I'm sort of surprised I finished this book, as I am not a fan of the Earl of Essex, and I almost put it down anyway when the story opens with the hero...moreI'm sort of surprised I finished this book, as I am not a fan of the Earl of Essex, and I almost put it down anyway when the story opens with the hero coming off a month-long drunk. Yawn.
But I persevered, and John Lawley is a fun character to follow around, in spite of all the insane and oftentimes suicidal decisions he makes. The author does a good job with the place and the time, London circa 1599 and all the attendant paranoia that consumed the population at that time. Elizabeth is robust, Robert Cecil weasely, and the ensemble cast whether real or fictional strut and fret their hour upon the stage with vigor.
Recommended for anyone who likes historical novels, Shakespeare, or swordfighting. You'll even find out what a swashbuckle is.(less)
**spoiler alert** The bubonic plague returns in the modern day, with very few people left afterward to try to build some kind of life in the aftermath...more**spoiler alert** The bubonic plague returns in the modern day, with very few people left afterward to try to build some kind of life in the aftermath. I got this book because I saw the one-season BBC series of the same name and saw that it had been based on this book, and because dystopian sf is so prevalent now I wanted to see what Nation made of it in 1976.
I'm still of two minds about the two endings [spoiler alert!] --
The TV series was cancelled so the ending is a cliffhanger with almost everyone who matters to us still alive. The book ends on a much grimmer note, with pretty much everyone we like dead, and with everyone else on the beginning of a journey the ending of which we have no way to see. Just because Greg says, "We'll survive" doesn't mean they will. And the odds of Abby finding Peter at the end and being killed by him seem awfully long, and a little over the top. I don't know, though. In this future? Maybe not.
Worth reading. And pray nightly for the health of your infrastructure.(less)
Good writing, but again that book I loathe, a bunch of upper middle class Americans (Indian Americans this time) beweeping their outcast state. Great...moreGood writing, but again that book I loathe, a bunch of upper middle class Americans (Indian Americans this time) beweeping their outcast state. Great discussion book, though, we all had a lot to say about it.(less)
I read this book because it's on many "ten best mystery" lists. Originally published in 1977, it is an exemplar of noir, you can almost hear Humphrey...moreI read this book because it's on many "ten best mystery" lists. Originally published in 1977, it is an exemplar of noir, you can almost hear Humphrey Bogart's voice-over. But there is far too much going off on tangents that are great for establishing the voice (over and over again, she said a little jadedly), and there is no one to like, no character I can root for. "Noir" means black in French, and this book is both black and bleak in outlook. Maybe I'm meant to be cheered by the two brothers sitting down together at the end. But I wasn't.
Very well written, but best read with warm milk and cookies to hand. And, you know, when you put it down, pick up that half-finished Brother Cadfael novel to alleviate your inevitable depression.(less)
The third in McKinty's trilogy featuring peeler (aka Royal Ulster Constabulary police detective) Sean Duffy in Northern Ireland in the early '80s, a f...moreThe third in McKinty's trilogy featuring peeler (aka Royal Ulster Constabulary police detective) Sean Duffy in Northern Ireland in the early '80s, a fraught and dangerous time of Maze hunger strikes and IRA bombings and then, of course, the murder cases Sean must work and solve. None of them ends very satisfyingly for him but this is a three-book flash photo of the time that you will not be able to forget, with walk-ons by historical figures like Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley, John Delorean, JFK's nephew Joe Kennedy and even Margaret Thatcher.
This book builds the trilogy to a big finish, in which Sean is required to solve a cold case murder to stop an IRA assassination, with the most horrifying moment in it a quiet conversation at the end that makes you realize how bittersweet the title really is. Well worth reading.(less)
On April 5, 1976, a white man attacked a black man with an American flag on a pole. By great good luck -- or bad, depending on your point of view -- B...moreOn April 5, 1976, a white man attacked a black man with an American flag on a pole. By great good luck -- or bad, depending on your point of view -- Boston's Herald American photographer, Stanley Forman, was standing in the right place at the right time -- or wrong, see above -- with his finger on the shutter of his camera. The resulting photograph was reprinted around the world and won the Pulitzer Prize, and pretty much stopped busing in Boston dead in its tracks.
This book tells the story behind the photograph. Who was the white man with the flag? Who was the black man being attacked? Who were all those white students and why were they so mad? Who was the photographer, and how did he get that shot, and how did he almost lose it, and why is the caption so important? Why was Boston, previously known as "the cradle of liberty," suddenly such a hotspot for racial inequality and the civil rights movement? And why was this photograph, out of so many documenting white-on-black abuse at that time, why did this one imprint itself so strongly on the nation's psyche? Masur writes
Many of the most notorious images of racial violence involve police brutality--the authorities using excessive force against African Americans....In contrast, Forman's shot captures one citizen attacking another. And it was not just any violent assault, but one that employed the American flag as a weapon--in the year of the nation's Bicentennial, no less."
