Forthwith in 2015

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Forthwith in 2015

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1Forthwith
gen. 28, 2015, 1:02am

Hello. I hope that I am still fashionably late but not so late that I cannot give this a go.

1. The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope wrote 47 novels by rising three hours early each morning before going to work at the post office and writing an average of 40 pages. He also has non-fiction to his credit and a mother who had a few things to write about her trip to the United States.

If he had the discipline to do this much writing everyday, perhaps I have a chance to do some reading. If he never seemed to have writer's block, how could we claim reader's block?

The Warden was his fourth novel but the first one that got enough attention to make a lifelong dedication. This is the first of the six Barchester Novels. Some of you may recall that PBS had a series with Sir Alec Guinness that covered The Warden and Barchester Towers back in the Alistair Cooke days.

The Warden is written by a Victorian novelist but it has a modest 200 page length. He is heavy page lifting in many of the other novels. Trollope draws an English world that is packed with very real characters. He did not like Dickens and his exaggerated characters. Trollope is critical but kind toward the characters. He is an excellent way to consider a Victorian novel for the post modern reader.

Later this year, his full version of The Duke's Children will be released for the first time as a major private publishing event. Significant edits were done for previous releases. This is one of the Barchester novels. Expect to hear much reevaluation of Trollope this year. These would be good Masterpiece Theater fodder for the Downton sorts.

My readings will seem a bit random as I grab off of my shelves. These may run from Michael Moore to Homer as does life. Some of the books will probably run 500-1,200 pages with a few brief books tossed in. As Dorothy Sayers would describe her favorite detective, I will move as my Wimsey takes me.

2countrylife
gen. 28, 2015, 8:00am

Very thoughtful review. Welcome to the group!

3Forthwith
gen. 28, 2015, 1:34pm

Thank you countrylife.

4drneutron
gen. 28, 2015, 9:16pm

Welcome! Never to late to start. I think there was a Trollope group read last year or the year before...

5IndyTaz
gen. 28, 2015, 11:23pm

Thanks drneutron.

6scaifea
gen. 29, 2015, 7:29am

Hi, and welcome!

7Forthwith
gen. 29, 2015, 1:39pm

scaifea thank you for the welcome. I hope to join the conversation about books.

8Forthwith
gen. 29, 2015, 2:07pm

2. The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 by Harvey Sachs

"Do not rob Handel, Hayden and Mozart of their laurel wreaths. They are entitled to theirs, but I am not yet entitled to one… Persevere, do not only practice your art, but endeavor also to fathom it’s inner meaning; it deserves this effort. For only art and science can raise men to the level of gods….The true artist has no pride. He sees unfortunately that art has no limits. He has a vague awareness of how far he is from reaching his goal; and while others may perhaps admire him, he laments that he has not yet reached the point to which his better genius only lights the way for him like a distant sun."

Ludwig van Beethoven
1812

This was excerpted from a letter that Beethoven wrote to a young admirer of his music. It is sometimes said that Beethoven lacked abilities with the written word. He certainly was quite ground on the earth that we also walk but his aspirations were boundless.

This book is a very personal tribute to the author's introduction to an inner life. An early birthday present of a modest record player (yes, those did exist) and a few select records started a lifetime heroic appreciation for the grand.

The book looks first at political events of the time and cites the repressed political passions turned safely to the arts as the source of the romantic movement. Then he unwisely described the Ninth Symphony in some detail that may be only of interest to the readers and players of music. He concludes by sharing the opinions of other composers about Beethoven's Ninth.

He shares an anecdote from the late scholar Jacques Barzun about a pianist who played a piece at a party. One person asked the player what the piece was about so the pianist sat down and played the same piece again. There is simply nothing more to say.

Once at a lecture I attended by renowned conductor Raymond Leppard, he was asked how to write about music. He said that he writes around it. What words do we have that could even describe Middle C?

Go ahead, play the Ninth and then consider this book for some context.

