rocketjk's 2023 Read 'n' review

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rocketjk's 2023 Read 'n' review

Editado: Dez 26, 2023, 10:48 am

Greetings! I've greatly enjoyed four year's participation in Club Read and especially all the reading friends I've made here. To review: I live in Mendocino County, northern California, USA. I'm retired, a public radio producer, former teacher, freelance writer and used bookstore owner. Blissfully married. My reading is an eclectic mix of fiction, history, memoirs, bios and more. Two year's ago I joined a monthly reading group for the first time in my life! In addition to the books I read straight through, I like to read anthologies, collections and other books of short entries one story/chapter at a time instead of plowing through them all at once. I have a couple of stacks of such books from which I read in this manner between the books I read from cover to cover (novels and histories, mostly). So I call these my "between books." When I finish a "between book," I add it to my yearly list. Cheers! You can hear me on the radio via my weekly jazz show, The Jazz Odyssey, streaming live at, every Monday from 1:00 to 3:00 pm Pacific (U.S.) time. Requests happily accepted. Cheers, and happy reading.

Editado: Jun 15, 2023, 10:53 am

My first completion of the New Year was a read-through of Stack 3 of my Between Books:

* "Schoendienst, Wall Standouts in Pinch" from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "Run, Run Away, Brother" by John Campbell Smith from The Best American Short Stories 1957 edited by Martha Foley
* "Master Jacob" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "Dublin” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “General of the Army George Catlett Marshall” from Sketches from Life of Men I Have Known by Dean Acheson
* “D.C.: Otto’s Army” by Bernard Asbell from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, January 1962

Last year, having completed my one-novel-per-year read-through of all of Joseph Conrad's novels, I began a new project of reading through all of Isaac B. Singer's novels. Given the fact that I was preparing to turn 67, I decided to step up the proceedings and make it two novels per year, the first book of each calendar year and the first book started in July of each year. So that was Satan in Goray and The Family Moskat, the latter being particularly excellent. So now I've begun Singer's third novel, The Magician of Lublin.

Jan 2, 2023, 5:11 pm

Happy new year! I can't believe I'm first. I'm never first.

Singer is fantastic and more people ought to read him.

Jan 2, 2023, 5:43 pm

>3 LolaWalser: Thanks! Same to you. And, yes, Singer is a treasure.

Jan 2, 2023, 8:00 pm

I really should read some of Singer's novels. I've only read his children's stories and autobiography, Love and Exile. Although I appreciate his role in Yiddish literature, I don't have an appreciation for his writing yet.

Jan 2, 2023, 11:41 pm

>5 labfs39: Novels or short stories, either one, and you will develop an appreciation for his writing, I betcha! :)

Jan 3, 2023, 2:01 am

I've resolved to try to remember to make my presence known instead of just reading and closing threads. So here I am!

I think The Magician of Lublin is the only Singer I've read, but I liked it.

Editado: Jan 3, 2023, 2:40 am

>7 ursula: Thanks for letting me know you're here! I "read and close" quite a bit myself, but I try to acknowledge my visits to at least two or three threads per day. I'm about 65 pages into The Magician of Lublin, now, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. Happy New Year to you.

Jan 3, 2023, 8:11 am

>6 rocketjk: Let's see, I have The Penitent and two volumes of collected short stories on my shelves, as well as another volume of collected stories for children. I'll try to read something during the first quarter of the year as it will fit in with the Baltic Sea theme read.

Editado: Jan 3, 2023, 8:44 am

I've loved Singer's longer books, The Manor and the Estate and The Family Moskat. I have had one of his later books on my shelf since around the time it was published, Shadows on the Hudson, but so far it hasn't appealed. And I would like to read The Family Carnovsky and the Brothers Ashkenazi by I. J. Singer, who is his brother, I think, and who was thought to be the more talented writer until his premature death.

Jan 3, 2023, 10:29 am

Hi Jerry, I hope you have a great reading year and I am looking forward to following your thread again! Happy New Year!

Jan 3, 2023, 12:12 pm

Here you are, Jerry! I was looking in the ROOT Challenge group so no wonder I couldn't find you — silly me! Looking forward to following your reading journey in 2023.

Jan 3, 2023, 12:16 pm

Hi Jerry, looking forward to hearing about your reading this year. Also planning on listening to this week's Jazz Odyssey when I get home from my sisters' today.

Jan 3, 2023, 12:26 pm

>9 labfs39: I can't speak to The Penitent, as I haven't read it yet. The two early Singer novels I've read so far were both the excellent, as is the much shorter The Magician of Lublin (I'm about 75 pages in, now). But you can't miss with his short stories, I don't think. The Death of Methuselah, his last short story collection, is astounding, I think. My review is on the book's work page, if you're interested. There are only two reviews there, mine and one in Portuguese.

>10 arubabookwoman: Yes, I. J. Singer was I. B. Singer's older brother. In fact, he had proceeded Isaac B. to the U.S. and was able to procure a very hard-to-get visa for his younger brother (by the 30s, the U.S. State Department was no longer interested much in letting European Jews into the country). I've never heard that I.J. was considered the better writer. That might be because he died before Isaac came into his own as an author, but that's conjecture only on my part. I haven't read either of the works you've mentioned.

>11 MissBrangwen: Thanks, Mirjam. I'll be following along with your threads, as well.

Cheers, all!

Jan 3, 2023, 12:34 pm

>12 rosalita: Hi, Julia. Yes, I'll have a ROOT Challenge thread again, though I haven't started one yet. I have a lot of "between books" that I'm just about to finish which will count as "Off the Shelf" (for some reason, I've never cottoned to the ROOTS acronym, but that's just a personal quirk) books, and so my total should be higher this year than last year's 24. Thanks for asking, and for dropping in here.

>13 markon: Oh, dear. I just looked again at my first post here and realize I didn't include the tiny little detail that my radio show is on Mondays only. So I was on yesterday. However, you can still hear yesterday's show. Go the, click on the Jukebox/Archive link near the top of the page, scroll down a bit to "Jazz Odyssey or Radiogram" and click on that. Music shows are archived for two weeks, so you can listen to my show at your leisure! That, of course, goes for all y'all. Anybody who likes jazz.

Jan 3, 2023, 1:09 pm

Hi Jerry,

Looking forward to keeping up a bit better this year. You've given me tons of book bullets over the years and I am sure this year will be the same.

I haven't read any Isaac Singer either, but the family sagas sound like I'd enjoy them. (But not till I have cleared some of the library ebooks sitting on my phone!!)

Jan 4, 2023, 8:41 am

Happy New Year Jerry. Love your Singer project.

Jan 4, 2023, 12:32 pm

>16 cushlareads: Thanks! Hope I can keep up the quality!

>17 dchaikin: Happy New Year to you, too, Dan. I've found reading Singer to be extremely rewarding.

Jan 4, 2023, 5:23 pm

>15 rocketjk: I tell you, especially you Europeans you have just got to listen to Jerry's show. His slow soft drawl of a voice is sensational- the musics good too.

Jan 4, 2023, 7:35 pm

>19 baswood: Well, thank you, although I don't recall my Jersey accent being called a drawl before! :)

Jan 4, 2023, 7:36 pm

Jan 4, 2023, 11:48 pm

Hey Jerry happy new year! looking forward to reading about your books and what youve been up to this year. BTW speaking of Mendicino, are you going to be affected by that storm in the bay area? I know thats way south of you but wasn't sure how far north it was going (hasnt this winter been crazy for rain? Ithink we set a record for the most rain in the month!)

Jan 5, 2023, 1:59 am

>15 rocketjk: I am planning to check this out. I don't know much about jazz so I'm always looking for others to point the way for me. I will settle this drawl vs. Jersey thing when I get a chance to listen, haha.

Jan 5, 2023, 5:09 am

Sorry, my knowledge of American accents is limited indeed and so you have all got to listen to Jerry to make up your own minds.

Jan 5, 2023, 5:57 am

Hello Jerry, I wish you a healthy and fantastic 2023. I will click into your radio station when I get a chance. Happ reading 2023.

Editado: Jan 5, 2023, 8:27 am

>22 cindydavid4: Not way south of us at all. It's been dumping down on us for about the last three days. Coming down in buckets right at the moment (5:15 am Thursday morning). I'm only out of bed to check on our power, which was out for a bit but is now back on. The creek beds around our place are full and running like mad. Our area is also having a lot of trees come down (mostly the old oaks). We've had years of drought, which has caused stress and rot, and the sudden water logging causes them to go over. So far no major flooding in our neck of the woods. We're on a hillside rather than at the bottom of the valley, and the creeks haven't overflowed, yet. There is one stretch of road where the Navarro River meets the Pacific Ocean that very often gets flooded during heavy rains, but we're not driving anywhere for the next couple of days, anyway, that's for sure!

>23 ursula: & >24 baswood: To be clear, I don't mind at all hearing that my radio voice is a drawl, especially as it was used as a compliment. I spent 6 years on the radio in New Orleans, so there might be an after-affect from that. Ursula, Hope you check the show out! And, Barry, thanks for having done so. Hope you come on back!

>25 Ameise1: Thanks!

Jan 5, 2023, 8:40 am

>26 rocketjk: I'm glad to read that you live on the hillside! Still, take care and stay safe!

Jan 5, 2023, 9:05 am

>26 rocketjk: gosh, I k ow we had a week of rains lately but that sounds horrible. stay safe!

Jan 5, 2023, 9:46 am

>24 baswood:, >26 rocketjk: I was also not trying to make fun at all, I am not great at recognizing accents from other places.

I listened to part of the show, I would not have known you were from New Jersey. But I feel like it's also possible I just don't pick up on whatever is unique to a Jersey accent. Recently I've been listening to a fair number of interviews with musicians from New Jersey, and I don't feel like you sound like them at least!

Jan 5, 2023, 6:24 pm

>28 cindydavid4: Not really horrible on our end. I've had some friends who had trees fall on their garages and that sort of thing, but no one has been hurt that I know of. And remember we've been in a severe drought for quite a few years. Right now the reservoirs and rivers are filling up. We don't have any town with streets filled with running water. So, the most prevailing attitude among most of the folks I know and/or see on the local Facebook groups is "Bring it on!"

Jan 5, 2023, 7:26 pm

>30 rocketjk: Oh yeah we know about the drought here, and that was the first thing I thought of but didn't want to be insensitive to a persons losses and damage. We are rather hoping that the snow we got up north will fill up Lake Mead and Lake Powell. We are supposed to get remnants of your storm next week we'll see how it goes!

Jan 5, 2023, 7:38 pm

>31 cindydavid4: Where are you? I don't see it on your profile. Didn't realize you were so close.

Jan 5, 2023, 9:34 pm

My mom's from New Jersey - she says the biggest part of accent she finds is the glottal stop. Li'l me'l bot'l...My dad was from Michigan and he was the drawler.

Jan 5, 2023, 10:40 pm

>32 rocketjk: Just outside of phoenix; and I just checked the weather for next week and theres not much rain coming. Our drought is really severe throughout Arizona. This very rainy winter hopefully will help things along

Jan 5, 2023, 11:41 pm

>33 jjmcgaffey: I always tell people that if you want to hear my Jersey accent, just cut me off in traffic.

>34 cindydavid4: Hope we get enough rain to make a dent in our droughts without flooding people out of their homes and farms.

Jan 6, 2023, 4:10 am

Still catching up with new threads and dropping my star here!

Jan 6, 2023, 7:39 am

>35 rocketjk: Whereas my Maine accent only appeared when talking to my grandmother. My roommates in college were astonished to hear it when I would talk to her on the phone.

Editado: Jan 6, 2023, 5:35 pm

The Magician of Lublin by Isaac Bashevis Singer

At the beginning of last year, having completed my once-a-year Joseph Conrad read-through, I began a similar tradition with the novels of Isaac Bashevis Singer, although I changed the process to two novels per year, one at the beginning January and one at the beginning of July. So, now I'm up to Singer's third novel, The Magician of Lublin.

We are in Poland in the early 20th century. Poland is still part of the Russian Empire rather than independent, and the Czar is still on his throne in Moscow. Occasional revolutions against the occupiers rock Poland, but for the most part the Poles live life resigned to dealing with their Russian occupiers, who seem to intrude on their lives on a daily basis very little. Yasha Mazur lives in the Eastern Polish city of Lublin. He is a master of slight of hand, hypnotism and acrobatics. Cards, both marked and unmarked, fly from his fingers. Never a lock has he been confronted with that he could not spring open in a few seconds. He is known, in fact as The Magician of Lublin, and his name is known around the countryside and as far as the great city of Warsaw. Yasha things himself an honest man. Although he is pals with the members of the thieves brotherhood in Lublin, who clamor at him to join their ranks ("With your skills, you could skim the cream right off the top!"), Yasha refuses to use his talents for crime. Monogamy, however, is another issue. Yasha has a loving wife, Esther, who waits patiently at home for him during his long performing road trips, even knowing that he has mistresses along his route. Yasha has a mistress in Lublin and has been having a longterm affair with his young performance assistant. Most alluring of all is the beautiful widow in Warsaw, Emilia. Professionally, Yasha should be at the top of the world. He is held back only by the fact that he is a Jew in Poland. Though he is well known, the very best theaters are closed to him, and the fees his manager is able to obtain for him are well below what his status should be bringing. Emelia is the well-meaning temptress. In Western Europe, or even in America, she tells Yasha, such antisemitism is no longer paramount, especially if he were to convert. Yasha must forsake Esther once and for all, run off to France or England with Emelia and her teenage daughter, where, once he has converted, they will be married. The problem is that it will all take money that neither of them have. Yasha believes in God, and identifies as a Jew, but has very little use for the trappings of Orthodox Judaism. Until, that is, he wanders into a synagogue a couple of times during the story and finds himself moved by the fervent belief of the worshippers, whose prayers remind him of his childhood in his father's house, where religion was all encompassing.

So here are the questions of practice and morality that Singer sets up for us in the early pages of this exhilarating blast of a novel, utilizing his standard whirlwind style of prose that crams details into each setting, serving to drop his readers straight into the maelstrom of daily life on the streets of urban Poland and in the minds of his characters.

Here are my favorite two lines in the book (especially the second):

"He stood staring at a spot on the door latch, feeling hemmed in on all sides by uncanny forces. Behind him the silence rustled and snorted."

Singer skillfully sets up these choices for Yasha, the choices that must be made between fame and love and pleasure on the one side and loyalty, self-respect and morality on the other. Can Yasha really abandon Esther, repay her for her years of love, forbearance, understanding and emotional support in this cruel manner? Can he turn from his people and from the religion of his father, all he's ever known and the way he's defined himself for a lifetime and join the persecuting others in order to get ahead? Can he cross the firm line he's drawn for himself and use his talents to steal the money he needs to gain his goals of riches and fame in a foreign country? It is Skinner's great skill that all of these choices are seen as human choices, the moral questions that each of us, in some manner or other, are more than likely to confront. Skinner, in the telling, does not moralize, but instead shows us Yasha wrestling with these issues, as Jacob wrestled with the angel. And we do not get the idea that, no matter which decisions Yasha makes, Singer is going to cast judgement. As readers we feel confident that Yasha, the Magician of Lublin, is alive enough, and self-aware enough, to steadfastly judge himself, should the need arise.

As always with Singer, this book was written in Yiddish. The English translation was by Elaine Gottleib and Isaac B. Singer's nephew, Joseph Singer.

Editado: Jan 6, 2023, 3:49 pm

Terrific review. Yet again you leave me thinking that I should be reading Singer instead of whatever I’m actually reading.

ETA - and I love that quote

Jan 6, 2023, 4:47 pm

>35 rocketjk: yup, hope so too

Jan 6, 2023, 4:49 pm

>37 labfs39: My boston accent comes out strong if Ive been drinking, or really really tired. Now and again in conversation someone will ask where am I from I tell them Boston, they were usually thinking east coast)

Jan 6, 2023, 5:13 pm

>38 rocketjk: Amazing review

Jan 7, 2023, 5:56 pm

For my post-The Magician of Lublin "Between Books" wander, I took a second straight journey through Stack #3:

* "McBride Tops in 1-0 Duels – Won 3" from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "Saturday is a Poor Man’s Port" by Henrietta Weigel from The Best American Short Stories 1957 edited by Martha Foley
* "Peterkin and the Little Grey Hare" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "Travelling in England in the Old Days” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Konrad Adenauer” from Sketches from Life of Men I Have Known by Dean Acheson
* “D.C.: Capital Culture” by Karl E. Meyer from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, January 1962 – Finished!

The Magician of Lublin was a continuation of my twice-yearly Singer read-through. Next I'll be continuing another tradition. Each year my wife and I give each other a favorite book from the year before. So I gave her Paul Beatty's The Sellout, one of my favorite reading experiences of 2022, and she gave me If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, which I have now started.

Jan 7, 2023, 5:57 pm

As noted above, I've just finished Show - The Magazine of the Performing Arts, January 1962 edited by Robert M. Wool.

Read as a "Between Book" (see first post). I have a stack of old magazines in the closet of my home office that I've picked up along the way at thrift stores and used bookshops and such. I have been gradually reading through them with an eye toward the recycling bin, except for rare occasions when I find them worth keeping. Several on that stack are different editions of Show Magazine. Last year I read the July 1962 edition. And while this January 1962 edition was interesting, it didn't quite match its July cousin in quality.

There were a series of interesting reviews and columns, most notably Virgil Thompson's reviews of the recent operas adapted from the novels The Crucibles and Wings of the Dove, John Simon's lament about the ennui of the theater of that day entitled "How to be Bored in Three Acts" and Leonard Feather's unfortunate (as seen from my own tastes) savaging of the avant garde jazz of his day, which he refers to as "anti-jazz." Of the feature stories, the most interesting are theater critic Harold Hobson's interview with John Gielgud, a complaint about the "current" condition of New York's 42nd Street area by Henry Hope Reed, Jr. and Gay Talese, and a feature about Otto Preminger's encampment in Washington, D.C. for the filming of the movie version of Advise and Consent.

When I posted the review of the 7/62 edition last year, my LT friend lisapeet was compelled to do some research and reported the following about the history of Show Magazine and reported thusly:

" . . . there isn't a lot out there on Show. It ran from 1961–65, originally founded by zillionaire Huntington Hartford and then, when it went into debt, sold to American Theater Press, which publishes Playbill theater programs. I love those old deluxe mid-century periodicals too—there was a lot wrong with that era but I have to admit to nostalgia for that slavish devotion to the arts as a thing that would make you a better person."

Thanks again, Lisa! The next magazine added to the rotation will be still another edition of Show, this one from March 1963.

Jan 7, 2023, 6:05 pm

>44 rocketjk:. Ah 1962 and the savaging of avant garde jazz. It was an extremely popular sport in England as well at that time, especially by some established jazz critics who were still struggling with bebop.

Jan 7, 2023, 6:13 pm

>45 baswood: Yes, though I wouldn't have expected it of Leonard Feather. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Jan 7, 2023, 9:40 pm

Which names were mentioned?

Editado: Jan 8, 2023, 3:50 am

>47 LolaWalser: "Which names were mentioned?"

I assume you're asking about Mr. Feather's column. He included four of the "anti-jazz nihilists" (his words, I kid you not) by name.

John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy come first, but "by current anti-jazz standards," he goes on to say, they are "conservatives." Next, you'll not be surprised to learn, comes Ornette Coleman (though Leonard refers later to the "true potential of his talent"). Fourth is "the brilliant but twisted piano of Cecil Taylor."

At any rate, I would guess that Feather, an extremely prolific writer and also occasionally a concert promoter,* eventually came to his senses, but I don't really know if he did or not. I don't think Miles Davis ever came around to liking Coleman's music. I got to see and hear Ornette Coleman in concert five or six times. For me personally, there's nothing more soulful in the universe than Ornette in full cry. Again, though, that's just my own personal taste.

* I think his reputation among the musicians themselves was pretty good in general. The songs he wrote were recorded quite a bit, and also there's Weary Blues, the album of Langston Hughes reciting his poetry over jazz accompaniment composed and arranged by Leonard Feather and Charles Mingus. Mingus in particular had a very finely attuned b.s. radar.

Jan 8, 2023, 3:39 pm

>48 rocketjk:

Thanks. Wow, never would have guessed, all of these are so much part of the pantheon now. I too knew of Feather as a respected jazz historian and critic so it's odd and a bit sad to hear this. As it happens, I love Cecil Taylor in particular-- and Coleman--I'm so envious that you got to hear him live! And Dolphy... of course I heard his recordings decades after they were made but it was instant joy. Funny how anyone could miss it?

I suppose it's impossible to hear with the same ears what is "new" to one generation but is a long-gone past to ours.

Jan 8, 2023, 3:47 pm

Anti-jazz nihilists, heh. I'm glad you're reading further into Show, just vicariously. And still, when I read that, regretting the box full of old Horizon magazines I left behind a few moves ago. What was I thinking? Oh well. I guess the arts didn't make me a better person in that instance.

Jan 8, 2023, 7:13 pm

>48 rocketjk: I saw Ornette Coleman at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Absolutely wonderful - Yoko Ono came on to do some screaming and Ornette played some violin - I think that may have tested Leonard Feather.

Editado: Jan 9, 2023, 12:40 pm

>49 LolaWalser: "I suppose it's impossible to hear with the same ears what is "new" to one generation but is a long-gone past to ours."

Yes, this is an important point, certainly, although in Feather's case we can note that in his 1949 book, "Inside Bebop," Feather wrote:

"The story of bebop, like that of swing before it, like the stories of jazz and ragtime before that, has been one of constant struggle against restrictions imposed on all progressive thought in an art that has been commercialized to the point of prostitution; of struggle against reactionaries who resent anything new which they can neither understand nor perform themselves."

You'd think he'd have kept that in mind at least a little bit while listening to Dolphy, post-Miles Davis Quintet Coltrane, and even Taylor.

Also, even if we stop and consider the fact that monthly magazines like Show are generally planned out at least six months in advance, meaning that Feather probably wrote his essay for the January 62 edition somewhere around mid-1961, by that time Ornette had already released at the very least "Something Else," "Tomorrow is the Question!" "Change of the Century" and "The Shape of Jazz to Come." It just impossible for me to imagine that, in light of the quote above, Feather could listen to those albums and only hear "nihilism." It makes me wonder whether Feather wasn't pandering to Show's audience and/or editors. It might be worth noting that in the same edition of the magazine, Sir John Gielgud, in his interview, trashes the experimental theater of the day (Beckett and Pirandello, as I recall). So maybe that sort of conservatism was the magazine's brand.

>51 baswood: "I saw Ornette Coleman at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Absolutely wonderful - Yoko Ono came on to do some screaming and Ornette played some violin - I think that may have tested Leonard Feather."

A quick online search shows that Yoko Ono appeared with Coleman at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968. So that would have been six years or more after he wrote that essay. I don't know how much the needle had moved on Feather's adaptability by that point, but I will point out that Yoko Ono's singing would have tested anybody. (Well, I should speak only for myself.) I never much cared for Coleman's violin playing, either, to be honest. At any rate, I would love to have seen Coleman in 1968, or to put it another way, to be able to go back in a time machine and see that concert this afternoon. I was 13 in 1968, and probably not quite prepared for that concert at the time. :)

Jan 9, 2023, 12:55 pm

Hi, Jerry. I’m passing through to see what you are up to. As for that Jersey accent, I think it depends upon where in NJ you are from. I grew up and lived most of my life in the NW corner, and accents there are much different than those near NYC, or “down the shore”. 😄 someone at work once told me that I had a broadcaster’s accent, by which he meant no accent. I seriously doubt that.

Jan 9, 2023, 4:58 pm

>52 rocketjk: That time machine would have revealed also that the Albert Hall was half full at best and most people were sitting in the gallery in the cheap seats. Ornette causally said that there are plenty of empty seats down the front why don't you all sit there. There was a stampede that took any security staff by surprise and I got to sit in the stalls at the Albert hall for the first time. His group was incredible with Charlie Hayden and Dr David Izenson both on double bass and the magnificent Ed Blackwell on drums.

He only played the violin once, but I can't remember if he played the trumpet that night. Mostly it was the alto sax.

Jan 10, 2023, 4:47 pm

>54 baswood: I wasn't at that Royal Albert Hall concert (my musical tastes were not sophisticated enough) but I did attend 2 concerts at the Albert Hall in 1968--one of Donovan, and the other of Simon and Garfunkel.

Jan 11, 2023, 5:25 pm

>55 arubabookwoman: No I was not at those concerts but I would have liked to have been. Were you at the concert the year after (1969) when Led Zeppelin opened for The Who?

Editado: Jan 23, 2023, 1:29 pm

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

After my "first book of the year will be an Isaac Singer novel" tradition comes another annual tradition. Each year my wife and I give each other to read the book that we enjoyed the most from the previous year. This year my wife gave me If I Survive You to read. This is a very fine first novel about the Jamaican immigrant experience in Miami, but also about the overall experience of a relatively light-skinned Black person trying to forge a personal/ethnic identity. "What are we," young Trelawny, the American born child of Jamaican immigrants, asks his mother early on. Are we Black, he wants to know? Do we just say we're Jamaican? And what if the person asking us doesn't know what that means? This question resurfaces throughout Trelawny's childhood. In the meantime, his family is disfunctional. And when his parents split, Trelawny and his older brother, Delano, get split up, one to each parent.

There is a lot going on in this novel, a lot of good writing, a lot of good delving into the questions of race, ethnicity and class, and about what it's like to be among the working poor in the midst of a recession. So the book is well worth reading. Although, I also feel, it's disjointed, Escoffery not entirely in control of his narrative. At first the book more or less skims over the surface of Trelawny's childhood, the years flowing by over just a few short pages. Eventually the book evolves into a family drama, mostly revolving around the competition between the two brothers as they enter adulthood. But also there are chapters about Trelawny's attempt to get ahead as a highly educated, underemployed teacher. Other points of view are entered, other stories are told. Each is engaging and well done, but it didn't always seem to me that there was a coherent whole. I can conjecture that Escoffery was going for a textured tapestry approach with each part overlaid with the others to create a multi-faceted whole. That style can certainly work well. Here, though, I thought the book was just off the mark. Nevertheless, as I said at the beginning, I do think this novel well worth reading. The characters and situations are memorable, and the prose well done, though I must say I did eventually tire of Escoffery's use of the second person style of narration. I could easily see how a person could love this book more than I did. I am very much looking forward to more work from this writer.

Jan 12, 2023, 12:18 pm

For my post-If I Survive You "Between Book" reading, I entered the arena of Stack 1:

* “Wolf Lanigan’s Death” from Spring Sowing by Liam O'Flaherty
* “Traveling and Being” from Gaza Mom: Politics, Parenting and Everything in Between by Laila El-Haddad
* “Skipper Ireson’s Ride,” by John Greenleaf Whittier in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Red Smith” from No Cheering in the Press Box edited by Jerome Holtzman
* “The Man Who Vanished” by Robert M. Coates from The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories edited by Ray Bradbury - Finished!
* “Notes on Designing ‘Otello’” by Eugene Berman from Show: The Magazine of the Arts - March 1963 - Newly added

We're heading out in a couple of hours for a long weekend visiting family in Las Vegas. Upon my return, I'll post a short review of the Bradbury-edited collection. Plus, I'm already almost halfway through How Sleeps the Beast by Don Tracy, an obscure novel from 1937 about a lynching in rural Maryland.

