OK… upon further review… I upped my rating. I added an extra star to Erik Larson’s account of the sinking of the Lusitania. I know, who gives a damn?OK… upon further review… I upped my rating. I added an extra star to Erik Larson’s account of the sinking of the Lusitania. I know, who gives a damn? Well, apparently I do! We all have our own personal little rating system. Truth is, this was an excellent read. I originally gave it 3 stars, ranking it in behind my favorite books by Larson; “Devil in the White City” and “Isaac’s Storm.” And if you have not read Isaac’s Storm please pick it up. Larson is a wonderful classic plot constructionist and a crystal clear storyteller.
Dead Wake toggles chapter-by-chapter, back-and-forth reconstructing a critical game of cat and mouse. The German U-boat Schwieger and US Captain Turner are bound for a shared destiny and infamy. Larson does an admirable job describing the macro and micro context of submarine warfare and documenting the social highlife of the Lusitania. In juxtaposition, the sub's living conditions were wretched and the experience on the cruise ship were sublime and indulgent (pre torpedo!). And as fate would bare, the former was also victorious and the latter was bloody tragic. Larson tacks-on a conspiracy theory at the end of his book that purports Lusitania as a war pawn of Churchill. He clips off a run-list of evidence that indicates that Churchill knowing pulled a naval escort from the Lusitania. We all know Churchill was trying to goat America into his war, but I’m not at all convinced Churchill knowingly killed off 1,000’s of American and British civilians. If Larson fully believed that this was a vertical conspiracy of epic proportion, why did he not commit his entire story to uncovering this sensational plot? I'm sure Oliver Stone's screenwriters will play this card ;-). It was just a strange way to end an excellent book (hence the stutter-step on my rating). Read it and tell me what you think. You really can’t go wrong with Larson and Dead Wake. D...more
Grandin tells an incredibly well researched, comprehensive and at times fascinating story that encircles the entire history of Fordlandia. He also divGrandin tells an incredibly well researched, comprehensive and at times fascinating story that encircles the entire history of Fordlandia. He also dives deep into the corporate culture of Ford that first hatched, then mismanaged and ultimately abandoned Ford’s Utopia. The size and scope of Ford’s vision was staggering; a 2.5 million acre parcel of deep Brazilian jungle, envisioned by the 60 year old to become his rubber dynasty. Hints of a real life “Atlas Shrugged” come to mind. The root of the monstrous failure was Ford’s own hubris. His corporate dictate stubbornly enforced compliance to his christian, Midwestern values and his own universal assembly-line model of industry. Ford’s company town was a surreal and rigid import; an ultra-clean main street complete with white picket fences, a swimming pool, a square-dance hall and a 18-hole golf course. Soy milk (another Ford obsession) replaced most milk products and alcohol was strictly prohibited on the plantation. At the end of both his life and his legacy, Ford was knowingly investing millions into a colossal corporate cluster-fock. On the surface, Grandin’s book is concerned with the logistics of building a town and cultivating a huge foreign plantation. However, below the surface, we are rewarded with an excellent, classic, modern-day tragedy. A character study of Henry Ford’s life and philosophies held in stark contrast to his flagrant flaws. Ford’s founding principals all fail in the Amazon and his naivete is both personally polarizing and suicidal for his pet project. Adopt or die Henry! Grandin also weaves into this epic three excellent side-car stories; Diego Rivera’s Detroit Murals, Ford’s Greenfield Village and the founding of the UAW. Folks, this classic “Machine vs. Jungle” book has it all!; swarms of spiders, evil chemists, seed smugglers, river boat prostitutes, a brow-beaten son, tribal uprisings, vampire bats, massive crop infestations and grafted rubber trees...lots and lots of rubber trees!!!...more
An epic historical account of the building of the Panama Canal. One of man's largest turn-of-the-century engineering and medical feats. The story spanAn epic historical account of the building of the Panama Canal. One of man's largest turn-of-the-century engineering and medical feats. The story spans 30 years including both the French failure and Roosevelt’s victory. Critical to US Naval Superiority. Pivotal in the war on Yellow Fever and Miliaria. A great, great story told by a master. Anything and everything written by David McCullough is exceptional. There are few scenes within this multi-tiered masterpiece that are still haunting. For example, the head engineer looses his dear daughter and wife to Miliaria and in a moment of deep grief take his prize white stallions up into the hills and slaughters them. Spooky!
