Robert M. Utley is the gold standard for the history of the American West. This short, but scholarly life of Billy the Kid shows him to be scrupulousRobert M. Utley is the gold standard for the history of the American West. This short, but scholarly life of Billy the Kid shows him to be scrupulous about providing nothing but well-researched fact instead of the all-too-available legends.
Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life shows young Henry McCarty alias Henry Antrim alias The Kid alias Billy the Kid to be a lesser figure than the facts would dictate. He had committed four murders that could be laid at his feet (including three sheriffs) and participated in some cattle and horse rustling, but he never really led a gang. In fact, he was only 21 years old when Pat Garrett came upon him by luck at Fort Sumner and plugged him.
Billy the Kid had numerous allies, particularly among the Hispanic population of New Mexico, and he was a frequent participant at local bailes, with a marked preference for young senoritas. It is very likely that if he had found his way across the border into Mexico, he would have lived farther into adulthood. Or not: Billy was a violent young dude. ...more
The American West is indebted to Robert M Utley for his many books on the history of the area. For many years, he served as chief historian for the NaThe American West is indebted to Robert M Utley for his many books on the history of the area. For many years, he served as chief historian for the National Park Service. His biography of Geronimo is superb at threading his way through the blind canyons of history to arrive at a well-reasoned appreciation of the role that Geronimo played for the Chiricahua Apaches that raided with him in Arizona, New Mexico, and across the border into Mexico.
Instead of concentrating exclusively on the more sensational raids of Geronimo and his allies, Utley also discusses at length his treatment as well as that of his fellow Chiricahuas in captivity in Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma. ...more
Take a very talented and spirited poet, and place her in Moscow between the years 1917 and 1922. What you have is Marina Tsvetaeva is Earthly Signs: MTake a very talented and spirited poet, and place her in Moscow between the years 1917 and 1922. What you have is Marina Tsvetaeva is Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917–1922. Although the people of Moscow during this period suffered from near famine (Marina's youngest daughter was placed in a state orphanage to guarantee she god fed, and she died there of starvation), Marina herself and her older daughter managed to hang on for dear life -- and even managed to live with a certain élan.
Although I have not read much of Tsvetaeva's poetry, her prose was so interesting that I am determined to find a good selection of her poetry as well.
This is easily one of the best diaries I have ever read, with a high literary quality throughout, not to mention an unquenchable spirit. ...more
At a time when I am very uncertain and disturbed about the route my country is taking, I need the optimistic strength of a Chesterton to help keep me on an even keel. Chesterton can make one laugh, can make one think deeply, even, with his paradoxes. But most of all, he can make one understand that appreciating it is what it's all about:
To keep the capacity of really liking what he likes; that is the practical problem which the philosopher has to solve. And it seemed to me at the beginning, as it seems to me now in the end, that the pessimists and optimists of the modern world have alike missed and muddled this matter; through leaving out the ancient conception of humility and the thanks of the unworthy. This is a matter much more important and interesting than my opinions; but, in point of fact, it was by following this thin thread of a fancy about thankfulness, as slight as any of those dandelion clocks that are blown upon the breeze like thistledown, that I did arrive eventually at an opinion which is more than an opinion. Perhaps the one and only opinion that is really more than an opinion.
At this stage of my life, I would have to say that Chesterton is the one author whom I read that makes me feel thankful for the experience.
The edition I read is Volume XVI in Ignatius Press's excellent The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton. Included are numerous photographs which, as far as I know, have not been published elsewhere....more
There was a ten-year gap in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's writing career. In 1849, he was arrested for suspicion of treason for belonging to the dissident PetrThere was a ten-year gap in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's writing career. In 1849, he was arrested for suspicion of treason for belonging to the dissident Petrashevsky Circle. Although he and his fellow co-conspirators were condemned to death, the firing squad was a charade; and the young writer was packed off to a forced labor camp in Siberia, at Omsk. There he served four years with criminals and other political prisoners.
