Hamalong Pt IV

Yes, yes, that should be a V.   But sadly, it is not.   And even sadder, I was only 3 days behind.   I finished the reading on Sunday, but I didn’t write about it and so didn’t start reading the next section and now I’ve got 12 chapters to read by next Thursday.   Soooo not gonna happen, but I will try to be better.  I seem to manage to be good only for 3 or 4 days and then I just pick up something else to read and here we are.   Where is that?   Darned if I can remember.   A. Hamilton compromised once in his life (was that this section?) and it was a Good Thing.   He worked out a deal with Jefferson and Madison and Progress was made.   This never happened again, apparently.  This is a shame because Hamilton had some excellent ideas.   Like having a bank.   I see this, of course, as a two-edged sword.   Banks can be all the bad things their detractors think they are.   On the other hand, do I want to keep my money in my mattress?  I do not.

Hamilton had some interesting blind spots, and by interesting, I mean annoying and stupid.   One of these was his dear friend William Duer who, when hired at the Treasury speculated in bank scrip.   Far from seeing any need to be disinterested he used his insider information for all it was worth.   And then some.   He eventually speculated far too much and Alexander refused to pull his ass out of the fire.   Good for you, Alexander, but how much better if you’d kept your friend out of your business.   Duer’s rampant speculation helped destroy Hamilton’s attempt at a textile factory and factory town.   Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.   The children were so busy laboring they could only be schooled on Sunday.   In some things, it’s not good to be ahead of your time.

Hamilton’s next biggest blind spot, or maybe biggest, hard to tell, was when he started catting around with freaky chick Maria Reynolds.   It seems pretty sure that she showed up with the whole idea of compromising him sexually and then blackmailing him, that she and her husband planned this together and that Hamilton was a complete and total patsy.   We all know he liked the ladies, but he seemed to like this one an awful lot and as is usual with these things, it’s very difficult for anyone who is not him to see why.  He was a chump and he paid dearly for it.   I feel rather sorry for him as she writes him clinging, desperate letters all about how her husband discovered the truth.   Shouldn’t this sordid West Indies childhood have armored you against falling for this, Alex?

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I’m sure I’m forgetting important stuff.   He founded the treasury and the mint, which was given to Jefferson, much to Hamilton’s annoyance.   Helped found the Bank of the United States and steered us all into the great capitalist experiment that became the U.S.A.  He did so much to help form the early government that it’s difficult to remember it all.  And I forgot to even mention how Jefferson hit on Angelica Church.   Jefferson really doesn’t come off well in this book.   And like others in this group I feel I should read books about Jefferson, Adams and others to get a more complete picture, though I probably won’t, even though this book is giving me a far more complete picture of early American history than I have ever had.

The Clocks

So, reading an Agatha Christie where you know the end doesn’t scratch the itch.   I went on and read The Clocks published in 1963.   An Hercule Poirot mystery sort of.   Mainly there’s a young spy named Colin Lamb and a detective named Hardcastle.  Poirot enters about halfway through and naturally, solves the whole thing, but really is not very involved.   It starts off intriguingly (is that a word?) with a young shorthand typist being requested at the home of a blind woman, Miss Pebmarsh.   If Miss Pebmarsh isn’t home, the typist is to enter the house and wait.   There she discovers a body and runs shrieking from the house into the arms of Colin Lamb.   In the room with the body are six clocks, only two of which belong there.   Miss Pebmarsh denies calling for a typist and no one knows who the dead man is nor why four extra clocks are set to 4:13.

theclocks

Quite an entertaining beginning, but the book doesn’t keep up that level of peculiarity.   It’s a bit plodding as the two men go around interviewing the neighbors, interviewing the typist and her aunt, interviewing all and sundry.   It’s just a bit dull.   And then there’s the next victim who doesn’t tell what she knows and gets done in, of course, because that almost always happens.  Thinking back on it, I think the murderer was a darned fool to arrange all this, but overall not a bad book.   Definitely a middling Christie, but a middling Christie beats a lot of others.

Hamalong Pt. 3

You might think, what with being snowed in and nothing to do except shovel and shovel and shovel that more reading would have taken place, but you’d be wrong.  I finished Pt. 3 (end of C. 14) yesterday, though I could have finished it on Sunday if I’d known how close I was.  But here I am finally, 5 days behind and no work to blame it on.   I could blame it on Our Gang silents the first four of which I watched.   They’re really cute.  I could blame it on the return of the X-files, which I have mixed feelings about.   But really it all boils down to not enough reading Hamilton.   Always surprised how easily days off slide by.   I’m not subject to cabin fever if I have power and food.  But clearly I’m not disciplined enough to do my reading either.

