Putting aside this book's multiple crazy (but typical Susan Elizabeth Phillips) portrayals of threatened sexual assault, the way it plays with faith hPutting aside this book's multiple crazy (but typical Susan Elizabeth Phillips) portrayals of threatened sexual assault, the way it plays with faith healing and TV evangelicansim, and the fact that the heroine's prize at the end is she gets to stay in Salvation and live among all the small-minded people who shunned (yes, shunned) her, I compulsively re-read this book once or twice a year.
Why, you ask? I am a glutton for big, meaty angst, and this book is filled to the brim with angst. Single mother trying to support her sick kid? Woman wronged by a judgmental, small-minded community? Heroine a willing martyr to the hero's deep psychological disturbances? Anne Stuart cruelty imported into a zany SEP setting? All of the above....more
Snooze. This is one of the less compelling books I've read in my recent Virginia Kantra glom. Rachel doesn't have that much to her and Sean reminds meSnooze. This is one of the less compelling books I've read in my recent Virginia Kantra glom. Rachel doesn't have that much to her and Sean reminds me of a pale ghost of the delicious-and-misunderstood Michael Fury from Finding the Dream. The whole 'I can't love you because of the Mob' did less than nothing for me....more
A classic for obvious reasons, Horne's meticulous accounting of the Algerian war breaks an opaque and often clandestine struggle into narratives arranA classic for obvious reasons, Horne's meticulous accounting of the Algerian war breaks an opaque and often clandestine struggle into narratives arranged logically by chronology, and then by topic. Horne admits upfront his access to French sources was much greater than his access to Algerian sources, and this is a persistent weakness throughout the account. That said, Horne is measured and pragmatic while recounting gruesome and increasingly wanton violence. Although his admiration for bold personalities on both sides of the conflict is clear, Horne largely avoids imbuing either side with the admirable/heroic/semi-tragic qualities he finds in many of the conflict's protagonists.
His fundamental thesis is compelling in its simplicity: regardless of the ups and downs of sequential campaigns, the Algerians enjoyed the advantage of a clear and consistent political aim stemming back to the Soummam Conference of 1956. The French, despite enjoying tactical superiority, and even military strategic advantage at some points, were always hampered by conflicting political aims- Algerie francaise, but meaning what? A colonial, apartheid state with a permanent native underclass? Or a liberal community in which native Algerians and pied noirs enjoyed political and economic parity and created a blended society? Horne, while seduced by the might-have-been of a "third way," rightly recognizes that the pied noir lobby itself, in the rigidity of its demands for indefinite privileges for Europeans over native Algerians and the power of its voice in the Fourth Republic, made such a vision impossible until it was far too late for anything short of full, unconditional Algerian independence.
Horne's chapters on torture are magnificent, and illustrate the corrosive effects on practitioners, who quickly lose respect for rule of law and perspective on the broader political framework that defines and directs military aims. The French army's increasing, existential identification with victory in Algeria at any cost, despite its distaste for the pied noir worldview, is as baffling in the abstract as it is tragic and pointless when refined to the stories of individual soldiers. Horne also succeeds in charting the FLN's increasing hold over the majority of the political space in Algeria, and the sequential conflicts between key leaders that largely remained hidden at the time behind a curtain of collective leadership and responsibility.
Horne is annoyingly British and of his time when he credits actors' behavior to their Mediterranean passions or inscrutable Arab ways. But dated elements like this aside, he largely lets the players themselves tell the story through factual accounts of their actions and their subsequent attempts to explain, rationalize, and defend. It is that clear-eyed recounting of fact, and the measured conclusions drawn from those facts, that allows A Savage War of Peace to stand the test of time....more
This was filled with all of the small details and strange quirks that can really place you on the margins of someone else's life. What I remember mostThis was filled with all of the small details and strange quirks that can really place you on the margins of someone else's life. What I remember most clearly was the passion, loss, and drama that defined Joe's war years and carousing 20s. The 30s continued to compel with a certain charm and drama, but the remainder of the book was a sad slide away from all that possibility into a bizarre colonialism in miniature and a decent into irrelevance. ...more
I resented having to place this book down and exit the world that Sara and Gerald Murphy invented for themselves. It was all too easy to slip into theI resented having to place this book down and exit the world that Sara and Gerald Murphy invented for themselves. It was all too easy to slip into the grace and charm of Villa America, or to envision the full-tilt excitement of painting backdrops for Parade and hosting the Ballets Russes set for a drunken soiree in honor of Les Noces ending with Stravinsky jumping through a laurel wreath. (Seeing the 'Misia, Queen of Paris' exhibit at the Musee de Orsay and the Paul Guilliame collection at the Orangerie provided gorgeous visuals for these passages!) Even the china, the end tables, and Sara's filmy dresses and pearls provided the sense of a life painstakingly crafted, constantly reimagined, and ultimately fragile.
