Full disclosure: I've met this author before; I think she's cool and a great journalist who also happens to write for the Economist. In the past I hadFull disclosure: I've met this author before; I think she's cool and a great journalist who also happens to write for the Economist. In the past I had read snippets of this book, but it was satisfying to finally read this through to the finish.
I've covered the art world for the past 10 years or so and I think Sarah does a great job of explaining how a lot of the pieces of the art market fit together. I also like that she's not afraid to show some of the not-so-pretty sides of the art world. It's a strange planet, but it's also an interesting economic system that manages to blend old world traditions with new markets, sometimes to great success, other times in ways that as mysterious to me as I'm sure they are to people unfamiliar with this ecosystem.
I've known Kathy (and Amy and Alison) for many years and always found her to be an inspiring, big-thinking, larger-than-life woman. This autobiographyI've known Kathy (and Amy and Alison) for many years and always found her to be an inspiring, big-thinking, larger-than-life woman. This autobiography is incredibly brave in its honesty, forthrightness, and unflinching presentation of her imperfections. Kathy shares her personal trials and demons and admits that she doesn't have it all figured out, but you admire how she gives it her all to move forward. Kathy doesn't do things by halves. I applaud her for having the courage to write and share her story. I really enjoyed In the Heart of Life. ...more
Wow, this book was dark. I've seen the movies and from those conjured up a story that had this dreamy quality of submerged attraction and envy--decoraWow, this book was dark. I've seen the movies and from those conjured up a story that had this dreamy quality of submerged attraction and envy--decorated with elegant old houses. But Brideshead Revisited the novel took me to a very dark and disturbing place. To me, the pieces that shone were the broken fragments of relationships: Charles and his horrible father, and the oppressive mother and Sebastian. Waugh deftly shows these strange, decaying bonds in a way that sticks with you, haunts you. I've always appreciated him as a writer; his dialogue is so facile it seems contemporary, his descriptions surprising, his characters unique and layered.
The fall into adultery while aboard transcontinental ship in the midst of a storm was masterful piece of writing. The protagonist's emotional descent became heightened with almost a physical sensation of disorientation. I felt literally sea sick afterwards.
I'm not really sure how to sum up what to share about this book. I'm not sure I liked it in the sense that it made me happy after I read it. But I did appreciate that it pulled me in and took me to another place.
My first P.G. Wodehouse--feel that the target audience for Heavy Weather was probably your average teenage boy in the 1920s; a group I imagine that waMy first P.G. Wodehouse--feel that the target audience for Heavy Weather was probably your average teenage boy in the 1920s; a group I imagine that was just as hygienically challenged/horrid as teenage boys can be today. Still, the book is "loads" of fun, even for readers far removed from the ven diagram of Wodehouse's original demographic. I enjoyed the way the plot tap-danced from one near miss to another and Wodehouse's language is quite simply fun, fun, fun. I like how he uses dialog such as "Pip pip," and over-wrought (but I like over-wrought!) sentences: "It would have pained the immaculate Monty, could he have known that his prospective employer was picturing him at the moment as furtive, shifty-eyed, rat-like person of the gangster, type, liable at the first opportunity to sneak into the sties of innocent pigs and plant pineapple bombs in their bran-mash."