After he had served his sentence, he was forced to serve in the army at Semipalatinsk, also in Siberia. During the whole time, he was forbidden to publish and he was still under surveillance by the Tsar's government.
Joseph Frank dedicates an entire volume to this period, which although fallow in a literary sense, marked a sea change in his feelings about Russia. Also, during this time, the cruel Nicholas I died. His heir, Alexander II, was committed to freeing the serfs, which was Dostoyevsky's main raison d'etre for risking joining the Petrashevsky Circle.
One would think that Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859 would be relatively boring because the writer's only works during this time were the relatively unread Uncle's Dream and The Village of Stepanchikovo. While Frank has very little to discuss with Dostoyevsky's works, there was a lot happening in his life. For one thing, he got married in Semipalatinsk to his first wife, Marya Dimitrievna -- which turned into an unhappy marriage.
As I continue to read Frank's magisterial five-volume biography, I also intend to read most of Dostoyevsky's fiction around the same time. ...more
J. K. Huysmans in Là-Bas takes as his subject the reverse of Christian mysticism, namely: The mysticism of evil. His leading character, Durtal, is wriJ. K. Huysmans in Là-Bas takes as his subject the reverse of Christian mysticism, namely: The mysticism of evil. His leading character, Durtal, is writing a book about the 15th century monster, Gilles de Rais, who murdered small children for pleasure. He is like the narrator of Sartre's Nausea, who is writing about a fictional character named Antoine Roquentin.
Durtal is part of a small circle of intellectuals which includes his physician friend Des Hermies; the devout bell-ringer of St-Sulpice, Carhais; and an astrologer, Gévingey. Strangely intruding into Durtal's bachelor existence is Mme Chantelouve, who seems to promise friendship as well as an adulterous relationship, but whose motivations are beyond Durtal's abilities to fathom.
Gilles de Rais seems to become Durtal's reason for existing:
As a matter of fact I wish it might never be finished. What will become of me when it is? I'll have to look around for another subject, and, when I find one, do all the drudgery of planning and then getting the introductory chapter written—the mean part of any literary work is getting started. I shall pass mortal hours doing nothing. Really, when I think it over, literature has only one excuse for existing; it saves the person who makes it from the disgustingness of life.
In fact, at the end of the novel, Durtal seems to be finished with his study. He dabbles in the black arts with Mme Chantelouve's assistance, marveling that contemporary Paris still contains Satan-worshipers, as did the Middle Ages.
The story takes place during the meteoric rise of General Boulanger, "The Man on Horseback," 19th century France's equivalent of Donald Trump.
I found La-Bas to be exciting and well written, preferable even to the same author's more famous A Rebours (Against Nature)....more
This is a not altogether believable tale of the author's stint as a journalist in Puerto Rico around 1960. This is why I classfy it as both biographyThis is a not altogether believable tale of the author's stint as a journalist in Puerto Rico around 1960. This is why I classfy it as both biography and fiction. No matter: I suspect most autobiographies are at least semi-fictional.
I guess this biography of the many misdeeds of our new president is now an artifact. It did have the effect of chilling me to the bone when Trump wonI guess this biography of the many misdeeds of our new president is now an artifact. It did have the effect of chilling me to the bone when Trump won the election....more
Like F. L. Lucas's In Search of Good Sense, which I reviewed a few days ago. This is a book of short biographies, interspersed with analysis, of eightLike F. L. Lucas's In Search of Good Sense, which I reviewed a few days ago. This is a book of short biographies, interspersed with analysis, of eight19th century realists: Honore de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Benito Perez Galdos, Henry James, Marcel Proust, Stendhal, and Leo Tolstoy.
Most Americans do not give a rap for the writers of the 18th century -- ancient history! But two of the writers covered -- Johnson and Boswell -- meant a great deal to me. In relatively few pages, he gave a superb portrait of both the biographer and his famous subject, with numerous quoes. (Unfortunately, many of these were in untranslated French, but I struggled through them.)
