Review- Igo, “The Averaged American”

Sarah Igo, “The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public” (2007) – Historian Sarah Igo makes a pretty good toss at arguing that not just government surveys or academic social science, but public reception of certain social scientific surveys, help define America’s sense of itself in the mid-twentieth century. She focuses on the Lynds, who authored the influential Middletown surveys; pollsters George Gallop and Elmo Roper; and surveyor of sexual habits Alfred Kinsey.

What distinguished these three from early social scientists was their focus on the average. Most 19th and early 20th century anthropologists and sociologists focused on what was seen as marginal and/or deviant: the poor, criminals, minorities, and the “primitive.” The idea of studying average Americans was so unusual most of Igo’s subjects walked into it backwards. Robert and Helen Lynd were originally contracted by the Rockefeller people to study ecumenical cooperation between churches. Gallop and Roper both worked in sales before devising polls as means to create feedback loops between increasingly capital-intensive consumer goods ventures (things like breakfast cereals and cars) and publics. Kinsey was an expert on mud wasps before he got into asking impertinent questions to thousands of people.

As it turns out, Americans from the twenties to the seventies really dug knowing what the average American was like, or, anyway, gazing at a selective picture of what’s “average” or even more iffy, “normal.” The Lynds’ “Middletown” studies became a publishing hit, and even the inhabitants of Muncie, Indiana, the basis of the study, grew proud of their distinction as the scientifically-designated normal American city. The Lynds specifically picked Muncie not because it actually met any statistical norms of the American population, but because it had small immigrant and black populations for an industrial city its size. This actually took some doing to find in America in the 1920s, the period just after the great waves of immigration and smack in the middle of the Great Migration from the American south. Gallop only studied “likely voters,” which ruled out most black people, many immigrants, women in many communities, etc.

It was a normative assumption on these people’s parts — ironically, fostered by the ways in which social science at that time focused on the “deviant” i.e. people who didn’t fit into WASP social scientists idea of normal — that Muncie was the mean. But people ate it up. The same uncertainties about change and modernity that drove social scientists in that period also drove many Americans, including those then as yet aspirationally part of the norm (children of immigrants, for instance), to seek out and embrace a picture of “normal” that ensured them that change would not threaten a social order. This normality became a self-fulfilling prophecy as policymakers — Igo depicts Franklin Roosevelt as an eager consumer of reports about national attitudes — hewed to these pictures when shaping social policy, like the New Deal’s encouragement of single-family homeownership. We’re still living with this picture of “normal” today, even as the cracks become harder to ignore. While a little “dissertation-y,” this book is a fine monograph that gets into an important subject. ****

Review- Igo, “The Averaged American”

Review- Rawlence, “City of Thorns”

Ben Rawlence, “City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Biggest Refugee Camp” (2016) – This had a lot of potential to be awful. A white Brit, from the liberal-hawk Human Rights Watch (and an adviser to the Liberal Democrats in the UK, apparently) writing about Dadaab, a refugee camp of around a half million people, mostly Somalis, in the north Kenyan desert.

But it’s pretty good. Rawlence is more or less completely missing from the book, and instead we follow the lives of a number of refugees. Some of them, like Guled, are recent arrivals. Some, like Nisho, were born there- the camp has been there since 1992, so whole generations have been born inside. We follow the lives of men, women, young, old, Muslim, Christian, Somali, Sudanese, and Ethiopian. We see them try to make it in Nairobi or Mogadishu and generally find their way back.

The camp is run by the UN and the Kenyan government. The UN wants to ameliorate harm and provide a basis for NGOs to do the same (and do the other stuff NGOs do, like posture for donors). The Kenyan government wants to contain the refugees, and corrupt actors within it — which is to say, most actors in it — want to profit off of them. You can tell Kenya has come in to its own as a wannabe regional power by how it tries to set up its own Somali breakaway puppet state, Jubaland, using American-provided bombs and war-on-terror rhetoric alongside recruited refugees.

What no one except the inhabitants of Dadaab really want is for the people there to prosper and become independent. The NGOs would lose donors and connections, and more pertinently the Kenyan government and cartels would lose a profit source. Much the same goes for Somalia- a united, strong Somalia doesn’t benefit as many non-Somalis as the current mess does.

