The King and the Cowboy: Theodore Roosevelt and Edward the Seventh, Secret Partners

Historian Fromkin's focus isn't so much on the personal history between President Teddy Roosevelt and King Edward VII of Britain (indeed, the two men never actually meet in Fromkin's narrative), as it is about the shifting national alliances in the Atlantic world before World War I. Fromkin skillfully describes how Edward, after the 1901 death of his mother, Queen Victoria, moved his country toward an alliance with France and in opposition to Germany, ruled by his nephew Kaiser William II. President Roosevelt and the king both favored this crucial diplomatic shift, which would later lead to the two world wars of the 20th century. As Fromkin shows, much of the European diplomacy of this era was personal. The Great Powers were mainly monarchies with family interconnections. Fromkin analyzes the kaiser's "passionate dislike of his uncle," King Edward, and traces that animosity to William's strict military upbringing, compared with Edward's playboy lifestyle. Kaiser "William's whole view of Great Power foreign policy over the course of two decades," Fromkin explains, "was colored by his undying hatred" of his royal British uncle. Fromkin also explores how Roosevelt helped Edward reach his goals: Roosevelt, writes the author, "was Anglophile" and believed the English-speaking peoples were destined to rule the world. When the kaiser attempted to destroy Britain's new diplomatic arrangement with France, Roosevelt sided with Edward. Germany "charged it was being encircled by its enemies," concludes Fromkin, and would unsuccessfully fight two wars to shift this established strategic alliance.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

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The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.