The sketches of Lord Chesterfield and Oliver Goldsmith were also excellent. No sooner did I return this book to the library than I ordered a copy for myself. Anything that good belongs on my shelf!...more
In the 1960s and 1970s, when I used to dread the approach of another lonely weekend, I wished I could meet a girl like Eve Babitz, intelligent, articuIn the 1960s and 1970s, when I used to dread the approach of another lonely weekend, I wished I could meet a girl like Eve Babitz, intelligent, articulate, and drop-dead beautiful. And there she was, living just a few miles from me in Hollywood while I was in Santa Monica. Describing a friend of hers, "she lacked that element, raw and beckoning, that trailed like a vapor" behind her.
Like her first book, Eve's Hollywood, Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A. is a series of seemingly biographical essays with an admixture of fiction. Where the first book talked about Eve's teeny-bopper years in the 1960s, in her second she becomes the lovely, knowing score girl that everyone wants to meet ... and bed. She hung out with the likes of Jim Morrison, Steve Martin, artist Ed Ruscha, and gallery owner Walter Hopps.
What she writes about in Slow Days, Fast Company is about her friendships and relationships with people who are usually not identified with their last names; and even their first names could have been modified. In the end, it doesn't matter a bit. Eve knows success, and how it twists people so they becoming boring "celebrities" who rely on drugs and booze to get through the day. She writes;
But everyone knows that it would have been much better to have been popular in high school when your blood was clean, and pure lust and kisses lasted forever, Chocolate Cokes in high school are better than caviar on a yacht when you're forty-five. It's common knowledge.
Eve Babitz knew herself far better than most people, and she had a wicked sense of humor, as in this exchange:
The very next night I was having dinner with this fashionable young rich man who looked at me as I smoothed some paté over some toast and said, "You better watch out with that stuff. It'll make you fat."
"Well, gee," I said to him, "there are so many perfect women, it's just horrible you have to spend time sitting here with me."
Horrible indeed! No use being morose about it, however. Even if I never found an Eve Babitz, I can appreciate her discriminating mind even at this distant remove. This is a girl who did not believe in the viability of most relationships: "The real truth is that I've never known any man-woman thing to pan out (it may pan out to them, of course, but couples in middle age who don't speak to each other are not my idea of a good movie.)"
Eve Babitz in her time and place -- Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s -- was as good as they come. She is in many ways the best that Los Angeles has to offer. If you read her books, I think you will understand why. ...more
Louis-Ferdinand Céline is a writer about which opinion is still polarized after more than half a century. In he 1930s. he wrote two masterpieces -- JoLouis-Ferdinand Céline is a writer about which opinion is still polarized after more than half a century. In he 1930s. he wrote two masterpieces -- Journey to the End of the Night and Death on the Installment Plan -- but as the decade progressed and the mood in France grew increasingly sullen, he wrote several anti-Semitic pamphlets. He almost appeared to welcome a Nazi victory. Except for one thing ...
Céline hated everybody. During the Occupation, the Nazis tried to build him up as a great writer, but Céline wasn't having any part of it. He was an anarchist at heart who had said equally damaging things about the Communists and American Capitalists. Naturally, the French Resistance wanted his hide; and after the war, he had to escape with various unsavory Vichy officials to Germany and Denmark. He was arrested and spent time in solitary confinement in Copenhagen before being released.
All this time, Céline was not just a writer: He was a physician concentrating his practice on the illnesses of the poor. Looked at in this light, he was a demonstrably good man -- a sort of irreligious Mother Theresa.
Patrick McCarthy 's Celine: A Biography is probably more a work of literary criticism than biography, but it does cover both in its own way. The writer was never a willing subject for a biographer, even though his is one of the most eventful stories of the 20th Century.