Rawlence does a good job of portraying the people of Dadaab as resourceful without giving in to the siren song of inspiration porn. They work themselves to the bone and find numerous hustles to keep themselves alive, and gain more than the bare life of UN rations. Porting, scavenging, peddling, building, running bus lines, making soccer leagues- the Somalis in the camp aren’t lying around waiting for handouts.

But an array of structures keep them from flourishing, not just international connivance. Clan matters tremendously; Guled is chased out of several marketplaces for trying go do porter work while belonging to the wrong one. Ethnic, national, and religious boundaries are high and lethal, and while Somali gender roles aren’t as stringent as some, they’re still quite strict on women and particular on interaction across combined gender and clan/religious lines. One mixed couple, Christian Sudanese and Muslim Somali, dodge lynch mobs and threats until they both sink into drink. The constant hustling for survival both breaks down traditional institutions and makes the trust boundaries that the surviving institutions create extra important.

Rawlence’s time frame coincides with the rise of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda aligned Somali militia; Guled fled from them to the camp. Dadaab is caught between al-Shabaab and the Kenyan government. Most of the refugees just want peace and opportunity. The camp-raised have an especially poignant attachment to UN values of process, gender balance, etc. But enough of them are angry or scared — or have the wrong clan ties — to let al-Shabaab in. Once bombs start going off in Dadaab and gun massacres happen in Nairobi shopping malls, the Kenyan government cracks down with the usual brutality of crooked states with little legitimacy. This, of course, drives more refugees into the arms of the militants.

It’s a big damn mess, and Rawlence puts little spin on it other than to express anger and derision towards the major players and admiration for the people of Dadaab, ordinary human beings living through an extraordinary situation. Seems like a good approach to me. ****’

Review- Rawlence, “City of Thorns”

Review- Graham, “Cities Under Siege”

Stephen Graham, “Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism” (2010) – If I had read this book when it came out, it would probably be a bigger deal to me. But events — none more than the civil war in Syria — have changed things. Mostly, to Graham’s credit, the last few years have seen an acceleration of the trends he saw- drone assassinations, the internet as surveillance machine, the increasing focus on borders between the spatial cores of global capitalism and their hinterlands, increasing focus on the part of militaries on fighting in “urban terrain.” What Syria has shown is that while adapting technology is important, old questions like “who’s willing to actually put their ass into the horrors of urban combat and fight effectively” and things like diplomacy still matter as much, if not more. At one point, IS and Jabhat-al-Nusra had a good answer, in the form of a shitty international brigade of jihadis, and the Assadists didn’t have a good counter. Then they picked up one- Hezbollah, Shia militias, and SAA given a new spine by Russian help.

So, it’s weird reading a book like this pre-Syria war, pre-Brexit, pre-… all kinds of things. Much of what it says is still relevant! But some of the stuff I would’ve liked to have seen a deeper dive on — like rural/suburban/exurban antipathy for cities and what that means for military operations in urban terrain — he doesn’t spend as much time with as he does with drones and other things everyone now knows about. Graham also way over-quotes- theorists, mostly, but also plenty of ordinary geographers and other social scientists making points he could just express and then cite their influence. He’s not a bad writer- like I used to say to undergrads, you can say it in your own voice! ***’

Review- Graham, “Cities Under Siege”

Review- Vance, “The Book of Dreams”

Jack Vance, “The Book of Dreams” (1981) – Jack Vance’s Demon Princes saga ends with the taking down of the last and probably most interesting of the five space pirates who destroyed Kirth Gessen’s home village way back when. Howard Alan Treesong, like Viole Falushe, one of the previous baddies, just can’t get over high school. Born on a planetary backwater that sounds a lot like the upper Midwest or some descriptions I’ve heard of rural New Zealand, an imaginative and willful boy, he gets the works from the locals and dedicates his life to revenge. He gets far enough to become a sort of “Mr. Big” of galactic crime and nearly becomes something like space-Jesuit-General. But of course, he’s no match for Kirth Gessen’s focus and grit (and unlimited money he secured whilst taking out a previous Demon Prince).

