What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:37 am

chaz wrote:
Blues wrote:"The 39 Steps" was a great movie and also a fun read but I got awfully tired of Buchan's anti-Semitism.

(Fully realize that it was fairly common in literature back in the day...Agatha Christie, Buchan et al...but when read now it does put one off.
At least this reader.)


None in "Black Coffee" by Agatha Christie.


I'm certainly not trying to state that each and every title was evidence of the issue but I've come across it and was taken aback by it.
I don't want to sidetrack the thread unnecessarily so I might suggest googling both Christie as well as Buchan on the matter.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me via PM if you're inclined, I'd be happy to discuss it further..
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby LazyNihilist » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:19 pm

linguini wrote:I just started re-reading A Confederacy of Dunces.


What a delightful book. Boethius to Batman :happy
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:47 am

Blues wrote:"The 39 Steps" was a great movie and also a fun read but I got awfully tired of Buchan's anti-Semitism.

(Fully realize that it was fairly common in literature back in the day...Agatha Christie, Buchan et al...but when read now it does put one off.
At least this reader.)


The original thriller writer (along with Erskine Childers 'Riddle of the Sands'. From memory Childers was shot for gun running to the IRA-- he was a bit of an idealist).

Reading that kind of casual anti-semitism makes one wonder what will be unacceptable in our literature, in the future. I was surprised to read that the N word (as in Negro) was seen as a *politeness* against the derogatory *black*, back in the 19th century.

I am generally of the opinion that it should *not* be bowlderized out, for that reason. Because we in turn will write things that are perfectly acceptable now, and will not be in 50 years time. Let our record stand, and let their record stand. I get riled up when Merchant of Venice is criticized as being anti-semitic and therefore not worth studying (it is, in that Shakespeare was catering to the prejudices of the time) but it is also art, and the character of Shylock is an interesting and quite tortured one. The study of it is a perfectly good way to introduce the whole question of prejudice. Certainly stagings in previous centuries played up the campy Jewishness of Shylock, and modern ones do not. And we now see Othello as a play about an African, choosing African actors as the lead, and I am not sure that's how it was read in the past.

But perhaps in the titles-- maybe those you do have to change. Agatha Christie's 10 little N... is now 10 Little Indians.

One also struggles, especially with a strong first person narrative (Raymond Chandler) what the author actually *thought* vs. say what Philip Marlowe thought. With Dashiell Hammett (a former associate of left wing radicals- -the Womblies (?)) we can be fairly certain, but with Marlowe?

Thrillers were, until Eric Ambler, all quite right wing. British toughs out toughing nasty foreigners. Ian Fleming was the perfect epitome of it, with that postwar dash of sex and sadism. That scene in Skyfall where Bond is doing the word association test, and the psychologist says 'Country' and Bond looks up and says 'England' (complicated, because of course Sean Connery was Scottish), is classic.

Eric Ambler took it in another direction, one that people like Alan Furst and Robert Little have mined ever since. The hapless innocent caught in the machinations of international spies.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby ofcmetz » Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:48 am

Currently reading An American Life by Ronald Reagan on my Kindle. I'm also reading an old paperback copy of Panic on Wall Street: A History of America's Financial Disasters by Robert Sobel. Funny thing is the cover price was $2.95 in 1968 and I paid $3.00 for it this year. ;)
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:09 am

nisiprius wrote:Greenmantle, by John Buchan, author of The Thirty-Nine Steps, which I read aeons ago but have pretty much forgotten... though I remember being annoyed at how different the movie is from the book. What would you call it? A spy/thriller-type novel. It does read right along. I didn't expect to finish it but I'm finding it irresistible. It is somewhat reminiscent of Ian Fleming (or more likely vice versa), though of course without the "sex, sadism, and snobbery."

I wish I'd thought to read it a decade ago, as it is all set in the Middle East, and the plot revolves around some German plot to make the Islamic world believe that Germany is allied with a new Islamic prophet... or something of the sort.

I'm fascinated by its quaint generalizations about national character, stuff like
The West knows nothing of the true Oriental. It pictures him as lapped in colour and idleness and luxury and gorgeous dreams. But it is all wrong. The Kaf he yearns for is an austere thing. It is the austerity of the East that is its beauty and its terror ... It always wants the same things at the back of its head. The Turk and the Arab came out of big spaces, and they have the desire of them in their bones. They settle down and stagnate, and by the by they degenerate into that appalling subtlety which is their ruling passion gone crooked. And then comes a new revelation and a great simplifying. They want to live face to face with God without a screen of ritual and images and priestcraft. They want to prune life of its foolish fringes and get back to the noble bareness of the desert. Remember, it is always the empty desert and the empty sky that cast their spell over them—these, and the hot, strong, antiseptic sunlight which burns up all rot and decay. It isn't inhuman. It's the humanity of one part of the human race. It isn't ours, it isn't as good as ours, but it's jolly good all the same.
There's also an American character, and Buchan shows how American is by having him say "stoodent" and "noos" and "nootral." I suppose the British say "styoodent" and "nyoos" and "nyootral." His characters keep getting into hopeless situations and then getting out of them by amazing coincidences.

