rocketjk's 2023 Read 'n' review - Part 2

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rocketjk's 2023 Read 'n' review - Part 2

Jul 1, 12:38 pm

Welcome to my July - December musings, etc. FYI, here's what I read during the first half of 2023:

1: The Magician of Lublin by Isaac Bashevis Singer
2: Show - The Magazine of the Performing Arts, January 1962 edited by Robert M. Wool
3: If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery
4: The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories edited by Ray Bradbury
5: How Sleeps the Beast by Don Tracy
6: Walk With Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kate Clifford Larson
7: The Best American Short Stories 1957 edited by Martha Foley
8: Sketches from Life of Men I Have Known by Dean Acheson
9: American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis by Adam Hoshschild
10: Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography by William E. Gienapp
11: Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
12: The Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles
13: Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott
14: An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America by Andrew Young
15: The River of Dancing Gods by Jack L. Chalker
16: A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
17: The Lady from Zagreb by Philip Kerr
18: Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between by Laila M. El-Haddad
19: No Cheering in the Press Box edited by Jerome Holtzman
20: Heroes and Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys by Steven Gaines
21: Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
22: Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman
23: Spring Sowing by Liam O'Flaherty
24: Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
25: On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
26: Good for a Laugh: a New Collection of Humorous Tidbits and Anecdotes from Aardvark to Zythum by Bennett Cerf
27: Mission to Moscow by Joseph E. Davies

Jul 1, 12:39 pm

Tom Seaver: A Terrific Life by Bill Madden

Personal essay: This baseball biography was a gift from a buddy of mine who passed it along after he'd read it. Although Tom Seaver was clearly one of the best pitchers of his time, or of any time, really, I grew up hating him. That's because I was a Yankees fan, which wasn't as terrible as it now might sound. When I was a little boy, the Yankees were the great team of Mantle, Maris, etc. But in 1965, when I was 10, they became mediocre, then bad, then oscillating between the two until 1976, when they finally returned to the World Series. When I was a kid, you picked one team and hated the other, that was the rule, and I picked the Yankees because I liked their main announcer, Phil Rizzuto, better than the Mets' main announcers. But once I settled on that, my loyalty to the one and antipathy to the other solidified. By 1969, when the Mets suddenly rose to prominence and pulled one of the most unforeseen World Series Championships in baseball history, the Yankees were indeed mired in mediocrity, though there were many players on the team who were worth of admiration and loyalty. When the Mets were suddenly good, (an abrupt change from their "lovable losers" personae) led in no small part by the fiercely competitive and excellent Seaver, all of the lukewarm, don't-really-care about baseball, seemingly all from the wealthier areas of town, were suddenly Mets fans. The Yankees (it seem very strange to say this now, but it's true) were the team of the working class kids. That 1969 Mets World Championship was a torment from beginning to end for us. It took me years for my white hot hatred for the Mets to die down into a more or less friendly indifference. Along the way, I gained an appropriate admiration for the players on that '69 team and their accomplishment that year. Also, there are Mets fans in the family. Waddaya gonna do? (My wife, whose father grew up in The Bronx, is firmly a Yankees fan, thank goodness.)

Actual book review: So, at any rate, when my friend handed over this biography about a year ago, I put it on my "short list" TBR, as I normally do with books I receive as gifts. The author is a sportswriter who had become particularly close to Seaver over the years. He had conducted several lengthy interviews with Seaver after the pitcher's retirement. I wouldn't say there's a whole lot of depth to this biography. It's essentially an (adoring) survey of Seaver's life and, especially, baseball career. Well, when a 70-year life is covered in only 285 pages, you are not going to get much in-depth probing. As such, though, I mostly enjoyed it. It's not the most sharply written book on the bookshelf, and there are some spots where an editor's hand might have been useful, but the recounting of Seaver's life was interesting enough for a baseball fan.

I did learn a few things that I either didn't know or had forgotten. One is that Seaver openly criticized the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The other was that Seaver signed first by the Atlanta Braves, and he was looking forward to being teammates with the great Hank Aaron. But due to an entirely accidental breaking of the rule against signing college players while the collegiate season was in progress (two games that everybody thought had been pre-season exhibitions had turned out to be on the official season schedules of the team involved), Seaver ended up the prize in a lottery among any team that was willing to match the Braves' offer, and in that way ended up on the Mets. It was nice to learn that throughout his life, and even at the height of his fame and success, Seaver remained close friends with many of the guys he'd played Little League, high school and junior college baseball with in his home town of Fresno, CA. Seaver's battles with Mets general manager M. Donald Grant are well chronicled, here, as is his up-and-down relationship with his own fame, and certain individual games are highlighted in depth to good effect. Madden is, after all, a sportswriter first and foremost. All in all I'd say this is a good if not great biography, but absolutely for baseball fans only.

Editado: Jul 1, 2:18 pm

>1 rocketjk: when I see you name, in my head I call you rocket jet.

Jul 1, 1:53 pm

>3 dianeham: Sure, why not? Don't mind that a bit! Naturally, nowadays I would like to be an all electric rocket jet that creates much less pollution. :)

Jul 1, 6:14 pm

>2 rocketjk: sounds entertaining. I’m sorry you’re a Yankees fan, but i guess you can’t be perfect.

Editado: Jul 2, 10:33 am

>5 dchaikin: "I’m sorry you’re a Yankees fan, but i guess you can’t be perfect."

Ha! Well, I can't be perfect, but Domingo Germán can! :)án-throws-1st-...

Jul 2, 10:39 am

>6 rocketjk: 🙂 ❤️ that was special

Editado: Jul 2, 3:13 pm

>6 rocketjk: that was amazing. Have you been to a game in NY yet?

Jul 2, 10:36 pm

>8 dianeham: Yes! We've been to one Yankees game, one Mets game, and one minor league game, taking the subway all the way from Harlem to Coney Island to see the A level Brooklyn Cyclones play. All three were fun nights out.

Jul 2, 11:25 pm

>9 rocketjk: cool! I lived in nyc in 1987. During the world series games, they announced the score at every subway stop. Do you live on the A line? I lived in Washington Heights and took the A.

Editado: Nov 22, 12:01 pm

>10 dianeham: We're at 117th and Frederick Douglass (8th Ave), right by the 116th St. station that offers the B and the C. We can either switch to the A at 125th, or take the short stroll up to 125th and get the A there directly.

When I was a kid in Maplewood, NJ, we'd take the 107 bus through the tunnel to Port Authority, and from there the A to the D to the stadium. (Shea Stadium was always referred to as "Shea." Yankee Stadium was simply referred to as "the stadium.")

Editado: Jul 4, 10:34 am

Part of my birthday present today from my wonderful wife.

"It was a big day for baseball in Kazootieland. Rootie Kazootie and his Yankapups were playing the Dodgerooties for the baseball pennant of Kazootieland."

Happy July 4 to all my U.S. LT friends, and greetings from Kazootieland!

Jul 4, 11:40 am

>12 rocketjk: oh what a wonderful present! Happy birthday and happy fourth!

Jul 4, 12:13 pm

>12 rocketjk: Happy Birthday!

Jul 4, 2:21 pm

Happy Birthday! There is no joy in Mudville today, for it's pouring yet again.

Jul 4, 10:02 pm

Happy Birthday!

Editado: Jul 6, 9:27 am

Post-Tom Seaver: A Terrific Life (and Rootie Kazootie Baseball Star), I took another trip through Stack 1 of my "Between Books:"

* “The Story of Thomas Jefferson,” excerpted from Historic Americans by Elbridge S. Brooks in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “ChiSox, Phils Led Way in Squeaker Decisions” and “Thomas Tied Mark on Six Homers in Three Games” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "How Two Went into Partnership" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "William Wordsworth” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Movie Review: A Lot of Guns, Some Feathers and Wine”++ by Richard Schickel from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

+ The second entry a make-up from missing this book during my last “Between Book” round.
++ Short reviews of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, The Undefeated, Marlowe {Schickel finds James Garner to be an unsatisfying Philip Marlowe}, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, and The Secret of Santa Vittoria.

Now it's back to The Trackers by Charles Frazier. My wife and I listened to somewhere around the first third of this book during our recent cross-country drive. We decided to finish it up via a paper copy borrowed from our local library. My wife finished it up while I was wrestling with the last parts of Mission to Moscow, and enjoying the first chapters of the Tom Seaver bio, and now it's my turn.

Jul 8, 12:20 pm

The Trackers by Charles Frazier

I knew of Charles Frazier as the author of the best-selling novel Cold Mountain as well as a book I liked even better, Thirteen Moons. Those aren't his only two others, but they were the two I knew of. The Trackers is another work of historical fiction, this time taking place in the later stages of the Great Depression. Valentine Welch is a young artist, recently graduated from college, who, through the auspices of his college professor and mentor, gets a job painting a WPA mural on the wall of a post office in remote Dawes, Wyoming. In addition, he has been offered lodging on the nearby Long Shot Ranch, owned by a wealthy landowner, John Long. Long, who has political ambitions, has a younger wife, Eve, with a past that includes years spent on the road, picking fruit, surviving in hobo camps, and eventually singing in traveling country bands. To Val they seem an unlikely couple and during the course of story, no one who has ever read a novel will be surprised to learn, their relationship begins to fray in dramatic fashion.

I found the beginning stages of The Trackers to be its most satisfying section. Frazier's writing style is very engaging, and Val's long musings and observations about the nature of the Depression and the damage it has done to millions of lives in the name of greed and irresponsibility I found very well done. Val's description of the Wyoming landscape and Eve's description of the horrors (and satisfactions) of her earlier life are all quite good. Another memorable character is Faro, the Long Shot's foreman who has a colorful and dangerous past of his own.

Once the plot line gets going, however, as Eve takes off with a small Renoir of her husband's to parts unknown and for reasons obscure, and Long hires Val to go find her, things begin to get a bit more pedestrian. The storyline stays engaging, and Frazier's writing overall remains strong, but I began to wonder what it was all for. Also the common trope of the innocent abroad, much less worldly than he believes himself to be and constantly in error, began to wear on me a bit. Time and again I would say to myself, "You know nothing, Jon Snow."*

However, I don't want to overemphasize the novel's faults. All and all I found it entertaining and fun, with some stretches of really lovely writing and a good if not particularly believable plot.

My wife and I began this book as a shared audiobook experience during our recent drive from California to New York. When we got to NYC, we both agreed to take the book out of the library here and finish the book up that way in turns. To be honest, I was happy to get out from under the influence of the audiobook's reader, actor Will Patton. Patton does a fine job, but in a very mannered way that strongly colors one's experience with the story. I prefer the voices in my own head! My wife reported feeling the same.

* Game of Thrones reference

Jul 8, 2:49 pm

>18 rocketjk: I saw Charles Frazier interviewed as part of a book festival and it's clear that he is revered by many authors. He seemed like a thoughtful guy and I enjoyed his novel about the wife of Jefferson Davis.

Jul 8, 5:33 pm

>19 RidgewayGirl: I'm not surprised that other authors revere Frazier. He certainly has a great way around a sentence and a story.

Editado: Jul 10, 10:08 am

My post-The Trackers stroll through Stack 2 of my "Between Books" was enjoyable:

* “Renunciation” by J. Castellanos from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “The Man from Mercury” by Sidney Carroll with photographs by Herbert Kehl from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “The House that Wouldn’t Keep Still” by L. A. G. Strong from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “That’s My Boy” by Louis Brondfield from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin
* “Mortimer of the Maghreb” by Henry Shukman from The Missouri Review - Volume 21 Number 2: Men, 1998, edited by Morgan Speer
* “The Presidency: The Embattled White House” by Hugh Sidey from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

I'm now moving on to the next book in my twice-yearly read through project of Isaac B. Singer's novels. I'm up to Singer's 1962 novel, The Slave.

The first paragraph of The Slave:. (New feature!)
"A single bird call began the day. Each day the same bird, the same call. It was as if the bird signaled the approach of dawn to its brood. Jacob opened his eyes. The four cows lay on their mats of straw and dung. In the middle of the barn were a few blackened stones and charred branches, the fireplace over which Jacob cooked the rye and buckwheat cakes he ate with milk. Jacob's bed was made of straw and hay and at night he covered himself with a coarse linen sheet which he used during the day to gather grass and herbs for the cattle. It was summer, but the nights were cold in the mountains. Jacob would rise more than once in the middle of the night and warm his hands and feet on the animals' bodies."

Editado: Jul 14, 5:46 pm

The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer

My twice yearly read through project of Isaac Bashevis Singer's novels brought me to The Slave, first published in 1962. The opening setting is the remote rural mountains of southern Poland in the late 17th Century in the years immediately following the Chmielnicki (often spelled Khmelnytsky) Uprising, an invasion by Cossack forces in rebellion against Polish domination. In Jewish history, these events are known as the Chmielnicki Massacres, as the Cossack forces, aided often by the Poles themselves, perpetrated widespread and massive pogroms. Whole villages were essentially obliterated. Our protagonist, Jacob, is a survivor of one such attack on his native village, Josefov. His wife and three children, he believes, have been murdered, but instead of being killed himself, Jacob is captured and sold into slavery to Jan Bzik, a farmer in remote mountain town. Escape into the mountains, whose ways are unknown to him, means certain death, and the villages have sworn to kill Jacob on sight if he is spotted on the wrong side of the river that borders Bzik's land. Bzik himself, it should be noted, is not portrayed as a cruel man.

For five years Jacob spends his winters in a high mountain cabin tending to Bzik's cattle. His only source of food and water is what is brought up the mountain to him daily by Bzik's daughter, Wanda. Far from Jewish community and the holy books he loves, Jacob strives to maintain a pious Jewish life as best he can, and that include resisting the strong physical attraction that Jacob and Wanda feel for each other. Jacob would surely be excommunicated by the rabbis for cohabitating with a Gentile, and either or both of the two could be burned alive by the Church. Marriage is out of the question. Well, but as we know, such temptation cannot be resisted forever, and certainly not in fiction.

Well, I don't want to give away any plot developments.The storyline drew me in and made The Slave an active, enjoyable reading experience for me. As is often the case with Singer, although not as strongly as in others of his novels, there is a touch of magical realism, at least as seen though the characters' eyes, and there is also a bit of a fable like quality. Wanda and Jacob's love, and the peril it brings them, provides the momentum. The Jewish community rebounds from the massacres, but goes quickly back to its former, all too human ways, scrupulously following the slightest rabbinical dicta regarding dress, prayer and diet while ignoring biblical commandments about how to treat one's neighbors. Singer, examines this phenomenon in depth through Jacob and Wanda, who experience it all first hand. And though Singer's (and Jacob's) observations are often scathing (Singer himself turned from religious Judaism to a much more secular philosophy and lifestyle in early adulthood), nevertheless he retains an underlying compassionate perspective on both the frailties of humanity and the value of faith.

As The Slave was published in 1962, the resonance of the Holocaust and its aftermath within the narrative is unmistakable. Singer weaves together themes of identity, isolation, faith, religion, superstition, love, cruelty and compassion, separation and renewal into a rich and memorable novel.

Here is a quote I like:

"Ceaselessly he had prayed for death; he had even contemplated self-destruction. But now that mood had passed, and he had become inured to living among strangers, distant from his home, doing hard labor. As he drowsed, he heard pine cones falling and the coo of a cuckoo in the distance. He opened his eyes. The web of branches and pine needles strained the sunlight like a sieve, and the reflected light became a rainbow-colored mesh. A last drop of dew flamed, glistened, exploded into thin moten fibers. There was not a cloud to sully the perfect blue of the sky. It was difficult to believe in God’s mercy when murderers buried children alive. But God’s wisdom was evident everywhere."