Notes:
1. A new Folio edition has just been released of Jacques Barzun's magisterial From Dawn to Decadence this week. I eagerly await my copy from The Royal Mail. It is in two volumes with illustrations.
2. It's time. This would be a good time to prepare for the very well reviewed new production of Wolf Hall that is now being shown in the UK. PBS will broadcast it this spring and I anticipate that it may be much talked about. Even the quite opinionated author, Hillary Mantel, has had splendid things to say about the mini-series production. The book won a Booker Prize.
Now, I need to set upon taking my own advice.

9Forthwith
gen. 29, 2015, 2:08pm

Thank you scaifea. I look forward to joining the conversation.

10Forthwith
Editat: gen. 31, 2015, 7:22pm

3. Thomas Paine by Mark Philp

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sun-shine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country: but he that stands it now, deserves the thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered: yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Rousing words like these would not be heard today even on the loudest of cable news talk shows. Yet, here we are in one of a set of letters to Americans - from this Englishman - reading a call to action. It is said that George Washington had this read to his troops.

If you read his writings today, you may want to delete any evidence on your smartphone. Was he a libertarian? He wanted the smallest government. Was he a conservative? He wanted change and he wanted it now. Was he a socialist? an internationalist?

Yes, he apparently had a significant ego (maybe he just read his own writings at times) and his nationalist loyalties were a bit scattered through his life, but boy, he could arouse his readers.

So where does this sort of life get you? A few months in a French jail; six people at your funeral and your own remains get lost.

Even more than his politics (he really aimed his calls to people across nations), he wanted a base income - a kind of minimum wage - voting even for those not owning property (this was just too much for John Adams) and, hang on, he railed against all organized religions. He claimed to believe in one God but went after the Bible held tightly to the bosoms of those around him.

So who wants to write about this guy? Not many. Mark Philp is a reluctant scholar who seems to have drawn a short straw for this Oxford University Press edition of their Very Interesting People series.

The late Christopher Hitchens champions Paine. However, you can hear crickets when Paine's name comes up from many others.

Maybe it is time to read again his rousing writings and try to find the man.

Oh, and a hearty Happy Birthday to Thomas Paine, wherever his weary bones may be.

11Forthwith
gen. 31, 2015, 7:23pm

4. Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

Part of the basis for what became the long running Broadway musical "Cabaret" and the film of the same name, this is a not shallow look at Germany as Hitler fought for power. Isherwood, late in his life, thought that this early writing was shallow. It is a mostly amoral dispassionate look inside the decaying society. Looking back as Isherwood did, he recognizes that he lightly reported on the starvation and violence that cannot be described adequately anyway.

Isherwood actually delivers a self-censored look at a part of his life in the Weimer Republic in the early 1930's. It is really Berlin with the unspeakable parts probably wisely omitted. This is based greatly on actual people that he knew to varying degrees. The narrator is a not well disguised version of himself. In the related Berlin stories, he describes Sally Bowles, a lightly fictionalized portrait. Mixed in this and the other stories are actual named historical figures. If you want to be introduced to real characters in another place and time, isn't that one reason to read?

Isherwood is a superb writer and he could have intrigued with writing about the Cleavers in 1950's America, if he chose. But we met them in the TV series.

Life is a Cabaret, my friend. Life is a Cabaret.

12Forthwith
feb. 3, 2015, 2:52pm

5. Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey

This is a 500+ page biography of Queen Isabella of Spain. Yes, it is a revisionist history that tries to show that Isabella was the decision maker and strength behind Ferdinand. I am not an enthusiast about revisionist history but this book makes a strong justification for a serious reexamination of the role of Isabella. We become well-versed with Elizabeth I and Henry VIII and eagerly watch television series about these historical characters but overlook the possibly more important role of Spain in the 15th century.

The first hand sourced detail is quite impressive. Even for a lengthy biography, much has to be squeezed into the pages.

In our Anglo-centric world view, we have neglected the role of Isabella's Spain. Spain, indeed, was the proclaimed defender of the Catholic faith even if that meant clashing with the Borgia Pope, himself from Spain. The times are well considered and judgments of the author are quite restrained. In her acknowledgements, she eagerly shares her personal perspective. It is one of the most moving parts of the book.

The times of the Isabella initiated Spanish Inquisition and the increasingly controversial discovery of Columbus make for lively reading. Even with these vast historical events, the book is at its best a personal story. As the book acknowledges, Isabella was well-trained to keep her emotions and personal views to herself. The author is careful about expressing Isabella's unexpressed thoughts. The experience of the journalist works well for this type of book.

