Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller was a book chosen by happenstance on a Saturday morning foray to the local library. My wife looked at the blurbsNorwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller was a book chosen by happenstance on a Saturday morning foray to the local library. My wife looked at the blurbs, rejected it and handed it to me, saying in a slightly condescending tone, “You might like this.” The blurbs covered a lot of ground with many broad promises. I was skeptical, but am glad to report they were all superlative, true and unexaggerated. Its well-developed characters are the story and drive the story. On one hand, a “literary novel,” on the other, it is, ostensibly, a Scandinavian police procedural (albeit one which was originally written in English by a gifted first-time American novelist and then translated into Norwegian.) Factually, an elderly retired Jewish watch repairer is transported from New York to live with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband in Norway. In one sense he is a living repository of memories of his departed wife, son and friends, who he speaks to and consults with as he confronts danger and guilt. He is haunted by his son’s death in Vietnam as well as by the deaths of his friend Mario and by twelve North Korean soldiers who departed unexpectedly with his assistance in the early 1950s. When a Kosovian immigrant from the adjoining apartment is violently murdered in his apartment while her young son fortuitously hides in a closet with our retired Jewish watch repairer, the old man decides to save the boy before his sociopathic Serbian war criminal father can snatch him and escape back to Serbia. The watch repairer, after leaving a cryptic note which possibly alludes to Huck Finn and the slave Jim, takes the boy, who hides with him wearing Paddington Bear boots and a Viking helmet, and leads his granddaughter, the police, the Serbian war criminal and his band of evil men on a merry chase to the satisfying dénouement. Along the way, we see an author who treats the elderly kindly with a gentle humor and reveals their problems of being taken seriously once a generalized label of dementia is applied to some aspect of their behavior. But we soon recognize that we are in the hands of an author who bares his knuckles while jabbing hard truths about religion, philosophy, ethnic cleansing, guilt, atonement, absolution, joy and justice. Having said all that, to me, the main point is that the book was enjoyable, absorbing, and entertaining. I put down this book believing a gentle type of dementia is possible, the kind that strips away the non-essential part of a person’s character and leaves the core individual with some time left to function and resolve his eternal issues. I hope that such a dementia exists and happens to me as life unfolds. What I did not learn or understand from the book was the title or its origin. There was maybe a whisper here or a raised eyebrow there, but not enough for me to say the second reading in pursuit of that Holy Grail was justified. In that respect, the book was very unsatisfying. Further I saith not. ...more
I enjoyed Jacob Jankowski and Sara Gruen's telling of his story. There were two stories really, the story of Jacob at 90 or 93, I forget which, and haI enjoyed Jacob Jankowski and Sara Gruen's telling of his story. There were two stories really, the story of Jacob at 90 or 93, I forget which, and having recently seen my parents and in-laws disposed of in that way, i.e., the assisted living route, Gruen's rendition was startlingly alive. Would that my recollections be as clear and impelling as Jacob's were of the second story, of almost graduating from an Ivy League college and at the last minute running away to join the circus, finding romance, love and hideous danger from a "paragon schnitzophonic" and at the same time being a believable account of the netherworld known as the traveling Circus. That is all I ask of a book. It kept me there in the chair.
I did not know how the two stories would be reconciled, but was pleased with the ending....more
This is an excellent historical novel about what must have been a tedious task, i.e., the discovery of planet X,...er, Pluto in 1930, a job that was aThis is an excellent historical novel about what must have been a tedious task, i.e., the discovery of planet X,...er, Pluto in 1930, a job that was accomplished by laboriously examining photographic plates made in the early hours of the morning in a remote observatory for years on end. The boys who did this One was a young Harvard PhD who had embarrassed himself by naming a comet after a girlfriend who promptly ran off and married a hard drinking co-worker who was also from Harvard and the other, a non-degreed Kansas farm boy who wanted to go to college and study astronomy. The book starts well into the future when the farm boy is asked as an old man to tell about his discovery to an audience of present day astronomers.
