Profile for Craig Matteson > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Craig Matteson
Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,879,648
Helpful Votes: 59

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Craig Matteson (Saline, MI)

Page: 1
Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning
Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning
by Jonah Goldberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.79

49 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific look at the realities of facism - not today's misrememberances, 4 Mar 2009
This is a terrific book that I almost missed. Frankly, I was going to pass on it because I had viewed Jonah Goldberg as a bit of a wise acre and didn't realize he had a book like this in him. And the title and the cover art, while attention getting, contribute to the idea that this is going to be a lightweight attack piece. I guess the title and cover art got a lot of attention and helped the book sell well, but I only read it because a friend told me I shouldn't miss it. I am glad my friend brought it to my attention because it is a valuable book and will provide great information to anyone who is willing to actually read it rather than surmise what it says one way or the other.

If you have doubts or objections to what you think the book might be saying, I encourage you to start with the Afterword in which he anticipates many of the likely criticisms of the book and also shows where he believes conservatism can run off the rails. This is not the one sided or wild-eyed attack piece some have claimed it to be. Goldberg shows us what an imprecise and slippery epithet fascism has become. He then takes us back to the father of fascism, Mussolini, and shows how it grew out of the Progressive movements alive in American and Europe and uses the writings of intellectuals of that movement to show the linkage and their praise of Pre-Hitler Mussolini.

Goldberg then demonstrates how Hitler was a man of the Left and how the accusations of his being "right wing" have to be understood as accusations against a nationalist socialist movement from the USSR's internationalist (read Moscow dominated) communist-socialist movement. The author is CLEAR and says many times that he is not saying that the left wing in general and especially that the left of today is NOT guilty of the holocaust nor is he saying that their policies would lead to such a monstrous outcome.

We next move to Woodrow Wilson through to Franklin Roosevelt and the ways in which they introduced fascist policies within America and in our foreign policy. The kind of public suppression of individual liberty and thought under Wilson is swept under the rug today and I hope the events Goldberg describes in this book get brought back into popular awareness. We would be horrified at someone being shot for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance, but in that time it was seen as a justifiable and heroic act!

Franklin Roosevelt's true history is getting broader play today and the all but universal praise he received in my youth is justly being reconsidered. This book does a fine job in setting those policies in a clear context of the worldwide progressive and fascist movements. Remember, you cannot use your present suppositions about what fascism means to judge this use of the term. It was a term that was used with praise prior to World War II and the holocaust.

Chapter 5 takes us through the 1960s and the cultural revolution that revived many of the fascist notions and spread them into the radical youth who are now striving for power in our political (and economic) institutions today. Chapters 7 reviews how eugenics was originally stated and how its echoes remain in present left-progressive policies (without their advocating the kind of eugenics policies that seemed so useful to intellectual advocating social and racial hygiene a century ago). Chapter 8 tours the economic bargains the participants in various progressive economies were willing to strike with fascism. Goldberg shows clearly why big companies are no longer capitalist and why they work for state protection from competition, for tax breaks and subsidies, and end up supporting progressive-left state policies.

Chapter 9 is a useful and clear headed analysis of the kinds of policies Hillary Clinton and her progressive compatriots advocate and how they have changed the techniques of persuasion in order to sell the old progressive nostrums in the name of "the children". We see clearly our own acceptance of these old fascist notions and how the old-time religion of individual liberty and limited government is weakening under the administrations of BOTH the Democrats and Republicans, especially George W. Bush.

This is a very useful book and I hope it is widely read and discussed seriously. We don't need any shouting down, spitting, or claims about what the books says or proves that it doesn't say for itself. In any case, Goldberg has my sincerest praise for his accomplishment. Superbly done. Thanks, Jonah.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 8, 2009 6:42 PM GMT

by Peter Ackroyd
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I should have read it back in the 1990s., 14 Jan 2009
This review is from: Dickens (Paperback)
This is a book I should have read when it first came out in 1990, but did not buy it until the paperback edition came out. And then it sat on my bookshelf with my Oxford illustrated Dickens. Why didn't I get to it earlier? My best guess is that not only is reading all of Dickens a big chunk, this book is almost 1,100 pages long. I had so much else I wanted to read that getting into that much material as carefully as I wanted to read it caused me to put it off. Now that I have read the book and begun my perusal of all of Dickens rather than just that books with which I was already familiar show me what a mistake I have made. So, I urge you to not put off treating yourself to this biography or diving deeply into the writings of Charles Dickens.