Hero and villain both live for revenge. Kirth lives to avenge his family and home; Treesong lives to get his vengeance on his high school class and to make the universe as much like his adolescent fantasies (in the titular book, which Kirth eventually finds and uses as bait). The latter option seems to lead to a somewhat more colorful, if nefarious, existence for Treesong (and his fellow space pirates), but the latter provides the drive necessary to go through all the hoops to eliminate the former. In this installment, they range from a fake magazine contest to identify the one known picture of Treesong to the shenanigans with the lost diary to Kirth having to pretend to be a flautist to infiltrate the band at the high school reunion Treesong interrupts with dire theatrical revenge. Sometimes, the difference between hero and villain is how they go through the rigamarole.

The Demon Princes books are pretty cool. Vance clearly made more world than he could really fit in to these fairly conventional detective stories, as evidenced by the long epigraphs to his chapters full of lore from his universe. You mostly get the worlds through the odd planets Kirth visits, which showcase Vance’s fascination with the plasticity of people and societies, where oddballs in backwaters keep getting odder due to their cultural — and their planet’s ecological — logic. I ultimately prefer the Cugel and Anome books, but these are also cool. ****’

Review- Vance, “The Book of Dreams”

Review- Civico, “The Para-State”

Aldo Civico, “The Para-State: An Ethnography of Colombia’s Death Squads” (2016) – More uplifting material! Italian anthropologist and… life coach? According to his website? Aldo Civico originally set out to do an ethnography on the peasants forced from the land in to urban slums in Colombia during its last spate of protracted civil war. Among these people he found people connected with those most responsible for their plight- ex-members of right-wing paramilitaries, most of them part of the infamous Autodefensas Unidos de Colombia, or AUC. While the communist guerrillas in FARC did not play with kid gloves, it’s estimated that it’s the right-wing paramilitaries that were responsible for a majority of the civilian killings and forced displacements over the course of the war. The people Civico first found were cast-offs from the period wherein the Colombian government, less in need of the services of independent right-wing whack jobs and their private armies, began demobilizing the paras, who typically either found employment in the drug trade or none at all. And so Civico set out to understand the culture they came from.

Most of it is what you’d expect. A few leaders mouth platitudes about how bad the communists were and how they were the ones really looking out for the campesinos, etc. The lower-level soldiers mostly talked about needing to join one group or another during the war, and preferring the paras for various reasons- the guerrillas had wronged them somehow, or the paras paid more, etc. Civico does get them to open up about violence- how violence for its own sake, spectacular violence, was at the core of what the paras did, how even leaders routinely got involved in killing every now and again “to keep in practice.”

Civico throws a lot of theory around. The stuff from Lacan, et al, is generally unhelpful, and most of them are insights Civico could have come to himself. His borrowing of Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the “war machine,” the organically-evolved reticular body of people and forces that coheres to wage battle either against or orthogonal to the more orderly bodies of the state, is more interesting. The AUC really did harness inchoate social forces in Colombia — from the decentralized power of local landlords (and later drug exporters) to Catholicism to the particular vision of the good life of land-bound order to the reality of Colombia’s embedment in global capitalism — to create a lethal force along the grain of existing Colombian society and against those who would change that grain. Deleuze and Guattari typically see the “war machine” as opposite from and destroyed by the state, but Civico points out that war machines like that often wind up reducing opposition to a certain kind of state, clearing room for a given form of order- or, in right-wing Latin American terms, engages in cleansing (limpieza) a given space or society. The government can forsake them, but in many respects, these groups are the precondition for the sort of governance the government had — has — in mind. Never underestimate the murderous rage or native organizing capacity found in the space where money and privilege meet the shock of resistance. ****

Review- Civico, “The Para-State”

Review – Mampilly, “Rebel Rulers”

Zachariah Cherian Mampilly, “Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life During War” (2011) – Pretty good polisci material on insurgent groups and the ways they govern territory they control. Mampilly’s case studies are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka; SPLA/M, the confederation of rebels that eventually broke South Sudan away from plain old Sudan; and the Rally for Congolese Democracy, one of the major factions behind the overthrow of Laurent Kabila.

Mampilly arranges them in strata according to their governance success. The Tamil Tigers had a very robust governance structure, complete with courts, banks, health service, etc- this was written before their leader, Prabhakaran, essentially took his whole group with him in a doomed last stand against the Lankan army. SPLA/M was considerably less capable, but in a way almost as impressive in keeping the many ethnic groups involved working more or less together (alas, this also collapsed soon after South Sudan gained independence). Finally, RDC was never capable of doing much governance beyond extorting merchants at border crossings.