Byers does a very creditable job in drawing the characters and peopling the book with humans you care about and become interested in. There is a beautiful woman who suffers from the delusion that she has a large tusk growing out of her head. There is a trust fund baby, young man trying to make his own mark in the world. And there is Percival Lowell's widow who is both a positive and negative influence on the process of discovering the Planet X that Percy hypothesized about but never discovered prior to his death.
I learned something and enjoyed myself while I was doing it. ...more
Jerry Delfont is a single middle aged travel writer in Calcutta who has writer's block. He is not a warm and fuzzy type of guy. He is enlisted by a myJerry Delfont is a single middle aged travel writer in Calcutta who has writer's block. He is not a warm and fuzzy type of guy. He is enlisted by a mysterious beautiful American woman who proclaims herself to be a charitable benefactor on the order of Mother Theresa, but she is quick to point out that she is not always trying to wheedle money from donors like Mother T. The woman wants him to inquire about a dead body found in her son's friends hotel room.
Jerry has been alone for a long time and falls into the woman's seductive embrace. He solves the crime so that he can keep having tantric sex with her which in this book is a lot like going to a good massage parlor. There is a lot of middle aged puppy love and an eventual disillusionment and repulsion which leads to the recovery of his ability to write. The interesting aspect of the book to me is that Travel writer/novelist Paul Theroux is a character in the book and Jerry does not like or trust him. Paul Theroux manages to talk about himself through a character's eyes. He also uses his travel writing talents to move the reader about though India as Jerry searches for clues. Theroux writes so well about India that I reaffirmed my life long commitment to never go there due to certain health and sanitary fetishes that I ascribe to. ...more
Tesla was the only real Leonardo da Vinci of our age (1856-1943). His genius was in the field of electricity. He was quirky, he was feared as a “mad sTesla was the only real Leonardo da Vinci of our age (1856-1943). His genius was in the field of electricity. He was quirky, he was feared as a “mad scientist” an image that he developed and encouraged, he ended his years sitting on a park bench in Central Park covered with pigeons, but, in spite of all that, his incredible accomplishments were real and verifiable. Many of his inventions have been credited to others in the popular mind and his chief rivals, such as Thomas Edison and Marconi, won the public relations battle. But Tesla had a visual imagination for electricity unlike any other. For, example, he invented the electric motor in his mind, set it to work for a few weeks in a corner of his mind to work out the kinks and then drew the final blueprint for the electric motor as we know it today on the first try. Today the main item associated with his name is the Tesla Coil which remains primarily a toy for physics students and electrical engineers to demonstrate high voltage electricity, but do you realize that he developed and used a Tesla Coil that threw lightening bolts twenty miles across the Colorado prairie prior to 1900 and scared the hell out of the residents of Colorado Springs. Considering that it takes 18,000 volts to jump a gap of one inch, he pumped out a lot of power. He harnessed alternating current and developed the three phase electrical system. The Supreme Court determined that he invented radio before Marconi but the decision was not rendered until the last year of his life. Almost everything in the modern electronic world is dependent to some extent upon something that Tesla invented except for the incandescent light bulb which is properly credited to Edison.
Everyone should read this biography to see how much he shaped the world as we know it today. Some of the electronic devices Tesla invented and demonstrated have not been duplicated since.
In other areas, his mental talents raised issues that were bound to offend. For example, he decided to determine whether humans had a soul or whether everything they did was the result of cause and effect. To decide this, he recalled every incident in his life from an early age and concluded that every action he had taken was a reaction to a cause, i. e., we are all “meat machines.” Sorry about that. I didn't mean to ruin it for you.