Book notes: I bought my copy of The Slave at a wonderful Judaica store on NYC's Upper West Side called, appropriately enough, West Side Judaica. I had left the apartment on a mission to find a copy of The Slave, as the NYC Library didn't seem to have one on offer, I was strolling down upper Broadway with a thought of eventually getting on the subway and heading to The Strand Bookstore when I came upon this place. The store is full of prayer stalls, menorahs, sabbath candle holders, jewelry . . . you name it. There are also books aplenty, though mostly they are books of history, philosophy and religious commentary, in English and, I assume, Yiddish and Hebrew. I asked if they had any fiction. One man called to another across the store. "Is there any fiction?" "Fiction?" "Do you have any Isaac Singer?" I asked. "Singer? Well, we have just one. We have a few copies of The Slave." And so, indeed, I had my copy. A few blocks later I came upon this:

Annoyingly, two days ago I left my copy somewhere or other while on a mission of another sort (picking up some alteration I'd had done), so I finished up the final 40 pages or so via Internet Archive. Maybe I'll go back and get another copy from the Judaica store, though.

Jul 14, 1:14 pm

>22 rocketjk: What a wonderful story of a book found and then lost. I hope that someone picked up your copy and is now discovering how good Singer is.

Editado: Jul 14, 6:02 pm

>23 RidgewayGirl: That's the best case scenario!

Jul 14, 8:35 pm

>22 rocketjk: How serendipitous! I’d love to hear more about your nyc adventures.

Editado: Jul 15, 10:24 am

My post-The Slave "Between Book" reading was another stroll through Stack 2:

* “Chaste Devasmita,” a Sanskrit folk tale, from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “Epic of Palestine” by Meyer Levin from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “The Doctor” by Mary Fitt from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Pop’s Boy” by Irvin Ashkenazy from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin
* “Ultima Thule,” a sonnet sequence by Davis McCombs from The Missouri Review - Volume 21 Number 2: Men, 1998, edited by Morgan Speer
* “America Gathers Under a Sign of Peace” from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

Next up for me will be Out of the Red, a collection of columns from the 1940s by the great American sportswriter, Red Smith, for the New York Herald Tribune. My first edition volume, published in 1950, was a recent anniversary gift from my wonderful wife. Normally I would put a collection of columns on one of my "Between Book" stacks, but . . .

1) Our anniversary was in May, just before we left on our cross-country drive from California to New York. Since we had the book in hand, we occasionally read individual columns aloud to each other as we traveled. The columns are so well written and often so funny that I decided that I wanted to gorge on the whole collection at once rather than spreading them out as I'd usually do, and

2) There are 112 columns in the collection. It would take me around two years to make my way through the whole book. I'd rather just enjoy it all at once!

The first (two) paragraphs of Out of the Red, from the first column in the collection, "The Right to Privacy," which first appeared on May 24, 1947:

"(When this was written, the New York Yankees were disenchanted with their president, Larry MacPhail, who had fined a number of players for declining to participate in publicity stunts.)

It was not day for staying indoors. The alternatives were to visit Yankee Stadium, where there's always a chance of seeing MacPhail, or to go to the Bronx Zoo to see the duck-billed platypuses. Well, naturally."

Editado: Jul 29, 2:48 pm

Book 31: Out of the Red by Red Smith

Published in 1950, Out of the Red is a collection of columns written from 1946 through 1949 by one of America's pre-eminent sportswriters of that, or any, era. Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Smith:

"After 18 years {writing for the St. Louis Star}, Smith joined the New York Herald Tribune in 1945. He cemented his reputation with the Herald Tribune, as his column, “Views of Sports”, was widely read and often syndicated. Smith wrote three or four columns a week that were printed by 275 newspapers in the United States and 225 in about 30 foreign nations. When the Herald Tribune folded in 1966, Smith became a freelance writer. In 1971, at the age of 66, he was hired by The New York Times and wrote four columns a week for the next decade, sometimes devoting 18 hours a day to them."

Rather than being arranged in chronological order, the columns are grouped here by subject matter: predominantly baseball, boxing, college football, horse racing, fly fishing and basketball (which Smith famously abhorred). These columns, being published immediately post-WW2, very much reflect mainstream American attitudes of the era, which do not always wear well. For one thing, what we see reflected is very much a scotch and soda, back-slapping, mutuel window, locker room "man's world." Women are barely there, unless they're hosting cocktail parties for charitable organizations. And although Smith is scornful of Major League Baseball's pre-Jackie Robinson Jim Crow paradigm, in later columns Smith's own racism comes to the surface several times.

Smith, though, could indeed turn a phrase. For example:
"In the eighth Hermanski smashed a drive to the scoreboard. Henrich backed against the board and leaped either four or fourteen feet into the air. He stayed aloft so long he looked like an empty uniform hanging it its locker. When he came down he had the ball."

Smith's 1946 pre-Kentucky Derby column began like this:

"A consignment of apprentice horse lovers who have been touring the bourbon quarries and oats disposal plants of the bluegrass country pulled in here a trifle lame today and the bellhop rooming one of them clutched the newcomer's lapels before he grabbed his luggage.

'Look,' this one-man reception committee whispered huskily, 'Get down on Golden Man in the fifth today. And I'll see you afterward. Don't forget my number.'

You knew then you were in Louisville, which may be the only town in America where the tips go from bellhop to tourist instead of vice versa"

Another horse race column, from 1948, begins thusly:

Casual water stood among the corn stubble along the right-of-way and on the dirt roads leading to the bucolic gambling hell of the Harford Agriculture and Breeders Association. When the race special pulled into Baltimore from Washington, the train platform was a heaving, squirming tangle and the train announcer had to keep pleading, 'Stand back from the tracks, please.' Men started climbing aboard before the train stopped and the crowd behind them used elbows and heavy heels, rehearsing for the push on the mutuel windows when the Citation race should come around."

The writing is not uniformly excellent, however. Smith is much better at describing events and scenes and people he enjoys and/or approves of, even when poking fun at them (and at himself) than events he doesn't care for. In those cases, he can quickly go from entertainingly humorous to unentertainingly snide.

So this is a time capsule, really, into a certain segment of American life in the immediate post-WW2 era, in sports and in overall attitudes. It's a look back to the time when the Harvard-Yale football game was still a major sporting event, and when boxing matches proliferated, boxers, trainers and managers had colorful tales to tell, and gamblers' activities often brought suspicion to individual fight results. But it was also still the time when men would naturally assume that they were speaking to, and about, other men--other white men--essentially exclusively. A slap on the back and pass the flask. Who ya got in the sixth?

Accordingly, this collection ends up being a look at that era, faults and all, with a lot of very good, often humorous, writing baked in. In that way, this collection provides a history lesson of sorts. The ability to be entertained despite the sometimes unappealing paradigms of the day will of course vary by reader.

Book note: This is the sort of collection I'd normally add to one of my "Between Book" stacks. I made an exception here because I was very much looking forward to gorging on Smith's writing, and because the book was an anniversary present from my wonderful wife.

Jul 27, 10:00 am

Quick addendum to the post above about Out of the Red. As mentioned, the book came to me as an anniversary gift from my wife. I didn't mention that the copy is a first edition. Inside the front cover we find this clear inscription:

I think maybe it's Frank H. Schneider 2nd. If so, based on a very quick online look, possibly my book was originally purchased by (or given as a gift to) this gentleman:

The article says Mr. Schnieder passed away in 2005 at the age of 86, which would have made him 31 in 1950. He is the only Frank H. Schneider, Jr. (a.k.a. "2d") that I found. He was inducted into the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame, and Red Smith did write fairly frequently about fly fishing (mostly making fun of himself for being so bad at it despite his love for the sport), so that might be a clue in the affirmative.

I will also include (the dates add up, though I don't see that middle initial as an E) this fellow, who I am adding here despite that pesky middle initial because he was born in Maplewood, NJ, where I lived from age 11 until I went away to college (returning for the first two summers to work in the Shop Rite Supermarket in South Orange):

Editado: Jul 27, 4:22 pm

>25 dianeham: "I’d love to hear more about your nyc adventures."

Thanks, Diane. We've been here close to two months, now, and we've been very active, exploring different neighborhoods, going out to live jazz shows (a particular passion of mine), and also attending theater and dance shows. New York City puts on lots of live events during the summer, so we've been able to keep a weather eye on the ol' budget. As we are living in South Harlem, we are within easy walking distance of Marcus Garvey Park (originally called Mount Morris Park) and reasonably close to Grant's Tomb, which are both locales for a Harlem free jazz concert series. Also at the Marcus Garvey Park Amphitheater where we saw an original production by the Classical Theater of Harlem called "Malvolio." The play is a sequel to "Twelfth Night," taking place 20 years later. It was wonderful. Here's The NY Times review:

We're also trying to keep a balance and be sure to spend some days and evenings just hanging out at home. Also, there is Rosie, the German shepherd, who needs walking. Happily, she has taken really well to the dog park in nearby Morningside Park.

One other thing I've really been enjoying is getting to know Harlem, and, especially learning about the rich, amazing history of the area. Accordingly, yesterday I went on an historical walking tour of the nearby section of Harlem, led by a woman who has lived here all her life. I'm not generally the type who walks around taking photos of everything, but here are a couple of sites on the tour that I couldn't help getting images of:

This is Langston Hughes' house. Now owned by his daughter, it has protected Landmark status, but his daughter hasn't done any upkeep in many years. Nevertheless, I found it an inspiring sight to see.

This is the stoop upon and in front of which the famous photo, "A Great Day in Harlem," was taken. {}

There are other walking tours to take of the neighborhood, and I'm sure I'll be getting to them over the coming weeks.

Cheers, all!

Editado: Jul 27, 5:20 pm

>29 rocketjk: thanks so much! Great photos. I took a jazz appreciation class at NYU in the summer of ‘86.
Great that you’re plugging into free stuff. So glad you three are enjoying ny.

ETA: now I want to see the dog.

Jul 27, 9:42 pm

>30 dianeham: "ETA: now I want to see the dog."

Here you go. This is Rosie having a romp at the dog park in Morningside Park.

Jul 27, 9:54 pm

>31 rocketjk: She's a city dog now!

Jul 27, 10:09 pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: Yes, she's made the transition wonderfully. It was a genuine point of concern for us, especially in terms of apartment building/elevator life, and not having her own front yard to wander around it. She a resilient pooch, as it turns out.

Jul 27, 10:15 pm

>31 rocketjk: she’s beautiful!

Jul 27, 10:23 pm

My post-Out of the Red "Between Books" episode found us wandering Stack 1:

* “The Alternative,” (the “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech) by Patrick Henry from Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Four Old-Timers Named to Hall of Fame” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "King Stork" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "William Wordsworth and Robert Southey” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Editorial: Winding Down the War on Our Own” by Hedley Donovan .
from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

I've now begun Enigmas of Spring, a novel by Brazilian writer João Almino. The book was published in 2016 by Dalkey Archive Press of Victoria, Texas. Only three other LTers have this book listed in their libraries. I purchased the book in 2021, though I can't recall where. The first paragraph:

"In the arms of the large woman in a black dress, her eyes lively and dark, he was nothing more than a head. No neck or torso or arms or legs. Just a head. With a beard and disheveled hair. He caught a glimpse of himself in the silver-framed mirror, dirty with sepia streaks: a head. He exhaled. The mirror fogged up."

Ago 1, 7:30 am

>29 rocketjk: Thanks for the NYC update. I'm looking forward to my own quick jaunt in a couple of weeks. I wish I was going to have time for site seeing!

>35 rocketjk: Great quote. Dalkey comes out with some interesting titles.

Editado: Ago 3, 7:33 am

Enigmas of Spring by João Almino (translated from the Portuguese by Rhett McNeil)

Enigmas of Spring was first published in 2015. Majnun, a young man (early 20s) lives with (and is supported by) his grandparents in the Brazilian federal capital, Brasília. He has no job and has failed university entrance exams. He greatly respects and is somewhat envious of this grandparents, who have led lives of accomplishment and action, but Majnun himself is a dreamer, and the greater part of his human interactions are anonymous, taking place online. He is obsessed with an older, married woman, Laila. Of the young women in his life, he lusts after the sexy Suzana, but wants only to be friends with the straightforward, caring Carmen. Majnun's other great obsession is Moorish Spain, an era he idolizes as one of Moslem tolerance towards Christians and Jews, though a professor he meets through his grandfather insists on clueing him in to the fact that the truth was much more complicated and nowhere as rosy as he supposes. The bottom line to all this is that Majnun is mostly living in his own head. He has intellectual promise, but stupefied by all the possible options open to him, seems incapable of spurring himself to action. Instead, he spins self-referential fantasies about the things he might do, the causes he might fight for. He is endlessly chewing away at writing a novella about the Spain of his fantasies. All of this we get in the very early stages of the story.

Almino skillfully portrays Majnun as an example of that cohort of his generation that has been pulled down--or jumped--into the whirlpool we now call social media (I don't recall Almino using that term). Causes and plans emphasized one day disintegrate and swirl out of sight to be replaced by something else the next. The possibilities seem endless, but Majnun cannot rouse himself to pursue any. In short, he is waiting for life to happen to him.

Of Majnun's time and the people he meets down that rabbit hole, the omniscient narrator tells us:

"More than what was around him, he was interested in the vast world to be discovered; the territories of absence, infinitely larger than the territory of the present, richer and more complex, a space suitable to his imagination. Perhaps for this reason he preferred strangers, whom he met on his computer. And how did these strangers behave? What did they think and say? They lived in a flexible, malleable universe, and assumed characteristics adequate to whatever their mood might be. He didn't need to feel any responsibility to them or even remember their names. . . . They were like passersby spotted from afar or someone you've only heard about. He didn't need to be moved by their dramas, attenuated as they were by a hygienic distance. If he mourned their deaths or suffered with their suffering, it was because he had compassion for humanity, rather than the people as individuals. . . . "


"{He} couldn't resign himself to the world in which he lived. . . . If he could, he would make reality less dense, lighter, wiping it down, simplifying it, as in the story he intended to tell. But he had a fundamental problem: he didn't now where he was, nor where to go. . . .

In truth, he wasn't at a crossroad. At a crossroad there are possible directions and destinations. He had entered a highway with no traffic laws, where everyone was on their own, unsure of both direction and destination."

Slowly, Majnun's obsessions, and his mental state in general, spin out of control, and our understanding of events often becomes hazy as well. Are we in reality or in Majnun's head? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

The writing in this book I found quite good, and as a cautionary tale about the intellectual dangers of the age, I found it very effective. Majnun is a character that we believe, but it is often unpleasant to be in his head, and it frequently became frustrating for me to listen to his endless imaginings about the various futures that may or may not open up for him, at the same time understanding that this is Almino's point. There is a particularly unpleasant (though brief) scene about two-thirds of the way through that it is not possible to forgive Majnun for. But again, I don't think that Almino means us to. The novel is thoughtful and Almino's treatment is nuanced and deft most of the time. And because at only 194 pages, one need not stay in Majnun's reality too long, and because, perhaps paradoxically, we do come to care about where Almino is going to take him in the end, I recommend the book to anyone interested in the themes it explores.

Ago 2, 7:17 pm

>37 rocketjk: That interesting. I hope that none of us on these threads are quite like Majnun.

Ago 3, 7:06 am

>38 baswood: Amen! By the way, I meant to mention that Enigmas of Spring brought Almino a bunch of "Near miss" awards. On his Wikipedia page, we read, under "Awards:"

* shortlisted for the Rio Literature Award, Enigmas da Primavera (Enigmas of Spring)
* shortlisted for the São Paulo Prize for Literature, Enigmas da Primavera (Enigmas of Spring)
* Semifinalist for the Oceanos Award, Enigmas da Primavera (Enigmas of Spring)
Jabuti Award, 2nd Prize, for Enigmas of Spring, published by Dalkey Archive Press.

I wonder how many different books won those four awards.

Ago 3, 10:14 am

Glad to hear your New York stay is off to a good start. And Rosie looks quite happy in the photo.

Ago 4, 8:57 am

>40 markon: Thanks! Yes, Rosie's doing fine, though we're about to bring her to a new (for us) vet due to a bit of a bald patch on her front leg we'd like to have looked at.