I for one like his work -- and deplore many of his prejudices. In a way, so did Céline: He had many Jewish friends. According to a New Yorker article on the Frenchman:
“Céline is my Proust!” Philip Roth once said. “Even if his anti-Semitism made him an abject, intolerable person. To read him, I have to suspend my Jewish conscience, but I do it, because anti-Semitism isn’t at the heart of his books… . Céline is a great liberator.”
When I arrived in Los Angeles between Christmas and New Years in 1966, I was fully prepared to "put up with" the place while my heart remained in ...When I arrived in Los Angeles between Christmas and New Years in 1966, I was fully prepared to "put up with" the place while my heart remained in ... Cleveland, for God's sake! I am sad to say it took a number of years before I woke up and let the magic of the place begin to work on me. Those first few years I now regard as "the lost years." I studied film history and criticism at UCLA, saw thousands of movies, but was oblivious to the flower-scented air, redolent with night-blooming jasmine.
Now I have found a writer who has helped reconcile me to my own past: It is Eve Babitz, whose book Eve's Hollywood covers my black-out years. Eve was born in L.A. of artistic parents and lived in Hollywood, living life to the fullest -- sleeping with the likes of Jim Morrison of the Doors, artist Ed Rucha, and numerous other males known for beauty and/or brains.
In one chapter, she quotes Jean Cocteau: "The privileges of beauty are enormous." Her most famous photograph is of her sitting across a chess board French artist and chess master Marcel Duchamp ... but without a stitch of clothing. It is said that Duchamp was startled by his opponent and could only say, "Alors!"
Being two years older than me, Babitz writes about Southern California about he period from about 1960 to 1972, when Eve's Hollywood was published. It's all there -- the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Hollywood High School with classmates like Yvette Mimieux, Santa Sofia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake, the Watts Riots, and thousands of people trying to nail down "The Answer." (Hint: There is none.)
Early on, she writes:
Culturally, L.A. has always been a humid jungle alive with seething L.A. projects that I guess people from other places just can't see. It takes a certain kind of innocence to like L.A., anyway. It requires a certain plain happiness inside to be happy in L.A., to choose it and be happy here. When people are not happy, they fight against L.A. and say it's a "wasteland" and other helpful descriptions.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Here is this beautiful babe with brains who says it's all right. Sit back, go to Olvera Street and get some taquitos, and just gorp out....more
I undertook to read this book because of the chapters on Ecuador. The problem was that the author was in too much of a funk to try to understand the people and culture of Santa Domingo de los Colorados, where she was stationed as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Most of the book is set in Africa, where the author becomes pregnant and spends an excessive time describing the sounds her baby made and the various stages of illness (including malaria) in her life.
I suppose Eve Waite-Brown is uniquely qualified to be a suburban earth mother where she has ready access to all the Snapple and cottage cheese she craves. But next time, Eve, spare me the histrionics!...more
I am relatively new to the books of Roald Dahl, so I thought it would be interesting to read his autobiography, concentrating on his childhood and schI am relatively new to the books of Roald Dahl, so I thought it would be interesting to read his autobiography, concentrating on his childhood and school years. There is something about biographies of childhood that is magical -- probably because there is something magical about the way we see things during our early years. Our adult years are as a sparrow to childhood's brilliantly-colored toucan.
Dahl apparently has access to most of the letters he wrote home from his various boarding schools. The book is called Boy: Tales of Childhood largely because the young Roald signed himself simply as "Boy" in his letters to Mama.
I enjoyed this book the same way I enjoyed L. P. Hartley's Eustace and Hilda, Jean-Paul Sartre's The Words, and Marcel Proust's Swann's Way, all of which recovered some of that childhood numinosity that we seem to lose when we arrive at puberty. ...more
Little did I think when the read the first few pages of Levels of Life by Julian Barnes that, before long, I would be immersed in an essay about the gLittle did I think when the read the first few pages of Levels of Life by Julian Barnes that, before long, I would be immersed in an essay about the grief of losing one's wife. I can quote the paragraph where the book, quite suddenly, more than halfway through, changes gears:
Early in life, the world divides crudely into those who have had sex and those who haven't. Later, into those who have known love, and those who haven't. Later still -- at least if we are lucky (or, on the other hand, unlucky) -- it divides into those who have endured grief, and those who haven't. These divisions are absolute; they are tropics we cross.
