This book is an indispensable account of US misadventures in the Middle East, starting with the Carter Administration's abortive attempt to rescue AmeThis book is an indispensable account of US misadventures in the Middle East, starting with the Carter Administration's abortive attempt to rescue American hostages taken in Teheran at the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Bacevich's background (West Point, Colonel in the Army) contributes to the book's strength. Often details of battles seem like boring, if bloody, parts of history. Bacevich gives the details of military operations and deftly relates them to strategy and high politics. The result is a "thick" account of the events.
The entire saga is one of disaster, as Bacevich skillfully demonstrates. The US relied on its firepower and military technology to remake the region, and created disaster after disaster. Bacevich seems to advocate a policy analogous to George F. Kennan's "containment" that prevailed during the Cold War. However, due to the lack of any effective antiwar political force and the consensus of the two-party duopoly, Bacevich is pessimistic about any change in the ceaseless and expanding interventions in the Middle East, and now expanding into Africa.
Bacevich focuses less than many critics of US interventionism on the power of the Israeli and Saudi lobbies. With the insurgencies in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, the Palestine/Israel conflict has declined in saliency, and although it could heat up at any time, Bacevich is perhaps wise in not emphasizing it. He puts more emphasis on the interests of the various parts of the military-industrial complex in continuing its existence after the fading of the Soviet threat.
The whole thing is terribly sad, and reflects badly upon a political class and public intellectuals who have by now largely abandoned strategic thinking and simply accepted that this ongoing war so destructive of lives, reputations, and our culture, will continue, world without end.
This violent fecklessness is bound to have consequences, and they are not likely to be good....more
I liked this book in several ways, but I didn't entirely get it. It made a big splash in the 'Sixties, and there's something of a Walker Percy cult.
ItI liked this book in several ways, but I didn't entirely get it. It made a big splash in the 'Sixties, and there's something of a Walker Percy cult.
It's the story about a New Orleans man in the late '50s, from a somewhat wealthy family, who wanders somewhat aimlessly through life, going to movies and dating his secretaries. It's somewhat in the "Is this all there is?" existentialist vein, with a subtle dash of Roman Catholicism. And not a great deal happens.
The writing is fine, although it's hard to believe the first-person narrator would talk or write in quite so highfalutin' a manner. The descriptions of New Orleans and the characters are well-done, and one starts to get attached to some of the characters.
And yet . . . perhaps it's not surprising that my reaction to a "Is this all there is to life?" novel was, "Is this all there is to this novel?" I respect Walker Percy, but I'm not prepared to join his cult. Sorry, Rod Dreher. ...more
A friend recommended this series to me. Police procedurals set in Sicily. The hero is Montalbano, a bachelor detective (they usually are, just as heroA friend recommended this series to me. Police procedurals set in Sicily. The hero is Montalbano, a bachelor detective (they usually are, just as heroes in children's books are often orphans).
What to say. It moved along--a short read with heavily leaded lines. The Sicilian atmosphere was interesting, as are the culinary asides.
One odd bit is that some of the dialogue is in a sort of lower-class English. I assume in the original, it's Sicilian, which is a separate language from Italian. I'd like to see in the original.
Don't think I'll read the whole series, but I might pick one up again. ...more
This book is the first of the Lovejoy series of novels. Lovejoy is a randy and not-quite-scrupulous antique dealer. Here he has misadventures involvinThis book is the first of the Lovejoy series of novels. Lovejoy is a randy and not-quite-scrupulous antique dealer. Here he has misadventures involving a pair of Eighteenth Century dueling pistols. He's an interesting chap, and the niceties of the antique trade and Lovejoy's entertaining character make this a pleasant read even if the plot is a bit récherché.
Be prepared for a very English atmosphere--inedible food and unfamiliar locutions such as "gormless" and "duck egg." All quite exotic to this Yank....more
I listened to this book, and enjoyed it, in spite of the very far-fetched plot, involving art forgery in Venice.
I liked the very English flavor of theI listened to this book, and enjoyed it, in spite of the very far-fetched plot, involving art forgery in Venice.
I liked the very English flavor of the thing (men are "blokes," ladies are "birds," the protagonist "scarpers," usw, and the narrator (yes, I listened to this) does plausible versions of various class accents. I also liked the detail, accurate or not (who knows?) about the craft of art and antique forgery. The local Venetian color is interesting. I learned I lot I didn't know, about places like Torcello, a now mostly-deserted island that was quite prominent in its medieval heyday.
The main character, Lovejoy, is a randy sod who has dicey morals and gets into scrapes, his main passion being antiques and art. Something of an anti-hero, but not full-on picaresque. We are supposed to like him....more
This book, recommended to me by my sister, is a a challenging but masterful treatment of the history of how people, especially scientists and physiciaThis book, recommended to me by my sister, is a a challenging but masterful treatment of the history of how people, especially scientists and physicians, have dealt with cancer. It is full of data and accessible treatments of the science, and also of anecdotes personal to the author and about third parties.
