There are few political leaders that have captured my imagination like Winston Churchill does. William Manchester not only tells the story of what isThere are few political leaders that have captured my imagination like Winston Churchill does. William Manchester not only tells the story of what is perhaps Britain's greatest prime minister, he does it in fantastic detail. I've read complaints that Manchester uses perhaps too much detail, but I could not have enjoyed it more.
Manchester paints a picture of life at the end of one era--the Victorian--and beginning of the next, the Edwardian. Churchill's life straddled change in eras, and Manchester doesn't just write Churchill's biography, but a history of the time that is full and vibrant. Churchill isn't just a great leader, but a product of both the past and the future. His lived as colorfully and dangerously as any writer could have imagined, in spite of a beginning that was marked by comfort and wealth.
Born to a wealthy aristocratic family, Winston was raised by a nanny while his father and mother (an American) were off gallivanting with the nobles of England. Along the way, Winston proved to be a poor student and got himself kicked out of several schools. Never close to his father--if at all--Winston would write pleading letters to his mother to come visit him during the years he would spend at prep school. His father died young after being marginalized from a career that put him on the threshold of England's prime minister-ship.
The family's wealth mostly squandered, Winston was required to find a career, unique from his aristocratic peers who were used to living off of their families' wealth. He had always had an interest in the military, and he pursued a career that combined writing and military action, utilizing his mother's influence in the aristocracy to go where the action was. He saw action in Afghanistan and Sudan, and he sent home breathtaking accounts to the newspapers that catapulted him into the nation's consciousness. When he was taken as a POW in the Boer War, and escaped, he became a celebrity.
And it only gets better. Winston would feed himself by his pen for the rest of his life, writing articles, stories, books, and even publishing an entire newspaper during a nationwide general strike. He served as First Lord of the Admiralty at a time when Britain ruled the waives and the British Navy was unrivaled on the seas. Though later blamed for the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, Winston would be a remain force to reckoned with in the House of Commons through out his life. Winston would levy powerful rhetoric in defense of his allies and against his enemies, giving "impromptu" speeches after hours of preparation the night before.
This first volume of the biography covers the first fifty eight years of Churchill's life, up to a time when many politicians would be entering the twilight of their careers. Faced with setbacks and defeats, Churchill himself switched parties twice over the course of his career. With yet, his greatest hour, and Britain's, would come later with World War II.
I look forward reading the next volume in Manchester's trilogy. ...more
Let's be completely honest: we all pick up books for various reasons. A recommendation from a trusted friend. It was up front iLife is just too short.
Let's be completely honest: we all pick up books for various reasons. A recommendation from a trusted friend. It was up front in the airport bookshop. Written by a favorite author. A great cover.
I picked up Psychoshop because it was written by Alfred Bester. I was at Powell's in Portland, and it seemed like a good find. A classic author, a previously unread title, and a giant bookstore.
A win, right?
Perhaps for some. For me, time is too precious and life is too short.
Psychoshop was left unfinished by Bester on his death and was finished by Roger Zelazny, another classic science fiction writer. Comparing the work to a jazz duet, Greg Bear says in an introduction that the book is "Brisk, fast, memorable, a rare improvisational duet from two of our best[,]" but to be honest, I just couldn't get through it. As creative as it is, and it is, I just found it schizophrenic and undefined, a story looking for a conflict to be resolved. ...more
Even if you've never read it, almost every reader know the story of Moby-Dick. Opening with "Call me Ishmael[,]" Hermann Melville's novel is the taleEven if you've never read it, almost every reader know the story of Moby-Dick. Opening with "Call me Ishmael[,]" Hermann Melville's novel is the tale of the white whale and obsessed Captain Ahab's quest to kill it, a hunt that does not end well for anyone. Only Ishmael, the narrator, survives to put the story down, drifting on the coffin of his bunkmate, Queequeg.