I'm a fan of the J&W television series, and it took a few chapters to banish Hugh Laurie from my mental landscape, but all in all this was a nice light read. ...more
I think I liked this book best for the education it provided about the rise of the Bolsheviks and the disintegration of Russia. I enjoyed reading abouI think I liked this book best for the education it provided about the rise of the Bolsheviks and the disintegration of Russia. I enjoyed reading about the movement from a working class perspective, rather than from the removed, hilltop view that my old history books seemed to take. ...more
This book is really well done. I remerged after reading it as if from a fog. Unfortunately, it was billed to me as being expected to be the biggest boThis book is really well done. I remerged after reading it as if from a fog. Unfortunately, it was billed to me as being expected to be the biggest book of the year. I think it's a great book, but probably not the book I'm going to recommend to friends if they ask me for "the ONE new book you read this year." Still I don't want that comment to take away from the successfulness of the writing and the plot. I enjoyed it greatly. ...more
This book positively shimmered. I thought about it for days afterward, and not for any specific reason apart from sheer awe at this author's skill. ThThis book positively shimmered. I thought about it for days afterward, and not for any specific reason apart from sheer awe at this author's skill. This novel is perhaps the best book I've read all year. Her economy of phrase, wit, and ability to apply a dream-like sheen to a whole compendium of characters makes this book a strange journey, much like an odd dream that you wake up wondering, "was that real?"
I haven't read Forester in a while and I had forgotten how great he is with dialogue. The conversations in this book whiz by. I think it was his firstI haven't read Forester in a while and I had forgotten how great he is with dialogue. The conversations in this book whiz by. I think it was his first novel and you can definitely sense that in terms of structure and plot. It's not as tightly written as A Room With a View, but I enjoyed it. ...more
This is another one of those books that arrived at the office and somehow ended up on my nightstand, vaulting past other, more difficult, reads. It'sThis is another one of those books that arrived at the office and somehow ended up on my nightstand, vaulting past other, more difficult, reads. It's a lightweight jaunt through the lives of eight royal brides, some of which I found irritating--Marie Antoinette--and many I thought sounded long-suffering--such as Alexandra of Denmark, and Leopoldina, Empress of Brazil.
Like most non-fiction works, I learned a few things. I was mostly interested to read about the challenges of living in Brazil in the early 1800s and Prussia in the mid to late 1800s. Both places sounded, well, kind of miserable. All in all, I liked Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples, the best, mostly because I think Naples is one of the most fascinating contemporary cities I've ever visited and I'm sure that it must have been bewitching in the late 1700s, filled with Neapolitan horses, visitors such as Cassanova, Sarah Goudar, Emma Hart, the Hamiltons, and of course, Italian comic opera. I'd be interested in reading more about Naples during this era. ...more
What a fun read. I didn't know much about the central characters before I dived into this nonfiction book, so each page was a surprise. I also learnedWhat a fun read. I didn't know much about the central characters before I dived into this nonfiction book, so each page was a surprise. I also learned an enormous amount about wines, how they age, and which brands are the most hoity-toity; I could probably pretend to be a terrible snob now. Unfortunately, several years ago I took a vacation that included several visits to wineries and sadly determined that although I can (sort of) tell the difference between a 10 dollar wine and an 80 dollar one, that's about it. Anything aside from the cheapest wines seemed to taste the same to me.
My most high brow experience from that trip was probably the glass of (relatively cheap) Chateau Margeaux that tasted velvety soft with all sorts of berry and woodsy flavors commingling in one glass--a very cool sensory experience. Mostly all I remember is how mean all the other wine aficionados were. On one tour, an American couple asked a question about the "toast." I did not know what that word meant and piped up, "What's toast?" before enduring their withering glares. The tour guide was happy to educate, but the other guests were put out. I often think that learning is a life-long adventure if you can side-step all the know-it-alls that try and protect the currency of their knowledge. I guess that's what good books are for.
Speaking of which, the book read a bit like a suspense novel, with more and more allegations piling up to condemn various members of the inner circle. It's too bad that most of the pivotal characters were men, except for the despised Serena Sutcliff and the ignored woman from Monticello, but I did get a peek into the strange world of wine super collectors. This book also made me interested in reading more about Thomas Jefferson, whose meticulous attention to detail is awe-inspiring, among his many, many other awe-inspiring qualities. I strongly recommend this book to wine drinkers, connoisseurs, and fans of movies similar to Catch Me If You Can. Cheers! ...more
I've had several teachers who worked with Nureyev, and the stories I've heard are not pretty. This biography pretty much confirmed that impression forI've had several teachers who worked with Nureyev, and the stories I've heard are not pretty. This biography pretty much confirmed that impression for me. Although his acts of generosity towards his proteges are carefully documented, in general I found the dancer vile. He treats so many people in his life as if they are expendable and all the beautiful dancing in the world doesn't excuse that kind of behavior. (*UPDATE--I spoke with one of my teachers who worked with him and he changed his tune, saying that Nureyev truly cared about dancers and it upset him greatly the way dancers were treated like children. It's quite a contrast from his previous story.)
