the first rule of book club

As I mentioned a week or so ago, a professor friend of mine is thinking of launching a local book club. His vision, as I understand it, is that this group, which would meet once a month or so, would discuss works of non-fiction directly applicable to the current situation that we American progressives now find ourselves in… The first book he’s planning to suggest/assign is George Lakoff’s much talked about, “Don’t Think of an Elephant.”

Someone just told me that the folks at MyDD are launching a book club too, and, as with this one of ours, they’re starting with Lakoff. I haven’t discussed it with my friend yet, but I imagine there might be some benefit to following the MyDD reading list for a while, and using the content that develops on-line (at the MyDD site) to shape our real-world Ypsi/Arbor discussions. (I believe the second book on the MyDD reading list is Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America,” so it looks like they might be charting a pretty good course.)

So, let’s assume we decide to take those two books first, my question for you is, “What should come next?” I have a few ideas of my own, but, as with most of my ideas, they tend to be kind of stupid… I mentioned to Jim, the professor-friend of mine who’s planning to get this group up and running, that I’d like to read something from the Left Behind series, and he looked at me like I’d just rolled up my sleeve and showed him a new Nascar tattoo. He then, quite politely, suggested that he and I might be better served by re-reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America“… My thought was that we’d be more likely to keep people engaged if we made it a point to jump between genres and agendas (I, for one, really would like to know what the fundamentalists are reading), but I can certainly see the value in staying focused and on-topic.

OK, so here are some other ideas. Some of them might be pretty far outside the scope of this progressive book club, but I thought that I’d offer them up to facilitate discussion. So, look over the list I’ve started and let me know what should be dropped, what absolutely cannot be dropped, what needs to be added, etc. Any feedback would be appreciated. (I haven’t read most of these, so these aren’t endorsements. Some of these are things that I think I need to re-read in light of current events, but most are just things that have recently been suggested to me by friends and readers.)

Robert Reich’s “Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America

Paul Wellstone’s “The Conscience of a Liberal

The Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights

Paul Roberts’ “The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World

Philip Agre’s What Is Conservatism and What is Wrong With It?

Dominique De Villepin’s “Toward a New World

George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm

Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451

Norman MacAfee’s “The Gospel According to RFK

Kurt Vonnegut’s “Player Piano

William Martin’s “With God on Our Side – The Rise of the Religious Right in America

Shelby Spong’s “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism

Bruse Bawer ‘s Stealing Jesus

Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States

Noam Chomsky’s “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance

Jeff Shaara’s “Rise to Rebellion

Terry Pratchett’s “Going Postal

Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America

Gustavo Gutierrez’s “A Theology of Liberation

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38 Comments

  1. Brian
    Posted November 28, 2004 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News

    by Eric Alterman.

  2. Posted November 29, 2004 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    Great list! Another I see people revisiting, myself included, is
    The Handmaid’s Tail
    by Margaret Atwood

  3. mark
    Posted November 29, 2004 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    I was also thinking that this modern American syllabus could include films and music, so think about those as well.

    In the film catagory, I’d like to add, “Dr. Strangelove” and “Brazil.”

    Thanks for the suggestions so far…

    And I hope you all had a happy, restful Thanksgiving.

  4. stella
    Posted November 29, 2004 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    Thankyou Cyndy, I have been practically screaming “Handmaids Tale” at everyone I thought would be open to it for over a year now and 99.9% of people have rolled their eyes at me and muttered that Im too extreme- also refusing to acknowledge the Dominionist movement (eh, make that steamroller)

  5. Karin
    Posted November 29, 2004 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    May be slightly off topic and/or fiction but start excellent discussions…

    Fingerprints of the Gods – Graham Hancock
    Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand (fiction)

  6. DOROTHY
    Posted November 29, 2004 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    POSITIVELY ADD THE HANDMAID’S TALE! i have been buying copies for all my friends. what a cautionary tale.

