Book Review: Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

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Click on the book cover to go to Amazon to buy a first-rate history by a first-rate storyteller.

Click on the book cover to go to Amazon to buy a first-rate history by a first-rate storyteller.

I’m a very healthy person. I exercise regularly, watch my weight and diet, and while I’ll indulge in wine, spirits, cigars and cigarettes on occasion, I am the model of moderation. I have been sick exactly twice in the last ten years and I have never spent a second in a hospital as a patient. Most people guess I’m ten to fifteen years younger than I am.

My good fortune with health has nothing to do with genes and I don’t have a picture of Dorian Gray in my closet. I attribute my condition to being constantly creative, constantly horny and avoiding doctors like the plague.

I’ve been to doctors now and then over the years and I can honestly say I have only found one who was helpful: the guy who did my vasectomy. As for the rest, I’ve found them to be arrogant, impersonal, dogmatic, judgmental and, in some cases, flat-out dangerous. They spend a few seconds with you not listening to a thing you’re saying, write you a prescription whether or not you need one and hurry off to the next patient to keep that revenue stream going.

Candice Millard’s well-written and surprisingly exciting book provides me with historical evidence to support my view that physicians are to be shunned at all cost. The victim of non-lethal gunshot wounds, President Garfield was systematically murdered by his physicians by their insistence on established medical dogma and an unwavering commitment to preserving the hierarchy of experience. Younger physicians who had more promising ideas about how to heal the president were dismissed, as was Lister’s already proven theory of antiseptic medicine. You may argue that modern medicine is more advanced and that Garfield wouldn’t have died had the same thing happened today. While that is almost certainly true, I point you to the estimates that 50,000 to 300,000 people a year are killed by medical errors (the wide variation in numbers has to do with the inability of the health care industry to keep track of anything). After five years experience working in health care and with physicians, I can confirm they are as arrogant, greedy and self-satisfied as they were in Garfield’s time.

Ms. Millard does a superb job bringing Garfield to life, a poor boy who through hard work and commitment turned himself into something of a Renaissance man, highly educated and self-aware. He had a passionate commitment to the African-American community, and was determined that they achieve full equality during his term. The what-ifs of Garfield may not be as tantalizing as those of JFK, but taking a moment to imagine the improvement in race relations that could have occurred eighty years before the civil rights movement demonstrates what kind of historical impact Garfield might have had if he had lived to complete his term.

Guiteau, the assassin, was truly insane. The jury that convicted him couldn’t have cared less. The assassination represented a shocking injustice to the nation, and Guiteau never would have survived in a mental institution, not with skilled and experienced lynching mobs at the ready. Guiteau was one in a long line of nobodies who wreaked havoc on history, and as Ms. Millard demonstrates with her beautifully detached writing style, there was no helping him.

The author weaves the threads of American politics with the 19th century mania for new inventions right from the start of the book, because Alexander Graham Bell plays a key role in the story. With superhuman dedication, he invents a device that could have found the bullet in the president’s body—had the doctors not interfered with his examination. The character of Roscoe Conkling, political boss, is so vivid that you can easy visualize him in imperial motion in the halls of Congress or on the streets of New York.

Destiny of the Republic is an exceptionally well-written and extremely readable history that warns of the dangers we all face if we enslave ourselves to the wisdom of the experts. Candice Millard is a fine writer with an exceptional gift for structuring a narrative and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Ringing True Review Highlights

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“One of the most realistic and genuinely touching tales I’ve ever read . . . by the end, you’ll be craving more.”

“I’ve never read a book like it. Smart, funny and the characterization is superb.”

“There is no drivel here, just pure entertainment.”

“What’s most impressive . . . is Morrow’s ability to navigate through controversial topics with such ease.”

“The points are made without drawing too much attention . . . and never at the detriment of the story line.”

“Finally! A novel for our times that doesn’t suck!”

“The book offers a very realistic view of what could happen if this religion actually took off in the mainstream.”

“The characters are diverse, rich and genuine and the dialogue in the book is truly OUTSTANDING.”

“Multifaceted characters with rich back-stories . . . you will find many places for your empathy to hook on to.”

“It makes one laugh, it makes one think. I was sad when it ended. I wanted to keep on reading and reading.”

“Morrow navigates some heavy and expansive terrain with surprising and convincing celerity.”

“It’s a thought-provoker without being preachy, and it’s downright sexy!”

“A heady and complex philosophical powderkeg of a story . . . with enough humor to keep the reader laughing.”

“A work that understands and addresses both the power of the intellect as well as primal human urges.”

“A work that neither sacrifices story nor character in its rapid pacing and development.”

“The author has written an incredibly interesting and compelling book that is also funny, making you laugh out loud.”

“It’s not preachy, it’s hilarious!”

“One cannot read ‘The Numbers’ without a little voice within saying, ‘Now THAT makes SENSE!'”

“If you’re settled cozily into your comfort zone – watch out!”