Of course, the back to back tragedies of the 1930s tarnish the golden prince-and-princess nature of their story. Despite flashes of warmth (Dorothy Parker camping out at the sanatorium with them, Leger coming to sketch with Patrick, Hemingway arranging a wild west foray for the kids) it was striking how selfish, small, and mean many of their 'great man and woman' friends were. Despite the art, the dinners, the conversation, the modernity and the daring, these were just people making (lousy) choices and trying but all too often failing to lead lives congruent with their senses of self. Try Scott Fitzgerald: "When I like men I want to be like them. I want to lose the outer qualities that give me my individuality and be like them. I don't want the man; I want to absorb into myself all the qualities that make him attractive and leave him out." But also: "...you'll let me have my little corner of you where I know you better than anybody- yes, even better than Gerald. And if it should perhaps be your left ear (you hate anyone to examine any single part of your person, no matter how appreciatively- that's why you wore bright clothes) on June evenings on Thursday from 11:00 to 11:15 here's what I'd say: That not one thing you've done has been for nothing.... The people whose lives you've touched directly or indirectly have reacted to the corporate bundle of atoms that's you in a good way. I have seen you again & again at a time of confusion take the hard course almost blindly because long after your powers of ratiocination were exhausted you clung to the idea of dauntless courage." How to reconcile the cruelty, selfishness, and love?
The open question of Gerald's sexuality was particularly compelling. There was his unnamed anguish over the falseness of his public persona and his insistence that his love for Sara was true and necessary but also lacking a certain vitality/honesty: "terribly, terribly sorry that I am as I am... only one thing would be awful and that is that you might not know that I love only you. We both know it's inadequate (that's where 'life' comes in);- but such as it is it certainly is the best this poor fish can offer,- and it's the realest thing I know." The narrative presents an unsettling and unanswered question- does sexual incompatability or infidelities of the mind and heart (if not the body) make romantic love any less 'real' or 'true'? Or is the ultimate proof commitment- the daily choice to remain with one's partner and invest in them? Is such a choice sad, pitible, noble, tragic, beautiful, all of the above? Disturbing and bittersweet......more
A quick, interesting survey of five revolutionary/guerrilla movements of the late 80s/early 90s: the FMLN of El Salvador, the shabab of Gaza's first iA quick, interesting survey of five revolutionary/guerrilla movements of the late 80s/early 90s: the FMLN of El Salvador, the shabab of Gaza's first intifada, the mujaheddin of Afghanistan (Afghan, not Arab), the Karen of Burma, and the Polisario of Western Sahara. The best aspect of of the book is extensive quotes and slices of everyday life from rank and file fighters. Anderson himself can sometimes be an intrusive narrative presence and he plays up a little too excitedly the 'exotic' nature of the people and places he covers. In general, however, he lets the guerrillas' stories stand without too much embellishment, and he is appropriately clear-eyed not only about the repressive circumstances that birth these movements but also the unwholesome, anti-democratic, and sometimes violent means guerrilla leadership use to maintain control of civilian populations and their own fighters. First published in 1992, it's also nice from a historical perspective. Worth a read....more
So maybe I really liked the movie 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' but the proximate cause of my reading these stories is the doomed affair in Clouds of WiSo maybe I really liked the movie 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' but the proximate cause of my reading these stories is the doomed affair in Clouds of Witness between the murder victim and a mysterious Viennese mistress. The high drama, rigid social rules, and hopelessly destructive passion always struck a certain chord and I wanted more...
