Amazingly well-written book of an amazing historical figure that sadly too many North Americans have never heard of.
The author draws a compelling arguAmazingly well-written book of an amazing historical figure that sadly too many North Americans have never heard of.
The author draws a compelling argument that Bolivar, often compared as the George Washington of South America, had actually completed a much more difficult feat in liberating and uniting (at least briefly) a huge swath of South America.
Although he had deep flaws in character, what stands out more were his shining strengths: amazing prescience and vision for his native continent, indispuitable military genius, rare eloquence and sense of poetry, unshaking moral compass, and indefatigable patriotism. This is a great man and a colossus in history, and the author tells us exactly why....more
I'm a little concerned that I'm missing out on how to appreciate Graham Greene. For being one of the best known works of someone praised as the voiceI'm a little concerned that I'm missing out on how to appreciate Graham Greene. For being one of the best known works of someone praised as the voice of the 20th century, Our Man in Havana seemed very pedestrian to me.
It is a work that seemed incapable of deciding if it was a satire on Cold War politics and the absurdity of espionage in this age, or a weirdly existential novel that ends up with a happy romantic ending.
The protagonist Wormold (a name I took as an omen that he would not be a likable character, somewhat mistakenly) is a British vacuum cleaner vendor in Havana. He is a small-time merchant whose wife had left him and his precious daughter Milly. Wormold falls into the world of espionage with hopes of better supporting his daughter and giving her a better life. In the course of this mission he finds himself inventing intelligence to report, which naturally gets him into trouble with both sides.
The prose is pretty good, but the plot and flow just didn't give me satisfaction as to what kind of book I was really reading. It was mildly entertaining enough to be worthwhile but I feel like I'm missing out on the profundity that so many have ascribed to Greene. ...more
This was my constant travel companion during my month-long backpacking trip in China, and it really informed my travel journal. Twain's readily accessThis was my constant travel companion during my month-long backpacking trip in China, and it really informed my travel journal. Twain's readily accessible, and seemingly modern sense of sharp sarcasm and biting humor was charmingly engaging. His combination of self-deprecating jokes as well as hard-hitting jokes on the short-comings of his European destinations and locals offer surprisingly deep insights on at least his perceptions of American and European identities. I (in vain) tried to replicate such a tone and at least some semblance of insight in my travel logs, and with Mark Twain as a model, I never suffered for lack of masterful guidance or literary inspiration....more
What a wonderful tribute to Delhi. Dalrymple makes a compelling case that the title of the eternal city belongs to the city on the Jumna/Yamuna (whichWhat a wonderful tribute to Delhi. Dalrymple makes a compelling case that the title of the eternal city belongs to the city on the Jumna/Yamuna (which has been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BC) instead of the Tiber.
Dalrymple manages a patchwork of stories that paints a surprisingly rich and multifaceted portrait of Delhi through history as well as present in this short book. The book reflects his one-year stay in the ancient capital with his wife Olivia, and as readers we get to know the city through colorful locals such as Madame Puri the spunky maternal Sikh landlord, his resourceful cab driver, and the sage-like Muslim scholar Dr. Jaffrey.
The author gives us the ugly as well as the beautiful, telling the riveting plight of the Hijras (modern-day descendents of the eunuch lineage in Delhi reduced from court officials under the Moghuls to panderers for change from threatening to flash themselves), and the recent interreligious violence so vivid in firsthand memories from residents of the massacre of Sikhs that took place in Delhi neighborhoods such as Trilokpuri in the 80s.
Dalrymple effectively portrays Delhi as a quicksilver city, constantly changing and often at a maddeningly quick pace. We follow him as he learns the history of the city from pre-Islamic days of Hindu despots, to Muslim rulers of the early AD centuries (often equally bloodthirsty), through the Mongol invasion and the long rule of the Moghul emperors, and past the relatively brief British dominion to the modern era.
Always vivid, seemlessly told, one cannot help but want desperately to visit Delhi after a reading....more
A fun to read and likely autobiographical bildungsroman about Dave, a young British man who takes a gap year abroad to India before starting universitA fun to read and likely autobiographical bildungsroman about Dave, a young British man who takes a gap year abroad to India before starting university. Dave initially decides on the trip hoping to sleep with his traveling partner Liz, who also happens to be his best friend's girlfriend. In India, Dave initially has a disastrous time, being disgusted by the delusions of transcendence that his fellow travelers pretend to absorb from the magical fairyland of India. As he rants about the absurdity of gap-year ritual, I fully sympathized with him; however, towards the end of the book, Dave began to adopt the rhetoric of the self-magnifying delusional travelers that he initially mocked, and eventually embraced the pleasures in all the cliches associated with the coming-of-age tour abroad. The book is well-written and offers an entertaining look at the backpacker's subculture (whether accurate or not I cannot say)....more