-week jury trial is a grueling physical and mental marathon.

So I am not attempting any new projects nor many very ambitious books. I did finally finish one called The Lords of Easy Money by Christopher Leonard. It was not a cheerful book, being about the policies of the Federal Reserve over the past two decades. It takes a full book to translate financial gibberish into moderately understandable terms and I am going to try to sum it up in a few sentences. Without conspiracy theories or using the ever-amorphous capitalism whipping boy, it pointed out how the Federal Reserve, acting from no worse motive than an earnest desire to be useful, or at the least to appear to be useful, has taken it upon itself to always take action to ensure continued economic growth. Unfortunately, the only tool it has at its disposal for promoting that growth is, in one form or another, lending money it just created to the people and institutions who are already the richest, creating incentives for them to purchase riskier and riskier debt, and then bailing those same people out when those risks do in fact occur. The result has been economic growth that is highly inequitable, largely illusory, and completely unsustainable.  And it has gone on and on and compounded regardless of administration or economic ideology, because they are not elected and very few people can even get their heads around what they are doing. 

I also gave a try at podcasts, which are all the rage, but I find that I do not like listening to people just talk, not even people whose blogs I enjoy on topics I am interested in. However, SOME people have created podcasts that are in fact audiobooks. I have never been much into audiobooks, but the house is intermittently quiet enough these days that an audiobook is not bad, and coupled with a peaceful building game relistening to Jane Austen is a highly relaxing activity. Even though I must now acknowledge with some chagrin I am almost certainly older than any of the living mothers.  

The first one I did was Mansfield Park. Emma is notorious for being a heroine Austen thought nobody but herself would much like, but I always suspect in Fanny she set herself the challenge of writing a heroine she didn't much like. She is quiet, docile, feminine, almost completely passive, everything that ought to make her dull as dishwater. Except she is not. The reader has the uncomfortable feeling of growing in appreciation of Fanny parallel to the villain, Henry Crawford. (And Crawford is perhaps Austen's least redeemable villain.) On the things that actually matter to her, she is bedrock. And Austen upends--before the genre had really gotten going--the romance novel convention of a charming rogue tamed by the love of a good woman. It could have been done, she acknowledges, but she will not sacrifice Fanny to the cause. Crawford is not willing to exert any effort to redeem himself, so he deserves no help from any other quarter. 

Then I did Sense and Sensibility. The dichotomy between Eleanor's sense and Marianne's sensibility is of course a commonplace, but I could not help noticing that Lucy Steele shows us there is another end of the spectrum. Eleanor is actually the golden mean--she has sense, yes, but also genuine feelings. She just knows when feelings should be expressed and when concealed. But Lucy Steele is all calculation; has no genuine feelings at all for anyone else, simply acts always and inevitably to what will advance her own self-interest. 

Another thing that is simply lovely in Sense and Sensibility is the warm and genuine friendship between Eleanor and Colonel Brandon, which exists before there is much hope of their ever being related, which never gives rise in either of them (though occasionally speculated upon by their friends) to any expectation of romance, but is simply two people who quite like and respect each other. Even in books where there are reasonably congenial brothers in law, none of them are really friends--Elizabeth and Mr. Bingley, say, are not what anyone could call friends. He never confides in her and she never seeks him out. I am sure in later years they have pleasant enough dinner parties and Christmases but I doubt they ever recommend books to each other. 

Also I cannot help but think that if I were Mrs. Dashwood and widowed at 40 I might have made a move for Colonel Brandon myself.