Well, post-Enigmas of Spring, I was back to Stack 2 of my "Between Books:"

* “Captain Poison” by Pedro de Alarcon, from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “Talking Pictures: A Note on Erno Vadas, a Camera Prophet Not Without Honor in Anybody’s Country” (followed by a series of beautiful photos, reproduced in black and white, from a series of different art photographers across Europe) from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “On No Account, My Love” by Elizabeth Jenkins from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Roman Holiday” by Robert Lewis from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin
* “Distant Lights in the Foothills Beyond Owari-Eki,” by Peter Walpole from The Missouri Review - Volume 21 Number 2: Men, 1998, edited by Morgan Speer
* "The Unlikely Vincification of Sonny Jurgensen" by Gary Cartwright from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

Now, at the age of 68, I will finally be reading Boccaccio's The Decameron. I have the Norton paperback edition of Wayne A. Rebhorn's translation on hand. I'm about halfway through Rebhorn's Introduction and I'm looking forward to getting into the work itself. Though at 909 total pages (including the Introduction), plus whatever perusal of the Notes I end up doing, I'm going to be a while.

First paragraph (well, in this case the first few sentences of the first paragraph, which runs more than a page):
It is a matter of humanity to show compassion for those who suffer, and although it is fitting for everyone to do so, it is especially desirable in those who, having had need of comfort, have received it from others--and if anyone ever needed it or appreciated it or derived any pleasure from it, I'm one of them. For, from my earliest youth up to the present, I have been enflamed beyond measure by a most exalted, noble love, which, were I to describee it, might seem greater than what is suitable for one in my low condition.

Ago 4, 9:34 am

>1 rocketjk: Which of these books would you recommend for a women’s book club group. One that might lead to intense discussion? Thanks!!

Ago 4, 11:01 am

>42 christycorb: Of the books I've reviewed on this second 2023 thread, I think The Trackers by Charles Frazier would make an excellent book club group selection. Both Singer's The Slave and Almino's Enigmas of Spring might lead to intense discussion, but depending on the reading tastes of your group, in neither case would I be sure that a majority would enjoy the books. Both of those, for example, feature male protagonists whose attitudes about women leave lots of room for improvement. Of those, The Slave contains (much) more interesting elements of history and philosophy.

If you include my first-half 2023 reading, Lucia Berlin's short story collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women, is the best book I've read this year so far, and if your group also reads non-fiction, I can't recommend Walk With Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kate Clifford Larsson strongly enough.

Well, I hope that helps!

Editado: Ago 4, 2:03 pm

>43 rocketjk: is the Jacob in The slave the same as the real life one in the books of Jacob? It also mentions that massacre. Havent read it yet, its huge with small print. But its gotten lots of good reviews so some day

Editado: Ago 4, 2:23 pm

>44 cindydavid4: I haven't read The Books of Jacob, but I strongly doubt it. For one thing, Singer didn't make any representation that I know of that the protagonist of The Slave was a real life character. I'd like to read that book one of these days, as well. I'll look forward to seeing your review when you decide to tackle it. Cheers!

Ago 4, 4:24 pm

ok just curious. Ill let you know when i start it!

Editado: Ago 15, 2:18 pm

Well, I have made an executive decision regarding my current reading. It was my intention to read The Decameron (Wayne A. Rebhorn translation) straight through in order to, as my wife put it so well, "live in that world for a while." However, having now read Rebhorn's excellent 50-page introduction plus the stories from Day 1 and Day 2 (10 characters tell a story apiece each day over a 10-day period), I find that while I'm enjoying the stories individually, the idea of reading 100 such tales straight through is no longer appealing to me. They are fun, often rowdy and spicy, folks tales full of extremely beautiful women and dashing men: a mixed lot all in all in terms of morality and integrity. And they are very interesting as historical items that instruct us about the mores of 14th Century Italy, as seen through the filter of Boccacio's satire. But they're not particularly rewarding to me as literature, per se, so I was beginning to find them, I'm sorry to say, a bit tedious. Hence, I'm moving the Decameron into my "Between Book" clubhouse.

So then, I decided that before moving to another book I'd take a swing through Stack 1 of the between books. I'll add the Decameron on my next go-round. Here's what I read this time:

* “Under the Old Elm,” from George Washington: An Historical Biography by Horace E. Scudder from Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “In Memorium: J.G. Taylor Spink” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Best that Life Has to Give" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle - Finished!
* "Southey, Wordsworth and Coleridge” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Faircloth’s Law: A New Way to Nail Elusive Mobsters?” by Denny Walsh from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

I've now started a fascinating coffee table book that I purshased recently at a local Harlem gift shop. The book is Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives. The book is full of photographs that were taken by NY Times reporters/photographers but never published in the paper for one reason or another, also including descriptions of the events the photographs are depicting.

The first paragraph of Unseen:
"Each photograph on these pages will take you back: To the charred wreckage of Malcolm X's house in Queens, just hours after it was bombed. To a packed church in Greenwood, Mississippi, where Medgar Evers inspired African-Americans to dream of a day when their votes would count. To Lena Horne's elegant penthouse on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. To a city sidewalk where schoolgirls jumped rope, while the writer Zora Neale Huston cheered them on, behind the scenes."

Ago 19, 12:03 pm

The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle

Read as a "between book" (see first post). This is a fun kid's book, published in 1915, of twenty-four fairytales (hence the title of the book: one story for each hour of the day). When there are two rich and acquisitive brothers and one poor yet honest brother, you already know for sure who is going to end up married to the princess or sitting on top of the pile of jewels. Evil ogres, yes, but plenty of magic, wish-granting swans, rabbits and other wildlife to go around. Kindness to humble strangers is always rewarded, and so forth. The writing is fun and frequently chuckle-inducing, even for the so-called adult reader. The only problematic story was number XXI, "How the Princess's Pride Was Broken." This story is troubling because it takes for the granted the fact that a princess has no business having pride, and it's for the best for everybody when that pride is broken. And also, it contains this sentence: "But the lad did nothing but grumble and growl, and seemed as sore over his bargain as though he had been trying to trick a Jew." Oy, Howard. Did you have to? Anyway, it was just the one tale that bugged me and the rest were entirely benign as far as that sort of thing was concerned. My enjoyment was otherwise enhanced by the wonderful line drawings by Pyle that were included liberally throughout. Here's one example (as photographed by me somewhat imperfectly:

Book notes:
1) This book was a present to my wife and I from a former student of hers (she was a high school counselor for many years). He made a point of saying that the present was for both of us, though neither of us can remember the details these four years later.
2) The book is stamped inside as "Withdrawn" and stamped on the edges as having been in the collection of the C. Burr Artz Public Library of Frederick, Maryland.

Ago 21, 8:41 am

>48 rocketjk: Big Howard Pyle fan here, especially for his illustrations.

Ago 21, 8:44 am

>49 SassyLassy: Yes, the stories are fun and breezy, with just enough tongue in cheek to keep an adult (at least this one) entertained. And the drawings are, indeed, wonderful.

Ago 21, 9:47 am

Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives by Darcy Eveleigh, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, and Rachel L. Swarns

This is a beautiful coffee table book full of great photographs and fascinating back stories. In 2016, New York Times photo editor Darcy Eveleigh tumbled onto the fact that there were tens of thousands of photographs and negatives languishing, usually unseen for decades, in the Times photo archives. In many cases, Times photographers or freelancers would have shot several rolls of film (remember film?) while on assignment, and either only one of the photos would have been chosen for printing in the paper, or the editors would have ended up running the story without any photos, or the stories might never have been run at all. Because of the prejudices of the day (impossible to confirm of course but highly likely) or for other journalistic reasons, many of the most expressive photographs were of black New Yorkers. Eveleigh and the three colleagues listed as authors here began a months-long process of deep diving into the archives to assemble a collection that could then be published. They began with an online project whereby they would post photos they wanted more information about (the names of the people in the photos when the subjects were not famous, primarily), asking folks who could help identify any of the portrayed people to contact them They also did their research into the photographs they'd chosen, in many cases interviewing the figures still alive to find out what those people remembered about the day and the circumstances of the photographs there were in. But the authors also gleaned a lot of information, and valuable starting points, from the notes included in the archives written by the editors of the day and/or the photographers themselves.

In many cases the photographs provided scenes of triumph and accomplishment, such as a photograph taken backstage at Carnegie Hall in 1982 depicting opera singers Shirley Verrett and Grace Bumbry embracing Marian Anderson after an evening of music celebrating Anderson's art and career. That 1982 photo is in fact one of the most recent. Most are from the 1950s through the 1970s. Many portray moments from the Civil Rights Movement and the uprisings of the 1960s. There are several searing photographs depicting the fierce Detroit riots of 1968 and the aftermath of destruction and anger.

Sometimes the juxtapositions the editors have chosen are interesting. A series of "you are there" photos showing the daily life of Resurrection City, the settlement that arose on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the 1968 Poor People's Campaign is followed immediately by a photograph of Arthur Mitchell, "the legendary African-American dancer, choreographer and co-founder of the Dance Theater of Harlem" in a posed setting during a rehearsal for the Dance Theater's upcoming production of Creole Giselle.

Sometimes the reasons for particular photographs remaining unpublished are essentially prosaic, reinforcing the Times' reputation as the staid "Gray Lady." Expressive, movement filled photos set aside in favor of more static photos: headshots or posed portraits and the like. Other times, prejudice seems certainly to have played a part. For example, there's a photograph of President Truman shaking hands with William H. Lastie, who had just been named the first black governor of the Virgin Islands. In the photograph in the book, they are standing next to each other shaking hands. The photo that the paper actually ran was identical, but with no handshake ongoing.

There are heartbreaking and horrifying historical photographs: Coretta Scott King at her husband's funeral, inside Malcolm X's house in Queens just after it was firebombed. No one was injured, but soon we see the photograph of Malcolm X's funeral after he was assassinated by rifle fire just eight days later. There is a photograph of Fred Hampton's bullet-ridden apartment immediately after his murder by Chicago policemen, and a series of photos of black soldiers in Vietnam.

Given that many of these photographs are of black people in New York City during the 60s and 70s, it's not surprising that most of the street scenes depict areas of Harlem, where my wife and I are staying for a year, through May 2024. In fact, I bought the book in a gift shop on Lennox Avenue (a.k.a. Malcolm X Boulevard) just a few blocks from our apartment on W. 117th.

Each of the photographs/photo series is accompanied by a short essay describing the photograph, the circumstances behind its creation and information about what photo was chosen to run in its place (or whether a photo was used at all or whether a story about the incident or scene was ever run). When possible, followup information and/or relatively contemporary interviews with the subjects are included, and a few times those essays are even written by the original photographer. This is simply a wonderful book that you'll want to take your time paging through and studying.

Ago 21, 12:11 pm

>51 rocketjk: That sounds amazing, Jerry. I'll have to see if I can get a copy.

It was great seeing you and Stephanie yesterday. I hope we can do it again this fall, either at the Brooklyn Book Festival or in PA.

Ago 21, 12:27 pm

>52 labfs39: October 1st is the main day for the Brooklyn Book Festival, with an outdoor book markets and dozens of to-be-scheduled talks indoors & out:

Ago 21, 12:41 pm

>53 ELiz_M: After hearing you talk about it yesterday, I was intrigued and pulled the webpage up on my laptop this morning. Sounds interesting! I went to the Decatur Book Fest a couple of times pre-Covid with Darryl/kidzdoc and Kay/RidgewayGirl and had a lot of fun.

Editado: Ago 23, 11:07 am

Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara

This slim volume is from Pocket Poets. I was living in California when I bought this book, though I bought it in the gift shop of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Many of the poems are about New York City, where O'Hara lived when he wrote them and where I live now. The poems were written over the period of 1953 through 1964.

I first started reading these poems about a month ago but didn't like the first few. I couldn't engage with the imagery, somehow, which sometimes seemed more or less random. Then last week I decided to try the poems again. Starting where I'd left off, I found the first few I read to be, in fact, wonderful. So I went back to the beginning and reread the poems I hadn't liked the first time, and, lo and behold! I got those, too! The poems are often very personal, direct observations of life and relationships. There were still some few images that didn't work for me, but I could see better what O'Hara seemed to be getting at: flash portrayals of individual gems of experience, not always necessarily profound in the greater scheme of things but so often worth paying close attention to in the moment. Quite a few of the poems are about the elusive nature of love, or at least that's how I took them. A significant number are veined with eroticism, the joys and pains of desire and physical contact.

Then, when I was about two-thirds through, I got curious and took a look at the Wikipedia page on O'Hara to learn more (my knowledge of poetry and poets being mostly woefully lacking). I found this:

In 1959, he wrote a mock manifesto (originally published in the magazine Yūgen in 1961) called Personism: A Manifesto, in which he explains his position on formal structure: "I don't ... like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone's chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don't turn around and shout, 'Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.'" He says, in response to academic overemphasis on form, "As for measure and other technical apparatus, that's just common sense: if you're going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There's nothing metaphysical about it." He claims that on August 27, 1959, while talking to LeRoi Jones, he founded a movement called Personism which may be "the death of literature as we know it."

He says,

"It does not have to do with personality or intimacy, far from it! But to give you a vague idea, one of its minimal aspects is to address itself to one person (other than the poet himself), thus evoking overtones of love without destroying love's life-giving vulgarity, and sustaining the poet's feelings toward the poem while preventing love from distracting him into feeling about the person."

Well, so then I had to go back and read the whole collection from the beginning again (we are only talking about 82 very small pages). And, obviously now, this is me finally learning about an extremely important poet that most people with an iota of interest in American poetry already knew of. C'est la vie.

Here's one of my favorites in the collection, written in 1959, simply entitled "Poem" (Note that this reproduction doesn't do justice to O'Hara's line breaks/indentations. You can see how the lines are supposed to be laid out if you follow the link provided below.)

Krushchev is coming on the right day!
the cool graced light
is pushed off the enormous glass piers by hard wind
and everything is tossing, hurrying on up
this country
has everything but
politesse, a Puerto Rican cab driver says
and five different girls I see
look like Piedie Gimbel
with her blonde hair tossing too,
as she looked when I pushed
her little daughter on the swing on the lawn it was also windy

last night we went to a movie and came out,
Ionesco is greater
than Beckett, Vincent said, that's what I think, blueberry blintzes
and Khrushcev was probably being carped at
in Washington, no
Vincent tells me about his mother's trip to Sweden
Hans tells us
about his father's life in Sweden, it sounds like Grace Hartigan's
so I go home to bed and names drift through my
Purgatorio Merchado, Gerhard Schwartz and Gaspar Gonzales,
all unknown figures of the early morning as I go to work

where does the evil of the year go
when September takes New York
and turns it into ozone stalagmites
deposits of light
so I get back up
make coffee, and read François Villon, his life, so dark
New York seems blinding and my tie is blowing up the street
I wish it would blow off
though it is cold and somewhat warms
my neck
as the train bears Krushchev on to Pennsylvania Station
and the light seems to be eternal
and joy seems to be inexorable
I am foolish enough always to find it in wind

Ago 23, 2:44 pm

>55 rocketjk: Thanks for putting this on my radar!

Ago 23, 4:35 pm

>51 rocketjk: Photographs are fascinating things especially those taken with film. America has an excellent history of black and white photography. Looks to be a great book.

Editado: Ago 24, 3:46 pm

>57 baswood: Yes, I highly recommend Unseen. I thought I would page through it relatively quickly, but between the excellent essays accompanying each photo and the expressive faces and riveting history contained within the photos themselves, I ended up spending several days experiencing the volume.

And I now present what you've all been waiting for! My post-Unseen and Lunch Poems "between book" journey through Stack 1:

* “The First Winter at Plymouth,” by William Bradford from Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Necrology for 1962” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Saracen’s Head” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* "A Space Ship of Tenderness to the Moon” by Laila Baalabaki (frequently spelled Baalbaki), translated by Denys Johnson-Davies, from New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan - newly added
* Day 3, Story 1 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* “A Brotherhood of Borrowed Time” by David Snell from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

Next up for me will be Three Thirds of a Ghost by Timothy Fuller, the third entry in the obscure, humorous Jupiter Jones mystery series, published in the 1940s.