The book does repeat clues to help identify characters and some have found this annoying. However, if you read small portions or just randomly one chapter, this can serve the modern distracted reader. Basic terms are defined such as dowry. That may have taken this technique a bit too far.

This book justifiably opens a new world for fans of popular history.

13Forthwith
feb. 3, 2015, 3:03pm

What is all of this talk about snow anyway?

We may have 1/2 inch tomorrow night after just a light dusting last week. Otherwise, only the high definition snow video on television helps me remember what it is like.

Snow storms have passed north and south but nothing here.

Sorry Boston. Really.

14Forthwith
feb. 3, 2015, 11:37pm

6. Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson

When attending a non-musical play based on Dr. Jeckel & Mr. Hyde at the Indiana Repertory Theatre that the author of the book married a lady from Indianapolis.
I thought that it would be interesting to learn more about Stevenson.

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes is an excellent way to meet him. He shares a personal trek through the southern French countryside - the location of a religious clash over 150 years previously. The Camisard rebellion was a violent reaction by French Protestants in protest to the attempts by Louis XIV to put down the Protestants in favor of Catholics. He reflects on the long term results by visiting residents of the rural area.

So why did he do this as a young man?

"I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints."

Nearly any younger person could explain this yearning today as long as they are within range of a cell tower.

15Forthwith
feb. 5, 2015, 8:45pm

7. Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary and Off-Screen Secrets by Dick Cavett

Richard Burton, Jack Benny, Bette Davis, John Wayne, John Lennon, Norman Mailer

Do any of these names get your attention? If so, this book is both witty and heartwarming stories of these and many other icons of our times. Whether you watched one of Dick Cavett's talk shows or not, this book will entertain and intrigue you. It is composed of his New York Times columns and makes for a good companion.

If you need to have google at hand, go ahead. You weren't even born yet. That's OK.

16IndyTaz
feb. 5, 2015, 11:37pm

I am half way done with the next book. Does this mean that I am 10% complete?

17Forthwith
feb. 6, 2015, 2:49pm

8. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories by Hillary Mantel

This is a wide ranging set of short stories by the twice Booker Award winning Hillary Mantel. This is quite tough going. The character descriptions are sharp and modern. Ideals and morals are things from the past.

The variety of voices and settings is dazzling. Her choice of words is precise.

"I closed the hall door discretely, and melted into the oppressive hush. The air conditioner rattled away, like an old relative with a loose cough."

For some reason this reminded me of James Agee's Death in the Family.

The stories make for some unsettling reading. I would guess that Alfred Hitchcock would enjoy and understand.

Now, I need to take a breath and take on her Cromwell novels yet this year. I expect that it may be difficult to track so many historical characters. It is difficult to imagine the writer of these stories being the same person of the acclaimed historical novels. I just don't feel at the ready for these.

18Forthwith
feb. 8, 2015, 3:00pm

Cue the music. It's time for Coming Attractions.

These are a few that I have dipped in a bit and need to complete possibly this month.

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair edited by Graydon Carter. I should complete this later today, if the phone doesn't ring that is.
Justine by Lawrence Durrell
The Classical World by Robin Lane Fox
History by John H. Arnold
The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich to the tune of "Happy."

Should I be warned off of any of these? I am set in my ways on this.

19Forthwith
feb. 10, 2015, 1:02pm

9. Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair edited by Graydon Carter

If you are interested in American cultural history for the period 1910 through 1936, this is a rich treasure of short magazine articles from those days. The writers are some of the best during that period. Subjects range from slang to the stock market crash.

I read this on the Kindle Fire and unlike the current version of Vanity Fair, this collection calls for the use of the dictionary occasionally to look for the nuance of the words chosen.

For some reason though a long series of these short articles did not work well for me as a front to back reading. One can get a bit exhausted in getting through.

Vanity Fair was certainly a register of American culture. It still uses outstanding writers with occasional serious subjects under the cover of the latest Hollywood star. There is usually one or two must read articles and a lot of advertisements and chatter. The mix seems to work. I am relieved that I don't have to carry around or but a single issue of the Hollywood gossip looking magazine.