'Letter from an Unknown Woman' is claustrophobic and laden with risible angst. I am glad I did not stop there, however, as the opening of 'A Story Told in Twilight' is gorgeous and the quiet dignity of the matron in 'The Debt Paid Late' is an excellent rebuke of the pointless tragedy of the unknown woman. All of the stories focus on obsessive first love, embraced in three cases and absent in the fourth. What is now mocked and trivialized (weeping hysterical girls thrusting arms out to the Beatles, Bieber, whomever) is given a rich inner life, heavy with opportunity and danger that is incarnated in two cases by a sexually potent older male artist.
The translation is well done, with simple, clear, and intimate prose:
My husband was greatly surprised to see me back from my holiday so soon, and even more surprised to find how happy and reinvigorated those two days away had left me. He described it as a miracle cure. But I see nothing miraculous about it. Nothing makes one as healthy as happiness, and there is no greater happiness than making someone else happy.
Has rain been sweeping over the city again in the wind? Is that what suddenly makes it so dim in our room? No. The air is silvery clear and still, as it seldom is on these summer days, but it is getting late, and we didn't notice. Only the dormer windows opposite still smile with a faint glow, and the sky above the roof ridge is veiled by golden mist. In an hour's time it will be night. That will be a wonderful hour, for there is no lovelier sight than the slow fading of sunset colour into shadow, to be followed by darkness rising from the ground below, until finally its black tide engulfs the walls, carrying us away into its obscurity. If we sit opposite one another, looking at each other without a word, it will seem, at that hour, as if our familiar faces in the shadows were older and stranger and farther away, as if we had never known them like that, and each of use was now seeing the other across a wide space and over many years. But you say you don't want silence now, because in silence one hears, apprehensively, the clock breaking time into a hundred tiny splinters, and our breathing will sound as loud as the breathing of a sick man. You want me to tell you a story. Willingly. But not about me, for our life in these big cities is short of experience, or so it seems to us, because we do not yet know what is really our own in them. However, I will tell you a story fit for this hour that really loves only silence, and I would wish it to have something about it of the warm, soft, flowing twilight now hovering mistily outside our window.
Upfront, I have to say that I did not particularly enjoy this book. I think it's me, not the book. I never fully engaged with the plot; the book did nUpfront, I have to say that I did not particularly enjoy this book. I think it's me, not the book. I never fully engaged with the plot; the book did not sweep me away into hours of reading. Instead I read this book dutifully, bit by bit. I am not sure what is wrong with me. For all her many strengths, Mosca was never a vehicle for me to slip in and explore this fabulous world.
Hardinge is indisputably a fantastic writer. My copy is dogeared from all of the times I was especially caught by a strange but compelling turn of phrase- Mosca's "peppery" eyes were a particular favorite of mine. In addition, the book is thoughtful about the power of the written word to manipulate, inform, delight, and terrify. The analogy of the Clamouring Hour was particularly well done.
Perhaps someday I will have a reason to return to this book. I hope I will be in a more receptive frame of mind when I do....more
I went on a Nalini Singh bender- I think I'm still in mourning over how bad Heart of Obsidian was. Faith and Vaughn have never been my favorite coupleI went on a Nalini Singh bender- I think I'm still in mourning over how bad Heart of Obsidian was. Faith and Vaughn have never been my favorite couple, but I love how immersive Singh's earlier books are, and how completely they draw you into a fully fleshed-out community of friends, lovers, enemies, and families. It's all Virgin River- esque, except with shapeshifting leopards instead of Marines......more
I have been in make-soup-and-tea-and-snuggle-up comfort reading mode since 2013 rolled in. Carla Kelly (especially classic Carla Kelly) generally makeI have been in make-soup-and-tea-and-snuggle-up comfort reading mode since 2013 rolled in. Carla Kelly (especially classic Carla Kelly) generally makes the top of my comfort read list.
Jesse was my favorite medical lead until he was knocked off by Jonas in A Kiss For Midwinter. Nell is less sharply drawn, a sweet 18 year old whistfully looking into the window of warm family life from the outside a la A Little Princess. Much of the poignancy is Jesse's knowledge that a much more secure and loving life awaits Nell if they can only make it to British lines.