Ago 26, 12:06 pm

Three Thirds of a Ghost by Timothy Fuller

This is the third book in Timothy Fuller's Jupiter Jones mystery series, a now obscure set that was evidently relatively popular when the books were first published in the early 1940s. In the series' first book, Jupiter Jones, a wise-cracking, over-confident know-it-all, had just graduated from Harvard and got involved in a Thin Man sort of way in helping the police (who of course didn't want his help) solve the murder of a Harvard professor. Jones' saving grace is his ability to laugh at himself and his pretensions. In this third book, Jones by by now is himself teaching literature at his alma mater. So, the plot:

At the 150th anniversary celebration of a revered Boston bookstore, author George Newbury is the featured speaker. Newbury has gained fame as a mystery writer but whose last book and, evidently his soon-to-be-published next book, are satires lampooning Boston's elite class, with portrayals close enough to real life figures that it's easy to figure out who he's talking about. While speaking in front of the crowded room, Newbury is shot. Everyone agrees that the gunshot came from the back of the room but, puzzlingly, nobody can say that they saw the shooter. In the room are Newbury's agent, publisher, secretary and four members of the wealthy Still family, whom Newbury had been known to be lampooning in his upcoming novel, plus a celebrated medium who is also thought to be in that book. And, of course, Jupiter Jones.

This mystery is fun, but not quite as fun as the first two in the series. There is a bit less wise-cracking humor, and some moralizing that I could have done without as well. Still, the book was enjoyable all in all, well paced and with a good plot and a good denouement. And it's fun to read once popular, now obscure literature. There are five books in the series. I'm definitely going to read the fourth book sometime soon to see if there's a bounce back, but if that book's not any better than his one, I might not bother with the series finale.

Book note: The paperback edition of the book portrayed in the image above is the copy I have at home in California. Being in New York, now, I had to find another copy. The one I found (online) is a hardcover from 1941. While I bought it from a store called Mycroft's Books in upstate New York, a stamp on the book's inside front cover says it was originally purchased at Finch's, 139 Washington Street, Marblehead, Mass. Clearly Finch's is long gone. There seems to be a flooring business at the address now, and a search for "Finch's Marblehead" came up blank.

Ago 26, 10:11 pm

Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives looks terrific—and NYPL has the ebook, bless 'em. Though as with any art or photography book, it's always a tossup as to whether the e-format will do it justice.

And I love Lunch Poems, and that one especially. The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara was my first "grownup" poetry collection, discovered in junior high (actually I think a gift from my mom)... he's someone I dearly wish had lived longer. Think of all those poems we've missed out on.

Ago 27, 9:39 am

>60 lisapeet: "it's always a tossup as to whether the e-format will do it justice."

I would say not, but still infinitely better than not experiencing the book at all.

"he's someone I dearly wish had lived longer. Think of all those poems we've missed out on."

Amen. Another favorite from the collection for me was "The Day Lady Died."

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Ago 27, 10:49 pm

>61 rocketjk: that’s the poem that popped into my brain as soon as you mentioned O’Hara.

Ago 27, 11:19 pm

>62 dianeham: Yes, it's certainly a moving and memorable poem.

Ago 28, 4:45 pm

>61 rocketjk: A new poet to me, but that example is wonderful. "Quandariness" - what a great word.

Ago 28, 5:23 pm

>64 SassyLassy: "Quandariness" - what a great word.

Yes! That struck me as well.

Ago 29, 6:03 pm

Here's my most recent "Between Book" wander, post Three Thirds of a Ghost, another bit of enjoyable time spent with Stack 1:

* “What is an American?” by J. Hector St.-John de Crevecoeur from Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Michigan Captured College World’s Series” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Saracen’s Head” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* "The Girl and the Hashish-Smoker” by Albert Cossery (translated by Harold Edwards) from New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan
* Day 3, Story 2 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn
* “A Yen for Young Authors” by Leonore Fleischer from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

I've now begun a (so far) excellent first novel, Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas. Abbas was born in Khartoum, Sudan, (where Ghost Season takes place) and raised in New York. Her list of accomplishments, academic posts, etc. is pretty darn amazing. I'm on page 42, now (of 304 pages) and ver¥ much hooked.

Ago 29, 9:18 pm

Loved your posts on Unseen and Ohara. As you know, I read Decameron last year. I found a story a day was a nice pace…but it commits you to 100 days. The stories do have phases of sorts within the groupings.

Ago 30, 9:24 am

>67 dchaikin: "As you know, I read Decameron last year. I found a story a day was a nice pace…but it commits you to 100 days. The stories do have phases of sorts within the groupings."

I read the translator's introduction about the work. I found that very helpful in grounding me in the collection and in picking up historical tips, as well. I've decided, as you've seen, on adding it to both "between book" stacks, which commits me to a story per book I read. Since I have, now, 78 stories to go, that's, obviously, 78 books-worth of Decameron stories, or, given my recent pace, about a year and a half. That seems fine to me.

"Loved your posts on Unseen and Ohara."

Thanks. Glad you like those. Cheers!

Editado: Set 1, 11:33 am

A couple of quick notes.

I'm about halfway through Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas and very much enjoying it.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife went to our local library branch and borrowed Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, particularly apropos since we have been living in New York City since the beginning of June. She enjoyed the introduction and the first half of Chapter One so much that not only did she want me to read it, she wanted me to read it immediately so she could talk with me about the things she was learning about the history of the funky, dangerous, lowlife sections of New York without my complaining that she was ruining the book for me by telling me too much about it. So we've come up with a new system (for us): She will read a chapter and then I will put down whatever reading I'm in the midst of and immediately read that chapter, too. The chapters aren't that long and the writing is very good and the subject matter fascinating, so the whole project should go smoothly. There are 23 chapters, so I guess we'll be renewing the book or eventually breaking down and buying a copy. Anyway, I guess I'll just mention whichever chapters I've completed in Low Life whenever I review my other books.

Yesterday I walked uptown, from 117th Street along historic and majestic Lennox Avenue to 140th Street with the express purpose of viewing the plaque that now appears where the iconic Savoy Ballroom once stood. (Jazz fans will know of the song "Stompin' at the Savoy.") Here it is:


Then I walked about 15 more blocks up St. Nicholas Avenue to visit the small but powerful Sisters' Uptown Bookstore, a bookstore, learning center and community haven for the Harlem community since 2000. I bought two books, the short story collection, Each of Us Killers by Jenny Bhatt and a very new book called For the Strength of Harlem: Pleas Tusant Pearson. Pearson was a community leader and activist whose name has not become as well known as some of his contemporaries. His daughter, Janell Pearson, is hoping to amend that with her writing of her father's biography. I'm looking forward to reading this.

It was a fun and interesting day. I should include, as well, the wonderful curry shrimp and rice lunch I had at a Jamaican restaurant called Wats On Your Plate.

Set 1, 5:09 pm

What happened to the Savoy? (love 'home of happy feet)

Set 1, 6:06 pm

>70 cindydavid4: I don't know, offhand. There's public housing on the site now, so maybe it was urban "development" that did the place in. Or maybe the housing development came later. Perhaps it was just changing tastes in music. The demise of the big band as the most popular form of jazz would have made it very tough for a large dancehall to remain profitable.

Editado: Set 13, 6:08 pm

Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas

This is a very good first novel by Fatin Abbas, a writer who was born in Sudan and grew up in the U.S. The novel is about Saraaya, a small town in the middle of Sudan, more or less on the front line between the two sides of the country's intermittent but long lasting civil war. Stated briefly, the conflict as described here was between the dominant Muslim peoples of the north and the rebels of the country's south, demanding an equal part of, among other things, the benefits accrued from the Sudanese oil industry. (In the event, the country ended up being split, as the southern half broke away to become the independent country of South Sudan in 2011. This development is not mentioned in Ghost Season, which takes place beforehand.)

As the novel begins, the war has receded for a long stretch of time, but rumors of its imminent return are growing with reports of rebel forces now camped out in the countryside and the subsequent arrival of government backed and armed militias. In the town live the South Sudanese Nilots and the Moslem nomads, many of whom have been forced from the old ways by global warming, which has dried up water supplies and caused the death of the essential nomad cattle herds. Generally, the two groups live in peace, but whenever the civil war returns, relations become strained and often violent. Nobody wants a return to these conditions, but the fear of them becomes more real with the discover of a corpse, burnt beyond recognition. Is this a sign of troubles to come?

Alex, a young American NGO employee has come to the village with the assignment to create updated maps of the area, which haven't been revised since before the English colonizers left the area. The job is almost impossible, however, as the topography of the region changes with the seasons--rainy and dry--and global warming has wrecked havoc with even these haphazard patterns. Living with him in his small compound are Dana, a young Sudanese-American filmmaker trying to document the lives of the villagers while she simultaneously perfects her craft, William, a Nilot who is hired as Alex's translator, Layla, a young nomad woman who works as cook, and Mustafa, a 12-year-old dynamo who is William's gofer and all-round helper who dreams of escape to the national capital, Khartoum. We see the impending peril through the eyes of these five characters, with their varied perspectives, hopes and troubles.

As mentioned above, this is a first novel, and there are issues with pacing in particular. The first half of the book is pretty static, as Abbas moves her perspective around to describe each character and the relationships between them all. There's a lot of "telling," in other words. In the book's second half, though, the action picks up considerably. There are also examples of some scenes being drawn out too long (for my taste) and some coming and going in a flash. However, although Abbas here is a first time novelist, she is a very accomplished writer. The list of awards she has won for her short story writing is extensive. So while there are issues with plotting and pacing--novel construction, in other words--there are no problems with Abbas' powers of observation and description. Her sentence- and paragraph-level writing are gorgeous. Her characters are believable, as are their interactions with each other. So even while the plotting is somewhat slow in the first half, the book was still enjoyable for me. In the meantime, the descriptions of the village, the lifestyle and concerns of its people, the historical and environmental forces that have shaped it all are nothing short of admirable. So I very much recommend the book.

Editado: Out 17, 6:30 am

It took a while, but I now have a post-Ghost Season journey through Stack 2 of my "Between Books" to report:

* “Empress Claudia’s Secret” by Conte Lorenzo Magalotti, from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “Personalities”+ from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “The Ghost of the Valley” by Lord Dunsany from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Eight-Oared Crew” by Harry Sylvester from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin
* “The Storekeeper,” by Otis Haschemeyer from The Missouri Review - Volume 21 Number 2: Men, 1998, edited by Morgan Speer
* "Is it a Byrd? Is it a Jefferson Airplane? No—it’s Supergroup" by Maggie Paley from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969 - Finished!

+A series of very short profiles, with photos, of:
Mary Ellen Bute, a maker of surreal films
Edward Lee Thorndike, an educational psychologist
Jack L. Caidin, a collector and seller of rare records
Dorothy Jaffe, a matchmaker
Major A.W. Stevens, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot and specialist in high altitude flying
Charles Gay, a breeder of lions for zoos and movie studios
Marlyn Stuart, chorus girl also employed in radio for speaking in a child’s voice
Erwin “Doc” Frailey, locomotive engineer
Adolph Kroch, owner of Chicago’s Kroch Bookstore
Steve Clemente, specialist in knife throwing for the movies

I've also read chapters 2 and 3 of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante, which my wife and I are reading together, plus reading for the course on Latin American history that I'm auditing at Columbia now. I'm now finally ready to begin Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe. It's just one of those classics I've always told myself I'd get around to reading. Cheers, all!

Editado: Set 13, 11:39 am

Life Magazine - October 24, 1969 edited by Ralph Graves

Read as a "Between Book" (see first post). Another old magazine off the stack on the floor of my home office. This edition of Life was particularly intriguing for me due to my memories of so many of the events written about here, as I turned 14 in July 1969. Of most interest was the relatively long article, with photos, about the Vietnam War Moratorium that had just taken place in Washington, DC, hundreds of thousands strong, as well as side pieces about the Nixon Administration's response. Also interesting was the piece on the community that had developed among heart-transplant recipients, very much still a new technology at that time, and on a more humorous note, the dynamic between the Washington Redskins' fun-loving quarterback, Sonny Jurgensen, and disciplinarian Vince Lombardi at the start of the latter's short, post-Packers tenure as head coach in Washington. Finally, there was a nostalgia-inducing piece about the early days of rock "supergroup" Blind Faith. I can still recall what a big deal it was for my high school friends and I when Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker from Cream and Steve Windwood from Traffic got together to form that band.

Set 13, 1:24 pm

>73 rocketjk: I didn’t notice you picked up a 1998 Missouri Review. I have read all of two of them, one from 1990’s. They were terrific.

Editado: Set 13, 1:35 pm

>75 dchaikin: Hi, Dan. I'm about a third of the way through the 1998 edition I'm reading. So far, every piece in it has been excellent, and most if not all of them are by writers who were then at the beginning of what became successful writing careers. I don't even know where or why I bought it, though it's been in my LT collection since before my 2008 LT Big Bang. So it was sitting on my bookshelf for at least 15 years before I finally took it down and added it to a "between book" stack just this past May.

Editado: Set 13, 1:36 pm

>76 rocketjk: that was my experience with the ones i read. Unknown authors, some of which were successful later. And all entries were excellent.

Editado: Set 13, 1:35 pm

>77 dchaikin: Yes, that's one reason these old literary publications can be fun if they're good.

Set 13, 5:08 pm

>72 rocketjk: Great review, I've added this to my wishlist.

Set 13, 7:11 pm

>74 rocketjk: That sounds like fascinating reading. I remember seeing the Blind Faith concert in Hyde Park. I guess that must have been in 1969.

Editado: Set 14, 1:44 am

>80 baswood: Yes, I really enjoy reading these old magazines and being put into their original eras. In this case, as I mentioned above, I can say "put back into the original era."

The Blind Faith piece was a little too brief, though, for my desires. But Life wasn't, even at that point, going to give too many pages over to a rock band. Some quotes by Clapton and Winwood are kind of interesting as they're already talking about what they want out of a band. Winwood makes reference to the fact that he is already itching to make a solo album. Supposedly Blind Faith was going to be the sort of outfit that would allow its members the freedom to do side projects. But in the event they were only together long enough for the one album. I think maybe the record company cashed in afterwards with a live concert record. For me the biggest kick in reading the piece was having the band being written about in the present tense and being able to remember exactly what it was like to be a young music fan in that era. I think, though, that looking back we might say that this idea of consolidating big stars together into "supergroups" helped take the spontaneity out of the music and was a sign of the end of the peak of this sort of blues influenced rock music. I'm jealous that you got to see them live, though.

Set 16, 5:20 pm

The Brooklyn Book Festival finally posted the events!

I go mainly for the Literary Marketplace, where publishers and bookstores, etc. have display their wares. Archipelago Books usually has really good prices and many others will offer discounts as well.

Set 16, 5:38 pm

>82 ELiz_M: Thanks! Steph and I will have a look at that schedule.

Set 16, 10:02 pm

>82 ELiz_M: Ooh, so many interesting talks, especially on book banning and freedom to read. But I am tempted by the thought of Archipelago Press alone!

Set 17, 11:53 am

>82 ELiz_M: Ohhh that looks like a good one. I probably won't be able to make it—I'll be just back from a business trip and will have to untraumatize my husband, brand-new dog, and four cats. Or at least myself, for having had to leave them all four days after the dog arrives. But hope springs eternal, so I'm putting it in my datebook anyway...

I used to read lots of old literary/commentary magazines when I worked for The New Leader, but far fewer now. They're always good for a less-filtered look (than a full researched book or novelization) at the times.

Editado: Set 18, 10:32 pm

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Set 18, 10:33 pm

Sorry, I thought I was somewhere else.

Set 18, 10:47 pm

>87 dianeham: That’s so funny. Especially when taken out of context

Set 19, 10:02 am

>87 dianeham: Darn. Sorry I missed your comment, wherever it was supposed to be posted.

Set 19, 7:50 pm

>89 rocketjk: you didn’t miss anything. Lisa mentioned her new dog and I got so excited I asked for more dog info. But then I realized it was your topic, not hers. So I deleted it and said I thought I was somewhere else - meaning her topic. However, more posts about your dog in nyc are welcome too. I miss having a dog.