Side Note: I once bought a book online by mistake written by another "David McCullough." The topic was the Brooklyn Park System. The topic did not seem like such a stretch, the real David McCullough wrote the incredible, "The Great Bridge" about the infamous Brooklyn Bridge. Even his name sake can write. I took solace in thinking, hey I'd rather over-reach then miss one of his books... any of his books!...more
For the once thriving post Civil War steel town of Johnstown, this flood was an epic disaster of biblical proportions. The devastation wrought by theFor the once thriving post Civil War steel town of Johnstown, this flood was an epic disaster of biblical proportions. The devastation wrought by the ill fated mountain reservoir (and the faulty earth damn meant to keep it at bay) completely eliminated three valley towns in it’s path. The fifty foot high flood wall literally scoured the valley of all trace of a town, a person or a tree. McCullough, as always, captures the entire town-in-time and then takes us to the action through the eyes of the scrambling survivors. His story is so well researched and descriptive you would swear he must have been their — and you’ll swear you were their also. Read this book during the monsoon season for the full effect. 12/10/03...more
Taking me back to the 1920’s, land of “Only Yesterday” by Frederick Allen. In fact, Miller tips his hat at the 1930’s masterwork in an attempt to framTaking me back to the 1920’s, land of “Only Yesterday” by Frederick Allen. In fact, Miller tips his hat at the 1930’s masterwork in an attempt to frame the era in a more modern perspective and fill in some of the more obvious prejudices and prat falls. Miller can write and his story telling is excellent. Within most chapters, he is concise with a flair for only the most sizzling of facts. In a few early chapters he succumbed to detail and resorted to name dropping in an headlong attempt to cram in a full era of trivia. I’m sure the impulse is hard to resist. That minor bitch aside, this is a grand effort and a great book. I should read it again with each new decade. it will always be relevant, even 100 years later in 2020.
A credible and focused recap of all that has been written and researched on the Babe. However, I fault Montville for not going much beyond his main chA credible and focused recap of all that has been written and researched on the Babe. However, I fault Montville for not going much beyond his main character. He briefly colors his myopic biography with local events but fails to tell the social science study of why Ruth became so much more in the eyes of a troubled nation (War, Depression, etc.) I bet he described the infamous infidelity of Ruth 500 times... but alas, no details. If you are going to be preoccupied by a character flaw, dive into it my boy. Jan 17, 2006....more
After I finished this fantastic audio book, I looked it up on Amazon to buy a used hard copy. I was little chagrined to discover the original printingAfter I finished this fantastic audio book, I looked it up on Amazon to buy a used hard copy. I was little chagrined to discover the original printing date. Wow, this contemporary, quirky book -- that I just fell in love with -- was written 70 years ago. What a fun twist in time travel! Of course, three things aided the modern day allusion; first, it was read to me (on my ipod) by a modern audio book legend, Grover Gardner; Second, the setting is timeless, the remote wild's of the Canadian Arctic, and finally; I assumed the charming French-to-English translation was to blame for forcing just a hint of formality. Regardless, this classic adventure will stick to your ribs long after you have finished it. It is incredibly well written. It reads very fast for a book from the 40's. The story begins with Panches leaving Paris to live and study among the most remote tribal people on earth, the Canadian Arctic Inuits. For 15 months he moved among three remote Arctic tribes, living as they do, from day to day, absorbing their primitive, almost prehistoric, way of life. Their nomadic life was driven by hunger and thrashed about by the harsh laws of nature’s violent forces. In this barren sub zero land, the Inuit face the daily threat of starvation and exposure with great indifference. Past physically freezing to death, Panches biggest mental challenge turned out to be isolation. In addition, he had to reinvent his composure, severely modifying his natural inclinations with every Inuit interaction (several, life threatening). Panches describes his cunning effort in breaking through the cultural barrier; interpreting, in his words, “a truly primitive mind.” The book barks of some prejudice, but this was a man’s fair conclusion after keenly studying the unique Inuit mind and method (...in 1940). Light a fire, and read this adventure book during a cold snap. How cold? Cold enough to yank a 30 lb. fish out of the water and have it flash freeze before it skids across the ice. That’s cold baby!...more
