An extremely solid, well researched, and well written biography about one of the few "common men" who have risen to the Presidency. A son of farmers,An extremely solid, well researched, and well written biography about one of the few "common men" who have risen to the Presidency. A son of farmers, Truman was a solid line officer in World War I, but did little that would show the kind of future he was to have. An unsuccessful businessman, a moderately successful local politician, and the product of Boss Pendergrast's Kansas City machine, Harry Truman turned out to be so much more than his background.
What may have been the most surprising part of this book for me was discovering the easy racism of the middle west at the turn of the century was a part of what made Truman. He was a young man who used terms like "nigger" and "kike" in daily language and in jokes. But he turned into a man who pushed for civil rights legislation, who was the first president to address the NAACP, who recognized the state of Israel, and whose close friend and business partner was Jewish. He also was a man who was outraged to hear that a heroic war casualty had had his burial interrupted by the cemetery committee in Missouri because he was "not caucasian". He was in fact a Native American. Truman used his power as president to have the man buried at Arlington and his family flown to the service at government expense.
McCullough is a fine writer, and as was the case in his books on Adams and the Revolutionary War, his talents are put to use here to give a complete description of the man, strengths and weaknesses, who had the Presidency thrust upon him, and served his country well in one of its most trying times. An ordinary man, who rose to extraordinary heights. An insightful and enjoyable book. ...more
I have always liked the Rumpole short stories, but I find that he wears a little thin in the novel format. Still, a good story, reasonable plotted, anI have always liked the Rumpole short stories, but I find that he wears a little thin in the novel format. Still, a good story, reasonable plotted, and with all the usual Rumpole supporting characters, including She Who Must be Obeyed, the incredible Timson clan, and a variety of other members of the bar. Enjoyable, but not one of Mortimers best...more
A very, very funny performance by Billy Collins. While I enjoy his work on the page, when you hear him read, it adds a whole new dimension to the workA very, very funny performance by Billy Collins. While I enjoy his work on the page, when you hear him read, it adds a whole new dimension to the work. I listened to this on a drive across New Hampshire, and laughed almost nonstop. An extremely entertaining offering. My favorites include The Lanyard, Revenant, The Trouble with Poetry, and Night Club. ...more
A remarkable collection of elegantly written short stories, that are linked together in time and place. I did not know Gallaghers work before readingA remarkable collection of elegantly written short stories, that are linked together in time and place. I did not know Gallaghers work before reading this book, but was not at all surprised to find that she is a poet. Several of her stories felt like poems to me. In particular the first, which almost seems like a sonnet, with no wasted words at all and a turn midway through that I found to be completely unexpected. A real delight. ...more
An engaging blend of mystery, science, fantasy and Chinese mythology that takes place in a unique and totally believable world. The principal characteAn engaging blend of mystery, science, fantasy and Chinese mythology that takes place in a unique and totally believable world. The principal character is a detective in the Singapore police station who has the ability to move between the real world and the afterlife. His wife is a demon who has escaped the underworld to be with him. The following paragraph about her comes from early in the book.
"She thought back to the market: a marvelous place, filled with lights. When evening began to draw closer, the lamps that hung from the high beams of the market came on, sending shadows across the green mounds of pak choi and cabbage; gleaming from the glistening sides of carp and mullet. Clutching the bag containing the teakettle, Inari had walked in a trance through the coolness of the fish stalls; sensing the flickering, newly released spirits all around her as they snapped their tails and swam towards a different sea. The meat section had, in turn, been filled with the vast, bewildered shades of cattle: stepping delicately across the blood-wet floor to where the shadowy avatar of Wei Lo, lord of the herds, waited with infinite, enduring patience. Their presence, and their acceptance of their fate, had saddened Inari, and she moved on, among the stalls where the vegetables were stacked in rows and the air was redolent of earth and greenness and growing, sunlight and storms. Inari bent over the leafy bales of kale, and tasted rain"(24-25)
I like everything about this including the use of language (tasted rain), her descriptions, and the notion of freed spirits moving about a food market and swimming toward a "different sea". Its a fascinating look at the nexus between this world and the afterlife. This is an author well worth reading. I'll be looking for more of her work....more
A remarkable piece of work. Parks use of language and the way she sets up staging and stage direction really appealed to me. The first and last scenesA remarkable piece of work. Parks use of language and the way she sets up staging and stage direction really appealed to me. The first and last scenes in particular almost read/sounded like a villanelle, with a lot of rhyme and repetition. On the other hand, its not clear to me the purpose of having the scenes in reverse order, or having scenes that consist solely of a list of the previous scenes.