I changed from the paper to the digital version on the Kindle Fire. The advertisements are dazzling and creative even if you do not read the articles.

It is a kind of black tie "New Yorker" in full color and without those must not miss New Yorker cartoons. I admit it. I go to the New Yorker cartoons first. They are an excellent reflection of our times.

My book reading slows down at times because I love reading several periodicals. They help me to balance today's concerns in contemporary writing against some of the older books that I read. Otherwise, I may get isolated to some period of the past. I find that cable news has exhausted their formats.

20Forthwith
feb. 12, 2015, 12:18pm

10. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Having just finished this, I would say that the simple and predictable plot get in the way of the writing skills To be fair, this would have been a naughty shock when it was released. As others have noted, this opened the door for romps like the brilliant "Beyond the Fringe" and the relatively more recent Monty Python.

The stuffy and false academic life on the leading English University was a deserving but mighty target for Amis to take on. His own life and experience is vividly described in a satiric way. He takes a few shots at his contemporary writers for full advantage.

The author would have been a formidable person and not at all likeable. There is a meanness of spirit that is relatively moderated even in today's satire.

Even without the initial shock, the vivid writing and characters are memorable. This is good for a slow read and have that cup of tea near you.

21Forthwith
feb. 17, 2015, 11:26am

11. Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind by Colin Renfrew

This was a detailed review of the 150 years of the study of prehistory. Prehistory looks at the human development before the written word. The start of history varies widely since some areas have a written history that survives only since the European discovery. Ironically, much of the written word in South America did not survive the European exploration.

After a detailed discussion of discoveries around the world, the book gives a review of the impact of radiocarbon dating and DNA discoveries on the field.

Since the spread of homo sapiens from Africa around 60,000 years ago, the rate and range of changes were dramatic. The author asserts that since that time, there is little difference in the DNA. A baby born now would differ very little from a baby born then. The differences, he attributes to the learning. This learning was a kind of on-the-job training or simply imitation.

I have a personal interest in prehistory. I live just a few yards from Angel Mounds which is a site inhabited by 1,000 to up to 3,000 Mississippian Indians from about 1,000 to 1,450. It was a center of influence stretching many miles. This video shows an aerial view of the site.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7wEZquXD5E

The brief history of the site is found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_Mounds

I often wonder what happened on the ground that I walk.

22qebo
feb. 17, 2015, 12:03pm

>21 Forthwith: Been years since I read anything by Colin Renfrew, but recall he's done interesting stuff.

Angel Mounds
Cool.

23IndyTaz
feb. 17, 2015, 3:59pm

Thanks. This was a reasonable length to have covered so much.
I read it from The Folio Society book in a fine edition.

24Forthwith
Editat: feb. 19, 2015, 12:55pm

Bless me Father for I have sinned. I read a book on the Prohibited List.

12. Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus

This work by an ordained Roman Catholic Priest made its way to this very first list of condemned books. The work was written during the reign of Pope Julius II following the period of the Borgia Pope. Martin Luther was rallying people against the ways that money was being raised to fight the territory expansion. This was just after the period of Queen Isabella and continuing turmoil.

This was written in about a week as a diversion while the author traveled, It was made as a gift to Thomas More of Utopia fame and what a gift it was. Being good friends sharing theological concerns, they also appreciated sometimes the folly of what they saw. It spares no reluctance to go after monks and even the sitting Pope.

The book about folly seems like political satire today but written with an immense knowledge of Classical Greek and Roman culture. The modern reader can certainly miss the references but still recognize hypocrisies of today.

Oh, about that snow that I was looking for, I found it.

25Forthwith
Editat: feb. 19, 2015, 1:22pm

Well that was fast. Actually, I was reading this along with other books and just completed it.

13. Third World America: Why our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream by Arianna Huffington

Don't get me started on the subject but yes, she is right.
This was written far back in 2010 ("I wasn't even born yet") but almost every issue is still front and center.

Arianna Huffington is one of the few remaining public intellectuals. Yes, she is most certainly an intellectual and quite public. Don't let her place in pop culture fool you.

