Double play: Mobile & Latin America

This past week has seen a little progress on the ol’ TBR front, as I knocked out three books from the list, including The Network and those below.

First up was E.O. Wilson’s Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City, which proved interesting for the apparent mismatch between the author and the genre. Wilson is a legendary Alabama biologist, known for pioneering work in sociobiology and for his many books on insects. Why We Are Here, though, is not in that genre. The book itself doesn’t fall into any Dewey decimal category with ease; Wilson offers a hometown boy’s appreciation of the city’s culture and history, but his biography and other interests make it something else altogether: an early fascination with insects, even black widow spiders, made him a naturalist, and he offers a review of Mobile’s outstanding natural heritage as well as its human history. Wilson is joined by Alex Hill, a photographer, who smartly contributes full-page prints that show off the delta’s wild beauty and the people and places that have made Mobile over the years. Alabama’s port city is the Alabama metro that interests me most, but which I’ve spent the least time in.

Further south than Mobile, this week I finished reading The Forgotten Continent, a history of Latin America. Reid bases the work off his previous reporting in the region, and focuses mostly on continental Latin America, with the Caribbean receiving only an occasional mention. Reid refers to Latin America as forgotten because aside from Mexico and chatter about migrant caravans, it’s rarely mentioned in American foreign policy: George W. Bush had intended to build on Clinton’s engagement with the region, but was derailed by the middle east, and Obama had the twin foreign policy issues of a booming China and his own mideast garbage fire. Reid begins with the pushes for independence in the 19th century, before tracking the tumultuous histories of Mexico and its southern neighbors. For the casual reader, some areas are easier to follow than others: I felt distinctly in over my head in the many chapters on the Americas’ monetary policy issues, especially where the IMF was concerned. Reid is optimistic that the populist fervor that led to so many dictatorships in the south has burned itself away, and that civil society is rebuilding itself in most places, with exceptions like Venezuela and Cuba. Forgotten Continent is information-dense, and the reader stays submerged: when Reid shifts topics he still stays firmly in the weedy details. As I make steady progress on the TBR and CC-2, I’m hoping to learn more about this area.

Coming attractions: a couple of years ago I donated money to Scott Horton to crowdfund his book-in-progress, which has been released as Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism. A copy of it should materialize in my PO box any day now. Fool’s Errand, his history of the Afghan forever war, was intended to be part of this project but was separated and expanded. Horton is also turning the gist of each chapter into a youtube video, so check out the playlist here. Horton has a radio show and podcast and has interviewed thousands of people since 2003 on geopolitics and American foreign policy.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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15 Responses to Double play: Mobile & Latin America

  1. Mudpuddle says:

    i recall wanting to read Wilson’s “Consilience” when it came out but i never did… i don’t know if it’s outdated now or not…

    “mid-east garbage fire”: great!

    • I don’t know enough about the book to say, unfortunately. I’ve read a bit of Wilson but none of his more heady content.

      And thanks for the garbage fire comment, but I’m sure I’ve picked that up from someone in the last 20 years of Afghan-Iraq coverage…

  2. Marian says:

    I’m watching the Scott Horton playlist, and, wow. It’s even worse than I realized. \

  3. Cyberkitten says:

    The Reid book is on my Amazon Wish List as I know *very* little about S America.

    • Same, aside from which country is which — I know a little more about Brazil & Venezuela because they’re frequently in the news, but Paraguay and Uruguay could be monarchies or matriarchal communes for all I knew!

      • Cyberkitten says:

        Ditto – almost. I’ll get to S America eventually. Still in France ATM before moving onto Germany and (going backwards on my List) 3 books on China.

      • I’ll look forward to the reviews as they come. I’ll have at least a couple of China books myself as I work on the TBR!

  4. Sharon Wilfong says:

    Both these books are right up my alley. I need to read them. I have such great memories of Mobile. Just a beautiful old city with big antebellum houses. Of course as I drive through it on my way to Florida these days, I see how it was really progressed to where I hardly recognize it, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    • I’m hoping to spend at least a weekend down there — though not anytime soon ,given Mardis Gras activity. I’m not worried about corona, but I’m crowd-averse in general. 😉 I don’t think the city had its official activities, but I’m sure citizens took it into their own hands to do a little celebrating. I had to go back and edit this comment because I thought Ash Wednesday was still coming up….with so much normal life frozen, I didn’t realize Fat Tuesday was yesterday. I didn’t eat the first pancake!

      • Sharon Wilfong says:

        I celebrated the week of parades before Ash Wednesday only one year. I was underwhelmed. If I want a moon pie, I can buy it from the store. I don’t need them thrown to me from a float. Call me a Mardi Gras pooper.

      • I’m a terrible Alabamian for this, but I’ve never understood the appeal of moon pies. They’re fine, with milk, but I don’t know why they have a cult following. (I’m also a terrible Alabamian for not caring very much about Alabama or Auburn football…honestly, if it weren’t for facebook I’d forget college football is even a thing.)

  5. Sharon Wilfong says:

    I loved moon pies as a kid. I loved a lot of cheap sweets then. My standards weren’t very high. I remember thinking chocolate filled pop tarts as the height of culinary delight.

    I’m a terrible Floridian and now Texan because I have no opinion whatsoever about the Seminoles or Gators or A&M or Longhorns.

    Then there’s our local high school team. I don’t dare tell people I’ve never been to a game. It’s like I’ve told them I never go to church!

  6. Pingback: 2021: February Review | Reading Freely

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