It's assumed that readers know all about World War I and who "Enver" and the "Young Turks" are and where Erzerum is and why it's important, so it's keeping me busy Googling...



Ahhh.. Buchan was (later?) Governor General of Canada.

A *Canadian* would say 'noos' and 'stoodent' and 'hoose' and 'nootral'. An American says 'new-ahs' 'stoo-dent' and 'h-aw-se' and 'noohtrul'. You can really hear the long ahhhs in American English.

(this is hysterical in Argo. Ben Affleck, the CIA exfiltration specialist, interrogating one of his US diplomats trying to pretend they are Canadian film producers

Affleck: 'Where were you born?'
diplomat: 'T oh Ron To'
Affleck: 'It's Torono-- they don't say the 'T'' )

In a Canadian movie house, that should bring the roof down-- in London, I was the only person laughing ;-).

A posh Englishman would say 'N ew s', 'stuyudent' and 'howse' and 'gnu-tril'. The 'oos' are more rounded and less drawn out.

Buchan was also Scots, and Canadian pronunciation is closer perhaps to Scots than to English.

The best writer on Istanbul to my mind, is Ambler. Or Graham Greene. As the meeting point between East and West, especially after the Russian Revolution, Istanbul is always the perfect place for spies and skuldugery.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby northwoods1 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:39 am

Austintatious wrote:Just finished Vol III of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. This last volume, dealing with Churchill's WWII years and those until his death in 1965,was completed by American author Paul Reid following Manchester's death in 2004. 1053 pages and definitely a serious commitment but, what a book! And what a man! Given the circumstances of his time, I think Churchill has to be considered the greatest political leader ever. I highly recommend this book, though I now wish I'd been smart enough to read the first two volumes before this one.



Yes, superb book. Actually the first two volumes are even better! Especially the first, (Visions of Glory') which is packed with fascinating (and often funny) insights into upper-class British culture during the later years of the Victorian era.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby chaz » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:30 pm

"The Innocent" by David Baldacci.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:31 pm

I've decided to remove this post. I was trying to say something about the slippery nature of cultural context and I quoted a remark that H. G. Wells made in 1903, in his book Anticipations, that is just jaw-droppingly shocking in its casual racism and anti-Semitism. On seeing Blues' reaction, below, I'm thinking that perhaps even pointing out the existence of this passage is not a good thing to do if we want to keep this thread on topic.
Last edited by nisiprius on Tue Apr 02, 2013 1:11 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:36 pm

Image

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:43 pm

Yeah, I like H. G. Wells better when he is writing about land ironclads, atomic bombs, and "space guns." On further reflection, and staring at the passage I quoted, I've just decided to remove my post.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:53 pm

nisiprius wrote:Yeah, I like H. G. Wells better when he is writing about land ironclads, atomic bombs, and "space guns." On further reflection, and staring at the passage I quoted, I've just decided to remove my post.


Not at all...It was intended as a lighthearted gesture, Nisi, not a rebuke or criticism. :sharebeer

I'm not personally offended nor put out by such and there's no need to pull any (good faith) content on my behalf.

As I wrote to you privately in response to your PM, I've investigated hate groups (White Supremacist, Neo-Nazi, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, etc) in years past and tend to abhor any group that preys upon and marginalizes others.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby ruralavalon » Tue Apr 02, 2013 1:37 pm

Illinois in the War of 1812, by Gillum Ferguson. Nothing much happened here other than massacres and retaliation. The war and its participants did generate quite a few local place names.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Tue Apr 02, 2013 4:37 pm

Boomerang, by Michael Lewis.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby fsrph » Tue Apr 02, 2013 6:08 pm

I don't read many books but I'm reading "Tales from Margaritaville: Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions" by Jimmy Buffett for about the fifth time.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby market timer » Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:49 pm

linguini wrote:I just started re-reading A Confederacy of Dunces.

I've never laughed out loud while reading a book as much as this one.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Mrs.Feeley » Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:14 am

market timer wrote:
linguini wrote:I just started re-reading A Confederacy of Dunces.

I've never laughed out loud while reading a book as much as this one.


This is one of my favorite books too and I try to re-read it once a year.

Just finished "The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck and the Fortunes of German Science" by J. L. Heilbron (Harvard Univ. Press, 1996). An account of Planck's ethical struggles during World War I and through the rise of Naziism on whether to speak out against or placate the barbarians in the hope of protecting German scientists. Covers his falling out with Einstein on the issue and paints a chilling picture of what German science became under the Nazis. Tragic story in so many ways, particularly the description of Planck's mental and physical deterioration after his son was executed for supposed involvement in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Fallible » Wed Apr 03, 2013 12:41 pm

Mrs.Feeley wrote:...
Just finished "The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck and the Fortunes of German Science" by J. L. Heilbron (Harvard Univ. Press, 1996). An account of Planck's ethical struggles during World War I and through the rise of Naziism on whether to speak out against or placate the barbarians in the hope of protecting German scientists. Covers his falling out with Einstein on the issue and paints a chilling picture of what German science became under the Nazis. Tragic story in so many ways, particularly the description of Planck's mental and physical deterioration after his son was executed for supposed involvement in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.