The conclusions Mampilly draws from his comparisons are pretty interesting, and I learned some things. Among others, the Tamil Tigers allowed the Lankan government to act in its territories for the purposes of welfare distribution (Sri Lanka apparently has/had a generous welfare state) and education. This reminds me of the stories I heard from Syria about the annual SAT-equivalent went ahead all throughout the civil war, administered on all sides- war is war, but the exams, especially in a former French colony, are the exams. Mampilly argues that insurgents do better at governance where they could inherit or work with robust state structures. This seems tricky, given that those seem to make insurgency less likely, but also seems to make sense.

In general, Mampilly seems to have a sensible perspective, refusing to act shocked by the sheer presence of insurgents like a lot of liberal/conservative social scientists, or attributing different outcomes to ineffable factors like “leadership” or “spirit.” A lot of success or failure comes down to facts on the ground- previous level of development, ethnic/sectarian rivalry, length of insurgency (longer insurgencies allow a Maoist strategy, which is the most successful in terms of creating a shadow government). It’s polisci so it’s not scintillating writing, but there’s much worse out there. In general, pretty good. ****

Review – Mampilly, “Rebel Rulers”

Review – Lethem, “Motherless Brooklyn”

motherless

Jonathan Lethem, “Motherless Brooklyn” (1999) – Ok, here’s my question: why did people treat a literary sendup of the tropes of detective fiction like an innovation at the turn of the millennium? They were only a few years out from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” Hardboiled detective fiction had been parodied in movies and magazines more or less since its inception, and even the people who wrote it often had a sense of irony about it. Lowbrows did it, highbrows (like Umberto Eco) did it. It was a done thing.

 

So I don’t know why people flipped their shit when Jonathan Lethem published “Motherless Brooklyn” and showered it with praise and awards. It’s about Lionel, a man with Tourette’s Syndrome who had been orphaned as a child and who was taken under wing (along with three other orphans) by a minor Mafia figure and used for odd jobs. Maybe part of it is that readers of “serious” new fiction like a simple, high-concept hook as much as anyone- “zany detective with — get this! — Tourette’s!” I recall the syndrome being a popular subject of daytime talk shows like Maury at that time, some poor kids on stage uncontrollably cussing and barking…

 

The second chapter, where Lionel explains his upbringing and the beginning of his experience with Tourette’s, would make a pretty good short story on its own. This is partly because, happening as it does in Lionel’s head, the autobiographical portion doesn’t interrupt the dialogue several times a page with Lionel’s tourettic outbursts (italicized, naturally). These are annoying. “That’s the point!” I can hear the defenders say. Well, A. it’s not like Lethem was trying to illuminate a lived experience of his, so the virtue defense is out B. the blurts are supposed to be a running poetic commentary on what’s going on, but it’s ham-handed and C. it’s fucking annoying.

 

Lethem has some good turns of phrase amongst his precious bullshit. The plotting is respectable — the old standby of a spiritual body being used for sinister and distinctly materialist purposes — if unevenly spooled out. Mainly, I think the book suffers from an identity crisis. Post-ironic sincerity writers like Lethem always struggle with saying anything about anything other than saying things. He tries to say things about detective stories and literary fiction (and New York and Tourette’s and music etc), but falls between the stools. It’s too dedicated to the quotidian detective story to go full meta-, and too literary to really commit to the detective story qua detective story. Even this could be all right, if the whole conceit of the book didn’t involve spending 300-odd pages with Lethem’s outside take on a disability, which renders everything obnoxious to get through. **’

Review – Lethem, “Motherless Brooklyn”

Review – Mirowski and Plehwe, eds. “The Road from Mont Pelerin”

Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe, eds. “The Road From Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective” (2015) – I was into talking about neoliberalism before it was cool/overused! I remember going around campus with my copy of Harvey’s “A Brief History of Neoliberalism,” with its severe black and red cover, and a wide-eyed Marlboro girl looking at me asking, “are you, like, really conservative??” That would’ve been circa 2006, so don’t at me with this defensive shit about using trendy buzzwords.