  7. Brian
    Posted November 29, 2004 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    As far as films go, why not add these fine, fine films:

    To Kill A Mockingbird
    Bob Roberts
    Blade Runner
    Norma Rae

  8. Posted November 29, 2004 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Yes for Handmaid’s Tale. Also, for a more oblique approach, Jonathan Kozol’s writings on the horrors of inner-city schools (several possible books). Also, I agree with Mark’s ideas on reading one of the “Rapture” books both for keeping folks engaged & the “know thy enemy” principle.

  9. Jim
    Posted November 29, 2004 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    My idea for the book club / discussion group came out of a desire to understand why we lost the recent election, and to figure out how we can win future elections. (Actually, I think that we lost the last election because we were up against a wartime incumbent who had successfully terrorized the population, and I use “terrorize” in the proper sense of the term: “to fill with terror or anxiety” (Merriam-Webster). So I’m really more interested in future elections than the last one.) My agenda for the book club is set by Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant, which succinctly states several reasons why conservatives have over the past 25 years been more effective in framing and fighting the political debate in America than have liberals. Lakoff identifies several practical ways in which we could better articulate and communicate our values as individuals and as part of a larger movement.

    I want the group to be practical and positive. It wouldn’t do me any good to read a bunch of books that would convince me that conservatives are irredeemably irrational, stupid, and evil. (Hence my aversion to the Left Behind books, my reaction to which Mark exaggerated for dramatic effect.) Nor am I interested in talking at great length about political strategy. Instead, I’d like to talk about the ideals that we share as progressives and about how we can more effectively work toward realizing those ideals as public policy. How can we persuade our fellow citizens that progressive ideas represent their values and serve their interests better than conservative ideas do? And how can we become more effectively involved in politics at the local level? I hope that a focus on shared values and practical action will cause the group to be one that sustains its members, rather than cause us to feel as defeated and cynical as most of us did on November 3.

    As for a reading list, I would like to start with Lakoff; after that, we can read what we want. I haven’t read Tom Frank’s Kansas, but I think that it would be a good second book. Of the books others have named, I’m most eager to read Reich, Zinn, Chomsky, Atwood, and Kozol. If other members end up liking Lakoff half as much as I do, we could read Moral Politics, which is a more academic treatment of the topics covered in the Elephant book. Another book about framing which I haven’t read but would like to is William Saletan’s Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War. I’d also like to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickled and Dimed, and to talk about things that we can do as consumers to create a more just society. I’d also like to read and analyze some inspiring speeches and essays by great leaders of the past, from the Founders to the Abolitionists to the great liberals of the last century. I have in mind things like the following speech by John Kennedy, which I recently came across for the first time:

    I’m not a big fan of Kennedy, but this is a great speech. Unless we begin to voice our values with this sort of vigor and clarity, we are going to continue to lose elections.

    I would like to have our first meeting in early January, with a second meeting toward the end of the month. If you are interested, please let Mark know, and add Lakoff and Frank to your holiday wish lists (or just buy them

  10. Posted November 29, 2004 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I loved “The Wimp Factor: Gender gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity” by Stephen J. Ducat

    “What Is Marriage For?” by E.J.Graff and

    “Superpatiotism” by Michael Parenti

    Some more ideas:
    idea one
    idea two
    idea three
    idea four

  11. Posted November 29, 2004 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I just want to see if this book group will catch the attention of the FBI. Man would it be fun to guess who is the undercover agent.

    Here are some books that I haven’t read–but that I am interested in reading:
    “The Good Fight: Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap,” by Ralph Nader.
    “The Web of Life,” by Fritjof Capra.
    “Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought,” by Sheldon S. Wolin.
    “Under God: Religion and American Politics,” by Garry Wills.