I'm glad to see mention of this book as I'd planned to read it since reading a wonderful bio of Einstein (Einstein, by Walter Isaacson) and now I will. BTW, in the Einstein bio, he is described as a "citizen of the whole world" while Planck was "deeply rooted in the traditions of his family and nation..." These deep differences, I thought, later helped to explain their break.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby allocator » Wed Apr 03, 2013 12:58 pm

Just saw this thread for the first time - what a find!

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Inferno: The World at War 1939-1945 by Max Hastings

edited for spelling error
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Mrs.Feeley » Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:31 pm

Fallible wrote:
Mrs.Feeley wrote:...
Just finished "The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck and the Fortunes of German Science" by J. L. Heilbron (Harvard Univ. Press, 1996). An account of Planck's ethical struggles during World War I and through the rise of Naziism on whether to speak out against or placate the barbarians in the hope of protecting German scientists. Covers his falling out with Einstein on the issue and paints a chilling picture of what German science became under the Nazis. Tragic story in so many ways, particularly the description of Planck's mental and physical deterioration after his son was executed for supposed involvement in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.


I'm glad to see mention of this book as I'd planned to read it since reading a wonderful bio of Einstein (Einstein, by Walter Isaacson) and now I will. BTW, in the Einstein bio, he is described as a "citizen of the whole world" while Planck was "deeply rooted in the traditions of his family and nation..." These deep differences, I thought, later helped to explain their break.


Thank you for recommending the Isaacson bio. That will be next on my non-fiction reading list. I just started reading Richard Rhodes' Pulitzer-prize-winning "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" about the Manhattan Project.

I got the impression that the full nature of the falling out between Einstein and Planck wasn't understood as Planck's correspondence was lost during the bombing of Germany, though they parted on amicable terms. Planck was highly nationalistic though and all his life seemed to be single-mindedly focused on building the temple of German physics. He (and many others) thought that the Nazis would have to moderate their views to stay in power and it was simply a matter of holding on until that happened. So after World War I as the threats built he convinced many Jewish scientists to remain in Germany. And he refused to speak out against what was happening for fear of endangering his institutes and scientists. Einstein, who was demonized by crazy right-wing writers as a supposed mastermind of a Jewish takeover of German science, and who's very life was threatened, naturally saw things in a very different light. He saw the lunacy for the danger it was. One has to remember though that during the rise of Naziism Planck was in his late 70s and 80s. That's a tough time to cut anchor. Einstein was a comparatively young man, an age when it's easier to be the bombast and rebel.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Fallible » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:54 pm

Mrs.Feeley wrote:
Fallible wrote:
Mrs.Feeley wrote:...
Just finished "The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck and the Fortunes of German Science" by J. L. Heilbron (Harvard Univ. Press, 1996). An account of Planck's ethical struggles during World War I and through the rise of Naziism on whether to speak out against or placate the barbarians in the hope of protecting German scientists. Covers his falling out with Einstein on the issue and paints a chilling picture of what German science became under the Nazis. Tragic story in so many ways, particularly the description of Planck's mental and physical deterioration after his son was executed for supposed involvement in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.


I'm glad to see mention of this book as I'd planned to read it since reading a wonderful bio of Einstein (Einstein, by Walter Isaacson) and now I will. BTW, in the Einstein bio, he is described as a "citizen of the whole world" while Planck was "deeply rooted in the traditions of his family and nation..." These deep differences, I thought, later helped to explain their break.


Thank you for recommending the Isaacson bio. That will be next on my non-fiction reading list. I just started reading Richard Rhodes' Pulitzer-prize-winning "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" about the Manhattan Project.

I got the impression that the full nature of the falling out between Einstein and Planck wasn't understood as Planck's correspondence was lost during the bombing of Germany, though they parted on amicable terms. Planck was highly nationalistic though and all his life seemed to be single-mindedly focused on building the temple of German physics. He (and many others) thought that the Nazis would have to moderate their views to stay in power and it was simply a matter of holding on until that happened. So after World War I as the threats built he convinced many Jewish scientists to remain in Germany. And he refused to speak out against what was happening for fear of endangering his institutes and scientists. Einstein, who was demonized by crazy right-wing writers as a supposed mastermind of a Jewish takeover of German science, and who's very life was threatened, naturally saw things in a very different light. He saw the lunacy for the danger it was. One has to remember though that during the rise of Naziism Planck was in his late 70s and 80s. That's a tough time to cut anchor. Einstein was a comparatively young man, an age when it's easier to be the bombast and rebel.