The book began as a kind of essay on lighter-than-air ballooning, with an interesting sidelight on photography. Then, in he second section, we meet Captain Fred Burnaby, an avid balloonist, who falls in love with Sarah Bernhardt. But it is not to be, she rejects him by simply switching partners, and he goes on to marry a young woman who becomes ill and must spend the rest of her life in a sanatorium in the Alps for consumptives. He fights with Gordon in Khartoum, and dies of a spear thrust at the Battle of Abu Klea.
Early in the third and last section, Barnes tells us what the book is really about -- namely, what happens to his life when his wife of thirty years, Pat Kavanagh, dies of cancer, leaving her husband to realize that there is no simple and sure-fire way of dealing with protracted grief:
Love may not lead where we think or hope, but regardless of outcome it should be a call to seriousness and truth. If it is not that -- if it is not moral in its effect -- then love is no more than an exaggerated form of pleasure. Whereas grief, love's opposite, does not seem to occupy a moral space. The defensive, curled position it forces us into if we are to survive makes us more selfish. It is not a place of upper air; there are no views. You can no longer hear yourself living.
I have often wondered what would happen to me if I would lose Martine. I see myself on a long journey, taking interminable bus rides in Patagonia perhaps, where the desolation would mirror my own insides. Or else, I would not. It is possible I would live the rest of my life as an unfinished conversation with my departed little French girl that continues despite strange looks from my friends. Who knows?
In the meantime, I will try to live while I can. It's a mistake not to. ...more
During the Second World War, one Patrick Leigh Fermor, a member of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), abducted the general in command ofDuring the Second World War, one Patrick Leigh Fermor, a member of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), abducted the general in command of the Nazi forces on Crete and, with the help of Cretan rebels, spirited him over the mountains to a rendezvous with a British vessel, and from thence on to Cairo.
Abducting a General is Fermor's own description of the operation -- written some twenty years after its was over. Before then, his associate on Crete, W. Stanley Moss, wrote his own book on the subject entitled Ill Met by Moonlight, which I have also read.
In addition to this reportage on one of the most surprising events of the War, Fermor was the author of a series of travel classics about Greece and about his walking trip in the 1930s between Holland and Istanbul. So far, everything I have read by Fermor, and I have read everything except his book about the Caribbean, has been worth it....more
This is a strange sort of novel, written by one who never lived to see it published, but withal one of the greatest works produced during the Soviet eThis is a strange sort of novel, written by one who never lived to see it published, but withal one of the greatest works produced during the Soviet era. Picture a doctor who is obsessed with the life of Dostoyevsky, who sees his own life as if it were in lock step with that of earlier writer. He recreates his life, and that of his second wife Anna Grigor'yevna, so vividly that I will have a difficult time unlinking it from this work.
Picture this memory of Anna Grigor'yevna's while her husband lies dying:
[S]he was on her knees before her dying husband, her husband, Fedya, who used to come to her every evening to say goodnight, used to write long, passionate letters to her from Bad Ems, where he would travel every summer to take the cure, who used to cause jealous scenes at readings of his works whenever she exchanged a quick word with anyone or he thought she was looking at someone, and then they would walk home separately, but he would not be able to keep it up, and he would catch up with her and ask her to forgive him, saying that if she refused, then he would throw himself on his knees before her there and then—and she would forgive him, and they would walk on together—and supporting her carefully by the arm, he would look into her eyes and then, leaving her for a moment, would dash into a shop and buy her some sweetmeats—nuts, raisins, bon-bons—and when they arrived home they would drink tea and he would produce the sweetmeats for her and the children, but if she had a cold, he would get irritated and ask her to stop sneezing, and this made her laugh, and in the end he would start to laugh as well.