Funder did a fantastic job of conveying not only the immediate trauma of her subjects' experiences in the GDR but also their continuing relationshipsFunder did a fantastic job of conveying not only the immediate trauma of her subjects' experiences in the GDR but also their continuing relationships to their pasts; the book's major theme is the individual and collective response to past trauma: remember or forget? Can we escape our pasts? Does a refusal to forget also impede one's ability to live for the present, and have hope for the future? Why do we sanitize the past, and how do we try to silence those who insist on excavating it?
The stories of Miriam, Julia, and Frau Paul broke my heart....more
Balance of Trade was never my favorite Liaden book and I had rather forgotten all about it when I picked it up for a re-read in advance of starting TrBalance of Trade was never my favorite Liaden book and I had rather forgotten all about it when I picked it up for a re-read in advance of starting Trade Secret. Lee and Miller have an extraordinary ability to construct an obviously alien but understandable world through the smallest of dialogue quirks and casual details. They then use these extraordinary worlds to explore characters, rather than the other way around- my favorite mode of storytelling!
Jethri spends the majority of this book knowing much less about events then everyone around him, leaving the reader to scramble along side him to pick up on clues and discern the strange behavior of those around him, from his kin to the 'alien' Liaden. Truly lovely....more
I picked this up at a used book store and decided, "Why not?" It is mostly harmless fun, although the last 30 pages gives up a hint of Singh's later fI picked this up at a used book store and decided, "Why not?" It is mostly harmless fun, although the last 30 pages gives up a hint of Singh's later flair for melodramatic intensity....more
I was turned on to Eastern Approaches while reading about the Soviet purges of 1937-1938. MacLean was a young British diplomat who requested transferI was turned on to Eastern Approaches while reading about the Soviet purges of 1937-1938. MacLean was a young British diplomat who requested transfer from Embassy Paris to the embassy in Moscow; while there, he attended each day of the Bukharin show trial which receives detailed description and analysis in the book. MacLean also used his leave time to strike out on unofficial, NKVD-dodging trips through the Caucuses and Central Asia, with Samarkand and Bokhara as chief destinations for his journeys.
Once WWII broke out, MacLean got out of the foreign service by running for and winning a seat as MP. He then went into the ranks and climbed quickly to Brigadier (?!?), engaging in action on the North African front, much of it clandestine. After an interesting kidnapping mission in Iran, MacLean was handed the military cum diplomatic mission to Tito and the Partisans, then scrambling through the wilds of Bosnia ahead of Nazi troops and local collaborators.
The book was entirely worth the read, if only for the slightly self-conscious but hugely entertaining voice of MacLean. There is a certain boyish enthusiasm in his prose where even long and desperate marches with guerilla forces or terrifying drives through endless desert without water take on the flavor of a Boy Scout adventure. His political analysis also shines through as measured, pragmatic, and with an eye to the unexpected opportunity.
It was disappointing to see a mind sharp as MacLean's descend into trite stereotypes and occasionally, more virulently racist depictions (as seen in an encounter with an Italian Somali soldier in Benghazi). His laziness in attributing behavior to the inherent nature of the Russian "race" muddied up otherwise clear-eyed observation of ordinary Soviet people's way of coping with extraordinary oppression. For the most part, however, for a man of his background and class, he clearly had an ability to relate to people on their own terms and plunge into new environments and relationships with enthusiasm. His extraordinary linguistic skills left me sighing in envy, as well- dropped behind enemy lines and he still takes to Serbo-Croatian like a duck to water...
There was an interesting silence in his chapters on his time in Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia- he writes very little on atrocities committed against civilian populations and the little he does write is sanitized (for example, the story of the unfortunate child Ginger). Given the ferocity of the Ustashe regime's commitment to final solution-style ethnic cleansing, it was strange to find MacLean's narrative largely devoid of information on the subject (at least until the end and the capture of Belgrade). At the close of his narrative he casually mentions a conversation with a Red Army soldier on the Soviet man's plan to execute captured German and collaborationist soldiers, a conversation later confirmed by piles of soldiers shot execution style. I cannot begin to guess what such narrative silences indicate- lack of knowledge at the British mission to the Partisans on the full extent of the situation? Hesitancy or inability to write about the carnage? Certainly the grim reality of life for many in the former kingdom of Yugoslavia would have been an awkward fit with MacLean's witty, breezy, detached narration.
