Beginning with "Bel Ami" on January 2011, I begun a tradition of starting the year by reading a book by Guy de Maupassant. I've read all of his novelsBeginning with "Bel Ami" on January 2011, I begun a tradition of starting the year by reading a book by Guy de Maupassant. I've read all of his novels in chronological order since, with the exception of Une Vie (his first novel) and his two unfinished ones; Foreign Souls and The Angelus. Before that, he had already become my favorite prose writer via his short stories, and I actually keep the Artine Artinian edition of the "Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant" (the most authoritative and definitely complete edition in the English language) close by and as a permanent fixture of my wall decor.
Now that you can gauge my bias, I can proceed with this review.
Alien Hearts was his last complete novel, and as per usual, a masterpiece. When it comes to appreciating a piece of prose, I've learned that there are ages that are more ripe for certain type of authors and certain type of books. There are authors that possess a rare all-encompassing facility of reach, like Dumas père, which can be read at any age and at any time of one's life. Other authors, like Kafka, are better sampled after one has lived, suffered, and seen a little.
Guy de Maupassant conforms to this latter category.
His uniqueness rests in his masterful ability to inhabit and explore the psychological labyrinths behind each of his characters thoughts and actions. As a narrator, he has no equal, precisely because his omniscient presence in the character's inner thoughts discover for us those moral conflicts and sinister possibilities seldom revealed by other authors and that we recognize as ugly or unfortunate truths.
His probity when revealing the base regions of humanity gained him unfair or short sighted assesments as a "pessimist" by some quarters in his day; but some of these critiques by the likes of Tolstoy or Jules Lemaitre should be contextualized. Now, over a hundred years after his death, and living in an age where that level of propriety (or hypocritical propriety as Guy would have it) is long gone, Guy de Maupassant can be a thrill to read in this day and age, as long as our reader is acquainted with the historical parameters of the late XIXth century. Without knowing these, Maupassant (or almost any other author of that period for that matter) risks a puerile assessment by a modern-centric critic. Maupassant's prose; his paragraphs, turns of mind, and earthly as well as inner descriptions, even in translation, are to the point, incisive, effective. I can't say the same for other XIXth century hallmarks, (like "The House of Seven Gables" which is giving me grief), but there are XIXth authors that undeniably age well, and whose writings have stood the test of time, such as Jack London, Flaubert, Gogol, etc. Thus, I would recommend to be very suspect of reviews that dare give any of Maupassant's books a rough treatment. This is not a matter of taste, but a matter of discernment. A reader of XXIth thrillers is hardly going to appreciate Don Quixote, let alone Maupassant, and there's a reason for that which has nothing to do with the author's merit.
Alien Hearts makes you ache, think, laugh, wryly smile, and live more dearly. Such is the extract of masterpieces. Guy de Maupassant's biting indictment of human frailty secretly yearns for innocence, love, and hope. Therein we find where the author's heart really lies; on the side of compassion that has acknowledged despair.
In 2004, in a crevice on Maupassant's tomb in the Montparnasse Cementery in Paris, I left a picture of myself so a little of me could always keep company to the earthly remains of my favorite writer of all time. It is but a trifle of a thing to do to repay those words which have kept me company before and ever since. ...more
Thousands of books have been published about the most notorious assassination of the XXth century, so a review of a book that touches upon this subjecThousands of books have been published about the most notorious assassination of the XXth century, so a review of a book that touches upon this subject needs to start by giving its potential readers a reason to single it out among the rest.
Before I do that let me start by saying that I'm not a casual acquaintance with the many rabbit-holes that surround the case. A truly skeptical mind is no easy friend of either official versions or conspiracy theories, unless these are nurturing to one's intellect. In the many years and many hours I've spent reading material or viewing things related to the case, I've never been able to find satisfactory answers to the questions that puzzled my mind.
I'm relieved to say that Mr. Tague's book has finally quenched some of these questions, while unavoidably, some others will remain.