If I remember right, Mirowski has some kind of arcane beef with David Harvey over the definition of neoliberalism, something to do with Harvey’s overreliance on figures like Friedman and Hayek, the kind of thing intellectual historians use to trip up their more materialist rivals. Either way, except in the finicky academic sense, the essays in this book more or less fit into and expand the paradigm Harvey and others have laid out for what neoliberalism is: efforts to use state power to instantiate market models of governance broadly in society. If it’s overused, well, that’s because neoliberalism the concept has been overused, all over the place. Don’t hate the player (or in this case… sportswriter?), hate the game, etc.

As edited collections go, the essays here vary in quality. A lot of them do a “social history of ideas” thing, which I am generally in favor of but which often comes off a little boring- this scholar knew that scholar who knew this funder, etc. It gets more interesting when it gets into changes in ideas- to me, the most interesting is how the original “classical liberals” were often in favor of using government power to break up monopolies, including some of the early Mont Pelerin Society (the ur-think tank that launched neoliberalism as a conscious project) folks. Watching Hayek, Aaron Director, and other more politicized neoliberals work their way around that — purely coincidentally as they were getting more and more funding from angry right-wing American plutocrats — is certainly worth observing. The social history of ideas method works best when it’s paired to an understanding of power, and the history of neoliberalism, which is more a theory of governance than anything, stands to benefit from it substantially.

I’m not great at reviewing edited collections because they kind of break up my concentration. So I’ll just relate what it made me think about the history of liberalism more broadly. It’s my belief that there is a set of parameters that unifies liberalism across the modern period. I don’t think those things are an emphasis on liberty and individualism, etc. I think what defines liberalism is its relationship to the cycles of revolution and counterrevolution that characterize modern history- liberalism seeks means to establish a harmonic system that channels the energies of revolution and reaction into support for the system itself. This is why the concept of liberal-conservativism (figures like Tocqueville) make sense- I see “conservative” as most useful a term to describe the same relationship liberalism has with the revolution dynamic, but leaning towards the reactionary end. So “classical liberalism” and progressivism and Keynesian liberalism and neoliberalism and “social liberalism” all deserve to be called liberalism, despite their differences, and none is a more legitimate claimant to the title than the others. All of them attempt to negotiate the strains of modernity — of Arno Mayer’s “Furies” — in a way that avoids a decision in favor of either revolution or counterrevolution (though they are often forced by circumstances to weigh in favor of one or the other, generally the latter) through directing their energies into some sort of system that is supposed to be balanced… anyway, that’s Peter’s Unified Theory of Liberalism, for whatever it’s worth. Feel free to ask questions/tell me someone already came up with this/poke holes! It’s not as though people haven’t! ****

Review – Mirowski and Plehwe, eds. “The Road from Mont Pelerin”

Review – El Akkad, “American War”

Omar El Akkad, “American War” (2017) – The first major literary attempt at depicting the big wet dream fantasy of the right (and at least some on the left), the second American Civil War is, alas, lousy. El Akkad is an Egyptian-Canadian journalist who has reported on the war in Syria and uprisings in places like Ferguson. There’s some realism in his depiction of refugee camps, where most of the story takes place. But, for a book that’s supposed to deal with this risky territory, it really punts on the nature of the war itself. In the 2060s, the US, already minus Florida because of climate change, tries to ban fossil fuels. The South rises again, I guess out of sheer love of rolling coal (the depiction of the South is both deeply patronizing and weirdly hands-off). The rest of the country very slowly grinds them down until, at the start of the book in 2074, only a rump state of Mississippi and some other places are left.

This is lame. I know we shouldn’t tell people they should write a different book. But it’s just takes you out of the story when it doesn’t really engage with so many of the things that have divided Americans, past and present- particularly race. Despite harkening back openly to the Confederacy in its propaganda, the rebellious South is depicted as race-blind in an easy, nonconflicted way. The North wouldn’t even be that. People give the main characters, a black Latino family, more stick for being Catholic (though not in any way that advances the plot or builds the world) than for race or immigration status or any of the stuff that matter more to people post-20th century. You see more of refugee life than you do of the war, but the details of the war don’t work either- that things would break down easily by US state, that the North would take out the whole state of South Carolina and ONLY South Carolina with a bioweapon (like it wouldn’t spread), etc. Twenty years of straight-up war is way too long, even though I know these wars drag… which makes the one big apocalyptic ending off-key, too. It just all feels contrived.

