I was looking for THE perfect book on D-Day--all the facts, all the armies, all the POVs. And I found it right here. Did you know that the British parI was looking for THE perfect book on D-Day--all the facts, all the armies, all the POVs. And I found it right here. Did you know that the British paraded their beaches to the blaring of bagpipes? Or that Hitler was napping in balmy Berchtesgaden till it was all over? Or that the German field marshal left France right before the invasion to request use of Hitler's Panzers which he'd need in order to resist said invasion--which, meanwhile, succeeded behind his back?
This book is about June 6 and only June 6; it doesn't say much about the long years before the invasion and it stops on the stroke of midnight, but it's as good as I could have hoped for. Detail-rich and as fluid as any novel, The Longest Day demands its own miniseries, so HBO should drop everything right now to tell the story of all the other bands of brothers (American, British, Canadian, French, German, even a smattering of Russian and Polish) that fought and died in Normandy.
Just to give you an idea, here's one of my favorite scenes, which took place in the pre-dawn quiet of June 6:
Major Werner Pluskat in his bunker overlooking Omaha Beach had heard nothing from his superiors sine 1:00 A.M. He was, cold, tired, and exasperated. He felt isolated. He couldn't understand why there had been no reports from either regimental or division headquarters.... It must mean that nothing serious was happening. But...Pluskat could not rid himself of his gnawing uneasiness. Once more he swung the artillery glasses over to the left, picked up the dark mass of the Cherbourg peninsula and began another slow sweep of the horizon. The same low banks of mist came into view, the same patches of shimmering moonlight, the same restless, white-flecked sea. Nothing was changed. Everything seemed peaceful.
Behind him in the bunker his dog, Harras, was stretched out asleep. Nearby, Captain Ludz Wilkening and Lieutenant Fritz Theen were talking quietly. Pluskat joined them. "Still nothing out there," he told them. "I'm about to give it up." But he walked back to the aperture and stood looking out as the first streaks of light began to lighten the sky. He decided to make another routine sweep.
Wearily, he swung the glasses over to the left again. Slowly, he tracked across the horizon. He reached the dead center of the bay. The glasses stopped moving. Pluskat tensed, stared hard.
Through the scattering, thinning mist the horizon was magically filling with ships--ships of every size and description, ships that casually maneuvered back and forth as though they had been there for hours. There appeared to be thousands of them. It was a ghostly armada that somehow had appeared from nowhere. Pluskat stared in frozen disbelief, speechless, moved as he had never been before in his life. At that moment the world of the good soldier Pluskat began falling apart. He says in those first few moments he knew, calmly and surely, that "this was the end for Germany."
He returned to Wilkening and Theen and, with a strange detachment, said simply, "It's the invasion. See for yourselves." Then he picked up the phone and called Major Block at the 352nd Division's headquarters.
"Block," said Pluskat, "it's the invasion. There must be ten thousand ships out here." Even as he said it, he knew his words must sound incredible.
"Get hold of yourself, Pluskat!" snapped Block. "The Americans and the British together don't have that many ships. Nobody has that many ships!"
Block's disbelief brought Pluskat out of his daze. "If you don't believe me," he suddenly yelled, "come up here and see for yourself. It's fantastic! It's unbelievable!"
There was a slight pause and then Block said, "What way are these ships heading?"
Pluskat, phone in hand, looked out the aperture of the bunker and replied, "Right for me."
A quick, tough read. Jean Bernard's memoir comes mostly in snapshots, which works best if you already have a basic grasp of the war's timeline and HitA quick, tough read. Jean Bernard's memoir comes mostly in snapshots, which works best if you already have a basic grasp of the war's timeline and Hitler's purpose for the concentration camps.
The book's brightest gem comes early as he introduces the horrors he's about to tell:
"We must never forget what happened there.... Forgetting would be cowardice on the part of the people in whose name all these crimes were committed.... That amounts to a wish to forget, in order to make forgiveness easier.... Yet we must forgive. We must forgive while remaining conscious of the full horror of what occurred, not only because nothing constructive can be built on a foundation of hatred--neither a new Europe nor a new world--but above all for the sake of Him who commands and urges us to forgive, and before whom we, victims and executioners alike, are all poor debtors in need of mercy."...more
The best books on Narnia are the ones that make us want to return to the stories themselves, and Joe Rigney's slim, easy read does just that. He has aThe best books on Narnia are the ones that make us want to return to the stories themselves, and Joe Rigney's slim, easy read does just that. He has a number of particularly fine insights, but the one that really sticks with me is this: "Though all of his plans come to naught, Tirian is never without one." - p. 145...more
My ignorance of WWI was shockingly large when I started this book, so obviously I can't compare it to all these other WWI books I (haven't) read. ButMy ignorance of WWI was shockingly large when I started this book, so obviously I can't compare it to all these other WWI books I (haven't) read. But just judging it by itself, this is a thorough, insightful retelling of the 20th century's biggest, most depressingly wasteful dog pile of countries at each other's throats. It made me realize (sorta) why on earth Hollywood hasn't exploited more of these stories: they're just too sad. Too pointless. It's hard to find anything but tragedy even in the moments of real, raw heroism. ...more
Marlantes is right: our soldiers need spiritual prep before battle and spiritual detox after. They need to know that what they are fighting for is rigMarlantes is right: our soldiers need spiritual prep before battle and spiritual detox after. They need to know that what they are fighting for is right. But Marlantes' evolutionist worldview gives him absolutely no right to claim any of this whatsoever--and doesn't support his suggested remedies, either. In response to the trauma of wartime killing (for example), he simply says, "Well, you have to pick a side, don't you? So just pick one and stick with it."