This is a fascinating study of a single image that reverberates back to other images, including Joe Rosenthal's "Flag Raising on Mt. Suribachi." "It seemed," writes Masur
...as if one could write a history of the nation's decline in the thirty one years between [Rosenthal's photograph and Forman's]. Not merely the busing crisis but a general sense of malaise afflicted the country in the mid-1970s. Whatever economic and social progress had been made in the 1950s and '60s seemed stalled. Americans suffered through Vietnam and they suffered through Watergate, two crises that raised fundamental questions about patriotism and the vitality of the nation. People felt lost, and into that sense of dislocation entered Forman's shocking photograph that seemed to confirm the worst nightmares over the fate of the country.
Masur also points out the positively eerie similarities between Forman's photograph and and Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre. Where, it must be remembered, one of the victims was a black man named Crispus Attucks.
You'll learn a little about how to "read" photographs, too. Highly recommended.(less)
Excellent overview of a people, place and time, even if I do suspect that Lewis is a wee bit undiscriminating in her love of her subject. It begins wi...moreExcellent overview of a people, place and time, even if I do suspect that Lewis is a wee bit undiscriminating in her love of her subject. It begins with a brief history
In 1390, however, Sultan Bayezid began his conquests in Asia Minor. His Muslim troops were unwilling to fight their co-religionists, whom, anyway, they could not loot with a clear conscience...
Eight concise chapters (the book is only 197 pages long) follow which concern themselves with government
A request for the investigation of the surreptitious fixing of pipes and taps to divert public water for private consumption was sent to the Superintendent of Waterways and the Cadi of Istanbul; a command to warn off the poachers who had been stealing the exclusively royal fish from the waters near Bursa was sent to the Cadi of that town, and to the Cadi of Istanbul a complaint about the requisitioning for postal couriers of the horses and mules belonging to guests of a kahn, thereby scaring off customers with consequent loss of revenue, concluding 'This must stop!'...
Writing of any kind, originally revered by the illiterate because it might be the Koran or was at any rae in the same script as the Book, became a charm of the greatest magic.
and civil life
All the markets, covered and uncomvered, were constantly patrolled by inspectors of weights and measures, and in Istanbul the Chief Inspector was the Grand Vizier himself, who made a circuit of the markets each Wednesday in the company of the Chief Cadi and the Agha of the Janissaries, and on two other days independently, to enure the proper observance of the craft and trade regulations and to punish anyone found guilt of infringing them.
Below which paragraph is an illustration of a street-trader being beaten for selling short weight. The Ottomans were no believers in justice delayed.
In the chapter on family life we learn that Girls were married without either their consent or their approval, and boys were not much consulted either, and that the midwife brings her own birthing chair, the appearance of which signals the menfolk of the household to remove themselves. The year progressed from one Muslim holy day to the next, and, interestingly, few men lived at leisure.
The exercise of some skill was considered an honourable duty, to such a degreee that every Sultan was obliged to learn a craft.
I remember our guide in Marrakesh last year, a jovial man named Mohammed, walked us around the city right through noon prayers, and when we asked he said firmly, "Work is prayer, too."
It is impossible, writes Lewis
to over-estimate the importance in the social structure of the role of the guilds...The guilds of beggars, prostitutes, pickpockets and thieves, who paid their taxes to the police and observed faithfully the discipline of their organisations, were among the oldest established and dated from well before Ottoman times. The guild of thieves also acted as a kind of clearing-house for 'lost' property: when a man had been robbed he made representations to their sheikh, offering a sum of money for the safe return of his valuables. If the price was fair and the thieves had nothing against the man, his property was enquired for, collected, and returned to him.
And then Lewis moves out into Anatolia and the provinces. The Ottoman overlords practiced a kind of benign neglect when it came to territory not right under their actual gaze, so long as those territories paid their taxes.
The book ends with a brief but comprehensive glossary. Altogether the most efficient account of a six-hundred year empire I've ever read.(less)
Okay, now I'm all worried about that one star I just gave this book, so I changed it to two stars. It is well written, but it's the most meditative ac...moreOkay, now I'm all worried about that one star I just gave this book, so I changed it to two stars. It is well written, but it's the most meditative account I've ever read of bank robbery and murder, and there is something in bank robbery and murder that does not love a meditative viewpoint. At least for me. Dell, the fifteen-year old boy and first-person narrator feels so distanced from life that it's sort of a shrug to watch all this through his eyes. I'm furious with his idiot parents, and not much more pleased with his twin sister who abandoned him, and then the ghastly Arthur Remlinger who uses him I still don't know to what purpose. Certainly not for Dell's skill with a shovel.
I wish some mention had been made of Marcus Agrippa's map, made of stone and in the Roman Forum for all to see from 5 A.D. on, but otherwise an exhaus...moreI wish some mention had been made of Marcus Agrippa's map, made of stone and in the Roman Forum for all to see from 5 A.D. on, but otherwise an exhaustive (and on occasion exhausting) examination of how map makers created physical representations of the world we live in, many with kings and popes looking over their shoulders, which could and did affect what was shown to be at the center of the world and where the borders went (see page 375, one of many propaganda maps made by Nazi Germany). A book made for map geeks like me who skim until a name like Eratosthenes or al-Idrisi jumps out. Lavishly illustrated, you can spend a lot of time drooling over the maps and wishing you could pinch them out.(less)