Some interesting bits, particularly the general thrust that attempting to escape was somewhat of an ongoing game for captured soldiers ... a remnant,Some interesting bits, particularly the general thrust that attempting to escape was somewhat of an ongoing game for captured soldiers ... a remnant, in a way, of the dying old way of fighting wars ... the Napoleonic structure of it, where gentlemen officers lead the massed underclasses and treat opposing officers with a sense of respect. There was, it seems, little risk in escape attempts. The, therefore, took on elaborate structures, absurd role playing elements, a way for bored young men to pass time. In a way, this book shows the kind of innocence and "jolly-good-old-chap" back slapping that was crushed on the anvil of two world wars.
I was hoping for more though. Insights into what the camps were like, a more refined writing, insights into the psychology of captive and captor. Unfortunately, Grinnell-Milne writes with little perspective on the meaning of the age, the transformations that are happening in society, or even acknowledging the horrors of the front lines. He mentions Mons, the Somme, etc, in passing without flinching as his generation is entombed in their trenches....more
A 5 star rating, hmm? Well, know that I'm predisposed to like this for many reasons - early aviation, pioneering, Patagonia, a paean to duty, a deep aA 5 star rating, hmm? Well, know that I'm predisposed to like this for many reasons - early aviation, pioneering, Patagonia, a paean to duty, a deep appreciation for the impossibly resonant liminal moment, etc. Oh, and it's short - 87 pages. I love short books.
A few passages to illustrate:
The director on a pilot turning back when light and machine fail him at the edge of the cordillera - "I am saving him from fear. I was not attacking him but, across him, that stubborn inertia which paralyzes men who face the unknown. If I listen and sympathize, if I take his adventure seriously, he will fancy he is returning from a land of mystery, and mystery alone is at the root of fear. [...] This man must enter the inmost heart of night, that clotted darkness, without even his little miner's davy, whose light, falling only on a hand or wing, suffices to push the unknown a shoulder's breadth away."
And the pilot, accepting the inevitable, climbs above the clouds - "In a flash, the very instant he had risen clear, the pilot found a peach that passed his understanding. [...] Now all grew luminous, his hands, his clothes, the wings, and Fabien thought that he was in a limbo of strange magic [...] The clouds beneath threw up the flakes the moon was pouring on them; on every hand they loomed like towers of snow. A milky stream of light flowed everywhere, laving the plane and crew."
And, finally, the director on continuation, duty, the value of work - "Victory, defeat - the words were meaningless. Life lies behind these symbols and life is ever bringing new symbols into being. One nation is weakened by a victory, another finds new forces in defeat. Tonight's defeat conveyed perhaps a lesson which would speed the coming of final victory. The work in progress was all that mattered." ...more
I had assumed this would be a breezy, populist read ... looking at Seabiscuit as a Disney-fied work. I was surprised to find a serious amount of reseaI had assumed this would be a breezy, populist read ... looking at Seabiscuit as a Disney-fied work. I was surprised to find a serious amount of research and compelling writing. This is not heavy history by any means, but it's not a trivial feel good work either; given Laura Hillenbrand's pedigree, it's not surprising. This has the quality of the best long form journalism in the New Yorker and other such publications. Good enough that I'll now make my way to Seabiscuit.
Again, right in my sweet spot: athleticism (Zamperini was an Olympic runner and one of the pre-war miler's that made the 4 minute barrier look permeable), survival (in air, at sea, as a POW), endurance of body and indomitable strength of mind (or "spirit" if that's your bent). ...more
I expected a focus on the physical landscape, but this looks at Patagonia through the human and mythological landscape. Unfolds as sort of a CanterburI expected a focus on the physical landscape, but this looks at Patagonia through the human and mythological landscape. Unfolds as sort of a Canterbury Tales, a skein of interwoven stories. The best summary comes from the introduction: Chatwin "told not a half truth, but a truth and a half." It is a work of accumulation - glacial may be a good analogy, he carves into the story making space for displaced deposits. ...more
JG Ballard meets Heart of Darkness. Maybe some Thomas Bernhard mixed in. Herzog is compelling writer and stylist, as anyone that's seen his documentarJG Ballard meets Heart of Darkness. Maybe some Thomas Bernhard mixed in. Herzog is compelling writer and stylist, as anyone that's seen his documentaries knows from his narration. His closing line, perhaps, sums up the book best: "the river flowed by in majestic indiffernce and scornful condescension, ignoring everything: the plight of man, the burden of dreams, and the torments of time." Though don't let this lead you to believe it's solely morose; Herzog's incredible passion for living and his humor are also evident. With straight face delivery he slips from musing on the profane abundance of nature ("the jungle revels in debauched lewdness") to stating that "the notion that fish dance preoccupies me." ...more
Apparently there was a time when this story was known to most Americans - filtered into culture through many popular channels. Moby Dick, famously, buApparently there was a time when this story was known to most Americans - filtered into culture through many popular channels. Moby Dick, famously, built to a climax inspired by the story, though the failure of the book to reach a contemporary audience makes it more historically interesting than pertinent to the period described.
Qualifies for the description "ripping yarn." I'm hard pressed to imagine a greater horror than the complete physiological and psychological decay of drifting for 90 days in an open whaleship. More so than being stuck on land, the featureless, monumental but monumentless vastness of poorly charted sea would unroot you from reality.
Humanity vanishes, but the biological imperative of clinging to life is unfathomably deep. ...more