I enjoyed your review and hope you'll do one after you've read Rhodes. Some of the best book reviews I've seen have been on this wonderful thread. As I believe you will see in Einstein, he was something of a born rebel, fiercely independent-minded, a free spirit who questioned conventional wisdom and valued a world of free spirits. Isaacson nicely shows how those traits helped lead to the relativity theory and other works.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:00 am

nisiprius wrote:I've decided to remove this post. I was trying to say something about the slippery nature of cultural context and I quoted a remark that H. G. Wells made in 1903, in his book Anticipations, that is just jaw-droppingly shocking in its casual racism and anti-Semitism. On seeing Blues' reaction, below, I'm thinking that perhaps even pointing out the existence of this passage is not a good thing to do if we want to keep this thread on topic.


Orwell wrote some pretty shocking things in his diaries too-- about cowards sheltering in the Tube during the Blitz.

it was commonplace to say things like that at the time. Since 'cowardice' is not something we associate, it's almost inexplicable to us, a sort of 'what the eff?' -- we've seen too many movies like 'Sobidor' or that Daniel Craig one about the resistance in the forest, or some of the characters in 'Band of Brothers'or read 'Mila 18' about the fight for the Warsaw Ghetto-- tanks faced down with homemade hand grenades and rocks.

The stereotypes are, literally, unfamiliar.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby randomwalk » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:17 am

I just finished Chief Justice by Ed Cray.

Now reading Justice Brennan by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:35 am

Just finished, I think the correct title would be Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice, by Michael Brandman. I was, in fact, fooled (once) because I haven't read all the Jesse Stone novels and thought it was just one I hadn't read, and didn't notice until I got it home that it is by Michael Brandman, not Robert B. Parker. There seems to be a lot of that "extending the franchise" going on lately.

Well, I liked it. For the last decade or so, Parker's novels were getting pretty formulaic, almost descending at times to self-parody, but I liked them anyway. So, Parker had a formula, and Brandman has the formula down pat. Well, maybe it's even a little more formulaic, and I had some problems with willing suspension of disbelief--the arrogant rich family is a little too arrogant, and Stone is too obviously a knight in shining armor righting wrongs and not enough police chief. I think that may be because Brandman is actually a screenwriter who worked on some screen adaptations of Parker, and subtleties in novels become exaggerations in movie.

But I did like it.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby protagonist » Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:43 am

Valuethinker wrote:
Reading that kind of casual anti-semitism makes one wonder what will be unacceptable in our literature, in the future. I was surprised to read that the N word (as in Negro) was seen as a *politeness* against the derogatory *black*, back in the 19th century.


By my memory, this was true well into the 1960s (probably longer among more conservative elements of society), and changed as a result of the "Black Power" movement in the mid-to-late '60s. I think "Black Power" may have been coined by Stokely Carmichael, and gave the term "black" a more aggressive (rather than demeaning) tone. Less militant civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King , I believe, still used the words "negro" or "colored" well into the mid-to-late sixties. It was not until at least the seventies that the term "black" replaced "negro" as the acceptable term in the media.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby protagonist » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:00 pm

market timer wrote:
linguini wrote:I just started re-reading A Confederacy of Dunces.

I've never laughed out loud while reading a book as much as this one.


Ditto. Brilliant. I lived in New Orleans during the time between the author's death and when the novel was published, and so much of it was so "right on" and hysterical. Another very funny book along somewhat similar lines re: the seedy underbelly of New Orleans that I enjoyed from that period was "Love Among the Ruins" by Walker Percy. Whether it has withstood the test of time, I don't know, but I loved it when I read it in the late 70s. It might be a good compliment to "Confederacy". Mid-20th century New Orleans was a strangely fascinating place and very easy to satire- perhaps more than any other American city (eg the film "Down By Law").
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:21 pm

protagonist wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
Reading that kind of casual anti-semitism makes one wonder what will be unacceptable in our literature, in the future. I was surprised to read that the N word (as in Negro) was seen as a *politeness* against the derogatory *black*, back in the 19th century.


By my memory, this was true well into the 1960s (probably longer among more conservative elements of society), and changed as a result of the "Black Power" movement in the mid-to-late '60s. I think "Black Power" may have been coined by Stokely Carmichael, and gave the term "black" a more aggressive (rather than demeaning) tone. Less militant civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King , I believe, still used the words "negro" or "colored" well into the mid-to-late sixties. It was not until at least the seventies that the term "black" replaced "negro" as the acceptable term in the media.


And I am given to understand, now 'African American' rather than 'black'? Or here 'Afro Carribean' (and African is distinct, and very different culturally).

We date ourselves. I grew up around people of an older generation for whom the negro word was not necessarily wrong to use. There is a lot of stuff which was casually said (also about American Indians, Asians as 'yellow' etc.) now which is outright offensive. Conversely I thought it was harsh to round on the 'Charlie Chan' movies which portray a Chinese-American detectiv)e in a sympathetic (albeit stereotyped) light. I think the problem is that Warner Oland was not an Asian-American actor (I am not sure there were such in the 1930s? Except playing outrageous villains?).