Margaret Cheney did a great job. You don't have to know a thing about electricity or physics to appreciate what Tesla accomplished. ...more
This is the second book in the trilogy. Another excellent Swedish mystery which is very hard to put down. As noted in my review of the first in the trThis is the second book in the trilogy. Another excellent Swedish mystery which is very hard to put down. As noted in my review of the first in the trilogy, the only sad thing is that Stieg wrote three books, turned them into his publisher and then died. Considering the way, the second book ended, I don't see how the "girl" will be able to participate in the third one, The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest, but presumably she is not as far gone as the reader is led to believe at the end of this book. Perhaps in the third book, Stieg is writing from heaven as he describes the actions of the heroine, who is kicking hornet's nests. etc....more
An excellent Swedish mystery which is very hard to put down. The only sad thing is that Stieg wrote three books, turned them into his publisher and thAn excellent Swedish mystery which is very hard to put down. The only sad thing is that Stieg wrote three books, turned them into his publisher and then died....more
Anne is a rough book for a sixty year plus man to read. It puts a severe strain on one's Lychrymal glands. As a prelude to a trip to Prince Edward IslAnne is a rough book for a sixty year plus man to read. It puts a severe strain on one's Lychrymal glands. As a prelude to a trip to Prince Edward Island, I listened to an audio version, then read the book and finished with the HBO film. Once in maritime Canada, I realized that Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne are still national heroines after 100 years. I was particularly interested to learn that the Japanese have a particular affinity to the orphaned Anne and that a high percentage of the PEI tourists are Japanese on a pilgrimage to see the homeland of the out-spoken red-headed urchin. Go figure. ...more
I found this book in a used book shop in Marathon, Texas, (in the middle of nowhere) while on a trip to the Big Bend National Park. I mention it primaI found this book in a used book shop in Marathon, Texas, (in the middle of nowhere) while on a trip to the Big Bend National Park. I mention it primarily to recommend it as the first in a must-read series for anyone who might like a southwestern police (er, county sheriff) procedural. Set in fictional Posadas County, Steven Havill has created a great set of characters who you want to hear more about. I prefer Havill to Hillerman, another superb Southwestern writer. ...more
By way of background, for many years,I had three martini lunches monthly with a retired friend, who had attained great heights in the corporate world.By way of background, for many years,I had three martini lunches monthly with a retired friend, who had attained great heights in the corporate world. He was the Number 2 guy at Winn Dixie when he retired at age 65. He rented an office next to mine and we started having lunch when he was in his late 60s and continued the practice until he died at 85 back in the 1990s. He enjoyed hearing and telling good stories. He had started as a clerk for the Winn Lovett grocery chain at the age of 13 and many times he told me about his mentor, Mr. Radford Lovett who made several fortunes in the grocery business; Winn Lovett a precursor of Winn Dixie was one and Piggley Wiggley was another. In Mr Lovett’s later years he acquired most of Commodores Point in Jacksonville, Florida, which is prime industrial real estate acreage on the waterfront. It was a third fortune.
Mr. Lovett’s oldest son, Larry was a Harvard educated lawyer who worked in the family business until the day the old man died and then cashed out, moved to NYC and tried to buy his way into NYC society. Anyway, Larry set up the Save the Venice Opera House charity to inveigle his way into the wealth scene, and this book skewers Larry and his other society friends beautifully for being the social climbers they are. With every page turned, I imagined his old man spinning in his grave. Berendt also wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. ...more
This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Novel (1938). I read it in my early 30s and remembered it as a favorite for years often citing it in conversationThis book won the Pulitzer Prize for Novel (1938). I read it in my early 30s and remembered it as a favorite for years often citing it in conversations as the epitome of a first person narrative in which the reader sees something that the narrator is unaware of. I recalled that the narrator eulogized his late Boston Brahman friend in the most positive terms whereas the reader perceived the deceased quite differently. Thirty years later, I insisted that my wife read it and was surprised to learn that her take was quite different. I reread it and found that my take was different also. It is one of those rare books which changes depending on where you are in the great continuum of life. No matter where you are, you will enjoy it. ...more
This book is a very thorough account of the events leading up to the financial crisis. It is exhausting to read, but is an excellent account of the blThis book is a very thorough account of the events leading up to the financial crisis. It is exhausting to read, but is an excellent account of the blind leading the blind. It is scary to learn that there was nobody who knew what to do in the meltdown and it is even less comforting to realize that no real steps have been taken since to avoid the same thing happening again or to deal with the financial industry to prevent them from taking the same risks. ...more