It has been over a month since I blogged, so I am going to try to catch up. This will give the briefest of thoughts about the books I have read during this period. A subsequent entry will discuss some of the events I attended.
1. “Europe’s Last Summer” by David Fromkin. This was a re-read, a book that outlines the political situation in Europe during the period immediately before the outbreak of World War I. Because the politics of the time were so complicated, and often counter-intuitive, it is difficult to remember these important events without occasional review. I find this book to be both informative and very well written, so I thought it would be worth a re-read. It was.
2. “One Step Ahead” by Alfred Feldman. This is a holocaust book. An interesting, and unusual story, of a young German Jew, whose family eventually moved to Antwerp in part for business and in part for political reasons, and who was forced to flea again, this time heading to the French Riviera, which was at time under Italian jurisdiction and where Jews were not being persecuted and, when this somewhat benign period ended, walking from France through mountain trials to small Italian villages, where they were able to hide out during the war. Worth reading, in part to show how well the Italians treated those Jews who entered the country on foot from occupied France.
3. “Lady at the O.K. Corral” by Ann Kirschner. A new book focusing on Wyatt Earp’s long time Jewish common law wife, Josephine Marcus Earp, that is as much a biography of Earp himself and his brothers. An interesting story to be sure, but I did not find the writing particularly exciting. OK, I am being too picky. I enjoyed reading it.
4. “Deliverance” by James Dickey, first published in 1970. The ultimate guys weekend gone wrong, it was made into a film highlighted by great banjo playing. The book is highly rated, but for me overrated.
5. “Two Lives, One Russia” by Nicholas Daniloff. Daniloff, ethnically Russian, was U.S. News and World Report correspondent in Moscow for several years until he was arrested (presumably because a Russian spy was arrested in New York) as a spy and held for 13 days before he was released as part of a deal with the United States in 1986. At the same time, he had been researching the life of his great-great-great grandfather, a member of the 1825 Decembrists, concluding that from 1825 to 1986, Russia hadn’t changed all that much. Probably still true, in 2013. Interesting book.
6. Stacy Schiff’s “Cleopatra”, a recent and well reviewed biography of Cleopatra, her relationship with her Ptolemaic family, Caesar and Mark Antony, and therefore a history of Rome and Alexandria. Fascinating and informative. Highly recommended.
7. Alex Karmel’s “My Revolution”, a fictional diary of the real Restif de la Bretonne, French author of pre-revolutionary 18th century France. A book no one remembers today, first published in 1970, but a wonderful book – a historical diary of the years of the revolution from the perspective of a 50+ year old man about town and well known author, and the delightful picaresque reminisces of Restif himself. Fact? Fiction? Hard to say where the line is. Great book.
8. “The Secret Architecture of our Nation’s Capital: the Masons and the Building of Washington DC” by David Ovason. So, you may not know this, but Washington was designed by a bunch of folks who believed strongly in astrology (many of whom were Masons, but in spite of the title, the book is about astrology, more than freemasonry), and that streets and buildings and statuary was designed to honor the constellation Virgo, and to pay attention to the position of the stars, so that the city will succeed. Seems farfetched, because how could all of these historical figures be sound knowledgeable in astrological matters, but on the other hand, there is so much detail……….Hard to read, but fascinating just the same.
9. “All Ratings Authorized”, story of professional pilot Harry Bernard, which I enjoyed reading, but have a hard time pulling together anything that I read. By W. Baxter Byrd. I should look at this again to remind myself of its contents.
10. “Forbidden Lands” by Gordon Cooper. An old travel book, written in the early 1950s, about those portions of the world where it was impossible, or highly discouraged, to travel, sometimes for political and sometimes for geographic reasons. The individual chapters are interesting enough, but boy how the world has changed in a very short time. You can get to almost all of these places now – for a weekend jaunt if you wish.