Editado: Set 27, 10:22 am

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

I read Moll Flanders as part of my custom of intermittently and more or less randomly selecting a "classic" I've never read, just to fill in another hole in my reading. I think it was considered rather daring, or at least unusual, of Defoe to create a first person female protagonist at the time he was writing (the novel was first published in 1722). Defoe's intention, evidently, was to create character that he could send down into serious moral degradation and then bring up again to show that even the most incorrigible individual could be redeemed in the end. (This is giving nothing away. The book's subtitle ends with the phrase, "died a penitent.") As well, he obviously wanted to write an interesting, readable tale. During the telling, Defoe provides the reader with details about the lowest levels of London society. If you ever wanted details about the habits and procedures of the pickpockets and shop thieves of late 17th, early 18th century London, this is your book. Whether Defoe meant to titillate his readers with these accounts or he took their foreknowledge of these thing for granted I'm unsure.

When Moll (not her real name, we're told) first comes to early adulthood, she is an honest, naive servant girl who wants nothing more than the opportunity to eventually make a living for herself through her sewing. But, through sexual harassment, she is soon put in an impossible situation by first one of the grown brothers in the family she's working for, and then the other. And although the second brother actually marries her out of love, Moll takes the lesson that men will press their advantages over women in all sorts of ways, and that, to survive, a women must look to her own interests and do what she can to survive. Luckily for Moll, she is physically beautiful. So through a series of marriages and dalliances, she is never short of suitors. However, those suitors are often after nothing other than the money she has set by. Through a series of often rather improbable happenstances, Moll is in and out of such relationships. Sometimes they are strictly mercenary, and sometimes they are happier, but ill-fated. At last, Moll finds herself in London, past the age when men will search her out for her beauty or for marriage. At this point she turns to a life of crime: a pickpocket and a thief.

At first Moll Flanders is clearly a victim of misogyny and the English class system. Later we find her hardened by these experiences into an immoral lifestyle checked only by the fear of being caught and imprisoned. Along the way we learn something that is horrifying to our modern standards but would have been taken for granted, I guess, by Defoe's contemporaries: petty thievery in those days was a hanging crime in England.

There were times when the reading of Moll Flanders was a bit of a slog for me, as some of the incidents do go on and/or are repetitive. And there is nothing subtle about Defoe's portrayal. Even the name Moll Flanders, we're told in the introduction, would have denoted low living and prostitution to Defoe's contomporaries. Whatever it was that Defore meant to portray, he does give us a novel with a forceful female protagonist who lives by her wits and on her own terms. She is sometimes victimized by men, and is set on her path by one man's injustice in particular, but more becomes the agent of her own actions, and has disdain for those men she encounters who are psychologically undone by setbacks. Defoe's frankness about sex (nothing graphic, but then nothing coy, either) is reminiscent of The Decameron, which I am also currently reading. I guess I found Moll Flanders to be more an interesting time piece than an enjoyable reading experience per se, but all in all I'm glad to have read it, and the character will certainly remain memorable to me.

Book note: The cover shown here is that of the Modern Library edition of the book that is sitting on my Modern Library collection shelf in California. The edition I actually read is the Penguin Classics version, edited with an introduction by David Blewett, that I took out of the Harry Belafonte Branch of the New York Public Library.

Set 27, 12:24 pm

Great review. I haven’t read any of these 18th century authors. Partially because i know they’re going to be really wordy. But I do want to someday. I enjoyed your description a lot.

Set 27, 1:04 pm

>92 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan. Although my review, too, I think we can call "really wordy." Well, as G.B. Shaw supposedly said, "If I'd had more time, I could have been briefer." Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.

Set 27, 4:49 pm

>91 rocketjk: Even the name Moll Flanders, we're told in the introduction, would have denoted low living and prostitution to Defoe's contemporaries I have heard the word moll being used to denote a female prostitute, and I thought it had its origins in Defoe's book, but according to the OED the earliest usage is in a 1604 quote by Thomas Middleton: "None of these common Molls neither, but discontented and unfortunate gentlewomen."

Set 27, 5:53 pm

>91 rocketjk: >94 labfs39: Isn't "moll" also a word gangsters used to use to refer to their girlfriends?

>91 rocketjk: You make me think I should reread this.

Set 27, 5:59 pm

>94 labfs39: Yes, according the the introduction of my edition, Defoe didn't invent the connotation, but instead used one that his readers were sure to recognize.

>95 SassyLassy: "Isn't "moll" also a word gangsters used to use to refer to their girlfriends?"

Yes, or at least in the movies they did. :) But the original derivation, as per Defoe, is, it turns out, much older.

Set 28, 1:08 pm

>95 SassyLassy: Isn't "moll" also a word gangsters used to use to refer to their girlfriends? Yes, and it makes me think of Bonnie and Clyde :-)

Editado: Set 29, 10:19 am

My post-Moll Flanders "Between Book" reading took the form of a return to Stack 2. Included in the endeavor was the addition of the July 2, 1965, edition of Life Magazine to replace the recently completed October 24, 1969, edition of the same publication:

* “Rosita and Bread” by Jacinto Picon, from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “Punchinello’s Merry Pranks” by Bernard Geis from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “The Day of the Funeral” by Margaret Lane from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “The Fifty Yard Dash” by William Saroyan from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin
* “An Interview with Harvey Shapiro” by Gary Pacernick from The Missouri Review - Volume 21 Number 2: Men, 1998, edited by Morgan Speer
* Day 3, Story 4 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* "A Hip New Pop-Gunsel of the Far-Outniks: a book review of Tom Wolfe’s the Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby" by Conrad Knickerbocker from Life Magazine - July 2, 1965

I've now started The Other Side of Silence, the 11th book in Philip Kerr's wonderful Bernie Gunther historical noir series.

Editado: Out 3, 9:01 am

The Other Side of Silence by Philip Kerr

This is the 11th entry in Philip Kerr's wonderful Bernie Gunther historical noir series. Gunther started out the series as a homicide detective in Nazi-era (but pre-war) Berlin. Being a Nazi-hater in 1935 Berlin was bound to bring our pal Bernie some problems, and of course it did by the fistful. The Other Side of Silence finds Gunther out the other end of the war with even more cynicism to go along with his battered conscience. Now it is the mid-50s and he is working as a concierge in a decent but not great hotel on the French Riviera. Kerr was never shy about mixing well-known real life figures into Gunther's adventures and travails. This time we meet Somerset Maugham, who is living in the same town and is being blackmailed. It's not long before the British Secret Service are in town, too, and what we have is a Cold War conundrum. This isn't among the very best books in this series, but even good-not-great Bernie Gunther is still a lot of fun in the reading. Sadly, Kerr died a few years back, but I still have three Bernie Gunther books to go.

Editado: Out 3, 3:28 pm

Here's my post-The Other Side of Silence "Between Book" ramble through Stack 1:

* “Daniel Boone and the Founding of Kentucky,” excerpted from Hero Tales from American History by Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “St. Louis Team Copped Legion Crown” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Death of Little Kate Wordsworth” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* "A House of Flesh” by Yussef Idriss from New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan
* “The Incredible Cassius” by Robert Lipsyte from Best Sports Stories 1965 edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre - Newly added!
* Day 3, Story 5 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn
* “Movie Review: Tragic Gem from an Unsunny Spain" (La Tia Tula) by Howard Greenfeld from Life Magazine - July 2, 1965

Next up for me, I'll finally be reading Margaret Atwood's modern classic, The Handmaid's Tale.

Out 5, 12:16 pm

>91 rocketjk: I enjoyed reading your review of Moll Flanders. Many literary critics claim that Daniel Defoe wrote the first modern novel - Robinson Crusoe three years earlier published in 1719. I have read Robinson Crusoe and it seems to have suffered from the same padding that you found in Moll Flanders. Still worth reading if you can put up with a bit of a slog and all the self help moralising that goes with it.

Out 5, 7:04 pm

>101 baswood: "Still worth reading if you can put up with a bit of a slog and all the self help moralising that goes with it."

Yes, worth reading, I agree, though it kind of reminds me of Dorothy Parker's supposed line about the writing process: "Hated writing. Love having written."

Out 17, 8:53 am

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

No one needs a lengthy review of Margaret Atwood's modern classic, The Handmaids's Tale, from the likes of me at this late date. I'll just say that I found this dystopian tale entirely believable and disturbing. The ways in which Atwood builds her world and the ways in which the United States gradually, by steps, morphs into the totalitarian state of Gilead, in which most men and all women are forcibly subservient to the powerful few, all male, Commanders, and the horrors of life that ensure, especially for women, seems all too--with just a bit of suspension of disbelief--plausible. In fact, it all probably seems more believable today than it did back when the book was originally published in the 1980s, and what does that say? Also, the first person protagonist's voice is real and alive. I only regret that it took me so long to finally read this novel.

Out 17, 5:26 pm

>103 rocketjk: It’s a wonderful book. I read it way-back so have forgotten much of it except the main theme and plot. Still makes me ambiguous on the subject of surrogacy.

Out 17, 6:06 pm

>103 rocketjk: a good cultural literacy improvement. 🙂 Glad you read it. I’m not recommending the sequel, which I hated. But you might find yourself drawn there regardless of expectations.

Out 17, 6:48 pm

>105 dchaikin: I've heard frequently that the sequel is, at the very best, not nearly as good as The Handmaid's Tale, though I'll probably read it anyway, with low expectations, just to experience it for myself.

Out 17, 11:09 pm

>106 rocketjk: It’s hard to write a good sequel after writing such an original novel. The analogy now of the rich having poorer women bearing their children had not, I believe, been given in a book by a major author before.

Out 18, 8:32 am

>107 kjuliff: "It’s hard to write a good sequel after writing such an original novel. "

I'm sure that's right, though never having written either, I have no firsthand knowledge. :) Writing's hard, period, but I know what you mean. (I've written some short stories. They were all hard to write.) I suppose the best case scenario would have been if Atwood had had the ideas for the second book as she was writing the first book, but decided that including everything would have made the novel too long, and so decided to publish the story in two shorter books instead of just one longer one. I don't know any of the history of how/when Atwood wrote The Testaments, though I'm sure that's easily find-outable.

Out 18, 8:42 am

I wasn't wowed by The Testaments. But more to the point, the thing that really impresses me about The Handmaid's Tale is that it was so striking when I read it in my 20s and I found it still striking a couple of years ago, when I reread it. It was just real enough to be terrifying then, and just prescient enough, without a lot of dystopian bells and whistles, to be terrifying now—for some of the same reasons, but some very different ones. I think she just tapped into a real vein of fear among women (and men too, obviously, but a very personal one for women) that, it seems, will never leave us.

Out 18, 9:26 am

>109 lisapeet: I think you are exactly right. I've read it several times over the years/decades, and it never fails to be terrifying and powerful. I liked the first season of the Netflix series too. I thought the actor they chose for Offred was inspired.

Out 18, 1:53 pm

>103 rocketjk: I read The Handmaid's Tale for the first time around when it was published. I loved it, but felt that it was entirely speculative, in a "it can't happen here," kind of way. I reread it in the late 1990's with my book club, and at that time it had a definite "it CAN happen here," feel. It was amazingly prescient. (Or I'm generally clueless).
I don't recommend The Testaments at all. It has a very YA feel to it, though you may like YA.

Out 18, 5:19 pm

>111 arubabookwoman: I too read it twice and had the same reactions as you each time. With tech advances in surrogacy and sex-change, the tools are there. Once there are tools they can be used unwisely and immorally.

Plus we already have societies, whole countries, where many women are just used for child-bearing. Without the need of technology. Of course those societies were there pre The Handmaiden’s Tale, but the eyes of Western literary fiction wasn’t on them.

On my first reading of The Handmaiden’s Tale I classified it as fantasy. On the second with many years in between , I classified it as Sci-Fi.

Editado: Out 19, 8:26 am

My post-The Handmaid's Tale "Between Book" reading was a ramble through Stack 2, like so:

* “Tents of the Arabs” by Lord Dunsany, from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “A Note on Verdi” by Carlton Smith from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “Take Your Partners” by Ronald Blythe from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Don’t Jinx the Pitcher” by Bill Erin from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin
* “The Porter-Warren Letters: The Turbulent Years (1935-1942)” from The Missouri Review - Volume 21 Number 2: Men, 1998, edited by Morgan Speer
* Day 3, Story 6 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn
* "Visit Bogalusa and You Will Look for Me" by Shana Alexander from Life Magazine - July 2, 1965

I'm now on to the first book of John le Carre's first George Smiley novel, Call for the Dead.

Out 21, 3:14 am

I read Handmaid’s Tale 3 times. I read it when it was published and I didn’t like it. And I still didn’t like it the other 2 times. I loved all her books prior to that. I disliked HT because there was no resistance. The Testaments in my mind is Atwood’s way of working the tv series into the original story. The 2 books do not go together. The second book tries to do what I wished the first book did. To me it doesn’t work after the fact. And it isn’t the same Atwood. I agree the second book should have grown from the first book. But it didn’t - it sprouted from the tv series.

Out 21, 3:23 am

I had been following this discussion and thinking "hmm, I'm not sure if I would read The Testaments or just let The Handmaid's Tale stand alone." Then I looked back and realized I did read The Testaments. Ha, guess that's how much of an impression it made on me.

Out 23, 10:56 pm

Call for the Dead by John le Carré

I decided to read Call for the Dead, John le Carré's first published novel and the first book of his famous George Smiley series, because, you know, I needed another series to be in the middle of. :). It's a short book, fewer than 200 pages, and although the story is about spies and espionage, it's essentially a murder mystery. It's a good first novel, I think, though nowhere near the quality of le Carré's (and Smiley's) subsequent novels, though already the writing style, I thought, was quite enjoyable. Foreign Office employee Samuel Fennan, whom Smiley has recently interviewed about a letter the office has received questioning Fennan's loyalty. And although Smiley assures Fennan at the end of the interview that he hasn't anything to worry about, Fennan commits suicide the next day. And when Smiley goes to Fennan's house the next day to talk to his widow, he feels that things are not adding up. Well, they wouldn't, would they? I thought it was good fun and a nice brisk read. I'm now interested in continuing on in the series.

Book note: The cover image above is of the Bantam Books mass market (pocket book) edition from 1979. this book is sitting on my bookshelf in California. The copy I actually read is a Penguin Books edition from 2021 that includes a short retrospective introduction by le Carré. This copy came from the Harry Belafonte Branch of the NYC Public Library on West 115th Street.

Nov 1, 12:14 pm

Proud Beggars by Albert Cossery (translated from the French by Thomas W. Cushing)

The pocket biography of Albert Cossery on the front page of my NYRB edition of Proud Beggars tells us, "Albert Cossery (1913-2008) was a Cairo-born French writer of Lebanese and Greek Orthodox Syrian descent who settled in Paris at the end of the Second World War and lived there for the rest of his life." Proud Beggars, first published in 1955, brings us the tale of three men living in an impoverished section of Cairo. To a great or lesser degree, they have all chosen their lifestyle. Gohar, in particular, is a former university professor who, in disgust at what he's come to see as the meaningless and hypocritical world of academia, has renounced participation in the world of professional and material values to live instead in poverty, in a tiny apartment, sleeping on a pile of old newspapers, his love for hashish his only real anchor. Gohar's friend and hashish source is Yeghen, also a poet. El Kordi is a low-level civil servant who is proud of his refusal to do any actual work and fancies himself a revolutionary. As Alyson Waters, points out in her introduction to this edition, "None of them is an actual beggar--they all have ways of making money, if only a pittance--but they are certainly free of ambition and otherwise indifferent to social convention." In particular, Gohar's world is framed by optimism, by his love of the people around him and the joy he sees in their existence. Small details of humans and their folly fill him with delight. As a counterweight to this optimism about the human condition in the poor quarter, the three friends share in common their conviction that the world is run by oppressors, scoundrels and thieves.