Jan 12, 2023, 12:21 pm

>58 rocketjk: I need to see if my library has the Holtzman book. I always like to read something baseball-related when spring training starts, though I'm guessing this book isn't just about baseball. And I like Holtzman's writing.

Jan 12, 2023, 12:22 pm

>58 rocketjk: I really admire your ability to read just one piece of fiction/non-fiction per magazine/book from the in-between pile - any time I try that, I end up just reading the whole books instead... :)

Jan 12, 2023, 1:27 pm

>59 rosalita: No Cheering in the Press Box is very entertaining, but you won't get any of Holtzman's writing in it. The book is a series of interviews with famous sports writers of the early and middle 20th centuries. The interviews are presented more as oral histories. There's no question and answer in the text, just the interview subjects speaking. So I assume there is some editing done by Holtzman, but the words are the by the various interviewees. Some of them I'd heard of, but many were unknown to me. You've right that the book is not all about baseball, but a good percentage of it does deal with that sport.

>60 AnnieMod: I find that when I read a short story collection, or any sort of collection/anthology, straight through, the stories/chapters tend to blur together. I find it easy enough to stick to the procedure because a) I literally stack the books to be dipped into as between books up on my reading table, so I can see what I'm about to read through and b) I'm generally eager to get to the next book I'm going to read straight through, so I'm usually not tempted to linger in a between book.

Jan 12, 2023, 1:38 pm

>61 rocketjk: Well, I usually start with the same intention and usually have another book waiting for me. And yet, I tend to get stuck in my in-between books - I may be able to just dip and go for a story or 3 and then I realize I am reading a 4th story in a row. :) Not always but often enough... But then I also cannot move books around without ending up opening at least some of them so... there is that.

Jan 12, 2023, 1:39 pm

>61 rocketjk: Ah, thanks for clarifying, Jerry. It still sounds interesting, but my library doesn't have it, sadly.

Jan 12, 2023, 3:26 pm

>56 baswood: No-by 1969 I was at university in NO. (Sorry to hijack your thread Jerry).

Jan 12, 2023, 4:10 pm

>57 rocketjk: Excellent review of the Escoffery. I agree that this one was too much all over the place, so that things that might have been more closely examined were skimmed over in favor of another whole idea, but I'm going to be keeping an eye out for what he writes next.

I read everything I could get my hands on by Singer, back in high school, which was pretty much all short stories. I look forward to seeing what you read and maybe grabbing a collection to revisit for myself.

Stay dry!

Jan 12, 2023, 6:12 pm

>58 rocketjk: I thought I knew Skipper Ireson's Ride - love that poem, such a rich story.

Editado: Jan 14, 2023, 11:37 am

>64 arubabookwoman: No such apology needed. I don't mind that sort of thing at all, here. By the way have we already discussed your New Orleans background? Where were you at school there? I worked on the UNO campus from 1980 through most of 1986.

>65 RidgewayGirl: "I look forward to seeing what you read and maybe grabbing a collection to revisit for myself. "

I'll be reading all the Singer novels, two per year. My reviews of his first two are on my 2022 CR thread. Of the short story collections, I've read The Death of Methuselah and the Modern Library collection of Singer stories. That's all so far. I loved The Death of Methuselah, which was his final collection. Thanks for your kind words about my If I Should Survive you review.

>66 jjmcgaffey: Yes, it's quite a tale. However, the introduction to the poem in the collection I read it in says that Whittier had used Ireson's real name and that the story the poem is base on turned out not to be true. Whittier was, so goes the account, appalled when he learned of the distress the poem had caused Ireson's family. Anyway, so say the editors of the Literature collection I've been reading through.

Jan 14, 2023, 3:02 pm

Hi Jerry--Yes I remembered the NO connection. I was at Sophie Newcomb College (Women's college of Tulane University, no longer existent) and at Tulane Law School from 1968-1974 (did them both in 6 years) and my husband was at Tulane School of Architecture during the same time period. Our last 3 years in NO (1983-1986) we moved to Lake Vista near UNO. Our next door neighbor was a UNO professor, John Biguenet, who was also a writer (The Torturer's Apprentice).

Jan 14, 2023, 7:59 pm

Jan 15, 2023, 2:15 pm

sigh Mother's po-boys sigh

It wasn't super-close but it was close enough to venture there during lunch hour, now and then.

I'm so glad the old place is still rocking it.

Jan 18, 2023, 12:35 pm

The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories edited by Ray Bradbury

Read as a "Between Book" (see first post). This is a fun old paperback, published in 1956. As Bradbury makes clear in his introduction, he has put together a collection of stories that are much more appropriately thought of as fantasy rather than science fiction. It's an entertaining set of stories, although somewhat hit or miss. The famous title story, really a novella, is a tour de force of surrealist storytelling. I'd never read it before and was absolutely entranced throughout. That story sets up a standard, however, that none of the other, shorter, entries never come close to matching, except maybe perhaps Shirley Jackson's well-known "The Summer People." Of the rest, Oliver La Farge's "The Resting Place," with it's elements of Native American legends, and Loren Eiseley's subtle "Buzby's Pertified Woman" were my favorites. Also intriguing was "Earth's Holocaust" by none other than Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Jan 18, 2023, 12:37 pm

>70 LolaWalser: Ah, yes, Mother's. Also, from my early New Orleans years, when I still lived in the Quarter, I have wonderful memories of the original Buster Holmes, unfortunately long gone.

Editado: Jan 29, 2023, 12:53 pm

How Sleeps the Beast by Don Tracy

How Sleeps the Beast is a very obscure novel, published in 1937, about a lynching in Maryland. This, I'm afraid, requires a bit of background. One of the mystery/crime series I'm in the midst of now is the equally obscure Giff Speer series from the late 60s/early 70s, written by this same author, Don Tracy. I got curious about who Mr. Tracy might be (or could it be a pseudonym?) and did a little online research. I discovered that Don Tracy was indeed the fellow's real name, that he had been publishing novels since the 30s, and that one of those novels had been this one, a book about a lynching deemed too controversial by U.S. publishers and only offered up to readers in England and, in particular, France. It was only 1950 that the book was finally published in the U.S. as a luridly covered paperback by Lion Publishing. So naturally, I had to go online and order this book, sending all the way to England for a first edition hardcover published by Constable Publishers, London. It took me a while, but now I've finally read the novel.

How Sleeps the Beast is a mixed bag, to put it mildly. It's the story of an ugly, ugly lynching in a rural Maryland town, taken part in by a very large, rabid, hate-filled mob, with the lynching itself, far from a "simple" hanging, and exceedingly cruel and brutal affair. All this is true to the actual events of many, many lynchings, in which Blacks were not just hung, but disemboweled and sometimes burned alive. So as far as that goes, while the book is hard to read, it's a valuable historical testimony. However, three major flaws are also evident. The first is that the Blacks of this town are often (not always) portrayed as the simplistic, child-like folk of the worst racist tropes. Second, and even worse, is that the victim, in the event, is actually guilty of the crime he's accused of, and again via an even more vile racist stereotype, having gotten drunk and in his inebriated haze decided to go off in search of a white woman. Any white woman. When, in reality, Blacks in the Jim Crow South got lynched for protesting about being cheated out of payment for the crops they'd grown, or making their houses look too attractive, or having money in the bank: anything that made them appear to be rising "above their station." So suggesting that a Black person had to be guilty of an actual crime in order to be lynched in fact borders on doing more harm than good in terms of the message taken away by the reader, no matter how depraved the perpetrators of the lynching are portrayed as being. The third, and least objectionable in the long run, flaw is that the characters are essentially all cardboard cutouts, put in place to espouse this point of view or that one, whether evil or well intentioned, strong or weak, cynical or idealistic.

So, despite the book being intriguing at the outset, and a good fictional portrayal of the horrors of racial hatred and the depravity of lynch mobs, in the end it falls short for me of being anything ultimately but an historical curiosity.

Jan 19, 2023, 11:38 pm

Sounds terrible. Richard Wright captures a lynching in curious but effective way in one story in Uncle Tom’s Children. He was writing his story at about the same as this came out.

Editado: Jan 21, 2023, 3:24 am

>73 rocketjk: One book note about my copy of How Sleeps the Beast. As I noted in my review, I had to send away to England for it. My edition was published by Constable Publisher, 10 Orange Street, London in 1937. The establishment I ordered it from was Little Stour Books, North Court House, West Stourmouth Canterbury Kent. I found affixed inside the book both at front and back, the following half-page:

Here's the Wikipedia page for the Boots Library

Editado: Jan 21, 2023, 7:18 am

>73 rocketjk: Too bad, it could have been such a great find if it turned out differently!

>75 rocketjk: I did not know about Boots. interesting bit of history!

ETA: Oh, and I realise it is my first post this year on your thread. How rude of me!
I should have started wishing you the best for this year, reading-wise and other than reading. As usual, I will follow your reading, commenting (rarely) or lurking (often).

Jan 21, 2023, 8:39 am

>75 rocketjk: Fascinating, and more accessible than Ben Franklin's subscription libraries, I think.

Jan 21, 2023, 12:29 pm

>76 raton-liseur: Yes, I was disappointed when I realized that all those drawbacks were coming into play. I was hoping to have uncovered a gem worth noting. Though, as I said, the depiction of the lynching itself was certainly horrifically realistic enough.

Also, happy to have you drop in, timing notwithstanding, and I'll accept greetings and good wishes all year round, so thanks! I try to drop in on your thread as well, though my French is so miserably spotty that I'm afraid I don't get to glean much. And I'm sure you've told me this before, but where in Brittany do you live? My wife and I spent a delightful time in Lesconil (Finistère) and the surrounding area on our honeymoon back in 2005. I'm sure I've told you that before as well.

Jan 21, 2023, 2:51 pm

>75 rocketjk:

I love that sort of book ephemera. The other day I saw for the first time ever a book from "Mudie's select Library" (Virginia Woolf still borrowed from it in her youth), with the label affixed to the cover. Unfortunately a very uninteresting title (to me), some soldier's bio, and a hefty book at that--or I'd have been tempted regardless...

Jan 21, 2023, 3:03 pm

>79 LolaWalser: "I love that sort of book ephemera.

Yes, me too! It's one of the main reasons I love used books and also why I enjoy paper books over digital.

Jan 21, 2023, 3:04 pm

>75 rocketjk: >79 LolaWalser: Fun! I’m not quite old enough to remember Boots having libraries — I think we must have had free public libraries in our area before they were made universal in the mid-sixties — but there were certainly plenty of books in the secondhand shops of my youth with the characteristic grommet hole punched into the top of the spine. I don’t think I have any, though.

Jan 21, 2023, 4:18 pm

>81 thorold: FYI, there is no grommet hole in the spine of my copy of How Sleeps the Best.

Jan 21, 2023, 7:08 pm

>75 rocketjk: The pleasure of buying second hand books.

Editado: Jan 22, 2023, 8:20 am

You have, of course, read 84 Charing Cross Road. Right? ;-) speaking of second hand bookstores and ordering from overseas. The film version of that book is one of the best adaptations as well. Just saying...

Jan 21, 2023, 9:00 pm

>80 rocketjk: one of my fav book ephemera was in a rare copy of dickens children . I already had a first edition copy , but its the second copy that I love so much because of this note in the first page:

Sam to Leila Christmas 1928;

Leila and Bina to Amanda Chanuka 1992.

There is a story there before I even read the book!

Editado: Jan 21, 2023, 9:12 pm

there used to be a website that collected ephemera Wonder if its still around.

Jan 22, 2023, 1:35 am

>83 baswood: You got that right!

>84 jessibud2: No, in fact I've never read that book, nor have I seen the movie.

>85 cindydavid4: Yes! I remember you mentioning that before and we had a conversation about how Leila had received the book as a Christmas gift and then given it as a Chanuka gift!

>86 cindydavid4: That would be fun. fyi, there is a small (10 members) LT group called Inscriptions & Dedications:

Jan 22, 2023, 6:15 am

>78 rocketjk: No, I think I never said where I live, so I'm about to reveal a secret... I live not far from Rennes, a stone's throw from where Chateaubriand lived part of his childhood. But I originate from Finistère, where my parents live (from the North of Finistère, not that close to Lesconil, but I've been there of course). It's nice that you have such found memory of your trip there. Brittany does that, and honeymoon too!

Editado: Jan 23, 2023, 5:41 am

>88 raton-liseur: "Brittany does that, and honeymoon too!"

Absolutely! And it's a funny story about how we ended up spending a week in Lesconil. We had spent a week in Paris, then taken a train to Blois, where we picked up our rental car and drove out to Brittany, driving, on the way, through the extremely beautiful Loire Valley. Anyway, going by our already established pattern, we drove out into the countryside not knowing where we were going to land (other than somewhere in Brittany) and trusting to luck and judgement. It was a very hot day in late June when we got to Brittany. We checked out a couple of small towns along the southern coast but none seemed to be that perfect honeymoon town. When we got to Lesconil it was late afternoon. We were hot and a bit cranky. My wife said, "No, not here." There was a town we'd been though that she wanted to go back to. I thought to myself, "Yes, here." Unduly affected by heat and fatigue, perhaps, my wife thought that the beautiful harbor looked like a tourist trap and that there were too many hotels. I pointed, though, at the beach just to the side of the harbor. I said, "It's already late in the day. I'll make you a deal. Let's get a room in that hotel (pointing to one at random), and then go down and have a swim at that beach, and then get a good night's sleep. In the morning, if you don't want to stay here, I'll take you to any town you want and that's where we'll stay." Not really wanting to get back in the car, she agreed to that, and when we woke up in the morning and had another look at the town and the harbor, my wife said, "Oh my god, I can't believe I wanted to leave this place!" Then we proceeded to have a wonderful time, both in the town and taking driving day trips. For example, you are talking to a guy who has sat upon Merlin's throne in the Forest of Broceliande! (In the cafe/gift shop by the parking lot, we bought a bottle of the Bretagne whiskey, which the saleswoman told us was "un peu dur." We bought it anyway and smuggled it home to California. She was right about it, but we still enjoyed it immensely and made it last, small sips at a time, for over a year.)

Jan 22, 2023, 1:33 pm

>87 rocketjk: what I loved about it is the 60+ year difference
I always thought sam was leilas father, some where along the way she meet Bina and converts to judaism, and Amanda is their grandchild

Thanks for the heads up; yeah its been pretty quiet. Ill post and see if anything sparks.

Jan 22, 2023, 1:35 pm

>89 rocketjk: love this story!

Jan 22, 2023, 1:36 pm

>89 rocketjk: What a beautiful memory of your honeymoon. I love Brittany and would spend my holidays there again at any time.

Editado: Jan 23, 2023, 5:37 am

Walk With Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kate Clifford Larson

Kate Clifford Larson has delivered a stirring and imminently readable biography of an extremely important and inspirational--though I expect not well enough known at this point--figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. Fannie Lou Hamer was the children of tenant farmers, and became one herself, in Jim Crow Mississippi. With very little education but with a burning drive to learn and an iron-willed dignity that would not allow her to sit still for the horrific realities of 1950s and 60s Mississippi, Hamer gradually became involved in the grass roots efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to help rural Blacks attain voting rights in the face of furious, violent and often deadly resistance by segregationist whites. The book begins with the story of Hamer's childhood and family life, of necessity intertwined with an in-depth description of the depravities and horror of Jim Crow oppression, which was brutal and ubiquitous. When, as an adult, Hamer went into town to attempt to register to vote, she came home to find that her white landlord was promising to evict Hamer, along with her husband and children, unless she promised to go back to town the next day to rescind her registration. Hamer replied, "I registered to vote for me, not for you," and her landlord followed up on his threat. Later, in a Winona, Mississippi, jail cell, Hamer and four of her companions received vicious beatings, and Hamer was raped, for the crime of trying to integrate a bus stop diner. The beating left Hamer's health compromised for the rest of her life. But Hamer, due to her articulate, passionate speeches, her inspirational singing and her drive and inclusiveness, nevertheless became a powerful figure in the movement, to the extent that she was the keynote speaker before the Democratic National Committee when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a Black party, organized to fight the seating of the fiercely segregationist Mississippi Democratic contingent at the Democratic Presidential Convention in Atlantic City in 1964.

In addition to being a wholly compelling biography of a fascinating figure, Larson's book also provides an important "from the inside" history of SNCC that compliments and in many ways expands upon the more global history of that organization, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s by Clayborne Carson, which I read a year or two back. The biography also provides an effective description of the full deadly fury of Jim Crow. So in some ways the book is hard to get through, especially over the first 50 pages or so, as many of its details are horrific and depressing. Once Hamer moves into adulthood and begins her freedom-building activities, the book becomes a page-turner. This is one of the best, most fascinating, if sometimes depressing, biographies I've read over the past 10 years.

Jan 22, 2023, 5:30 pm

>93 rocketjk: Hmm, this would be a good candidate for my RL non-fiction book group.

Jan 22, 2023, 6:09 pm

>86 cindydavid4: I loved Wonder but don't know if it's still around.

Editado: Jan 23, 2023, 4:56 am

>94 qebo: Yes, as long as your group members have a taste for serious issues and difficult to read details. I'm thinking about selecting it next time it's my turn in my own group.

Editado: Jan 23, 2023, 5:33 am

Here's what I read in my post-Walk with Me travels through Stack 3 of my "Between Books," including two books which I've now finished. I'll have short reviews of the completed books coming soon:

* "’62 Busiest No-Hit Season Since 1917" from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "Escape to the City" by Gordon Woodward from The Best American Short Stories 1957 edited by Martha Foley – Finished!
* "Mother Hildegarde" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "My Brother Pink” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “A State Visit: Vienna, 1952” from Sketches from Life of Men I Have Known by Dean Acheson – Finished!
* “Movies: The Sacred and the Profane” (reviews of the Brazilian movie O Pagador de Promessas {The Given Word} and Dr. No) by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, January 1962

I've now moved on to this past year's Hanukkah gift from my wife, another non-fiction work with, I'm expecting, some entirely unpleasant details, American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis by Adam Hochschild.

Editado: Jan 24, 2023, 1:48 pm

The Best American Short Stories 1957 edited by Martha Foley

Read as a "Between Book" (see first post). Going by what's found in this collection, the late 1950s was certainly a fertile time for American fiction. This excellent volume includes stories by Nelson Algren, Gina Berriault, Evan S. Connell, Jr., William Eastlake, Flannery O'Connor ("Greenleaf"), and Tillie Olson, to name the more famous authors.

Of the writers who were new to me, the highlights were "Man's Courage" about a Black officer at an Army training camp in the South, by Wyatt Blasingame, "Run, Run Away, Brother," about a man thinking back ruefully about his boyhood treatment of his brother, who has died in World War 2, by John Campbell Smith, "Saturday is a Poor Man's Sport," a story about sadness and loneliness (but still somehow beautiful) in a boarding house, by Henrietta Wiegel, and a quiet lovely story, again about brothers, called "Escape to the City," by Gordon Woodward.

Jan 23, 2023, 2:52 pm

>93 rocketjk: whoa. Terrific review

>98 rocketjk: interesting list of authors

Jan 23, 2023, 2:55 pm

>96 rocketjk: a taste for serious issues and difficult to read details
Sometimes I think that's all we read...

Jan 23, 2023, 4:59 pm

>100 qebo: You've probably read The New Jim Crow and The Color of Law, then, but if not, both of those are excellent on the subject, as well. But the Hamer biography has a very powerful personal perspective, being the story of one amazing person.

Jan 23, 2023, 5:16 pm

>98 rocketjk: hey thats my birth year! those sound good; should look up those authors

Editado: Jan 24, 2023, 1:26 pm

Sketches from Life of Men I Have Known by Dean Acheson

Read as a "Between Book" (see first post). Dean Acheson was a high-ranking U.S. diplomat throughout the WW2 war years and into the years immediately afterwards. He was Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations and International Conferences from December 1944 through August 1945, then Under Secretary of State until June 1947 and finally returned to government service to become Secretary of State in the Truman administration from 1949 through 1953. Acheson was Secretary of State between George Marshall and John Foster Dulles.

This book contains a series of reminiscences/portraits of the diplomats and politicians he worked with (or, in some cases, against) and/or under during his time in the diplomatic corps. The book opens with chapters about Ernest Bevin and Robert Shuman, Acheson's opposite numbers for England and France, respectively, during the years at the end of, and immediately after, the war, when the large Western democracies were figuring out how they wanted to administer Western Europe and how to negotiate with Soviet Russia and create a united front against what they saw as Soviet plans for further expansion. There is a chapter, also, on Acheson's dealing with several Russian diplomats and their negotiating tactics. The chapters cover negotiations around the establishment of the United Nations, the administration of the post-war occupation of Germany and the establishment of the western alliance that became NATO. Of particular interest to me were the deliberations that led to the decision to bring West Germany into the alliance (i.e., to rearm them, a development that was viewed with some alarm, as I've learned from other reading, in many parts of Europe). While there was serious reluctance to take this step in some quarters, in the end the West Germans were seen by the U.S. and the Western European powers as a pivotal member of any alliance that would be able to stand up to Stalin and his successors.

Other politicians Acheson profiles here include Winston Churchill, Arthur Vandeberg (a Republican leader in the Senate whom Acheson describes as a tough opponent of the policies of the Truman administration who could nevertheless come around to support individual initiatives if he saw that the administration was, in fact, on the right track), George Marshall and Conrad Adenauer.

Nowadays, the first thing you notice in the title of this book, of course, is the word "men." Wives are described as, essentially, diplomatic accessories and Acheson mentions nary a highly position woman in his writings. This he certainly takes for granted. And it more or less goes without saying that in 1961, when this book was published, "men" means "white men." That said, Acheson was quite a good writer, and his profiles are also laced with humorous anecdotes that keep the book somewhat light. So, if one is willing to ascribe any sort of positive (or benign) qualities to American foreign policy in the first place, or give Acheson the benefit of the doubt regarding his own motivations, these portraits and Acheson's descriptions of the issues involved and the negotiations surrounding them, as well as the picture provided of the life of the high level diplomats of the era, make for interesting and even entertaining reading.

Book note: Goodness knows how long I've owned this book. It's entry date into my LT library dates back to my LibraryThing Big Bang, my initial explosion of LT entries in 2008. (Actually, the very beginning, as the book's entry date is January 22, 2008. The book has a stamp inside telling us that it was "Withdrawn from the Los Angeles Country Public Library System."

Jan 25, 2023, 2:23 pm

>103 rocketjk: This sounds better than I might have expected based on the title. Interesting times.

Editado: Jan 25, 2023, 7:36 pm

>104 dchaikin: Interesting times, indeed, as are they all, I guess. Just as an fyi, Acheson's more in-depth autobiography/memoir, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department, is reviewed highly here on LT and, at the time of its publishing, by The NY Times (for whatever ice that cuts with folks), as per the LT blurb: "As autobiography (this book) is enthralling, as history indispensable, as a manual on government and diplomacy invaluable". -- Wallace Carroll, New York Times Book Review. I haven't read it and don't own a copy.

Editado: Jan 27, 2023, 3:52 pm

American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis by Adam Hoshschild

This is an excellent but horrifying (again!) history about an extremely violent and repressive, but mostly (as per the title) forgotten 4-year period in American history, from 1917, when the U.S. entered WW I, to 1920. Woodrow Wilson became president in 1913 as a liberal reformer, and many like-minded politicians and other figures joined his administration to help with the project of making life better for laborers and helping to reduce the large wealth gap that had formed between the working class and the owners of industry. (Sound familiar?) In many important ways, however, Wilson was no bargain. Although he'd served as governor of New Jersey, Wilson was a Georgia native and a firm proponent of Jim Crow. For example, he went about resegregating the areas of the federal government that had made progress in that area. At first he was opposed to U.S. involvement in WW I, running for reelection under the slogan, "He kept us out of war." But as the war progressed, and the allies became hard pressed, they turned to the U.S. for armaments and other supplies, going into huge debt to the U.S government and munitions companies, among others, to the extent that an Allied defeat in the war would have occasioned massive defaults and extensive losses to U.S. creditors. Well, that couldn't be allowed. That's not the only cause that Hochschild provides for the U.S. entry into the war, but it is an extremely significant one, and something I'd never realized.

Once the U.S. was involved, Wilson's Attorney General and other high-ranking figures went to town, using the war effort as an excuse for furious and violent repression. The so-called Espionage Act of 1917 made it a crime punishable by long prison terms to criticize the war effort or the government, or to complain about war profiteering. A nationwide civilian vigilante organization called the American Protective League was organized and given carte blanche for violent and even often deadly activities. People got lynched for refusing to buy War Bonds. Massive, coordinated, roundups of draft-aged men took place, and woe betide anyone who couldn't show a draft card. This was all a cover for nativist, rightwing politicians who wanted to hound immigrants, the labor movement, conscientious objectors, socialists, Jews, Catholics and, it goes without saying, Blacks. Good old J. Edgar Hoover got his start during these days. And Wilson, still supposedly a reformer, either condoned or turned a blind eye to all of it. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Espionage Act (very little espionage was ever uncovered), and did so in a unanimous ruling despite the presence of Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes on the court (Holmes, in particular, later did an about face on this subject). The whole period was a horror show from beginning to end. It wasn't until the end of the war and, in particular, the advent of the Warren Harding administration, that some of the main perpetrators of the offenses began to be discredited (in events reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy's toppling) and the American body politic finally lost their appetite for the repression. And although Harding is generally remembered with derision nowadays, Hoschshild makes the point that he immediately began commuting the sentences of and releasing from jail the many political prisoners still being held under the Espionage Act long after the war, and the dangers of espionage, had ended. Or, as Harding put it to a journalist off the record even before assuming the presidency, "Why should we kid each other? Debs* was right, we never should have been in that war."

* Leading, and extremely popular, Socialist politician Eugene Debs, who had previously garnered massive amounts of votes while running for president, and running again for president in 1920 from his prison cell (jailed under the Espionage Act), still garnered 900,000 votes nationwide. Harding let him out. Debs, Emma Goldman, and other socialist and anti-war leaders get excellent pocket biographies in this book.

This is a very well-written history, though towards the end it becomes progressively (you should pardon the expression) harder to read, as it is largely a recitation of objectionable people and events. Hochschild does spend a bit of time at the very end drawing parallels between that time and this one in American history. How could he not? Unpleasantness aside, the book is fascinating and provides, I believe, essential information for all Americans (at the very least) wanting to understand the antecedents of today's massive strains of nativist, repressive movements that currently flourish here.

Jan 27, 2023, 1:55 pm

>106 rocketjk: Oh, this sounds really interesting! I'll look for it at the library. Thanks for the excellent review, Jerry.

Jan 27, 2023, 3:35 pm

>106 rocketjk: Great review, Jerry. Sounds like required reading

Jan 27, 2023, 3:49 pm

>107 rosalita: & >108 labfs39: Thanks to you both. And I forgot to mention that this book was this past year's Hanukkah present from my wonderful wife.

Jan 27, 2023, 4:05 pm

>106 rocketjk: Noted - Hoshschild is sure to be interesting.

Jan 27, 2023, 5:53 pm

>106 rocketjk: fascinating

Jan 27, 2023, 5:57 pm

>109 rocketjk: Please tell Mrs. Rocketjk that she did a fine job!

Editado: Jan 27, 2023, 8:09 pm

>112 rosalita: Have done! But she kept her own name, so it's Ms. goldsteph. (Her LT name is actually goldsteph, but she hasn't been active on the site for around 8 years and she was never active on the group threads.)

Jan 27, 2023, 9:59 pm

>113 rocketjk: I stand corrected!