Of course 'Asian' here means South Asian-- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. It is still ok to use the oriental word here, but Americans have explained to that is not a polite term in North America (so I usually say 'East Asian' to distinguish from South Asians). So there is an example where my language is just dated and wrong.

(just to confuse things, a lot of the 'Asians' here are from the British Empire via Africa, so you get 'African Asians' ;-)).

But I am conscious (eg with 'African American') that I have not always updated my language and that can give offence, just as my grandparents say, would use language we wouldn't use now (one should understand in the rural Ontario where they lived, you might see a black man once a year, if that often).
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby tuckeverlasting » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:01 pm

delete
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby LadyGeek » Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:53 pm

Please stay on topic (reviewing books).
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby chaz » Sat Apr 06, 2013 11:44 am

"Self-defense" by Jonathan Kellerman.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Fallible » Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:03 pm

Complete Nonsense by Edward Lear. A fun read and nice break from heavy reads. Nothing makes sense here, nothing needs to make sense. Just an enjoyment of imaginative absurdities and nonsense, as opposed to common sense. For kids and adult kids.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby xram » Sat Apr 06, 2013 2:06 pm

I like easing abstracts when I have a few minutes. This one seems interesting.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? ... id=2221479
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:32 pm

Fallible wrote:Complete Nonsense by Edward Lear. A fun read and nice break from heavy reads. Nothing makes sense here, nothing needs to make sense. Just an enjoyment of imaginative absurdities and nonsense, as opposed to common sense. For kids and adult kids.
Oh, yes! Incidentally, I was fascinated by a book--fascinated enough to buy and own a second-hand copy--Mr. Nonsense, A Life of Edward Lear, by Emery Kelen. Lear was a skilled painter, and never realized his lifelong ambition to produce an illustrated version of Tennyson's poems.

Vast quantities of his stuff stick in my memory. Not just the limericks, which actually I do not like all that well. But I've always loved his recipe for Gosky Patties:
Visit the paste and beat the pig alternately for some days, and ascertain if at the end of that period the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties. If it does not then, it never will; and in that case the Pig may be let loose, and the whole process may be considered as finished.
And the story of the four children--Violet, Slingsby, Guy, and Lionel--who went around the world. And "I was once a bottle of Ink, Inky Dinky Thinky Inky Blacky Minky Bottle of Ink." And the rather sad and melancholy "Calico Jam" in which each stanza ends "But they never came back, they never came back, they never came back to me." And the nonsense botany--I can't look at certain plants without thinking "Manypeeplia Upsidownia!"

When my daughter was a little kid, I once made a little hand-illustrated book for her, about many things, and I included "The Owl and the Pussycat:"
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Fallible » Sat Apr 06, 2013 7:58 pm

nisiprius wrote:
Fallible wrote:Complete Nonsense by Edward Lear. A fun read and nice break from heavy reads. Nothing makes sense here, nothing needs to make sense. Just an enjoyment of imaginative absurdities and nonsense, as opposed to common sense. For kids and adult kids.
Oh, yes! Incidentally, I was fascinated by a book--fascinated enough to buy and own a second-hand copy--Mr. Nonsense, A Life of Edward Lear, by Emery Kelen. Lear was a skilled painter, and never realized his lifelong ambition to produce an illustrated version of Tennyson's poems. Vast quantities of his stuff stick in my memory. Not just the limericks, which actually I do not like all that well. But I've always loved his recipe for Gosky Patties:
Visit the paste and beat the pig alternately for some days, and ascertain if at the end of that period the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties. If it does not then, it never will; and in that case the Pig may be let loose, and the whole process may be considered as finished.
And the story of the four children--Violet, Slingsby, Guy, and Lionel--who went around the world. And "I was once a bottle of Ink, Inky Dinky Thinky Inky Blacky Minky Bottle of Ink." And the rather sad and melancholy "Calico Jam" in which each stanza ends "But they never came back, they never came back, they never came back to me." And the nonsense botany--I can't look at certain plants without thinking "Manypeeplia Upsidownia!"

When my daughter was a little kid, I once made a little hand-illustrated book for her, about many things, and I included "The Owl and the Pussycat:" ...


