I would’ve liked to write a post about Edward Baptist’s “The Half Has Never Been Told,” because it seemed like he had an interesting thesis. From what I gathered reading the first five chapters and the short blurb on the dust jacket, he wanted to write about the contribution of the American slave trade, especially during the big westward expansion toward the Mississippi, to the birth of the modern financial system. It seemed as though his argument was that the slave trade involved many more large transactions on credit, and sales of credit documents from one person to another, than had occurred previously.
But I don’t know if that’s the argument he wound up making. Because I didn’t get to finish reading his book.
Instead, K. said to me, “Can your next draft be done by the end of December?”
“No,” I told her.
“Well, it takes me a while to type. And I still have all this research to do.”
At which point she swept through my stack of library books and vetoed them all. Just like that! Said I wasn’t allowed to finish reading Baptist’s book until this next draft was finished.
I was halfway through Sandeep Jauhar’s “Doctored” (which was well written and has many relevant personal anecdotes but didn’t have anything surprising in it so far, at least from my perspective – I’ve already read a fair bit about problems of our health care system), but it was vetoed also.
I complained. “I’m writing about the philosophy of medicine!”
“You can read this later.”
Needless to say, “The Philosophy of Pornography” was also vetoed – apparently the ~2 pages (13 point font, 1.5 spaced) I am writing about pornography do not qualify as a good argument to finish reading that book. My favorite essay in that book, at least of the ones I was able to read before K. vetoed all my research, oddly echoed the folksy rebuttal to gun control laws – “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” – in that its thesis seemed to be, “pornography doesn’t hurt women, our society’s pervasively sexualized, demeaning culture hurts women.” Several other essays argued that feminists shouldn’t hate pornography because, look, somewhere out there is some playful, non-demeaning trans-sexual porn. But I don’t know if that’s a fair argument to make without statistics showing that videos of that sort are viewed at a comparable rate to other more objectionable kinds.
I can’t quote anything in this terse summary, by the way, because I no longer have the book. It’s back at the library.
Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus” was also vetoed. Just temporarily, at least, and I did have a chance to read it about two years ago – I had checked it out again to flip through and find something to write a post about. I would have been sad if it’d been perma-banned from my home.
When I was reading it, I wouldn’t have guessed that it would be considered inflammatory. Hinduism is very old – of course a plurality of voices has contributed to its current form. It seemed as though her aim was simply to draw attention to some of the less-often heralded contributors.
And then, fittingly, the last book K. vetoed was Fernando Baez’s “A Universal History of the Destruction of Books.” I’d read only part of the first chapter.
Luckily, she didn’t burn my collection. Just forced me to put them into a bag and return them to the library until later.
I suppose the list as a whole should make me feel, um, a bit of concern about the focus of my project.
I received an email from my library telling me that the hold request for Christine Kennealy’s “The Invisible History of The Human Race” – which obviously I need to read, as it might well relate to the themes of “broad political happenings shaping the fortunes of individuals,” “do humans have free will or are we subject to physics-based / DNA-based / divine-based determinism,” and “popular retellings of scientific findings make them sound like mythology” – was just processed.
Of course, her book might not be about any of the things I think it’ll be about – those are suspicions I wound up with based on reading a review in the newspaper. I’ll have to read it to be sure!
But what devious stratagem can I come up with to borrow it without K. noticing?