Jan 28, 2023, 2:43 pm

>106 rocketjk:

Very, very interesting, thanks! The treatment of Debs was appalling. That's such a sad story; possibly the reason or the moment in time that killed leftism in the US.

Jan 28, 2023, 3:00 pm

>115 LolaWalser: "possibly the reason or the moment in time that killed leftism in the US."

Yes. Hochschild makes this point explicitly. Not the Debs jailing per se, but the Red Scare repression in general. The government, including the Justice Dept's Bureau of Investigation (the precursor of the FBI), used the excuse of the war to go after the left, including the I.W.W., other left-leaning labor organizations and the Socialist Party, with wholesale arrests (no warrants needed!) and the use of spies and provocateurs. Arrests, beatings and intimidation was the order of the day, as was deportation of immigrants who hadn't gained citizenship. When Harding finally began letting organization leaders and other poor souls caught up in the fervor out of jail, the leaders found their organizations, which had been quite robust in the mid 1910s, pretty much hollowed out. The young but quickly rising Bureau of Investigation officer J. Edgar Hoover learned his lessons well, and eventually employed the same tactics 40 years later against the Civil Rights Movement and, particularly, the Black Panthers.

Editado: Jan 28, 2023, 3:10 pm

For the moment, Stack 2 of by "Between Books" is down to four volumes, plus my current edition of Show Magazine. Eventually I'll be inspired to repopulate these stacks a bit, or perhaps the three stacks will be combined into two. But for now, here's my post-American Midnight Between Book reading:

* “Girl with Three Husbands” by Fernán Caballero in The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “T is for Television and Radio” from Good for a Laugh: A New Collection of Humorous Tidbits and Anecdotes from Aardvark to Zythum by Bennett Cerf
* “An Incredible Neglect Redefined” from Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams
* “Mighty Mohawk” by Philip Paul Daniels from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* "Movies: The Reel Lawrence" by Donald W. Labadie from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, March 1963

Now it's on to Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography by William E. Gienapp.

Jan 28, 2023, 6:48 pm

>106 rocketjk: terrific review and very interesting comment on the American left in >116 rocketjk: .

Jan 29, 2023, 12:19 pm

>89 rocketjk: Nices memories, indeed.
I'm not sure I know where Merlin's throne is, so I will have to check next time I go to Brocéliande!

You've been doing some serious reading those days! I did enjoy your reviews.

Editado: Jan 29, 2023, 1:20 pm

>119 raton-liseur: "I'm not sure I know where Merlin's throne is, so I will have to check next time I go to Brocéliande!"

All I remember is that as we were walking along the path through the forest, we came upon a stretch that was more or less along the edge of a cliff or a canyon. I think maybe there was a river or stream at the bottom. Anyway, along this stretch there was a large rock sort of shaped like a large chair that you could scramble up and sit on. There was a very official-looking sign that identified this rock as Merlin's Throne, or at least as the rock that had been identified in legend as such.

Of course after writing the paragraph above I had to do an online search to see what I could find. A search for "Brocéliande Merlin's throne" basically brings you to a zillion references to Merlin's tomb in Brocéliande, which I also have clear memories of but which wasn't what I was looking for. So then I got clever and looked up the French word for "throne" and did a search for "Brocéliande Merlin trone" and that brought me here:

If you do a "control F" search for "Trône de Fer" you'll come upon a set of three photos. The middle one in particular looks like the perch my wife and I sat upon. There was definitely an overlook of some sort (at least as per my memory from 18 years ago) though that's hard to discern in these photos:

Exactly where along the Brocéliande walking trail this throne is to be found, I don't think the website says, although my French is essentially non-existent. Perhaps there's a map of the forest online somewhere.

Jan 29, 2023, 1:51 pm

>120 rocketjk: These are wonderful photos! I love the shape and colour of the schist here!

I've checked quickly. In French we rather say "le siège de Merlin", Merlin's seat (less emphatic than a throne, and after all, Merlin was not a king); It seems pretty close to the Miroir des fées (fairies' mirror?), so I guess I should be able to find it next time I go and visit Merlin!

Jan 29, 2023, 2:54 pm

>121 raton-liseur: "next time I go and visit Merlin!"

Give him our best!

Jan 29, 2023, 4:45 pm

Appreciating the rocks. (If you want more photos, I googled “le Siège de Merlin l’Enchanteur” from the article. and some options came up. All in French)

Jan 30, 2023, 1:08 pm

>122 rocketjk: I will!

>123 dchaikin: Yes, I've seen some of them. It seems like a great spot for a geologist!

Editado: Jan 31, 2023, 2:24 pm

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography by William E. Gienapp

This is a very enjoyable, well written and relatively brief (200 pages) biography of Abraham Lincoln. The title infers that the book describes only Lincoln's term as president, but in fact it is neatly divided, pretty much in half. The first 100 pages provide a description of Lincoln's childhood and then his career in law and politics leading up to his Civil War administration, from his farm-bound childhood through his early adulthood working any odd job to keep afloat, to his apprenticeship in the legal field, his coming into his own as a lawyer and his career in Illinois state politics. It was interesting to learn that the upshot of the famous Lincoln-Douglass debates was that Lincoln lost the subsequent election to Douglas. This was all great, as far as I was concerned, because while I had read several accounts of Lincoln's presidency and handling of the war, my knowledge of Lincoln's pre-White House life was essentially made up of legend and shadow.

It was nice to learn that many of the legends surrounding Lincoln were essentially true. He did spend his early childhood living with his family in a log cabin. He did quickly become physically strong, able to wield an axe and cut wheat for hours, though he essentially disliked this sort of labor. He did become an almost unbeatable wrestler, and he was self-taught, taking any moment between farm labors to open a book. Also, he did, indeed, earn himself (and keep throughout his life), a reputation for honest dealings and personal integrity. And finally, he retained throughout his life a genuine humane touch and a desire to speak with and learn from farmers, laborers and merchants, men and women. Also, he was, indeed, afflicted with melancholy and depression throughout his life.

The second half of the book covers Lincoln's presidency and the war years. I already mostly knew the details of the progression of the war and Lincoln's struggles to get the commanders of the Army of the Potomac (from McClellan onward) to go on the offensive against the Confederate armies in the east, but Gienapp also did a fine job of filling in the political details of Lincoln's presidency, as he strove just as hard to hold together the coalition of extreme and moderate Republicans and Democrats. The Republicans wanted to press the war and were in favor of emancipation (gradually in the case of the moderates, immediately and fully in the case of the extremists). The other difference between the two were the degrees to which they believed the Southern states should be punished after the war's end. The Democrats believed in pressing the war only to keep the Southern state from seceding, but wanted to leave slavery in place. The extreme Democrats, who came to be known as Copperheads, were actually opposed to the war and wanted to begin negotiations to end it, allowing the Confederacy to remain in place. Though Lincoln, a mostly moderate Republican, had no patience for the Copperheads, he was skillful in keeping a mix of the rest in his cabinet and even in insisting on political appointments of generals of all political camps in order to ensure that all parties felt they had a stake in the outcome of the war. This ability to give his political rivals some ground, and the thick skin that enabled him to shrug off personal attacks and avoid grudge holding, Gienapp describes as among Lincoln's greatest strengths as a politician.

Book note: This book has been sitting in my Biography bookcase since my LT Big Bang, when I first posted my library here in 2008.

Editado: Fev 1, 2023, 12:37 am

Stack 3 of my "Between Books" is down to only three members plus my current Show Magazine, so it was a relatively quick post-Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America Between Book reading journey this time:

* "Sharp Dip in Low Hit Pitching Jobs" from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "Which is Better?" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "Premature Manhood” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Theater: Behind the Blackout” by Anthony West from Show: The Magazine of the Arts March 1963

Now it's on to this month's reading group selection, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.

Fev 3, 2023, 8:34 pm

>125 rocketjk: how does one do the Lincoln presidency in 100 pages? I enjoyed your review. Team of Rivals was a terrific book about his presidency and made Lincoln a personal hero of mine (I have a Lego Lincoln on my work desk for inspiration). I hated Spielberg’s movie.

Fev 3, 2023, 8:43 pm

I liked it, as it showed a specific event in time that few people new about, rather than a global focus. I did enjoy the book as well, And I didn't know there was a lego lincoln! will have to let my spouse know

Editado: Fev 4, 2023, 11:38 am

>127 dchaikin: "how does one do the Lincoln presidency in 100 pages?"

I do understand your question, but oddly enough, for me the treatment of Lincoln's presidency in the Gienapp book was effective. It gives a good overview of the politics Lincoln had to deal with. It is only ever presented as an overview and never suggests there isn't much more to learn. So I'm happy having that, and may well dive into Team of Rivals or follow Julia's (rosalita) suggestion on another thread of reading Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan. Two excellent books I have already read are Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails by Tom Wheeler, which gives a fascinating account of Lincoln's use of the telegram, revolutionary technology in its day, to manage the war, and Lincoln's Men: The President and His Private Secretaries by Daniel Mark Epstein, about Lincoln's administration as seen and handled by his three personal secretaries: John Nicolay, William Stoddard, and John Hay. I highly recommend both of those.

>128 cindydavid4: I enjoyed the Spielberg movie as well. I thought Daniel Day Lewis gave an excellent and believable performance, for one thing. "Believable" and "Spielberg" aren't two words I generally use together in a sentence, though. I generally loathe his unsubtle emotion manipulating. The Lincoln movie I found rose above that for me.

Fev 4, 2023, 12:48 pm

Jerry, I’ll keep those in mind.

Jerry and Cindy - apologies for my take on the movie. It didn’t work for me in light of reading about all he was doing in Team of Rivals. My issue with the Lewis and the Spielberg movie was that I didn’t feel they captured the complexity of his character. I did feel they tried, but it came across simplified to me.

Editado: Fev 4, 2023, 1:00 pm

>130 dchaikin: "apologies for my take on the movie."

Certainly no need to apologize! All opinions welcomed here. Speaking for myself, I would never go to a Steven Spielberg movie expecting complexity of any sort!

Fev 4, 2023, 1:03 pm

>131 rocketjk: lol. I still love Empire of the Sun, my favorite pre-college big-screen movie (excepting maybe The Princess Bride, but I certainly never saw that in a theater)

Fev 4, 2023, 2:04 pm

>131 rocketjk: I agree with your take on Spielberg movies and I enjoyed your review of the Lincoln biography

Fev 4, 2023, 3:37 pm

>130 dchaikin: oh my goodness no apologies nec! We all have our own sense of what works for them. No explanation required sily

Fev 4, 2023, 4:01 pm

>134 cindydavid4: 🙂 I’m always afraid i’ve condemn someone’s favorite whatever.

Fev 4, 2023, 5:08 pm

You might have but I think all of us have received and given the same and lived to tell the story, so to speak

Fev 6, 2023, 8:11 pm

>106 rocketjk: I'm all behind on everything and just now catching up a bit—American Midnight looks really good. Have you read The Great Influenza? Barry talks about how Wilson's clampdown on public speech helped speed the 1917 influenza pandemic, because talking about the spreading virus was tantamount to criticizing the U.S.

Fev 6, 2023, 9:43 pm

>137 lisapeet: wow, Ive been learning a lot of different things about Wilson the last few months, mostly through the reviews of these books here. I am coming away with a much more realistic view of him; he wasn't the peace maker I thought he was.

Fev 8, 2023, 11:24 am

Hi Jerry, there is something I wanted to share: I am currently listening to Letters of Note: Music, edited by Shaun Usher (the works and editions on LT are terribly messed up, but I am listening to the specific book featuring letters concerned with music).

The book includes an open letter by Charles Mingus to Miles Davis. I have heard about Miles Davis, but I don't know anything about Jazz, yet also the name Charles Mingus rang a bell and I remembered reading about him on your thread in >48 rocketjk:!

I also found the letter online:

I think this was one of those wonderful LT moments when you recognize something just because you read about it here and learn from the wonderful people you meet :-)

Fev 8, 2023, 12:49 pm

>139 MissBrangwen: Oh, thank you so much for that link. I think I'd heard of that letter somewhere along the line, but never read it. And thanks, in general, for the sentiment you shared here.

" . . . one of those wonderful LT moments when you recognize something just because you read about it here and learn from the wonderful people you meet :-)"

I know exactly what you mean and all I can say is . . . Amen!

Fev 8, 2023, 6:35 pm

>139 MissBrangwen: No one ever claimed that great musicians were easy to get along with. I had not seen that letter before - very interesting.

Fev 11, 2023, 9:20 am

That Letters of Note series is neat. I subscribe to Usher's email, which gets me a letter from one of his books in my inbox every day (though some are behind the paywall for subscribers, which I'm not).

Editado: Fev 11, 2023, 8:21 pm

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

This is a beautiful reverie of a novel about life in the small, rural Kentucky river town of Port William, the people who live and, especially, farm there and the changes that gradually drain the life out of the town's way of life over the years, from the 1910s through the 1980s. The story is told via a sort of fictional talking memoir by the title character. Born near the town in the 1914, Jonah Crow is orphaned not once, but twice. His parents are killed by the Spanish flu when he is a small boy, and Jonah is taken in by an aunt and uncle. But when they die, too, Jonah lands in an orphanage at age 10, finally returning to Port William as a young man and quickly becoming the town barber. Jonah, whose name gradually evolves until he is known by one and all as Jayber, is an outsider many times over. As an orphan, he is separated from the general flow of life of Port William, which flows via family life from generation to generation. As the proprietor of a business that will barely support one person, he has sentenced himself, knowingly, to a life of bachelorhood in a community that, again, values family. All this is an effective strategy by Berry to create in his character the ultimate observer of and commentator about the life of the town and the gradual death of its way of life.

The wonderful strengths of this book are Berry's powers of observation and description, his obvious love of his fictional town, its people and rhythms and its natural setting. Berry is also a poet, and as one of the blurbs on the back of my edition of this book points out, that poetic facility is readily evident in the ebb and flow of Berry's sentences and paragraphs. There is love and sadness in this book, but also much gladness and humor. Here are some examples:

She was the heroine of a famous story. One time before the war, before her losses, she and Maxie Settle and Dora Cotman were sitting on her back porch hulling peas when Thig Cotman came up in one of his fits. He cursed and ranted, damning them and everybody he knew and himself into the bargain, and demanded to know what Miss Dora had done with his razor, for he wanted to cut his throat with it. And poor Miss Dora, who had hidden the razor for fear that he would cut his throat with it, just sat with her head down until Miss Gladdie said, "Thig, Forrest Senior's got a razor. He would never let you shave with it, but if you wanted to cut your throat with it I'm sure that would be all right." You could see, still, that she was the woman who had said that.

I thought a good deal about Forrest Junior and wondered where he was buried and if anybody even knew where. I imagined that soldiers who are killed in war just disappear from the places where they are killed. Their deaths may be remembered by the comrades who saw them die, if the comrades live to remember. Their deaths will not be remembered where they happened. They will not be remembered in the halls of the government. Where do dead soldiers die who are killed in battle? They die at home--in Port William and thousands of other little darkened places, in thousands upon thousands of houses like Miss Gladdie's where The News comes, and everything on the tables and shelves is all of a sudden a relic and a reminder forever.

Human nature, and, by the way, a pretty much exact description of my own father's world view
He also was a son of the Depression. He was born in 1932, right in the bottom of it, and before it ended he had grown into knowledge of it. He got what he thought was the point: national prosperity, and especially the prosperity of the nation's farmers, was not permanent; it was not to be depended on; the predictions and promises of politicians and their experts were not to be depended on; it all had come to nothing once, it all could come to nothing again. As much as any of the old-timers, he regarded the Depression as not over and done with but merely absent for a while, like Halley's Comet. He suspected that the world of the Depression was in fact the real world. . . . He had perceived, with the help of some instruction from his elders, that there were people in the world who proposed that he should work hard for his money, and that they would then take it from him easily. He did not consent to this.

The passage of time and the passing away of a way of life
Now the conversation in my shop was burdened with the knowledge that their {the town's farmers'}work might come to an end. A good many of them already knew to a certainty that they did not know who would be next to farm their farms, or if their farms would be farmed at all. All of them knew that neither farming nor the place would continue long as they were. The dignity of continuity had been taken away. Both past and future were disappearing from them, the past because nobody would remember it, the future because nobody could imagine it. What they knew was passing from the world. Before long it would not be known. They were the last of their kind.

Faith and prayer
I prayed like a man walking in a forest at night, feeling his way with his hands, at each step fearing to fall into pure bottomlessness forever. Prayer is liked lying awake at night, afraid, with your head under the cover, hearing only the beating of your own heart. It is like a bird that has blundered down the flue and is caught indoors and flutters at the windowpanes. It is like standing a long time on a cold day, knocking at a shut door.

That's a lot of quotes, sorry, but I had marked them all as I read and couldn't forbid myself the indulgence of including them all here.

Fev 12, 2023, 1:08 pm

Post-Jayber Crow I went back to the now foreshortened Stack 3 of my Between Books:

* "Koufax Again Tied Feller Mark of 18 Whiffs" from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Simpleton and His Little Black Hen" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "Laxton, Northamptonshire” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Music: Imported Batons” by Eric Salzman from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, March 1963

I'm now about 100 pages into the third entry in Greg Iles' fun Penn Cage mystery/thriller series, The Devil's Punchbowl.

Fev 12, 2023, 1:12 pm

>137 lisapeet: Oh, hi, Lisa. I was just scrolling back through my thread, here, and realized I'd never responded to your comment. I haven't yet read The Great Influenza, though we have it in the house, as my wife has read it and enjoyed it. One of these days . . . :)

Thanks, as always, for stopping in here. American Midnight is, indeed, quite good.

Fev 13, 2023, 5:59 am

>143 rocketjk: Nice review, and nice book. I was surprised to see that it is a fairly recent book (published in 2000).

Fev 13, 2023, 12:09 pm

>146 raton-liseur: When I first posted Jayber Crow to my LT library, I saw that the book is in fact an entry into Berry's Port William Membership series. In my usual reading practice, that would have meant that I'd have had to order up a copy of the series' first book, Nathan Coulter and then read through the series in order at least until I worked my way to Jayber Crow. But I was reading Jayber Crow for my monthly book group, so I didn't have the opportunity to indulge that particular completist compulsion. In LT's listing of the series, Jayber Crow is presented as the 4th in a 9-book series. I haven't burrowed through them all to see whether this LT listing is chronological by publishing date, or what. As you say, though, Jayber Crow was published in 2000, while Nathan Coulter was published in 1960. So Berry has been coming back to write about this town for at least 40 years. My suspicion would be that in one or two of the books, Berry went back and wrote about a generation or two previous to the time span covered in Jayber (1915-1986), but that mostly the books cover that same time period but through the eyes of different characters. My guess is that all together they add up to something grand. At much as I loved Jayber Crow, though, I feel like that book gave me a full enough experience of the time and place, at least for now, and don't feel an urge to read any of the other Port William books right away.

Fev 13, 2023, 2:36 pm

>147 rocketjk: Thanks for your detailed answer. Wendell Berry is a name I hear for the first time, and it seems only some of his essays have been translated in French so far. So I'll keep my eyes open for this novel, but won't go out of my way to get it (especially as I have a similar completist syndrom as you, and I am not ready to commit to such a 9-book series right now).

Editado: Fev 16, 2023, 6:41 pm

The Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles

This is the third entry in Greg Iles' Penn Cage mystery/thriller series. Cage is an ex-Houston Assistant District Attorney who, at series start, has moved back to his hometown, Natchez, Mississippi. By now he is the mayor, two years into his 4-year term. As the book begins, an old friend brings Cage evidence that their is evil afoot emanating from the riverboat casino whose presence Cage, as mayor, has arranged for in order to bring jobs and tax revenue. Before long, naturally, mayhem has ensued. The evildoers running the casino are, in fact, evil indeed. Very evil. Super evil. Cage, though, calls in the cavalry, in the person of a super-competent mercenary with a heart of gold who comes to Natchez after taking a leave of absence from his job, whatever it might be, in Afghanistan. Soon a team is assembled and the gloves are off! Except the bad guys are threatening Cage's family and nobody knows who in town, from the local DA to the chief of police on down, is in the bad guys' pocket. It might sound like I'm making fun, and I kind of am, a bit. But if one is in the mood for some willing suspension of disbelief, this book is fun, though with a caveat (described shortly). The writing is good, and the storyline pulls you along enjoyably. The cliches, though present (people sometimes just don't stand motionless, for example, they stand "utterly motionless") are kept down to a dull roar (as my father would have put it). The real caveat are some graphic descriptions of violence, both a rape scene and a dogfight scene. I understood the need for the graphic dogfight, as Iles was trying, I think, to make sure the reader understood how horrific dogfighting is. As such, it is pretty effective. The two rapes scenes, I found gratuitous entirely. The events are important to the plot, but the graphic descriptions I didn't think were necessary. All told, though, we're talking about around 10 pages worth of a 707-page book. Some of the descriptive writing, about the nature and architecture of the Mississippi River area, where the river flows between Mississippi and Louisiana, was quite good. Also, Cage has, as mayor, been trying to end the de facto segregation of the town's public schools, so he is aware of and involved in actual social issues to a certain extent. He's a conflicted good guy's conflicted good guy. If my caveats are not deal killers for you, and if you are in the mood from some escapist good vs. evil thriller reading, this series is OK.

Fev 16, 2023, 6:42 pm

>149 rocketjk: I read a few of Iles's thrillers and they are, indeed, ok. I like that they are set somewhere other than the usual London/LA/NY and that he takes time to describe the place and culture, but they are, well, wordy and I finally lost patience when it was clear he'd just learned to fly a helicopter and would painstakingly describe every detail in that process every time the protagonist had to fly somewhere, which was often.

Fev 16, 2023, 6:53 pm

>150 RidgewayGirl: Wordy, indeed, and they seem to get longer as the series goes along. I'm going to give the series at least one more go and eventually read the 4th entry, Natchez Burning. I already own the two after that, as well, but there is such a thing as Goodwill.

Fev 17, 2023, 1:24 am

Tonight's post-The Devil's Punchbowl stroll through Stack 1 of my "Between Books:"

* “The Black Bullock” from Spring Sowing by Liam O'Flaherty
* “Reliving an Earlier Gaza Massacre” from Gaza Mom: Politics, Parenting and Everything in Between by Laila El-Haddad
* Excerpts from Typee by Herman Melville in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “John R. Tunis” from No Cheering in the Press Box edited by Jerome Holtzman
* “Books: Genocide?” by Norman Podheretz from Show: The Magazine of the Arts - March 1963

Now it's on to Civil Rights Movement leader Andrew Young's doorstop of a memoir, An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America.

Fev 17, 2023, 8:53 am

>143 rocketjk: terrific review of Jayber Crow. I enjoyed all those quotes

>149 rocketjk: definitely not a book for me, but fun review.

Fev 17, 2023, 9:34 am

Hi, Jerry! I liked the first few Penn Cage novels but they got increasingly baroque and graphically violent. I stalled out after The Bone Tree even though I have Mississippi Blood sitting on my coffee table staring accusingly at me. Maybe it's been long enough now that I can see if it lands better.

Or not. :-)

Editado: Fev 17, 2023, 10:25 am

>153 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan. There were a few times when I thought that Berry went on a bit long about the wonderfulness of nature and such, but mostly it's a terrific book if character and place can do for you rather than a strong, driving plot.

>154 rosalita: Yep. As I mentioned to Kay above, I'm going to read Natchez Burning sometime relatively soon and then see what I think. I do own the Bone Tree and Mississippi Blood already, but if I don't like Natchez Burning, those next two might just get donated somewhere. It's too bad, because Iles is a pretty good writer. But sometimes series can go off the rails when authors fall too deeply in love with the sound of their own voices (and/or they get bad advice from their publishers, I guess). Thanks for stopping by!

Editado: Fev 23, 2023, 3:47 pm

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott

Thistlefoot is a whimsical, though very often dark, novel based on Eastern European mythology with magical realism the rule of the day. Isaac and Ballatine Yaga are brother and sister, Jewish young adults living in more or less modern day U.S. and the grandchildren of a refugee from anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia. They have been raised on the road, working with their parents in an itinerant traveling puppet show. At 17, Isaac has run off to discover himself via a life on the road. Seven years later, the siblings learn that their grandmother has died and left them an inheritance that is being delivered from Eastern Europe. The sibling reunite on the New York City pier where their inheritance is being delivered. This inheritance turns out to be an entire house. But this house is alive, if not sentient, and it is mobile, for it has legs and can both walk and run. And it can understand commands, as long as they are delivered in Yiddish. Soon they also learn that a being with evil powers is hunting the house and so, now, them. The story is based on the Slavic folklore of Baba Yaga, a woodland witch who is sometimes evil but sometimes a helper.

So there’s plenty of willing suspension of disbelieve needed to enjoy this tale. That would be fine with me, if it weren’t for the fact that I found the writing, on a sentence and paragraph level, sadly lacking. This is a first novel for Nethercott, and she doesn’t seem to be in control of her prose at all. Most damaging, for me, at any rate, is the fact that the pages are full of cliches and lazy language. People glower. Their eyes become daggers. Pain scurries up people’s spines. Opening the book to a random page, one can find this: “Tom’s knuckles paled as they tightened on the wheel. His foot sank into the gas pedal, grave as a pocket filled with stones. . . .”

At one point we read, “The street was Dickensian, as if recreated from some Victorian era slum.” Well, but either you think I know what “Dickensian” means or you don’t. If you think I do, you don’t need the second part of the sentence. If you think I don’t, leave out the reference. And so forth. It’s unfortunate, because the storytelling and the imaginative thinking behind it are pretty good, especially in the book’s second half. The horrors of the pogroms and of lives cut short. The value of bearing witness and the illusory qualities of time and place. These and other elements make for a nice, thought-provoking narrative, as the story of the house and its pursuer are unfolded. Or they would have for me, if only I didn’t feel like I was getting poked in the eye with cliches and empty metaphors every paragraph. Well, I know that readers respond to these sorts of issues differently, and some folks just don’t care about them. Those lucky readers will enjoy this book much more than I did. Still, 3 ½ stars from me for the storytelling moxie.

Fev 23, 2023, 3:50 pm

Oh it sounded so good at first, but now im not sure Id like it. Think I might?

Fev 23, 2023, 4:31 pm

>156 rocketjk: I have that on the virtual shelf because I heard her on an episode of the podcast "So Many Damn Books" and the plot sounded juuuust on the side of something I would like. I have a soft spot for the Baba Yaga legend, anyway. The writing sounds pretty eh, but I may give it a try at some point.

Fev 23, 2023, 4:50 pm

>157 cindydavid4: & >158 lisapeet: All I can say is that my wife, who also has a high bar when it comes to sentence/paragraph level writing, loved the book, which is actually the reason I read it. She asked me to read it sooner rather than later so we could talk about it, so of course I did. She acknowledged my points about the writing but enjoyed the storytelling enough that what normally might have bugged her about the writing didn't this time. So, obviously, mileage varies. Give it a go. Who knows?

Fev 24, 2023, 12:55 pm

This isn't going to impress many of you too much, but we can go years, even decades, between serious snowfalls here in Mendocino County (northern CA, USA). Here's what things looked like yesterday morning from our front deck.

Across the valley floor to the hills beyond, pretty much due east.

Also from the deck, looking southeast.

