My gratitude for this book exceeds whatever I might say: Smith is, of course, a remarkable biographer and writer (though his "acknowledgements" credit...moreMy gratitude for this book exceeds whatever I might say: Smith is, of course, a remarkable biographer and writer (though his "acknowledgements" credit a host of folks who have contributed to this book's success). There were times I found my heart racing as Smith recounted the days before D-Day, and the fateful days when President Eisenhower was making decisions regarding Indochina, Iran, Guatemala and Suez. The chapter on Little Rock was riveting.
For me, his Indochina and Suez decisions were right; his decisions regarding Iran and Guatemala were tragic (and we've been paying for them ever since, and so have the citizens of those nations).
After leaving office, he buttressed Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs and refrained from criticizing Johnson for Vietnam.
Ike was a great general (he learned his lessons well) and a great President who made profound decisions (most, in my opinion, solid and good) and took responsibility for failure (the U2 incident).
He was a human being, no god, but a leader with a growing conviction that the only way to win WW3 was to never fight it. He understood the positive role of government, expanded Social Security and hoped for a national health care program similar to what the military enjoyed.
I learned a lot about the GOP - and was surprised to learn that much of what Ike accomplished was with a Democratically held House and Senate the last 6 years of his 8-year tenure. He got along with Rayburn and Johnson, noting that his worst difficulties were from Republicans.
He is one of great Presidents.
And this one of America's great biographies.(less)
Much the book is painful reading, as Ms. Fishkin takes us into the world of Hannibal, MO, Twain's world, and explores with the reader how a boy growin...moreMuch the book is painful reading, as Ms. Fishkin takes us into the world of Hannibal, MO, Twain's world, and explores with the reader how a boy growing up in the midst of slavery could become such an advocate of Civil Rights. In some ways, then, Fishkin still asks that question of us: because racism persists, in spite of our sometimes feigned wide-eyed confusion at the very suggestion of it, and through Twain, helps us explore our own development and insight.
Fishkin doesn't let us off the hook, and in view of recent SCOTUS decisions and the simmering racism that pervades so much of our culture, her questions remain unanswered, even as Twain's famous book ends sadly - waiting for America to write a better ending.
Loaded with research on Twain and his times, and lots of conversation with Twain's critics, those favorable and those not. Fishkin clearly demonstrates that critics who accuse Twain of racism are way off the mark, failing to understand the character of irony and Twain's purpose - to show us how "good people" can be so wrong.
For anyone who wants to know more about Twain and his most famous work, "Huckleberry Finn," and who wants to think a bit about America's continuing struggle to define its national self, what with our highest pronouncements on equality and our lowest forms of behavior, then this book is for you.
Not always a quick read, but a necessary read to understand Twain and see a little more clearly the struggles that yet lie ahead for America. (less)
Delightful is one word that comes to mind, in reading of bygone days so aptly described by Catton. Yet, disturbing, comes to mind as well, because of...moreDelightful is one word that comes to mind, in reading of bygone days so aptly described by Catton. Yet, disturbing, comes to mind as well, because of Catton's keen political insights into a world that wantonly cut down its timber and mined its copper because technology knows only one speed, and that's full-throtle. His reflections on WW1 and subsequent wars are profound and revealing - there is a madness in the human race, a lust for death of others, perhaps to postpone our own. He reminds the reader: There is no Golden Age. Those who lived then had no idea that we would discover their era and call it Golden. They would laugh at us.
The book has the feel of a morning breakfast with old friends - memories triggering memories, building upon one another with both reason and not ... a flow of consciousness ...
His treatment of Christianity comes from the inside of the faith - he reaches for the biggest ideas, but remains skeptical, as we all should. Certainty is the death of truth; skepticism is truth's best friend.
His views of the human race are dour - Catton knows too well the stories of war - what it does to us all, and how we love to glorify it, lest we see its true horror.
Purchased a good many years ago, this was the second or third attempt at reading, and this time, successful. It was tedious reading for me, but now th...morePurchased a good many years ago, this was the second or third attempt at reading, and this time, successful. It was tedious reading for me, but now that I live in California, my interest in Dana's description of the California Coast from San Diego to San Francisco and ports in between - the geography, the missions, the people, the hide trade, the storms and the absolute hardship of the sailors - was very interesting.
The heart of the book is essentially a diary - not every day, but daily logs of sails furled and unfurled, with lots of sailing jargon that was mostly beyond my grasp, other than how hard the labors.