The cameos of places I have visited, such as the large fresh water stone cistern in Siwa, Egypt, where I spent an afternoon tossing lemons back and forth with local kids while splashing around, were arresting in how little had changed. The depiction of places still unknown to me were tempting- do I have time to learn Russian?
Despite his repeated disparagement of the slow and grinding inevitability of a diplomatic career, MacLean clearly always retained the framework and approach of a Foreign Office type. Despite his relish in knocking out tactical victories one after the other, it was in his strategic vision and his rather amusing access to people no less than Churchill that clearly left its mark on the course of the war in the Balkans. Still, MacLean's love of action for the sake of adventure was clearly a defining personality trait- apparently he and his wife were driving relief supplies into the former Yugoslavia in a pause in the Balkan wars of the 90s, despite being in their 70s at the time.
Well worth the read:
"On the evening of March 12th Bukharin rose to speak for the last time. Once more, by sheer force of personality and intellect, he compelled attention. Staring up at him, row upon row, smug, self-satisfied, and hostile, sat the new generation of Communists, revolutionaries no longer in the old sense, but worshippers of the established order, deeply suspicious of dangerous thoughts. Watching him standing there, frail and defiant, one had the feeling that here, facing destruction, was the last survivor of a vanished race, of the men who had made the Revolution, who had fought and toiled all their lives for an ideal, and who now, rather than betray it, were letting themselves be crushed by their own creation."
"In the General's bedroom I found a collection of automatic weapons of German manufacture, a good deal of silk underwear, some opium, an illustrated register of the prostitutes of Isfahan, and a large number of letters and papers which I took back with me to the Consulate."
"Mr. Churchill's reply left me in no doubt as to the answer to my problem. So long, he said, as the whole of Western civilization was threatened by the Nazi menace, we could not afford to let our attention be diverted from the immediate issue by considerations of long-term policy. We were as loyal to our Soviet Allies as we hoped they were to us. My task was simply to find out who was killing the most Germans and suggest means by which we could help them to kill more. Politics must be a secondary consideration."
"Entering the cave in a small boat, we all stripped and bathed, our bodies glistening bluish and ghastly. Almost everyone there was a Cabinet Minister in one or other of the two Jugoslav Governments, and there was much shouting and laughter as one blue and phosphorescent Excellency cannoned into another, bobbing about in that caerulean twilight. Then we emerged once more into the sunlight and sea breezes and lunched off of lobsters and white wine. It was choppy going home and several of the party were sick."...more
I read this back in 2005 or 2006 for the first time and it left a deep impression. Returning to it eight years later I was captivated all over again.
AI read this back in 2005 or 2006 for the first time and it left a deep impression. Returning to it eight years later I was captivated all over again.
Allen draws from the integration of Central High in Little Rock, Ralph Ellison (especially the enigmatic Invisible Man), Aristotle, and Thomas Hobbes among others to construct her argument. In sum, Allen argues that the everyday practices of individual citizens are the bedrock of a functioning democracy and lays out the practices that constitute political friendship, a way of being that generates trust among citizens in preparation for equitably sharing and compensating the sacrifices necessary to keep the community whole.
Someone below noted that the chapters feel like a series of lectures- this is very true. Each chapter, focused on a few core texts, builds upon the one before, taking up questions that the previous text could not answer. My favorite is chapter 8, a lovely and compelling reading of Invisible Man.
In her last chapter Allen applies her conclusions to the operations of her home institution of the time, the University of Chicago, in a (still-unrealized) call for the university to engage its neighbors through practices that build trust and a sense of community.
This book exerted great influence over me, especially in the thought that in our democracy ordinary people every day are asked to make sacrifices for the good of the whole. The problem is not sacrifice per se, but rather when things fall out of balance- we should ask (per Ellison) "Who sacrifices for whom? Are sacrifices voluntary? Are they honored? And are they reciprocated?" If things are in balance then sacrifices are gifts a citizen gives to the broader whole; without balance we fall into patterns of domination and subjugation.
