December 19th, 2015

book

Recent Reading

One of the most useful rules for understanding people is Miller’s Rule, which says, “In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true, and try to imagine what it could be true of.” In Uniquely Human, Barry M. Prizant & Tom Fields-Meyer apply it to people with autism (as R.D. Laing applied it to people with schizophrenia), and get extremely useful results.

John Higgs’s Stranger than We Can Imagine is subtitled “An alternative history of the 20th Century,” but it may disappoint the tinfoil-hat set. I enjoyed a number of the deviant possibilities, such as the idea that Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (which should have been called an artisanal) may have actually been thought up by a woman, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. (I already knew that the fur-covered spoon, cup, and saucer, often attributed to Duchamp, Dali, or Picasso, was actually done by a woman named Meret Oppenheim.)

In The War on Alcohol, Lisa McGirr suggests that Prohibition, as well as being a disastrous farce, helped build the overpowering penal and law-enforcement establishment we have now. War is also the health of the state when it’s a war on drugs.