Why do I like this biography? I think there are several basic approaches to telling the story of a life. Two that I do not like are the mere chronology of events from beginning to end and the other extreme that assimilates the author into the intellectual fashions of the present and does nothing to help us see the life and work in the context of the times in which it was created. This latter type is most often seen in academic biographies where English departments have become political advocacy and indoctrination programs and no longer deal with our language and its history in a serious or thoughtful way. Its easier to simply dismiss everyone who doesn't share your political philosophy and pretend that your being "right" also means you are of superior intellect and learning. For me, this is like travelling to a foreign land and then judging it against your own culture and finding its differences to be deficiencies.

This biography is of the kind I appreciate most. Ackroyd not only helps us see the life of Charles Dickens and how the author used his own life and times to create his art, but also the times, social settings, and evolving culture in which Dickens lived and worked. For me this has the benefit of travelling to a foreign land and by coming to appreciate its culture for what it is and how the people there express their lives in that culture you learn to see your own life and home culture with new depth. Our intellectual shorthand calls Dickens a Victorian, and of course he was in his maturity. However, his early life which formed much of what he was, was pre-Victorian. The London of his maturity was quite different than the London of his childhood and it is that earlier London that he used in most of his writing. I also found Ackroyd's discussion of the Charles' early family life and his relationship with his parents to be most helpful in seeing more deeply into Dickens' novels and the way he lived his life.

Ackroyd also provides seven little interludes that help us see his perspective on this biography. He admits his likely faults and where he might be pushing his ideas a bit too far. Still, I think this work is a fine accomplishment. As Ackroyd notes many times and as his friends noted, Dickens was an odd man. His friends loved him and if their relationship with him was broken off, more than a few grieved at the loss for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, he was so driven by his inner needs, his burning energy, his need to work hard, and to work out his life and world through his art that he was very hard on those around him. Not least his wife, Catherine. After she bore him ten children and suffered horribly from what we know as post-partum depression after each birth, he eventually separated from her. Yes, he set her up so she lived well, but she was terribly harmed by being pushed away. And he was, too. But he didn't see it that way. His relationship with Ellen Ternan is discussed in this book at length and Ackroyd takes the position that it was not sexual, but of the same deeply emotional attachment of similar nature to the one he had with Mary Hogarth (his wife's younger sister) who died at seventeen. But some have disagreed with this book's conclusions on this subject. I am willing to go along with the author, but for me the serious issue is less whom he took up with than those whom he abandoned. But that is my own view of life. Dickens was one of those driven men whose inner need to accomplish and work more deprive his family of a supportive father as his children grew. Frankly, Dickens was disappointed in most of his sons and was quite open about his favorites among his daughters. Very few of them had lives that worked out well. Of course, his presence was such a powerful force that the descendants to this day live in part to protect and perpetuate his legacy.

I also appreciated learning the way each of his works of fiction began, the way he worked through them, and how the public received them. Among the many things I did not know before reading this book I found Dickens' lifelong devotion to theater and the theatrical surprising to me and also quite helpful in understanding his work. Ackroyd also shows us how his works were constantly dramatized with or without Dickens' support and involvement. We also get a better sense of what melodrama meant in the context of that culture rather than our own perceptions of it. Ackroyd also guides us through the layers of artistic culture and how Dickens' popularity with the masses in some ways denied him acceptance in the more elite artistic circles. Still, Dickens knew what he was aiming for and his success was so great that these exclusive circles could hardly deny him. I also enjoyed learning how his works were serialized. While there were several different ways, in most cases the monthly installments were little books containing only that work and some advertisements (to increase profitability). While a few of his works were serialized in publications, particularly in Household Words and All the Year Round, most were handled as independent monthly serials. Oliver Twist and his Christmas books were issued as single volume publications, but that was not his usual way of publishing his works. As she worked his copyrights, he did print his works as bound novels and often revised them when issuing them in these editions.

Dickens was also an astute and hard driving business man. He valued his copyrights and worked them. Part of his hard feelings about America was the way his works were printed and sold here without any payments to him. Dickens was also very hard with his publishers at home. He would extract the lions share of the value of his work, which makes sense, and leave the publishers with enough to make them happy. However, when a publisher tried to push back that was often the end of their relationship. Dickens would not accept any slight or indignity; real or perceived.