"Citizens' distrust not of government but of each other leads the way to democratic disintegration."...more
My favorite book? Possibly. My favorite romance? Definitely.
How can you not love watching two brainy, awkward, wounded people resist honest love forMy favorite book? Possibly. My favorite romance? Definitely.
How can you not love watching two brainy, awkward, wounded people resist honest love for years before finally giving way: "'I have been facing one fact for some time,' said Harriet, staring out with unseeing eyes into the quad, 'and that is, that if I once gave way to Peter, I should go up like straw.'"
And the letters? "Dear Harriet,
I send in my demand notes with the brutal regularity of the income-tax commissioners; and probably you say when you see the envelopes, 'Oh God! I know what this is.' The only difference is that, some time or other, one has to take notice of the income tax.
Will you marry me?- It's beginning to look like one of those lines in a farce- merely boring till it's said often enough; and after that, you get a bigger laugh every time it comes.
I should like to write you the kind of words that burn the paper they are written on- but words like that have a way of being not only unforgettable but unforgivable. You will burn the paper in any case; and I would rather there should be nothing in it you cannot forget if you want to."
And the recognition that a relationship worth having recognizes and cherishes the beloved on its own terms- it is not a socially-constructed prison of gendered expectations: "Harriet; I have have nothing much in the way of religion, or even morality, but I do recognize a code of behaviour of sorts. I do know that the worst sin- perhaps the only sin- passion can commit, is to be joyless. It must lie down with laughter or make its bed in hell- there is no middle way... Don't misunderstand me. I have bought it, often- but never by forced sale or at 'stupendous sacrifice'... Don't, for God's sake, ever think you owe me anything. If I can't have the real thing, I can make do with the imitation. But I will not have surrenders or crucifixions..."
Plus, of course, a mystery that exposes still-unanswered anxieties on how to reconcile the intellectual potential of women (not to mention their individual wants and dreams) with the social architecture built upon the neutral fact of biological reproduction. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead indeed.
Oh Peter- our diplomat, spy, soldier, and detective extraordinaire: "God! how I loathe haste and violence and all that ghastly, slippery cleverness. Unsound, unscholarly, insincere- nothing but propaganda and special pleading and 'what do we get out of this?' No time, no peace, no silence; nothing but conferences and newspapers and public speeches till one can't hear one's self think... If only one could root one's self in here among the grass and stones and do something worth doing, even if it was only restoring a lost breathing for the love of the job and nothing else."
As for Harriet: "She went to bed thinking more about another person than about herself. This goes to prove that even minor poetry may have its practical uses," and, "Could there ever be any alliance between the intellect and the flesh? It was this business of asking questions and analyzing everything that sterilized and stultified all one's passions Experience perhaps had a formula to get over this difficulty: one kept the bitter, tormenting brain on one side of the wall and the languorous, sweet body on the other, and never let them meet. So that if you were made that way, you could argue about loyalties in an Oxford common-room and refresh yourself elsewhere with- say- Viennese singers, presenting an unruffled surface on both sides of yourself. Easy for a man, and possible even for a woman, if one avoided foolish accidents like being tried for murder."
And finally, "H: Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?
P: So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober. Which accounts for my talking so much.
H: And yet, if anybody had asked me, I should have said you had a passion for balance and order- no beauty without measure.
P: One may have a passion for the unattainable.
H: But you do attain it. At least, you appear to attain it.
P: The perfect Augustan? No; I'm afraid it's at most a balance of opposing forces..."
Who can turn up their noses at Oxford, feminism, love, and John Donne? Not I....more
A well-written, compelling survey of Algeria's violent 90s nestled within a broader argument about the Algerian war's political, cultural, and economiA well-written, compelling survey of Algeria's violent 90s nestled within a broader argument about the Algerian war's political, cultural, and economic legacy. The sometimes polemical tone did not bother me until the last major chapter, when a few errors cast doubt on the soundness of the research, at least with respect to the period after 2011. Regardless, the coverage of the 90s, and the interweaving of historical events with cultural, artistic, and sociological context was very nice....more