Alpha Male personified; at his very best and his very worst. In terms of understanding World War II, missing the story of General MacArthur as SupremeAlpha Male personified; at his very best and his very worst. In terms of understanding World War II, missing the story of General MacArthur as Supreme Commander is like tripping over the importance of the Manhattan Project. He was a military genius under who’s sole command the Pacific allied force strategically gained victory over Japan. MacArthur exuded his title of “Supreme Commander.” He did not possess “delusions of grander”... there was no delusion, he was Grand and God Given... He knew it, we the American people knew it, and so did the Filipinos, Australians and Japanese. The 5-Star General commonly strode right through open bomb raids believing himself invincible. His rein in rebuilding Japan after the armistice was wild in scope and ingenious in both nation building and in spreading long term democracy. The title of Manchester’s book, “American Caesar”, is dead on. If you find that expression contradictory, you simply have not read his book. Manchester’s wonderful (and often funny) color commentary helps round out the vast comprehensive story of this engrossing and politically tragic hero. American Caesar feels like the definitive biography of MacArthur (... I confess, it is the only one I have read and maybe the only one I will read). And like the general, 5 stars! ...more
White wraps his master level talent around a wide-eyed Manhattan love story. A classic from the 1940’s, “Here is New York,” is well thought and well p White wraps his master level talent around a wide-eyed Manhattan love story. A classic from the 1940’s, “Here is New York,” is well thought and well penned. What was fundamentally true about New York City yesterday, is still true today and will likely be true again in 2040 when this little novella turns 100. Since any town is really a reflection of it’s people, White describes NY as three towns made up of three distinct groups. The first circle is the establishment, it includes those select families that keep guard of the famous (and infamous) institutions of New York City. The second set represent the public hordes of daily commuters, without this massive mobile workforce the city would screech to a halt. Finally, the magical third group, right-off-the-boat immigrants, domestic and foreign. Men and women arriving with nothing more then their robust hearts and minds. White romantically and justifiably concludes that without this third injection of new blood, new ideas, and new dreams, New York City would never be as colorful and successful as it is. He wraps up his charming tale dicing New York City up another way. He describes the 100’s of small micro towns within a town. Each 2-block-set is truly a self contained neighborhood as distinct and self contained as the smallest country hamlet. I live in downtown Chicago and this rang so true to me. This nostalgic classic short from EB White should be treasured for it’s turn of phrase and it’s timeless insight. ...more
An American hardship epic personified. We’ve all heard the story of the migrating families that lost their farm during the great climactic dust bowl oAn American hardship epic personified. We’ve all heard the story of the migrating families that lost their farm during the great climactic dust bowl of the southwest and the double punch of a national depression without a fail safe switch. But what about those sod-busters that stubbornly never left their newly turned land and just watched it blow away with their family futures and fortunes? Egan tells a desperate but necessary story about those that stayed behind. Their personal stories of death and survival read like a bitter war story. Egan also dives deep into the first national man made environmental crisis. An unheeded early warning sign of how man radically and irreparably changed the landscape and national weather conditions — sadly, at his own peril. The seeds of so many government problems and solutions were first dreamed up by Roosevelt and planted to help stem this early tide of misery. The hot button list goes on and on; land grants, farmer subsides, Indian reservations, government work programs, water conservation and the labor migration from farm to industry, etc. A lengthy and depressing story that strongly foreshadows our current ecological crisis. Alas, we did not learn from it (so, as the story goes) we are destined to repeat a version of the same grave error. This time it is called Global Warning caused by the same reckless greed and stupidity as the first... "worst hard time." And as the new crisis term indicates, we have mushroomed the mistake from a national to a global level.
Update: As I reread my old review with fresh eyes, it appears that I have depicted Egan's epic as a sad, dank affair. His writing is far from desperate. His character sketches elevate the noble, proud and ingenious characteristics of the men and women in his book. Egan's writing style is clever and crisp. For all the hardship presented, this book moves at a very fast clip. Throughout Egan has a modest flair for sarcasm and dry wit and an eye for the quirky nature of humans and towns. Trust me, he will charm you with his story. ...more
This is a classic World War II war story on par with, Solzhenitsyn’s, “Gulag Archipelago”. “Long Walk” was written in the 50’s, but comes to us at preThis is a classic World War II war story on par with, Solzhenitsyn’s, “Gulag Archipelago”. “Long Walk” was written in the 50’s, but comes to us at present so clean and sparse it feels almost contemporary (Cormac McCarthy style). And what a perfect timbre for a death march trough Siberia and the Gobi Desert! The story of the Russian Work Camp escape is sensational and needs little adornment. Still, Rawkz adds color and personality to the epic adventure and in doing so elevates it close to the zenith, 5 stars! I have so many questions already piling up about the true tale. Will we ever find out who the American was? Why did they not originally escape on skis? How much time did Rawkz invest in the investigation of the story? Is there a book about the book? Quick, I need to see a map! 8/29/08
Since reading this in 2008, I've stepped into a much heated debate on if the story is a fabrication. I understand that there is a book in the works that answers my curiosity. If the book was lie, what a whopper!...more