Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2013

Portrait of a Novel

I like it when writers tackle a single literary work of a major author rather than trying to sum up his entire life.  Here, Michael Gorra dissects Henry James' Portrait of a Lady, which Gorra apparently argues is a critique of American Exceptionalism, as he studies both the author's and Isabel's intents, careful "about the dangers of matching art and life too neatly."  Sounds like a very interesting read!

Much anticipated!

Salinger I simply couldn't resist, and what makes the pot even sweeter is that the biographers claim there are five verified Salinger novels heretofore unpublished, continuing the story of Holden Caulfield. It's just too good to believe,

The Salinger books would revisit “Catcher” protagonist Holden Caulfield and draw on Salinger’s World War II years and his immersion in Eastern religion. The material also would feature new stories about the Glass family of “Franny and Zooey” and other Salinger works.

The Butler

It seems it is never enough to hew a historical line, or in this case biographical line.  Better to make a real figure into a caricature you can easily wrap your own ideas about race and inequality around.  This certainly seems to be the case with The Butler, an odd cross between Remains of the Day and Forrest Gump, with Eugene Allen remade as Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served 8 presidents between 1952 and 1986.

The New Yorker notes that this is pretty lightweight drama, with Forest Whitaker offering a very restrained portrayal of the butler, in contrast to his fictionalized son who actively takes part in the Civil Rights movement.  Cecil can only watch, quite literally, as he sees his son being arrested on television, and is forced to hold his tongue, as the White House is pretty much portrayed as a "plantation."

Not surprisingly, right-wing pundits have lashed out at this film, notably Reagan's adopted son Michael, who likened the movie to Sayles' The B…

I have a Dream - 50 years later

I caught snippets of the 50th anniversary of MLK's I Have a Dream Speech and sad to say I was underwhelmed by the featured speakers, particularly Eric Holder and Cory Booker.  Why all that stridency?  Granted the Trayvon Martin case is an issue in the black community, but I would think an occasion like this would largely be celebrated by the gains made over the last 50 years, notably John Lewis being a ranking Democratic member of Congress, which was virtually inconceivable when King delivered his powerful speech.

In many ways the dream has been fulfilled, but we have yet to move into a post-racial society, which some pundits opined with the election of Obama in 2008.  The Trayvon Martin case notes the shortfalls in our purportedly "color-blind society," which Reagan tried to invoke in 1986.  Even with the highly toxic decision of the Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act, there are still federal laws in place to challenge state attempts to restrict voting by requi…

What will Hillary do?

It seems the success of the Republicans to filibuster virtually every bill in Congress and shut down government has led them to now threaten to "shut out" news networks.  In one of the more audacious moves yet, the RNC has threatened to shut out CNN and NBC from future presidential primary debates if they continue with proposed documentaries on Hillary Clinton.

The RNC strategy for 2016 appears to consist entirely of preemptively blocking Hillary Clinton's presumed Democratic nomination, and that they view these documentaries as an attempt to foist her candidacy on an unsuspecting public.  It doesn't matter that Hillary is the most respected woman in American national politics.  Hell, it wasn't so long ago that Republicans were singing her praises in a last ditch effort to thwart Obama's nomination, with many Republicans crossing over to vote for her in the 2008 primaries in Ohio.  But, ever since Benghazi she has become the favorite target of GOP pundits.

War on Labor

It was 32 years ago that Ronald Reagan and the Republicans began their assault on organized labor, by staring down the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO).  Since then we have seen a steady erosion of labor rights, stagnated wages and more and more companies using part-time employment (up to 35 hours per week) to avoid providing health care and unemployment compensation to its workers.

Walmart is the most notorious example of this. PBS provided a broad outline of Walmart's hiring practices in Store Wars, but this didn't stop Forbes from ranking Walmart as one of the 100 best corporations to work for, even going so far as to blame "Obamacare" for Walmart's increased use of temps, which has been a practice used long before Obama came to town.

Obama and the Democrats have made few in-roads over the last 5 years, but the attempt to spread government health care to a broader segment of the population took an important first step today, as you c…

Hello Latvia

Hello, Latvia, so good of you to drop in. I love checking the stat box and seeing the different countries peeking in. Once again, I say don't feel afraid to comment. Your feedback is very much appreciated.  Mark Rothko must have been thinking of his home country when he did this painting.

Hothouse: an irresistible history of Farrar Straus & Giroux

Looks like an interesting book due out this month.

In his first book, Kachka, who writes about literature for New York magazine, makes the case that FSG, home to more Nobel Prize-winners than any other publisher in the world — 25, including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elias Canetti, Seamus Heaney, Joseph Brodsky and Mario Vargas Llosa — is "arguably the most important publisher of foreign works in the United States." More broadly, he contends that FSG "arguably set the intellectual tone of postwar America."

That's quite a collection of writers!

All About Margaret

This book is definitely on my to-read list.  Margaret Fuller's relationship with Adam Mickiewicz was recently explored in a Lithuanian play, Mistras, my wife and I saw.  She was portrayed with a blonde bouffant  and all the verve you would expect from a woman who touched many persons' lives in her tumultuous 40 years.  The play included her as part of the entourage (also included Frederic Chopin and George Sand) that surrounded the famous poet in 1840's Paris as he lamented the sad state of affairs in his homeland, hoping to rally Polish-Lithuanians as part of an army to reclaim their land lost to the Russians.

Megan Marshall's new book has been very well received and appears to help fill in the holes in the era we are discussing in relation to Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance.

Age of Romance

I have to thank you guys for reminding me of The Blithedale Romance as I've been looking through other titles about that era, and came across this biography of the Peabody Sisters.  The book opens with the marriage of Sophia Peabody and Nathaniel Hawthorne, signaling a new age in romance.  Their Diary of a Marriage was on exhibit not so long ago at the Morgan Library and Museum.  The book received great reviews when it came out in 2005.  For some reason I remember it coming up in the old NYTimes forums, but can't sure about that.