Practical Agitation for the 21st Century:
by John Jay Chapman and John A. Boulanger
John Jay Chapman published Practical Agitation at the dawn of the 20th century, but his analyses and criticisms of the political machinery of his day, as well as his encouragement and advice to those seeking to reform it, may sound familiar to those who lament the current state of politics. Replace his references to Tammany Hall with discussions of Super-PACs and you could pass the book off as newly written.
A few Chapman quotes:
- Our system of party government has been developed with the aim of keeping the control in the hands of professionals.
- One might as well feed bon-bons to a hippopotamus as expend wit upon the American business man.
- It is the act of utterance that draws out the powers in a man and makes him a master of his own mind. Without the actual experience of writing Lohengrin, Wagner could not have discovered Parsifal.
- There exists, consequently, an unformulated belief that the corruption of politics is something by itself. Yet there probably never was a civilization where the mesh of all powers and interests was so close. It is like the interlocking of roots in a swamp. [Emphasis added]
Chapman was describing the nation’s entire political system—not just Washington—as a swamp. In his book, you will read his suggestions on how best to disentangle those roots, if not how actually to drain the swamp.
Clifton Webb: A One-Person Play in Two Acts by Michael B. Druxman
Clifton Webb was one of those rare motion picture actors who became a major box-office star when he was in his mid-50s. Indeed, his first sound movie was Laura (1944), and his role as Waldo Lydecker in that classic film noir earned him the first of three Oscar nominations. This audiobook has been reviewed by AudioFile Magazine. “Boulanger’s portrayal of Webb is subtle, while his depiction of snobbish Maybelle, Webb’s mother, is forceful as she dominates his life.”
Thais of Athens by Ivan Yefremov; translated by Maria K.
The beautiful hetaera Thais was a real woman who inspired poets, artists, and sculptors in Athens, Memphis, Alexandria, Babylon, and Ecbatana. She traveled with Alexander the Great’s army during his Persian campaign and was the only woman to enter the capital of Persia – Persepolis.
Love, beauty, philosophy, war, religion – all that and more in a historic masterpiece by Ivan Yefremov.
The Handlers by Maria K.
New Orleans, Louisiana, 1854. One slave woman takes a stand to free her family from servitude. When heaven offers no comfort, she turns to a different kind of authority.
Here’s what the author, Maria K., said about my narration of her story:
“If you are a writer, and you know your work is generally quite good but you are having a crisis of confidence, have John Boulanger read your work. His pace is flawless, delivery – impeccable, tone – sophisticated and intelligent, handling of dialog and multiple characters – absolutely amazing. He will make your story sound so good you’ll barely believe you wrote it.”
Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic (The Early Modern Americas) by Peter C. Mancall
In Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic, historian Peter C. Mancall reveals how Europeans and Native Americans thought about a natural world undergoing rapid change in the century following the historic voyages of Christopher Columbus. Through innovative use of oral history and folklore maintained for centuries by Native Americans as well as original use of spectacular manuscript atlases, paintings that depict on-the-spot European representations of nature, and texts that circulated imperfectly across the ocean, he reveals how the encounter between the old world and the new changed the fate of millions of individuals.
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
In the week leading up to Christmas 2020, I recorded one chapter–or stave, as Dickens, called them–of this classic each day.
Now as then, I offer it as my Christmas gift to you.