Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence by Douglas E. Schoen with Evan Roth Smith

Putin’s Master Plan attempts to dissect who Putin is and his plans. Unfortunately for the reader and for those who paid money for this drivel, Schoen fails spectacularly.

Published in 2016, and so missing the modern Russian-Ukraine War, Putin’s Master Plan is nothing more than a hype piece for the progressive line of an evil, manipulative and moustache-twirling Russia while the West wears white wielding a scepter guided by a supreme powerful light of all that is good. This is a heavily pro-war book and reads like Schoen is a spokesperson for the military-industrial complex. It’s nothing short of advocacy and full of silly ideas.

The book has the personality of a pulp novel, is heavily biased from a Western point of view and uses charged phrases like “terrifying weapons.” This is an effort to create fear in the mind of the reader. Schoen actively advocates for actual military power to be used as early as the seventh and eighth pages. The insight the author has seems to come from one who would only read headlines and not the content.

There is serious neglect in showing how the United States and NATO have antagonized Russia for years, in spite of many statements coming out of a rising Russia. A clash was almost certainly going to happen. While Russia is certainly wrong for eventually involving itself in a war in Europe, the West is hardly clean in this exchange and shares just as much, if not more of the blame.

The author also states as early as the first page that Russia has been leveraging its advances. And as the previous paragraph points out, he neglects to add that the West has been doing this for the last thirty years after the Soviet Union fell. He accuses Russia of waging “aggressive economic warfare”, which is true, but neglects the West’s involvement in the same tactics. The essence of this book is that everything Russia does is bad and that’s the core of it. The book is full of Western paranoia and fear.

I continued with the book only because I decided to change how I would read it. Instead of taking it seriously, I began reading it as a satire and took much more enjoyment out of it. With juvenile phrases like “Putin and his Rasputins…” how could it be taken any other way?

Even though it comes in at under 200 pages there is plenty of fluff and the book could’ve used a very sharp edit. But a proper edit would’ve taken this book down to the size of a pamphlet for there is a lot of repeat-information.

The other problems with the book is that it just doesn’t bring anything new to the US-Good/Russia-Bad argument. It’s the same tripe we’ve been seeing for almost twenty years.

Putin’s Master Plan is lightweight, predictable from the first page and worthless. The saddest part about books like this is that they are so blindingly wrong. And we know that there are people who probably picked this book up as their first primer on Russia or Putin and their first ideas are formed in this author’s flawed vision.

As a realistic book on political commentary, Russia or Putin, I can’t recommend it; this book will likely be the worst book I read on the subject this year. But as political pulp? Definitely go for it. You’ll have fun if you enter it with the right mindset. Just don’t buy the hardcover version and try to get it from a library. The author shouldn’t be rewarded for such bad behavior.

The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound by Daniel Swift

The research I’ve been conducting on Ezra Pound has been extraordinary. I hadn’t expected to enjoy this research as much as I had, especially about a revolutionary in a medium I have but little interest in: Poetry. But Pound is an interesting subject even from an outsider between his evolution from American to Italian life to supposed traitor to captive to his return to Italy and somewhat isolation from society.

The Bughouse focuses primarily on Pound’s years of incarceration in an asylum in America. After he was captured by Italian partisans, he was whisked away to America where he was deemed unfit to stand trial and was retained in an asylum for over a decade. This was certainly harsher punishment than the likes of Axis Sally received for much more obvious and sharper criticisms of the Allies (not to mention her allegiance and oath to Adolf Hitler) and Jews during the war.

Within the book there are discussions about how Pound was treated and additional minute details, along with information on some of Hemingway’s, Williams’, Frost’s views on Pound and some of their efforts to get him out of the asylum after a period of time. While Pound had acted recklessly and worked against the United States during the war as a propagandist, the long incarceration of the poet eventually had a drastically different effect where it appeared that the US was beating on an old man while at the same time the United States was working with Nazi science and scientists and had even released Axis Sally early.

The author does move along at a good pace but does mention his own efforts and interactions such as driving to the areas of study or other unnecessary information. These scenes take away from the book and do disrupt the nice, even pace of the study. Luckily, these scenes don’t occur very often and the return to Pound happens quickly.

For a nice overview of Pound’s time of incarceration, The Bughouse is an excellent book. The Bughouse is finely written and easily recommendable if one is interested in the subject matter.