As a fairly regular viewer of tennis in the 70s and 80s I remember wondering whether all of the on-court Connors belligerence was real. From this accoAs a fairly regular viewer of tennis in the 70s and 80s I remember wondering whether all of the on-court Connors belligerence was real. From this account, I get a curiously mixed answer. It was, apparently, real enough in the moment, and the hostility towards many of his opponents - on and off the court - was also apparently quite real. On the other hand, Connors and his best mate Nastase were also perfectly capable of playing the whole thing up for yuks. Obsessed as he was with that marker of professionalism, money - not an unnatural obsession, by the way, in an age when the sport was in structural flux - Connors by his own account was bizarrely unprofessional in other ways. It's little wonder that the tone of this autobiography is frequently highly defensive. He concedes with generous frankness his double failings of alcohol abuse and an addiction to gambling which, at time of writing, doesn't sound fully under control. It argues a measure of self-awareness that's to his credit.
That said, you have to concede that the man's tennis was marvellous, and that he appealed (by the very fact that he was mired in macho culture and not the more refined set of manners expected of tennis) to a different audience, and he and MacEnroe between them are probably responsible, still, for the enormous and very enthusiastic audiences at the U.S. Open.
There are some good stories in here, and Connors addresses most of the famous (and infamous) scenes we associate with him through video flashbacks. It's worth the read, even if you are like me, merely a fan of the game and not of Connors in particular. If you are like me, however, it will probably not persuade you that you would be likely to invite him to dinner!
In this novel, Trollope begins to indulge in a little bit of what young people nowadays call "meta" - that is, he discusses his own characteristics asIn this novel, Trollope begins to indulge in a little bit of what young people nowadays call "meta" - that is, he discusses his own characteristics as a novelist. His device is to have his youngest protagonist be a writer of pulp fiction, whose fictional readers declare he has failed to write a proper "Nemesis" or villain. This, I am sure, Trollope had heard about his own novels - but I think Trollope's ability to sympathize even with his "baddies" is one of his most endearing characteristics, and one of his strengths.
Anyway, the meta is a relatively small portion of this tale; most is clearly designed along the lines of thesis (Henry Norman, the 'good' civil servant), Alaric (the 'bad' one, who takes part in stock fraud), and synthesis (Charley, who starts out bad and on the wrong path, but becomes good). The three Woodward daughters - Gertrude, Linda, and Katie, appear to be all lined up as neat as a fairy tale for matrimony to these three, but there is a shuffling in the order early in the book as Alaric decides he prefers Henry Norman's girlfriend, Gertrude, to his own, Linda. This sets up Henry's bitterness and nobility in the latter chapters when he rescues Alaric from the very worst consequences of his ill-doing, using Charley as an intermediary.
I read the chapter in Trollope's autobiography that talks about this novel, and I regret to say the one scene he picked out as being the best written - Katie's near-deathbed scene which puts lover Charles on to the moral path - was the one scene I found most stupid and sentimental, and not at all worthy of the author's pride. There seems little doubt he was trying to give his readers what they wanted (sentimental scenes being the equivalent of sexy scenes in modern romances), but that particular scenario seemed out of place to me - and besides, he couldn't bring himself to kill Katie off anyway! She recovered as inexplicably as she dropped to death's door.
Trollope can do better with his women. I thought the contrast between Gertrude (who was a tough bird to keep supporting her errant husband all the way to and through Australian exile) and Linda (much softer) was well sustained.
Much of this novel is well-observed satire on the Civil Service, and though it's all a bit exaggerated, I regret to say there was a lot I recognized....more
I have been curious about those 28 seconds on Bloor Street, the ones where former Attorney General Michael Bryant's life changed and cyclist Darcy AllI have been curious about those 28 seconds on Bloor Street, the ones where former Attorney General Michael Bryant's life changed and cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard lost his, ever since the incident was reported on the evening news. Like many people, I formed an instant opinion of what "probably" happened, and that opinion shifted this way and that based on the small pieces of information that came trickling out. And though it was a good thing for Bryant that the full presentation of evidence never happened in an open courtroom (just a preliminary hearing) because the charges were dropped, that does mean that curiosity about "the real truth" has lingered on.
So, of course, since this is Bryant's book, the question you have to ask as you read each page is, "Do I believe this version of events?" And, by and large, I do, though certainly I recognize he's putting the best spin possible on his own actions - and let's not forget he's a lawyer, so he's very accomplished at spin.
So was it road rage? More like panic, by the sound of it. Did he get better treatment from the courts because of who he was? Possibly, although he also points out that he was charged far sooner than normal in process because the authorities were bending over backwards to avoid that very perception.
