I'm reading the latest edition of Lawrence Friedman's A History of American Law. It's actually a pleasure to read, which is no mean feat for that sort of book. I'm pretty sure it would also be comprehensible to non-lawyers. Friedman has an eye for the colorful quotation, such as this description of 'The Chinese', from the remarks of John F. Miller during the 1878 constitutional convention in California. See if you can tell what sort of immigration policy the new constitution favored:
[The Chinese] is a sinewy, shriveled human creature, whose muscles are as iron, whose sinews are like thongs, whose nerves are like steel wires, with a stomach case [ed. 'stomach case'!!] lined with brass; a creature who can toil sixteen hours of the twenty-four; who can live and grow fat on the refuse of any American laborer's table.
(p. 263). Actually, they sound pretty handy (unless they become, er, sentient). Where can I get one?
The great age of English commentary on Revelation did not end with the Restoration, but there was little innovative thought.... Isaac Newton perfected the mathematical approach to prophetic calculations of world history with a monotony that led Voltaire to remark that "Sir Isaac Newton wrote his comment upon the Revelation to console mankind for the great superiority he had over them in other respects."
For purposes of clarity, Martin Amis, back when he was young, could insult with the best of them (in context, his quotation is a mea culpa for this phase). Two examples, from a 1986 book of essays about the U.S. called The Moronic Inferno:
"Pretty Nancy Reagan sat down beside her husband. As I was soon to learn, her adoring, damp-eyed expression never changes when she is in public. Bathed in Ronnie's aura, she always looks like Bambi being reunited with her parents." (p.89)
On William Burroughs: "Most of Burroughs is trash, and lazily obsessive trash too -- you could chuck it all out and not diminish what status he has as a writer. But the good bits are good. Reading him is like staring for a week at a featureless sky; every few hours a bird will come into view, or if you're lucky, an aeroplane might climb past, but things remain meaningless and monotone. Then, without warning (and not for long, and for no coherent reason, and almost always in The Naked Lunch), something happens: abruptly the clouds grow warlike, and the air is full of portents." (p.144)
And for good measure, the Lonely Planet Guide to Germany calls Heino a "tranquilised albino Ken-doll."
Speaking of Germany, you may be asking yourself, 'hey, isn't this blog supposed to be about Germany?' Well yes, but really there's not much interesting going on in Germany these days, if I do say so myself. Coming up: a review of a Slovenian novel, and perhaps a few comments about Greece. Then back to Germany, I promise!