And that's where Philip José Farmer begins The Wind Whales of Ishmael. As he floats adrift, Ishmael finds himself falling out of our time and into the future, the far future, landing adrift in a future Earth dramatically different from our own. The oceans have nearly evaporated, life has evolved to the air, and man survives in air balloons hunting the leviathans of the air.
The Wind Whales of Ishmael is an intregeuing and fun story, if a bit dated. I recently read Edgar Rice Burrough's A Princess of Mars, and I couldn't help but see echoes of John Carter in the Farmer's Ishmael. He arrives in a strange and foreign world, is saved, and saves, a beautiful princess, and soon rises to prominence using his specialized knowledge and skills. The tale is short and exciting, the plot creative and the setting strange and exotic. Ishmael is an every man, a hero that survives and thrive a hundred thousand years in the future.
First published in 1971, Titan Books has put out a new edition of The Wind Whales of Ishmael with a foreword by Michael Croteau and an afterword by Danny Adams....more
Ironically, Dick lived his live in near poverty. As an homage to his influence, the Library of America included Dick in their "quasi-official national canon" in 2007, the first science-fiction writer to be included.
I was introduced to Dick through his movies and later picked up the novels and short stories they were based on. In contrast to much of what is classified as science-fiction, Dick's stories and novels focus on human nature and the effect of technology and science on our character and relationships.
The Crack in Space, written in 1966, tackles parallel universes, time travel, gaps in the time-space continuum, and, to make things interesting, racism.
Compared to some of his other novels, The Crack in Space is not the most exciting tale in the Philip K. Dick canon. In addition to a parallel universe, it weaves in the candidacy of a America's first black presidency. That's not so controversial now, but writing in the 1960s, during the civil rights movement, Dick was predicting what was then almost impossible to conceive. Other issues addressed include population growth and control, scarce resources, and the morality of sexual promiscuity. The story is interesting, if a bit dated. It''s a worthy, if not gripping, read for a quiet weekend....more
Philip K Dick is one of the more influential of science-fiction writers. This graphic novelization of his story does a decent job of setting images toPhilip K Dick is one of the more influential of science-fiction writers. This graphic novelization of his story does a decent job of setting images to his words, and from all appearances uses every word (though it has been a long time since I read the story, so I'm not positive).
Dick's forte was tricking readers into examining serious questions (like, "What does it mean to be human?") while entertaining with a clever story and empathetic characters. It's one of the reasons so many of his stories have made it to the big screen (including Blade Runner and Minority Report).
On the other hand,this is really a better story than a graphic novel. There are just too many frames of people standing still, talking...and no action. This is just the first section, and I'll be looking at the subsequent installments to see how they finish out the story....more
I wish I had read this in the early years after 9/11. While the characters in Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent" are not superficially the same as theI wish I had read this in the early years after 9/11. While the characters in Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent" are not superficially the same as the characters that would figure into the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent events, the themes are eerily similar.
As a piece of literature, though the book is an almost surreal set of disjointed pieces. Each chapter is a different view, through a different set of eyes, and only by looking at them all in turn does the mystery unfold. Methodically, Conrad unfolds each participants thoughts in slow motion, and while he demonstrates a command of the English language that is enviable, as well as a vocabulary that would be substantial for a native speaker and even more so for a sailor whose native tongue was Polish, the slow pace demands a serious reader's attention and patience. You get a full picture in the reading, but you look at every details that unfolds.
And yet, plodding as the pace is, there are surprises. After pages of slow, deliberate character development, a sudden jolt of action with shift the plot, especially as the personal consequences of the underlying act of terror begins to turn the characters in on each other. In this regard, one sees echoes of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" or even Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" in the inescapable maelstrom that drags down all who are touched by violent men and violent actions.
Is it heavy, then? Undeniably. Worth the effort? Without question, it is an interesting and fascinating read, and Conrad's prescience, decades before the onset of the terrorism's "golden age," is itself an argument for reading "The Secret Agent."
Just don't pick it up expecting James Bond. He's not here....more