The chapters about his alcoholism were painful to read, because he is so honest about his self-deceptive habits and I hope very much (a) that he was in fact several years sober when the incident occurred, as he asserts, and (b) that he still has that under control despite the failure of his marriage and the passing of his brother. I'm glad I read it - at least I now know what the various parties believe to be true....more
It's one of the oddities of reading in e-format that I did not realize while I read that this book was a coffee-table book, even though I noticed theIt's one of the oddities of reading in e-format that I did not realize while I read that this book was a coffee-table book, even though I noticed the very heavy illustration and relative shortness of the text (I finished it in an afternoon). It is to the credit of the solidity of Ms Bean's writing and research that it wasn't immediately clear to me. She did, apparently, make use of some Oliver-Leigh archives that had not been available to previous authors, and her bibliography was interesting enough that I made a copy of it for my own use.
Leigh's story is a sad one: betrayed by illnesses of both body and mind - the recurring tuberculosis that eventually killed her in her 50s, and the bipolar disorder that made life so very difficult for her and those around her. It's interesting to note that, far from claiming that Leigh had some inborn genius fueled by these twin flaws, as more romantic biographers might do, Bean insists at some length on how Leigh constantly strove to be a better actress, knowing her talents were limited and her early successes were largely due to her striking looks.
I left this until the day before it was due at the library, so I'm sorry I didn't get more chance to savour the photographs. One I definitely will remember - on a balcony in Crete, Olivier and Leigh (both still married to others at the time). He stands shirtless and straight, in high-waisted shorts, preening like a young god; she sits demurely on a wall, legs half-tucked beneath her, sandals dangling. I very much liked the two chapters devoted to Leigh's most famous two movies (Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire), but I also read with great interest the chapters that covered her stage work.
**spoiler alert** This is my first venture into the world of lawyer and former college athlete Josie Baylor-Bates, and I did it in downloaded e-book f**spoiler alert** This is my first venture into the world of lawyer and former college athlete Josie Baylor-Bates, and I did it in downloaded e-book form, which means my expectations were not high. They were, however, exceeded - the book was well-written and well-plotted, and held my interest with its difficult characters. I had the actual villain of the piece tagged fairly early on, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the unrolling.
The theme running through this book is the failure of the mother-daughter relationship. Though the victim is male and there is a somewhat likely male suspect, at the end of the day Forster's men are not quite as complex as her women. The men are various degrees of abusive, or else warm, professional and supportive, like Bates' colleagues and her ex-policeman lover who does a lot of her investigative legwork (very convenient!)
Hannah, the protagonist whose interests Josie defends vehemently, has a difficult past and a very difficult present - she is the very definition of unreliable, since she suffers from mental illness. I found that aspect of her well depicted.
Bates is tied into the theme of the story through two separate emotional wounds in her past - her own unhappy relationship with her mother, and a case where she won with her defence of a killer who then went on to murder her (the killer's) own children. This was perhaps one too many angsts, but I forgave the author for the sake of the emotional focus it gave to the story. I will keep an eye open for more of these....more
This biography of Celia Franca has a lot of good points: it's well-researched, has a full bibliography and notes, and adds to what was already known,This biography of Celia Franca has a lot of good points: it's well-researched, has a full bibliography and notes, and adds to what was already known, particularly as the author had access to some oral history tapes by Franca that she would not allow use of during her lifetime.
Franca herself comes across as the complex kind of person you'd expect, with a consensus that she was unusually forceful of will, and not very loveable. Just the kind of person, in fact, who was right for the job of wading into a colonial backwater and starting up a major cultural institution - or, at least, one gets the impression that's how she viewed it. I knew little of her private life, so was interested in the story of her three husbands, her close friendship with ballet artist/designer (and book illustrator) Kay Ambrose, and her very difficult relationship with Betty Oliphant, the first head of the National Ballet School. I was also very interested by how she apparently allowed the even greater ego of Rudolf Nureyev defeat her, for the sake of her company. By and large Bishop-Gwyn does not attempt any armchair psychoanalysis, but simply lets the various quotations and stories she has accumulated speak for themselves.
All that said (and it is a very great deal in favour), I really, really wish the publishers of this book had indulged a little more in "the pursuit of perfection." The copy-editing, at least in the e-version I read, was atrocious. Every dozen pages or so there was a clanger like "principle" for "principal", "upmost" for "utmost", or misplaced commas after the subject of a sentence. Really? Not good enough. These things creep easily enough into first drafts, even from accomplished writers, but it's the publisher's job to banish them.
I read this in tandem with Alison Arngrim's (Nellie's) autobiography, but to tell truth, there was less to compare and contrast than I had expected, bI read this in tandem with Alison Arngrim's (Nellie's) autobiography, but to tell truth, there was less to compare and contrast than I had expected, because Anderson is so reserved that she represses most of her personal commentary in favour of recaps of the episodes of "Little House" in which she had a prominent role. Given that it was issued shortly after Melissa Gilbert and Arngrim published their memoirs, this had to be either (a) an attempt to refute the unflattering picture of Anderson from those memoirs or (b) an attempt to cash in on the Little House memoir trend. (A) was not attempted - Anderson apparently subscribes to not saying anything at all (or nearly) if you can't say anything nice - so it must be (b). And lord knows I've read enough cash-in-on-the-trend celebrity biographies, and they provide a certain amount of amusement so I don't hold that against her. Since she was older than the other two, she seems to have been more in Michael Landon's social circle, and has more to say about him, and about his on-set tussles with co-star Karen Grassle; this proved the most interesting part of this rather slight effort.