Nisiprius, what a very special gift the book must have been for your daughter. I loved the Gosky Patties but also the Crumbobblious Cutlets. I know what you mean about some of the limericks, although just about the time I thought I couldn't read one more, I'd come on one that made me laugh, like the young lady whose nose kept growing until it was out of sight and she exclaimed, "Oh! Farewell to the end of my Nose." This was my first Lear book (although years ago I'd read The Owl and the Pussycat) and I liked it for the very idea of it being nonsense. The edition I have includes the 1894 Introduction by Edward Strachey that begins, "What is Nonsense? I know when you do not ask me." And it then goes on to describe Nonsense - and Lear - quite well. I'll check out Kelen's book and thanks for mentioning it.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby retiredbuthappy » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:06 am

Began "In the Garden of the Beasts" today. Astounding parallels to recent events with Citibank and Chase in the 30s having bought German bonds for the high interest and the consequent threat of default to a 30% return of principal...a billion dollars owed to the US that doesn't appear to be coming back. And parallels between today's behavior of North Korea's leaders and Germany in early 30s.
Have been reading a lot of Daniel Silva and started The Greater Journey.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:57 am

retiredbuthappy wrote:Began "In the Garden of the Beasts" today. Astounding parallels to recent events with Citibank and Chase in the 30s having bought German bonds for the high interest and the consequent threat of default to a 30% return of principal...a billion dollars owed to the US that doesn't appear to be coming back. And parallels between today's behavior of North Korea's leaders and Germany in early 30s.
Have been reading a lot of Daniel Silva and started The Greater Journey.


I must admit I don't think North Korea now and Germany in the early 30s are great analogies?

What you had in Germany was a democracy that hit a very bad depression, Hitler became the largest right wing party (but never a majority) then blagged his way into the Reichschancellorship. In 1933. Then abolished democracy. His real war mongering wasn't apparent until the Anschluss (invasion) of Austria in 1938 and the Czech Crisis of October 1938. (EDIT: I am forgetting the reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936-- but that was *German* territory (but happened to be the industrial heartland). Of course Hitler's first battle was with his own side, the suppression of the more extremist socialist SA (Ernst Roehm) in the internal coup of 'the Knight of the Long Knives' in 1934. Roehm went to the firing squad saluting 'Heil Hitler'-- he never really understood what had happened to him.

1933-1938, Created a closed war economy (autarky) with rigid foreign exchange controls, broke all the previous treaties on arms limitations (and the Allies were too disunited to do anything about it). All the way he combined aggressive domestic rhetoric with quite adept diplomacy that of course Herr Hitler was really a reasonable fellow, only playing to the choir in Germany, his only goal was reuninification of the German speaking peoples, etc. Germany boomed, economically, although Adam Tooze's book also shows brilliantly that it was quite stretched.

[OT political comments removed by admin LadyGeek]

Quite different from what the Nazis got up to. Until he went to war, Hitler was internally popular, except amongst his victims. He had brought prosperity and renewed German pride after the humiliation of WW1.

On the 1920s debt crisis, the same thing happened to US banks in the 70s-- Chase Manhattan and that were effectively bust over Latin American defaults in the 1970s. The workout was long and painful and led to the creation of 'Brady Bonds' (securitized Latin American debts, guaranteed by US Treasury, that the banks could then sell off their balance sheets).
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby LadyGeek » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:27 am

As a reminder:

In order to avoid the inevitable frictions that arise from these topics, political or religious posts and comments are prohibited.

Please stay on topic.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:48 am

Kennedy's Brain, by Henning Mankell. Not that his books are ever a barrel of laughs, but hoo boy, is this one dark. Yes, the reference is to JFK. Halfway through. Bereaved mother traveling around the world to find out how her adult son died--an overdose of barbiturates but she doesn't believe it's suicide. With fresh dark discoveries at every step of the journey. Among other things, his effects contained a thick set of notes about the mysterious disappearance of JFK's brain. She hasn't yet found why that was important to him.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby VictoriaF » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:53 am

"Nobel Dreams" by Gary Taubes. A friend with the background in particle physics knows a half of people in the book and provides a running commentary.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:00 am

nisiprius wrote:Kennedy's Brain, by Henning Mankell. Not that his books are ever a barrel of laughs, but hoo boy, is this one dark. Yes, the reference is to JFK. Halfway through. Bereaved mother traveling around the world to find out how her adult son died--an overdose of barbiturates but she doesn't believe it's suicide. With fresh dark discoveries at every step of the journey. Among other things, his effects contained a thick set of notes about the mysterious disappearance of JFK's brain. She hasn't yet found why that was important to him.


I was early on and getting into Mankell's "Wallander" series when I read "The White Lioness" and he completely lost me.
I just couldn't figure how an allegedly accomplished detective could allow the chief suspect in a murder investigation into his home...which would be bad enough on its own...but where his own daughter was put at risk if his "hunch" about the man was wrong.

I enjoy police procedurals quite a bit but if they don't ring true with the types of steps I might have taken during my career while conducting a similar investigation, it just loses me.

Nisi, have you read the "Martin Beck" books by Sjowall & Wahloo? I've enjoyed reading a variety of police procedurals in recent years featuring Scandinavia as well as England, Scotland and Ireland as backdrops.