Did you notice that this is all one sentence with phrases strung together by ands or other conjunctions. The translation by Roger and Angela Keys is so spot on that Leonid Tsypkin's sesquipedalian sentences would flow like a river in flood.
Summer in Baden-Baden is such a good book that it makes me want to re-read what Dostoyevsky I have already read and maybe include some of the obscure ones I haven't, such as The Insulted and the Injured and A Raw Youth....more
When former World Chess Champion lay in a Japanese prison, Iceland -- which had so benefited from the 1972 match with Boris Spassky -- offered him IceWhen former World Chess Champion lay in a Japanese prison, Iceland -- which had so benefited from the 1972 match with Boris Spassky -- offered him Icelandic citizenship. In 2005, Fischer arrived in Reykjavik was was befriended by several Icelanders, most notably Helgi Olafsson, a local chess grandmaster who saw him frequently.
It is well known that Fischer was a difficult person. Although Jewish on his mother's and (probably) father's side, he was consistently and vociferously anti-Semitic. He was paranoid about the Russians, the Jews, the CIA, and the press and would go to almost absurd lengths to avoid the possibility of running into anyone affiliated with them.
John Lynch has written two excellent biographies of the liberators of South America from Spanish rule. Earlier, I had read his Simon Bolivar: A Life.John Lynch has written two excellent biographies of the liberators of South America from Spanish rule. Earlier, I had read his Simon Bolivar: A Life. Now I have finished San Martín: Argentine Soldier, American Hero. I had always been curious about San Martin after seeing his tomb guarded by Argentine soldiers at a side altar of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires.
Between the two, Bolivar was the more decisive, even dictatorial. San Martin took a lot of heat for withdrawing into exile in Europe after an unsatisfactory meeting with Bolivar at Guayaquil. San Martin was a brilliant strategist, but he was not able to unify the diversely stratified society of Peru by his mild rule. When he left, Bolivar came in and knocked a few heads together -- well, actually more than a few.
The nature of South America's divisiveness in those early years -- and perhaps even continuing today to some extent -- meant that San Martin was sniped at from all sides. It is actually surprising that that the Argentinians brought his body back for burial in Buenos Aires after the attacks by Alvear, Rivadavia, and others. Everyone needs heroes, even when they aren't appreciated while still alive. ...more
He served under four flags: those of Britain, Chile, Brazil, and Greece. He was perhaps the greatest ship (rather than fleet) commander in all of navaHe served under four flags: those of Britain, Chile, Brazil, and Greece. He was perhaps the greatest ship (rather than fleet) commander in all of naval history. Yet Lord Cochrane is relatively unknown outside of Britain, Greece, and South America. Donald Thomas with his book Cochrane: Britannia's Sea Wolf attempts to redress that.
Like many exceedingly brilliant military figures, Cochrane frequently ran afoul of politicians and was frequently persecuted and mulcted by them. He was accused of stock fraud in a patently ludicrous trial by an unfair judge, Lord Ellenborough, served time in prison, was stripped of his title of Knight of the bath, and removed from the navy list.
That did not dismay the Scottish sea wolf, who helped Chile and Peru win their independence from Spain by destroying that country's Pacific Fleet. When he had done all he could there, he moved on to Brazil to fight for Don Pedro I. When that was over, he joined the struggle for Greek independence, where he was prevented from winning by the factionalism of the Greek politicians.
In the end, under Queen Vicoria, he regained all his honors and died rich in years and reputation. ...more
Too much luggage. Too many old friends to visit. Too many debts to pay. Those are not what make for a good travel book, let alone one published, as thToo much luggage. Too many old friends to visit. Too many debts to pay. Those are not what make for a good travel book, let alone one published, as this one was, by National Geographic. Ariel Dorfman is a good writer, but when too much is owing to the people one visits, one cannot concentrate on how a place works on your own insides. Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North is still worth reading for its insights into an area little known outside of Chile.