The prose and plot of the book doesn’t redeem it. El Akkad sees some things. His depiction of the experience of the refugees who make up the family we follow seems real enough- equal parts terror and boredom with confusion ladled over it all. The parts where a Southern militant begins recruiting one of the members for suicide attacks starts out good but becomes way too flowery, too much a courtship. The dialogue runs the gamut from ok to drek, averaging at pedestrian. At the end of the day, there’s not a lot of there there, which probably explains why the likes of Kakutani got so ga-ga over it. It’ll take someone who has caught at least a whiff of the fever that stalks this country to tell this sort of story right. *’

Review – El Akkad, “American War”

Review – Whitbourn, “To Build Jerusalem”

John Whitbourn, “To Build Jerusalem” (1995) – An alternative title for this one could be “Fear of a Protestant Planet.” English fantasy writer Whitbourn once described himself as a “Green Counter-Reformation Anarcho-Jacobite” (you can see why I made a point of tracking his books down). This was back in the eighties or nineties, before we would automatically assume such a person is just trying to find a way to avoid self-describing as fascist. Whitbourn’s ideas frame the worlds he writes, and they’re animated by a pulpy horror/fantasy sensibility with substantial Lovecraftian overtones.

This one in particular takes place in a world where the Reformation failed, the Catholic Church runs things in a manner reminiscent of the Emperor in Dune, and magic exists, mostly wielded by priests. Like I said when I reviewed the first book set in this world, “A Dangerous Energy,” if Whitbourn is trying to convince people that the world would be better without the Reformation, he’s found a funny way of doing it. The world is dark, cramped, and run by tyrants. It’s the late twentieth century and much of the world is unmapped and they’re just figuring out trains. To the extent Whitbourn can be said to pitch it as a “good” world, you could argue it’s more orderly- people know their place in the world and stick to it. Not my thing, but ok.

But Whitbourn is pleasingly non-didactic, and the actual point of the world seems to be that it’s a good jumping off point for horror and adventure. The main character is an enforcer for the Church, a sort of Catholic janissary named Adam. He’s sent to England because there’s a disturbance in the force- some kind of entity in the sphere of magic that is making the spells not work good. Wizards often summon demons, but it turns out, the demons they summon are small-fry compared to a big (and very horny) demon from a realm of evil beyond even the evil-realm the wizards can access. The many layers of unknowable and unholy power that exist beyond our ken are reinforcement for the idea that we need a stable order watched over by a perennial source of spiritual power…

Spoiler alert- the demon lord (never named) manifested itself to the Gideonites, the underground remnants of Protestantism in England. They bargained with it to kidnap the King and the papal legate and do a bunch of other mayhem. Whitbourn depicts the Gideonites as similar to (a conservative picture of) militant leftist movements in our timeline (including references to “democratic centralism” lol). Their overweening pride and desperation over being owned by the Church and its armies all the time leads them to believe they can use this demon-lord to bring about the End Times and hit the reset button on the whole thing. Not only that- but they’re getting into enclosure! The venal lords of England, never really faithful enough, start doing capitalism against the wishes of the church, kicking good pious peasants off the land and raising sheep for money. Both the demon’s antics and enclosure are treated as equally heinous, offenses against the sacred order of things.

The book’s a lot of fun. Naturally, our Leninist-Puritans can’t control the demon-lord, who does all kinds of nasty things. Adam develops a fun Holmes-Watson thing with a provincial English yeoman-soldier. Whitbourn throws in a lot of fun details and a real sense of place, namely Surrey and Sussex- apparently he has whole collections of macabre tales about them. The ending was kind of a cop-out. There’s some fun battles in the demon-lord’s own dimension, but they end with a literal deus ex machina (or deus ex coelum). It’s consistent with Whitbourn’s beliefs and with his vision of our world at the mercy of extra-dimensional powers above and below… but it kind of took the wind out of the book’s sails. Still, definitely worth checking out. Also, someone claiming to be Whitbourn commented on my review of his earlier volume. If you’re reading this, Mr. Whitbourn, thanks for getting in touch, and I hope your straits aren’t actually dire! I did go out and buy this book, and encourage others to do so if they like quality weird history/fantasy/horror fiction. Maybe we can do an interview? Let me know! ****’

Review – Whitbourn, “To Build Jerusalem”