Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hammett, Hamilton, and Jefferson

1) The United States might be a better country if everyone in it were forced to declare himself either a Jeffersonian or a Hamiltonian, and then read the life and works of the man he or she did not declare for.

2) The Hunter and Other Stories, the new collection of previously unpublished and uncollected work by Dashiell Hammett, highlights at least two aspects of Hammett's crime writing (though not all its selections are crime): the hard-boiled side, and the side that marvels at the inexplicable things that some men do (or, to cite two examples of the first tendency and one of the second, The Glass Key, the end of "The Gutting of Couffignal," the "Flitcraft Parable" from The Maltese Falcon.) Readers wary of rediscovered and other "lost" material can rest assured that these stories are nothing like Metterling's laundry lists.

Each of the book's four sections ("Crime," "Men," "Men and Women," and "Screen Stories") includes an introduction of its own, which means the reader gets a good, well-rounded picture of what Hammett was up to as a writer.  The book also includes a fragment from a Sam Spade story, and the e-book version includes additional fragments.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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8 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

"The United States might be a better country if everyone in it were forced to declare himself either a Jeffersonian or a Hamiltonian, and then read the life and works of the man he or she did not declare for."

Amen.

I'd even settle for forcing them to know who Jefferson and Hamilton were. It would be a start.

November 14, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I'd previously posted on Jefferson's liberal thoughts on religion and noted that these somehow seem not to get mentioned by commentators who profess to revere the Founding Fathers and who invoke original intent. And Hamilton is, to untutored contemporary ears such as my own, surprisingly strong on property rights and the dangers of democratic passions. And lo, it turns out that a historian has just this year published a book called Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation.

No one is weaker in arguments about public policy than I am. But oh, my God, the idiocy that flows from the mouths and pens and keyboard of people who profess to know what they're talking about ...

November 14, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

Jefferson and Hamilton sit on my bookshelf (well, the book sits there--not the founding fathers themselves, which would be beyond weird), and I will be reading it soon. When I finish, I will have a better idea of how to respond to the question: Are you a Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian? In other words, my American history and political science courses are but dim memories.

November 14, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It would be beyond weird, and possible a strain on your shelves, through the Fathers have probably slimmed down in the last 200 or so years.

The idea, of course, is to get self-proclaimed Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians to realize that we are all probably both. I like the author's quick review of that waxing and waning fortunes of each man's reputation from the nineteenth century until today, and I hope the book will reflect the ways the two tendencies have clashed and produced results that either would not have done by itself. I hope it lives up to its title, in other words.

November 14, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

The more that I read, the more I am convinced that I am primarily a Hamiltonian with bit a Jefferson thrown in. Now, if I can just avoid running into Aaron Burr!

November 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suspect that many Americans would select certain aspects of each man's thought for purposes of identification. Perhaps that's another way of saying there are no Jeffersonians or Hamiltonians, just Hamilton-Jeffersons.

November 16, 2013  
Blogger Richard L. Pangburn said...

We used to debate Jefferson vs. Hamilton in college. As well as Rousseau vs. Voltaire.

Unfortunately, today's talking heads, assuming Jefferson and Rousseau as the populists and Voltaire and Hamilton as the conservatives, draw an exact correlation to this country's Democrats and Republicans.

However, this doesn't work when you are realistic about today's politicians, who are almost all (if not all) on the take from corporations and the military-industrial complex.

I tend to agree with Bill Kauffman in his book, AIN'T MY AMERICA: THE LONG ANTI-WAR TRADITION AMONG TRUE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVES.

And you are right in that evangelicals seem oblivious to Jefferson's Unitarian outlook, but they also ignore the Deism of other founders, such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. President William Henry Harrison also listed his religion as Deist.

Deism was then a rather widespread movement here in the United States that taught that God did not intervene in human affairs. The arguments between Deists and Theists are rarely noted by anyone today, except by Wikipedia.

November 18, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Voltaire was a sharp operator, but I had never heard that he had been called a conservative. I suppose if there can be only two poles of thought and Rousseau is the populist, then Voltaire has to be the conservative. (The rivalry between the two is amusingly, if unintentionally, portrayed in the Pantheon, where a statue of a declaiming Voltaire stand before his tomb, facing Rousseau's, whose front is a sculpted panel of what looks like two hands closing a door, as if to gain peace and quiet from the noisy Voltaire.) I just took a look at the Kauffman book. I like what he has to say about labels, though the ain't in the title makes me squirm. I don't know that Kauffman intended it as an anti-intellectual sop, but it could be taken that way. In any case, I may well look for the book.

I learned a bit about deism in a course on eighteenth-century European intellectual history. I keep deism in mind when Christian "conservatives" make political noise.

November 18, 2013  

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