So, Hamilton — the war’s over, but the states are all being jerks and not paying their debts and not getting along, like a bunch of unruly children.   I was quite surprised to learn what a poor showing New York put up.   Maybe I learned it in school, but that’s all too long ago.   I’ve been long used to thinking of it as more a North vs. South problem, but New York was probably the most obstreperous of the lot.  Virginia not much better although they were the home to most of the FFs.  (And Patrick Henry, I’m very disappointed in you.)  So, Hamilton puts pen to paper and actually shares some of the work with Madison and Jay.   I read some of The Federalist in college though that too is, well, I can’t say a distant memory.   A distant forgettery?  Chernow helpfully sums up all the essays and then moves on to the election.

This section shows Hamilton not being so great several times.   Although why they created a system where you couldn’t be sure who was being elected president and who vice president I’m not sure.   That seems like an avoidable error.   So the Ham goes and manipulates the election (bad Ham!), not that Washington needs your help, dude, and makes a lifelong enemy of Adams, who comes off as a bit of a clown in this section and I’m not sure that’s so good because we haven’t read much (anything?) about him except this and it gives an unfair impression, I think.   Adams was important and not a doofus (at least not all the time) so I hope we see more of Adams’ good side.

And I think Hamilton was completely wrong about the Bill of Rights.  Because really, where people are concerned, if you don’t make things perfectly clear, and even when you do, some of them will run roughshod wherever they can.  And for someone with such a supposedly dark view of humanity, he should have known that.

So, Washington is elected, of course, and we get a bit of the first government, but I’m sure there’s much more to come.   Didn’t know Washington nearly died his first year in office.  So glad I live in the age of anesthesia.   And it is astonishing how worried some of the landed gentry were worried about a monarchy and thought the government should not be like Britain’s at all even though parts of the British government were quite good.    Very glad Hamilton and others had the emotional distance to sort out good from bad and not simply reject it wholesale because some parts weren’t so great.

Need a picture to lighten up all this text, so let’s have a look at Madison, shall we?  Not that he lightens anything up much.

James Madison.jpg

I’m reminded reading everyone else’s posts about the Manumission Society in which a ridiculously large number of them own slaves and can’t face freeing them.   Well, theoretically we’re against slavery… we’d really like to be… but it’s just so convenient having work done for us for free that like St. Augustine praying for ‘chastity and continence but not yet.’  We want to be good, we’re just not actually capable of it.

The Mirror Crack’d

Ha!   You were thinking maybe Hamalong III?  No, you’re onto me now.   There’s no fooling you.   I have had a sort of 4 year project to read most of the Agatha Christies.   I skipped a few that I remembered too well, but that was not many.   And I didn’t know until I was a few chapters in that this was one of them.  I won’t, of course, give it away, but it makes a big difference reading a book where you know whodunnit.   Only moderately interesting to see how Christie misleads and doesn’t.  She also had quite a bit of fun with Miss Marple suffering the annoying caretaker Miss Knight.  Miss Marple probably could have solved it in half the time if she weren’t spending so much ingenuity trying to escape the attentions of her diligent, irritating nursemaid.   It’s so hard to judge whether a mystery is good if you know the ending, but I think it is.  (I think the ending stayed with me because it was based on real life.)  It is too recent (1962) to be part of the Golden Age Scavenger hunt.

I’m pretty sure I saw the movie when it came out, or maybe on TV later.   Probably unfair to say without reviewing that I don’t think it was very good.   Star-studded, with Elizabeth Taylor as Marina, it should have been good, but somehow I don’t think it was.   I should watch it again though to be sure.

mirrorcrackd

Angela Lansbury was never my idea of Miss Marple.   I haven’t really liked any of the ones I’ve seen.  It’s a shame since they did such a nice job otherwise with all the Joan Hickson ones, but she was the furthest from my idea of Miss Marple of any of them.   She’s supposed to seem smart I suppose, but she just seems to stare a lot.   In this book, there are a couple incidents in which Miss Marple demonstrates pluck and humor and she does twinkle occasionally, but not nearly as much as Miss McEwan.   Not sure I’ve ever seen Helen Hayes’ portrayal, maybe I should look for one of those.

Hamalong Pt.2

Two days late again, but that means I did the reading in the week and hopefully it won’t all spiral out of control with me finishing a month behind everyone.  We’ve covered about five more years and the Hamster is as busy a bee as ever.  Writing millions of letters for General Washington, riding around chastising generals, and courting and marrying Eliza Schuyler.  Their romance is a pleasure to read about.  We know from the opening she adored him, but it’s heart-warming to see how much he adored her and their child.  He gets fed up with Washington and takes advantage of one of his fits of temper to quit his job.   This rather floors me.  It seems to me what he was doing — helping secure loans to pay for the war and French troops to assist in victory — was so much more important to the cause than leading a battalion and being a hero that he really should have kept at it.   But then no one is perfect and I think we see that more in this section than in the previous part, understand why some people didn’t think he was all that and a bag of chips.