    I know that I joked about it in one of your earlier posts, Mark, but I have been thinking about infiltrating churches. Instead of letting churches (and those behind them) bring their irrationality to us, let’s bring our reason to them. We could recruit people nation-wide to go to churches in especially backward places. It doesn’t have to be disrespectful. At opportune times, we could ask the hard questions, make nifty comments, and somehow (I guess I haven’t thought about this enough) encourage individuals to think more critically about some of the twisted political crap that is coming out of their religious leaders’ mouths. Plus, church is a good place to meet women. Oh, we could infiltrate via marriage. Marry a victim of churches that support Bush and steer him or her to be more logical about worldly matters. We don’t have to forsake their religion, but we do have stop the fundamentalist, Taliban-like, puritanical tide that is swelling.

    Do you suppose churches would start closing their doors? Perhaps this would be a good thing.

    For starters, we should forget about the Catholic Church. I don’t want the Pope’s assassins coming after me. The same goes for Scientology (man are they a wily, resilient bunch).

    Could anything good come from these ideas? Is there anything plausible in this idea? Did I just turn your blog into Dear Abby?

  12. Posted November 29, 2004 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe I misspelled Tale! :)
    Stella, I’m so glad some people are starting to recognise how much power the Dominionists have!
    Don’t give up.

  13. mark
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks a million for the ideas, folks. (And, yes, it should have occurred to me to include the very timely Handmaid’s Tale/Tail from the beginning.) As Jim mentioned in his comment, he’s trying to exercise some restraint in forming the syllabus for his reading group, in an attempt to stay focused on identifying the ideals that we share as progressives and how we can more effectively work toward realizing those ideals in public policy, but I do think it’s useful to compile a wondering and somewhat aimless list such as this one alongside. So, keep the ideas coming…

    Dirtgrain, as for the idea of infiltrating churches, it is something I

  14. Dave Morris
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I’d think that learning a few bible passages would be useful. I wouldn’t bother with the OT. There is a lot of contradictory stuff there. There are many passages in the NT that have very humbling effects. Here is one I found while reading an interview with Jim Wallis:

    Jesus says, “I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was a stranger. I was sick. I was in prison. You didn’t come to me. You didn’t feed me. You didn’t clothe me.” And the people said, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and thirsty and naked and a stranger and sick and in prison?” He says, “As you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to me.” – Matthew 25 [verses 42-45]

    As for speeches by former presidents, there was a nice quote from one by Abraham Lincoln that was mentioned on “Meet the Press.” Tim Russert was interviewing Al Sharpton, Jerry Falwell, Jim Wallis, and Richard Land about moral values. The quote was given by Richard Land in response to a question about whether GW was given the stamp of approval by God. After setting the GW quote straight ( which was surprisingly humble- “the presidency is a sacrifice, not a reward” ), he quoted Lincoln:

    “In this war that we’ve been in, both sides think God’s on their side.

  15. Doug Skinner
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    More suggestions:

    Any textbook on scientific method (for techniques of observation and analysis), followed by some Korzybski to get a taste of non-Aristotelian logic: very useful!

    The Bible and the Koran: you’d be surprised how few people have read them.

    Some good old-fashioned atheistic and agnostic texts (Ingersoll, Joseph McCabe, Clarence Darrow, Thomas Paine, etc.): our true American heritage, in spite of what the fundies say.

    And a more topical choice:
    Alexandra Robbins’s “Secrets of the Tomb.” It debunks the sensational rumors about the Skull & Bones, and reports its real history of a power elite based on crony capitalism.

  16. Dave Morris
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to point out also that an interpretation of God is that he is Reason- Logos. It is a very beautiful idea – that the universe is ordered.

    So for those who get a shiver when the word God is used, quietly replace it with Reason and see if it shakes out.

    ( I once had a logic professor that was an atheist. What a nice contradiction.)

  17. [steph]
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Driving across the country the summer before last I listened to the book on tape of “I Married A Communist” by Phillip Roth. It’s disturbing how we’re dealing with the same problems of 50 years ago, only with new spin. A good book.
    [steph]

  18. Posted November 30, 2004 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Richard Hofstadter

    Anti-intellectualism in American life

  19. Posted November 30, 2004 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I like Dave Morris’s ideas a lot.

  20. Doug Skinner
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    For Mr. Morris — Why is an atheistic logic teacher a “contradiction”? Does this mean you think there’s no logic to atheism? Many atheists would argue otherwise!