Near the beginning of the narrative, a young prostitute is murdered in nearby brothel in what appears to be a motiveless crime. Into the picture comes police inspector Nour El Dine who feels in the solving of such crimes and punishment of their perpetrators not any compassion for the victims but instead a maintenance of order, a defense of the status quo. Our three heroes take him on gleefully as a worthy if not particularly threatening adversary. And Nour El Dine has his own dissatisfactions and doubts.

The language and tone of the novel I found entertaining throughout. The characters' caustic takedowns of society's power structures I found often hilarious, and Cossery's powers of description and observation are rewarding, as well. His descriptions of the street life of this poor Cairo neighborhood reminded me sometimes of Isaac B. Singers' descriptions of the Jewish quarters of pre-war Warsaw.

Proud Beggars is in a way a comedy of manners, a sly attack on the mores of middle class society and the ruling class and a celebration of the daily joys of life. On the other hand, it's easy to see the flaws in the worldview, at least as presented here by Cossery. As noted above, all three of the protagonists have chosen their status, and none of them have families to support, adding to their freedom. They are all men, of course, and the murder of the young girl--her very humanity and the tragedy of her death--is for the most part shrugged off by all concerned. She is disposable, not just by the characters but, if Waters' introduction is accurate, by Cossery himself. Especially this last factor made Proud Beggars less enjoyable for me overall. Or perhaps through this factor, Cossery has in fact added a level of unfortunate and unintentional realism to his story.

Book note: During a trip to Strand Books a while back, I purchased a 1978 anthology called New Writing from the Middle East, which I quickly added to my "between book" reading. Fast forward several weeks. One day, during my explorations of Manhattan, I stumbled upon the wonderful store, Albertine Books, housed in a former mansion on Central Park East that offers books in French and French books in English translation. There I found Proud Beggars, which I bought because I recognized Cossery as the author of one of the stories I'd read in the Middle East anthology.

Nov 1, 12:25 pm

Excellent review, and I was at the point of adding it to the TBR, until I read your next to last paragraph, oh well… Thanks for your thoroughness, and I’m adding it, but with some reservation noted.

Editado: Nov 1, 6:00 pm

>118 dianelouise100: I still think the novel is very much worth reading, even fun, though "with reservations" is a fair proviso. What Cossery seemed actually to be saying as quoted in the introduction, is that it is the fact of the murder itself that he considered beside the point, because he wasn't interested in the novel in exploring questions of guilt and innocence. He shrugs off the murder as a murder, per se, rather than as a murder of a young girl. In other words, it's the crime itself, rather than, specifically, the death of a young girl, that is incidental. Cossery claimed that the murder was simply a plot devise to get bring the police inspector into the mix. However, as I read the novel today, I don't feel that Cossery's choice to have the murder perpetrated upon a young girl was coincidental. If even subconsciously, a young woman seemed to be particularly easily disposable.

Editado: Nov 2, 11:10 pm

My post-Proud Beggars "Between Book" reading through Stack 2 went smoothly thusly:

* “The Ogillallah Village,” excerpted from The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Atlanta Won Jr. Series Title in AAA Debut” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "Gradual Estrangement from Wordsworth” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* "The Dead Afternoon” by Walid Ikhlassi from New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan
* “A Bad Day for Conservatives” by Bill Conlin from Best Sports Stories 1965} edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre
* Day 3, Story 7 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* “New Fury in Vietnam,” a photo essay by Horst Faas from Life Magazine - July 2, 1965

I'm already about a third of the way though The Good Fight, Shirley Chisholm's campaign memoir of her 1972 run for the Democratic nomination for president of the U.S.

Nov 3, 10:21 am

I do like your wanders through your stacks. I'm thinking I need some stacks of my own (I have plenty of material for them!) I'm also taken with your idea of picking up a random classic every now and then to fill in the gaps in your reading (I enjoyed your comments on Moll Flanders). I'd like to think I could do the same, though I suspect that might be one of those "future conquests that I won't make"!

Nov 3, 10:38 am

>121 rachbxl: Well, the thing about my "random classic" reading is that those books are often very enjoyable. For example, there's Sense and Sensibility, which I finally read last year. I have a buddy, a good friend since way back in high school days (that's a long time ago!) who has read through all the Jane Austen novels four or five times, now. So I knew that one was going to be good and I have no idea why I've read so little Austen myself (only Sense and Sensibility and Emma). But, granted, Moll Flanders was harder to push through, and I had to move The Decameron to "between book" world.

Nov 5, 11:06 am

Now We're Getting Somewhere by Kim Addonizio

Poet Kim Addonizio was a very good friend of mine during grad school days in San Francisco and immediately thereafter. We have not stayed in close touch over the intervening years, but I still think of her as a friend. Most importantly for our current purposes, Kim is an extremely accomplished and highly regarded poet. The other day I wandered into one of the Strand Books satellite stores and it occurred to me to wonder whether they had a copy of her most recent collection, Now We're Getting Somewhere, which I hadn't read yet. Sure enough!

This is a slim volume, somewhere around 35 poems of varying lengths, with widely spaced layouts. When I got the book home I sat down to read, I thought, the first two or three poems before getting back to Shirley Chisholm's campaign memoir. Next thing I knew, I had read through the entire collection and then gone back to the beginning and read through them again. Kim's poems have always been vivid with imagery of the street and of the heart: love, regret, light, bad marriages, new love, the joys of writing, the misery of writing, dancing, cracked plaster, hope.

Here's the first poem in the collection:

"Night in the Castle"

I'm not sure what to do about that scorpion twitching on the wall
Maybe I should slam it with this book of terrible poetry

or just read aloud to it until it dies of a histrionic metaphor
bleeding out on the ancient stones in a five-octave aria

If I get a little drunker I might try to murder it with my sandal
I gave up on mercy a while ago

That's what happens when you live in a castle on an artist's grant
You look at the late-afternoon Umbiran light smearing itself over the tomato vines

& feel entitled--like an underage duchess whose husband has finally died of gout
leaving her free for more secret liaisons with the court musician

She might even have poisoned the duke, the lecherous shit
It's hard to remember what life was like before this

& I don't want to, I want to stay here & poison the king next
I want to be a feared & beloved queen ordering up fresh linens & beheadings

locking up bad poets in their artisanal hair shirts
torturing academics with pornographic marionette performances

Meanwhile the scorpion is still there twitching slightly
reciting something about violence & the prison of ego

& I can hear clashing armies on the wide lawn outside
sinking down into history & then standing up again

And here's the final poem in the collection:


So your device has a low battery & seems to drain faster each day.
Maybe you should double your medication.

You might feel queasy, but also as if the spatula flattening you to the fry pan
has lifted a little.

So your breath comes out scorched, so what.

Inside, trust me on this,
there's a ribbon of beach by a lake,

in the sand, fragments of a fossilized creature resembling a tulip.

Back in the Paleozoic, online wasn't invented yet
so everyone had to wander alone & miserable through the volcanic wastes

or just glue themselves to a rock hoping someone would pass by.

Now you can sob to an image of your friend a continent away
& be consoled.

Please wait for the transmissions, however faint.
Listen: when a stranger steps into the elevator with a bouquet of white roses not meant for you,

they're meant for you.

Nov 5, 11:11 am

>123 rocketjk: Oh I love these. Sigh - I really do envy people who have such amazing creativity and imagination.

Nov 5, 11:12 am

>124 AlisonY: "I really do envy people who have such amazing creativity and imagination."


Nov 5, 11:19 am

Those are great. She's such a good poet.

Nov 5, 1:30 pm

>123 rocketjk: Love the poems!

Nov 5, 1:44 pm

>123 rocketjk: That poor scorpion........... Yes I enjoyed the poems.

Editado: Nov 7, 2:23 pm

The Good Fight by Shirley Chisholm

Only U.S. denizens of a certain age and/or students of American presidential politics or African American history are likely to have heard of Shirley Chisholm. She was the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (from her district in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn) and, in 1972, the first to run for president, as she took on George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, Bob Muskie and others for the Democratic Party nomination. The Good Fight is her memoir of that presidential campaign, written very soon after the election and republished last year on the occasion of the campaign's 50th anniversary.

Chisholm was (she died in 2005) a very clear and effective writer, and this memoir makes very interesting reading. She provides a survey of the important issues of the day, the Vietnam War, race relations, women's rights and Nixon's dismantling of the social programs put in place by Lyndon Johnson foremost among them. She describes her decision to run, essentially, as she tells it. due to calls from calls among the constituencies she represented who wanted a relevant alternative to the many white men, conservative and liberal both, to work and to vote for. She writes of the resentment and resistance she encountered by male black political leaders, very few of whom actually endorsed her campaign, although some who didn't actually endorse her gave tacit support. And she writes of her frustration with white liberal politicians who talked a good game but were not often to be found when action (or important congressional votes) were needed.

Her campaign was mostly a cash-starved effort, and she only entered a handful of Democratic primaries. The idea was to garner enough delegate votes to keep any of the "major" candidates from being able to win the nomination on the first vote at the convention, enabling her to be able to bargain for important concessions in the official party platform before releasing her delegates to the candidate who stood to win the nomination. In some states, supporters who wanted to campaign for her begged Chisholm to allow them to enter her in a primary she wouldn't otherwise have signed up for. This happened in the California primary. Chisholm explained to these supporters that she wouldn't be able to campaign in the state or even provide financial help due to lack of funds. The California volunteers would be entirely on their own. Those supporters pushed on, anyway.

Another important sign of those times was the fact that Chisholm's most prominent supporters came from the ranks of young African Americans and mostly middle class white women's rights activists, who often couldn't communicate well with each other and in many states developed fairly acute enmity for each other. The women were often arrogant, unable to identify with the problems of African Americans and looking down at working class people in general, and the African American men brought their gender bias to the office. But as Chisholm writes in her conclusion, "it is important that I never made the rights of women or of blacks a primary theme of my campaign but insisted on making my role that of a potential voice for all the out-groups, those included. . . . Long unmet needs for housing, health care, pensions on which the aged can live decently, effective schools everywhere, including the poorest neighborhoods--all these and more cannot be neglected any longer, I kept saying." In the end, she gained support for her candidacy from across the gender/race spectrum. But she did not come close to picking up enough delegate votes to force more robust policies into the Democratic Party platform.

Chisholm has a lot to say about the rather arrogant, paternalistic campaigns run by McGovern and Humphrey, in which blacks and women were represented only by token figures, but in which effective black and female voices were very much excluded. And yet, post-election, she also says, "Men like George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey are going to be badly needed in the U.S. Senate in the coming years. Our public life would be greatly enhanced if we had dozens more George McGoverns, men who, to quote George Orwell, are 'generously angry--a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.'"

The memoir's only drawback, if such it is, is that it provides Chisholm's global perspective of events, but precious little detail about personality and life experience, either Chisholm's or any of the other players. Her husband barely gets a mention, for example, other than that we're told he fully supports her efforts. None of the other figures become people; they're just names attached to actions and attitudes. That makes for a brisk and readable political memoir--obviously what Chisholm was shooting for--but we never really get the idea we're seeing Shirley Chisholm the person rather than the politician and activist. Fifty years on, though, as far as posterity's concerned, maybe that's the most important thing, anyway.

At any rate, I found The Good Fight to be a fascinating memoir about a fascinating watershed time in U.S. history. Chisholm was clear-eyed about the damage Nixon had already done and what further damage would be done during his next term (aborted though it turned out to be). In terms of civil rights, the Nixon-era backlash was bad enough. The Regan-era backlash "war on crime" was many degrees worse, and the potential that Chisholm saw for the future at that pivotal moment seems tragically to have foundered on the rocks.

Nov 7, 2:38 pm

>129 rocketjk: Great review, thank you! Not being a US denizen I had never heard of Chisholm, so that’s interesting info.

Editado: Nov 7, 3:05 pm

>129 rocketjk: "it provides Chisholm's global perspective of events, but precious little detail about personality and life experience"

I would guess that if you're a demographic "first" (or even an "early") in your chosen field, you're more likely to keep your personal life under wraps. Put the focus on how well you do what you do; get them to think of you first as a skilled {chosen career} instead of as a {demographic minority}. After all, as the first representative of your kind, any little flaw that's found in your personal life will be turned into a reason to reject not only you, but everyone else of your demographic. A "first" carries the weight of representing a group; protecting your own privacy is a way of protecting them as well.

Editado: Nov 7, 2:59 pm

>130 FlorenceArt: You're welcome, and I'm glad you found it interesting. The book contains quite a bit that's very interesting about Chisholm's policy proposals that I didn't touch on in my review. For example, at the end of the book several of Chisholm's position papers are included. The paper laying out Chisholm's views about American relations with the many emerging African countries at that time is important in and of itself. She points out the sad U.S. track record of supporting dictatorships and helping to suppress popular movements in the name of "fighting the Communist threat," for example. There's a lot more of interest along those lines.

>131 KeithChaffee: Yes, your points ring true to me, as well, in terms of Chisholm's motivations at the time. Fifty years on, however, the lack of those personal elements does make it feel like there's something missing, in terms of understanding what it was really like for her to run as the first African American and first woman making the attempt, even if we understand why it had to be that way. Regardless, I gave the memoir four stars. Absolutely worth reading, sez I, if one has an interest in the subject matter.

Nov 8, 10:40 am

>129 rocketjk: Very interesting review Jerry

Editado: Nov 10, 9:58 pm

My post-The Good Fight "Between Book" reading took the form of another hop, skip and jump through Stack #1:

* “The Big Bear,” excerpted from The Bears of Blue River by Charles Major in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Two Flags Top Total for Any Farm System” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "Mrs. Siddons and Hannah More” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* "The Death of Bed Number 12” by Ghassan Kanafani from New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan
* “Sweet Sioux” by Red Smith (New York Herald Tribune) from Best Sports Stories 1965 edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre
* Day 3, Story 8 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* “The Hard Realities of Power Demand that We Must Fight On,” by Eugene V. Rostow from Life Magazine - July 2, 1965

Next for me will be a Vietnam War history, Sappers in the Wire: The Life and Death of Firebase Mary Ann by Keith William Nolan. That's if the book ever shows up at Strand Books. I ordered it from them online over a week ago (the website promises 1-6 days). I tried to call them but the recorded message says they're not answering the phone these day (or as they put it, "accepting telephone queries"). Anyway, I love the store, but doubt I'll be special ordering from them again.

Nov 11, 10:02 am

>134 rocketjk: I tried to call them but the recorded message says they're not answering the phone these day (or as they put it, "accepting telephone queries").

That's frustrating.

How are you liking the stories in New Writing from the Middle East?

Editado: Nov 11, 10:40 am

>135 labfs39: "That's frustrating."

Indeed. The "Customer Service" notice on my Special Order email gives that phone number and an email address. I emailed them a couple of days ago asking what was up with my order and also suggesting they remove the reference to a phone number if they aren't going to, you know, answer the darn phone! Oh, well. In the grand scheme of things, not that big a deal of course.

"How are you liking the stories in New Writing from the Middle East?"

So far, so good. I've been introduced to several authors I'd never known about, including Albert Cossery, whose novel, Proud Beggars, I've already read (see above). I've been reading through the first section, "Arabic Literature."* The introduction to the section says that this period (the book was published in 1978, so we're talking about the decade or two before then) was one of modernization and experimentation in the fiction of the region. Some very personal stories with, often, some (relatively) frank sexual themes. The most recent story I read, "The Death of Bed Number 12” by Ghassan Kanafani, was luminous. Then I looked up Kanafani, as I always do with authors I've never heard of when I read their pieces in anthologies, and found out he was assassinated by the Mossad for being the spokesman for the organization that claimed responsibility for the Lod Massacre. Whoa! The unexpected things you run into when you read obscure anthologies! (Kanafi's name in my "Between Book" post above links to his Wikipedia page.) He evidently wrote some very highly regarded novels with the plight of the Palestinians as their themes. Now I'm interested in reading one or two. That's the long answer to your question. Squirrel!

* The other sections are Armenian Literature, Israeli Literature, Persian Literature and Turkish Literature.

Nov 11, 11:45 am

>136 rocketjk: The unexpected things you run into when you read obscure anthologies!

