This book is chocked full of fantastic anecdotes--the types of stories that make you proud to have such crazed, self-destructive icons, and also reall...moreThis book is chocked full of fantastic anecdotes--the types of stories that make you proud to have such crazed, self-destructive icons, and also really comforted that you'll probably never be that bad. Some favorites include: the Warhol Superstars insisting that Jim Morrison copped the leather pant look from them and that David Bowie was nothing but a wierd English hippie in a dress before they made him over; Iggy Pop inciting a riot with a bunch of bikers in Detroit while wearing a tutu and a G-string; Patti Smith doing her 'old man's' [Robert Maplethorpe's] laundry; Debbie Harry giving away large bags of cocaine to friends because people just kept bringing it to her; the Sex Pistols as trend-whoring kids who were in love with the Clash; Joey Ramone refusing to play songs about drugs; and generally Everyone who was Anyone behaving like 12 year old girls.
Basically, Punk in New York in the 70s was--and remains--the most self-aggrandizing and self-promoted subculture ever. It has its own mythology, its own gods, and its own historians, and pretty much exists solely for the pleasure of those who Remember When. But it's fantastic when they share. (less)
A friend of mine is a devoted romance enthusiast and after attending a few readings with her, we decided to start a casual book group around novels of...moreA friend of mine is a devoted romance enthusiast and after attending a few readings with her, we decided to start a casual book group around novels of a more romantic/sensual persuasion. My own awareness of the genre is pretty exclusively centered on Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer books, so we started with a Heyer title last year. This time around, my friend suggested this title by Eloisa James (who, it might be of interest, moonlights as an English professor at Fordham college). And I really enjoyed it--lots of humor (the main character is ousted from society because an unflattering dress makes her look pregnant), enjoyable banter, and fully drawn characters. The dialog and relationships are also reasonably anachronistic (women enjoy sex, for one), which works well. Some of the secondary plot line was a little unnecessary, but overall, it was certainly a fun read. (less)
From skimming reviews online, I'm persuaded to believe that Faro's Daughter (with its blatant shades of Pride & Prejudice) is not among Heyer fans...moreFrom skimming reviews online, I'm persuaded to believe that Faro's Daughter (with its blatant shades of Pride & Prejudice) is not among Heyer fans' most favorite novels, but for my part, I have to say that it was quite a delight to read. It's the story of feisty Deb Grantham, a young woman who presides over card and game tables in her aunt's gaming house, and finds herself squaring off against the cold and calculating Max Ravenscar, a wealthy man who endeavors to bribe her into *not* marrying his young cousin (who she had no interest in marrying anyway). What follows is a series of increasingly convoluted, increasingly silly hijinks and wit-battles, ranging from high stakes card games to horse races to kidnapping. A few of the side characters are a bit two-dimensional and harp on the same jokes a little too often, but they all comprise a colorful and enjoyable cast.
Heyer is great at getting a plot moving and keeping the action fun and bubbly and always promising of a happy ending. Here, the last two chapters alone have about three or four major plot reversals, many of which are based on accidental omissions of very pertinent information or small misunderstandings which explode into much larger and more serious ones. It's Jane Austen sketched as screwball comedy, and ever so much fun.
I'm finding also that one Heyer book always seems to beget another: no sooner did I finish Faro's Daughter (which I read in one day), than I headed back to the library to pick up another of Heyer's books. Luckily, there's about 50 of them, so I have plenty more to work my way through. (less)
When I was a kid, I went through a phase that I suspect many children in The-Cold-War-is-But-a-Faint-Reality age group went through: a Spy Fetish.
I l...moreWhen I was a kid, I went through a phase that I suspect many children in The-Cold-War-is-But-a-Faint-Reality age group went through: a Spy Fetish.
I loved any and all things related to spies, espionage, subterfuge, complicated disguises, and state-sponsored deception (don't read too much into that--I was a child and the idea that you could divide the world into the good guys and the bad guys was very appealing). Anyway, this included books about code languages, books that taught you how to make invisible ink out of lemon juice, and true narrative accounts of particularly famous--and usually doomed--intelligence agents. (Mata Hari was a particular favorite.)
I digress because while this phase may have been short-lived, the seeds were apparently sown deep. Because after re-reading one of my favorite childhood novels, Lois Lowry's Number the Stars, I found myself totally enthralled by the references to the Danish resistance. It was all so romantic and sexy and exciting and tragic and vitally important. The young idealists smuggling anti-Nazi newspapers to their relatives after curfew. The dried-blood and cocaine powder mixture that fishermen hid in handkerchiefs and sprinkled around their boats to deaden the senses of Nazi dogs searching for refugees. The theatrics (such as fake funerals) that were orchestrated to disguise the arrival of refugees to a safehouse. Great stuff. And so, I packed myself off to the bookstore to pick up anything I could find on the Danish resistance.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to have been much written in English (go figure) that specifically covers the Danish underground movement. I did find this book, though, which was written by a Harold Flender, who during the Nuremberg Trials had been amazed and appalled that on one hand, the Danes had been able to save almost their entire Jewish population (about 8,000 total, all but 430 some saved), but that on the other, theirs was the only nation that had collectively elected to take such measures. Believing that more effort should be made to highlight the Danes' remarkable feat, Flenders first created a short documentary for American television, and then set out to compile a far more comprehensive record of the individuals who were directly involved with the transport of the Jews to Sweden.
