Two of my favorite things come together here in perfect harmony: archaeology and Agatha Christie. She wrote about her travels around Syria and Iraq wiTwo of my favorite things come together here in perfect harmony: archaeology and Agatha Christie. She wrote about her travels around Syria and Iraq with her second husband, Max Mallowan, as an "answer to a question that is asked me very often". That is the charm, because her archaeological memoir felt like we were sipping tea and munching cookies in one of her country village locations, enjoying our afternoon with stories from a hotter climate, and stretching our grey brain cells while waiting for someone to get whacked.
In the beginning, Christie warns her book won't entail more than everyday happenings, so don't expect a profound travelogue. The glimpses of humour you get when you read her fiction? Well, here she doesn't hold back (in her constrained English sort of way). If you enjoy hearing about the team's constipation issues or the fact that one of the last scenes includes lavatory seats floating in the water (poor Mac's first architectural job), then this is for you.
Christie tells about all the mundane things that might happen while travelling: buying dresses for the fuller form, the evil nature of zippers, dysfunctional washing facilities, uncomfortable taxis, weakness of buying shoes, struggles with a reticent member of the team, inefficiency of the post office etc. My favorite scene is when B. has trouble getting his mosquito pyjamas from the post office, and when he finally wears them and is able to relax, a mouse gets into them.
The troubles one might encounter when adventuring in a different culture where people have different concepts of dealing with things (and who regard the strange Western ways of the English very strange in turn) are told without malice and - although it's clear Christie has a special place in her heart for both countries - she doesn't engage in useless glorifying either, but tells everything as it is. There were occasions when doubting the mental faculties of some of the servants and things like that appeared dubious, but the colonial superiority could have been much worse.
What also impressed me was Christie's attitude in the digs. Jacquetta Hawkes mentions in her foreword how Christie wrote at the beginning of each season, but she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty when her help was needed in cleaning, cataloguing, and labelling the artefacts. It could be that Christie was much more fascinating as a person than I've thought. Finding more about her belongs to another time, however....more
It was probably a mistake to read this immediately after the exhaustingly long and detailed book by Noël Riley Fitch, because Fitch had obviously hadIt was probably a mistake to read this immediately after the exhaustingly long and detailed book by Noël Riley Fitch, because Fitch had obviously had a lot of information and inspiration from this, so I had to read a lot of the same stuff all over again. Maybe I should have read the memoirs first? Then again, some of the things didn't quite happen in the same way as Beach remembers them, so perhaps it was more useful to find out the truth first to get the events into the right perspective.
Beach describes simply her heavy but rewarding journey with her book shop, but because her principle was to protect the privacy of her friends and to stay clear of her own personal feelings, the memoir just doesn't go that deep into the era or Beach's life. There are some nice anecdotes, like the one about the cat who chews gloves. The light approach was quite nice in a way. Although I was surprised how gently Joyce is treated, but then again I wouldn't have appreciated a bashing either. In the end a nice little book, but nothing special I'm afraid. Recommended reading only if you're interested in the book shop, and want to hear its story in Beach's own words....more
Thank you goes to Josef Kohout for sharing us his experiences. This kind of perspective is completely new for most, but it really shouldn't be. WhenevThank you goes to Josef Kohout for sharing us his experiences. This kind of perspective is completely new for most, but it really shouldn't be. Whenever fear surfaces as differentiating people by some quality they have, alarm bells should be ringing in the heads of each of us. A family member once asked (someone who seems to be doing that differentiating thing quite a lot) why I always keep reading about horrific stuff like this. Well, you don't have to surround yourself with this kind of material, but you can't grow up in a barrel full of cotton either. That's just plain ignorance. Besides, when you know what happens when fear takes control, you know that there's actually just the one side you can choose if you have enough sense of justice and respect towards another human being. An example: either you think homosexuals deserve equal rights, or you don't. If you think they don't, you can just take your head from your ass for a moment, and reflect with this book in hand.
By the way, double standard's a bitch.
Homosexual behavior between two 'normal' men is considered an emergency outlet, while the same thing between two gay men, who both feel deeply for one another, is something 'filthy' and repulsive....more
Not as good as it has been marketed to be. There were two passages I actually wrote down, but the rest of it wasn't anything remarkable. The writing wNot as good as it has been marketed to be. There were two passages I actually wrote down, but the rest of it wasn't anything remarkable. The writing was fairly beautiful, and considering the whole memoir was dictated only with the left eye, it makes this quite an astonishing achievement. There's also a bit of sense of humour left despite what has happened. Still, Bauby's condition doesn't make me judge the writing or the content any differently. His situation was unfortunate (for me it would be absolutely unbearable), but I'm sure he would have wanted honesty instead of pity regarding his book....more