Fev 24, 2023, 12:58 pm

For my post-Thistlefoot "Between Book" reading, I took a wander through Stack 2:

* “Confession” from Secret Records in The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “T is for Texas and a Few Other States” from Good for a Laugh: A New Collection of Humorous Tidbits and Anecdotes from Aardvark to Zythum by Bennett Cerf
* “The Basis of Faith in Art” from Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams
* “Slow Death” by E.C. Forrest from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* "Europe’s Uncommon Market" by Frank Gibney from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, March 1963

Now it's on to Andrew Young's doorstop (540 pages) of a memoir, An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America.

Fev 24, 2023, 12:59 pm

>160 rocketjk: That is a heck of a view, Jerry, with or without the snow! And as someone living in Iowa who regularly gets buried in the white stuff every winter, I would say what you've got there is the perfect amount of snow. :-)

Editado: Fev 24, 2023, 1:12 pm

>162 rosalita: " . . . the perfect amount of snow."

Pretty much, yeah. Although the photo doesn't really do credit to how high that mountain range across the valley is, nor the fact that the only way over it is a twisting 2-lane road that is more than a little guardrail deficient. I used to have to drive that road to and fro to work when I owned my bookstore. It snows harder up in elevation. Once I had to drive home after dark while it was snowing. Visibility was about 5 feet. Otherwise, all you saw was the snow coming straight at you. The guys who work to keep that road cleared from rockfalls (much more often) and (in this rare case) snow do a terrific job. But I had one friend who went halfway off the road yesterday, just before the road got closed, and was lucky to survive the incident. Anyway, that road's still closed, as we had another snowfall last night. Our German shepherd is not amused, as she's never seen/felt the like. Well, but like you said, relatively minor stuff compared with most northern parts of the country.

Anyway, crazy as it seems, my wife and I are in the planning stages of a new adventure: a year in New York City, starting in June. So we may be experiencing much more snowfall next winter.

Fev 24, 2023, 1:11 pm

Yes, lovely view. Hills>>>flatlands.

Fev 24, 2023, 1:16 pm

>163 rocketjk: Beautiful. Our german shepherd loves the snow, despite having been born in Florida, but he hates the rain. He clamps his ears down and sulks at having to go outside when it's raining.

Fev 24, 2023, 1:51 pm

>156 rocketjk: I think that I might be ok with those quoted examples, but maybe not (“grave as a pocket full of stones” is a tough one). Interesting review.

>160 rocketjk: beautiful, from here, where i’m not worried about road conditions

>161 rocketjk: how are those William Carlos Williams essays? Must be decent, assuming that’s why you’re still reading them.

>165 labfs39: my shepherd mutt hates the rain too. She pouts and looks sad. Sometimes when the rain is never ending we have to force her to go outside so she can relieve herself.

Fev 24, 2023, 2:23 pm

>166 dchaikin: Thanks for dropping in, Dan. The problem for me with the writing in Thistlefoot is that the cliches and flabby metaphors are relentless. You can literally open the book to any page at random (as I did for that grave pocket full of stones) and find five or six examples. It got to the point for me that I could barely enjoy the storyline because I was continually on the lookout for problem spots. It was kind of like having a nice hike ruined because you have to continually be looking at the trail to keep from tripping over large rocks. But, yes, that was my personal reaction. The issue for me is not that the problematic language was occasional, but that it was basically continual.

The Williams essays are interesting, but not easy reads. The language is dense, and sometimes the subject matter is a bit obscure (or at least my feeble brain has found it so). The pieces are re-published from periodicals originally published in the 1930s forward and are primarily about writers and writing. They're written with an audience of other writers/critics/intellectuals in mind. It's sometimes hard to discern exactly what he is getting at. He is continually lobbying for precise and original use of language. He likes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and Marianne Moore. So, in a way, I guess reading them, at least so far, is more of an intellectual exercise than a pure pleasure read. I love his poetry, though, as well as his short stories. I used to have a cool, old collection of Williams' short fiction, but I lent it to someone about 20 years ago and never got it back, and I'm no longer in touch (no particular reason, these things happen) with the loanee. So I guess you could say I still own the collection, I just no longer have it.

Same for our German shepherd. The front of our yard is fenced in, so although she gets at least one long walk daily, she often just wants to go wander in the yard. But when it rains, she just stands at the door looking puzzled, as if thinking, "Why would you even open the door with all this going on?" But she will go anywhere when accompanied, so somebody will have to gear up and take her.

Fev 24, 2023, 6:18 pm

>164 LolaWalser: Thanks, LW!

Fev 25, 2023, 2:05 am

>160 rocketjk: A Californian myself, it had never occurred to me that it would snow at all in Mendocino, so I'm impressed!

Our dog loved the rain. And the snow. And the wind, especially the wind! With heavy rain, she would occasionally look at it and consider whether or not her business could wait, but in general she was an all-weather dog (Australian cattle dog, double coat).

Fev 25, 2023, 3:21 am

I was way behind in your topic and am now caught up. I was an undergraduate in the mid-80s and in a paper I wrote I compared Spielberg to a MacDonald’s hamburger.

Fev 25, 2023, 10:33 am

>160 rocketjk: That's more snow than we've gotten this year in southeast Pennsylvania.

Fev 28, 2023, 9:49 am

And more snow than we had in NYC until today, when we have an inch and a half of very wet, heavy stuff in the North Bronx. And yes, I shoveled it, even though it's going to warm up tomorrow—but first it's going to freeze, and we live on a steep hill, so better an hour of grunt work than someone hurt on my sidewalk.

Editado: Fev 28, 2023, 12:55 pm

>172 lisapeet: "it's going to warm up tomorrow—but first it's going to freeze . . . "

That's the real irritation/danger that I remember from growing up in New Jersey and going to college in downtown Boston (Boston University). First you get snow. Then you get a sunny afternoon and the snow melts. Then a freeze that turns the melted snow to ice on the sidewalks and roads. Then more snow on top of that to hide the frozen patches from sight. Also the car exhaust to turn the lovely white snow drain sludge brown.

Where I live in the very rural Mendocino County area called Anderson Valley, there are essentially only three ways out of town. We have Route 128, a two lane twisty road that runs, essentially, north and south from the Sonoma County town of Cloverdale to the coast. The road comes out just south of the town of Mendocino. This is about 80 miles. My town, Boonville, is right at the halfway point along this road. Also, you can go northeast to Ukiah, the Mendocino County seat. This is another 2-line road. It's only 18 miles in length, but it goes straight up a mountain range, travels along the summit for three miles, and then straight down. This road, Route 253, essentially follows the mountainside. Hence it is also extremely curved, and guardrails are at, shall we say, a premium. There are many steep, unprotected drops. This is the road I drove back and forth to work every day for 8 years when I owned my bookstore. You'll not be surprised to learn that it snows much more frequently and with much more gusto up in elevation on this road. So the road has been closed off and on for the past several days. The road south from Boonville to Cloverdale got covered during our heavy snowfall (see photos above), and between the large downed trees falling across the road and the smashed up cars and even one semi littered along the 40-mile stretch, the whole thing's been shut down since the snowfall last week. So that's two of the three ways out of town essentially closed off. There are smaller roads that go to the coast as well, but they go over the mountains to the west rather than following the valley floor (yes, Anderson Valley is really a valley). Luckily, 253 was open on Sunday afternoon (it had been closed all morning) so I could drive my wife to Santa Rosa further south, whence she began her current trip to Morocco with her niece, and then get back, but that meant more miles and over the mountain twice. By the time I got to the summit on my way home, there were only 23 miles of power showing in my EV's battery. (This was my fault, however, as I basically was too lazy to charge up in Santa Rosa and decided to risk getting all the way over that mountain and home to the charging station installed in our garage.) I was sweating my way up that incline and along the ridge, but once I got to the downslope I was OK, as the battery regains power when you go downhill, especially when you apply your breaks. I was back up to 41 miles when I got to my house. At any rate, these days I count my blessings. I don't live in a refugee camp and there are no Russian artillery shells landing on my house, so I figure I'm playing with house money all in all.

If you're interested, you can go to google maps or Apple maps, whichever you use, and put in directions for Cloverdale, CA, to Mendocino, CA, and you'll see the road(s) I've been describing and also where I live (Boonville).

Fev 28, 2023, 2:03 pm

I’m glad you made it home

Fev 28, 2023, 2:53 pm

>174 dchaikin: Thanks! It would have been embarrassing (and a long wait) if I'd had to call AAA. When you run out of gas, someone can come with a gallon can, but when your EV battery dies on the road, the only thing that can be done is a tow to a charging station (in this case my house, but still . . . ).

Mar 1, 2023, 2:48 am

Ah I didn't realize you were in Boonville. I've only been there once (Morgan and I spent a couple of days after our wedding in Mendocino), but of course I knew of it from Boont Ale/Boontling.

Glad you were able to get home, that sounds like a nail-biter.

Mar 1, 2023, 11:55 pm

Yeah, downhills are a real blessing in an EV...they help a little (by letting you freewheel) in a gas car, but for an EV they can actually recharge. A little, anyway. The first time we took my parent's Bolt EV to Tahoe (from the East Bay (SF Bay Area)), we only made it to the charger because of that long twisty downhill on Route 50 coming in. Since then there are more chargers available, and we no longer go into the mountains on less than half-full (preferably 80%), so no more nail-biters like that - but that was 2017, and the only charger available was a Level 2 - not much use over lunch!

Mar 2, 2023, 12:33 am

>177 jjmcgaffey: "the only charger available was a Level 2 - not much use over lunch!"

Right. You really need overnight for the mid-speed chargers. And thanks, you just reminded me to go plug my car in!

Mar 2, 2023, 2:45 am

Glad I could help!

Mar 2, 2023, 4:04 am

I recently had a similar situation. I had been trying to find a nurse to give me an anti Covid jab and just before lunchtime (still sacred in France) I finally found someone who had some vaccine in stock. The gorgeous Marina said she was finishing at 12.30 and would not be back in the afternoon and after that she would no longer have the vaccine. OK I said I would be at the clinic by 12.30. It was approaching midday and the clinic was in a small town (Vic-en-Bigorre) some 40 minutes away. I jumped in the EV and put my foot down glanced at the battery power level and noticed it was 20%. There are charging points in Vic-en-Bigorre, but my charging lead does not fit inside them. So I was driving along furiously calculating how many kilometres I could do: I thought I could get to the clinic, but getting back home would be touch and go. Do I ease off the accelerator and miss the appointment or do I keep my foot down. I sort of tried to do both and arrived at the clinic at 12.40, I dashed inside, went to the wrong floor where people were having their flu jabs, raced back downstairs and bumped into Marina as she was leaving her office. Are you Barry? she said taking off her coat and marching me into her office. I got my jab in double quick time and then could contemplate the journey home; I had used half the available charge. By careful driving (I had left my phone behind in the rush to get going) and making use of all the downhill slopes I got back OK . After lunch I got a phone call from the gorgeous Marina informing me that I was not eligible to have the jab so I asked her if she wanted it back - she laughed.

Mar 2, 2023, 9:41 am

>180 baswood: wow what an adventure. Glad she has a sense of humor. And why dont the put out more chargers before they have electric cars? One reason I am not getting one yet

Editado: Mar 2, 2023, 1:15 pm

>181 cindydavid4: "And why dont they put out more chargers before they have electric cars?"

I don't think anybody was going to go to the effort and expense to install a comprehensive electric charger system without knowing whether EVs were going to be successful and popular. In the U.S., anyway, where supply and demand, profit/loss, are still pretty much the drivers (you should pardon the expression) of everything. I can't speak for France, of course, but I think overall it's pretty much a chicken and egg deal. The more electric cars appear on the roads, the more charging stations will be set up.* But the bottom line for me is that with proper managing, you can stay topped up and ready to go fairly easily. The situations that Barry and I were describing were exceptions. For driving close to home, where a vast majority of most folks do their driving, EVs are ideal. Anyway, there are plusses and minuses to anything; EVs are no exception, there.

* Possibly an exception to this is VW. Several years back, the company got into hot water in the U.S. because they were knowingly lying about the fuel efficiency of their diesel-powered vehicles. As part of the court settlement, they had to agree to spending a couple of billion dollars (I don't really know the exact amount, but it was a lot) on green infrastructure here. They chose to set up a coast-to-coast system of charging stations. So now they sell a lot of EVs (like the one I own) by adding the perk of making their charging system free for VW owners/leasers. We have two apps on our phones that help us find charging stations when we're driving long distance. One is from VW that just shows us their stations, and the other shows every station. For long distance driving, there are certainly inconveniences to EVs as compared to gas-powered cars, but then the demand for convenience is, in my opinion, a big part of the reason that we are in the pickle we're in environmentally. Everything's a trade off.

Mar 2, 2023, 2:27 pm

>181 cindydavid4: Ah Cindy In my opinion now is the time for everyone to get an electric car that can afford it. We made the decision purely for environmental reasons, but now we love our EV; it is so easy to drive. We have a Renault Twingo which is excellent for all our daily needs and usually we keep it topped up in the garage at home.

>182 rocketjk: Interesting about VW's in America. here in France we went to our VW dealer and said we wanted an EV and he burst into tears. He said he could not service it. But Renault were all set up and as soon as we had a test drive we were converted.

Mar 2, 2023, 3:43 pm

>182 rocketjk: thanks for clarifying that for me, yes a chicken/egg problem makes sense. Is having a Hybrid a better bet?

Mar 2, 2023, 3:51 pm

>183 baswood: My husband bought a hybrid last year, but he has only had to buy gas a few times. For everyday driving, it's all electric. And he gets to park in the closest spaces, which are charging stations. I'll look at an EV when it comes time to replace my Mini.

Editado: Mar 10, 2023, 2:37 am

An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America by Andrew Young

Andrew Young's memoir of his life and, most importantly, his experiences working alongside Martin Luther King in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is extremely detailed and, at 531 pages, takes a while to get through. However, the journey is very much worthwhile for anyone interested in reading a comprehensive history of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Young's description of his childhood as the son of a middle-class African American family in New Orleans, I found slow going, but it lays the groundwork for understanding the adult Young became. Young's father assumed, and greatly desired, that young Andrew would follow him into the family profession: dentistry. But Young found himself with a calling for the religious life and eventually took control of his own destiny and became a Congregationalist minister. Young was also strongly drawn to working for social change, and within a few years found himself involved in voter registration and anti-segregation campaigns in the Deep South. His skill for organizing, his deep commitment to the Ghandian philosophy of non-violence and his ability to communicate with college- and high school-aged would-be marchers afforded him some early organizational successes. Attached to SCLC to work on a specific project, Young was soon being given more and more responsibility within the organization, eventually rising to the position of Executive Director.

All of that is interesting, but what is truly fascinating is Young's blow by blow account of Martin Luther King's growing prominence and the SCLC's growing importance on the national stage. Young recounts in detail each individual campaign organized and carried out by the SCLC, either on their own or (most frequently) in tandem with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The campaigns for integration of public spaces and voting rights in towns like Albany, Georgia, Montgomery, Alabama and Selma, Alabama are described fully. Young emphasizes the huge amount of planning and preparation that went into each effort. Clear and attainable goals were mapped out for each, and prospective marchers and picketers were given weeks-long training on nonviolent strategies. I found these day-by-day and often hour-by-hour descriptions of the events and personalities involved in these momentous events to be very compelling. In addition, as Young was on the scene for these campaigns, he is able to convey extremely well the sense of fear, frustration and exhilaration he experienced, and we almost feel the blows during the protest at which Young took several billy club blows to the head.

Young also describes to great effect

* The wrangling among the strong personalities and egos at the upper echelons of the SCLC.

* The fraying of the relationship between the SCLC and SNCC as the latter turned from its nonviolent, direction-action beginnings in the Deep South to the more polarized and angry rhetoric of its new, more politicized leaders. To the end, and even as the SNCC leaders began criticizing SCLC leaders as out of touch and accommodationists, King was admonishing Young to remember that even if the two groups' rhetoric and strategies was diverging, their goals were the same, and that the energy and fire of the radicalized SNCC leaders was still needed. Young, though, in retrospect describes the "Black Power" philosophy as in the end futile, because, he says, the group's goal were never adequately defined or articulated and so the likelihood of their accomplishing anything concrete was very slim.

* The slow, hard-fought legislative victories of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, victories that Young describes as important but incomplete because the Johnson Administration, as hard as they'd worked for the bills' passage, refused to send federal marshals south to ensure compliance.

* The frustrations the group experienced when they tried to create direct action programs in northern inner cities, starting with Chicago, because the goals at that point shifted from relatively straightforward ideas like ending segregation and attaining the right to vote to working to eradicate the more deep seated problems of poverty itself and the federal policies that had created the inner city ghettoes:

"In the Chicago campaign, we learned that slums existed in part because they were profitable. Efforts to help poor blacks came into direct conflict with the financial interests of many politacally connected whites. This was in contrast to our experience with demonstrations against segregation in the South, where the local economic power structure usually eventually came around to our side. . . . The {Southern} private sector supported us because we made them realize through our boycotts that they couldn't afford to sacrifice the patronage of the black community and because they quickly realized, to their surprise, that integration brought them even more business. The integration of public facilities in the South didn't cost the economic power structure anything; in fact, integration was a boon to businesses through the South.

However, once we moved North and began to target the deeper, more entrenched problems of poor urban blacks, the private sector turned against us. Now their interest was in favor of maintaining the status quo. Cosmetic or token changes were fine, but not fundamental changes that in the long run would provide a more suitable and healthy society. The nature of the changes we were now seeking would have required a major redetribution of wealth. This, of course, was a very threatening situation. Now
we were the problem."

* The outrage when, recognizing the interconnectivity of racism, poverty and war, King "stepped out of his lane" to forcefully condemn the Vietnam War. This included Lyndon Johnson turning against King and the SCLC in a major way. There were many within the Civil Rights movement who thought that King was needlessly antagonizing the Johnson Administration and thus damaging their cause.

* The grief and rage of the King assassination, as Young takes us through the preceding days and hours and then the harrowing, sorrow filled aftermath. Young also describes the assassination of Robert Kennedy as more or less the final nail in the coffin of the Civil Rights Movement as America had come to know it. The depression and cynicism the two killings created within the black community made it impossible to launch an effective get out the vote campaign in support of Hubert Humphrey (as they'd been able to do to help LBJ defeat Barry Goldwater in 1964). As a senator, Humphrey had been a courageous advocate for Civil Rights as far back as the 1950s. But as Johnson's Vice President, he was tainted by Johnson's war policies, and at any rate the black populace was exhausted. The result was Nixon's victory, and the backlash was on.

Well, I've gone on at length as usual, and yet only provided a short list of the issues described in An Easy Burden. But it's hard to do justice to this deep well of a memoir without descriptions of the many important themes that Young illuminates. Young was in many ways the ultimate insider, though he was in some ways a constant outsider within SCLC. Most of the leaders were fiery Baptists preachers, used to top-down leadership, and, as Young points out, extremely patriarchal in experience and temperament. Even Coretta Scott King had to push herself into a leadership role after her husband's death. As a Congregationalist, Young says, his training was to take a more rational, thoughtful approach, and to be more holistic in his organizational thinking. This sometimes caused the others in SCLC leadership to refer to him as their "conservative" member, something Young admits to resenting. This book stands as an excellent counterpart to the histories I read earlier of SNCC and the Black Panther Party. Of course there are more "objective" historical overviews of the Civil Rights Movement and of the SCLC. They might provide different (or additional) facts and perspectives, but right now I'm finding it hard to imagine a more personal, immersive accounting of those times than this one.

p.s. This is another book from my LT "Big Bang," as I entered it into my library here in March 2008 just after I joined the club.

Mar 10, 2023, 2:19 am

>186 rocketjk: Thanks for the excellent and detailed review! I won’t read the book but this is very interesting to me, as I don’t know anything about this history.

Mar 10, 2023, 2:42 am

>187 FlorenceArt: You're welcome, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. The Civil Rights Movement is really one of the most dramatic stories of American history, certainly within the last 75 years. While I haven't seen it, I think the 14-part TV documentary, "Eyes on the Prize," is pretty highly regarded, if that might be up your alley.

Mar 10, 2023, 12:02 pm

After finishing An Easy Burden, I took a repeat journey through Stack 2 of my "Between Books," but with a bit of adjustment:

* “A Scholar of Castille” by Masuccio Salernitano from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “U is for University” from Good for a Laugh: A New Collection of Humorous Tidbits and Anecdotes from Aardvark to Zythum by Bennett Cerf
* “The Waltz King” by David Ewen from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “The Telephone” by Mary Treadgold from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith - Newly added
* "The Affairs of Jeanne Moreau" by Marguerite Duras from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, March 1963

Also, I've decided to set aside the collection of William Carlos Williams essays I'd been reading through. Most of them are too much of a deep philosophical dive for me. The philosophy would be fine with me, as it's more or less interesting commentary on the creative process, but the language is so dense that it all just bounces off me. I would do the work to continue plowing through, but in the end I didn't really feel I was getting any real illumination thereby. I still very much like his poetry, though, and I love his short stories. C'est la vie.

Now it's on to River of the Dancing Gods, 1980s science fiction by Jack L. Chalker.

Mar 17, 2023, 5:47 pm

The River of Dancing Gods by Jack L. Chalker

Wanting something a little lighter to read after An Easy Burden, I decided to visit our pulp fiction shelves. The River of Dancing Gods is the first book in Jack L. Chalker's 5-book Dancing Gods fantasy series, vintage 1980s. Joe is a cross country trucker, divorced and cut off from seeing his child barreling across a lonely nighttime highway. Marge is a woman in her 30s, on her own after leaving an abusive marriage and out on that same highway going she knows not where. Jumping out of the car of a would-be molester, Marge is hitchhiker through the night, when Joe picks her up. Soon, however, the road becomes hazy and seems to split in two. They take what seems to be the correct fork but in moments are confronted by a strange character standing in the middle of the road, which has, in fact, now disappeared. Long story short, Joe and Marge are recruited to come with this fellow to an alternate world where they will be able to help the good guys in a battle between good and evil in a world that's pre-technology. Well, of course they will. And of course they go. (Joe's alternative, so says the stranger, is to go back to the main road and die in a truck crash within minutes.)

Anyway, after a bit of training, Joe is super strong and has a magic sword. Marge has become a witch (that's a good thing) with ever heightening knowledge of magic spells. Off they are sent, with a few others, on a quest. Well, of course they are! All in all, I'd say there are some very clever bits, and even some humor. (Joe is instructed to give this magic sword a name, and is pleased to settle on calling it Irving, for example.) But there are a lot of holes left where the reader is left to fill in the blanks, world-building wise. Well there are plusses and minuses to fantasy series where each entry is only 263 pages rather than what seems to be the requisite 600 nowadays. There are lots of lazy use of empty-calorie adverbs like "incredibly" and "unbelievable" but otherwise the sentence-level cliches are kept down to a dull roar. We also get a fair helping of 80s-era sexism. Other than that, I found the whole thing to rather genial, but not particularly satisfying, and I won't be reading any more in the series.

Book note: I purchased this paperback from the "used-books for sale" shelf on the second floor of a pub somewhere in the middle of Ireland during a vacation there my wife and I took seven or so years back, so I do have a bit of sentimental attachment to my copy.

Mar 17, 2023, 5:50 pm

Post-The River of the Dancing Gods, it was time for another "Between Books" read. For some reason, I decided on a third straight journey through Stack 2:

* “The Secret” by Paul de Kock from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “V is for VIPs in Washington” from Good for a Laugh: A New Collection of Humorous Tidbits and Anecdotes from Aardvark to Zythum by Bennett Cerf
* “Stamped with Blood” by Albert Brandt from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “The Claimant” by Elizabeth Bowen from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* "The Pedestrian of the Air" by Eugene Ionesco from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, March 1963

Now it's on to Lucia Berlin's impossibly good short story collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women, which I'm rereading because I've selected it for my monthly book group.

Mar 20, 2023, 2:21 pm

Fabulous review of An Easy Burden, Jerry; that's certainly one for the wish list.

I was particularly interested by his comment that "slums existed because they were profitable." A new book, Poverty, by America by the sociologist Matthew Desmond, makes a similar claim, that poverty persists in America because it is profitable to the upper classes.

Andrew Young was a guest lecturer in the hospital I used to work in last month, in honor of Black History Month:

Editado: Mar 20, 2023, 2:59 pm

>192 kidzdoc: Wow, that must have been a great lecture.

Regarding slums and poverty: One of the points Young makes about the inner city slums they encountered when the SCLC set up shop in Chicago is that many of the buildings were owned by absentee landlords who sometimes didn't even know how bad the conditions were in their buildings. They hired property managers who earned raises by keeping maintenance costs low.

One of the points that Richard Rothsteain makes in his great book, The Color of Law (or maybe it was Isabel Wilkerson in her book, Caste, -- I'm not sure which right this second) about the term "inner city" is that it's basically a euphemism for the more accurate word, ghetto, as that word corresponds to what the ghettos of Middle Ages Europe were all about, which was keeping Jews penned up in one small part of the city. Because as soon as an "inner city" neighborhood begins to be gentrified, it stops being referred to as "inner city." So, clearly, an area's location in the middle of a city is not what's being referred to.

Mar 20, 2023, 7:38 pm

>192 kidzdoc: Poverty, by America by the sociologist Matthew Desmond
Hmm, publication is imminent, so he'll probably be making the rounds of interviews. I read Evicted and will be on the lookout for this one too.

>193 rocketjk: the term "inner city" is that it's basically a euphemism for the more accurate word, ghetto
This sounds right and I don't remember it from Caste which doesn't mean a lot but could tip the balance to the other book which I wasn't aware of.

Mar 20, 2023, 7:51 pm

>194 qebo: Hmm, publication is imminent, so he'll probably be making the rounds of interviews.


Sociologist Matthew Desmond on why poverty persists in the U.S.

Mar 20, 2023, 8:02 pm

>194 qebo:" I don't remember it from Caste which doesn't mean a lot but could tip the balance to the other book which I wasn't aware of."

If you have an interest in this subject and you haven't read The Color of Law, by all means do so.

Mar 20, 2023, 8:06 pm

>196 rocketjk: by all means do so
I more interest in things than I have the time or brainpower to absorb, but I did add it to my wishlist.

Mar 20, 2023, 11:49 pm

>197 qebo: I definitely know what you mean.

Mar 21, 2023, 12:44 am

Since this seems to be a recurring theme for you, Jerry, you may be interested to compare such narratives with those of the Black radicals like (for example, because I finished recently a book about her) Claudia Jones (1915-1964). Jones was brought to the US as a child and joined the CPUSA in the 1930s, so her activism (and that of a slew of other Black radical women and men) predates the Civil Rights Movement. It was also rather farther ahead of it in terms of demands for political and economic change, and in particular in the way it addressed the need for gender equality. Prior to her imprisonment and expulsion from the US (Jones would find asylum in Great Britain, like a number of other activists including C. L. R. James) she wrote, among other, a regular column in The Daily Worker dedicated to journalism and analysis from a woman's point of view.

The book I read is Left of Karl Marx : the political life of Black Communist Claudia Jones.

Regarding the "transformation" of the American society... I'm thinking about Henry Louis Gates' book on Reconstruction and its lesson that the US, being founded on exploitation for exploitation, never really "transformed" itself from one period to another, but merely replaced semantic trappings of exploitation for another, "updated" set.

Racism is a structural problem of the US but the deeper problem underneath it (the ultimate reason why racism persisted after the Civil War, after Reconstruction, after the WWII, after the Civil Rights Movement) is capitalism. I'm also reminded of the lesson of the Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong'o who saw independence used to set up an African ruling class as exploitative of the African poor as the white colonialists. For the majority nothing changed.