800px-Mrs._Elizabeth_Schuyler_Hamilton
Eliza did, though.

It is easy to sympathize with his frustrations dealing with the Continental Congress and the states, the lack of understanding when it comes to needing to put the fledging nation on a firm financial footing and clear to see how easily it could have fallen apart — don’t pay your debts to your army and to other countries, think you can each stand on your own is as complete a recipe for disaster as I can think of.   If they had continued on this course, in a few years time, Britain could have sailed back and picked them all off one by one – for who would fight for them a second time on no pay?    I really wish all those tax is theft people would read up on this.  A country cannot be run without income.  He was an amazingly smart person.  It had to have been maddening trying to convince people of what was so obvious to him.

And feeling I should read the Federalist, which I sooo do not want to do.   And I was reminded by Sarah’s post how cute AH was about his baby at seven months:

His attitude in sitting is by connoisseurs esteemed graceful and he has a method of waving his hand that announces the future orator.   He stands however rather awkwardly and his legs have not all the delicate slimness of his father’s…

and this which is all too often the attitude of every politician:

“The inquiry constantly is what will please, not what will benefit the people,” he told Morris. “In such a government there can be nothing but temporary expedient, fickleness, and folly.”

Why Shoot a Butler?

You were expecting maybe Hamalomg Part 2?  And you have every right to expect it.  In fact, I’m fairly confident that post is in the near future, but not today.  Around the 11th I thought, omg!  it’s the 11th and I haven’t finished a single book!   Not a promising start.  So I turned to mystery, as usual, and dug out Georgette Heyer’s Why Shoot a Butler?  which is from, I believe, 1933.  At any rate, well before the 1959 cutoff for Golden Age set by Bev.  I never knew Heyer wrote mysteries.  I thought it was all Regency romances which I don’t read.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)   But I guess they’ve been reprinted and I thought it sounded pretty good.  English country road, lost protagonist trying to find his aunt’s country house stumbles across a car by the side of the road, a mysterious girl with a gun and a dead butler.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

whyshoot
I think the real question is, why not?

And it is, though only a mystery at first, by the time you get maybe two thirds through there’s only one person it could be, so if you like them easy to guess, this is for you.  The detective is a barrister from London named Frank who keeps things annoyingly to himself, has the police at his beck and call, and has little time for pleasantries.  He has a rather endearing aunt, seemingly vague, actually sharp, one runs into in Christie sometimes, but not, I think, this early.  Not sure if I will read more.  I like figuring out whodunnit, but not because there’s only one choice.

This cover has car in it for Bev’s Cover Scavenger Hunt.  And now back to Hamilton.  I promise!

Hamalong Part 1

Two days late, but you should be used to that by now.   I’m even slower at non-fiction than fiction.   It is already the 9th and I’ve finished zero books.   Not a promising start.   I have finished what my Kindle says is 11% of the Hamilton biography, but should be more if it’s really 818 pages.  At any rate, the first five chapters.   Quite an amazing guy, this Hamilton.   How anyone goes from being a clerk in the West Indies to General Washington’s chief aide in — was it four years? — beats me.   The man seems to have had astonishing energy, intelligence and an incredibly appealing personality and neither nature nor nurture appears to account for it.   Some weird alignment of stars created this paragon.    I’m already loathing Aaron Burr — perhaps I should read Vidal’s Burr.  He must’ve had some worthwhile qualities.   Then again, there are people who wanted General Gates over Washington which seems something like wanting Homer Simpson to run the Army.

 alexhamilton1

One of the things that strikes me is that from the very beginning, the North is placating the South.   Now, in choosing Washington that was just smart, but there was something else in there which I’ve now forgotten which seemed a lot like giving candy to a spoiled child.   The other thing is that Congress has always been Congress and probably always will be.   You want independence?  Fund the damn Army.   One quarter of them perished — from cold, famine and disease.   Two of these three things can be prevented most of the time and fewer people succumb to the third if they are well fed and clothed.   You do not have an infinite number of soldiers, in fact, you have a fairly small number, take care of them.

I’m also struck by the number of times the mass of mankind is referred to as rabble and other unflattering terms.   It just seems so snooty.   Just because people are uneducated doesn’t necessarily make them stupid.  And of course, mobs can and do cause a great deal of harm, but it’s the rank and file who do most of the work.   Of course, monarchy was what everyone was used to and it’s still surprisingly popular.   Some otherwise intelligent people have told me how they think a king is really the way to go.   (Naturally they never say queen.)   All I can think is, read history.   And not the history with the good kings.  But that’s what we’re left with.  Everyone hears about the great ones and knows little or nothing about the many lousy or mediocre ones.   Thank you, Washington, for refusing to be king.

Phinnea's Book Blog List

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.

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