    The idea that the universe is ordered may be beautiful, but that doesn’t make it true — there are a number of refutations to the “argument by design”; a Google search should shake out a few.

  21. Dave Morris
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    For Mr. Skinner-

    I fired off the “contradiction” statement a little carelessly. I had intended that if one accepted that God was Reason and that if Reason were synonymous Logic, God would then be the equivalent of Logic and to be a Professor of Logic, but not believe in God (Logic), would then be a contradiction. I had only intended it as a joke. I don’t believe that Professor Nagel would have accepted that line of reasoning either. He would demand I define my terms and things would have started falling apart.

    As for terms, I think that there is a very big difference between the God that Abe Lincoln is referring to versus the God that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell speak to. I would guess that Abe’s God is more along the lines of the Logos – a unifying force through Reason.

    As for whether the idea of an ordered universe is true or false, I think it is fair to say that at the minimum it is true that we make order out of it. A number of things we take to be simple truths that have laid the foundation for the development of science and technology may not be precisely true, but they gave us the internal combustion engine and I cannot argue that that is false. The belief of an ordered universe, I would argue, has been the driving force behind science and civilization.

    I don’t think it is necessary to have the concept of God as a single entity separate from ourselves to explain an ordered universe. I don’t agree with the teleological argument because it assumes God to be a discrete element separate from ourselves and because the idea of design and creation versus the idea of spontaneous transformation is too static.

    Thank you for calling me out on these points, Doug. I was glad to see some of your recommendations.

    Dave

  22. Ken
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    That was a classic DLL, or Dave Leap of Logic!

  23. Dave Morris
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. Flick woulda been proud.

  24. mark
    Posted November 30, 2004 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m tempted to comment on this little exchange that just took place… but instead I’ll just suggest that we add the film “Sleeper” to the syllabus. That occurred to me this morning and I’ve been trying to remember it all day.

  25. Doug Skinner
    Posted December 1, 2004 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Dave — Thanks for clearing up the logic joke; I hadn’t followed you on that!

    I don’t think we can ever know if the universe is ordered; all we have are our human senses and brain, which are necessarily limited. In other words, the universe + our nervous system = our perception of it; and that perception may be deeply flawed. We could even see the brain as a filter, that processes the info we need for survival (and for making internal combustion engines) but may distort it in the process. I think it’s fair to say that “scientific laws” are only human attempts to find order, artifacts of the tissue in our skulls rather than objective truths.

    I see no pressing reason for God in any of this: a Pyrrhonist/agnosticviewpoint makes the most sense to me. But people differ…

  26. chris
    Posted December 1, 2004 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Ok everybody, we need to adopt a secret language ASAP, because as of now we are putting together a public list of books that they will be burning. Because you know, if they were to come up with these books themselves they would have to read them first. Also, I need child/xmas advice. Maybe from my fellow fans of Handmaids Tale. My 2 1/2 yo daughter was watching a kid channel that had commercials (rare occurence-one of those dear god please shut up moments) when a Barbie Princess commercial came on. She leaped from the bed in a single bound (ala Letter Man circa 1973) lands in front of the TV jabbed her finger to the screen and screamed “I WANT THAT”. This harkens back to an earlier MM blog reg kid branding. Noone in my immediate family will agree to buy it for her (even grandma) on principle. In fact, my brother Dan, (Cook no longer on cold water) said he would be more likely to buy her a glock than he would a mass marketed oppressive symbol of misogyny (his words not mine and ladies he is available). So what do I do? Sew her a Princess belle hooks?