I'm in hopes that Anderson's reserve is in fact nothing more than shyness; I would hate to think that the lack of personal detail might be due to some private horror of the kind all too common amongst child stars....more
Having recently discovered my public library's e-book programme, I took the opportunity to read this and Melissa Sue Anderson's memoir in tandem. ThisHaving recently discovered my public library's e-book programme, I took the opportunity to read this and Melissa Sue Anderson's memoir in tandem. This is the better book; it is more frank and it's funnier, though perhaps a tad light on consideration for other living people's feelings in places. Still you've got to give the woman ample credit for surviving childhood sexual abuse and also the loss of dear friends to AIDS, and turning both of those into political activism. Good for her.
Enjoyed the breezy retelling of what must have been sometimes have been very irksome conditions (that painful wig!) on the Little House on the Prairie set. Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert (whose memoir I have yet to read) appear to have been the terrible tweenie twins, and I take with a fair-sized grain of salt her (their) patent dislike of the much more reserved - and older - Missy Anderson.
Good fun, and it brought back good memories of the TV show....more
I have had this on my "mildly interested" list for a few years now, and after reading it, I remain mildly interested. It is, as advertised, better wriI have had this on my "mildly interested" list for a few years now, and after reading it, I remain mildly interested. It is, as advertised, better written than most sports autobiographies, and this is doubtless partly because the ghost writer managed actually to prod or extract a fair bit of emotional detail out of his subject, and not just about the big wins, big losses, and major rivals.
The presence of that ghost writer, J.R. Moehringer, however, is also a stumbling block for me, and that's because I am never fully convinced I am hearing Agassi's own voice. Delightful as the carefully crafted repetition of themes, and well-structured narrative (rise, fall, rise again) can be, they do not sit easily with the story that is actually being told, which is that of a young man without formal education who is reluctantly and obsessively enfolded into a profession he dislikes, and sticks with it a long time at cost to his body until forced by said body to retire. Ironically, the Agassi we are told about is nowhere near as self-aware as his narrator; in fact, he's very much a "guy", chasing women, casually entitled to his good fortune and grumbling about the bad, and just generally proving that those who dislike him personally probably had some reasonable grounds, just as those who love him and remain loyal to him probably also have some reasonable grounds. Pretty ordinary, in fact. So where is the explanation of the extraordinary life? I doubt Agassi understands it any more than those of us not gifted with extraordinary talent or with the will (however reluctant) to reinforce that talent with obsessive training. So while we get plenty of the "guy" (getting himself kicked out of tournaments for swearing, for instance, or being in aggressive courting mode with Steffi Graf), we don't really get the sense he considers these things as anything more than good stories you would tell your ghost writer.
Would I therefore be more interested in Agassi's story as actually told by Agassi himself on all those tapes his writer has? Probably not. Did Mr. Moehringer's well-crafted piece of literature provide me with some enjoyment over the last couple of days? Yes, it did. And if I want to revisit the thrill of Agassi as I first encountered him when I was younger fan of tennis? Youtube. Definitely youtube. ...more
This is one of those books on which it is impossible to have an original opinion; however, as someone who has never actually watched a television adapThis is one of those books on which it is impossible to have an original opinion; however, as someone who has never actually watched a television adaptation, but nonetheless grew up in the television age, I must say I was repeatedly struck by how well this seemed as if it would adapt to TV. The set scenes, the easily distinguishable and quirky characters (but not so quirky that the major ones lost their humanity), the straightforwardly understandable plot of the three suitors (hello, Shakespeare!) - I pretty much read it with a 17-inch moving picture in my mind's eye. I'm very late in coming to Trollope, but I must say I have unexpectedly taken a liking to his combination of satire and compassion. He even makes us occasionally sympathize with the despicable Mr. Slope!
On the whole, I find Trollope's male characters considerably more successful than his female ones, depending, of course, on how you define success. Eleanor Bold doesn't get much room for action, other than slapping Mr. Slope's face and then anguishing over it; the fascinating bad woman, Madeline (Stanhope) Neroni, although she seems at first interesting in her combination of afflictions and wiles, doesn't get much beyond being a vamp and a schemer. The older women are essentially targets of satire only. The men have quite a bit more range, both in field of action and in the amount of interior description we are given - only to be expected, I suppose.
I wavered some time over whether or not to give this four stars - if there was a 3 1/2, I would cheerfully use it....more
This novel, where more and more people keep showing up at a closed-for-winter inn, each with his or her own agenda, is great fun and full of humorousThis novel, where more and more people keep showing up at a closed-for-winter inn, each with his or her own agenda, is great fun and full of humorous characters. Very much in the key of farce, with twists and turns all the way to the end - enjoyed it quite a bit....more