Indeed! I must add this book to my wishlist. I wish I had picked up a copy at the Strand when you did.

Nov 13, 12:29 pm

I remember Shirley Chisholm's campaign well. I was kind of pre-political at age 9, but my parents made sure I was aware of her campaign and why it was so important. I'll keep an eye out for the book—it sounds interesting. (And I'm guessing the amount of personal information available 50 years ago was pretty paltry compared to what you'd find now with a simple Google search, unless a person was determined to get it out into the world.)

Editado: Nov 13, 1:49 pm

>138 lisapeet: fyi, my copy was a NYPL book. I know they have at least one copy because I returned the copy I read last week!

" (And I'm guessing the amount of personal information available 50 years ago was pretty paltry compared to what you'd find now with a simple Google search, unless a person was determined to get it out into the world.)"

Well, remember, this is a memoir, not a bio, so Chisholm wouldn't have needed to do any research. :)

It was clear that Chisholm was interested in relating the politics of the campaign, and her own political philosophy, only. Or maybe that's all the publishers were willing to allow her, who knows? (The original 1973 edition was published by Harper and Row, for whatever good that information does us on the subject.) She assumes basically that the reader knows who she is and just launches into the narrative of the why's and wherefore's of her decision to run for the nomination. Nothing about her childhood or early political career or any background at all. There were almost no details about conversations she had with other politicians and black leaders during the campaign, either. Well, I guess she didn't want to burn any bridges, there. She did stay in Congress for another 11 years after the campaign, after all. And, as I said in my review, her husband only gets a couple of quick mentions. So the book seems to have been meant as a political testament more than anything else. As such, it's very rewarding to read, indeed.

Chisholm had a previous memoir, Unbought and Unbossed, published in 1970. So maybe there's more of her life experiences to be found there.

Speaking of "Unbought and Unbossed," here's an image of one of her presidential campaign posters I just saw on Wikipedia:

Nov 13, 3:18 pm

>139 rocketjk: Whoops, I was thinking bio. That's what I get for reading on my phone... And that knocks my interest level up a couple of notches, too.

Editado: Nov 19, 11:32 am

Sappers in the Wire: The Life and Death of Firebase Mary Ann by Keith William Nolan

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I became fascinated with the Vietnam War, and specifically what it was like to be an American combat soldier in that war. Part of it was just the surreal and horrifying nature of the experience, and another part was, I think, an identification in some way with an experience I'd only just missed having to go through (or having to make a serious decision about, like moving to Canada or going to jail). I turned 18 in 1973, the final year of the draft lottery, although I think by then they had stopped actually drafting anybody. Still, the Vietnam draft had been a major part of every American's consciousness during the war years, and especially American males who of draft age or who had draft age looming. That feeling stuck with me even after the danger was over, and I read, specifically, memoirs and fiction, rather than straight histories. It's been a long time since I revisited that time and mindset, but for some reason when I noticed this book a couple of years ago in a Las Vegas bookstore, I decided to pick it up. Last week I finally gave it a read.

Sappers in the Wire is a detailed historical account of an American military debacle. It was late in the war, the spring of 1971, and the U.S. was gradually disengaging. The moral of the soldiers still on the ground was understandably low. Belief that there was any real purpose to what they were doing was scarce, and nobody wanted to die in a purposeless war. Drug use had grown, resentment of officers was often strong, and racial divisions affected the soldiers, as well. Firebase Mary Ann was a fortified encampment on the top of a hill in the jungle in the northern part of South Vietnam, put there to allow the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces to try to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines into the country. The solders were still going on dangerous patrols in the surrounding jungle, inflicting and receiving casualties. But up on their firebase refuge, they felt safe, and between this feeling of safety and the enlisted soldiers' low morale, it became very difficult for the officers to impose security protocol standards. One night, after a confusion-inducing mortar attack, Viet Cong soldiers snuck past the camp's guards and ran through the camp tossing grenades into bunkers and shooting soldiers who tried to escape the explosions. Thirty U.S. soldiers were killed and 82 were seriously wounded.

Keith William Nolan, a military historian, does an excellent job setting the scene for the American disaster. He starts with a brief description of the event itself, and then goes back several weeks to describe individual patrols that the solders of this division had undertaken in the leadup to the battle. Often the soldiers performed admirably, but it was not unusual for soldiers to refuse orders they thought were inordinately foolhardy. Usually, threats of court martial would get them moving.

The battle, especially when word of the lax security came out, became a scandal within and without of the Army. The Army conducted a thorough investigation of the battle (which Nolan describes in the book's final chapters) and the failings that led up to it, interviewing every surviving soldier in depth, and Nolan was able to access these testimonies. He also conducted phone interviews with dozens of soldiers will to talk to him. The book was written in the 1990s, and Nolan reports that many of the soldiers told him a version of, "We've been waiting 20 years for somebody to tell this story." Between the official testimonies and these interviews, Nolan was able to construct a minute-by-minute account of the terrifying action, and he does so. It is, not surprisingly, very hard reading.

I read this book now, I guess, to remind myself how horrible and tragic this war was, and all war is. Sappers in the Wire certainly accomplishes that. The only flaws in the writing are 1) the fact that he seems to me to identify too closely with and/or wishes to glorify the soldiers themselves. He commonly uses their own slang, referring to the soldiers as "grunts" and speaking of shooting someone as "firing them up" (but only when a U.S. soldier shoots a Vietnamese soldier); and 2) for some reason, Nolan insists on specifying when soldiers he's referring to are black. Having described the racial tensions running through the Army at this point, especially in the rear, perhaps Nolan was trying to stress the fact that these tensions more or less evaporated when it was time for everybody to go into action. I hope there was some such logic, anyway.

At any rate, this is mostly a very good book, for anyone interested in revisiting, or learning about, the daily crazy hell of the Vietnam War. By now, I would assume that's a very small subset of my LT friends.

Nov 19, 7:09 pm

Enjoyed your review Jerry. You were fortunate not to get drafted, what a decision to have to make at eighteen years old?

Nov 20, 3:15 am

My father was drafted. He told them he was gay, they sent him home.

Editado: Nov 20, 9:50 am

>143 ursula: "My father was drafted. He told them he was gay, they sent him home."

Yes, I've heard of that working, and I'm glad it worked for your father. My memory is that that sort of thing would vary widely by individual induction centers. It depended on how close each one was to fulfilling their quota, I guess. I remember all sorts of strategies people reported working, including dropping acid so the Army doctors would think you were nuts, or drinking a whole bunch of cough syrup the night before your physical to raise your blood pressure to unacceptable levels, and so forth. My cousin Peggy was a draft counselor on her college campus, advising people with imminent draft board appointments on possible ways to go about staying out of the war. Even conscientious objector status wouldn't necessarily keep you safe. Nolan speaks of one fellow with CO status who got sent to the war as a medic. His CO status didn't keep him out of harm's way. It just meant he didn't have to carry a gun. As for me, I had very bad hay fever as a kid, and my allergist told my mother that he could legitimately keep me from being drafted because of it. I wasn't putting too much stock in that, though.

Editado: Nov 21, 9:34 am

My post-Sappers in the Wire "between book" reading brought me back to Stack 2:

* “Thwarted Affection” by Scipione Bargagli from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “Good Fellows All” by Frederick Southgate Bigelow from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich - Finished!
* “Someone in the Lift” by L.P. Hartley from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Fast Break” by James Atlee Phillips from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin
* “Fianchetto” by Tom Ireland from The Missouri Review - Volume 21 Number 2: Men, 1998, edited by Morgan Speer
Day 3, Story 6 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* "Washington Report" from Life Magazine - July 2, 1965

Now I'm reading a pulp spy thriller from 1955 called Intrigue in Paris by Sterling Noel.

Nov 20, 10:16 am

>144 rocketjk: In My brother didn’t wait to see if he “won” the draft lottery and fled to India when he was 19. There he met a bunch of San Franciscans who had found a guru who called himself “Father”. He joined the group and spent a year bandaging the wounds of the poor and listening to the wisdom of “Father”, who came out with words of enlightenment, such as, “The sky is blue”.

His birthday was not chosen for the draft.

Editado: Nov 20, 10:43 am

>146 kjuliff: Wow, that's quite a story. I wonder whether anyone has put together an anthology of short memoirs by and/or interviews with people who left the U.S. to avoid the Vietnam War draft, telling the stories of where they went, what they experienced and how their lives were changed thereby. Seems like that might make a very interesting collection of tales.

Editado: Nov 20, 11:40 am

>147 rocketjk: I googled and found nothing. I’m Australian and we had the same system. I do remember there was a draft dodger reunion in the Melbourne Town Hall some time in the 80s. I went along. I was surprised to see attendees were being picketed at the entrence of the hall by a large crowd of Vietnamese immigrants. For the first time in my life I was on the other side of the barricade.

Nov 20, 11:58 am

>148 kjuliff: Again, how interesting. I am very much open to other points of view on this, but it seems to me presumptuous of those Vietnamese immigrants to picket against the people who did not want to go to their country to fight in a war on their behalf. I can understand their passion, but not their logic.

I can't recall hearing of a draft dodger reunion in the U.S. That doesn't mean it never happened, of course. I do remember the Veterans Against the Vietnam War group, but that was while the war was still going on, of course. There was one memorable protest in Washington during which members of this group threw their combat medals over the fence and onto (if I remember correctly) the lawn of the White House.

Editado: Nov 20, 11:59 am

Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich

Read as a "between book" (see the first post on my first 2023 thread). Coronet Magazine was a digest-sized monthly publication founded in 1936 and lasting into the early 1970s. By 1938, Arnold Gingrich had taken over as editor. This edition of Coronet is fascinating, indeed. It includes four short stories, including the strongly anti-Jim Crow "Runaway" by Erskine Caldwell. A chilling column on atrocities by journalist Edward Hunter, enumerating those perpetrated by both sides in the Spanish Civil War, in the Japanese invasion of China and by the Italians then invading Ethiopia, all places Hunter had been. There is a fascinating report by Meyer Levin entitled "Epic of Palestine," about life (and violent death) in early Jewish farming settlements during the 1920s and 30s, complete an incredible series of photographs. And speaking of photographs, there is a long photo essay (accompanied by a short bio) of Hungarian photographer Ernö Vadas, followed by an equally long collection of photos by several more contemporary Europeans photographers. There is an essay on the young stage/production wunderkind Orson Wells and his Mercury Theater, a series of silhouettes by artist Paul Swartz. A biography of Verdi. Well, that's just a short selection of the wonderful, fascinating and illuminating entries in this terrific, 85-year old magazine. Super cool. I love old publications.

Editado: Nov 20, 7:42 pm

>149 rocketjk: I think everyone there was surprised. I too thought it was presumptuous of the protester. Here they were, having the advantages of a free and democratice state, objecting to a few middle-aged guys getting together. Men who in their youth truly believed in not killing their people, and many having paid a huge price for their convictions.

Both the young men who went, and those who objected were all wanting the best for the Vietnamese. I saw a few draft-dodgers go over to try to explain, but the police line stopped them.

How the world changes in a lifetime. Now Vietnam is a hot vacation spot for Australians. Cheap, close, good food, and the people are friendly. And Vietnamese restaurants are everywhere in Australian cities. Up there with Italian as a popular cuisine.

Nov 21, 6:06 am

>141 rocketjk: If you're interested in more Vietnam reading I can recommend The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold. It covers the tunnels used by the Viet Cong both from the pov of the Viet Cong utilizing them and the US soldiers charged with flushing them. (Hmm--wonder if there are any parallels with the Israelis and the Hamas tunnels?).
My husband and I turned 18 in 1968--he could be drafted, but neither of us could vote in the important 1968 election because the voting age was still 21 (it dropped to 18 a few years later). He had a student exemption for a few years, and when they switched to a birthday lottery, his birthday drew a very high number, but I recall there were also discussions with the family doctor (there were such figures back then) about potential maladies to avoid the draft. I think that coming of age with the specter of either being drafted for Vietnam or having no option other than enlisting shaped our political leanings, and perhaps those of many others of our generation.

Nov 21, 6:48 am

>144 rocketjk: He was lucky to be in the right center, then. I had a friend in college whose birthday was the day before mine - our parents were all from California, but he was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario for draft-related reasons.

Editado: Nov 21, 12:48 pm

>152 arubabookwoman: I think that coming of age with the specter of either being drafted for Vietnam or having no option other than enlisting shaped our political leanings, and perhaps those of many others of our generation..

I quite agree. My brother was so averse to war and like our father a strict pacifist, that he wasn’t taking chances, and fled Australia to India before the lottery was drawn. He dropped out of university and never graduated.

His whole life took a different turn. He could have been a successful physicist.

Still I suppose he was happy within himself. He became a carpenter and lived a chosen simple life with few possessions.

Editado: Nov 21, 12:50 pm

>152 arubabookwoman:. Thanks for the book recommendation. My Vietnam War reading these days has slowed to a trickle, though. Just a book every couple of years or so. As I mentioned in my review post, in the late 70s/early 80s I read a lot, but mostly in the fiction/memoir realm. Michael Herr's great Dispatches, of course, as well as the Tim O'Brien classics, The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato. But also a very memorable, realistic novel called The 13th Valley by John Del Vecchio and another called Tiger the Lurp Dog by Kenn Miller. ("Lurp" was the slang for the soldiers who went out on long range patrols.) There were more, but those are the books that still stick with me.

"I think that coming of age with the specter of either being drafted for Vietnam or having no option other than enlisting shaped our political leanings, and perhaps those of many others of our generation."

Yes, definitely. The draft was the key, especially after the lottery system was introduced and college deferments were gone. I've always seriously doubted whether there would have been an Iraq War if the U.S. had still been a draft in place. Though as you know of course, there were options to enlisting or waiting for the draft. As kjuliff has testified, people left their countries to avoid going to war. It wasn't until Carter became president that amnesty for those Americans who'd gone to Canada and elsewhere was declared and those people could come home. Some people thought of joining the National Guard, the Coast Guard or even the Navy to try to stay out of the infantry. My recollection was that it became pretty hard to get into the state National Guards, and both the Navy and the Coast Guard significantly increased their minimum enlistment lengths. To join the Coast Guard, says my memory, anyway, you had to commit to a seven year hitch.

Speaking of Tim O'Brien, he wrote a wonderful short story (it's one of the stories in The Things They Carries) called "On the Rainy Rivery" about a young man trying to decide what to do about his draft notice. His father insists that going into the Army is his patriotic duty, no questions asked. But the protagonist is strongly conflicted about it. He goes up to the woods in northern Minnesota, where he meets an old recluse who acts as sort of a spirit guide while the protagonist tries to work out what to do. He sits on a fishing boat on the Rainy River that marks the U.S. boundary with Canada. All he has to do is row to the far shore. He debates all the pros and cons with himself. I actually "taught" that story during my teaching days at San Francisco State University.

Editado: Nov 22, 11:12 am

Intrigue in Paris by Sterling Noel

Sometimes I just need to hit the pulp fiction shelf, and this enjoyable thriller filled the bill just fine. A couple of years after World War 2, American merchant marine Wright Hughey is sitting in an outdoor cafe in Marseilles, waiting out a tugboat strike, when he is mistaken for a local criminal by some other criminals. intrigue ensues! Although the plot of this romp becomes steadily less plausible as it goes along, nevertheless it is a good time for readers who go in for this sort of thing. Noel was a pretty writer, the action scenes themselves are believable and never get out of hand, and overall the action is understated rather than lurid. I looked up Noel, and it turns out he wrote several of these thrillers and a couple of science fiction works as well.

Book notes: My Avon mass market paperback edition was published in 1955, meaning that it was printed the year I was born. I entered it into my LT library way back in April 2008, my Librarything "big bang." The book was originally published with the title "Storm over Paris." There is even a 1956 English movie based on the book, called "House of Secrets:" (Warning: if you look at this web page, don't read the plot synopsis, as it contains spoilers for the book. That's if you think you will ever read the book, of course.)