  27. Tony Buttons
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    I absolutely love the idea of a Belle Hooks doll, Chris. Please make one, and have Mark post photos here. As for other suggestions, how about we make a a Handmaid’s Tale coloring book! It could be really great. Please, someone, send me Margaret Atwood’s contact information, and I’ll work out the licensing arrangements with her. I’m serious about this.

  28. stella
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    While I too love the princess belle hooks idea, I have to tell you about Magic Cabin – “Childhoods Purest Treasures- Handmade, all natural, dolls, toys and crafts” its kinda Waldorf-y but better.
    She can get some of their cool stuff and BE the princess OR the superhero or whatever she is that day. Man, they have a pentatonic Lyre thats on my wish list.
    http://www.magiccabin.com
    I bet if she sees some of this cool stuff she’ll put Barbie on the back burner.
    Its also really good just for getting ideas to make your own stuff if you’re the creating type

  29. Dave Morris
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Doug- I suspect you are right about keeping God out of all this. He tends to be a trouble maker.

    My line of reasoning was that if God was at the source of this division between us and them then a clarification of the definition of God may be the key to inclusion and a better chance of “common good” policy. I think this is the same line of reasoning that Barak Obama is using.

    ( Two other interesting examples of defining the intangible: 1- the American Indians idea of the “great mystery.” 2- Paul Erdos, the number theorist, playfully referred to God as the owner of “the book” which contained all mathematical proofs and would occasionally show a few pages to mathematicians. )

    The inability of us to prove the existence of God by using our senses leaves us only with the option of faith (if we choose to believe in God). I have a big problem problem with this- in terms of setting political policy- because, as Cory points out at her site, many people are building their arguments from faith(belief) rather than empirical evidence. I find this pretty frightening because they are taking their personal faith to the false conclusion that they know what God wants for the many. That is just a bad use of the mind.

    I agree that being skeptical is the best approach. It works like a governor on an engine- preventing it from destroying itself by running full speed. A healthy amount of skepticism, I think, has a governing effect on Science as well as Faith. Too much skepticism and the engine won’t run.

    Mark- I am interested in the book club. I think it would be extremely effective if a set of questions were assembled to read with intent. People could read separate books and share their thoughts on how authors dealt with these questions. Here are a few I would submit:

    How do we achieve energy independence?

    (suggested text: “The Next Great Thing: the Sun, the Stirling Engine, and the Drive to Change the World.” These guys are down in Athens, Ohio. If my calculations are correct, the 170 square miles in Arizona combined with an assumed unit cost of $50k per solar collector/ engine assembly would mean that the total cost for US energy independence would be $200 billion – the amount budgeted for the Iraq war. If this is true, I think this would be the biggest error of judgment on the part of the Bush administration.)

    How do we sustain resources?

    (suggested text: “The Ecology of Commerce.” There is a great suggestion that manufacturers remain responsible for their products even after the sale of them and that they take the product back at the end of its cycle of usefulness to be recycled into new products. Apparently the European Union is already doing this.)

  30. ypsist
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Two things for Dave. First, Cory is a man. Second, Sunpower is in Athens, Ohio. I’m sure there’s more fact checking to be done, but it’s the end of my shift.

    I haven’t had time to check, but I beleive the book mentioned (The Next Great Thing) was written about a decade ago, so I think there may be new information on the market by now.

  31. Ken
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    She’s a man, bay-bee!

  32. Dave Morris
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    oops. wrong gender. my apologies sir.

    current info on solar powered stirlings. somewhere in there is the suggested 170 square mile area in Arizona requirement for meeting our energy needs-

    http://www.stirlingenergy.com/news.asp?Type=stirling

    the reference to “these guys” was to Sunpower, not the author. they were hopeful that there was something to the solar stirling engine. unfortunately, the cryogenics application was more lucrative.

  33. Brett
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    This might be a bit digressive and off the topic, but whenever I’m completely baffled by the behavior of humans I personally find great insight (but not comfort, exactly) in the works of Desmond Morris. The ‘Naked Ape’ is great, but ‘The Human Zoo’ is a wonderful resource to understand why a society of large-brained apes is constantly at the brink of madness.

