Highlights from Recent Reading

Like their Puritan ancestors whose banner they carried, these citizen-soldiers of Massachusetts were very clear about their purposes. They called to mind Oliver Cromwell’s plain russet-coated captain, who knew what he fought for, and loved what he knew.

Many years later Captain Levi Preston of Danvers was asked why he went to war that day. At the age of ninety-one, his memory of the Lexington alarm was crystal clear, and his understanding was very different from academic interpretations of this event. An historian asked him, “Captain Preston, what made you go to the Concord Fight?”

“What did I go for?” the old man replied, subtly rephrasing the historian’s question to drain away its determinism.

The interviewer tried again. “… Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?” he asked.

“I never saw any stamps,” Preston answered, “and I always understood that none were ever sold.”

“Well, what about the tea tax?”

“Tea tax, I never drank a drop of the stuff, the boys threw it all overboard.”

“But I suppose you have been reading Harrington, Sidney, and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”

“I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ psalms and hymns and the almanacs.”

“Well, then, what was the matter?”

“Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.”

Paul Revere’s Ride, by David Hackett Fischer


Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the clove-hoofed animals, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen aftermeal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room. Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then you may eat in the living room.

Lamentations of the Father, by Ian Frazier


For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert. But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas, with each bit consisting of not fewer than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof. And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear  you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.

Lamentations of the Father, by Ian Frazier


Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bathwater, nor of bathwater of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.

Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not that humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.

Lamentations of the Father, by Ian Frazier

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