Like almost everyone else who has been out of the house in the past several years, I have met her and came away quite impressed. She is engaging and charming and... What did I do with my Thesaurus? Her book on Picasso is one that I need to take on this year from my TBR pancake stack. I finally after years of trying now really like cubism. Whew. It was worth it though.

26Forthwith
març 2, 2015, 7:35pm

14. Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis

You have been warned. It was written by Martin Amis. You may have seen the TV-MA warning on certain television programs. I now give you the MA warning for reading.

Since I just finished this, I will have to think about it some or perhaps, I should move on and not look back.

It is a broad "satire" although LOL is not a descriptive. The place and circumstances are so grim and tied to the reality of many that this is a disturbing novel to get through. It is tolerable to read a sentence or so as an excerpt but within the context of the lives of some people that I have met, the language and construction is sometimes overlooked.

I don't know. I just don't know.

27Forthwith
març 6, 2015, 2:30pm

Trudging on:

15. Bel-Ami Or The History of a Scoundrel by Guy de Maupassant

While I read lengthy books, sometimes a side street beckons. This is one such cul-de-sac.

While trying to read the new edition of From Dawn to Decadence, I discovered that the publisher incorrectly used the wrong cross referencing page numbers in the first of the two books. After pointing this out to the publisher, I learned by another concerned reader that there was a "tangible quake" at the publishers. The author inserts a helpful unique cross-referencing tool because of the scope of the material. The errors impede the reading significantly. More on that perhaps later. For now, I patiently await.

Published near the change of the century, this plot seems quite contemporary. If this plot was written today, the language would not use implication. I have not suffered a viewing of the 2012 film with some vampire or another.

The characters (or Character, if you will) drives the book. The language is spare and is Flaubert and Turgenev-like. Gore Vidal once cited Flaubert and Turgenev as his favorite novelists.

For next Valentine's Day or a wedding, I would withhold this book as a present and keep the copy for yourself or a favored mischief maker.

Seventy-Five is a large number isn't it?

Let's see. Seventy-Five divided by 12 months yields 18.75 after 3 months.

Now, I search for .75 of a book. That should be the easy part this month. Maybe three books by Stephen King would do for that.

28Forthwith
març 7, 2015, 12:01pm

16. Napoleon: The Irresistible Rise of a Corsican Adventurer by Tristan Clark

This is a new book just released two days ago. It is the first of what may become a new series of shorter history books.

The subject of this is often presented in lengthy books. It can sometimes be difficult to follow the general flow amid so many details in the lengthy studies of this well documented figure. For example, one whole volume of the Will Durant and Ariel Durant History of Civilization series revolves around Napoleon.

This book takes us from his birth to his self-crowning of himself as Emperor.

This new book is presently available as an e-book and would make a good companion for traveling with the short chapters and good flow. It nicely balances the personal, political and, of course, military achievements of this still controversial historical figure. Indeed, much of the Western World today bears the mark.

The book glosses over the French Revolution very lightly while keeping the focus on Napoleon.

With the present lack of knowledge of basic history, this kind of lively book may be a help. I do hope that it encourages more books in this new series. We have to be careful that this history series doesn't end up giving us "Ice Road Truckers."

29Forthwith
març 7, 2015, 8:08pm

I heard a presentation on book TV by Simon Winchester in a bookstore. He gave a fascinating talk. As we know, sometimes authors on these book tours do not put much effort in these. They endure these tours sometimes to few attendees. Cities and hotel rooms can look alike. The "if it's Tuesday, it must be Pittsburgh" routine. The author seems to be genuinely interested in a good story and is willing to do the deep research to bring it alive.

I have had a Kindle Single for a while and wanted to read something by Winchester and thought that this might be a good start so I read:

17. The Man With the Electrified Brain: Adventures in Madness

Actually is a revealing narrative about his own mental health issue and subsequent electroconvulsive treatment.

Well, it looks like I need to increase the To Be Read pile again and look into his books The Professors and the Madman and Atlantic: The Biography of an Ocean.

30Forthwith
març 7, 2015, 8:20pm

On your mark, get set...

