I've seen the film many times but just now read the book. The book and the film are closer to each other than is the case with The Big Sleep which the...moreI've seen the film many times but just now read the book. The book and the film are closer to each other than is the case with The Big Sleep which the film absolutely changes.(less)
Picked this up on a whim and was initially bored: too many dates, not enough people. But I really got into it. The author argues that Venice was not t...morePicked this up on a whim and was initially bored: too many dates, not enough people. But I really got into it. The author argues that Venice was not the oligarchy most have assumed because there were no hereditary rulers but an elected Doge whose sons could not inherit his position. Elections were carried out by an elaborate series of committees working one after another, organized in such a way that no one person could either dominate or or form a clique to so. Furthermore there were multiple ways in which common people could work themselves into the governing bodies so Venice was not just a rich man's empire. And there was no nobility.
Venice, which during much of its existence was an empire including much territory in what is now northern Italy, land across the Adriatic, islands like Crete, even Constantinople at one point, was primarily a business and made decisions deliberately and with both eyes to the future. Venice's business was ship building and trading, mostly around the Med. But you remember Marco Polo? He was the younger son of a wealthy Venetian merchant to traveled to China and later when he languished in jail during one of the wars with Genoa, he wrote about it.
Venetians were sailors and businessmen who governed themselves without a King or Sultan and whose government lasted longer than Rome. It was Napoleon who shut it down in the name of the ideals of the French Revolution and demanded it release all its political prisoners (there were now).
This is a very upbeat history (biog.) of an empire and a city and it ends with a plea for preservation (and hopes for fewer tourists and cruise ships). I'm no specialist in the history of this region, but I enjoyed the book enormously.
Truely a book which straddles the fence between a novel and a memoir,and succeeds brilliantly in y opinion. A memoir doesn't always have a central ide...moreTruely a book which straddles the fence between a novel and a memoir,and succeeds brilliantly in y opinion. A memoir doesn't always have a central idea of theme and this one really does: his mother's suicide and coming to terms with it, a process in which I suspect this book played an important part. We learn relatively early that his mother committed suicide when he was 12 and that as soon as he could get away, he left his father and joined to Kibbutz to be another kind a Jew in Israel, not a booking, intellectual ultra observation with roots in Eastern Europe but an energetic, liberal agricultural worker,the kind who, it seemed to him was really going to build the new country of Israel. After all his was born in Israel, lived as a child through the war for independence and played on the borders in Jerusalem as a growing boy. He considered Hebrew his native language. He doesn't say whether he learned Russian but it seems his parents could talk in that language when they didn't want him to understand.
One of the most interesting parts of this European backstory was his mother's school days in a Hebrew school in Rovno (which was first Poland then then Russia (Ukraine). (The government evidently encourage the Hebrew schools, hoping that the Jews would immigrate.) this part is told from the point of view of, her younger sister Sonia who almost becomes the narrator in this part and brings the reader much closer to this part of Oz's heritage than any other. I found it brilliantly managed.
The early part of the book lays out that Eastern European background which was his heritag, the writers, the intellectuals, the books, the ideas as well as the places and the people. Both sides of the family were Zionists who watched and waited and then immigrated to Israel in the 30ies. One brother of his father chose to stay in Vilnius because he had a good university position and hoped for advancement and he and his family disappeared in the Holocaust. They were all relatively poor in Israel and like so many immigrants stuck to their own kind in the new country. (I found the descriptions of Jerusalem and to some extent Tel Aviv where his mother's sisters lived, interesting too since I've never been to Israel.)
Gradually the mother is mentioned more and more but the reader never really understands what happened to her until the very end which is carefully plotted and very emotional—brilliantly sustained suspense and emotion, much more like a novel than a memoir.
I've never read any of Oz's fiction but I probably will now. By the way, in rebelling against his family, he changed his name from Klausner to Oz because it meant powerful, I presume NOT like the Wizard of Oz.(less)
Good but not as good as the older Rebus books. I'm getting a little tired of the drunken bad boy cop who's nevertheless effective and innovative—and f...moreGood but not as good as the older Rebus books. I'm getting a little tired of the drunken bad boy cop who's nevertheless effective and innovative—and far more moral than either his colleagues or his opponents assume. Besides Harry Hole has eclipsed Rebus in that role. Time for Rankin to find a new hero (or antihero as Rebus and Hole really are). (less)
I thought nothing could be as good as Master of the Senate, and maybe not, but I really enjoyed this one. I like that he separated Johnson's presidenc...moreI thought nothing could be as good as Master of the Senate, and maybe not, but I really enjoyed this one. I like that he separated Johnson's presidency into the transition and then his own term, if only to be able to highlight the good parts (in this book) from the bad ones (in the next book) when LBJ's domestic agenda was overwhelmed by the war in Vietnam. (less)
I loved this one. Ironically I had just read Vol 4 of Robert Caro's LBJ biography where he too describes the events of Nov 20-25. Knowing of the frict...moreI loved this one. Ironically I had just read Vol 4 of Robert Caro's LBJ biography where he too describes the events of Nov 20-25. Knowing of the friction between Robert Kennedy and LBJ and LBJ's combination of disdain and diffidence vis a vis the Eastern Establishment, I expected Manchester to treat LBJ differently, perhaps disparagingly, but that was not so. He didn't focus on LBJ much, except in the scenes at Parkland Hospital and on the plane home, but he recognized his good qualities and his appropriate reactions to the situation.