Until capitalism is overturned other structural problems built on it cannot be eradicated. The slave, the serf, the working poor will continue to be recreated.

Mar 21, 2023, 8:38 am

Terrific review of An Easy Burden. I’m interested in Desmond’s new book (and that bullet point on poverty in your review caught my attention too. Actually all the bullet points were striking.)

Mar 21, 2023, 8:58 am

>186 rocketjk: Echoing the others to say this is a terrific review, Jerry. Definitely one I'll put on my wishlist to look for at the library.

Editado: Mar 21, 2023, 1:51 pm

Thanks, all, for the kind words.

>199 LolaWalser: "this seems to be a recurring theme for you, Jerry,"

Absolutely. You may have noted my posting in the "Beauty of Lists" thread, 29 volumes in length, of the reading I've been doing on this general topic over the past three years or thereabouts, so sincere thanks for the book recommendation. The radicals I've read about have been more recent, relatively speaking, in the books:

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin,
In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s by Clayborne Carson (SNCC, as I'm sure you know, became quite radicalized in its later years.),
Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision by Barbara Ransby, and
Black Power: The Politics of Liberation by Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) and Charles V. Hamilton.

I'm sure I would find learning about Claudia Jones to be extremely interesting. But after 25 histories/memoirs and 4 novels for this project, I'm ready to set the project aside, at least for the time being, although I do have Shirley Chisholm's memoir on my relatively short (77 books!) TBR stack. But, at any rate, I will keep my eye out for the Jones bio.

"Regarding the "transformation" of the American society... I'm thinking about Henry Louis Gates' book on Reconstruction and its lesson that the US, being founded on exploitation for exploitation, never really "transformed" itself from one period to another, but merely replaced semantic trappings of exploitation for another, "updated" set."

After the other reading I had done for this reading project, particularly The New Jim Crow and The Color of Law, I, too wondered about that phrase in Young's title as I began the book. For one thing, he was writing in 1996, when the full effectiveness of Ronald Reagan's policies and the mass incarceration and the force of the racist backlash might have been less clear than they are now. But for another, I guess it might be hard to convince a person who grew up in Jim Crow New Orleans and spent his formative years working among poor Blacks who could be evicted or even killed just for trying to register to vote, but who later went on to become the mayor of a major Southern city (Atlanta), that there hadn't been a significant transformation in American society. So it's a matter of degree, I think, and I'm willing to concede Young his subtitle.

But, certainly, as to Gates' point, "significant" doesn't equal "sufficient." Systemic racism hasn't been rooted out of the U.S., not by a long shot. I think all of us here are all clear on that. Your point about capitalism being at racism's root rings true to me. I think you and I may have different levels of confidence as to whether capitalism can be eradicated here within the next few generations. I hope you are right about that. I used to think that we had a chance, at least, to retain and increase the level to which the country could be said to moving toward social democracy, but now I'm not so sure even about that. Young's contention that the election of Nixon over Humphrey in 1968 was a major turning point in that history seems a logical one to me. Given that, the changes wrought by campaigns by organizations like the SCLC, SNCC and the Black Panthers are still important, in my view, even if they fell far short of their ultimate goals. A lot of people shed blood for those changes.

As Young pointed out, and as I noted in my review . . .

"In the Chicago campaign, we learned that slums existed in part because they were profitable. Efforts to help poor blacks came into direct conflict with the financial interests of many politically connected whites. This was in contrast to our experience with demonstrations against segregation in the South, where the local economic power structure usually eventually came around to our side. . . . The {Southern} private sector supported us because we made them realize through our boycotts that they couldn't afford to sacrifice the patronage of the black community and because they quickly realized, to their surprise, that integration brought them even more business. The integration of public facilities in the South didn't cost the economic power structure anything; in fact, integration was a boon to businesses through the South.

However, once we moved North and began to target the deeper, more entrenched problems of poor urban blacks, the private sector turned against us. Now their interest was in favor of maintaining the status quo. Cosmetic or token changes were fine, but not fundamental changes that in the long run would provide a more suitable and healthy society. The nature of the changes we were now seeking would have required a major redistribution of wealth. This, of course, was a very threatening situation. Now we were the problem."

Whatever one might think about the efficacy of the work Young and King and Baker engaged in, Young's memoir does make for a very interesting history of the events as they unfolded.

Mar 21, 2023, 2:24 pm

Very interesting Jerry

Mar 21, 2023, 3:26 pm

>202 rocketjk:

I used to think that we had a chance, at least, to retain and increase the level to which the country could be said to moving toward social democracy, but now I'm not so sure even about that.

Yes, dear friend, I don't know that there was a point in the last 50 years when the US was within a light year of social democracy. (Maybe one, and that one being roundly derided as fantasy: the Sanders candidacy.) It's been a plunge into the abyss ever since Reagan. Piketty has the numbers showing how steady was the crashing of the working class through the last decades with the concomitant enrichment of the "1%".

As for racism and capitalism, I thought you'd already written about that (other people too; Kendi etc.)--obviously transatlantic mass slavery was used for economic development and racism used to provide its justifications, just as it did for colonialism.

As for differing views from those in the US who have seen positive changes, and those outside the US who observe a certain situation they find appalling (that would be me in New Orleans in 1992, observing de facto segregation, rampant poverty, and reading in the newspaper about an old carnival krewe that preferred to end almost 200 years of tradition rather than admit Black membership), that's understandable. But recall that Katrina revealed such systemic racism that the whole world was appalled.

However, this is absolutely not to say that the struggles of the past are diminished--absolutely not!--it's that they are never over.

Mar 21, 2023, 4:27 pm

>204 LolaWalser: "As for racism and capitalism, I thought you'd already written about that . . . ."

Yes, now that you mention it, in particular via my reviews of Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams, The Slave Ship: A Human History by Marcus Rediker, and They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, all of which I highly recommend.

"However, this is absolutely not to say that the struggles of the past are diminished--absolutely not!--it's that they are never over."


Mar 22, 2023, 9:25 am

An Easy Burden wasn't on my radar and is now, so thank you. And echoing everyone else—great review.

Mar 25, 2023, 2:09 pm

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

This is a reread, picked up again because it was my turn to make a selection, this month, for my reading group, and this is what I picked. I originally finished the collection in 2021, and I'm just going to repost my review from that first reading:

This is a wonderful collection of short stories, full of writing that manages to be heartbreaking and life affirming at the same time. The tales are loosely interconnected and reflective of Berlin's own life. Teaching, single parenthood, childhood time spent in South America, dealing with the grim lifestyle of the alcoholic and the relative peace of recovery, odd jobs, teaching, lovers and marriages, loneliness, spending time in Mexico City with her sister who is dying of cancer . . . the stories in this collection circle back around to these themes, inspecting them from a variety of perspectives. The observations are acute and Berlin's sentence-and paragraph-level writing often made me stop and reread. The title story is a tour de force, the building of a life on the page, minute detail by detail.

From the next to last story in the collection, "Wait a Minute:"

Time stops when someone dies. Of course it stops for them, maybe, but for the mourners time runs amok. Death comes too soon. It forgets the tides, the days growing longer and shorter, the moon. It rips up the calendar. You aren't at your desk or on the subway or fixing dinner for the children. You're reading People in a surgery waiting room, or shivering outside on a balcony smoking all night long. You stare into space, sitting in your childhood bedroom with the globe on the desk. Persia, the Belgian Congo. The bad part is that when you return to your ordinary life all the routines, the marks of the day, seem like senseless lies. All is suspect, a trick to lull us, rock us back into the placid relentlessness of time.

When someone has a terminal disease, the soothing churn of time is shattered. Too fast, no time, I love you, have to finish this, tell him that. Wait a minute! I want to explain. Where is Toby, anyway? Or time turns sadistically slow. Death just hangs around while you wait for it to be night and then wait for it to be morning. Every day you've said good-bye a little. . . . The
camote man whistles in the street below and then you help your sister into the sala to watch Mexico City news and then U.S. news with Peter Jennings. Her cats sit on her lap. She has oxygen but still their fur makes it hard to breathe. "No! Don't take them away. Wait a minute."

Mar 25, 2023, 10:34 pm

wow, that is powerful. Hope your book group likes it

Mar 25, 2023, 11:39 pm

>208 cindydavid4: We meet tomorrow (Sunday). I'll let you know.

Mar 25, 2023, 11:48 pm

>207 rocketjk: That's a book I need to reread. I read a library copy a few years ago and I feel like it's one of those books I shouldn't have plowed straight through to read before my checkout period ended, but taken some time with.

Mar 26, 2023, 6:25 am

>210 lisapeet: I know what you mean. When I first read it a few years back, I read it as a "between book" and so took a lot of time with it. For this reread, because I needed to read it for my book group, I did read it straight through. In a way, the interlocking nature of the stories, and the way they continually revisit three or four themes (the way I intend to put it to my group is that it feels like looking in at the same room with the same people in it several times, but each time through a different window and thereby for a different perspective), makes this collection particularly apt for reading straight through. Much better to be able to do that slowly and deliberately, however. They are definitely stories that include both writing quality and insights worth savoring.

Mar 26, 2023, 10:53 am

Nice review of A Manual for Cleaning Women, Jerry. It's on my library wish list, so hopefully I'll get to it this summer.

Mar 26, 2023, 11:21 am

>207 rocketjk: It’s on my wishlist too, thanks to you and… I think someone else mentioned it, but I’m not sure who.

Mar 26, 2023, 12:24 pm

>207 rocketjk: powerful extracts from "A Manual for Cleaning Women"
How old are the members of your book group - will they relate to this story of dealing with death?

Editado: Mar 26, 2023, 12:46 pm

>214 baswood: "will they relate to this story of dealing with death?"

Oh, yes. At 67, I'm the youngest. Plus, two in the group are recently retired doctors.

Mar 26, 2023, 12:58 pm

Post-A Manual for Cleaning Women I took a wander through Stack 3 of my "Between Books."

* "Face and Radatz Majors’ Leading Firemen" from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Swan Maiden" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "At Manchester Grammer School” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Flashing Spikes” by Frank O’Rourke from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin - Newly added! **
* “Henry Moore” – no writer's byline, but photographed by Irving Penn from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, March 1963

** This is a paperback collection of YA sports stories published in 1957. This first story was quite good. I am one of only two LT members to have this volume listed in his/her library.

I'm now about 60 pages into the 10th book in Philip Kerr's excellent Bernie Gunther noir series, The Lady from Zagreb.

Mar 28, 2023, 7:13 am

>207 rocketjk: The passage you quote sold me. Onto the wishlist it goes.

Mar 28, 2023, 12:18 pm

>208 cindydavid4: et. al. . . Reporting in as promised on my reading group's reaction to A Manual for Cleaning Women. One member didn't come and only told another group member he was going to show. Reportedly, he didn't say why. I didn't press, but my guess is he didn't like the stories. (I'll find out at our upcoming Passover seder. This fellow is not likely to withhold his opinion.) He is one of the two recently retired doctors in the group, the other of whom was hiking in South America, so also, obviously, not on hand. So that's the doctors out. Otherwise, three of the four who came loved the writing and the stories, and the fourth found some of the prose flat (he objected to the passages that were composed of accumulations of details) but also did enjoy a lot of writing. So all in all a very positive reaction.

Mar 28, 2023, 3:38 pm

>218 rocketjk: I have been known to skip a book club meeting when I have nothing positive to say.

Mar 28, 2023, 4:19 pm

>219 RidgewayGirl: I have been known to skip a book club meeting when I have nothing positive to say.

I understand the wish to skip, but often it's more interesting for the group when someone has another point of view than that of those who liked the book, especially if it's well stated. It's good to hear different perspectives.

Mar 28, 2023, 5:51 pm

>218 rocketjk: yay for planting seeds of new readers of books in translation! glad it went well

Mar 28, 2023, 5:52 pm

>219 RidgewayGirl: If I have finished it and still don't like it, Ill go to add my 5 cents. If its dnf I still go because sometimes the conversation will perk my curiousity and Ill try it again

Editado: Mar 28, 2023, 6:17 pm

>219 RidgewayGirl: et. al . . . I am sometimes tempted to skip a gathering if I've really disliked a particular reading group selection, but usually will follow through and attend. We are generally respectful of each others' feelings, so the tradition is to rein in one's contempt for a book we feel to be wretched, basically out of friendship. In fact, I have once or twice found it frustrating to have to curb my tongue regarding a book I've really reviled. At any rate, I don't hold it against somebody for skipping a meeting for that reason if that's what they'd prefer. The groups are supposed to be fun, and if a member doesn't think that discussing a particular book would be enjoyable, then by all means give the meeting a miss. It's all good. Anyway, this fellow might just have decided to stay home and watch an NCAA tournament basketball game for all I know.

Mar 28, 2023, 11:04 pm

I've never been in a book club (unless LT counts?) but your perspectives intrigue me. On the one hand, sharing reading experiences with other people in a live spontaneous discussion, a conversation, may be the most thrilling and worthwhile thing ever*, and wouldn't that argue for choosing especially difficult books or topics? But on the other, we must be realistic and value friendships (even not very deep ones) and can't go burning bridges on people--or not often, anyway.

*Now I'm flashing to Socrates, how he used to hang around the agora just waiting for anyone to talk with... about everything. He didn't just sit in a corner musing to himself--ancient philosophy came to us as pure talk.

Editado: Mar 29, 2023, 11:40 am

>224 LolaWalser: "On the one hand, sharing reading experiences with other people in a live spontaneous discussion, a conversation, may be the most thrilling and worthwhile thing ever*, and wouldn't that argue for choosing especially difficult books or topics? But on the other, we must be realistic and value friendships (even not very deep ones) and can't go burning bridges on people--or not often, anyway."

Well said, and that's certainly a key question. Another element to your comment, especially as it pertains to your "But on the other hand . . . ," is the specific nature of my group itself, and its composition. Although everybody in my group, obviously, likes to read, there is a varying quality to the sort of reading that we all do, and the degree to which we're accustomed to literary criticism. I am the only one in the group, for example, who has any real experience, certainly any professional experience, as a writer, so I am the only one who wants to talk about craft. So since I know I'm the only one making observations and judgements along those lines, and I will comment on those things from time to time, there's no point in my trying to make a major issue within the conversation of those factors. Nobody else is as interested in that as I am. If I were in a reading group full of writers or lit majors, I think it would be a different story. But we do often read books with difficult, opinion generating, topics. And we certainly have lively discussions wherein negative opinions are expressed. And, to be clear, these are guys with incredible experience and expertise that far outstrips any feeble accumulation of knowledge I might posses. Two doctors and an architect, for example. I'm just the only English major in the bunch. And, at any rate, as I've said, it's just that we also make a point of considering the feelings of the person who has selected the book. This group is really more focused on the friendship than on anything else. So I take the group, and thoroughly enjoy it, on that level. But we've read some cool books, too, certainly many that I'd most likely never have read on my own. Maybe I'll try to assemble a list of them and post it on the "Beauty of Lists" thread one of these days.

Mar 29, 2023, 7:14 pm

>224 LolaWalser: wouldn't that argue for choosing especially difficult books or topics?
In reality, in my experience, it is the lowest common denominator, what a critical mass of participants will read. My RL non-fiction book group lost members because selected books were too "depressing" or "political". My RL fiction book group aspirationally choose Middlemarch some years back and I was the only one who finished it (and it wasn't my suggestion).

Editado: Abr 3, 2023, 3:19 pm

The Lady from Zagreb by Philip Kerr

The Lady from Zagreb is the 10th novel in Philip Kerr's excellent Bernie Gunther noir series. Gunther is our morally compromised detective with a heart of extremely tarnished gold who has been trying to navigate the vicious shoals of Nazi Germany since the series' origin found him as a homicide detective in Berlin, 1935, as the Berlin police department becomes ever more quickly overrun with Nazi thugs. The intervening books have taken us through the war years and into the post-war era, but not in chronological order. So while we already know where Gunter is going to end up after the war is over, this book puts us right back into the middle of the conflict. Throughout those war years, Gunther's competence as a detective, and even the independence springing from his disdain for the Nazis and their programs has made him valuable to the party's highest leaders. Figures like Reinhard Heydrich and, in this book, Joseph Goebbels, have used Gunther to run errands and investigations that they don't want to run through party channels. Gunther hates working for these men, but retains a strong enough instinct for self-preservation to not turn them down. In the series' previous book, A Man Without Breath, Gunther has been given the job of investigating the Katyn Forrest massacre, in which the occupying Russians had murdered dozens of Polish Army officers (an actual event). Gunther, by this time, is painfully aware of the Nazis' many atrocities and of the irony of the German military's investigation of somebody else's war crime.

The Lady from Zagreb is a bit tamer, all in all. Goebbels is trying to convince a beautiful actress to star in his latest movie, but before she will agree to that, she demands that somebody travel to Croatia to try to find her long lost father, last known to be living a monk's life in a remote monastery. That would be our man, Bernie Gunther, of course. The journey gives Kerr an opportunity to describe the Croatia of the wars years as a nightmare of sectarian, nationalistic violence that seems to have very little to do with anybody else's greater war aims. Complications arise, or course, and Gunther's adventures, as always, are full of moral dilemmas and political landmines. The book is fun, and the Gunther remains an entertaining character to ride along with. This novel, though, isn't quite as strong as most of its predecessors in the series. It takes a while to get going, for one thing, the stakes don't seem quite as high, and the complexities of Gunther's past, present and future, as we know them to be by this point in the series, are less compellingly portrayed than in previous Gunther novels. So, while I enjoyed this book nevertheless, I rate this one a 3 1/2 stars rather than the series' normal 4 or 4 1/2. In the acknowledgment section at the end of the book, Kerr even mentions that his publisher had to convince him that the world needed another Bernie Gunther adventure. Well, in fact, there are still four more to go in the series! Anyway, while The Lady from Zagreb is only so-so Bernie Gunther, so-so Gunther is still pretty darn good. So I will be continuing on.

Abr 3, 2023, 2:57 pm

Great review of The Lady from Zagreb, Jerry.

Abr 3, 2023, 9:28 pm

>207 rocketjk: that quote is really powerful

>227 rocketjk: I can see myself picking up a series like this sometime. Sounds fun.

Abr 3, 2023, 11:45 pm

>229 dchaikin: "I can see myself picking up a series like this sometime. Sounds fun."

Dan, the first five or six in particular are outstanding.

Editado: Abr 4, 2023, 12:24 pm

After finishing The Lady from Zagreb, I enjoyed a read through Stack 1 of my "Between Books" finishing two of the books therein:

* “The Bladder” from Spring Sowing by Liam O'Flaherty
* “The Battle of the Narrative Continues” from Gaza Mom: Politics, Parenting and Everything in Between by Laila El-Haddad - Finished
* “Taylor’s Evangeline,” excerpted from Stories Pictures Tell by Flora L. Carpenter in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Jimmy Cannon” from No Cheering in the Press Box edited by Jerome Holtzman - Finished
* “The Vatican, 1963: Ferment Beneath the Pageantry” by E. B. McGuire (drawings by Domenico Gnoli) from Show: The Magazine of the Arts - March 1963

I'll have reviews of the two completed books up shortly. In the meantime, I'm just past halfway through the group biography Heroes and Villains: The True Story of The Beach Boys by Steven Gaines. A procedural note that the completion of the two books noted above has brought the total of ongoing Between Books down to down to 10, so until I'm inspired to add a few more onto the lists, I'll be condensing the current books down to two lists.

Editado: Abr 4, 2023, 4:55 pm

Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between by Laila M. El-Haddad

Read as a "Between Book" (see first post) Laila El-Haddad is a very influential Palestinian blogger and journalist from Gaza (although I can't find much about her that's recent and even her own blog hasn't been updated since 2016). Gaza Mom is a compilation of her blog posts and other writing from Gaza and elsewhere throughout the 2000s. She chronicles the oppressive tactics of the Israeli government and, especially, military to keep the Gazan people bottled up and subjugated. She describes everything from indiscriminate deadly gunfire, frequent flyovers by fighter jets to create havoc- and depression-inducing sonic booms, closing of border gates for weeks at a time to prevent people from getting in or out of Gaza, trade and import embargoes to create artificial shortages in goods and services . . . the list goes on and on. El-Haddid also describes the disfunction of the Gazan government and the inter-party violence that occasionally fills the streets of the city. She notes with mounting frustration the worldwide public inattention to all this and the information vacuum, courtesy of the international press, that prevents even well-meaning people around the world from understanding the real plight of the Palestinian people. This is all described within the context of El-Haddid's own family frustrations, including life as experienced by her own parents and her own young child, as well as the fact that her husband is prevented from joining them in Gaza because the Israeli government refuses to supply him the proper visa. The book is very detailed and, quite properly, depressing to read, which is the reason I decided early on to go through the volume one chapter at a time as one of my "between books." El-Haddid makes no attempt to create a "balanced" or "objective" journalistic account. This is the story of her own experiences and that of her family, as well as her observations of the maddening cruelty imposed by Israel. It's a tough read. You have to take El-Haddid's account at face value, and whether or not she's leaving any "balancing" information out, what she does provide is vivid enough to be convincing. Even if things were, let's say, not quite as bad as she was portraying them because she was leaving out this or that bit of information, it's all bad enough to be a demoralizing education, especially for those of us who grew up being taught to think of Israel as a country with a strong moral compass. Well, I was disabused of that myth long ago, but the details here are still difficult, and extremely important, to read. I can't imagine things have gotten any better over the 14 years or so since this book was published.

Abr 4, 2023, 8:46 pm

Great review of Gaza Mom, Jerry; that sounds like a tough read.

On a slightly related note, have you read Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life by Sari Nusseibeh? I read it roughly 10 years ago, and absolutely loved it.

Abr 4, 2023, 9:59 pm

By this point I think it's impossible to exaggerate how bad is the situation in Gaza.

Like you, Jerry, I've been disappointed to the core, and reading (at the moment) in Eric Alterman's We are not one that today 95% of Israelis side with the right wing, I've hit rock bottom.

Abr 5, 2023, 2:33 am

I don't know what to say, but thanks for your words about Gaza Mom. The continued acceptance by the world of the situation there disgusts and infuriates me.

Abr 5, 2023, 11:43 am

>232 rocketjk: it's all bad enough to be a demoralizing education, especially for those of us who grew up being taught to think of Israel as a country with a strong moral compass. Well, I was disabused of that myth long ago, but the details here are still difficult, and extremely important, to read. I can't imagine things have gotten any better over the 14 years or so since this book was published.

Yup me too. Been disappointed since the assassination of Yizchak Rabin. Im careful who I talk to about it because I have been told Im not Jewish if I do not 'stand with Israel, right or wrongl' sigh

Abr 5, 2023, 12:39 pm

>236 cindydavid4: Yes, I agree that the assassinations of both Rabin and Anwar Sadat were turning points for the worse.

Editado: Abr 5, 2023, 12:48 pm

No Cheering in the Press Box edited by Jerome Holtzman

Another "Between Book" finished (see first post). The full title of this collection, as you might be able to see in the cover image, is No Cheering in the Press Box: Recollections--Personal & Professional--by Eighteen Veteran American Sportswriters. And that pretty much sums up this marvelous book, first published in 1974. The interviewer and editor of the book, Jerome Holtzman, was himself a very well known sportswriter at the time, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, the Sporting News and other national sports publications. Holtzman set out to record interviews with, as noted, 18 famous veteran sportswriters. One thing I appreciated about Holtzman's approach was that, in the presentation of these interviews, Holtzman took himself out of the narrative entirely. These aren't, then, question and answer type interviews. We have only the interview subjects speaking, so what we get are much more akin to oral histories.

Cumulatively, these oral histories present a picture of American sportswriting, and very much the American newspaper world, in general from the 1920s through the 1960s. For one thing, there were no journalism schools in those days. Most of these writers became newspapermen by showing up in newsrooms and wrangling a position whereby they made coffee and emptied wastepaper baskets. Maybe, eventually, they'd be sent out to cover a high school basketball game when whoever was originally assigned called in sick. If you did a good job, you might get another assignment. The book's final interview is with the legendary Jimmy Cannon, who tells this story:

I was about fourteen when I started as an office boy on the Daily News. I worked the lobster trick--from midnight to eight in the morning. One night, after I'd been there for about two years, there was a shortage of rewrite men. The whiskey must have been flowing pretty well, and for some reason a guy on the desk gave me a short story to write, about three hundred words. It was on Decoration Day, about a kid who ran away from a summer resort and came to Manhattan.

Harvey Duell, who was one of the great newspapermen, was the city editor of the Daily News. He read the story, and the next day there was a note in my box: "See Mr. Duell." Well, us boys didn't see the city editor unless we were in trouble. I thought I was in trouble. When I went to see him, he was very kind and said, "I understand you wrote this, young man."

He asked me where I learned to write. I said, "I don't know if I can write at all."

Then he told me, "This is the second thing you've done that's impressed me."

"What's the first?"

"I sent you out for coffee one night and you refused a tip."

I said, "I don't remember. I must have been crazy that night."

That's how I became a city-side reporter.

Another part of that world described by many of the interviewees is the different relationship the reporters built with the players and managers (I should have noted earlier that the interviews deal mainly with baseball writing) in the earlier decades of the 20th century. The writers rode in the same trains during road trips, played in the same poker games, and often went on the same hunting and fishing trips. The writers describe the difficulty of still having to criticize a player's performance or a manager's decision making when it was someone you were friends with otherwise. On the other hand, they were much less likely to write about a player's personal flaws or misadventures of the field than sportswriters today are. Many of the writers offer their memories and impressions of particular players, people like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, and even earlier players and managers. All in all, these writers were fine storytellers, which makes their oral histories fun to read. They paint a mostly romantic picture of that bygone era of American sports, though the difficulties of spending so much time on the road and in hotels are noted, as are the pressures of writing on deadline.

Of the eighteen journalists interviewed, I had only heard of seven: Paul Gallico, Shirley Povich, Abe Kemp, Ford Frick, Red Smith, John R. Tunis and Jimmy Cannon. Tunis who also wrote many (what we would now call) YA sports novels, wrote my favorite baseball novels as a boy, the Roy Tucker series starting with The Kid From Tompkinsville. Tunis had a surprising (to me at least) observation to make about American culture of the 60s and 70s, saying that he disapproved of the growing trend to make sports, and especially youth sports, all about winning, as if the games didn't mean anything if you didn't win them. He says (and I'm paraphrasing, now) "I'm much more interested in writing about characters who don't win, about what they go through and what they learn." I found that of interest in particular because of the derision some people want to heap on parents and educators nowadays who have tried deemphasize the "win at all costs" mentality, making fun of, for example, participation trophies as hippy, woke b.s. Given that Tunis represents that emphasis on only valuing winners as a new trend at that time, it made me wonder whether such attitudes ebb and flow within American culture more than I'd previously realized. Or maybe Tunis was just one observer with an ax to grind. Anyway, I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in baseball and baseball history, or even maybe just in the history of American journalism in general, as seen through the lens of the sports section.

Book note: This volume has been on my sports books shelf since before my 2008 LT Big Bang, when I first began posting my library here. In fast, I posted the book here in April 2008, so more or less exactly 15 years ago!