I received delivery today of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird to prepare for the July 14 release of her Go Set a Watchman. We have already heard much ado about the discovery of the manuscript and controversy. I am somewhat uneasy about this.

On top of that, we have David McCullough's new book The Wright Brothers set for a May 5 release and in just 3 days Eric Larson's Dead Wake. That doesn't even include my slow reading of Wolf Hall.

Maybe the snow that is still melting will be the last. I could use the snow shoveling time to get 'ta reading.

31Forthwith
abr. 1, 2015, 8:49pm

18. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

This is a very well documented book that follows this historical event using actual quotes from many key figures. The book makes a good read for general readers. This is not intended to be original history nor a full history of the time.

Americans are not always well informed about the irrational out-of hand escalation of World War I. It is a period that cannot be explained rationally. The era set up the even worse WWII.

This book is a book that carefully sets the mood and events of the time through personal experiences of the usual great characters as well as the even more interesting lessor known people. This is much like having an elderly relative open up about their brush with history.

I found that the book moves a bit too fast through the impacts after the sinking. The human story of Capt. Turner following the event gets summarized too much.

The book is refreshing and avoids the easy dramatic words. Descriptions are pointed but spare. It is not too far to compare this technique with Turgenev.

32Forthwith
Editat: abr. 4, 2015, 10:07pm

19. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Well, finally I have read this famous American book. I did see the film many years ago. In part, I read it now as preparation for the July release of her associated book. The plot and accomplishments are so well known that they require nothing from me to add.

The neighborhood and characters are so richly drawn that it feels like growing up there. It brings me back to my own. Coming from a fascinating town myself, I can relate with being around real characters and the atmosphere of a neighborhood. Our next door neighbors were black in a middle class neighborhood. He was a Doctor and she was his nurse. They were absolutely delightful neighbors and we children in the neighborhood had great respect and affection for them. Although childless themselves, they threw an annual Halloween party for us. In exchange, they asked that if one of our softballs accidently went into their yard, we should use the back gate to recover it and not try to climb over and possibly damage the fence. We honored their request.

So why were they living in our neighborhood when they could have lived in a much tonier area? Looking back, I have to assume that they were in some way blocked and discouraged from the higher income area. Proudly, we were flattered to be their neighbors. Ironically, one mile north was the State headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan and about 1 1/2 miles south on the same street was the low income black neighborhood where he had his office. A few years earlier there were cross burnings about three blocks away. In the 20's Indiana was the only State with the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan to be elected Governor. Recent developments from the Indiana Governor's office were of small surprise.

Just across the street was the home of the Dreiser family with their sons Paul Dreiser (later changed to Dresser - composer of "On the Banks of the Wabash" and many Tin Pan Alley era hits) and acclaimed writer Theodore Dreiser. However, that is another story.

33Forthwith
Editat: abr. 22, 2015, 9:59pm

20. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I have been reading this on my Kindle Fire and trying to keep one episode ahead with the current TV series that is carried on Masterpiece Theater. It runs 532 pages. Their is little white space on the page. Words fill the screen. I found the book to be almost mandatory to appreciate the series, One feels excitement to see the words acted.

I do not know if the TV series of Wolf Hall will blend into the second book in this series of books. So far the 6 part TV series runs about 100 pages of the book.

At the front of the work you will find a listing and very brief description of the major characters. There are many of these characters. Also shown are a couple of charts showing family relationships. On the Kindle, these are far too small and rendered of no use.

I would strongly suggest that you read this on paper that you feel free to make notations on and also keep a running listing and notes on the characters. As you move along in the book characters reappear and the rich detail could go unappreciated.

I would also suggest that you carve out a 2-3 day period of continuous reading. You are placed firmly in the time and the book flows with little interruption, in a remarkable way. I spread out my reading and interspersed it with other books. This does not lend itself well for that. This is a start to finish book without stopping at go.

One way to approach this is to take the importance of place from the author. Where something happens is important. It also is a guide through the prose.

This book is a fictional memoir of sorts of Thomas Cromwell but based on strenuous research. It is about character and less about creating a hero. The obvious opportunity to describe spectacle is quite restrained. This raises the bar for historical fiction writing and makes this a literary event as recognized by this winning The Booker Prize. The characters are fully realized. This reader has made some new acquaintances.