As one who has had four different kinds of cancer and so far lived to tell the tale, I found this interesting. As one who likes to read about, but not do, science, I found it entertaining. A warning, though: this book is not a page-turner. It's a challenge, but worth the effort....more
This novel manages to create one of the most depressing atmospheres I have ever seen in literature. The setting is the Cristero wars in Mexico, and thThis novel manages to create one of the most depressing atmospheres I have ever seen in literature. The setting is the Cristero wars in Mexico, and the protagonist is a "whisky priest" in flight from the anti-clerical revolutionaries who control the state.
The unrelieved misery of the tropical doldrums is vividly conveyed, as is the bleak spiritual life of the priest. Notwithstanding his very real flaws, of course, the priest displays a kind of dogged nobility in spite of everything. Aside from the (to me) strange legalism of the Catholic tradition, the novel is a deep portrayal of the conflicts and ironies of spiritual struggle.
Don't read or listen to this book if you are looking for a mood uplift. It's bleak and dark....more
A Victorian novel set in London as the landed nobility copes with the rise of the finance capital class, including ambitious Jews. Like many 19th CentA Victorian novel set in London as the landed nobility copes with the rise of the finance capital class, including ambitious Jews. Like many 19th Century English novels, the theme is matrimony and how considerations of class, religion, money and the ideals of romantic love interact.
The novel was written and published in installments, and as with Dickens, one can tell. But the characters are interesting, the writing accessible, and the social changes it depicts of interest. ...more
I had neither read nor listened to anything by Austen, so in my eighth decade I decided to remedy this grievous fault by listening to Emma. The writinI had neither read nor listened to anything by Austen, so in my eighth decade I decided to remedy this grievous fault by listening to Emma. The writing is excellent, in a register we rarely use any more, and indeed, the vocabulary of the characters is highfalutin' by contemporary standards. I happen to enjoy that sort of thing.
Austen has an eye and ear for the rural gentry of her day and their foibles and virtues. It's fascinating to hear about who has a coach, who rides, and who walks, and what sort of things folks were sensitive about.
To be entirely fond of the novel, one would have to care more than I did about the intricacies of courtship and marriage at the time, though the balance between "attraction," a kind of romantic love, and economic calculation was of great interest to me. The setting being English, the niceties of class play an important part in the story, though this is no Downton Abbey--the servants are barely mentioned and play no part at all in the tale.
However, I'm a 20th Century guy in the 21st Century. It's hard to get entirely swept up in the question of who marries whom, what happens on a strawberry-picking party, or whether Emma can bear to leave her hypochondriac ("valetudinarian") father to marry.
So, the book is well-crafted, interesting in many ways, but at times became something of a slog. Still, I'm glad I read it.
This book retells the story of the Iliad, interlacing the results of his extensive readings in classical and Bronze Age studies, notably newly translaThis book retells the story of the Iliad, interlacing the results of his extensive readings in classical and Bronze Age studies, notably newly translated Hittite texts.
The majority view seems to be that Homer was writing of a real war, 500 years before his time. Imagine a contemporary epic about The Spanish Armada, between the Achaians, later known as Greeks, and Troy (Wilusa, cf Gk. "(F)Ilion"), a vassal or ally of the Hittites.
The author is well-informed and writes well, but unless you are a history or archeology buff, why not read Homer instead?...more
Caste, corruption, and capitalism are themes of this bitterly funny novel of contemporary India. In the form of a letter from the narrator to the PrimCaste, corruption, and capitalism are themes of this bitterly funny novel of contemporary India. In the form of a letter from the narrator to the Prime Minister of China, it recounts his rise from a poor village boy to prosperity as an entrepreneur in booming Bangalore.
The author is Indian, but grew up in Australia and was educated at Columbia and Oxford. I have no idea how this colors his view of India, but as he describes it, the place is fascinating, unjust, corrupt, filthy, and rapidly changing.
Of interest is the fact that the narrator is not particularly noble, although at times a certain humanity shines through. Some reviewers disliked a story told by a "bad guy," but I'm enough of a cynic, or realist, to think we are all mixtures of vices and virtues, and I find his class resentments, odd moralism, and deep cynicism fascinating.
I might also add that the book is written in a breezy style. It's a page-turner, not a slog, which is a relief after some of the stuff I've read lately....more
Marriage, some teach, is martyrdom. This is a story of a society marriage in the 19th Century, when New York society was staid and conventional, and aMarriage, some teach, is martyrdom. This is a story of a society marriage in the 19th Century, when New York society was staid and conventional, and a love the husband felt for the alluring Ellen Olenska.
Wharton is wonderfully perceptive about everything from diet to décor to finance. Her writing is lovely, old-fashioned enough to uplift, and smooth enough to draw one along.
To appreciate this book you have to accept its subtlety and restraint, and agree to care about the characters in their milieu. I did. These are the people who ruled us once. Louis Auchincloss wrote about their grandchildren.
Wharton is a fine writer. Roll over, Henry James....more