But of course LBJ was a minor character in this one. I thought I knew the story of those days well. I was in my first year of grad school in Nov 1963. I learned of the shooting at the water fountain outside my office on a quiet Friday afternoon. There was radio in the background and profs gathering to talk in the halls and I heard from them. My husband and I didn't have TV so that first night we went to the Union to stand at the back of the crowd around the TV. We heard (on the radio) rather than saw Oswald being shot and that evening decided to drive home to stay with our parents (who did have TV) since it didn't look like the University would be open until after Thanksgiving. At home like everyone else we watched the TV for hours. Mostly I remember the funeral, the riderless horse, the muffled drums, like John's salute, Jackie's black mantilla.
Caro had reported on what went on at Parkland Hospital and the trip home on Air Force One (which Manchester calls 26000 as did its pilot, Col. James Swindel). But I knew absolutely nothing about the goings on in DC after the return (except what LBJ did). I knew nothing about the meandering mourners in the White House, the plans for the funeral (using those of Lincoln and FDR as models), the discussions and disagreements concerning everything from where to bury Kennedy to the fact that Ted Kennedy had no dress pants and had to have the tailor let out JFK's pants for him to wear to the funeral.
The detail in this book is legend. Manchester follows the events of those 6 days to the smallest detail: the quarrel among the Texas congressional delegation which drove JFK nuts, the need for a coffin quick in Dallas and how it got damaged getting it on to the plane, How much of what sleeping drugs the President's doctor gave to Jackie and other family members who needed sleep, how hard it was to find someone who could craft an eternal flame and how worried they were that something would go wrong when Jackie lit it, even the details on how Swindle dipped the wing of 26000 as he joined the flyover at Arlington on Monday.
I'm sure this book will be read for years and years, not just by those of us who remember the assassination of JFK (and put off reading the book for until 50 years after the event) but to historians and anyone interested in Kennedy or the 20th century far into the future. (less)
Loved this one. Extremely well researched and yet informally written. Illuminates the French Revolution, sugar planting on Haiti, race in 18th century...moreLoved this one. Extremely well researched and yet informally written. Illuminates the French Revolution, sugar planting on Haiti, race in 18th century France, Napoleon's exhibition to Egypt, the history of Malta and much more.
Just finished The Black Count. About the father of Alexander Dumas who was born in Haiti, the son of a French aristocrat and a black woman. Who became a very successful general in the army, hated by Napoleon, in part because Dumas was a fine figure of a man who towered over him. Book was very well researched but with scads of documentation but still not a scholarly book. Author moves seamless even charmingly between a detached, historical POV and the first person. Illuminates history O&G the French Revolution and it's relationship with the American one. Also racial attitudes in the period when revolutionary France moved a literal interpretation of all men are equal back to discrimination against blacks. Period attitudes toward slavery are interesting. Never, until sugar planting in Caribbean were slaves taken because they were an inferior race. Plenty of slavery before result of defeat in battle. (less)
Excellent book. Heavy emotional overtones, but the author never promised a straight-forward history. I've been fascinated by Israel for a long time bu...moreExcellent book. Heavy emotional overtones, but the author never promised a straight-forward history. I've been fascinated by Israel for a long time but lately been more and more critical. The Wall is horrifying ( we're building a wall--even here in Texas--to keep the Mexicans out, but I don't like that either and believe both will go the way of the Berlin Wall). Shavit calls Israel now a colonizing power in a age when colonialism's light has gone out.
The book begins with Shavit's Great Grandfather, a well-to-do English Jew, arrives in Palestine to "scope out" the land as a homeland for the Jews, for the Zionist movement. He and many others recognized that Jews were unwelcome in Europe and though he and many like him had done well in England, the only way to thrive going forward would be to assimilate as many Jews were doing all over Europe already. He foresaw that in a few generations they would intermarry and lose their Jewishness. A Jewish homeland was the answer. The problem was, the problem which started way back there in the 19th century, was that the visiting Jews did not "see" that the land was already occupied, any more than the Conquistadors did not "see" that Peru was already occupied.
