Minireviews: Benfey on Gilded Age misfits, Skirbekk on the nation state, and a Silverberg UFO story

Christopher Benfrey - The Great Wave

Christopher Benfey – The Great Wave (2003)

Stories about the first generations of westerners who fell in love with Japan, in the second half of the 19th century. Well told, but Benfey doesn’t answer the more interesting question: To what extent did these “Gilded Age misfits” see the real Japan, and to what extent did they see an exotic caricature?

Recommended: Yes.

Sigurd Skirbekk - Nasjonalstaten, velferdsstatens grunnlag (2008)

Yes I do want to read a book that uses historical, sociological and ideological approaches to argue how the welfare state grew out of and depends on the nation state, but this isn’t it. This is rather what happens when you set out to write an opinion piece, get distracted, and, by the time you’ve finished, find that you might as well publish it all as a book.

Read: 53 pages.

Recommended: No.

Robert Silverberg - Those Who Watch (1967)

Robert Silverberg – Those Who Watch (1967)

Then the stranger spoke and he said do not fear / I come from a planet a long way from here / And I bring a message for mankind to hear / and suddenly the sweetest music filled the air.

+ I don’t know what she’s doing to me / Is it a kiss? Is it supposed to be? / I wasn’t programmed for this, you see / I only know it in theory.

Recommended: Weakly. This UFO tale is a bit on the nice side, but also a bit on the short side, so it all evens out. It’s actually been sitting unread in my bookshelves for 15 years (!), and I only now got around to reading it.