The book ends "many years later," with Dana's description of a return journey, this time, as a ship passenger on a steamer, and San Francisco is no longer an unsettled bay, but now a bustling city. He's greeted as a celebrity, a writer of note, who gave to the world an accurate picture of both the sailor's life and the California coast.
The last piece of the book is Dana's "interesting" concern for sailors - while noting the usual hardships of a sailors life, sometimes made far worse by greedy owners and harsh captains, Dana is thankful for current laws, but cautions the reader to seek no further legal redress for sailors, suggesting that current laws are satisfactory, and where improvement is needed, and it is needed, it will happen in time. But for now, sailors are a rowdy bunch and need the firm hand of a captain - any diminution of a captain's absolute prerogative would jeopardize the success of the journey.
Dana captures the difficulty a sailor has in filing a complaint - the game is rigged, clearly, in favor of the owners and the captains, who most often get away with murder, metaphorically and sometimes literally with cruel lashings and withholding of medicine.
Of great interest to me is Dana's view of religion and its importance in taming the sailor - no sense giving an education to the sailor without first converting him to Christ - without conversion, the sailor, already a sinner, only becomes a smart sinner, and after education, the likelihood of conversion decreases, says Dana.
So, convert them early on, and then educate them.
Dana also suggests that a Christian captain is likely to run an easier ship.
I learned a good deal about sailing, and read much that I couldn't follow - as the ship was made ready to sail, to meet a storm, to enter or leave a harbor - Dana's descriptions are detailed, and for a landlubber like myself, opaque.
Nonetheless, Dana captures the daily grind of the sailor - the lousy food for the most part, getting sick, the back-breaking labor of procuring hides, getting them from shore to ship, wading through cold water, up in the rigging with snow and sleet, frightful storms, the longing for home.
If Dana were alive today, he'd likely be a Republican! The owners and the captains have to maintain rigid control of men otherwise given to careless living. Religion being the key to transforming a sailor into a better human being, which, says Dana, would give them more credibility in a court of law, if a complaint is being filed against either the owners and/or the captain.
Not without sympathy for the sailor, Dana is nonetheless quite content to let things as they are - in the hands of the owners and the captains.
A finely done piece revealing the complexity of its subject, Olivia Manning, an author in search of recognition, a human being in search of love, ofte...moreA finely done piece revealing the complexity of its subject, Olivia Manning, an author in search of recognition, a human being in search of love, often spiteful and irritable, but with a great kindness for animals. A gifted writer who created some enormously fascinating characters and in her final years, gives us extraordinary insights into the War Years for an English Couple living, first in Rumania, then Greece and finally Egypt, one step ahead of the Nazis. The Braybrookes capture her eccentricities, her loves and lovers, her brilliant and unusual husband, her sorrows and fears, her joys, which were few, and her closest of friends. Anyone who wants to know about Olivia Manning must start here.(less)
For the third time, finished this remarkable work. The first read was finished 5.2.88, following its BBC debut, "The Fortunes of War." The second read...moreFor the third time, finished this remarkable work. The first read was finished 5.2.88, following its BBC debut, "The Fortunes of War." The second read was finished 8.1.92. I'm thinking, before the end of it all for me, I might just go through it again, a fourth time, this time to carefully pull out quotes. Manning is, in this work, the only one I've read, eminently quotable. Her observations of people and life are uncannily penetrating. She must have been a careful watcher of things. I look forward to reading one of her biographies.(less)
This is now the third time I'm reading The Balkan Trilogy, and will then read the Levant Trilogy as well. I absolutely love this work - its myriad of...moreThis is now the third time I'm reading The Balkan Trilogy, and will then read the Levant Trilogy as well. I absolutely love this work - its myriad of characters, always complex, as we all are. Manning has really captured what it's like, I think, to be human - with love and fear and hope, each doing their best to be whatever it is that any of us need to be, and never quite sure what that is. She takes me to their world; a world that has long fascinated me - before the war and then during - and with Guy and Harriet, a woman who doubts about much, and Guy, who doubts nothing - to see the world through their eyes.
Now for the third time, I'm struck, once again, by Manning's great skill to capture sight and sound and smell - the pathos of the poor, the arrogance of the rich and the powerful ... the cold of a harsh winter and the delight of a long-awaited springtime ... the mindless chatter of dinner-table friends and living in a moment of rumors, before the onslaught of the inevitable.
Would I recommend?
What does it sound like?
Of course ... a great read by a great writer.(less)