I've had this around for a long time and figured it would be fun with the Richard III news lately. I’m really liking the characters and the history anI've had this around for a long time and figured it would be fun with the Richard III news lately. I’m really liking the characters and the history and enjoy the idea of a detective trying to solve a mystery from his hospital bed with help from researchers. Also amusing how everybody’s sitting around the hospital room smoking.
I don’t know a lot about the War of the Roses or British rulers before the Tudors, so I’m going to Wikipedia and my book of kings and queens for background. I like the theme of how much of the history we “know” is wrong, but I know enough to take the detective’s conclusions with a grain of salt. Amusing that the Stanley mentioned here is an ancestor of Lord Derby in the book I just read, and of the Lord Stanley who originated the Stanley Cup. ...more
A long novel set in the 18th century, centering around three people who share a character trait of being indecisive and boring. Anne Damer is a an ariA long novel set in the 18th century, centering around three people who share a character trait of being indecisive and boring. Anne Damer is a an aristocrat and a sculptor; she's friends with Lord Derby who has for literally years had a chaste relationship with actress Eliza Farren who has risen from the lower classes to stardom on Drury Lane. Eliza is unwilling to make an arrangement with him while his ailing wife still lives. Anne and Eliza become friends but scurrilous rumors suggesting they are Sapphists threaten both their reputations.
The problem with the book isn't so much that it's long and boring, but that the characters aren't brought to life. Anne's thoughts and feelings are described more than the others. It's hard to see why Derby is so besotted with Eliza that he's willing to wait for her and why Anne is so drawn to her - we're told of her beauty and grace and Derby and Anne's delight in that, but beyond that she doesn't have any particular appeal. She's a comedy actress but doesn't come across as clever or funny, and her personality is vague - she says she's never felt love for anyone. She just goes through year after year of performances with a few thoughts about her fellow thespians, but there's no insight into how she prepares for a role or her feelings about acting. A character who's the center of admiration needs to sparkle. The backstage scenes are lifeless, and if Eliza is so appealing, why doesn't she have other stage door Johnnies?
Part of the plot is one of the character's lack of self knowledge, which accounts for some of the vagueness. This was mildly interesting to me in the sense of wondering, in times when sodomy and Sapphism were judged harshly, how would would a person who realized they were drawn in that direction come to terms with it. But as a story, it was unsatisfying. There's much much more intrigue about various characters as the book winds along, but after a while I just didn't care.
Oh yeah they're based on real people, and the politics were interesting enough to make me go to Wikipedia for more background - so was Hugh Walpole - but that wasn't enough. I should have believed all the reviewers who said this was boring....more
Reading it because Ruth Gordon made her debut in it in 1915, and I've never read it though I saw the Mary Martin production several times and probablyReading it because Ruth Gordon made her debut in it in 1915, and I've never read it though I saw the Mary Martin production several times and probably the Disney version. It's a bit twee for me, seems like it's more for nostalgic adults than children, but I like that there are truly scary parts. Some reviewers have commented that it's too violent for kids; yeah, people get killed but it's all cartoon violence. It's actually pretty weird and Peter is really an unpleasant guy if you think about it for very long, but from the perspective of a four year old I guess he would seem pretty cool. I think I would have liked him - I'd have wanted to BE him - if I'd had this book read to me then though I would have detested Wendy (still do, kind of) and hated all the stuff about Wendy mothering the lost boys. I've also read J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Real Story Behind Peter Pan by Andrew Birkin, so I know how messed up Barrie was....more
Skimmed, because I was mostly interested in his relationship with Ruth Gordon and their son, Jones Gordon, though it had some entertaining stuff.
If thSkimmed, because I was mostly interested in his relationship with Ruth Gordon and their son, Jones Gordon, though it had some entertaining stuff.
If the name isn't familiar, he was a theater producer and director, the wonder boy of the late '20 with four consecutive hits. But his career faltered and flamed out, eventually. He was a mean SOB who took great pleasure and pride in being a mean SOB - tormenting playwrights with false promises about producing their plays, insulting and belittling actors. He directed Laurence Olivier in "The Green Bay Tree" and on opening night he whispered to Olivier waiting in the wings, "Good-bye, Larry. I hope I never see you again." Olivier got his revenge by basing his portrayal of Richard III on Harris' movements, expressions, and appearance. George S. Kaufman famously said that when he died, he wanted to be cremated and have somebody throw his ashes in Jed Harris's face.
It's interesting to wonder what attracted Ruth Gordon, a woman of huge kindness, sweetness, and kindness to him. Probably some of it was his intelligence, and vice versa. He was hugely successful and Ruth liked the finer things in life, and in 1928 he was at the top of his game and sexy. She had Jones with him because she was afraid it was her last chance to have a baby after several abortions. Ruth got smart and moved on, but there was no shortage of women who were willing to put up with him. At least two who got involved with him killed themselves, apparently because of him.