Contrast it with Bruce Chatwin's perhaps infamous In Patagonia, a book which consists of dozens of largely faked interviews. Did Bruce like the poetry of Osip Mandelstam? Well, then, he'll have one of his interviewees be a devotee with multiple volumes on his or her bookshelves. The people Chatwin visited didn't think much of the young Brit. But, still, he wrote a great book. It is a book I have read three times and which still calls out to me.
Writers have to stifle their imaginations somewhat when their work will be read and commented on and corrected by a host of friends and acquaintances. One can't be true to them and to the Norte Grande of Chile at the same time.
It's funny that I thought pretty much the same of Isabel Allende's My Invented Country. Both Dorfman and Allende were exiled from their land for many years under the Pinochetista dictatorship -- a fact that made them somewhat less than stellar writers about Chile. Curiously, that has not affected Pablo Neruda in his poetry. Perhaps it's just a prose thing....more
This is the second book by George Takei that I have read about his experiences with the Internet. I enjoy reading him because he is so benign a publicThis is the second book by George Takei that I have read about his experiences with the Internet. I enjoy reading him because he is so benign a public figure that he approaches Mother Theresa in this regard. There does not appear to be a mean bone in his body -- which is all the more impressive because of all the trolls and bullies and haters that stalk the Internet.
In fact, Lions and Tigers and Bears: The Internet Strikes Back leads me to hope that the Internet can evolve to a higher plane. I now follow Saint George's Facebook website, which acts as a conduit for humor and occasionally social progress (gays, imprisonment of Japanese during World War Two).
I recommend you read this book primarily because it will make you feel good and even, perhaps, hopeful in between mass shootings, acts of terrorism, horrendous disasters, and racial bigotry. ...more
It's not often that one finds a well-written book about guerrilla warfare written by one of the main participants. During the hostilities with EnglandIt's not often that one finds a well-written book about guerrilla warfare written by one of the main participants. During the hostilities with England in the period 1919-1921, the most active IRA fighting group was the West Cork Flying Column headed by Tom Barry. In his Guerilla Days in Ireland, Barry discusses the movements of his IRA fighters against the British regulars, the mercenary Black & Tans, and the Auxiliaries who were pitted against him in a vain attempt to hold onto Ireland for the British.
One thing that distinguished Barry from other, more self-involved military leaders is the tribute he pays in the book to each and every one of his fighters who died at the hands of the enemy. He memorializes them in place, when discussing the individual battles, and reserves an appendix in the back summarizing their names and origins. Barry would have been a good man to fight for: He cared for his men.
Reading this book, I was surprised how little I knew about recent Irish history. There have ben a couple of John Ford Films (most notably The Informer and The Rising of the Moon that popularized the conflict) and a biopic of Michael Collins. Other than that, this is all new material for me. ...more
The American film industry rose to pre-eminence because of the work, not only of great stars like Cary Grant and Bette Davis, great directors like JohThe American film industry rose to pre-eminence because of the work, not only of great stars like Cary Grant and Bette Davis, great directors like John Ford, but also because of actors like Richard Anderson who could excel across the board -- almost irrespective of what roles they played.
A quick glance at Richard's filmography includes such entertainments as Curse of the Faceless Man and Forbidden Planet, as well as such art house pictures as Seconds and Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory. Also, there were numerous television roles, most notably as Oscar Goldman in the "Six Million Dollar Man" series and its sequels.
One film which was not even mentioned is Gettysburg (1993) produced by Ted Turner. Anderson plays the part of General Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, who rides up after the battle has begun. The scene is a stormy night when Meade bursts in with all the Union general officers and inquires earnestly whether this was good ground for a battle. It is not a large role, but Anderson is completely believable as a general who badly wants to win, having just taken over command of the Union forces, and whose predecessors all ended badly.
Richard Anderson: At Last ... A Memoir shows its author to be the consummate professional. He played in theater, films, television, and did not refuse advertising gigs such as the Kiplinger Washington Newsletter and Drydees Disposable Diapers. He comes across not as a poseur, but a sincere and talented individual who believes in the system and makes it work for him supremely well.