It's a powerful image which Shavit comes back to again and again as he both celebrates what the Zionists made of Israel and recognizes that they will not survive unless they deal with the current problems. One is that huge numbers of residents don't contribute to the society. The ultra orthodox Jews who won't even serve in the military and maybe don't pay taxes either (I may be wrong about that). And the Arabs who are a subjugated people in their homeland but who with a different social and governmental structure, would have much to contribute.
What it seemed to me (perhaps naively) was that he seems to think (as any thinking person must) that Israel would work best if all its citizens were equal and contributed to the whole. No walls. No occupied and occupier classes. But at the same time, he can't quite give up the "Jewish state" idea, even as he recognizes that Arabs will outnumber Jews in a few years. I've always thought there was no hope for a two-state solution but one state without walls is another story. Not that Israeli political elite are likely to go in that direction.... Shavit writes this book partly out of frustration because he too sees that.
The Zionists didn't explicitly see The Third Reich coming, but they did feel at a crossroads. And while WWII gave their dream a reality, that reality was not a well-thought-out plan and only because of the utter chaos in Europe at the end of WWII, with millions homeless, and no one ready to step in with the solution, did it become a solution for the displaced Jews of Europe, most of whom would rather have gone somewhere else more urban, more "civilized" had they only been welcome.
First of all I read it in English, The Infatuations, but could not find the translation in English. As contemporary novels go this one is excellent, p...moreFirst of all I read it in English, The Infatuations, but could not find the translation in English. As contemporary novels go this one is excellent, primarily because it's different. It' said thoughtful, even philosophical novel, not that it's propounding a philosophy but that it encourages the reader to do consider doing so.
First of all I read it in English, The Infatuations, but could not find the translation in English. As contemporary novels go this one is excellent, primarily because it's different. It' said thoughtful, even philosophical novel, not that it's propounding a philosophy but that it encourages the reader to do consider doing so.
At first I thought this was a stupid book, maybe one more love story.
Aside: I must say that I'm not into fiction that much these days, especially fiction by Anglo women. Clearly a prejudice. I used to think there couldn't be enough books by women. Now I think there are too many and too many alike. I find myself drawn these days, if to fiction, then to fiction of writers who are not Anglo (meaning from the US, Canada, UK or Australia/NZ though I recognize many of those are not Anglo-) A clever plot. Well written. So what?
Back to The Infatuations. Written by a man with a female narrator. A Spanish man. Maria, the main character, begins by talking about the "perfect couple" she sees every morning as she sits in the coffee shop before going to work. They are both good looking and seem genuinely wrapped up in each other. Well dressed, the kind of people she knows. She doesn't really know anything about them but she envies them.
Then she finds out that the man (Miguel and his wife is Luisa) was killed in a terrible attack where he was stabbed many times and must have suffered considerably.
A scene in Luisa's house where they go after they've introduced themselves in the coffee shop and Maria wants to be helpful to Luisa: While Maria is there some friends stop by, a professor and another man, Javier, to whom she is instantly attracted. He's introduced as Miguel's best friend and clearly he's trying to help Luisa recover and take care of her home and children.
Then Maria starts an affair with Javier who makes it clear he's always been in love with Luisa and intends to marry her when she gets over the death of her husband. Maria really cares about him but tries to remain detached because she's convinced he's "taken".
Up to this point I don't see much hope for this novel. Where can it go from here? Some domestic, romantic tale? I hope not. It's a book group book and I already feel guilty because I refused to read the selection before (and I'm supposed to the the group leader).
Back to the plot: Maria is at Javier's apartment and they've fallen asleep after lovemaking. The doorbell rings and Javier gets up, assuming she's still asleep. He closes the bedroom door but she's curious so, without letting him know she's awake, she overhears some of the conversation. Enough to assume that Javier instituted the murder of his best friend whose wife he adores.
From this point on the story becomes a philosophical one, focusing on love and friendship and guilt and honor and loyalty. At this point I realize that we've moved from a plot driven novel to one that has another dimension, And at first I don't know what to make of it. Maria finds it hard to believe that Javier can actually have committed murder, or hired someone to do it, let alone such a vicious murder. But she doesn't know him that well....
So I'm hooked. At least it's not another so sincere but boring romantic tale. I recommend it. Not a long book. You'll enjoy it.
Harder to explain is this aversion I seem to have to most fiction these days. Maybe it's my age. I've heard so many readers say that they read less and less fiction as they grow older, even though they still read a lot. That seems to be happening to me. Mostly I want to read history and let one book lead me to another, not read what the book groups want me to read.
The best novels I've read lately (Chimamanda Ngozi's Americanah and Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son) take me into worlds I don't know, haven't experienced. I love the romance in each of them though romance is not the point of either. So I'm not down on romance per se and none of the novels I don't want to read would be classified as romance novels anyway....