He was hateful to his son Jones, too. When Jones was four years old he told a friend, "That kid's no good." Later, as a young man, Jones lived with him and endured constant criticism and thrown ashtrays.
Anyway, this book is mostly a collection of anecdotes about Harris and I ended up enjoying it, while feeling sorry for anyone who ever tried to do business with him or be in any kind of relationship with him. What a monster. Of course he lived to be almost 80, the stinkers always do....more
Ruth Gordon's second memoir. This one's more of an autobiography, starting with her first real job as an actress in a road company doing one night staRuth Gordon's second memoir. This one's more of an autobiography, starting with her first real job as an actress in a road company doing one night stands and travelling by train, trying to learn how to act. Marriage to a fellow actor who helped her, finally roles where she knew what she was doing and proved she could act. Lots of abortions, train rides, love affairs, funny stories, other actors. Loving this....more
A Christmas gift from my dear husband who knows my unhealthy love of MAD magazine. I have a hardbound anthology from 1958 that was my dad’s and didn’tA Christmas gift from my dear husband who knows my unhealthy love of MAD magazine. I have a hardbound anthology from 1958 that was my dad’s and didn’t know there were any others till he got me this one from 1959 and another from 1960. I've read all of it before, many times, but the drawings still have the power to make me laugh....more
Anonymous and strange photographs of the sort I collect at flea markets and estate sales so what's not to like? I liked it so much I ordered his previAnonymous and strange photographs of the sort I collect at flea markets and estate sales so what's not to like? I liked it so much I ordered his previous book of photos from Amazon.
This is the UK title of his book Being Human....more
So-so memoir of growing up with a mother who was paranoid schizophrenic. Her father left and wasn’t able to get custody for several years. She does aSo-so memoir of growing up with a mother who was paranoid schizophrenic. Her father left and wasn’t able to get custody for several years. She does a good job of describing daily life with her mom and sisters, her mom’s many restrictions based on paranoid delusions, and the girls' ambivalence about wanting to get away and live with their dad. A running theme about a story the sisters make up about their dolls who are captives and the dolls' schemes to escape became a bit tiresome.
I had a lot of questions that didn't get answered: How did they learn to live "normal" lives where people have clean houses and don't have arbitrary restrictions on what they can eat? How has her childhood affected her life now - was she able to cast off much of the abuse, or does it haunt her? When her mother rammed her father's car after he got custody, did anyone press charges? (It didn't sound like it - why wasn't she prosecuted?) And finally, why do the girls still maintain contact with their mother? People I know who have relatives with this kind of intractable mental disease seem happy to have them out of their lives. I know it's complicated, but......more
A detailed biography that tries to get to the truth of all the stories Fields told about his origins, and to the man behind the persona he created. L A detailed biography that tries to get to the truth of all the stories Fields told about his origins, and to the man behind the persona he created. Louvish had access to voluminous scrapbooks that Fields kept of all his appearances and to family papers, and he did exhaustive research in to archives at the Library of Congress and other places to seek out old scripts for vaudeville skits, studio correspondence, etc., etc. There are a lot of transcripts of routines (some reviewers didn’t like this, which I found puzzling – surely if you’re reading this, you like Fields and get a kick out of these.) There are great portraits of Eddie Cantor, Bert Williams, Fanny Brice, and others not well known today. I hadn’t realized that Fields had such a long career as a juggler or that he’d traveled the world in that role for years before he became the comedian we recognize now. I liked it a lot and it was a perfect airplane and poolside book. The last part of Fields’ life wasn’t as well described as I would have liked but overall it was great. Apparently this was the go-to Fields biography for several years but now it’s been superseded by James Curtis’ W. C Fields. I’d like to read that one too. ...more
Her thesis is that after disasters, ordinary people quickly find ways to help each other and come together in new communities of hope and optimism, deHer thesis is that after disasters, ordinary people quickly find ways to help each other and come together in new communities of hope and optimism, despite loss. Authorities and elites are certain that there will be riots and chaos and come in to rule with a heavy hand - for instance, after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, communal kitchens were quickly set up and neighbors helped each other fight fires, while the authorities drove off amateur fire fighting attempts and caused more damage, and the police declared martial law and issued shoot to kill orders for anyone in the damaged area (including rescuers.) It's an interesting idea and she's done a lot of research to back it up.
This is one of those books that should have been a long New Yorker article. She describes various kinds of disasters and the grassroots efforts versus the government reactions with many examples. I skimmed the last half because it became too repetitive. However, it was edifying for me because I was unaware of the scope of the atrocities in the wake of Katrina....more