If you get a lot of cable or dish TV channels, it is quite possible to run into his work several times a day, possibly competing with himself across the broadcast spectrum....more
Her first book, House of the Spirits, was written while she was living in Venezuela, about which she writes:
If someone had asked what it was about, I would have said that it was an attempt to recapture my lost country, to reunite my scattered family, to revive the dead and preserve their memories, which were beginning to be blown away in the whirlwind of exile.
Curiously, this is a very exact description also of My Invented Country.
I had hoped to read some background about Chile for a projected trip later this year. Reading it, I found ou a whole lot about the author, but only a few scattered tidbits about the country as a whole....more
I first saw a couple short essays from this book in an issue of The New York Review of Books. Being something of an aficionado of Russian prison literI first saw a couple short essays from this book in an issue of The New York Review of Books. Being something of an aficionado of Russian prison literature, ranging from Dostoyevsky's House of the Dead through Varlam Shalamov's Kolyma Tales to Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky is perhaps Putin's most famous prisoner. Founder and head of Yukos, Khodorkovsky angered Putin, who had him put away for two jail terms, some of which was served in Siberia. My Fellow Prisoners is very like Dostoyevsky's House of the Dead, consisting as it does of isolated recollections that add up to a system in which people serve as much time as the State wants them to, whether they are innocent or no.
If someone powerful wants you in prison. There you'll go, and serve out as much time as the powers that be want....more
What does the average North American know about Argentina in the Twentieth Century? It was all about Evita ("Don't cry for me Argentina!") with her shWhat does the average North American know about Argentina in the Twentieth Century? It was all about Evita ("Don't cry for me Argentina!") with her shadowy husband Juan Domingo Peron lurking somewhere in the background.
Tomás Eloy Martínez wrote two novels which kind of sort of danced around Evita. One (Santa Evita) was about the travels of her embalmed body after death. The other, The Peron Novel, dealt primarily with Peron before he met Evita, then skips forward to his return to Argentina after his Spanish exile, only to die within a few weeks.
I felt a bit cheated by the live Evita playing such a minor role in Martinez's novels. Still, the Argentinian did capture the essence of Peron's genius:
The reason I've been a leading figure in history time and time again, is precisely because I have contradicted myself. You've already heard about [Count von] Schlieffen's strategy. You have to change plans several times a day, pull them out one at a time, as needed. The socialist fatherland? I invented it. The conservative fatherland? I keep it alive. I have to blow in all directions like the cock on the weathervane.
Thousands of people were waiting at Ezeiza Airport for Peron's plane to land, such that it became an ugly mob scene with over three million people present and numerous fatalities.
Peron's vague ideology made him attractive to too many discordant forces, from the military rightists to the Montonero Socialist guerrillas. It was to take over ten years for the bad blood to drain out of the system. Even today, President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner calls herself a Peronist, which in today's milieu means almost nothing. ...more
I am convinced that most biographies (not all: I am thinking of Boswell's Dr Johnson) would be better if they concentrated on one's early life -- theI am convinced that most biographies (not all: I am thinking of Boswell's Dr Johnson) would be better if they concentrated on one's early life -- the way that C.S. Lewis does in 'Surprised By Joy'. Although one's youth can just as well lead one down the wrong path, it is amazing when one reads about someone who has a fine mind, intellectual honesty, and a basic goodness.
In one sense, Surprised by Joy is about its author's journey toward Christianity. In another, it is the picture of a serious quest, one with many turnings and even a few dead ends, but with a worthwhile end in view. And that is not to mention the inimitable style. At one point, Lewis writes:
The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it "annihilates space." It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course, if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into the coffin at once? There is little enough space there.
It is probably just as well that Lewis had never -- at least as of the date of this book -- flown in an airplane.
This is in every way a worthy and superior book that I would recommend to any person....more