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Showing posts from April, 2012

Dog Days

It isn't August, but the "dog days" have really heated up with the Romney camp digging into Obama's Dreams of My Father for some "red meat" to throw to the crowd.  This after the Obama camp focused on Romney's infamous 1983 vacation in which Mitt strapped Seamus (albeit in a dog carrier) to the top of the family wagon.  It is kind of hard to compare a 30-something-year-old man strapping a family dog to the roof and a five-year-old boy being given a fuzzy story about "you are what you eat" by his step-father as he feeds him dog meat, but leave it to the Romney camp to inflate this into tabloid news.  I have to wonder how the SPCA weighs in on the matter?

On the Road

I was beginning to think this was another production that would fall through the cracks.  Walter Salles was slated to direct On the Road after the success of Motorcycle Diaries in 2004.  Coppola has held the film rights since 1979, but couldn't bring himself to make the movie until he saw Salles' film of a young Che Guevera.  This was what he was looking for in On the Road.  It seems Salles takes pretty much the same approach.  Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee is an inspired choice.  Garret Hedlund looks good as Dean Moriarty.  Not sure about Kristen Stewart as Marylou, but we shall see. The film is premiering at Cannes in May and will get full release this summer.  Look forward to it!

Wealth and Democracy

Reading this morning that the 40 richest persons in the world have a combined wealth of over $1 trillion, I found myself searching for books on how it came to be this way in an age of unprecedented worldwide democracy.  I came across Jack Beatty's dark look at the Gilded Age, which he calls an Age of Betrayal.  Indeed, this was a time when we were supposed to be redeeming the recalcitrant Southern states and ushering in a new age of civic freedom.  Instead, we saw a great consolidation of wealth, which would last until well into the 20th century, before the Roosevelt-Taft anti-monopoly laws finally took effect, and the introduction of federal income tax.  Beatty explores the period 1865-1900, when that consolidation of wealth took place.  Looks like hard reading,

Beatty leaves it to others to describe the glamour of the Gilded Age. Instead he makes viscerally clear the grinding poverty, the bloody racial hatred, the violent labor strikes, and the corrupt politics that also charact…

Turning a blind eye

Av has been referring to Hitlerland, a new book by Andrew Nagorski, which captures Americans' views of Germany during the interwar period, in particular their reactions to Hitler's growing power,

The book’s best insights come not from Nagorski but from the would-be journalist Howard K. Smith, who arrived in Germany in 1936, fresh from university. Smith observed four stages of American reaction. The first was admiration: Americans saw neatness, efficiency, prosperity and cleanliness. New to the country, they credited these characteristics to Hitler, instead of realizing that they were essentially German. Stage two brought a recognition of militarism — uniforms, guns, marching and “Heil Hitler” salutes. But since military pageantry was quite exciting, many failed to appreciate the threat it symbolized.

The above picture shows Hitler with Thomas Watson, who later became CEO of IBM, among other American businessmen.

The Solitary Volcano

Ezra Pound is a poet I've long wanted to explore.  I noticed the anniversary of his release from St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital in Washington, DC, in 1958.  He had been detained immediately after World War II and held at U.S. military base for months in Pisa before being returned to the US, where he spent 12 years at St. Elizabeths. Of course, one can condemn his support of fascism and his anti-Semitic rants but one wonders if it was the political black eye Pound gave America that motivated this treatment, not his positions, as many a corporate head, including our dear Henry Ford, had supported Hitler before the war and was a known anti-Semite.

I was looking for biographies and came across this one by John Tytell.  There is a newer one published in 2007 by David Moody.  Here is a copy of Pound's Letters in Captivity.  Nice to see that Pound is included in the Library of America, which he richly deserved.

Remembering Hitch

Christopher Hitchens loved his booze and cigarettes.  He felt that it gave him an edge when it came to writing copy.  Charlie Rose had Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and James Fenton on the other night discussing this and other aspects of Hitch's life.   They all spoke very warmly of him, especially Amis, who was one of his dearest friends.  Hitch apparently liked to tease him in saying that they had an unconsummated gay marriage.  Fenton noted Hitch's incorrigible "flirting" and the way he liked to entertain opposing views.  His Washington parties would have persons from across the political spectrum.  He loved being in the thick of things, among those who shaped policies, but at the same time would fly over at a moment's notice to be with one of his friends when he needed him.  Rushdie noted that Hitch stood by him throughout the fatwa ordeal and defended him against Le Carre when the two of them had their big row.  They all said he made a big mistake…

Jefferson's French Cookbook

It seems Julia Child had nothing over Thomas Jefferson, who introduced the creme brulee, among many other tasty delicacies to America.  I had heard the story of how he offered James Hemings freedom if he could master the art of French cooking, and apparently this book tells the full story, with recipes to boot!

DNA of the Dickinson family

Oxford professor Lyndall Gordon brings the advantage of distance and a fresh and tough-minded perspective to her fascinating study. Combining information from biographies and library archives, and paying careful attention to material that has been overlooked or overshadowed, Gordon also considers the afterlife of Dickinson's poetry. She offers clear and boldly original answers to the "unanswered questions" of Dickinson's life, and an ethnographic and historical approach to the problems of the literary biographer. Although such answers can never explain the nature or sources of creativity, Gordon argues that they can offer "securer openings" to Dickinson's buried life.

Can't repeat the past?…Why of course you can!

Here's celebrating the anniversary of The Great Gatsby.  This is an original review by Edwin Clark for the New York Times in 1925.  It is certainly a book that has endured the test of time.  Perhaps the most perfect American novel ever written.  Very sorry to see they are going to remake the movie, especially given it is a Baz Luhrmann production.

Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter!  Here our some images from White House festivities from years gone by.

Lying About the Past

Probably would have made for a better April 1 lead-in post, but sadly there are a lot of folks taking David Barton seriously.  He is popping up everywhere these days.  Here he is from last May using The Daily Show to spread his views.  Barton is apparently the one responsible for all those bogus founding fathers quotes being spread over Facebook and other Internet sharing websites.  When called on these unconfirmed quotations, Barton said in his defense that they were "consistent" with the "views" of the Founding Fathers.  His recent book on Jefferson is garnering a lot of attention.  An historian tries to sum up the Barton Factor, after watching the interview with Jon Stewart.  This sounds like the Dunning School all over again.

The Haberdasher and the Commander

Distinguished Historian Miller  offers lively, well-presented parallel biographies, though the book is superficial in comparison with recent exhaustive works on each man. The author is primarily interested in comparing the experiences of these two men as they rose through the ranks of their chosen professions, and their approaches to government.

From Kirkus reviews