This fascinating and unusual book includes over 100 biographical sketches—some of people you’ve heard of and some of people you’ve never heard of (I rThis fascinating and unusual book includes over 100 biographical sketches—some of people you’ve heard of and some of people you’ve never heard of (I recognized about half the names). Each sketch gives some information about the individual—often with a slant to a very particular aspect of the person or their contribution to civilization. Each sketch also seems to become a platform for launching into a related or sometimes apparently unrelated topic, such as in the sketch on Marc Bloch, wherein he launches into a diatribe against Ezra Pound.
There are a fabulous number of very quotable passages (I jotted down my favorites as I went—it’s not often a book prompts that sort of reaction). Here are three of my favorites:
Speaking of Camus he states “The Gods poured success on him but it could only darken his trench coat: it never soaked him to the skin”. During the sketch on Dick Cavett is found “It might be said that the United States is the first known case of a civilization developing through disintegration”. Also in the vignette on Bloch he writes “Admirers of Ouspensky, Gurdjieff and Wilhelm Reich were all under the illusion that profundity can be attained by embracing principles with no basis in science. The occult and the mystically profound are perennial shortcuts to a supervening vision: a worldview without the world”....more
Born with a leg that caused him to limp all of his life as well as a speech impediment whereby he stuttered most everything he spoke, Claudius was conBorn with a leg that caused him to limp all of his life as well as a speech impediment whereby he stuttered most everything he spoke, Claudius was considered by most of his family and by the populace in general to be an idiot. This was not the case—he was actually very intelligent, received a fine education, and wrote a number of histories on various topics: the Etruscans, the Carthaginians, etc. Surrounding him were duplicitous and treacherous family members who had one another killed (poisoning was a common means of killing off rival family members). The story is told as if Claudius had left behind an autobiography detailing his life (which he did not). It is rich in details which give some idea of how Claudius might have lived....more
Wendy Werris’ memoir begins with her landing a job at the Pickwick Bookshop in Hollywood, and her subsequent successful career as an independent salesWendy Werris’ memoir begins with her landing a job at the Pickwick Bookshop in Hollywood, and her subsequent successful career as an independent sales rep for several dozen publishers from 1976 to 2006. Anecdotes on publishers and numerous authors (Richard Brautigan, Jonathan Franzen, etc.) are supplemented with bits about her parents, her close friendship with Miriam “Micky” Bass, and a traumatizing rape. When Micky is struck with kidney failure Wendy immediately undergoes the tests and preparations to donate one of her own kidneys to her friend. This is for those interested in the world of bookselling or reading about a successful businesswoman’s career....more
Douglas Thayer remembers the wonder of boyhood and has captured it in this brief memoir of growing up in Provo's 6th ward back during the 30s and 40s.Douglas Thayer remembers the wonder of boyhood and has captured it in this brief memoir of growing up in Provo's 6th ward back during the 30s and 40s. The simple pleasures of past decades depicted here are a sharp contrast to the sports regimen and/or videogaming activities of boys today.
This charming and nostalgic story features a bit of everything: Franklin Elementary school, Dixon Jr. High, and B.Y. High, the Provo 6th ward of the LDS Church, family life, holidays, summer activities, and myriad Provo businesses most of which have long since left the scene.
Each chapter is preceded by a short list of words suggesting the content of that chapter. Chapter 1 has "square blocks, pie lady, Babylon, sin, Heber Creeper" and chapter 2 has "Zion, WPA, harlot, police station, Sears, BB guns". This is great stuff. Read it on a porch swing in the cool of the evening, the sound of a train whistle off in the distance....more