The result is a highly anecdotal, sometimes wide-eyed journalistic profile narrative which highlights the completely average people who ended up leading massive exodus efforts, but also the type of 'it-was-nothing' attitude that most of these people seem to have about the whole experience. When asked about the motivation for their involvement in rescuing their Jewish countrymen, interviewees cite reasons that span from 'I was a bored housewife and it seemed exciting,' to 'Of course I helped--these people were being persecuted,' to 'It was the right thing to do,' to 'I just wanted an excuse to annoy the Germans.' But on the whole, it seems to have been an automatic and spontaneous reaction. In fact, Flender makes a point of emphasizing that for most of those involved in the transportation of the Jews to Sweden, 'politics' played no part in their involvement. I would say that 'politics' has nothing to do with one's country being invaded and part of the citizenship being sent off to concentration camps, but the vibe is still distinctly minimizing.
Which made me think a little bit more about my attraction to sexy-espionage stories. If the impulse to involve yourself in an underground movement to save the lives of your persecuted neighbors--at great risk to yourself and your family--is just that, an impulse, a reaction akin to helping someone up when they trip or holding a door open for a little old lady, just the so-called 'right thing,' then perhaps I should start looking into more 'mundane' spy stories from now on.
"Jenson, one of the greatest type-designers of all time, cut his roman fount for the printing of a Roman text, Cicero's Epistolae ad Brutum (1470)...W...more"Jenson, one of the greatest type-designers of all time, cut his roman fount for the printing of a Roman text, Cicero's Epistolae ad Brutum (1470)...We may no longer share the exaggerated enthusiasm of William Morris, who maintained that 'Jenson carried the development of roman type as far as it can go,' but the strength and nobility of this first true roman at once set the highest standard for every subsequent roman face."(less)
So far, this book has come in handy for at least one long piece I've written about a Danish author. I didn't totally agree with the editorial take on...moreSo far, this book has come in handy for at least one long piece I've written about a Danish author. I didn't totally agree with the editorial take on the author in question, but the information was still extremely useful, comprehensive, and contextual. Looking forward to skimming through this volume more. A lengthy, but certainly illuminating project. (less)
Left my university job and had to return all my library books (of which this was one) before I finished, so I never actually got to Bondeson's theory...moreLeft my university job and had to return all my library books (of which this was one) before I finished, so I never actually got to Bondeson's theory of who shot Olaf Palme. Certainly a subject I'd be interested in returning to one day. (less)
If there is a book that has the potential to provide me with the sort of repeated comfort and enjoyment of say, the BBC mini-series of Pride and Preju...moreIf there is a book that has the potential to provide me with the sort of repeated comfort and enjoyment of say, the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, I can easily say that this would probably be the book. I'll be writing a long piece on Georgette Heyer within the next few months and so will be taking some time to get my thoughts together about The Masqueraders. For the time being, let it suffice to say that if you are a person who likes any of the following, this book is very much worth tracking down (most likely via inter-library loan: I got my paperback copy from Nebraska):
*Well, obv: Historical British dress-up, society, and manners
*Men dressing as women; women dressing as men. Especially in an era when the clothes for each gender are so very complicated: petticoats, riding jackets, gloves, hoop skirts, waist coats--the lot
*Comedies of Manners with a good dash of irony. Seriously, people are called out for their lack of manners for the whole book, very frequently by the pair of cross-dressing siblings from the title. A favorite quote: “A person of such boorish manners is not fit to remain in the same world with me!”
*Sword fights, particularly duals between dishonorable rakes and playful--yet deadly serious--suitors
*High-jinks of a particularly complicated nature. High-jinks that are basically complicated just for the fun of it.
*Righteously angered men slapping scoundrels ("lightly") in the face with gloves.
*(Female) card sharks and disreputable gamblers made good
*Estimable, capable, and resourceful women
*Men who respect estimable, capable, and resourceful women
*Clever banter and witty dialog
*Historical factoids (on the Jacobite rebellion, say)
*Twisty plots that lead, of course, to happy endings (that were never really in question, of course)
It's not for everyone certainly, but I really loved it. (less)
I'm sitting in on a class this semester which explains and contextualizes postmodern thought by surveying (pre-)modern philosophy. It's great for me--...moreI'm sitting in on a class this semester which explains and contextualizes postmodern thought by surveying (pre-)modern philosophy. It's great for me--I never really read Descartes or Locke or Kant or Rousseau, let alone really spent any time working on Nietzsche texts. So far, this is a great compendium, too--each thinker/excerpted text has a straightforward introduction which provides some background and points out the main ideas of the piece and their significance. It's an excellent crash course in the thought and philosophy which has defined the 19th/20th/21st centuries. (less)