Explosive Reads

Russia blew up the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine on 6 June (archive), although Russians crowing about it online changed their tune within hours and blamed Ukrainians themselves (yeah, right). Timothy Snyder provided useful guidelines for writing about the attack. The impact on the people of the area is almost too devastating to contemplate.

A couple of books over the past year have helped make everything clearer for me around Russia and Ukraine. The first was Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies, a history of countries that used to exist but no longer do; learning about the changes in Eastern European borders over the centuries was particularly helpful. The second, which I read more recently, was Masha Gessen’s The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, tracing the changes there since the Cold War through the eyes of half a dozen individuals. This was outstanding; when the book ended I wished the narrative could have kept going past its publication date of 2017. Some contemporary reviews quibbled with its conclusions or said it was a bit over the top, but from the vantage point of 2023 it was bang on.

21 June 2023

Warnings From the Ages

Nobody will read this essay in 200 years.

The essay’s initial target, Jason Stanley, is right: it’s really good. It also prompted me to start reading his 2018 book How Fascism Works, and although I don’t know whether it will last 200 years, it takes a broad enough historical view that it might—and more importantly it’s very much a book for right now. I keep thinking of how many of his points apply to the last few years of Boris Johnson’s government, not to mention the last few months of Russia going off the deep end, and it’s an urgent reminder that the danger of Trumpism persists despite the change of US president.

Gawker has changed the title of McClay’s essay to “It’s Very Unlikely Anyone Will Read This in 200 Years”. Where’s the fun in that? Leave the circumspect language to academic articles that it’s very unlikely anyone will read in 200 days.

Get yer 200-year-old coincidentally relevant essay right here.

3 May 2022 · 1 Comment