Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Critical Reception of Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain

A new piece by Joe Eldred in LibertyBuzz has prompted me to examine the critical reception of the first Theodosia and the Pirates novel over the years. The LibertyBuzz review is very detailed, but it can be summed up succinctly  with these lines:

But please keep in mind that, while the novel is undoubtedly a tour-de-force of Rothbardian political theory, it does not seem like it, because the lessons are delicately embedded within the narrative.
The story remains primarily that of the internal struggles of a woman of the Early Republic.
What's really exciting about this new review is that it acknowledges the libertarian perspective of the novel, while also making note of the other elements of the plot and theme, and it shows how integrated all those thing are into a seamless whole.

Other reviews have focused on different aspects of the novel. For instance, the Eye on Life piece by Jerilee Wei focused on the speculative historical fiction aspects of the story. Is it all right to invent an extramarital romance for a person who disappeared two hundred or more years ago, leaving no trace? Or is this exploitation of the memory of a departed human being? The review compares what happened when a myth was created for George Washington out of a well-intentioned work of fiction for children:

This tendency isn't anything new.  Authors have capitalized on historical characters for generations, leading to widely accepted myths about famous people doing things that never happened in real life.  A prime example of this would be the myth of George Washington as a boy, chopping down a cherry tree.  That story first circulated as a fictional children's story.  Then, it took on a life of its own 1800, in a non-fiction biography by Mason Locke, who seized upon it as a way of making our first president as a more likeable character.  The fiction was good enough to become a myth, soon to be taught to generations of American children -- and the result was somewhere along the line everyone forgot the difference between fiction and biography.

As long as we keep fact and fiction separate, there should be no problem distinguishing the two. My book has a whole section in the back dedicated to separating the made-up parts from the history. There is also a bibliography for those who want to read non-fiction on the subject.

Leslie Fish focused mostly on the politics and class issues in the review on her blog:

Equally fascinating are the political intrigues between the freewheeling settlers of the gulf coast and the woefully inept officials of the new American republic.  The story is studded with examples of actual letters from the historical characters, giving unique insights into the volatile society of early America with its shifting relationships between the sexes, the races, and the influences of the neighboring European empires.  And of course, this being a historical Romance, there's plenty of good rampant sex. 
For some reviewers, such as the one at the Historical Novel Society in the UK, the main drawback of the book is its cover:

My main criticism is the cover which is simplistic in style, giving the initial impression of a young adult book (which this definitely is not!). 
Not really sure what is wrong with the cover, but here it is.
I love the illustration by Lanie Frick.

These should be enough different perspectives on the book to start out with before deciding whether it is for you. Of course, once you get to the Amazon page to buy it, there are several more reviews to choose from.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Looking for Libertarians in All the Wrong Places

Today I learned that Florence Henderson has died. And as they were playing The Brady Bunch theme song over and over again, it reminded me of a filk of it I wrote once.

When I was a young girl and looking for lovers... No, wait, that's the wrong filk song. That one is by Suzette Haden Elgin, who is also deceased now, just like Florence Henderson. And it's to the tune of The Ash Grove. 

When I was a young girl and searching for lovers,I found them under rocks and I found them in bars;but now that I'm older, my taste is much better,I find them at filksings behind their guitars.I find them back of banjos and mandolins and autoharps,I find them a capella and decked with kazoos!And it gives me no trouble to make my selection,for I know how they'll perform by the songs that they use.

What I meant to say was this: When I was a young girl and looking for libertarians, I didn't look for them in the Libertarian Party.  I looked for them anywhere else than in the Libertarian Party. In retrospect, that seems strange, but at the time it made perfect sense to me.

There was only one chapter of the Libertarian Party that I was aware of: the Tarrant County folk who met somewhere in Arlington, Texas. I had been to exactly one meeting, and I stayed just long enough to determine that they had the souls of accountants. They did not know that Taxation was Theft. They just wanted a "Fair Tax", and they sat and endlessly argued what percentage that tax would be. This was their only issue, as far as I could tell.

But me, I wanted to overturn everything. I wanted a revolution! And I needed fiery tempered revolutionaries -- not lily livered appeasers. So, naturally, I looked for them among the Trekkies, the Anarchists and the Neo-Conservatives and Survivalists. (In those days, there were no preppers. There were only survivalists.) And I looked for them among the filkers, because lyrics are the closest thing to poetry that could be found in the modern world.

And then I came across Blake's Seven fandom. And that's when my knowledge of Brady Bunch lore came into play.

"Here's a story of a man named Roj Blake,
"Who was plotting to overthrow the Feds,
"But was caught and charged with child molesting,
"And went to jail, instead.
"Here's a story of a bunch of outlaws
"Who had just learned that crime will never pay.
"There was not an idealist among them,
"But they were put away.
"Till the one day when this Blake guy met these outlaws,
"And it seemed like a match made in Heaven,
"And although it was not precisely how they numbered,
"They came to form Blake's Seven.
"Oh, Blake, Blake's Seven,
"For Heaven's sake,
"I mean, who's counting?
"But where the Hell is Blake?"

Today, looking at the Blake Bunch filkbook that resulted from all that, I realize most of those B7 fans were leftists -- socialists and liberals. But at the time I did not know that. I was looking for a hero to save the Republic, and I just knew I would not find him among the Libertarian Party crowd.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Compromises and their Price

Most people work at jobs that they don't really like, but find tolerable enough to sustain them. They marry individuals that they don't quite respect, but who are at least kind enough and supportive enough to get them through the day. They vote for political candidates they are deeply suspicious of, but at the same time, these are the best candidates available to vote for, from their own personal perspective.

We can't expect to change the world in one fell swoop, so we are conditioned to get along with others and work together for small improvements in our lives. Arguably, there's nothing wrong with that -- except when we turn around and see the changes wrought in the landscape of our society by all these small, seemingly innocent compromises.

I recently watched the Tim Burton movie, Big Eyes, about the artist Margaret Keane and her domineering conman of a husband, who catapulted her art into fame, before she exposed him for the fraud that he was.

In my daughter's bedroom there is a print of a  painting of a cat that looks as if it might have been painted by Margaret Keane. If it is not actually painted by her, then it must have been a conscious, intentional imitation. It looks just like her art.  I got this painting from my parents. It used to hang in their house. It is a relic from the sixties and early seventies.

When my daughter was very little, she really liked this cat painting and even identified with it deeply, thinking that if she were a cat, she would look like that. Then, later, it scared her, because of those big spooky eyes, and she took it down off the wall and hid it. Then, later still, she put it back up.

Margaret Keane's art is confusing like that. It moves us, then it scares us, and then after a while we come back to it. Or maybe we decide it is kitsch, and later still we realize that there is a history there, and no matter what base instinct within us it appeals to, it is still definitely art.

But did you know the history of the paintings? Did you know that her husband took credit for them? Or that in all probability we, the public,  would never have seen any of her paintings, if not for the false origin story he spun out of thin air, to make the emotional appeal seem to have a bigger, almost political meaning? I did not know until after I had seen the movie Big Eyes. And all this made me think of the Election of 2016, where nothing is quite as it seems. Read my LibertyBuzz article, to see how it all ties together.