“I really loved this book. It was an easy read, but very thought provoking.”

“Too many religions now preach love and humility, but encourage hatred and fear of those who believe different.”

“The incredible twist ending that even I did not see coming. So much so that I even gasped, alone in my apartment!”

“A perfect read for people who don’t have their brains awash in dogmatic garbage.”

“This book is a great read, funny and amusing but also insightful and thought-provoking. ”

“I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for intelligent and provocative entertainment.”

“(It’s) a fantastic book that went by entirely too quickly. I can’t wait to see what Morrow comes up with next!”

“The plot itself is a great combination of feeling familiar . . . and just enough twists to keep you on your toes.”

“Anyone who can’t get behind The Numbers truly has no humanity in them.”

“The thought-provoking views and conversations rang true for me!”

“A must-read page-turner.”

“I recommend to anyone who isn’t afraid to look at themselves and their religion and not shut down.”

“I think Ringing True is a real game-changer on the literary scene.”

“A funny, witty, sexy, controversial and intelligent read that makes you stop and think while enjoying every moment.”

(from the author) “I can’t rate my own work, but I had a helluva good time writing it!”

(Compiled from Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing and Barnes & Noble.)

Poetry: Regrets

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Sparrow

The tiny sparrow, defenseless against

The wind, a victim of her own choosing,

Sang loud and long in defiance of guilt

That flowed through her veins like rough opium.

Denial proved the case: regrets still hung

Around her quivering throat, her frail neck,

Garlands of bloodstained rubies with her prints

Brutally unmasked against the hard gleam.

I have learned from the timbre of her voice

To live in perpetual discomfort

With these useless emotions and accept

That my regrets will continue to play

The role of unwanted, unloved partner

As long as I hold on to human life.

 

Photo Credit: © Izanoza | Stock Free Images &Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ringing True Excerpt: The Troops Revolt

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At this point in the novel, Ringing True is about to become a full-fledged for-profit corporation complete with a Board of Directors and by-laws in exchange for five million dollars in seed money provided by the famous actress, Gwendolyn Marks. Gwendolyn has installed herself as Chairman of the Board in the new corporate structure and self-styled marketing whiz Matthias Bender (former roommate of Justin and Theo) has helped himself to the role of CEO. Justin and Shelby have been reviewing the by-laws with Theo, Emmy and Emmy’s father (who happens to be an attorney) and have discovered a clause that will effectively strip them of ownership of The Numbers, the text behind the Ringing True religion.

The Gang of Four walked into the nearest branch of Mega Coffee, rearranged a few chairs and formed a loose circle in a relatively quiet corner of the shop. Justin opened up the discussion as soon as they had all sat down with their coffees.

“I can’t sign this. We can’t sign this!” he said with defiance.

Shelby agreed. “I agree. I don’t know what she’s up to, but I’m not about to let that bitch become the Almighty Censor of our thoughts and I’ll be damned if anyone else in this world gets to write new Numbers.”

Emmy seemed agitated, but said nothing that would indicate how she felt. Theo looked confused.

“Uh, I’m not sure where you’re coming from? I mean, she wants to give us five million dollars, right?”

“In exchange for control over The Numbers,” said Shelby, completing the quid pro quo.

“Well, isn’t that worth it? I mean, five million dollars?” said Theo, still befuddled.

Justin raised his hand and said, “Let me give you a little background.” He then told them the story of afternoon tea in the sunroom, throwing all neutrality out the window, emphasizing the sinister nature of Dwayne Barker’s appearance, the suspicious nod and the enigmatic message that ended their conversation. As Theo and Emmy still appeared lost, Shelby added her suspicions about Matthias’ role in the set-up, which finally helped them see the light.

“Oh, dude—what a major-league asshole!” Theo cried.

“That’s just mean!” cried Emmy.

Justin tried to suppress himself, but because being fair was part of his cellular structure, he had to point out the weaknesses of their interpretation.

“We know none of this for sure, and I’ll admit, I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to this stuff—”

“We all know you’re a tight-ass, Justin,” Shelby interrupted.

“But that’s the problem—there are too many unanswered questions. What’s her motive? What’s Matthias’ motive? Why would he give up control of the corporation that was going to make him the shining hero behind The Next Big Thing? And why the specific clause giving her control over The Numbers? I don’t know all the answers, but the whole thing stinks!”

“Why don’t we just ask them to explain it to us?” offered Emmy.

Justin was too stunned to answer such a silly question, so Shelby stepped in.

“Because we all know Matthias is a practiced liar and we have no chance of getting through to the Queen of England,” Shelby explained patiently.

“She seems like such a nice person,” Emmy offered, holding out hope.

Justin took over again. “And for all we know, she may very well be. Maybe this is some form of image protection—I don’t know how these people think. But the simple truth is we don’t know what’s going on and it would be stupid for us to sign off on this without some answers.”

“But how are we going to get answers if they’re all liars?” Emmy cried.

