Read Teju Cole’s essay “A Reader’s War,” which tries to square Obama’s reputation as a man “widely read in philosophy, literature, and history” with the White House’s policies of drone warfare. From the essay:
How on earth did this happen to the reader in chief? What became of literature’s vaunted power to inspire empathy? Why was the candidate Obama, in word and in deed, so radically different from the President he became? In Andrei Tarkovsky’s eerie 1979 masterpiece, “Stalker,” the landscape called the Zona has the power to grant people’s deepest wishes, but it can also derange those who traverse it. I wonder if the Presidency is like that: a psychoactive landscape that can madden whomever walks into it, be he inarticulate and incurious, or literary and cosmopolitan.
George Washington was a biblioklept. MobyLives hipped us to Ed Pilkington’s Guardian article. From the article:
Founder of a nation, trouncer of the English, God-fearing family man: all in all, George Washington has enjoyed a pretty decent reputation. Until now, that is.
The hero who crossed the Delaware river may not have been quite so squeaky clean when it came to borrowing library books.
The New York Society Library, the city’s only lender of books at the time of Washington’s presidency, has revealed that the first American president took out two volumes and pointedly failed to return them.
At today’s prices, adjusted for inflation, he would face a late fine of $300,000.
The library’s ledgers show that Washington took out the books on 5 October 1789, some five months into his presidency at a time when New York was still the capital. They were an essay on international affairs called Law of Nations and the twelfth volume of a 14-volume collection of debates from the English House of Commons.
The ledger simply referred to the borrower as “President” in quill pen, and had no return date.
Happy President’s Day! Check out this cool slide show at The Daily Beast of the readingest American Presidents ever. (Is it merely coincidence that our fave, Teddy Roosevelt comes in at #1? We think not! (Also, while we’re indulging in parenthetical asides, amazingly, Dubya did not make the list. Why come?)).