I'll itemize my personal reasons and criteria why I picked this particular book from among thousands of others, and why I believe it will benefit those who seek answers on some of the murky questions surrounding the JFK case:
1. The unique circumstances that brought about the writing of this book coupled with the unique circumstances that attached its author to the case: In contrast to other independent researchers (regardless of their zeal to find out "a" truth), Jim Tague was not only a part of that historic event in Dallas, but fate would decree that he would be slightly wounded by a astray bullet that missed Kennedy and thus forced the Warren Commissions to re-assess their BALLISTIC conclusions when they had pretty much wrapped up the report on July 1964. His presence on Dealey Plaza changed history.
This book is the final act of his life (he died on February 2014 and the book was published on October 2013), and the fact that he felt compelled to write it after his kidneys got better and he got off dialysis, feeling that he had been given a chance to tell-it-all and set the record straight as far as he was concerned, struck me not as the impulse of a publicity or controversy seeker, but as the sincere act of an honest man who had refrained from the limelight and just wanted to tell his truth.
2. James Tague's involvement in the events gave him very rare and unique access to other participants, researchers, historians, journalists and insiders of the JFK case through the years; a veritable who's who, and through these acquaintainces, andf through his non chalance, James Tague was privy to many off and on the record thoughts, revelations and documents (noted JFK researcher Harold Weisberg used to cull and send him copies of interesting declassified FBI documents he gained through the years via FOIA and litigation). After 50 years, James Tague had much to share.
3. The description of the book as a small time labor of love rather than a scholarly work by certain reviewers really influenced my decision to pick it up. The book didn't have the credentials or marketing effort of a major publishing house behind it. They said it was full of repetitions, typos, and black and white pictures as well as document scans arranged at haphazard. Perfect. Such are hallmarks of someone who just wants to speak his mind.
4. The book didn't hinge on one particular "theory" despite the title of the book, but spent most of its time delving into the inconsistencies of the Warren Commission and the biographical first hand knowledge of the author on this and other matters.
5. The full inclusion of the 1965 Soviet Intelligence Report on the Kennedy Killing, as well as the US assessment that follows it, is reason enough to buy this book since you will find it nowhere on the internet.
6. The post ARRB (Assassination Records Review Board appointed from 1992-1998) era, which brought about the massive declassification of material for researchers has spun a new era of further clarity on parts of the case that were muddy before 1992. Thus, any book on the subject in the new millenium is better equipped to gather and corroborate information, such as this one did.
There were many things James Tague said that I didn't agree with (such as his view on what caused JFK's throat wound, for example) but you can measure his honesty by how strongly he voices what he believes to be true, and how cautious he is whenever he has an opinion which he believes with less zeal. This is the dialectic that I was seeking in a book about JFK's murder, rather than pages upon pages of someone trying to pigeonhole everything through one lens only.
And while he was convinced that in the end, LBJ and Big Oil had been behind it, the majority of the book which deals with all the Warren Commission missteps, the ballistics, the testimonies etc, are not presented as a buildup to support the thesis. The theory is presented appart, within its own context and with its own participants.
Lastly, I recommend this book especially to people that are either new, or have only a passive knowledge about the case. Seasoned researchers should be advised that this reads more like the personal biography and self-statements on the case as seen, learned, and believed by James Tague, who truly thought that writting this book was ultimately his mission in life and the reason why he was there and wounded that day in Dealey Plaza.
Well Jim, you fulfilled your mission, and now others like myself are gaining because of it. May you finally rest in peace.
It took my heart 72 hours of reading Celine's sketch of the life of Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis and the facts surrounding his exasperating fate, for it tIt took my heart 72 hours of reading Celine's sketch of the life of Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis and the facts surrounding his exasperating fate, for it to burn with wild empathy, with love, humanity, and a thirst for vindication for this Hungarian doctor who first sensed and almost discovered the basis of microbial infection had he not encountered fierce opposition by the mendacious and obtuse medical establisment of 1840's Vienna.
Let the names of those Doctors who blocked, obliterated and hid the truth for the sake of their prestige, their pride, their position, survive in the annals of stupidity and criminality forever: Johann Klein, Schmidt, Tilanus of Amsterdam, James Young Simpson; all guilty of closing ranks against Semmelweiss's evident and succesful proto antiseptic experiments.