When I need a break I read serious literature and non-fiction. :mrgreen:
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:46 am

SurfCityBill wrote:The Persian Boy - Mary Renault (JFK's favorite author)


All the Mary Renault's are classics-- Bull from the Sea (about Knossos) I remember well.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:48 am

Blues wrote:
nisiprius wrote:Kennedy's Brain, by Henning Mankell. Not that his books are ever a barrel of laughs, but hoo boy, is this one dark. Yes, the reference is to JFK. Halfway through. Bereaved mother traveling around the world to find out how her adult son died--an overdose of barbiturates but she doesn't believe it's suicide. With fresh dark discoveries at every step of the journey. Among other things, his effects contained a thick set of notes about the mysterious disappearance of JFK's brain. She hasn't yet found why that was important to him.


I was early on and getting into Mankell's "Wallander" series when I read "The White Lioness" and he completely lost me.
I just couldn't figure how an allegedly accomplished detective could allow the chief suspect in a murder investigation into his home...which would be bad enough on its own...but where his own daughter was put at risk if his "hunch" about the man was wrong.

I enjoy police procedurals quite a bit but if they don't ring true with the types of steps I might have taken during my career while conducting a similar investigation, it just loses me.

Nisi, have you read the "Martin Beck" books by Sjowall & Wahloo? I've enjoyed reading a variety of police procedurals in recent years featuring Scandinavia as well as England, Scotland and Ireland as backdrops.

When I need a break I read serious literature and non-fiction. :mrgreen:


The charm of Wallander is that he is so flawed and human. In the last book this is poignantly so. Wallander blunders around through his investigations. But he is dogged, determined, won't let a bone out from between his teeth when he has it.

That's what makes Wallander special in a way, is his flawed ordinary humanity, but his unflinching determination to achieve justice.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:05 pm

Valuethinker wrote:The charm of Wallander is that he is so flawed and human. In the last book this is poignantly so. Wallander blunders around through his investigations. But he is dogged, determined, won't let a bone out from between his teeth when he has it.

That's what makes Wallander special in a way, is his flawed ordinary humanity, but his unflinching determination to achieve justice.


I appreciate and very much enjoy such novels where the protagonists are portrayed as ordinary human beings with the flaws and weaknesses exhibited by the rest of society. I get it because that's what we are (or were, in my case).

That said, given my reservations with the particular novel I referenced, the very next book in the series could conceivably have been an investigation into the murder of a (flawed but all too human) detective and his innocent daughter by the subject of his murder investigation. :twisted:

I wonder if that's really the kind of detective we need or want. I like to think I was pretty dogged but fair while I was still on the job...I stood up for what I thought was right but still managed to convict those I felt I had sufficient evidence to bring to trial. And I never brought any of them home where they might murder my wife (though in truth I did end up making multiple arrests on my own and the next block over from where I lived in an upscale area of South Florida back then).
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:15 pm

northwoods1 wrote:
Austintatious wrote:Just finished Vol III of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. This last volume, dealing with Churchill's WWII years and those until his death in 1965,was completed by American author Paul Reid following Manchester's death in 2004. 1053 pages and definitely a serious commitment but, what a book! And what a man! Given the circumstances of his time, I think Churchill has to be considered the greatest political leader ever. I highly recommend this book, though I now wish I'd been smart enough to read the first two volumes before this one.



Yes, superb book. Actually the first two volumes are even better! Especially the first, (Visions of Glory') which is packed with fascinating (and often funny) insights into upper-class British culture during the later years of the Victorian era.


The thing about Manchester and Churchill is he is engaging in hagiography.

Churchill was a fringe politician for much of his career. Deeply distrusted for his ego, his ambition, his willingness to betray allies in the service of his own sense of destiny. Much disliked in his own party.

He was a failure as First Sea Lord. A disaster as Chancellor of the Exchequer, his actions in pegging sterling to the dollar at $4.85, the pre war rate, leading to the General Strike. A right wing rabble rouser mobilizing what in German one would call 'Freikorps' to crush strikers. On India and Home Rule he was disastrously wrong in the 1930s.

His postwar Prime Ministership from 1950 was a disaster, and in his urge to cling to power, he delayed the Coronation of Her Majesty Elizabeth I by over a year. By that time his mental faculties were slipping badly. Eden assumed power too late, and that may have contributed to the disaster that was Suez in 1956.

His record with Stalin is [detestable --admin LadyGeek] -- the famous diagram showing what percentage the Soviets would have of control over each European country that he negotiated with Stalin. Selling out Poland. Hundreds of thousands of Russians sent back to their death after WW2.

Even in war his record is mixed-- see Max Hastings Finest Hour (different title in the US). His strategic judgement was often awful (Singapore, and a whole division of reinforcements thrown away to spend 4 years in Japanese POW camps, wastefully). He drove the Eisenhower and Marshall nuts with his obsession on a southern flank during WW2, and an invasion of Italy which basically turned into a bloody stalemate. His Aegean campaign of 1943 is a military disaster little talked about now. His intuitive way of making war led the British badly astray.