The subject is more difficult for me to come to terms with. This is a play based on the story of the "Venus Hottentot" an African woman who was displayed on stages in London and Paris largely due to her prominent buttocks. So we deal with elements of racism and gender bias both.
Parks draws Venus as a complex person, at times she is a heartbreaking character, and at time she comes across as just as manipulative as the people who use her. The scenes in which she is measured by the doctors from point to point take objectification to a whole new level.
A whole new kind of play for me, but one I'm very glad I read. I'd particularly like to see it staged. ...more
I thought for a long time about how to rate this book. As a thriller, which is what the cover suggests, I would give it only a couple of stars. The laI thought for a long time about how to rate this book. As a thriller, which is what the cover suggests, I would give it only a couple of stars. The language can be cliched "flashing his pearly whites" and the characters can be unrealistic in order to make a point. A middle aged, highly successful, businessman who is revisiting his Christian faith and doesn't know the difference between the Bible and the Gospels, the New Testament and the Old Testament.
However, I choose to give it four stars as a highly entertaining and readable introduction to Gnostic Christianity and the history of the early Christian Church. This is a topic that is fascinating to me. When I first read the Gnostic texts and the writings of Meyer, Pagels, and Robinson my understanding and appreciation of my faith were completely transformed. However, these books can be very dry and not totally accessible. This makes an excellent alternative, and despite all my reading in this area, introduced some new thoughts to my understanding of the topic.
So if you are interested in early Christianity, how the Church developed, and the basic tenets of Gnostic Christianity and how it differs from traditional, or Literalist (in the author's language) Christianity, then this would be a good book for you. Its about 60% or so that kind of material, but its wrapped into a relatively fast-paced adventure that keeps the pace up, and its a very quick read.
If I can end with one concern, it would be the presentation of the translations of the scrolls. If it were a pure thriller, one would accept these as fiction and just move on. I was a little concerned that in a book that presents so much historical information, when the author moves into the area of conjecture, that change may not be totally clear. But with that caveat, 4 stars, and I look forward to the next one.
Keillor suggests that these are the kinds of poems that you would send to a friend who was having a tough time. I'm not sure I read them that way. SoKeillor suggests that these are the kinds of poems that you would send to a friend who was having a tough time. I'm not sure I read them that way. So many are so very, very dark. I was delighted by a few, Cecilia Wolochs Slow Children at Play, and Rita Doves Dawn Revisited. I thought that Donald Halls poem about his wifes death was just haunting and so painful I could barely read it. There is magic in here, but you have to push through a lot of darkness to find it....more
Another fine book on the worlds of books, book collecting, and book publishing by Nicholas Basbanes. This time around his focus is on the Yale UniversAnother fine book on the worlds of books, book collecting, and book publishing by Nicholas Basbanes. This time around his focus is on the Yale University Press, and by extension, the world of academic publishing in general. As always, Basbanes threads his story with interesting people, and a conversational narrative style that is very easy to read. I loved this quote from Clarence Day, one of the founders of and the author of an early history of the Yale Press.
"The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead. " ...more
This is an accessible and enjoyable collection, if at times a little repetitive. At times I wanted to say okay Billy, I got it, you got up, made a cupThis is an accessible and enjoyable collection, if at times a little repetitive. At times I wanted to say okay Billy, I got it, you got up, made a cup of coffee, sat down and looked out the window, and wrote this poem.
On the other hand, The Lanyard is a pure delight, and universal in its conception and meaning. I also enjoyed the Reaper, Revenant, and Carry. A good book to introduce someone to contemporary poetry. ...more