From War of Nations to Class War

Maybe it's time for me to accept that I like subjects that are depressing. Evidence for this? After reading volume two of history of the Hundred Years War and a novel about World War II in which nearly everyone gets fired on by the enemy I am now reading two books that focus on the nasty brutish and short lives of the proletariat.

Red Mutiny tells the story of the 1905 mutiny on the Russian battleship Potemkin. Bascomb doesn't have to work hard to have you rooting for the sailors. They are all but kidnapped from their homes, treated like animals by the officers, beaten at the slightest provocation and then forced to eat maggoty meat. Down with the Tsar, indeed. Tangentially, I'm listening to the audiobook of this and I have to say that narrator John McDonough would be a perfect choice to read a Victorian era ghost story.

Eric Hobsbawm has been flying the red flag from his mast for years. His histories are rightly regarded as classics. I'm finally tackling The Age of Revolution in which he tells the story of the "dual revolutions" of Britain (Industrial) and France (class). For a writer with an agenda, Hobsbawm never puts that agenda first. Still, only 37 pages in and he's already provided such quotes as:
  • "extorted from the miserably peasantry"
  • "battening on the surrounding peasantry"
  • "extortionate money-rents"
At this rate, I'll be marching on town hall by the end of the week. No small feat when you realize how likely I am to vote for John McCain.

I'm also reading Dennis Lehane's Gone, Baby, Gone and anyone who's read Lehane knows his genius for depicting the lives of the permanent underclass that preys on itself. So that's hardly light relief.

Why can't I read books with happy endings? A nice story about a family of happy kittens that throws a party for the family of kittens next door. Well, maybe not. Chicklit? I'd have to blind myself first to read it, and I can't believe they can pay someone enough to read that crap out loud without vomiting repeatedly so audiobooks are out. Besides, bad writing is more depressing than oppression.

I think it's time to break out the Georgette Heyers.

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