It's also not widely understood, but Churchill approved an approach to Hitler via the Italians, which would have left Hitler in charge of Europe, and the British Empire intact. That was always Churchill's first concern-- preserving the Empire. That's hardly politically correct, now, to remember that.

We should also praise his interest in science and technology. That led down some strange dead ends, but Britain fought a scientific war, organized around a realization of the importance of technology to victory. Churchill surely can claim some of the credit for that.

What Churchill owes his reputation for, and with some justice, is the period 1940-41, and a handful of speeches. It happened to be the time when Britain, and the world, needed a leader who was stubborn, intransigent, quintessentially British virtues of stolidity and defiance. Who the man on the street, who would fight and win this war, would connect with,follow.

The cartoon after Dunkirk and the fall of France

http://www.johndclare.net/wwii5.htm

summarizes the mood of the times. We needed a war leader who would encapsulate that, who would speak of 'blood, and tears, and toil and sweat'. Who would mobilize all the resources of the British people and the British Empire to a single great cause. And in turn, because it's your language too, send the message across the Atlantic, to the world's most powerful industrial nation, that we would hold on, fight on, that we were not for turning, and that therefore your strategy in the coming struggle would have an anchor of ports and airfields-- the unsinkable aircraft carrier. There were still enough Anglophile Americans in the WASP ruling class of America of the time to hear that message, and to be inspired by it.

His other contribution was his relentless focus on getting America into the war. It's not clear if his flattery really influenced FDR (far too shrewd a man, FDR was playing Churchill and the 'special relationship' delusion, not the other way; FDR never trusted him and his desires for the British Empire and so trusted Stalin too much) but he organized the British state to basically give the fruits of British science and overseas assets to the Americans, and that slowly dragged the Americans into the Atlantic war. Britain would be the unsinkable aircraft carrier, from which aircraft would harry Germany, and eventually the fleet would leave to invade Northern France. For that, we had to stay in the war, and persuade the FDR and his advisers that we would remain defiant until they came-- and Churchill did that.

'American machines. British airfields. Russian blood' was Stalin's dictum of the victory over Hitler, and it's as true in historical reflection.

As for Winston, his statue stands on the Mall, a comfortable rest for pigeons. In the Olympic Opening Ceremony it doffs its bowler hat and waves to the passing helicopter, carrying Commander Bond and Her Majesty to the ceremony. Always telling us that there are second acts in life, and that greatness my yet lie ahead. A testament to how a great virtue can overcome great flaws. 'Cometh the hour, cometh the man'.

And that this dreary rain-soaked little country is capable of great things, of inspiring the world, when it dares to.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Fallible » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:26 pm

VictoriaF wrote:"Nobel Dreams" by Gary Taubes. A friend with the background in particle physics knows a half of people in the book and provides a running commentary.

Victoria


I checked out a Library Journal review of it on Amazon and thought I'd get on the library list. But does it require much knowledge of physics to be understood? The political, power-play side of it is what would interest me.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby FionaS » Sun Apr 07, 2013 9:41 pm

I'm currently reading The Lean Startup (very interesting, and I'm getting some good insights from this book).

I also just started Economics in One Lesson - not far enough to really comment on it yet, hope it proves to be an interesting read.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:10 pm

Blues wrote:Nisi, have you read the "Martin Beck" books by Sjowall & Wahloo?
Yes, three or four of them anyway. Do all three o's in their names get diacritical marks over them? It's been a long time. They were very good. I should re-read some of them. Oh, dear, what's the series set in Amsterdam? And I've dipped a few times into a series by one H. R. F. Keating featuring an Inspector Ghote, set in--well, Bombay.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby SHL » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:13 pm

Now reading Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:26 pm

nisiprius wrote:
Blues wrote:Nisi, have you read the "Martin Beck" books by Sjowall & Wahloo?
Yes, three or four of them anyway. Do all three o's in their names get diacritical marks over them? It's been a long time. They were very good. I should re-read some of them. Oh, dear, what's the series set in Amsterdam? And I've dipped a few times into a series by one H. R. F. Keating featuring an Inspector Ghote, set in--well, Bombay.


Yes...Sjöwall and Wahlöö

The others you are referring to I don't believe I'm familiar with but sound interesting.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:01 am

Fallible wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:"Nobel Dreams" by Gary Taubes. A friend with the background in particle physics knows a half of people in the book and provides a running commentary.

Victoria


I checked out a Library Journal review of it on Amazon and thought I'd get on the library list. But does it require much knowledge of physics to be understood? The political, power-play side of it is what would interest me.


Think of it as if it were "War and Peace." If you are interested in politics ("peace"), you can filter out physics ("war"). If you are interested in physics, you will find plenty of that--or you can develop new interests. Taubes provides plenty of tutorials. The main problem is that particle physics have advanced in the past 25 years. You may want to have Wikipedia handy.

Victoria
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby gkaplan » Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:35 am

Shadow Pass by Sam Eastland, which I believe is a pseudonym. This is the second in the Inspector Pekkala series.
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