    I’m all for the church infiltration plan as well (It’s like urban exploration, but with incense).
    As a Subgenius minister and Discordian Pope, I’m sure most church-goers would certainly welcome me with the respect my holy robes warrant.

  34. mark
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    OK, I’ll bring the subject of church infiltration up in a post this weekend, if I get a chance… Remind me if I forget though… As for the “Naked Ape,” I’ve never read it, but it’s one of those things that’s been at the back of my mind for a long time. Sterling engines have been back there too. (There’s lots of stuff at the back of my mind; naked apes, sterling engines…) I keep trying to make a diagram that ties all of these various pieces together, but it’s not the kind of stuff that lends itself to visual representation easily. There are certain things that I know I want to focus on, like election reform, energy policy, the combination of arts and politics, grassroots local organizing, etc, but I’m having a hard time wrapping it all together int a cohesive whole… And, yes, let’s make a Handmaid’s Tale coloring book. I’ll help.

    As for the reading list, is there anything else that anyone would like to add? It just occurred to me that in the video section, we should add Charlie Chaplin’s “The Dictator” and “Modern Times.”

  35. Dave Morris
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Another one for the movie section- “The Magnificent Ambersons”

    I like the line “Georgie! Your gonna get your come uppance!”

  36. mark
    Posted December 2, 2004 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I love the image of him as a boy, with the long, curly hair, standing out in front of his house like a little prince. The thought occurred to me early in the election that it would be funny to portray Bush like that, as a spoiled little brat of wealthy parents, dressed up like little Lord Fauntleroy.

  37. Brett
    Posted December 4, 2004 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    I think “Ambersons” is a great lesson for so many people, living near poverty, who voted “Bush” just because they secretly hope that one day they’ll magically end up stinking rich, and want to make sure that the “Pro-Rich” people are in power (as the film shows how unhappy rich people can be, and especially how transient a state wealth is even in ‘old money’ families). Plus it has one of my favorite speeches of any film, when Joseph Cotten is sitting at the dinner table with Georgie and makes the admission that starts out with the line “Maybe these automobiles are a bad idea.”
    If we start moving to film suggestions, I’d have to add a vote for Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man”, which is a wonderful study of how small-town moralizers can be so easily taken advantage of by a smooth talker (Take, for example, the line in “trouble” where Hill says “Now I know all you folks are the right kind of parents- so I’m gonna be perfectly frank”. He not only has locked up the “Values Vote” by knowing they’ll all WANT to seem like the good parents, but by saying he’s going to be “Frank” he captures the entire philosophy of the Fox News “Fair and Balanced” technique of coercion). Meredith Wilson was a genius, and I’d argue on the same level as Orson Welles, considering he had NEVER even tried to write a musical (or anything else) prior to creating the Music Man, which came about because he wanted to write a book about his youth in Iowa and his wife suggested, since he was a band teacher, he might try making it into a series of songs.
    (And don’t even think about getting the Matthew Broderick/Disney Version, as you will possibly end up gouging your eyes out of your head and shoving icepicks into your eardrums, just to find release from the horror).

  38. Brett
    Posted December 4, 2004 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I thought I’d add that “Magnificent Ambersons” is possibly not the best choice for inclusion on any list, just due to the incredible butchering job done by the studio (RKO) during the editing process. If you’re watching it for the first time, keep in mind it was edited when Welles was out of the country, and so not only were the scenes assembled poorly but over 50 minutes of footage was cut, as well as additional footage being filmed and inserted without his approval (such as useless ‘reaction shots’ of characters to spell out to the audience what they’re thinking). The ending is wrong, most scenes are wrong, and I think it’s really best looked at in small clips that do retain his intentions.
    Welles himself said it *would* have been better than “Citizen Kane”, but ended up being horrible, and its failure was one of the reasons (along with the “Rosebud” debacle) that he was blacklisted from Hollywood.

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