I understand that he was an artist with a huge level of suffering: broken by the separation from his family, scorned by choreographers, plagued by political machinations. But the tantrums, screaming and general destructiveness of his personality probably did not help him in his career and private goals.
As a biography, this was some project. I think the author spent 10 years working on it and you can really tell by the intense level of detail--sometimes too much detail. I enjoyed filling in quite a few gaps in my knowledge about the history of 20th century dance. In particular, it was interesting to learn that Nureyev discovered and nurtured Sylvie Guillem, who is dancer with almost inhuman capabilities. I was also interested to hear about his relationship with Baryshnikov and Makarova.
After reading this book, things I respect about Nureyev: 1. His incredible, insatiable, attitude toward the acquisition of knowledge. The man was tireless. 2. His work ethic. I had heard stories from former teachers about how no one had ever seen someone who worked harder than Nureyev in class, and the book confirmed that impression. 3. His conviction that he had to create his own luck and create his own opportunities.
If you are a balletomane, you'll probably enjoy this book, but I don't recommend it for a light study of the art form. It's more historical than narrative. But very well done and thorough. ...more
Written by Sackville's granddaughter, The Bolter is a recounting of Idina's life as a notorious flapper gal, member of the Happy Valley set, and generWritten by Sackville's granddaughter, The Bolter is a recounting of Idina's life as a notorious flapper gal, member of the Happy Valley set, and generally lost soul. In the past, I've enjoyed reading about other well-known characters from colonial Kenya, but many of those people, such as Beyrl Markham, have interesting careers or compelling ambitions. Sackville is a pretty sad story. Her relationships with her five husbands and three children are disorganized and she seems to flit from person to person without much introspection and deliberation about what could truly make her happy.
The book is well written and a very interesting snapshot of the era. One random thing I learned: I had no idea that cocaine was so prevalent during this period.
I'd recommend this book if you are interested in the region or the Bright Young Things time period....more
Really fun. I've read a biography about the Mitford sisters that I highly recommend so this was a nice complement to that book. Much of the novel is sReally fun. I've read a biography about the Mitford sisters that I highly recommend so this was a nice complement to that book. Much of the novel is supposed to be a slightly fictionalized account of her relations. ...more
This book was insane, but also one of the most enlightening books I've read in a long time. It was embarrassing to realize how little I know (or rememThis book was insane, but also one of the most enlightening books I've read in a long time. It was embarrassing to realize how little I know (or remember) about the years that led up to WWII (I'm going to blame it on a science-focused preliminary education), and the motif that really impressed me was the massive, terrible, tidal wave of momentum that led up to the second "great" war.
The Sisters makes you think a lot about human nature and how ethics begin with the smallest actions. I once interviewed the dean of religious life at Stanford and he told me that the hardest ethical decisions are the little ones. "Everyone knows that killing is wrong, but those little decisions you make when no one is looking--those are the real tests."
There was an abundance of willful ignorance and laziness in Europe at that time. It's scary. I hope those mistakes are never repeated.
I'm not quite sure why a book about six sisters who had a penchant for dictators, communist activists and titled people made me think about this so much, but I think it was a fresh way way for me to learn about the war through the eyes of women who were sitting in on influential dinners, tea parties, the season, etc. Sometimes you learn more about the heart of a situation through the circumstantial. ...more