Poor Lenin's Almanac

There's a problem with unique books, books that don't fit any particular niche or category. Because of this, they can get lost amid the flood of the average and the conventional. Bruce Walker's Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftist Proverbs for Modern Life is a unique book. As such, it should not be missed.

The concept behind Poor Lenin is one that you can be certain you have not seen before, no matter how many books on the left you may have read. Instead of attacking the left, its mentality, and its preconceptions head-on by way of dates, the historical record, and ideological analysis, Walker has instead chosen an oblique approach. With Benjamin Franklin's original work as a model, he utilizes a series of twisted maxims representing typical leftist ways of thinking to present us with a much clearer map of the leftist psyche than we might otherwise see.

The "maxims" are derived from various sources -- some from classical folk sayings, some from pop culture, some from Scripture. Each is slightly tweaked to represent a different facet of the leftist worldview. At first glance, some appear perfectly innocuous and might even be taken for their source quotations: "You can only judge a book by its color," "One picture is worth a thousand lies," "It's not what you know, it's who you bribe." (My own favorite is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Ramadan.")

Walker uses these perverse aphorisms as jump-off points for short essays on various aspects of the left-wing worldview. These essays -- none of them over five hundred words in length -- are sharp, straightforward, and concise. Some are witty, some are deep, some are brutal. All of them make their point convincingly and then leave the stage. A French reader might call these "pensées", but that's not quite the word. None of them is arbitrary -- they fit together like a mosaic. And though any given American leftist might not care for the portrayal, there's not a single discrete element that he could deny. (Though he might complain about the choice of words.)

What comes across most clearly -- and would not have done so in a more traditional treatment -- is the true strangeness of the creed as depicted. Most writing on the left attempts to view it through a rational lens, as if it were simply a legitimate alternative way of thinking. Poor Lenin emphasizes that this is not the case, holding a fractured mirror up to American leftism. It's both startling and disturbing to see how clearly the image appears.

Walker's clarity of prose will come as no surprise to his AT readers. The book is dotted with insights: "Whose victimhood counts more? We are not God. We do not know." "Freedom is the catalyst through which all good and enlightened human action occurs." "Our idea that the treatment of all life should be different from hunting and killing comes from the metaphysical systems of man, not from Nature."

There are very few evident flaws. In a discussion of kingship on P.67, There's a passage suggesting that kings accepted their authority as a matter of "accident of birth," which I think overlooks the "divine right" argument of later European monarchs such as Louis XIV, who really believed that he represented God's will on earth -- but this isn't a work of history, so maybe I'm being too picky.

Poor Lenin's Almanac is a book to read not at once, but an essay at a time, so that the argument builds up point by point. It is not a book that calls down maledictions in thunder, but a low-key polemic, a rapier rather than a broadsword. But on our current battlefield, all classes of weaponry must be welcome. It is not possible to know too much about the left -- the final and perhaps most serious internal enemy of Western democracy. With Poor Lenin's Almanac, we know something that we didn't before.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Miltary Thinker.
There's a problem with unique books, books that don't fit any particular niche or category. Because of this, they can get lost amid the flood of the average and the conventional. Bruce Walker's Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftist Proverbs for Modern Life is a unique book. As such, it should not be missed.

The concept behind Poor Lenin is one that you can be certain you have not seen before, no matter how many books on the left you may have read. Instead of attacking the left, its mentality, and its preconceptions head-on by way of dates, the historical record, and ideological analysis, Walker has instead chosen an oblique approach. With Benjamin Franklin's original work as a model, he utilizes a series of twisted maxims representing typical leftist ways of thinking to present us with a much clearer map of the leftist psyche than we might otherwise see.

The "maxims" are derived from various sources -- some from classical folk sayings, some from pop culture, some from Scripture. Each is slightly tweaked to represent a different facet of the leftist worldview. At first glance, some appear perfectly innocuous and might even be taken for their source quotations: "You can only judge a book by its color," "One picture is worth a thousand lies," "It's not what you know, it's who you bribe." (My own favorite is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Ramadan.")

Walker uses these perverse aphorisms as jump-off points for short essays on various aspects of the left-wing worldview. These essays -- none of them over five hundred words in length -- are sharp, straightforward, and concise. Some are witty, some are deep, some are brutal. All of them make their point convincingly and then leave the stage. A French reader might call these "pensées", but that's not quite the word. None of them is arbitrary -- they fit together like a mosaic. And though any given American leftist might not care for the portrayal, there's not a single discrete element that he could deny. (Though he might complain about the choice of words.)

What comes across most clearly -- and would not have done so in a more traditional treatment -- is the true strangeness of the creed as depicted. Most writing on the left attempts to view it through a rational lens, as if it were simply a legitimate alternative way of thinking. Poor Lenin emphasizes that this is not the case, holding a fractured mirror up to American leftism. It's both startling and disturbing to see how clearly the image appears.

Walker's clarity of prose will come as no surprise to his AT readers. The book is dotted with insights: "Whose victimhood counts more? We are not God. We do not know." "Freedom is the catalyst through which all good and enlightened human action occurs." "Our idea that the treatment of all life should be different from hunting and killing comes from the metaphysical systems of man, not from Nature."

There are very few evident flaws. In a discussion of kingship on P.67, There's a passage suggesting that kings accepted their authority as a matter of "accident of birth," which I think overlooks the "divine right" argument of later European monarchs such as Louis XIV, who really believed that he represented God's will on earth -- but this isn't a work of history, so maybe I'm being too picky.

Poor Lenin's Almanac is a book to read not at once, but an essay at a time, so that the argument builds up point by point. It is not a book that calls down maledictions in thunder, but a low-key polemic, a rapier rather than a broadsword. But on our current battlefield, all classes of weaponry must be welcome. It is not possible to know too much about the left -- the final and perhaps most serious internal enemy of Western democracy. With Poor Lenin's Almanac, we know something that we didn't before.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Miltary Thinker.

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