Celine's verbosity and eloquent prose might seem too grandiose for seasoned readers of standard biographies (i.e. those used to a more pragmatic word diet), but this sentimentality, this ardor is so apt precisely because of the inordinate circumstances that stacked against Semmelweis's star, the hatred and injustice he endured and that led him to a most horrible madness deserve all the poetics a writer can wax. Celine raises him to almost mythological status; he sees the death rates at maternity wards accross Europe as an abhorrent and unnecessary carnival of death cruelly continuing when it could have been stopped had Semmelweis been heeded!
Those closed quarters that existed at the highest levels of society in Semmelweis's time have not waned. The same circles of access in media, academia, industry and politics run the same gimmick of puny accepted conventions and inertia which prevent real change to take root. This is what this book is; it is a statement of precedent of a symptom of history; the song of genius against the barcarolle of mediocrity.
In matters of eminent change, there are two types of men; those who place truth before themselves, and those who place it after. Semmelweis belonged to the former group, and his insights opened the path for Pasteur and changed history forever. To which type do you belong?
I recommend this book as a barometer to test where your allegiances lie so you can plan accordingly. As Celine said on this book "There is nothing but war in the hearts of men" So be it.
As for me, I stand by Semmelweis, and Celine, and by "divine lights that illuminate the night of the world" as Romain Rolland said. Cynici Emptor! ...more
If J.D's intention was to painstakingly weave the narrative around the mind of Holden Caulfield and his internal circumlocutions, then yes, this is thIf J.D's intention was to painstakingly weave the narrative around the mind of Holden Caulfield and his internal circumlocutions, then yes, this is the masterpiece it is touted as. A screen capture of a mind seemingly floundering in helpless inadequacy, until you zoom out and realize that Holden is not a misfit but just a tad jejune, still in growing pains, with a soul tinged in romantic tortuosity and fixation.
Five pages in, I realized I was reading a narrative of the life and mind of an A-dole-scent, and in the words of a true misfit of literature, Herman Melville's "Bartleby", I respectfully said to Mr. Sallinger's opus "I would prefer not to". But since I was in a 13 hour flight and Holden Caulfield was my single-serving, middle seat friend, I had to oblige.
More importantly, the author deserved respect. The book needn't be judged at page number five. J.D. had gone through too much by this time; witnessing the brutal Battle of the Bulge during World War II while nursing a massive heartbreak over the dissing by Oona O'neill in favor of overaged Charlie Chaplin while he was at the front. I could not think of a more devastating combo to afflict a man of letters, whose soul is born is to witness, feel, filter and transcribe.
I wanted to see if I could capture shades of this suffering embedded or hinted at in the text; to see if J.D. managed to exorcize some of these demons, but instead I only found a deep and hollow trench of affliction, and devastatingly, perhaps the author blaming himself for what he perceived as "not measuring up to Oona". If I'm right, how wrong he was. She did not measure up to him. it was a mismatch of fate, that's all.
My two stars are solely due to the fact that I did not enjoy the trappings and minutiae of Holden Caulfield's mind, notwithstanding how faithfully the style was executed for this purpose. Other than that, I stand corrected and defer to what others may still teach me about The Catcher in the Rye. ...more
They say the best meals are often hard and painful to digest, and I thoroughly enjoyed Kant's chef d'ouvre and am still digesting. I can't wait to shaThey say the best meals are often hard and painful to digest, and I thoroughly enjoyed Kant's chef d'ouvre and am still digesting. I can't wait to share my insights on the text once it clears the cognitive tract. ...more
It has its moments but I'm sorry to say that Saul Bellow's opus failed to impress me. Maybe I shouldn't have read it right after reading a seasoned MaIt has its moments but I'm sorry to say that Saul Bellow's opus failed to impress me. Maybe I shouldn't have read it right after reading a seasoned Maupassant in his prime.
This book deserves a re-read 10 years from now for a second look. ...more