Nov 22, 11:46 am

>156 rocketjk: I really could do with an intrigue in Paris right now. I used to love those pulp fiction books. I’d feel guilty about reading them and would hid them under the pillow and read by torchlight as a late teen.

Nov 22, 12:00 pm

>157 kjuliff: Nothing to feel guilty about with this one! There is a romance but the camera fades to black, as it were, the instant the couple gets amorous. Les Miserables it's certainly not, though! :)

Nov 22, 12:19 pm

>156 rocketjk: I need to check this author...

I like pulp (when I am in the mood for it) but I usually get it from magazines - easier to access and less likely to get boggled into a long text that just does not work.

Nov 22, 6:00 pm

>141 rocketjk: Sappers in the Wire sounds like a good addition to my small Vietnam War related collection. I had not heard of this book before, so thanks for your review. I haven't updated my collection for a while.

>152 arubabookwoman: >141 rocketjk: The Tunnels of Cu Chi was an excellent book. I read it from the library and then decided I would like my own copy, and have been looking for it ever since in second hand book stores.

Another of Mangold's books that was read from the library and I would love to find is Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter. I've also read his The File on the Tsar.

Nov 22, 7:03 pm

>160 SassyLassy: After reading Deborah's review, I was fortunate enough to run across a secondhand copy. I still haven't read it yet though.

Editado: Nov 24, 9:23 am

Here's my scintillating report on my post-Intrigue in Paris "Between Book" reading, another roll along Stack 1:

* “A Famous Campaign,” excerpted from Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Lemaster, Willhite Fanned Seven in Row in A.A.” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "Recollections of Hannah More” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* "The Price of Freedom” by Jafar Al-khalili from New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan
* “The Longest Day of Sugar Ray” by Dave Anderson (True Magazine) from Best Sports Stories 1965 edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre
* Day 3, Story 10 & Conclusion from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* “Degas’ American Cousins” from Life Magazine - July 2, 1965

I'm doing some course-work reading for the Latin American History class I'm auditing at Columbia while waiting for Mapp and Lucia which is on order at my local library.

Nov 24, 9:40 am

What sorts of things are you reading for your course, Jerry?

Nov 24, 10:31 am

>163 labfs39: Mostly the reading is from an historical textbook of sorts, Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil by James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz. It's a bit dry, but contains lots of interesting information. The professor in the course is excellent, and she tells us that Lockhart was a mentor of hers. She does a great job of illuminating the material in class, which makes the reading well worthwhile, although due to the dryness of the writing, reading the chapters can be, you'll pardon the expression . . . a challenge. There are also historical documents of the era under discussion, letters and such, that the professor supplies via pdf files online.

Nov 24, 2:49 pm

>165 labfs39: reading the chapters can be, you'll pardon the expression . . . a challenge

Lol, a worthwhile one, I hope. I had a single course on Latin American history in college, and it focused almost exclusively on the ABC countries in the twentieth century. I've recently become more interested in Guatemalan history, thanks to Halfon's books. I'm hoping that as I read more fiction by authors in South and Central America, I will be challenged to learn more history too!

Nov 24, 3:06 pm

Thanks for putting me on to Philip Kerr. Really enjoying The Other Side of Silence. It’s a really fun read.

Nov 24, 4:11 pm

How's Decameron coming around?

I read Stanley Karnow's Vietnam: A History years ago. It was pretty thorough, but no clue what its biases were. He includes interviews of soldiers that wanted to be there and enjoyed the fighting, especially the street-by-street fighting. I've never come across that anywhere else. For what it's worth, my dad joined the coast guard. My father-in-law was much more interesting. He was in the navy had had been serving awhile but was against the Vietnam war politically. When his boat was directed towards Vietnam (they would have seen no combat) he reported as refusing to board. It was a symbolic and open protest. He spent 9 months in a military prison for being awol, released early for good behavior. He's been interviewed as an interesting conscientious objector in an article that also interviewed a decorated veteran in a retrospetive series. This was maybe 5 years ago, so long after the war. What was interesting is the interviewer brought up my fil to the other veteran in the interview. So you can track the evolution of his response from anger to some real admiration of my fil during the course of the interview, mainly for being so committed to his principles and even going to jail for them.

Hopefully not too much there. :)

Editado: Nov 25, 12:13 pm

>165 labfs39: The history of Central and South America from just before the Spanish invasion up until the independence movements, which is what the course I'm taking is covering, is interesting, indeed, and of course, since it spans several centuries, encompasses a lot of societal and economic evolutions. There was, of course, a whole lot I never knew.

>166 kjuliff: I'm glad you're enjoying Philip Kerr (and Bernie Gunther!). The Other Side of Silence is quite good, I agree. If you have any sort of inclination, and you can find audio versions, I very much recommend reading at least the first three Gunther novels, March Violets, The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem. The three were reissued in a single volume called Berlin Noir, but I don't know how that would be reflected in the audio versions. Gunther starts out the series as a Berlin homicide detective in mid-1930s Berlin, with the significant career handicap that he hates the Nazis and is trying to navigate their ever-increasing influence in the Berlin police force. The second book takes place during the war, and the third just afterwards. But in succeeding books, Kerr was very agile in moving around in time, filling in Gunther's backstory, including the moral compromises he has to make during the conflict. All that backstory very much informs the reading of The Other Side of Silence. As good as that book is as a standalone, it resonates much more when you know Gunther's history.

>167 dchaikin: I'm enjoying the Decameron stories individually. They're certainly entertaining. I don't see how anyone just sits down and reads them all straight through, though. They're just not compelling enough for that, at least for me. Still, I'm happy to be reading them gradually, as I am.

For better or worse, I've taken in my Vietnam History in smaller but, at least for a long time, steady bites rather than via a complete history like the Karnow history you cite. You father-in-law's story is very interesting! (And, no, never "too much" on this thread!) I had a friend named David Lewallen in our small Mendocino County town (he passed away a few years back) who gained CO status but ended up doing his "community service" time in Vietnam. He wrote a fascinating memoir, which he finally self published in around 2015, called Land of Frozen Laughter: a Community Development Volunteer in the Vietnam War, 1967-1969. His job was to try to help villagers get the resources to get through the war, as well as serving as a go-between between the Army and the locals. He said that everybody just assumed he was CIA, which, he insisted, he wasn't. He was one of the friendliest, kindest people I ever met, so I tended to believe him. When he published his book he did a reading in my used bookstore. Anyway, a very good book providing the perspective of the soldiers is Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, which I read a few years back. I also recall that Everything We Had: an Oral History of the Vietnam War is reputed to be very good. I own a copy but haven't read it yet.

My longtime roommate and running partner during my New Orleans days (the 1980s, I was in my 20s) was a Vietnam Vet. He'd been a helicopter pilot. His home life had been such that he lied about his age to get into the Army. He was technically too young, but he was a big strapping fellow and told me he didn't have much trouble being accepted. He didn't talk a whole lot about his experiences to me, but I knew they were disturbing. He definitely had a strong case of what was then known as "Vietnam veterans' syndrome." We now call that PTSD, of course. He was an excellent, jovial waiter, so he could always find work in the French Quarter, but he never stayed anywhere long. Also, there was the substance abuse. The Veterans Administration wasn't much help to the Vietnam Vets, who were generally considered an embarrassment and/or outcasts. When the soldiers came back from Iraq, though, the political winds had changed. The Iraq vets were heroes, and the political will to help them (for example, finally admitting that PTSD was a real thing) was substantial. So when the VA starting helping the Iraq vets, they had to go back and accept the surviving Vietnam vets as well. And that is when my buddy, finally, got treated. (This is all anecdotal, but it certainly seemed that way to my friend. First, after they did finally acknowledge PTSD as real, they told him that they couldn't provide treatment until he got rid of his substance abuse problem, which is basically like telling someone that they can't be treated for the arthritis in their hands until they get rid of their knuckles.) Now he is clean and sober and working in a VA hospital helping other vets.

Nov 25, 12:12 pm

>168 rocketjk: Thanks for the information on Kerr’s books. I checked and all three three are available separately. The Other Side of Silence gives some idea of Gunther’s backstory so it’ll be fun reading it in detail.

In a way the OSoS reminds me of Patricia Highsmith - don’t know if it’s the fifties vibe or the darkness or both.

Nov 25, 12:17 pm

>168 rocketjk: >167 dchaikin: Interesting fact -
The Decameron was banned from 1927 to 1936 and later, from 1938 to 1973 in Australia.

Nov 25, 3:01 pm

>170 kjuliff: disturbing fact. On many levels, especially considering current US sensibilities.

>168 rocketjk: thanks for sharing about David Lewallen and your one-time roommate. I think you know this, but i read Decameron mostly one story a day. But i read a story almost every day.

Nov 25, 3:36 pm

>171 dchaikin: it was a dark time in Australia back then. Many left in the late sixties and early seventies. Including me, I remember Lady Chatterleys Lover, The Naked Lunch 1960-1973 and Another Country 1963-1966 were also banned.The Anarchist Cookbook is still banned.

Nov 27, 9:32 am

Even if you are no longer reading much about Vietnam, if you like Tim O'Brien (and The Things They Carried is an all-time favorite of mine too), have you read his In the Lake of the woods? It's about a contemporary politician and what happens when the things he did in Vietnam come back to haunt him. Also in terms of war novels, I'd put Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes almost up there with The Things They Carried.

Nov 27, 9:49 am

>173 arubabookwoman: Yes, I read In the Lake in the Woods many years ago and thought it was good. I didn't realize Matterhorn was a war novel. I will keep an eye out. Sincere thanks for the recommendations. Cheers!

Nov 27, 10:28 am

>174 rocketjk: if you are looking for a good war novel and haven’t already read it, I recommend The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Set on the ground in Iraq. I gave it 5 stars.

Nov 27, 11:48 am

>173 arubabookwoman: >174 rocketjk: I thought Matterhorn was brilliant. A novel based loosely on his own experiences in Vietnam and the myth of Parzival.

Nov 27, 1:03 pm

>175 kjuliff: "if you are looking for a good war novel . . . "

I'm really not, in particular, but I will keep all the recommendations in mind. Thanks to all!

Nov 27, 3:22 pm

I finished and reviewed The Other Side of Silence here.
Thanks again for introducing me to this writer. I’ll be reading more of the cunning concierge in the Berlin Noir series.

Nov 27, 6:51 pm

>178 kjuliff: Hey, you're welcome! I'm so happy you found Bernie Gunther's world enjoyable. Some of the others are a bit darker.

Nov 28, 1:54 pm

>155 rocketjk: My parents were in the Peace Corps straight out of college, in 1965. Then they stayed in Afghanistan while Dad took the Foreign Service exam, and didn't come back to the States until he was accepted and needed to attend classes. The latter, at least, was a deliberate effort to avoid the draft; not sure about the Peace Corps.

Editado: Nov 28, 5:31 pm

>180 jjmcgaffey: Fascinating. I hope their Peace Corps experiences were good ones. Initially my reaction was that 1965 was a little early for people to be thinking about avoiding the Vietnam War draft, but then I looked up the numbers and found that in 1964, already 112.3 thousand men had been drafted, and that 1965 saw the 4th highest number of men conscripted in of any year of the war:

1966: 382.0K
1968: 296.4K
1969: 283.5K
1965: 230.9K
1967: 228.2K
1970: 162.7K
The draft continued in diminishing numbers in 71 and 72 as well. The draft officially ended on June 30, 1973, four days before my 18th birthday.

Editado: Nov 28, 6:23 pm

>180 jjmcgaffey: How. long were they in Afghanistan? It was a very weird place back then, though not as scary as now. I was there in 1970 while my bother was hiding out in India.

Nov 29, 1:37 pm

They were in Afghanistan for ...two years? 18 months? something like that with the Peace Corps (in Farah, in the far southwest of the country), then they got jobs in Kabul while Dad (and Mom) took the exam. Amusingly (sort of) they both passed; Dad got a letter saying "show up on this date for training", Mom got one saying "We see you're a married woman, so obviously you only took the exam for fun..." She did join, much later - '85.

I was conceived in Afghanistan and born in Washington DC. Went to the Philippines (Dad's first assignment) at 5 weeks of age. Then Dad's second overseas assignment (after working in DC for a while) was back to Afghanistan, in Kabul; so I grew up there (6 years old until almost 9, '73 to '76). It was a wonderful place, with very friendly people and _fascinating_ architecture and historical sites (that's a big part of why I'm still interested in archaeology). Now most of the friendly people have been out of the country for a generation or two - I wouldn't want to go back now, even ignoring the Taliban (hard to do).

They were in Farah because everyone else had rejected it because it was too far from any modern place (ie, Kabul), which my parents thought was wonderful. They were both teaching English. The great thing about Farah was that it was the place of exile for all the people the shah thought were too pushy and there was a girls school and a lot of other concepts that didn't exist nearer to the shah. They loved it, and got very integrated into society there - to the point that when Dad got assigned to Kabul, they finally found a shop run by a man from Farah and he commented that he'd been _waiting_ for them to come shop there (because of course they would shop from "their" community). They still occasionally come across people who knew them, or whose parents knew them, from Farah, in the US.

Editado: Nov 29, 4:33 pm

I tried to post an image from Herat from my Flickr but ran into problems.

Was it the US Peace Corp who didn’t take your mother’s application seriously?

I loved the friendly people of Afghanistan but I suspected a lot of the store owners were high. Back when I was there it was the only country where the blackmarket exchange rate for the USD was worse than the official bank rate.

Nov 29, 10:06 pm

No, the Foreign Service - US Department of State. The Peace Corps were fine with female volunteers, and preferred married couples to singles (especially for out of town).

Editado: Dez 2, 10:06 am

>183 jjmcgaffey: "The great thing about Farah was that it was the place of exile for all the people the shah thought were too pushy and there was a girls school and a lot of other concepts that didn't exist nearer to the shah."

What a great experience! This reminds me, in a tangential way, of a trip my wife and I took to the Czech Republic back in 2004, before we were even married, in fact. We spent a week in Prague and then took off into the countryside in a rental car, trusting to luck that we would find a small town to stay in for a week or so. And sure enough, we landed in a town in South Bohemia, just a kilometer from the Austrian border, called Slavonice, where we took a hotel room for a week and proceeded with a program of fun day trips. But because we were usually in the same cafe for breakfast and often the same pub for dinner, we started to meet some of the folks who lived there. One evening I was talking to a fellow who told me that the town had been a place that the Communist regime had sent dissident artists to get them away from the population centers. He said that there had been several playwrights exiled to the town. Of course, the first thing a bunch of dissident playwrights is going to do is start a theater group, which is what they did. The group had been defunct for some time, but the fellow walked me across the town square to show me the gymnasium (that's my memory of it, anyway) where they had put on their productions. Then he dug around in a cardboard box sitting in a corner and came out with a t-shirt that the group had had printed up, which he gave me as a gift, and which I still have.

Dez 2, 9:58 am

>186 rocketjk: what a lovely story.

Dez 3, 2:09 am

Cool! Pity there wasn't still a theater group, though, that would have been extra fun.

Ontem, 3:17 pm

Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson

This is the 4th book in E.F. Benson's famous series about a couple of upper-middle class, small town, English busybodies that takes place in the period between the World Wars. The series is also called Mapp and Lucia, and this entry has also been published as Make Way for Lucia. Got it? Anyway, the series brings us the adventures of Elizabeth Mapp and Emmiline Lucas (a.k.a. Lucia). In these comedies of manners, both women strive to rule their own social sets, run all events in their respective towns and serve as the arbiters of all disputes. The previous books have brought us the characters each in her own small circle, Lucia in the village of Riseholme and Miss Mapp in the town of Tilling. In this fourth book, the two come together for a summer in Tilling, and the sparks of competition and animosity fly almost immediately. These books, I would think would be completely silly and uninteresting to me, but in fact, due to Benson's great skill they are drily hilarious and immensely entertaining. This series, which were reportedly much in demand by the literary cognoscenti in the post-WW2 period when they were out of print, is well written, harmless and eminently diverting fun, and a thorough tweaking of the evidently useless English monied class of the period. This 4th novel in the series was first published in 1931.