While I knew that Dickens did do public readings of his works, I had no idea how extensive they were and how big a role they played in his later career. Nor did I realize how many of his works he developed for this type of public performance. Ackroyd does a fine job in showing us how carefully and even tentatively he developed the murder of Nancy by Bill Sikes for public reading. Many of his family and friends told him not to do it because of the shock it would give his audiences. Once he did it and the shock was profound but popular, they urged him to stop because of the terrible physical and emotional strain it put on him in his frail condition. His children and friends believed that the strain of these readings shortened his life considerably.

The latter years of Dickens life are, frankly, sad. He only lived to be 58. How much of his health decline was caused by actual illness that he treated with medications such as laudanum and how much was caused by the treatments I do not know. But many of his friends and associates died by their late fifties, as well.

I think this is a very successful biography and provides wonderful information and insights for us, its readers. I not only recommend this biography to you, but encourage you to treat yourself to a more patient and deep reading of Dickens, who was, I believe, one of the great English writers. When we dismiss him, we cheat ourselves and blind ourselves to all his strengths, his wonderful humor, and indelible characters.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI

Mantle of Orpheus
Mantle of Orpheus

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful songs by Purcell and his contemporaries, 21 Feb 2006
This review is from: Mantle of Orpheus (Audio CD)
This is a collection of late Purcell songs as well as songs of his contemporaries and immediate successors. It was put together in 1994 for the 1995 300th commemoration of Purcell’s too young death by the Consort of Musicke and led by Anthony Rooley. The singers are wonderful: Emma Kirkby, Evelyn Tubb, Mary Nichols, Jospeh Cornwell, Andrew King, Simon Grant, and David Thomas.
However, don’t expect your “normal” art singing style. The performances here are much more music house dramatic than parlor singing. The most extreme example of this is the last track where the song “Hey, Joe” is set by John Eccles and is wonderfully and humorously acted as much as sung by Andrew King and Simon Grant. Or track 11 sung by David Thomas. It is a text from Don Quixote set by Purcell and is a very dramatic setting of the words. Thomas sings it with great expressiveness and color.
The vocal production is more, well, what? Casual? It isn’t Verdi, Schubert, Mozart, or even Handel. It is something before that, and as I said before, something along the lines of a music house, but somewhat more well formed than vaudeville or even Broadway.
Well, just listen to it and you will know what I mean. I found it a bit startling to hear solo voices in this style at first, but then it won me over.

Henze: Six Songs from Arabian; Three Auden Songs
Henze: Six Songs from Arabian; Three Auden Songs
Offered by momox co uk
Price: 7.38

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snap up the used copies of this important disk. How it is o, 29 Nov 2005
How this disk can be out of print is beyond me. Hans Werner Henze is an outstanding modern composer and the songs on this disk are quite important. More than that, the first six songs are performed by Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake for whom they were written and to whom they are dedicated. The last three are settings of poems by W.H. Auden. Bostridge sang them and Drake played them so wonderfully that Henze was inspired to write the first six songs for them.
The “Six Songs from the Arabian” are really mostly lyrics from Henze that are grounded in what Henze calls an occidento-oriental sensibility. Some of the lyrics are taken from a few lines of Goethe’s “Walpurgisnacht”, and a Rueckert translation of Hafiz, but these are the exception. All of the songs are on the longer side: five to nine minutes, but have such a wide range of expression within each song that each seems like a contained short song cyle. While it is hard to capture all of the songs without sharing all of their lyrics, perhaps number three, “Sunrise” can give you an idea.
The last half reads:
Night’s animals seek out their haunts.
A mule cries out
And cormorants, startled, take wing.
A rustling within the bushes – oh, there are animals in flight!
Lava pours from the volcanoes.
The dawn has become surging breakers:
The whole sky is now ready for the hero’s grand entrance.
The aureole blooms
(at its edges are silvery stones)
till suddenly, when one no longer expects it, from the depths of the east,
Helios rises, the ceaselessly burgeoning orb of the world!
All thrown themselves to the ground, hide their eyes and give thanks for the new day’s rays in its glory.
Pretty neat stuff and when you hear it sung, it is especially effective and the piano accompaniment is wonderfully supportive of what the singer is doing without being traditional in any way.
The first six songs are in German and the Auden songs are in English. The Auden songs are also well set. Henze did two operas to librettos by Auden and Kallman: “Elegy for Young Lovers” (1961) and “The Bassarids” (1965) so he was quite comfortable with they way Auden used language and it shows in these three songs.
I am a huge fan of Bostridge’s singing and Drake’s playing. Hearing them perform an Schubert here in an Ann Arbor was one of the great recitals I have ever heard. This recording of these songs also demonstrate their mutual artistry and the amazing breadth of their expression and prowess.

Page: 1