A book, a book, a book, a book and a book (5 cents)

I have recently read, or read through, three books and started (but not finished) two others.

I have read Sarah and Gerald, a book about the Murphys and Villa Americana, their Antibes residence that became the center of American expatriate life in Southern France during the 1920s, when it was frequented by Archibald MacLeish, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, and others.  Murphy was the heir to the Mark Cross retail network, and his wife’s father owned the country’s biggest printers’ ink company.  Their idyllic life was curtailed by the death of their two sons (one slowly of late diagnosed tuberculosis, and the other quickly of viral meningitis), and of course the depression and the war which kept them from Europe.  They returned to this country, continued to live well (working hard all the time), and living to relatively ripe old age.  The book was written by their one daughter, Honoria and her husband.  Other books about Villa Americana and the Murphys have been written by Calvin Tompkins (Living Well is the Best Revenge, originally published in the “New Yorker”, and by Amanda Vaill more recently (Everyone Was So Young).  Honoria Murphy Donnelly’s book is interesting, as family memoirs tend to be; my guess is that the other two books might be better written.

I also read William Cobbett by W. Baring Pemberton.  You can read about that at http://www.arichardbooks.wordpress.com.

Then I read through (i.e., went quite fast because the style irritated me) The Strawberry Statement, written in 1968 by then 19-year old Mark Rudd about the student takeover of Columbia University.  Can’t say that I recommend this to anyone; it must have read differently at the time.

I started to read Thomas Keneally’s A Commonwealth of Thieves, his recent book about the original eight ships of prisoners sent to found a colony at Botany Bay, Australia (recently charted by Cpt. James Cook), and who founded Sydney, where the harbor and land was more inviting.  I stopped reading after about 100 pages, but not because the book is not well written.  As Tom Keneally’s books always are, this book is extremely well written and clearly well researched.  The gist of the book is that most/many of these unfortunate prisoners sentenced to “transportation” did OK in the newest world, and their energy led to “the improbable birth of Australia”.  I stopped reading the book only because my interest in their individual stories and accomplishments is limited.  By page 100, I had clearly absorbed the gist of the story and, for me, that’s all I needed.

Finally, I picked up California Angel, a novel about an autistic child and a woman who seemed to have supernatural ways to reach him, by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg.  It was just not for me.


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