Despite interesting stories about Vietnam, adrenaline, PTSD, etc., the book's main thrust collapses without a personal God to separate just war from unjust war. I'd be very depressed if I were Marlantes: all this diagnosis of a big problem yet no answer in sight except my own bootstraps. ...more
Herb Brin tells of how he traveled the trains that bore his fellow Jews to their deaths from all over the world. His story stands out for two reasonsHerb Brin tells of how he traveled the trains that bore his fellow Jews to their deaths from all over the world. His story stands out for two reasons in particular: its taut, non-weepy prose (dealing with a legitimately weepy subject) and its timing (written to a generation still largely--willfully?--unaware of the Holocaust). Bought this book in a Santa Cruz bookstore for $10 because I liked what I'd seen flipping through. Then realized it was signed by the author--and liked it even better. ...more
This book was truly one of a kind. Sam Sheridan (already a trained boxer and fighter) puts himself through eskrima, survival training, firearms courseThis book was truly one of a kind. Sam Sheridan (already a trained boxer and fighter) puts himself through eskrima, survival training, firearms courses, stunt driving, elk hunting, dogsledding, igloo-building, and more in order to prep for just about any kind of disaster. He's best when he simply recounts the training and the talented (sometimes near-whacko) dudes who coached him. He's weakest when using zombies and aliens as a narrative device--and when he props up his survivalist argument with self-crumbling evolutionist stilts. If you want to know what it feels like to make fire, tan deer skin, combat heat exhaustion, hike at 9,000 feet, make a double-lung shot through an elk at 300 yards, and bring a knife to a gunfight, this is the book for you. ...more
I was expecting a narrative rich with paddling details, but what I got was a verbal map of every single inlet through the Everglades--and nothing elseI was expecting a narrative rich with paddling details, but what I got was a verbal map of every single inlet through the Everglades--and nothing else. Cool, but...not what I wanted. ...more
Lowry's style is deceptively light and simple. She can really hit quite hard. Her mild, middle-grade dystopic novel about a community of coerced, coloLowry's style is deceptively light and simple. She can really hit quite hard. Her mild, middle-grade dystopic novel about a community of coerced, colorless, toneless, emotionless, sexless sameness isn't nearly as dire as 1984 or The Hunger Games, but it doesn't need to be. I quite enjoyed the quick read and am looking forward to the movie coming summer 2014--though it already looks like they've fed it through the Hollywood cheese machine and created (ironically)...sameness....more
I had a very specific need: to know what combat in Vietnam looked, sounded, smelled, felt, and tasted like, enough to construct an old Vietnam vet chaI had a very specific need: to know what combat in Vietnam looked, sounded, smelled, felt, and tasted like, enough to construct an old Vietnam vet character and feel like I'd already walked in his shoes. Sgt. Rock answered that much better than Blood on Red Dirt and The Best of the Best: The Fighting 5th Marines. A more than decent writer with a keen eye for detail, Rocky Olson made me feel like I was there, deep in the jungle with the rain, mud, leeches, diarrhea, malaria, tripwires, incompetent commanders, and spilled American blood. He doesn't shy away from telling you exactly how it was--even his most terrified or embarrassing moments. ...more
Meh. A writer can be forgiven many things, but not caring about their work is past putting up with. Mark Frost can spin a complex, imaginative tale, bMeh. A writer can be forgiven many things, but not caring about their work is past putting up with. Mark Frost can spin a complex, imaginative tale, but Alliance feels like he penned it in one sitting with the simple goal of getting it done, and never went back over it. Either his writing has decayed since the first book or I've grown more aware of how often he insists instead of shows. And I (nearly) quote: "A super scary monster with really terrifying eyes radiating malevolence traveled towards them at a high rate of speed, clearly intent on killing them." Over and over and over. I crossed out almost as much as I underlined. ...more
Took me a while to get into this. Parts were boring, parts seemed unnecessary, and Pressfield could stand to slash and burn through his piles of adjecTook me a while to get into this. Parts were boring, parts seemed unnecessary, and Pressfield could stand to slash and burn through his piles of adjectives. But in the end I loved it. I don't think I've ever read a book that was at once so dirty, shocking, blunt, grim, raw, bloody, pagan, and inspiring. No wonder it's required reading for the U.S. Marines.
"For what can be more noble than to slay oneself? Not literally.... But to extinguish the selfish self within, that part which looks only to its own preservation, to save its own skin.... When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when he most passionately sought goal is neither glory not his own life's preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime." ...more
Simple, easy-to-read bio of Mikhail Baryshnikov, defector from Russia and at one time the world's greatest (also very non-gay) dancer. Enjoyed discoveSimple, easy-to-read bio of Mikhail Baryshnikov, defector from Russia and at one time the world's greatest (also very non-gay) dancer. Enjoyed discovering the talent and obsession of the man behind one of my family's oldest Christmas traditions: the CBS television production of "The Nutcracker."...more