“Well, we’ll have to figure that out. What we need to do first is go to Matthias and tell him we’re not signing unless the word ‘development’ is cut out from that clause,” Justin insisted.

“Stricken from the record,” Shelby declared.

“And a new clause is inserted saying that only Shelby and I have the right to write The Numbers. And that our authorship will remain anonymous,” Justin added.

The others nodded in agreement.

Justin leaned forward. “Now. Under the old corporation rules, we’re four-fifths of the Board. All we need is a 3-2 vote to stop this.”

This was a silly comment, as Theo and Emmy were joined at the hip and would never split their vote. They looked at each other, made a few faces at each other, whispered unintelligibly to each other, and at last nodded in unison.

“We’re with you,” said Theo.

“Thank you,” said Justin, relaxing a bit.

“Let’s go tell the man,” said Shelby. “I think he said he’d be at the office today.”

They went off in search of Matthias.

 

*****

 

“What do you mean you’re not signing?” Matthias shouted at them as they gathered around the oversized executive desk in his office.

“We’re not signing unless the clause about The Numbers is revised to say that only Shelby and I can write new Numbers.”

“Not negotiable. Next?” Matthias snapped.

“Then we’re not signing,” Justin snapped back.

“And you’re all in this together?” Matthias said slowly sweeping the room like a programmable laser. The laser came to an abrupt halt when it spotted Emmy.

“Emilia! Are you a participant in this—this—mutiny?”

Emmy was trembling in fear, but she swallowed hard and said in a clear voice, “Yes.”

“Theo?”

Theo shook his head and said, “I know you too well, dude, I know you too well.”

Matthias rose from his executive chair to emphasize his presence. “Do you all realize what you’re doing? What this means? It means no pay for at least six more months. Justin—you’ll still be pulling shots at the coffee house. Shelby—back to the museum. Theo—you can kiss off that plasma TV you wanted to hang on your wall!”

Justin thought he heard Theo groan, but Theo held his ground.

Matthias pointed his finger at Justin and shouted, “You call this responsible? You’re being a selfish pig, Justin!”

“Takes one to know one,” Justin responded, returning to childhood.

“This is how you show your gratitude? Or have you all forgotten who loaned you the money to make it all happen?”

“I guess you should have done a better job of evaluating the risks before investing,” Justin smirked.

Matthias glared at Justin with a look of almost pure hatred, but he knew he was beaten.

“Jesus! Why have I been saddled with such imbeciles?”

“Guess you got lucky,” Shelby replied.

“Look, I don’t care if she owns the company, I don’t care if you get to play CEO, I don’t care about any of that crap. But she is not getting her hands on The Numbers!” Justin argued in summation.

“It’s our product, you idiot, our product! Every Board of Directors on the planet has the right to approve the development and release of new products and services!”

“You can call it a product, but to me it is what I believe. I don’t have a problem with the Board approving the release of The Numbers—that’s just business. But no one except Shelby and I have the right to create new Numbers—this was our idea and no one is going to take that away from us,” Justin said in a clear, firm voice.

“Crap!” shouted Matthias, kicking the desk and making Emmy hiccup.

“What about our anonymity?” Shelby reminded Justin.

“Oh, yeah—we want the new board members to agree not to disclose that Shelby and I are the authors.”

“Great! Let’s insult all of our new investors!” Matthias shot back.

“If they want to take it as an insult, that’s their problem. Now call your friend Gwendolyn and tell her if she wants in, this is the deal,” Justin insisted.

“I can’t. She’s off on some kind of personal retreat and is not to be disturbed,” Matthias shouted back.

“Well, then, it looks like you’re S. O. L. Let’s go, guys,” said Justin and they all started to walk out the door.

“Wait, wait,” Matthias said, relenting. “Let me talk to Dwayne. Shit!”

“We’ll wait,” said Shelby, admiring her manicure.

Matthias whipped out his cell phone and rang Dwayne. Quickly changing roles from harried executive to entrepreneurial backslapper, he jovially explained that a little snag had come up and he needed some help from his good buddy. Matthias described the problem, attempted to soften the blow by insisting Gwendolyn would, of course, be consulted during the development process (to which Justin nodded his assent), that the issue of Board control over release was not under debate, and concluded by saying that he was sure Gwendolyn understood the sensitivity that always seemed to accompany the issue of artistic control over one’s work. Dwayne put him on hold. During the fifteen minutes of limbo, Matthias maintained a stony silence while Shelby attended to her nails, Theo and Emmy whispered together and Justin sat with his jaw still set but with his insides churning.

Dwayne came back on the line. “That’s great, Dwayne, great. Tell Gwendolyn I appreciate her graciousness in this matter. You’ll send me the papers? Great, great—let’s talk next week. Ciao.”

“We won?” asked Justin.

“You won,” said Matthias. “Now get the fuck out of my office.”

 

Photo Credit:  . Rude rejection of handshake © Lorna 59 at Dreamstime.com