Zadie Smith has a fantastic, creative, confident voice in her debut. The characters are well-drawn and memorable. Smith handles the immigrant experienZadie Smith has a fantastic, creative, confident voice in her debut. The characters are well-drawn and memorable. Smith handles the immigrant experience, religion vs. secularism, bioengineering, war, childhood, and marriage. I had my doubts about the ending chapters but quite liked the final paragraphs. As good as advertised and I'll probably read On Beauty at some point....more
This is a damned good big biography of one of the most interesting figures in American history. Chernow takes us from Hamilton's mysterious CaribbeanThis is a damned good big biography of one of the most interesting figures in American history. Chernow takes us from Hamilton's mysterious Caribbean childhood to his Columbia education which a moving account of a hurricane in the island paper affords him to the battlefields of the revolution and George Washington's side, an unbelievable picaresque adventure if it wasn't true. From there, the biographer of the robber barons takes us into the structuring of the American economy. Hamilton comes off as genius, Jefferson comes off as evil, Madison treacherous, Washington wise (he guided and tamed Hamilton), Adams cranky and casting blame. Much more about sex scandals of the 1790s (Hamilton, Jefferson, Burr) than you'd ever thought there was. And in the end, the vice president shoots Hamilton in a duel several years after Hamilton's eldest son died the same way. And Aaron Burr turns out to have the blackest wit in the history of man ("If any male friend of yours should be dying of ennui, recommend him to engage in a duel and a courtship at the same time," "my friend Hamilton, who I shot"). Yes, entertaining and educational!
"Ah, this is the constitution. Now, mark my words. So long as we are a young and virtuous people, this instrument will bind us together in mutual interests, mutual welfare, and mutual happiness. But when we become old and corrupt, it will bind us no longer." - Hamilton leaving office as Secretary of the Treasury, 1795...more
This will take a while. I spent nearly 7 months reading Black Lamb and Grey Falcon once I finally started it. It's worth it. Rebecca West may go on foThis will take a while. I spent nearly 7 months reading Black Lamb and Grey Falcon once I finally started it. It's worth it. Rebecca West may go on for pages about things that might not interest you all that much, describing church architecture, but this book is also full of interesting stories and observations and gems of writing. West can be one of the best prose stylists I've ever read, perhaps the greatest female writer I can think of (I do spend more time reading books by men). A sampling of the best quotes will be collected here as room allows. What makes the book absolutely fascinating is when it was written - in the late 1930s. Rebecca West is a woman of strong opinions, while she finds qualities to love in the Serbians above all and in the other peoples of Yugoslavia, she haranges against the Habsburgs' empire (with the exception of kind words for Empress Sissy) and the Ottomans, as well as the Germans that she meets in the Balkans, Hitler and Mussolini. Most passionately in the "Old Serbia" chapter 800 pages in, she visits Blackbird Field in Kosovo where the Turks defeated the Serbs in 1389 and decries the decision of the Serbian leader, according to a saga, to choose a kingdom of heaven rather than a kingdom on Earth, and accept the defeat and destruction of his people - she sees here a preference to be the sacrificial lamb rather than the one who kills the lamb, repeated over the centuries, in Franz Ferdinand's "eager" victimhood as he visits Sarajevo in 1914, in Britain and France's refusal to stand up to Hitler until it is too late, if at all, in her fellow progressives of Western Europe. This is her essential thesis, and it is pounded home in the conclusion which moves beyond her journeys to Yugoslavia in 1938 at the latest to describe the last 2 years of earth-shaking history including the conquests of Yugoslavia and France. The book contains multitudes and much wisdom, despite its biases (one of the reasons I did not take this book to Turkey with me, other than its weight, is West's anti-Islam bent). This is enough review, I heartily recommend the book if you think you have the interest and time, it will reward you. But most of you will never read the whole thing, even if you read this, so here's a sampling of the best of it:
I had this book on my top choices from a list of books that we might be assigned back in junior year of high school. Got "A Farewell to Arms" instead.I had this book on my top choices from a list of books that we might be assigned back in junior year of high school. Got "A Farewell to Arms" instead. But I found a hardcover in good condition for about $2 a few years later, so I got around to it eventually. Larry McMurtry's epic is good enough that I'm thinking about reading others in the Lonesome Dove saga, although I probably won't - too many books, too little time. Lonesome Dove was certainly enjoyable. Entertaining, probably a less cerebral read than Cormac McCarthy's "westerns" which I intend to try soon... So what's best? The characters are good - particularly Gus McCrae and his old flame Clara. McMurtry seems to do a pretty good job writing about women - Terms of Endearment is another of his, and it was made into an Oscar-winner and I'm pretty sure it's mostly about women. Men too. And for a western, it's uniquely realistic. Death comes abruptly and randomly, not in climactic heroic battles. Some of the hands show little depth if plenty of skill at their job, when McMurtry shows us their perspective, he shows their simplicity. An enormous geographic area is crossed, Mexico to Canada, with the country portrayed as it once was and should have remained, wild, rough, isolated pockets of settlers, Indians. The reader has spent 900 pages with these characters but he comes away not at all tired of them. The same went for McMurtry, thus 2 prequels and 1 sequel. The prequels strike my fancy a bit, and I suppose I might pick them up if I'm looking for some light reading....more
Saw the movie in 2003 in London, it made me miss Bowdoin as it reminded me of it... Rules of Attraction is far crazier a scene of course. But maybe BeSaw the movie in 2003 in London, it made me miss Bowdoin as it reminded me of it... Rules of Attraction is far crazier a scene of course. But maybe Bennington in the 1980s lived up to it. I live about 45 minutes from there now, in Saratoga Springs, took a drive there about a month before I read this, resisted buying the book then, but I'd read Donna Tartt's The Secret History, classmate of Ellis's, "that weird Classics group (and they're probably roaming the countryside sacrificing farmers and performing pagan rituals)?" (pg 160 - did Ellis throw that in as Tartt was writing her debut, he already having published Less Than Zero while a student, they were students, as a plug, teaser, did that line inspire her -- were there actually Classics kids who were into the Dionysian rituals in Vermont???), and was keen to read this one, and just generally interested so I checked out the Bennington College campus. "Camden College" is in New Hampshire but you've got North Camden like North Bennington and the college is basically identifiable as Bennington. Price Chopper supermarket gets a shout out too. Anyway...About 500 students I think, there is a long driveway and security at the end of it but no one on, I just drove a short loop and left, weird college architecture like every liberal arts school at least but it's practically all wood, sort of unique and Vermonty. Wonder if they party like that still. Hell of a lot of drugs and rampant gender-blind sex in the novel (more so than the movie, the college of the movie is less "bohemian" than that of the book). Fucking funny book. Interesting to compare perhaps with the kids aren't alright of Tom Wolfe in I Am Charlotte Simmons where its a 70 year old classic Southern gentleman who always wears a white suit freaked out by the youth's moral decay (and he hung out with Kesey and the 60s hippies) vs Ellis at age 24 or so writing this about his peers. I'm definitely interested in reading more of Bret Easton Ellis....more