Abr 7, 2023, 1:04 pm

Heroes and Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys by Steven Gaines

Steven Gaines shows his hand at the outset of his detailed group biography of The Beach Boys when he opens his narrative with a blow-by-blow account of the drowning death of Dennis Wilson, the middle brother, the group's drummer, dissipated by years of drug and alcohol abuse, diving time and again beneath his friend's boat in an LA marina, looking for an imaginary box of old coins, while his friends call to him from on deck to stop diving and come back aboard. This biography, we learn, is going to emphasize greatly the band's (and individual band members') troubles and disputes. And, in fact, that's what we get, with consideration of The Beach Boys' iconic music mostly relegated to brief mentions. It's all telling instead of showing when it comes to the creation, recording and onstage performances of the group, but we get shown and shown again the squabbles, alliances, dalliances, lawsuits and individual troubles of the band members, as they fight to hold the group together and continue to create in the face of a myriad of problems.

The Beach Boys were three Wilson brothers, Brian, Dennis and Carl, their cousin, Mike Love, and childhood friend, Al Jardine. The Wilson boys began life solidly behind the 8-ball, psychologically, despite their enormous musical talent, thanks to their domineering, demanding and abusive (both psychologically and physically) father, Murray. Brian, the oldest, came in particularly for the abuse, and was the brother who could never be good enough in Murray's judgement. And he certainly developed the most acute psychological problems. Carl, the youngest, was his mother's favorite, thereby receiving her protection from Murray, and, whether coincidentally or not, maintained the most emotional equilibrium throughout his career and life.

It's a sad tale, and the fact that these men were able to create so much fabulous and iconic music over, more or less, a 15-year recording career, is an amazing testament. Sadly, in this book, that creative process is mostly glossed over. I was a young boy with a transistor radio when The Beach Boys were at their early peak with songs like "I Get Around" and "Help Me, Rhonda" on the charts. Later, in my early and middle teens, I loved their more progressive albums like "Surf's Up" (still a favorite of mine) and "Holland." And then there's the tour de force that is "Pet Sounds," which I did not come to really appreciate until much later.

Gaines does describe well, in particular, Brian Wilson's struggles. His schizophrenia was, for a long time, hidden under his heavy drug use (considered more or less normal for rock stars at the time), his abnormal and reclusive behavior put down as the understandable eccentricity of the artistic genius. Even that "genius" appellation, settled on Brian after the release of "Pet Sounds" (and enhanced by the Beatles' avowed admiration for that album), became a heavy element in Brian Wilson's emotional burdens. And while Brian did have people trying to look out for him and keep him on an even keel (especially his wife, Marilyn), he was also surrounded by "drainers," sycophants always happy to gain acceptance into Brian's orbit by sneaking him drugs and booze.

And so on. All the members of the band, individually and collectively, come in for this sort of examination (with the exception of Jardine, the quite, calm one). Bad business decisions, money-wasting, fly-by-night schemes, Dennis Wilson's extended dalliance with Charles Manson and crew, we read about them all. But we spend precious little time with the musicians in the studio or onstage. It's amazing to realize that The Beach Boys (sans Brian, whose mental troubles early on caused him to stop performing live) remained one of the world's most popular and largest grossing live acts well into the 1980s. This is even though, by the end, the band was broken into two factions who, for the most part, hated each other. So we get told, of some important individual concert, that the band gave a great performance that brought down the house, there was evidently no attempt to find somebody describe what it was like to be at a Beach Boys concert at that time (let alone what it was like to be onstage during one).

A funny thing, though. By the end of the book, I actually did feel like I had a strong perception of what these people where like, and who they were. I'd even gained an affection for them. Who knows how accurate a perception that is, but still, I do feel like this book provides an effective description of a dysfunctional musical family, trying desperately to overcome that dysfunction and to emphasize the "love" element of their love-hate relationship with their father, their talent, their fame, and each other. There are dark sides to their behavior, to put it mildly. None of them were equipped emotionality for committed romantic relationships. Dennis, in particular, the good-looking one, reveled in his "playboy" behavior, even during his three or four (I lost count) marriages. Racism peeks through the narrative a few times, one of their business managers is fired when it's discovered that he's gay, and none of them thought twice about leveling anti-Semetic slurs when riled for one reason or another. So it's the old question of whether one is willing/able and/or desirous of separating the artists from the art. So this isn't the book to go to for a proper examination of The Beach Boys' music and creative process. But it's a pretty strong portrait of their lives (as far as I know), warts and all.

Abr 7, 2023, 9:35 pm

>239 rocketjk: I bet someone could easily write an entire, separate book about their music and creative process... probably someone has, or at least a dissertation or two. But that Heroes and Villains sounds really interesting. I'll definitely put it on the list.

Abr 7, 2023, 11:37 pm

>240 lisapeet: I'm sure there are several books on The Beach Boys' music. I'd be shocked if there weren't. Heroes and Villains is indeed interesting, though in many places quite grim and saddening.

Editado: Abr 13, 2023, 1:17 am

Greetings from San Francisco. I've had a fun five days, mostly, although a bit of a cold has slowed me down a bit. Anyway, here are the books I've bought so far:

City Lights Books
Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (currently reading)
A Shattering of Silence by Farida Karodia
Outcast by Shimon Ballas
Hill by Jean Giona

Green Apple Books
Blood Brothers by Ernst Haffner
Trading Twelves: the Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray
The Silentiary by Antonio Benedetto

Green Apple Parkside Annex Store
A Train Through Time: A Life Real and Imagined by Elizabeth Farnsworth

Borderlands Science Fiction and Mystery Bookstore
Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman (the next book for my reading group)
Wildeblood's Empire by Brian M. Stableford

Next it's on to Houston for five days to hang out with a couple of buddies and see some ballgames and some music. I won't have room in my bags for many more books, though.

Abr 13, 2023, 7:31 am

How nice!

Abr 13, 2023, 6:30 pm

>242 rocketjk: Thanks for sharing your book haul! Hope you feel better soon, and enjoy your vaykay.

Abr 16, 2023, 10:04 am

>242 rocketjk: Nice book haul, Jerry. You hit my two favorite bookshops in San Francisco, City Lights and Green Apple. The aromas wafting from the Asian restaurants in close proximity to Green Apple Books are absolutely intoxicating!

Abr 17, 2023, 9:47 am

>245 kidzdoc: Yes! Not to mention the "aromas" from Vesuvio's and Spec's. :)

Abr 17, 2023, 3:07 pm

Adding one more to the list above:

On the Marble Cliffs by Ernst Junger, my one Houston book purchase, bought at Bravos Books.

Editado: Abr 19, 2023, 3:48 pm

I just got back from the aforementioned trip to San Francisco and Houston. I met up with three buddies in Houston, two of whom I go back with to grammar school days, for our annual "Baseball Trip." Since 2000, we have been meeting in a different city each year (missing only 2020 and 2021 due to Covid) with the plan of attending baseball games at every major league stadium. A couple of trips encompassed two closely located stadiums (Chicago, Baltimore/DC, Pittsburgh/Cleveland, NYC). So this was our 22nd trip. I must say we had a great time in Houston. We saw two ballgames, took in the excellent Museum of Fine Arts, saw the wonderful and hilarious rockabilly band Southern Culture on the Skids, walked around lovely Hermann Park and took in the fun nightlife in the Historic Downtown District. We have two more cities to go: Philadelphia and LA. The plan is Philadelphia next year and then a grand finale for both LA teams the year after. We generally go late in the season but switched to spring this year in deference to the fact that September is hurricane season in Houston. If we do travel to LA in September 2025, I will already have turned 70. I am the oldest of the group, but only by a year. Whether we will continue with our annual trips after we've completed our MLB cities circuit, and if so, how, remains under consideration. Obviously, health and/or physical decrepitude will be a factor. Possibilities are fun minor league towns, revisiting those few cities that have built new ballparks since we've been there or just picking random cities that we'd all like to see. New Orleans is of course a strong possibility. It would help if they could get a minor league team there again.

Now my wife and I swing into overdrive in our attempts to deal with the logistics of our upcoming adventure: a full year living in New York City, with the hoped upon timeframe of June 2023 through May 2024. We are both from New Jersey originally and Steph has two siblings and a tribe of cousins living either in the city or the surrounding area. My family is all in Nevada at this point, but I still have high school friends I'm in close touch with. Anyway, whenever we're in NYC we both long to spend a longer amount of time there. Our 15 years of rural life here in Mendocino County have been fabulous, but we are both itching or some urban time, now. Now that I'm pushing 68, I feel like the time for another adventure is "sooner rather than later."

Abr 19, 2023, 4:45 pm

>248 rocketjk: How wonderful that you both share this dream and are going to make it happen. I hope you have the best time there and I look forward to hearing about it.

Abr 19, 2023, 5:04 pm

Sounds great! Have you been to Toronto for a Blue Jays game? Their stadium, officially called Roger's Centre, though I will forever call by its original and much more creative name of Skydome, has recently completed phase one of a massive rebuild and though I haven't seen it in person myself, it's getting rave reviews. And the team isn't too bad either! And it isn't that far from NY

Abr 19, 2023, 6:06 pm

>248 rocketjk: wow, what a great tradition you have, and looks like making a new one. Think you will love living in NYC! Did you guys make it to a Diamond Back game? if you do, don't come in the summer!

Abr 19, 2023, 7:41 pm

What a great plan.

Southern Culture on the Skids

Wow, I saw them a number of times and they are still going strong? Good on them.

Abr 19, 2023, 7:48 pm

Where will you live in NYC?

Editado: Abr 20, 2023, 2:04 am

>249 RidgewayGirl: Thanks!

>250 jessibud2: Yes, we went to Toronto somewhere around 2005. We saw the Yankees and the Tigers play the Blue Jays. Roy Halladay took a no-hitter into the 9th in one of those games. Also, we saw a wonderful local jazz singer named Melissa Stylianou perform at the Rex Cafe. My wife and I went back to Toronto just last year for a wedding and had a great time.

>251 cindydavid4: "Think you will love living in NYC!
I'm pretty sure we will. We both grew up just across the Hudson and have spent a lot of time there over the years. And, yes, we've been to Phoenix for a couple of Diamondbacks games.

>252 LolaWalser: Yes, Southern Culture on the Skids played with a lot of fire and skill. Definitely still going strong.

>253 dianeham: We are hoping to find a place somewhere in or around the upper westside. We are bringing Rosie, the German shepherd, with us, so we'll need to be somewhere close to a dog park.

Thanks for all the responses.

Editado: Abr 23, 2023, 2:42 pm

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

I bought this novel on a whim during my recent visit to City Lights Books in San Francisco. It is the story about a family of werewolves trying to stay alive as they move from place to place in more or less modern day Southern America. As the story begins, our never-named protagonist is nine years old. His mother died in childbirth, his father is unknown, and he lives with his aunt, uncle and grandfather, werewolves all. Or rather, sort of half-werewolf, half human. Mongrels, as the book's title would have it. Mostly, they're to change back and forth at will, but at a cost of pain and energy. Sometimes, though sudden anger or danger will bring upon a change into werewolf unbidden. So uncle Darren's long haul truck driving job is dangerous. If something makes him mad while he's on the highway, he will find himself suddenly with four legs and no hands. Not good when you're driving down the road at 80 mph. As the years go by, our young narrator has yet to "turn," to become a werewolf. Although it is certain he has werewolf blood, it's possible he never will "turn," but will instead remain human his entire life.

Jones does a very good job of creating the werewolf world, the details of this family's, and by extension the werewolf's community's, experience of life. Much of it is unsavory and violent. Once they turn werewolf, for example, they become ravenous. Nothing and no-one is safe around them. The first part of the book, though, I found a bit repetitive. It was full of explanations of what is good for werewolves ad what is dangerous for them, one example after another. As the book moves along, however, maybe about a third of the way in, I found that I became more invested in the characters, in the sadness and fraught nature of their existence. Every time there is an "incident," for example, they have to pull up stakes and move again. Our narrator is forever in and out of one school after another. Relationships with outsiders, obviously, are hazardous.

I'm sure there are greater themes going on here of the alienation and violence of American society. This was vacation reading for me, so I'll admit I was not expending any energy delving beneath the surface of the narrative. But still, assuming the unsavory elements of the story do not turn you off too much (there is only a minimum of graphic violence, though there is some), I found that, in the end, Mongrels was for me a fairly compelling reading experience.

A funny (to me at least) story: I was riding on a San Francisco Muni train with the book open. A young fellow whom I'd seen on the platform sat next to me, also with book in hand. We had a brief laugh over the odds these days of two people reading actual books sitting side by side on Muni. I asked him what he was reading and he showed me his book, which was a non-fiction volume about the turning of agriculture in America into big agribusiness. He said it was fascinating reading. Very impressive. So then he asked, of course, what book I had. A bit embarrassed at this point after seeing his weighty volume, I said sheepishly, "Well, it's a novel about a family of werewolves." To which he replied. "Wow! That's cool! That's really cool!" I suppose he'd never guessed that an old graybeard like me would be hip enough to be reading about werewolves. Or something. Anyway, I though that was amusing.

Abr 23, 2023, 8:09 am

>255 rocketjk: Amusing story, you hip graybeard, you.

Editado: Abr 23, 2023, 8:17 am

>255 rocketjk: Sounds refreshingly different from all the werewolf fantasies I’ve been reading. Not sure I would be interested enough to stand the infodump at the beginning though 😊

Abr 23, 2023, 10:01 am

>255 rocketjk: I've had that one for ages... I really want to dig into my (somewhat considerable at this point) Stephen Graham Jones collection, and that seems like as good a place as any to start.

It would be fun to have you in NYC and potentially get together without having to plan quite so extensively. UWS is on my train line, a relatively easy hop for me. Best of luck finding a place that works for you—as a longtime homeowner I have zero concept of what NY real estate looks like these days, but I get the feeling there are good deals lurking, especially if you're only looking for a year's sublet.

Editado: Abr 23, 2023, 10:47 am

Your SF/Houston trip sounds great, Jerry. I have two longtime buddies who I used to take similar trips with to attend sporting events, either college football games involving one of our alma maters (Rutgers, Tennessee, Akron) or baseball games that featured at least one of our favorite teams (Phillies, Indians, Twins). We haven't done that in over 30 years, although I did meet one of them for dinner in Atlanta recently when he was in town to see a Tennessee game.

Mongrels sounds interesting, even though my hipster days are long behind me. I've just added it to my library wish list.

When you were in Pittsburgh did you see the Pirates play at PNC Park, or Three Rivers Stadium? I went to Three Rivers several times when I was a medical student at Pitt, but I hope to return to the 'Burgh later this year to visit a few classmates, and take in a game or two at PNC, which was built after I left town.

Abr 23, 2023, 10:45 am

>255 rocketjk: I read Mongrels last year, after Jones's The Only Good Indians. Totally get not thinking about below-the-surface narratives; for me, having read the other book and looked up some info on Jones, the parallels to the Native American experience were clear. (I hope that doesn't sound obnoxious - I am not a deep reader/thinker so I'm always surprised when I notice that sort of thing.)

Abr 23, 2023, 11:15 am

Hope you had fun in Phx, and it wasn't too hot for you. Let me know next time you'll be in town, Ill show you the best bookstores

Editado: Abr 23, 2023, 3:11 pm

>258 lisapeet: "It would be fun to have you in NYC and potentially get together without having to plan quite so extensively. UWS is on my train line, a relatively easy hop for me. Best of luck finding a place that works for you—as a longtime homeowner I have zero concept of what NY real estate looks like these days, but I get the feeling there are good deals lurking, especially if you're only looking for a year's sublet."

Yes, being around for a year instead of for just the month, and in Manhattan rather than Jersey City (as much as we enjoyed JC, we decided to drop ourselves right into the NYC cauldron) will make it much easier for us to get together, and often I hope. You will very much like my wife, too. It is turning out to be very rough and stress inducing to try to find a place (either a sublet or a year's straight rental lease) in NYC from 3,000 miles away, Internet and FaceTime notwithstanding. According to one realtor who tried to help us and gave us some very good tips, the rental market has heated up intensely over the past few months with Covid's apparent abatement, and places are being snapped up almost as soon as they get on the market. We are likely to be right up on our desired June 1 move-in date before we get something nailed down. We are actually flying to NYC next week (2 days travel time, 2 days in town) to try to look at a few places in person. That makes me feel kind of guilty, airplane fuel pollution-wise, but on the other hand we'll be driving cross country in our EV and then barely even using that vehicle for the year in NY, so there's that, or so I'm pleased to tell myself.

>259 kidzdoc: I'll be very interested to see your responses to Mongrels if/when you get to it, Darryl (as well as everybody else's who've said they might read it soon). We went to Pittsburgh in 2001. It was only our second such baseball trip. For that trip, we saw games in both Pittsburgh and Cleveland. We went in September only about a week or 10 days after 9/11. That was before we had been joined by our fourth group member. The two of us living in San Francisco then decided to follow through with our plans, though our friend in New Jersey didn't feel comfortable making that trip, so it was a 2-man journey. Also, this was pre-Stephanie (my wife), and I had just gone through a breakup which I had initiated but which left me feeling very sad. So that was a strange trip, all in all. Anyway, that all might be TMI. More specifically, in regards to your question, it was the first season of PNC Park, which I must say is still my favorite of all the new (or I guess these days one would have to say "newish") stadiums. I liked PNC even better than the ballpark in Baltimore and better than Oracle Park, where the SF Giants play, though both of those are terrific stadiums, as well.

>260 ursula: Not obnoxious at all, and now that you mention it, your observation that "the parallels to the Native American experience were clear" makes perfect sense to me, so thanks for that!

>261 cindydavid4: I'll look forward to that bookstore tour! Our favorite place in Phoenix was the blues/soul club, Char's Has the Blues. We were staying in a rather bizarre hotel (which I was embarrassed to have been the one who made the arrangements for) and we were about to move, when a friend of my buddy's, a local, told us, "You can't move into a downtown hotel. You're only a two block walk from the best blues club in the city and just up the street from a terrific bookstore. So we stayed. We went to Char's every night we were in town. I understand that Char's has been bought by new owners who are presenting more rock-oriented bands, only offering blues/soul once a week. That's a shame, but so it goes. I can't recall the name of the bookstore, but it was newish and also had a cafe in it, if that helps. Cheers!

Abr 23, 2023, 5:10 pm

Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman

This is the 14th book in Hillerman's famous Leaphorn/Chee mystery series, which seems an odd place to start (I have a vague memory of reading one of Hillerman's books decades ago, but no specific memory), but it was the selection for my reading group this month. I guess the 14th book in a series is an odd selection for a reading group, but mine is not to reason why. Anyway, I enjoyed the reading experience, and though I won't be going out of my way to go back and start the series from the beginning right away, I could see how the series might otherwise be in my future once I get through some of the other series I'm currently navigating. Here, the recently retired Joe Leaphorn and Tribal Police Sergeant Jim Chee are both, independently, working to figure out who perpetrated a violent, and deadly, large-scale robbery of a casino on tribal land. Eventually their paths bring them together once more. Within the flow of the story we learn about tribal history and mythology, all told in a flowing, entertaining manner. This was a fairly quick read for me, and very enjoyable. I finished this up during the last couple of days of my recent Houston trip, and on the flight and bus ride home.

Abr 23, 2023, 5:52 pm

>263 rocketjk: I hope no one in my book club picks a book in the middle of a series: it would drive me bonkers!

Abr 23, 2023, 10:15 pm

>263 rocketjk: I read a few books of this series years ago and liked them a lot. Some time ago I looked for them in electronic form but couldn’t find them. It looks like they are available now, maybe I should try reading them in order.

Abr 24, 2023, 12:05 am

the bookstore might have been Changing Hands. They opened a few years ago (they have another store in my side of town since 1974!) Let me know if you make it back here (tho it sounds like you will be very busy with your move!) Im not familiar with Chars I remember going to the rhythm room in college, thinkg its still around,

Editado: Abr 24, 2023, 1:27 pm

Once I got back home from my trip, I resumed my "Between Book" routine, post-Hunting Badger, thusly:

* “Going into Exile” from Spring Sowing by Liam O'Flaherty - Finished!
* “Facts, Facts, Facts!” excerpted from Hard Times by Charles Dickens in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “116 Taken in First Million-Dollar Draft” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Three Little Pigs and the Ogre" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "The Priory, Chester” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Tales of Two Cities: Paris,” photographs Eugene Atget, with captions by Marcel Proust, excerpted from A Vision of Paris in Show: The Magazine of the Arts - March 1963

I've now decided to jump back into Greg Iles' Penn Cage series, starting the 4th book in the set, Natchez Burning. This is a make-or-break reading for me as far as continuing with the series goes. Book 1, which I read several years ago, was pretty good. Books 2 & 3 were only OK, and the books are getting longer (Natchez Burning checks in at 800 pages!). I had decided that this was the last of the series I was going to read unless the quality improved. Turns out, the quality is indeed improving, at least over the first 170 pages. But this is the first book of a trilogy within the series. If there are cliff-hangers, I'm going to be irritated. Anyway, so far I'm enjoying the book.

Abr 24, 2023, 2:54 pm

Spring Sowing by Liam O'Flaherty

Read as a "Between Book" (see first post). The short story collection was published in 1926 by Irish writer Liam O'Flaherty. The stories are almost all "naturalist" (I don't know if that's a real term) in style. Some of the stories depict small town/rural Irish life of the era, and some actually see the world through the eyes of animals: a cow in a fever over the loss of her calf, a young seagull learning to fly, a rabbit being chased by a young boy and his hunting dog. The human-centric stories show us events like a humorous hoax perpetrated by one villager over his neighbors over a so-called treasure, group of villagers waiting anxiously on shore, hoping against hope that their friends, sons, husbands will return from the days' fishing expedition despite a fierce, unexpected storm that has suddenly blown their way, snipers on opposite roofs--and opposite sides--during the 1916 Easter Uprising. The two best stories are the collection's first and last. The opening title story shows us the first day of married life of a young farming couple. Clearly in love and exulting on their strength and energy for the day's tasks, the day passes wonderfully. And yet we are clued into the lifetime's worth of repetition and labor awaiting the two. The final story, "Going Into Exile," brings us the moving tale of a loving farming family whose two oldest children are about to depart, probably forever, for America. For the most part beautifully and simply written, in this collection O'Flaherty has provided us a vivid, humorous and affection (if occasionally melancholy) picture of life in rural Ireland during the early 20th century.

Book note: My copy of Spring Sowing dates for me back to my LT "Big Bang" of 2008 (when I first began posting my library here), so I don't know exactly how long it's been on my shelves, but anyway more than 15 years. This is a beautiful first edition, published in 1926 by Alfred Knopf in New York, but printed in Great Britain. My volume doesn't have a dust jacket, and the cover sports a beautiful is somewhat incongruous Art Deco design. The figure $1.95 is written in ink inside the front cover, which may or may not be what I paid for the book. Finally, penciled in script just below that price is the inscription, M. L. Taylor.

Editado: Abr 27, 2023, 7:43 pm

>262 rocketjk: Thanks for your reply, Jerry. I have seen baseball games in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, although in the stadiums that aren't there anymore (Three Rivers Stadium and Cleveland Stadium), I saw games in Baltimore with my two buddies during the last year of Memorial Stadium and the first year of Camden Yards, and I've seen a couple of games by myself at what used to be called Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, along with an A's playoff game in Oakland Coliseum, and, not surprisingly, several games at Turner Field in Atlanta; I haven't been to Truist Park, the Braves' new suburban stadium, yet, and I hope to see a Phillies game with one of my best friends from high school in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia later this year, and possibly a Pirates game with former medical school classmates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh as well (the Pirates are off to a surprisingly good start this year!). I would probably put Pac Bell Park slightly ahead of Camden Yards as my favorite ballpark, although I froze my buns off the first time I went there, for a night game in August!

My favorite sports venue is Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the new(ish) home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United of Major League Soccer, which is stunning both inside and out.

Abr 30, 2023, 12:09 pm

>269 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I always love to compare sports venue (and especially baseball stadium) notes with friends.

"what used to be called Pac Bell Park in San Francisco"

At first they kept changing the name based on ATT's expansion and contraction of the "Baby Bells," as they used to be called (the phone companies created when ATT was broken up). Some people just took to calling the stadium "the Phone Booth."

In moving news, my wife and I just got back from our whirlwind 2 days in NYC and, miraculously, we're almost positive that, pending only paperwork and approval, we came home with an apartment arranged! We will be living in South Harlem for a year if all goes well.

Abr 30, 2023, 10:13 pm

>270 rocketjk: That's so exciting!

Abr 30, 2023, 10:30 pm

>270 rocketjk: congratulations

Abr 30, 2023, 10:45 pm

Yay! I hope you get it! When will you move in?

Abr 30, 2023, 11:50 pm

Mazel Tov!

Maio 1, 2023, 1:38 am

Thanks, all. Our target date for moving in will be June 1. Fingers crossed the whole thing pans out.

Maio 2, 2023, 8:51 am

I'm extra excited because you'll be uptown! That's a great area, with a lot going on.

Maio 2, 2023, 10:21 am

>276 lisapeet: Thanks! A big part of the reason we wanted to be uptown and west is that my wife's sister has lived in a co-op building in Spanish Harlem for many years. Her health is not that great, and my wife wanted to be only a one-shot subway ride away from her so they could visit often. But, also, yes, a lot going on.

Editado: Maio 5, 2023, 9:16 pm

>270 rocketjk: I've enjoyed my two or three visits to Pac Bell Park AT&T Park Oracle Park, although I had to buy a hat and winter coat to attend a Giants game one August! My one regret was not buying gloves. I love Gilroy garlic fries!!

Of all the ballparks I've been to I would put Oriole Park at Camden Yards at the top of my list, as it was the first of the retro ballparks that are now common. I saw the Baltimore Orioles play there during its inaugural season, which was quite an upgrade from the games my friends and I saw at old Memorial Stadium during the last year of its existence as a baseball stadium (IIRC the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL played for a few months after the Orioles' season had ended). Hopefully I'll be able to go to a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park sometime this summer; I've seen the Fightin' Phils play in old Veterans Stadium and in Turner Field in Atlanta, but not in their new ballpark yet.

Congratulations on your upcoming move to South Harlem!

Editado: Maio 6, 2023, 1:21 am

>278 kidzdoc: "Hopefully I'll be able to go to a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park sometime this summer; I've seen the Fightin' Phils play in old Veterans Stadium and in Turner Field in Atlanta, but not in their new ballpark yet."

Given that move to South Harlem you referred to . . . maybe we can go to a Phillies game together! Philly's only a short Amtrak ride from NYC.

Maio 7, 2023, 10:04 am

>279 rocketjk: I would like that, Jerry! It's easy enough to get from 30th Street Station, Philadelphia's main Amtrak station, to Citizens Bank Park, by car or subway.

Maio 7, 2023, 10:19 am

>280 kidzdoc: It's a date!

Maio 7, 2023, 10:19 am

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

This is the fourth book in Greg Iles' Penn Cage series, and also the first of a trilogy with the series. Penn Cage, is a former District Attorney in Houston and mystery book writer who, in the series' first book, returns to his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, to help his father, Tom, a beloved doctor, out of a jam. By this fourth book, Cage is the mayor of Natchez. Once again, it's his father in trouble, this time accused of murder for, supposedly, aiding in the suicide of Viola, his nurse from decades ago. Pulling on the thread of Tom Cage's action and his possible relationship with this woman decades earlier, Penn Cage finds himself in the midst of several Civil Rights Era murders, cold cases perpetrated by a local group of racists who called themselves the Double Eagles then and who are still alive and still vicious as Cage begins to try to figure out what is going on with his father, who will not come clean about his actions, either in the room with Viola just nights ago, or in their time working together in the '60s. While working all this, Iles also presents an illumination of the viciousness and ignorance of the Jim Crow Era and the persistence of racism into the present. The power was drained from the attempt a bit by the fact that Iles' villains are somewhat over the top bad guys, sadistic, cold blooded evildoers. Otherwise, this book, I thought, was quite good. I recall the first book of the series, as being strong, and also about an old Civil Rights Era murder. The second book was about Cage trying to save the reputation (and freedom) of a friend I couldn't possibly drum up any empathy for, and the third was over the top violent with a barely believable plot. Natchez Burning is much stronger than those second and third books. You could read it as the first book of the Natchez Burning trilogy rather than the fourth Penn Cage book. However, this one is 800 pages long, and the next two are of the same length. That's much too much reading time, for me at least, to commit to any single thriller, no matter how good. So I won't be continuing with the series. It's not that I don't like long books, but for me it's just too much for a crime novel. If that length factor doesn't bother you, though, I do recommend this book, at least.

Maio 7, 2023, 11:23 am

Great review of Natchez Burning, Jerry. I'm not a fan of crime novels, and 800 pages is far too much for me, given all the books that I want to read now.

Editado: Maio 7, 2023, 12:01 pm

>283 kidzdoc: "800 pages is far too much for me, given all the books that I want to read now."

Exactly. When I was younger I probably wouldn't have minded. But at this point in the proceedings, I'm trying to pack more into the allotted time, whatever that might turn out to be. I might eventually finally read War and Peace, but I don't have an interest in any more 800-page thrillers, good though they might be. But that's just me, of course. Lots of people have enjoyed these Iles books, and I can see why.

Editado: Maio 8, 2023, 1:36 am

My post-Natchez Burning read through Stack 1 of my Between Books unfolded thusly:

* “Private Lesson from a Bulldog” and “Spelling Down the Master,” excerpted from The Hoosier Schoolmaster by Edward Eggleston in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Year-End Flurry Featured ’62 Trading” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Staff and the Fiddle" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "Oxford” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “Geneva: Thriller’s Capital” by Ian Fleming from Show: The Magazine of the Arts - March 1963

I've now started On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin.

Maio 8, 2023, 12:25 pm

>285 rocketjk: oh read that Chatwin last year, on the recommendation of several folk here. I really liked it and made me long for another visit to Wales.

Maio 9, 2023, 5:33 am

>282 rocketjk: Great review, Jerry. In German the book has even 955 pages, which would mean a long read. My library has an e-book version. I'm putting it on my library list, but don't know yet when I'll read it. At the moment I have four books on loan, each about 500 pages long.

Maio 10, 2023, 1:29 pm

>282 rocketjk: For what it is worth, I found The Bone Tree (the next in the series) to be even better than this one. Which reminds me to go and pick up the third one in the trilogy (or maybe reread the whole series from the start)...

Maio 10, 2023, 1:43 pm

>288 AnnieMod: I have no doubt that the next two books are as good as or, as you say, even better than Natchez Burning. I just don't want to spend that much time with any individual thriller/crime novel at this point in my life. Maybe I'll change my mind somewhere down the road, though.

Maio 10, 2023, 1:48 pm

>289 rocketjk: I am not saying you should - I am just mentioning it for anyone who may be interested in the series :) Greg Iles is criminally underappreciated (and apparently a new Penn Cage novel is coming out this year - yey :) )

Maio 10, 2023, 6:40 pm

Greg Iles can put together a decent thriller and I really like that he uses that genre to illuminate the history and culture of a part of the US rarely seen by outsiders, and even more rarely represented in fiction, but they are over-long. I say that as someone who developed a love of the massive tome back when I was a broke student in a country where English language books were expensive -- I chose my books based on page count.

Maio 15, 2023, 8:55 pm

On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin

Chatwin's novel tells the story of Lewis and Benjamin Jones, twin brothers farming the Vision, a farm in Wales, near to the border with England. The novel begins roughly in 1899 with the meeting between the brothers' parents, Amos and Mary. Amos has been farming this land all his life. Mary, from a higher class, has spent time traveling in India, but comes to this Welch border area with her uncle and falling in love with Amos' strength and knowledge of the land, marries him "beneath her station." We read the story of their lives within the farming community, and then read about the twins' childhood and strange (even for twins) psychological and emotional interdependency. The novel proceeds through the brothers' old age. The outside world intrudes only in seemingly minor ways. Chatwin's powers of description and observation are acute, certainly. His descriptions of the natural world around the Jones family and their farm, and the nature of Welsh farming live through the 20th century, are impressive and enjoyable. And yet there is always something insular and claustrophobic, to the point of oppressiveness, in the storyline. I don't say that as a criticism, though. For me a big part of the point of the story is the gentle exploration of the dangers of too isolated a life, even one lived within an active community. I found this to be an often pleasurable and absorbing novel, but not often a relaxing one.

Editado: Maio 18, 2023, 1:56 pm

My post-On the Black Hill read through "Between Book" stack #2 went thusly, with one book finished and another "book" added:

* “The Rendezvous” by Ivan Turgenieff from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “W (and X, Y, and Z) are for Women” from Good for a Laugh: A New Collection of Humorous Tidbits and Anecdotes from Aardvark to Zythum by Bennett Cerf – Finished!
* “City on the Cuyahoga” by Louis Zara from Coronet - June 1, 1938 edited by Arnold Gingrich
* “The Bull” by Rachel Hartfield from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “The Scout” by Eliot Asinof from Great Sports Stories, edited by Herman L. Masin
* “Those Deep Elm Brown’s Ferry Blues” by William Gay+ from The Missouri Review - Volume 21 Number 2: Men, 1998, edited by Morgan Speer – Newly added
* "The Enesco Enigma" by Yehudi Menuhin from Show: The Magazine of the Arts, March 1963

+ Kinda sorta interestingly, the LT page for William Gay tells us, "His first short story, 'I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down,' was published in the Georgia Review literary journal in 1998," while the short blurb in the 1998 Missouri Review I've just started says that this story, "Those Deep Elm Brown's Ferry Blues," is his first published work. Controversy!

Soon I'll be diving into my 1931 Modern Library edition of The Decameron. As I've said elsewhere about this edition on LT, according to Wikipedia, this is the original English translation, completed in the 1880s I believe, by John Payne. 800 pages of small print and Victorian Era English. What could go wrong? Seriously, though, I'm looking forward to it all and not planning to rush. So I'll be a while.

Maio 18, 2023, 2:26 pm

>293 rocketjk: "Controversy!"

Perhaps "Evening Sun" was the first story he wrote, but "Ferry Blues" was the first to be published?

Editado: Maio 19, 2023, 7:47 pm

>294 KeithChaffee: "Perhaps "Evening Sun" was the first story he wrote, but "Ferry Blues" was the first to be published?"

Ha! Maybe, but I can say for the record that anyone who had "the first story he wrote" published in the Georgia Review is someone to be hated with all the fierce white heat that the explosive combustion of jealousy can muster.

Maio 19, 2023, 7:46 pm

Good for a Laugh: a New Collection of Humorous Tidbits and Anecdotes from Aardvark to Zythum by Bennett Cerf

Read as a "Between Book" (see first post). Back in the days when publishers and columnists could be celebrities, Bennett Cerf lived the life. He was an observational humor columnist, frequent story-telling raconteur guest on the Johnny Carson and Merv Griffith shows and the like, and also a serious publisher. If you've ever seen the documentary made about John and Yoko's "Bed-In For Peace," you might recall Cerf as the smug, condescending "establishment" interviewer trying to trick John into admitting that the whole thing was a gag. On the other hand, in 1925, at the age of 27, Cerf, a vice-president at Modern Library, bought the company, and soon founded Random House, as well. Part of Cerf's public reputation was as a jokester and punster. Good for a Laugh is a 220-page collection of puns and humorous anecdotes, gathered roughly into topics like "D is for Doctors" and "I is for Intoxicants." Not all of them are knee slappers. In fact, relatively few of them are. Given that the book was published in 1952, you'll not be surprised to learn that there is plenty of sexism disguised as yuks. Somehow or other, I found browsing gradually through these chapters amusing, but I think it was more a case of happily imagining my father enjoying these jokes than of enjoying them myself. A note that I've just spent a few minutes paging through the volume again hoping to come up with something actually humorous enough to post here as a positive example, but couldn't really find anything worth sharing. Oh, well.

Maio 19, 2023, 7:51 pm

>296 rocketjk: Not read anything by him which is surprising because I do remember very well watching him on Carson and Griffin and other places. Yeah this would have been on my dads bookcase, I assume; would have been his style!

Maio 20, 2023, 11:33 am

I've decided to postpone my reading of The Decameron for a while. As I've noted elsewhere, I've decided the 1880s translation in my old Modern Library edition would be too hard to read through. So when my wife and I get to New York (we leave for our year's adventure in just a few days), I'll look around for a more recent translation. In the meantime, I went instead to my history shelves and decided to read Mission to Moscow by Joseph Edward Davies. Davies was FDR's ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1936 through 1938, and the book is his memoir, complete with diary entries, from those years. The book was published in 1941. (I'm reading a first edition that I got at a thrift store, antique store or yard sale goodness knows where.)

Maio 21, 2023, 10:03 am

Hope you will keep us advised of your various adventures in NYC. I would love to do something like that, but my husband's medical issues won't let us. I do, however, get to NYC pretty regularly since we have 3 children living there. I just spent 10 days there at the end of April, during the rainiest week in NYC in years, but mostly spent it with the grandkids hanging out. Did get a couple of museum days in with my daughter. Our next trip there will be in July on the way to/from our "family reunion" (in celebration of our 50th anniversary, which actually took place 2 years ago during covid) in the Catskills.

Maio 21, 2023, 11:06 am

>299 arubabookwoman: I will certainly be posting here about our NYC adventures. Please do let me know when you're passing through the city. I'd love to use our NYC year to meet up with as many LT pals as possible and y'all will enjoy meeting my wife, too.

Maio 24, 2023, 10:09 am

>300 rocketjk: Safe travels!

Editado: Maio 24, 2023, 11:09 am

>301 labfs39: Thanks! Tomorrow's the day we shove off. Today we try to get the last week's worth of packing and other prep done in a single day.

Maio 24, 2023, 11:23 am

>302 rocketjk: Good luck with the move, and I can't wait to hear about the adventures you'll have. Please pat your fine dog for me and assure him that there will be an abundance of new smells in your new location.

Maio 24, 2023, 12:21 pm

>303 RidgewayGirl: Dog patted. (Her, not him, though :) ). Rosie is one of our major challenges when it comes to the year's move. She is a country dog, and used to simply being let out in the morning to roam around our approximately half-acre fenced in front field. She gets a long walk thereafter in the morning, but doesn't have to wait for one of us to be ready for that. We made a point of finding an apartment near a dog park. She loves the dog park experience, so that's the upside. With luck she will adapt to apartment building living, but we will have to give her a lot of attention, especially in the first weeks.

Maio 24, 2023, 8:35 pm

>304 rocketjk: On the plus side for Rosie, there's a LOT of great stuff for a dog to smell in NYC. She won't be bored!

Maio 24, 2023, 11:44 pm

>305 lisapeet: "On the plus side for Rosie, there's a LOT of great stuff for a dog to smell in NYC. She won't be bored!"

Right! Plus the dog run in Morningside Park.

Maio 25, 2023, 4:18 pm

>298 rocketjk: I went instead to my history shelves...

What happens to all your books while you're away?

Maio 28, 2023, 11:41 pm

>307 SassyLassy: "What happens to all your books while you're away?"

They stayed home. The fellow renting our home for the year gets to sample them if he wishes. On the other hand, our local branch of the NYC Public Library will be the Harry Belafonte 115th Street Library. How cool is that? (Although, to be honest, I did send my current "between books" on ahead in one of the several U Haul boxes that we send to our new apartment via FedEx.

Anyway, greetings from the road. We are about halfway across the country now, spending the night in a Howard Johnson's in Gothenburg, Nebraska. The drive is going smoothly, although by design and necessity, we're not doing much except driving, takeout, charging stations and hotel rooms. This New York City place better have some fun stuff to do.

Cheers all!

Maio 29, 2023, 8:33 am

>308 rocketjk: Woohoo! On the road again, like a band of gypsies we go down the highway or Me and you and a dog named Boo/Travelling and living off the land (or in this case Rosie).

Maio 29, 2023, 10:48 am

You've got some primo weather awaiting you here in NYC!

Jun 3, 2023, 10:12 am

We have arrived! We got here two days ago and are in the midst of the "great unpacking." We had pizza the first night, of course, and last night I zipped two blocks from our apartment to hit the late set of a fun, intimate jazz club called Room 623. Rosie has done very well in her first few visits to the Morningside Park dog park. Cheers!

Jun 3, 2023, 1:31 pm

>311 rocketjk: welcome to the east coast. Glad you arrived safely.

Jun 3, 2023, 10:04 pm

Exciting! Glad Rosie is adjusting. I bet she's glad to be out of the car.

Jun 4, 2023, 10:06 am

>313 labfs39: Yes, we're all glad to be out of the car! But at least my wife and I understood what was going on! Yesterday we had another exciting milestone, as we went over to 115th Street and got our NYC library cards. I found it a moving experience.

Jun 4, 2023, 10:08 am

>314 rocketjk: Great to see that you are settling down. I love your priorities: dog, jazz and library cards!

Jun 4, 2023, 10:10 am

Welcome to your new home, Jerry! Rosie has her pack with her, which is all she needs for happiness.

Jun 4, 2023, 10:53 am

Welcome to uptown! You've got some nice cool weather to start you out—good job!

Jun 4, 2023, 10:53 am

>315 raton-liseur: Thanks. That's a good list. We should add pizza, though, as we made a point of getting a mushroom sausage pizza from a nearby pizzeria on our first night here. :)

Jun 4, 2023, 9:18 pm

When I moved to nyc, my biggest shock was "regular" coffee. I’d ask for coffee and they’d say "regular?" And thinking regular is just plain old coffee with nothing added, I would say yes. And it was coffee with cream and 2 sugars. Boy was I confused especially since I drink black, unsweetened coffee.

Jun 5, 2023, 5:03 pm

Thanks, all, for the good wishes.

>316 RidgewayGirl: "Rosie has her pack with her, which is all she needs for happiness."

Right, that's what we were thinking, though there were times when I was wondering whether that was wishful thinking and whether she would really be happier in the long run if we found her a country family to take her in. A new pack, as it were. But she is a shelter rescue who has been abandoned a time or two already, once in a very cruel way. (She was taken to a lake dumped out of the car and left there to fend for herself.) She was in a series of foster homes and was being fostered by someone really nice (the woman who ran the animal shelter, in fact) when we adopted her. So we just didn't have the heart to separate from her. Plus, we didn't want to. So we told ourselves that staying with us was the best for her, even if it meant going from a rural environment to one of the biggest cities in the world. (Although it occurs to me that Rosie doesn't know how big the city is. So far she only knows about a five block radius and one very nice dog park.)

>319 dianeham: "And it was coffee with cream and 2 sugars. "

My wife and I both grew up in New Jersey, and we are familiar with that nomenclature, so that's one mistake we don't have to make! (We both drink our coffee with a bit of milk but NO sugar.)

Jun 7, 2023, 7:45 pm

I bet she's happy to be with you no matter what. Dogs are good that way.

But I bet none of you is very happy to be here right now. Does it get this bad when the fires are at their worst in CA?

Editado: Jun 7, 2023, 8:54 pm

>321 lisapeet: New York City is pretty much the same right now as the smoke conditions in the valley we lived in in Mendocino County during the fires around the area. We never had a major fire right in our valley, but we've had some pretty gruesome smoke from the fires nearby and sometimes as far away as Oregon. For some reason my wife decided to bring our N95 masks along with us to New York and we definitely broke them out today. The only time we left the building was to walk to dog, basically. Except we did go out to the soul food restaurant a block and a half away for dinner, where the employees were very interested in our masks. One order of fried catfish and one order of shrimp and grits. I knew you wanted to know. :)

Jun 10, 2023, 1:33 pm

I've been amazed that the air quality here in Maine has remained decent despite bordering Quebec. Just the way the winds have gone so far. When we lived in Seattle, the air quality would get really bad during fire season in the eastern part of the state and British Columbia. Sometimes we would have to brush ash off the car despite being hundreds of miles away.

Editado: Jun 22, 2023, 12:04 am

Book 27: Mission to Moscow by Joseph E. Davies

Well, here's me finally with another book read! It took me forever (about a month) to finish this book. I started it in late May, nibbled away at it during the drive cross-country my wife and I took as we moved from California to New York City for a year, and finally finished it yesterday. It is interesting, but not particularly compelling in the reading. So what is it?

Mission to Moscow is Joseph E. Davies' memoir, sort of, of his two years (1936 through 1938) as U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union. I say "sort of" because the book is not a narrative but a series of journal and diary entries as well as many of Davies' official reports and correspondences with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, President Roosevelt, and other government officials. There is quite a bit of repetition, as sometimes, for example, a report to Hull is immediately followed by a very similar report to Roosevelt. That said, the accumulation of information and insights that Davies provides ends up being pretty interesting for someone (like me) with an interest in the events of this era. Davies was in Moscow, and part of the inner diplomatic circle, during the purge trials and the run-up to World War Two. Interestingly, this book was published in October 1941, just 6 weeks or so before Pearl Harbor.

Davies was not a career diplomat, but a lawyer and businessman. He'd met Roosevelt when they were both in the Wilson administration, where Davies was first Commissioner of Corporations and then the first Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Because of his interest in industry, and because he thought it was his job, Davies spent a lot of time touring Soviet Union examining the progress the country had made in the realm of factories, mining and agriculture. He was surprised and extremely impressed with how far they'd come so fast since the Revolution. Davies reports on this are interesting at first, but they become extremely detailed and repetitive, sad to say, long past the time that the point has been made.

Regarding the Purge Trials: The first round of army officers and government officials who were caught up in the Stalin-Era treason trials were accused of collaborating with Germany and Japan to weaken the Soviet Union from within in preparation for possible invasion. Given that Lenin had actually had help from Germany leading up to the Russian Revolution, it seems logical that Stalin and his advisors would be suspicious of similar activities taking place in the 30s. Davies attended several sessions of these trials. He was dismayed by the fact that the accused were not allowed representation and made suspicious by the fact that, in trial after trial, the defendants uniformly confessed. Davies suspected that these confessions had in many cases been obtained either by physical torture or threat of reprisals against family. As the trials progressed, Davies wondered whether the execution of so many high ranking officers would cause the Red Army to turn against Stalin, but concluded in the end that the Stalin administration had instead cemented its power quite effectively. Davies also tells us that many in the Diplomatic Corps (in other words, other countries' ambassadors to Russia) concluded that many of the defendants were probably actually guilty. Davies describes a period of "terror" in which the arrests and executions numbered into the tens of thousands, and reached from the highest levels of military and government down onto the factory floor. In hindsight, in an addendum added in 1941, Davies also observed that Russia had been the only country invaded by Germany that hadn't had a significant problem of fifth columnists creating trouble from within. He concluded that the Purge trials had served to eliminate any potential fifth columnists. I haven't read any more contemporary histories of these trials and their actual purposes and results, so I don't know how accurate Davies observations are now considered.

Davies reports on the Soviet government's increasing frustration with Neville Chamberlain's appeasement politics towards Germany and their eventual outrage when they are left out of the negotiations that led to the infamous Munich Agreement. In fact, according to Davies, the Russians had been prepared to come to the aid of the Czechs militarily (as per the mutual defense treaty they had with Czechoslovakia and France). From the Munich Agreement, says Davies, the Soviets concluded that England and France were willing to give away Eastern Europe to Hitler in order to keep from being attacked themselves, and were probably willing to let Russia have to take on Hitler by themselves. This led them to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact that would allow them to at least forestall a German attack.

In the book's opening sections, there is much talk of an American loan to Russia that hadn't been paid back, and had become a diplomatic sticking point. As I understood the issue, the U.S. Government didn't officially recognize the Soviet Government as the legitimate government of Russia until 1933. At that point, the Russians began to be attacked by Japan. Wishing to be able to purchase arms from the U.S., the Soviets had concluded a deal with the U.S. that included the proviso that, in exchange for official recognition, they would agree to pay back a loan that the U.S. had given to the Kerensky government. By 1936, the Russians had still not followed through with actual payment, and it was getting to be a problem between the two countries. During Davies time this matter was finally settled, with Stalin's direct intervention. The whole thing was evidently a big deal at the time but has been pretty much forgotten now, I mention it here only because it takes up so much of Davies' descriptions. I was surprised to learn that it wasn't until 1933 that the U.S. recognized the Soviet government, but in retrospect I shouldn't have been.

Davies' prediction that a post-war Soviet Union would have little interest in trying to expand Communism further into Europe turned out to be short-sighted.

Well, that turned into a long review! But then again, the book is 513 pages plus another hundred or so pages of appendices. It is always of interest to me to read books about this era written before the war has played itself out. In 1936 and 1937, Davies was writing about trying to figure out ways to keep the peace in Europe. By 1938, he was writing about the importance of being prepared for war. The book can be very dry at times, but I did learn a lot about what the perspective of an ambassador in the Soviet Union would have been like during these years.

Book notes: My copy of Mission to Moscow is a sixth printing of the 1941 first edition. It's been on my shelf since before my 2008 LT "Big Bang."

Jun 21, 2023, 8:22 am

A book I don’t need to read, but a review I did need to read. I really enjoyed and learned a lot from your post.

Jun 21, 2023, 8:37 am

>325 dchaikin: Thanks. One of the reasons I felt OK about going into such depth is that I figured some folks might find the information interesting, and very few folks are going to wish to follow through and read the whole thing.

I'm going to be spending some more time catching up on CR threads soon, and look forward to reading yours.

Jun 21, 2023, 8:44 am

>326 rocketjk: One of the reasons I felt OK about going into such depth is that I figured some folks might find the information interesting, and very few folks are going to wish to follow through and read the whole thing.

I think you’re right about that!

Jun 21, 2023, 9:39 pm

>324 rocketjk:

Thanks for slogging through that--sounds interesting enough to hear about, but less so to read. :)

Also good to be reminded of the circumstances around Stalin's pact with Hitler. I'm getting sick to my teeth of trolls manipulating it as "evidence" the Soviets were "pro" Hitler. (You wouldn't believe the know-nothingness presumably mature people are exhibiting over in The Guardian comments any time there is mention of Russia.)

Who indeed in the West would have given a damn about Eastern Europe if Hitler had stopped there, or opened only the Eastern Front? Not even crickets.

And then the crocodile tears and posturing over poor Eastern Europe once the Red Army beat the bastards and started advancing... anyone who wants to see who were the real friends of the Nazis, take a look at Vichy France, and the treatment the Brits and the Yanks issued to the Communist resistance in Greece. From "democrats" to the fascists' best friends in one swift move.

Editado: Jun 22, 2023, 12:25 pm

>328 LolaWalser: Actually, you don't even have to wait around for the Vichy government to be instituted to find Nazi sympathizers high up in the French government and military, according to other reading I've done. There were plenty in place in pre-war France who had no particular love for the great unwashed (i.e., the Republic) and looked with favor upon fascism. Or they thought that a German victory was assured at any rate, and so looked sourly at the idea of a wasted defensive effort. Journalist Waverly Root, in his voluminous The Secret History of the War, presents compelling evidence that the French attempt to fight off the German invasion was itself compromised by high-level sympathizers/defeatists from within the French military command.

On the subject of the Munich Agreement, Davies says that the Russians had been kept out mainly because the French had objected to allowing Communists to have a strong say in such important matters. Two points to consider:

1) Given what I wrote above, it wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that the French objections actually came at the behest of Hitler, and put forth by French facist sympathizers, because Hitler knew that he could handle Chamberlain a lot more easily than he could handle Stalin in such negotiations.

2) The French, as I noted in my post above, were part of a 3-way mutual defense treaty with the Czechs and the Russians. Without the Munich Agreement, then, they would have been compelled to join the Russians in defending Czechoslovakia militarily, a development they obviously had very little appetite for.

Also we have the aristocratic wannabes within the U.S. State Department (the same lovelies who did their darnedest to allow as few Jews as possible into the U.S. before, during and after the war), who felt much more sympathy for the fascists within Vichy than for De Galle's hoi polloi following, and so didn't mind subtly thwarting the Free French efforts when they could.

Davies did not foresee the Russians' decision to stay and impose their rule in the Eastern European countries they occupied at war's end. He specifically says he doesn't think they would do that. I have no sympathy for that Soviet policy, to put it mildly. Churchill foresaw that development much more clearly than Davies (or Roosevelt) did.

Davies' final entry in the book is dated October 1941. My guess is that the book was actually published after the Pearl Harbor attack. And of course, by then Germany had already invaded Russia. Suddenly, the Soviets, who for years had been reviled in the U.S. as treaty co-signers with Hitler and invaders of Finland, were our allies. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that Davies' book had been marketed more or less for propaganda purposes. Over in the Best Sellers Over the Years group, we learn that Mission to Moscow was the second best non-fiction seller in the U.S. in 1942. I can't imagine that too many of the people who bought this book actually took the time to push their way all the way through it. On the other hand, I can imagine that the lack of obviously needed editing and thinning is a symptom of a rush to get the book onto shelves as quickly as they could.

Jun 22, 2023, 1:52 pm

Well, the war didn't actually ever end--from one angle the WWII is just an episode in the global war on Communism, spearheaded by the US. This approach makes sense of much that otherwise causes righteous hyperventilation.

There is no justice, but there is logic in the Soviets' extension of influence (I think it's a stretch to call it "occupation" if we're talking about the entire period up to 1989 and all the countries involved), which was a consolidation and legalization of influence on the Communist parties. Given that Communist resistance was the most significant, if not the only one, practically anywhere one looks (including mainland France), there was a strong moral argument in favour of Communists. (And in fact and despite the already fervent American and British machinations to sabotage Communist sympathies in Europe, even the Western, French and Italian Communist parties attained great electoral success. Fwiw, even the perennially caste-bound Brits kicked Churchill and the Tories to the curb.)

Would that moral argument have won free elections? That's a complicated question for a million reasons, and has to be considered country by country. Yugoslavia was the only Nazi-occupied country that raised organised armed resistance on a scale that caused Germans such serious trouble their advancement and final success were compromised. That resistance was led by the Communists, and Tito was probably the only European Communist leader genuinely popular with a majority of the people. But they didn't chance their hand at free elections because the pre-WWII ethnic bickering had just been crowned in war with genocide, primarily of Serbs and Jews. Unity, the precondition to rebuilding the country, was too important to risk in ethnic politicking.

Czechoslovakia did have free elections and there too the Communists in fact won, but then in 1948 it and then the breakup with Yugoslavia showed that Stalin wouldn't tolerate divergence from his rule anyhow.

While disastrous from the POV of Soviet satellites, the USSR needed that bulwark in Europe. The Americans demonstrated they could and would murder hundreds of thousands of people (those not deemed "European", anyway)--civilians at that, "the innocent"--at practically no loss to their own forces. And they were sat in Europe too. Tit, tat, white spy, black spy...

Sorry for the lengthy riff. I'm turning into my grandpa, forever nattering about the War. :)

Jun 22, 2023, 4:05 pm

Sorry to belabour the point, but it's just so opportune:

Daniel Ellsberg on the US plans for first-strike nuclear war against the USSR and China (YT short)

Editado: Jun 23, 2023, 11:03 am

No need to apologize from your "lengthy riff." I've gotten a bit, shall we say, less likely to curtail my own posts these days. It's hard to edit yourself, I think (or at least it is for me) when you're writing about things you take a strong interest in. Plus, god help us, it's fun! Also, it's totally cool for us to disagree about some of these factors. Also I have some questions for you. Apologies in advance if I have mischaracterized or misconstrued any of your ideas.

"There is no justice, but there is logic in the Soviets' extension of influence."

Certainly, there was logic from the Soviet point of view. Otherwise they wouldn't have done it. But, as you say, there is no justice. I have a clear comprehension of where the Soviets were coming from. Nevertheless, I can't have sympathy for the lengths they went to at the expense of others to ensure their own territorial integrity.

"Given that Communist resistance was the most significant, if not the only one, practically anywhere one looks (including mainland France), there was a strong moral argument in favour of Communists."

It's all a matter of perspective, I guess. I don't agree that "Our party supplied the most effective resistance movement" equates to "Our party now has a moral imperative to rule." "We were good and effective warriors" doesn't necessarily translate to "We have a political philosophy that most people in our country want to live with (or under)." In England, as you point out, Churchill, who had pulled the country together and greatly helped accomplish victory over Germany, was not considered to have a moral mandate to continue ruling the country afterwards. He was voted out because his economic policies weren't popular.

It's not at all surprising to me that the Communist Parties of Western European democracies have had electoral success. I think that's a good thing. But did the people who voted for Communist Party candidates in those countries in those post-war years think they were voting for what Stalin was dishing out in the Soviet Bloc countries? Or did they suppose that they were voting for representatives to work to apply Communist economic policies within the continued framework of their countries' parliamentary systems? Or maybe a middle ground: a Communist country without a totalitarian regime. At any rate, what I'm asking is whether Communist Party votes in France and Italy equate to a justification for (or represent those voters' agreement with) Stalin's actions in Eastern Europe. I don't think you were really saying it does, but you brought it up in the context of our conversation about Russian post-war policies in Eastern Europe, so I wasn't entirely sure.

"While disastrous from the POV of Soviet satellites, the USSR needed that bulwark in Europe."

It is this imposed disaster for millions of people that I don't sympathize with. To be clear, I understand why the Russians did what they did. But in my view, too many people paid too high a price to justify the Soviet actions in creating this security for themselves. My own view is that I don't see the needs of the USSR as more important than the needs of the people in the Soviet satellite countries, any more than I consider the needs of the U.S. government and corporate establishment to be more important than the needs of the people of Iraq, Vietnam, Chile, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti or any of the other many places the U.S. has meddled criminally to advance/protect perceived American interests.

But while Russia may have seen the creation of the Soviet Bloc at the point of tank muzzles and through political terror as a necessary step--to build themselves a bulwark--they can't have been blind to the fact that the whole program would, quite understandably, be seen as a threat by the rest of Europe and to the world.* If they really had wanted to be left alone politically and culturally to continue building a strong and safe Communist Russia, I don't think they chose the best way, even in their own self-interest, to go about it. It was bound to be seen as belligerent, rather than simply defensive. So the policy was instrumental in ramping up hostilities that lasted, in costly fashion for everyone, for decades. They shared that dance with the U.S., absolutely, but both countries were complicit.

I agree with you entirely that the catalogue of American malfeasance is more or less endless, and that those policies have been disastrous for millions. I consider those to be criminal acts. I also consider the Soviets bringing disaster to the many Soviet satellite countries in the name of their own self interest to be a series of criminal acts. In my view, it's not sufficient to say, "Well, the Soviets' hands were forced by the Americans." Each country has to take responsibility for its own actions, I think.

* Especially since at Yalta, Stalin had agreed that in all occupied countries there would be "interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population…and the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people."

With respect,

Editado: Jun 23, 2023, 11:05 am

>331 LolaWalser: Governments create all sorts of contingency plans. I would bet the horse and barn that the Soviets had also drawn up contingency plans for a first strike nuclear attack.

Editado: Jun 23, 2023, 1:46 pm

>332 rocketjk:

I said the Soviet rule was disastrous for its European satellites because it is obviously a disaster when a country isn't independent. But "disaster" is relative and if you're going to talk about "millions" suffering, in the big picture I wouldn't be sure that the Soviets caused MORE suffering than has been caused--and is caused--globally by capitalist policies. The vaunted American "democracy" not only grew on slavery but continued to hobble its victims for centuries to this day. If that's what "the land of the free" does to its inhabitants, where does one find the moral ground to condemn Soviet politics as uniquely iniquitous? Did Cuba suffer more through Communism or American sanctions? Many Europeans feel about American imperialism pretty much the same as they did about Soviet rule: it's, to put it mildly, obnoxious and unwanted.

And then, while we're not allowed to think the Soviets did anything ever right or with genuine altruism, there is the fact (as I've myself become aware of only belatedly) that many people do remember that even those societies with the enforced one-party rule had some good and desirable features, and that their current so-called "free" countries do not. This is not revisionism, it's a much needed backlash to the obscenity of anti-Communist propaganda that never let go from the Commune to this day.

I brought up the success of Western Communist parties to show the breadth of popularity Communism experienced in general in the post-war period because that gives some idea of "people's will" (since the way Americans speak of Communism is invariably as of some dread plague befalling poor unsuspecting victims and absolutely never something that masses might actually WANT). Unsurprisingly, given what the rightwingers and their liberal appeasers had wrought over the last six years, this was the moment of glory for the revolutionary left. In the West that was quickly beaten down by Western Europe's American masters (although the Italians stubbornly continued to vote Communist in astonishing numbers). Your question regarding the relationships of these Western parties to Moscow and its policies demands a complicated answer (and I'm no expert), not to mention the difficulty of answering what the opinion of Communist voters may have been. The PCF was more tied to Soviet orthodoxy than the Italians, but the main point is that this wasn't (again, as Americans picture it) reflective of abject servility but doctrinaire conviction of the unity of the Communist cause. It wasn't "humiliating" nor "traitorous" to be ruled from the Soviet centre if the idea was that all Communists had the same ideal of a global Communist society.

In that light, the orthodox would tend to approve whatever Moscow did because the end justified the means. In practice there were, as ever, many rifts and factions jockeying for domination. And none of this stood still from one period to another, from Stalin's death to Khrushchev's reforms to the major disillusionment when the Soviets broke Prague Spring.

>333 rocketjk:

I would bet the horse and barn that the Soviets had also drawn up contingency plans for a first strike nuclear attack.

Yeah, see, this is the sort of thing that makes me mad. This is not just blithely substituting lack of evidence for evidence, it ignores everything we DO know about the Cold War, the relative state of the forces and their behaviour.

What we DO know now is that the USSR was truly the much weaker opponent, a mouse or at best a cat relative to the American military behemoth. To be sure, the Soviets managed to project a much bigger silhouette (not least thanks to their space programme) and definitely possessed weapons as deadly as the Americans', qualitatively. But they were also constantly and structurally on the defensive, juggling a frugal economy with impossible demands to keep up with the American military. They could barely provide for their own people and those dependent on them. You'll be aware that the American-led West basically blocked all normal trade with the USSR, hobbling it every which way and blackmailing others to do the same. The USSR was big but much less mighty than paranoia made it seem (and, indeed, than the Soviets tried to appear).

In context, the idea that the USSR would launch a first-strike nuclear war at the US and/or Western Europe (let's also recall that unlike for the Americans, cosily ensconced between two oceans and lands they despise, the USSR was (and Russia is) also very much IN and NEXT to Europe) is simply the idea of suicide. Americans HAVE the luxury of picturing a first-strike nuclear war they'd survive. Literally nobody else in the world does. Not today, and not the Soviets then.

I'd also point out that it was a Soviet officer who "saved the world" (IIRC, the words of an American official) when AMERICAN actions recklessly brought us seconds to annihilation. That swinish arrogance, the fact that Americans started attacking a Soviet nuclear submarine in international waters like rodeo cowboys, a sub that had as much right to be there as they did, that's just so quintessentially American, a murderous dumbassery that no one else in the world thinks they can afford. The Soviets sure as hell could not, and as we know from a number of examples, DID not.

Jun 23, 2023, 2:00 pm

Yeah, it's funny... until you remember Newman satirizes something actually existing in the US mentality.

Randy Newman - Political Science (Let's Drop the Big One Now)

Jun 23, 2023, 11:32 pm

Yikes, I couldnt finish watching that song, tho I know it was right on.

Thanks to both of you for this discussion. I found it eye opening (in terms of how much weaker the ussr was than we knew) and upsetting how the whole communist/capilalist tug and pull caused death and destruction no matter which of their satellites were attacked. Also depressing because no matter what we debate, unless the two countries get their collective act together, we are heading for sumthing much warmer than the cold war

>334 LolaWalser:'d also point out that it was a Soviet officer who "saved the world" (IIRC, the words of an American official) when AMERICAN actions recklessly brought us seconds to annihilation. That swinish arrogance, the fact that Americans started attacking a Soviet nuclear submarine in international waters like rodeo cowboys, a sub that had as much right to be there as they did, that's just so quintessentially American, a murderous dumbassery that no one else in the world thinks they can afford

I do not know about this. reference or history pleased

Editado: Jun 24, 2023, 2:31 am

>336 cindydavid4: Nor do I. I know about one where a Soviet officer didn't inform his superiors about a (computer) reported American missile attack, which turned out to be a false alarm - if he had reported it (this was during the Cuban Missile Crisis oops, no, 1980s), there would probably have been full nuclear war. But I don't know (and can't find any record of, in a quick Google) about one where a sub is involved, or where there actually was an American attack.

Editado: Jun 24, 2023, 4:08 pm

>334 LolaWalser: Just (kinda sorta) briefly:

"where does one find the moral ground to condemn Soviet politics as uniquely iniquitous?"

I didn't say that Soviet politics were "uniquely ubiquitous." I listed a series of grave American transgressions purposefully to make it specifically clear that I was not saying that.

"while we're not allowed to think the Soviets did anything ever right or with genuine altruism,"

Again, I never made any such statement.

"Yeah, see, this is the sort of thing that makes me mad. This is not just blithely substituting lack of evidence for evidence, it ignores everything we DO know about the Cold War, the relative state of the forces and their behaviour."

Militaries and governments routinely produce contingency plans for all sorts of scenarios. Of course they would do research into finding out what the result of a first strike would be. Do you honestly think that the Russians didn't look into it, too, that they were too humanitarian to even ask themselves the question? I remain unconvinced of that. At any rate, what we know from history is that the Americans found out what the price of a nuclear strike would be and then they didn't do it.

"What we DO know now is that the USSR was truly the much weaker opponent,"

It's seems to me just as likely, if not more likely, that a weaker opponent would decide to roll the dice on a surprise first nuclear strike. (And also, if the issue was fear of nuclear attack, how was the bulwark of satellite states the Russians had set up going to prevent that?)

"In context, the idea that the USSR would launch a first-strike nuclear war at the US and/or Western Europe (let's also recall that unlike for the Americans, cosily ensconced between two oceans and lands they despise, the USSR was (and Russia is) also very much IN and NEXT to Europe) is simply the idea of suicide. Americans HAVE the luxury of picturing a first-strike nuclear war they'd survive. Literally nobody else in the world does. Not today, and not the Soviets then."

This seems backwards to me. I'm no geographer, but it seems to me that the number of miles from the U.S. to Russia is the same as the number of miles from Russia to the U.S. Because the U.S. is isolated between the oceans, a Russian attack would produce fallout that would affect Russia or their allies relatively weakly. Whereas a U.S. attack on Russia, as we learned from the Ellsberg clip, would kill 100s of thousands (at least) in NATO countries. So which attack, then, seems more likely? Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point, though. At any rate, once the "Mutually Assured Destruction" system of automated retaliation was in place, the idea of a first strike by anyone became more remote, as it would have meant suicide for everyone.

Anyhow, again, none of this is to say that the Russians never actually looked into what would happen if they launched a first strike, which is what I think you're trying to convince me of. Again, governments and military leaderships compile contingency plans, not just for likely scenarios, but for unlikely scenarios as well.

Anyway, this discussion stemmed from my expressed opinion that the Soviets were not justified in their actions regarding the countries that became Soviet satellite countries at the end of World War 2. I've very much enjoyed and learned from reading your perspectives and comments (that's meant sincerely, not snarkily--these things are sometimes hard to be clear about on social media), but nothing you've said has changed my opinion about that.

All the best,

Editado: Jun 25, 2023, 7:06 am

>335 LolaWalser:

Yes, the Randy Newman song is great. As we know, satire is based strongly on exaggeration. Newman, though, in my opinion, wasn't saying that every American or even most Americans, were in favor of atomic war. He was satirizing the far from ubiquitous element that did. Most Americans, like most Russians I'm sure, wanted no part of nuclear weapons whatsoever. "Political Science" was released in 1972, when I was already a 17 year old American person. I have a pretty fair idea of how people in the country were thinking about these things. I never knew anybody who thought that dropping atoms bombs was a good idea, and I read about but very few, and those people who did think that were pretty much marginalized. Newman's song, really, I think, is making fun of American cultural arrogance. That's never been in short supply.

Newman was a great satirist, as was his predecessor, Tom Lehrer. Who are the most famous Russian satirists who recorded songs about government policy and cultural attitudes of that era for general consumption in the Soviet Union in the 60s and 70s?

Here are the lyrics from Tom Lehrer's "Who's Next" from 1964, about the nuclear race, with its chilling final line:

First we got the bomb and that was good
Cause we love peace and motherhood
Then Russia got the bomb, but that's O.K
Cause the balance of power's maintained that way!
Who's next?

France got the bomb, but don't you grieve
'Cause they're on our side, I believe
China got the bomb, but have no fears
They can't wipe us out for at least five years!
Who's next?

Then Indonesia claimed that they
Were gonna get one any day
South Africa wants two, that's right:
One for the black and one for the white!
Who's next?

Egypt's gonna get one, too
Just to use on you know who
So Israel's getting tense
Wants one in self defense
"The Lord's our shepherd", says the Psalm
But just in case, we better get a bomb!
Who's next?

Luxembourg is next to go
And, who knows, maybe Monaco
We'll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets the bomb!

Also from Lehrer in the 60s, we get the much more pointed "Send the Marines!"

When someone makes a move
Of which we don't approve
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess
But first send the Marines!

We'll send them all we've got
John Wayne and Randolph Scott
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli
But not to Mississippoli
What do we do? We send the Marines!
For might makes right
And till they've seen the light
They've got to be protected
All their rights respected
Till somebody we like can be elected!

Members of the Corps
All hate the thought of war
They'd rather kill them off by peaceful means
Stop calling it aggression
Ooh, we hate that expression!

We only want the world to know
That we support the status quo
They love us everywhere we go
So when in doubt
Send the Marines!

Jun 24, 2023, 10:41 pm

Love Leherer, know all his songs by heart My favs are probably the Element song and Poisoning Pigeons in the Oarkm but the ones above are among the best satire ever. Lehere famously said satire died after kissinger won the nobel peace prize Fortunatly we have people like newman to prove him wrong

Editado: Jun 25, 2023, 7:24 am

After finally finishing Mission to Moscow, I took a somewhat abbreviated and altered stroll through Stack 1 of my "Between Books:"

* Excerpts from The Pony Express by Glenn D. Bradley in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* "How the Princess’s Pride Was Broken" from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
* "Samuel Taylor Coleridge” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* “A Rascal Meets the Spider” by Barry Farrell from Life Magazine - October 24, 1969

Two notes:
1) My copy of Baseball 1963, edited by C.C. Spink, went missing in the move from Mendocino to New York. Possibly, it didn't get packed (yes, I packed and/or shipped my current Between Books). Or, as it's a small, digest-sized publication, possibly it's snuggled down in the corner of whatever duffle bag or suitcase it was packed away in. At any rate, now that I'm satisfied that it's not going to turn up absent a thorough search of all baggage, which is not happening, I'm going to put a new copy on order, and I will read two sections from it next time.
2) Although I was smart enough to bring along three magazines off the top of the pile of old magazines from my office closet floor to ensure that I'd always have "Between Book" magazine reading during our year in New York, I forgot to bring the copy of Show Magazine that I was about 80% through when we left. Duh! Hence the sudden shift that I'm sure you all noticed (Ha!) from that Show Magazine to the October, 24, 1969 edition of Life.

Last night I finally started the baseball biography Tom Seaver: A Terrific Life by Bill Madden.

Editado: Jun 25, 2023, 3:49 pm

>336 cindydavid4:, >337 jjmcgaffey:

Vassily Arkhipov. Every person living on Earth should know his name.

>339 rocketjk:

Who are the most famous Russian satirists who recorded songs about government policy and cultural attitudes of that era for general consumption in the Soviet Union in the 60s and 70s?

Nobody you heard of, apparently, although they were bigger in the USSR than Randy Newman ever was in the US: Boulat Okudjava and Vladimir Vysotsky, for example. And your snideness is noted, too--what is that question about? Is it that comfy liberal chestnut about "freedom of speech"?

Americans have proved that they are willing to use nuclear weapons against civilian populations, there's no exaggerating this. This, of course, doesn't mean nobody else would. Let's hope we don't find out.


Vysotsky’s songs, with their mix of allegory, archetype and anecdote, appeal to the Russian sense of “Что делать?/ What can you do?” — endurance in the face of the indignities and demands of life. Paired with this, though, is the bard’s fiercely rebellious streak, as he spoke out in a cutting and lyrical way about living under an authoritarian regime. It’s perhaps for this reason that Vysotsky’s music has found some of its most ardent fans in formerly and currently oppressed countries, where his wry but humanistic commentaries ring true to people’s experiences.

Okudzhava had already endured hard times from the literary establishment in the 1950s for his guitar poems, which he sung himself in a less than perfect voice, accompanied on a guitar for which he knew no more than a few chords. Sung first for friends who made homemade recordings, copied and recopied again, the songs eventually reached an underground audience of millions across the Soviet Union before being officially recognized and distributed. ... And his example gave birth to the bard movement, singers of guitar poetry who would forever elude official control, and whose intimate songs distributed by modern tape technology opened a space for free discourse in Soviet society.

Editado: Jun 25, 2023, 3:40 pm

I don't know how I missed this, jfc:

Anyhow, again, none of this is to say that the Russians never actually looked into what would happen if they launched a first strike, which is what I think you're trying to convince me of. Again, governments and military leaderships compile contingency plans, not just for likely scenarios, but for unlikely scenarios as well.

NO. I am NOT "trying to convince" you of anything, because there is no information about what you should be convinced of. I am pointing out the fallacy of YOUR grounding an opinion on a LACK of evidence. I don't care how many "bets" you make: that's. NOT. EVIDENCE. This is unspeakably repugnant to me, even just as a scientist. We respect what we don't know.

What I did is try to reason about the context based on KNOWN facts. It is now widely known what the Soviet leaders knew all the time (and no doubt a good deal of the population too)--that they were orders of magnitude weaker and constantly on the defensive.

Some stupid parallelism in actions makes no sense whatsoever when the starting positions are so drastically different.

"Geography": you're arguing as if you simply want to beat my arguments down and not really think about anything you are saying. Yeah, some parts of the US are closer to then-USSR than other, but that doesn't mean they are a natural target! There's suicide, as in a first-strike nuclear war against a much more powerful opponent strategically shielded from the worst you can do, and then there's moronic suicide, where the Soviets first strike... Alaska. Why? To knock out the reindeer government?

None of this proves anything, NOR IS IT MEANT TO. But you are "betting" regardless of both of lack of evidence or the context that something has happened, and want us to weigh that ZERO as equally significant as what we KNOW has happened (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, precisely).

Editado: Jun 25, 2023, 4:30 pm

And this--talk about arguing in bad faith:

Anyway, this discussion stemmed from my expressed opinion that the Soviets were not justified in their actions regarding the countries that became Soviet satellite countries at the end of World War 2. I've very much enjoyed and learned from reading your perspectives and comments (that's meant sincerely, not snarkily--these things are sometimes hard to be clear about on social media), but nothing you've said has changed my opinion about that.

And why should it have changed your opinion about that, when literally the first thing I said on the topic was that it was unjust ("there is no justice...") and concluded by calling it "disastrous"???? Nothing I wrote was in defense of the Warsaw Pact, but a thinking-through on HOW it happened, in particular the reasons that gave the Communist parties a leg up in the beginning!

Apologies again for multiple responses. It won't happen again.

Jun 25, 2023, 9:15 pm

>342 LolaWalser: thank you for that informatio about Vassily Arkhipov. Very frightening how such a decision coulld be made by one man; he fortunately made the right one

Editado: Jun 27, 2023, 12:52 pm

>342 LolaWalser: "Nobody you heard of, apparently, although they were bigger in the USSR than Randy Newman ever was in the US: Boulat Okudjava and Vladimir Vysotsky, for example.

Yes, nobody I ever heard of, which is why I needed to ask the question. Thanks for the names. Okudjava Vysotsky is particularly cool to know about. I will look into finding Vadmim Astrakhan’s translations. Okudjava sounds like a wonderful songwriter and singer, though the description you linked to doesn’t really describe him as a satirist. But I am certainly I’m happy to learn about him.

>344 LolaWalser: "And why should it have changed your opinion about that {"my expressed opinion that the Soviets were not justified in their actions regarding the countries that became Soviet satellite countries at the end of World War}, when literally the first thing I said on the topic was that it was unjust ("there is no justice...") and concluded by calling it "disastrous"???? Nothing I wrote was in defense of the Warsaw Pact, but a thinking-through on HOW it happened, in particular the reasons that gave the Communist parties a leg up in the beginning!"

I had a two or three-paragraph explanation composed, complete with examples, of why I came to the assessment I did about your comments, but at this point I don't think it would be worthwhile to revisit them. Apologies for the misreading.

>343 LolaWalser: "Geography": you're arguing as if you simply want to beat my arguments down and not really think about anything you are saying. Yeah, some parts of the US are closer to then-USSR than other, but that doesn't mean they are a natural target! There's suicide, as in a first-strike nuclear war against a much more powerful opponent strategically shielded from the worst you can do, and then there's moronic suicide, where the Soviets first strike... Alaska. Why? To knock out the reindeer government?

You misunderstood the point I was making, which was not that "some parts of the US are closer to then-USSR than others," but that the U.S.'s isolation between the oceans means that fallout from a Russian strike on, say DC and NY, would have much further to go to affect Russia and its allies than would fallout from a US strike on Moscow, which could much more easily blow across NATO countries.

But, in support of your larger point, what I was forgetting, and what I was sure you were going to point out once I thought of it later, is that many of the U.S./NATO missiles are/were actually in Europe, so that to take out a significant part of the American arsenal, the Russians would have had to bomb more or less their own front yard.

"NO. I am NOT "trying to convince" you of anything, because there is no information about what you should be convinced of. I am pointing out the fallacy of YOUR grounding an opinion on a LACK of evidence. I don't care how many "bets" you make: that's. NOT. EVIDENCE. This is unspeakably repugnant to me, even just as a scientist. We respect what we don't know.

What I did is try to reason about the context based on KNOWN facts. It is now widely known what the Soviet leaders knew all the time (and no doubt a good deal of the population too)--that they were orders of magnitude weaker and constantly on the defensive."

I honestly can't understand why this makes you so angry. For one thing, I never claimed to have evidence. My conjecture -- based on what to me is a “known fact,” that governments, and especially military leadership, do research and draw up plans for contingencies both likely and unlikely -- is that the Soviet leadership probably had looked into how many casualties would be caused on both sides by a Russian first strike launch. I'm sorry you don't see the validity of that logic, but, again, I don't see the source of your ire.

At any rate, I got interested and took a wild swing at an internet search. I landed first, as one does, on Wikipedia, and a page titled "First Strike (nuclear strategy). {} On that page I found a passage about Fidel Castro's urging Khrushchev to use nuclear weapons against the U.S.

"Recently declassified interviews with high level former Soviet nuclear and military–industrial planners reveal that Fidel Castro continued to favour nuclear options, even during the later Cold War – according to former Soviet General Andrian Danilevich, "( the early 1980s...) Cuban leader Fidel Castro pressed the USSR to take a tougher line against the United States, including possible nuclear strikes. The Soviet Union, in response, sent experts to spell out for Castro the ecological consequences for Cuba of nuclear strikes on the United States. Castro, according to the general, quickly became convinced of the undesirability of such outcomes."{2}

Intrigued, I followed the footnote link to see what else, if anything, I could find out on the subject from this source. The footnote is this:

Hines, John; Mishulovich, Ellis M.; Shulle, John F. (1995-09-22). "An Analytical Comparison of U.S.-Soviet Assessments During the Cold War" (PDF). Soviet Intentions 1965–1985, Volume I. The National Security Archive, George Washington University: BDM Federal, Inc., contractor to Federal Government, United States of America. p. 24. Retrieved 2009-09-23.

It came complete with a link to a pdf: (

Now I am about to quote from that report at length, because I found it extremely interesting, and I think others might, as well. The entirety of what I'm quoting supports your statements that the Soviet leadership had no interest in starting a nuclear war. But there also passages that confirm my supposition that they would nevertheless have done contingency planning, which is all I've been saying on this topic. I am bolding those passages for easy identification. Note that this report quotes extensively from retired Russian officials:

From the interviews with Soviet General Staff officers, a picture emerges of a military command that understood the devastating consequences of nuclear war and was genuinely intent on preventing war. Inside the General Staff, beginning in the early 1970s, the idea matured that while nuclear weapons might serve as a political tool, they had very limited military utility. By 1981, the General Staff had reached the conclusion that nuclear use would be catastrophic as well as counterproductive to combat operations in the European theater.

The employment of nuclear weapons had to be avoided if at all possible, asserted the late Chief of the General Staff, Sergei Akhromeev. Vitalii Tsygichko, former head of conventional and nuclear theater forces modeling at the Scientific Research Institute NII-6 of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the General Staff, expressed the belief that the Soviet political leadership, with backing from the military leadership, would probably have entered negotiations in order to avert an outbreak of nuclear war. Gen.-Col. Andreas Danilevich, a special advisor on military doctrine to the Chief of the General Staff, explained that even though some theoretical writings, plans, and exercises included a first strike against the United States, the Soviet political leadership never discussed the possibility of launching a first strike. While Politburo members did examine contingencies for nuclear use, they shied away from authorizing nuclear use.

Danilevich witnessed a military exercise in 1972 at which Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev, Prime Minister Kosygin, and Defense Minister Grechko were presented with the results of a simulated U.S. first strike that killed 80 million Soviet citizens, destroyed 85 percent of the USSR's industrial capacity, and decimated Soviet ground forces and non-strategic aviation. Brezhnev was given an actual button and asked to push it to authorize a retaliatory strike. Gen. Danilevich report that the General Secretary was pale and perspiring and that his hand trembled visibly. He asked Greco several times for assurances that the button would not set off real missile launches. "Andrei Antonovich," he repeatedly asked Grechko, this is definitely an exercise?" After 1972, the political leadership did not participate in even a single military exercise involving nuclear weapons. The General staff was left entirely on its own to develop scenarios for nuclear war.

>344 LolaWalser: "Apologies again for multiple responses. It won't happen again."

I hope you'll reconsider.

Editado: Jul 1, 2023, 12:36 pm

Well here we are in July. With 346 posts under the bridge, I guess it's time for a second-half thread, so please join me if you wish in my Part 2 endeavors.
Este tópico foi continuado por rocketjk's 2023 Read 'n' review - Part 2.