Hilary Mantel has her opinions and they are certain. For some this could be disturbing. The reader with fewer firm opinions about this era may have an easier time and not get distracted with disagreements on interpreting the historical characters. Those with a sound knowledge of this period may learn more about Hilary Mantel than the historical characters.

For some unknown reason starting on page 473 the text is missing obvious sentences and some sentences get repeated. This is a problem for about 30 pages in the Kindle edition. Then suddenly it returns to the author's flow of words. I hope that it has been corrected by now.

The TV series is like "The Jewel in the Crown" in that it is understated and may have to be re-watched to appreciate. I watch each episode twice. It is a remarkable achievement and is a worthy companion to this magisterial book.

34Forthwith
abr. 26, 2015, 12:23am

21. The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis

Martin Amis has the reputation of being a writer interested in dark matter. This is often contrasted with his father's satirical writings.

Here the subject matter is the darkest that we know and Amis tries to dig for meaning. A light touch won't work so he tries to look at detail. Neither the big picture nor the detail is comprehensible. Where is the meaning in it all? Viktor Frankl searched for meaning using his field of psychiatry. He came up with logotherapy.

The characters in this Amis novel assure themselves that they are normal. What does that make the reader? the future?

Frankl was a holocaust survivor. Amis is looking from the outside. Like Frankl, Amis used his particular specialty which is writing.

We will keep trying and failing to understand. As Amis states, understanding would make it comprehensible and it should never be.

35Forthwith
abr. 28, 2015, 1:01am

22. A Sort of Life by Graham Greene

This is a memoir that focuses on the author's early life and his struggles as a writer in a limited Slightly Foxed edition.

36Forthwith
maig 2, 2015, 12:52am

23. Edward VII: From Playboy Prince to Uncle of Europe by Tristan Clark

This is a nice clear look at "Bertie" and his life. It focuses on his upbringing and very limited contact from his mother and father. They found him to be a disappointment and isolated him which may have contributed to his slower intellectual development. It then shifts to the political environment. He later rebounded quite nicely and did a deft job as King for his limited years on the throne.

37Forthwith
Editat: maig 7, 2015, 11:46pm

Well then.

I have finished the first Volume of the Folio Society Two Volume over 900 page edition of Dawn to Decadence. This is definitely not a book to speed read nor to read straight through without many other resources at the ready. Evelyn Wood can't help me with this one nor would I want her to do so. Actually, generally, I let the book itself guide me in the reading time rather than setting out to conquer. I would rather be conquered by the writer even if I have to revisit the gym to lift the book. I would recommend a spotter.

As the more relatively recent period comes in for the exposition, I anticipate that the reading will go a bit faster. I will see. That is not a complaint at all but a comment only. This is a book to major in rather than taking one elective course.

You see?

38Forthwith
maig 21, 2015, 6:34pm

24. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain from Vienna 1900 to the Present by Eric Kandel

Taking a bit over 500 pages, the Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel slowly develops his argument for a better integration of the arts and sciences. Specifically, he looks at the vision system, brain science and the perception of both the artists and the viewer.

Having majored in Psychology and Mathematics academically, I found this to be an interesting update on brain science developments and some smart observations on the painters in 1900 Vienna. My own research into the visual system through the information processing curriculum was actually a fit into the argument.

The book looks at three painters and what he surmises is their attempt to paint the unconscious in their subjects and a bit of the artist. Although they did not have direct contact with Freud, scientists and artists had a better opportunity to mingle at that time in Vienna. Actually, the projections onto the artists internal processes is the weaker part of the argument.

This work provides a generous selection of paintings and diagrams of the visual system and brain to assist the general reader. The book is not aimed at a specialist or professional but the reader wanting more depth into how we see and process what we see. Kandel is reaching out rather than down to those also in other areas of study. We actually record unconsciously much more information than reaches our conscious awareness. The proof of the importance of the unconscious is compelling. Freud would certainly be vindicated on that important part of his theories. Intriguing ways have been devised to offer evidence of the unconscious.

If this book stimulates conversation between science and the arts communities, we may all want to ease drop on that.

The findings presented are certainly at the very beginning of where this may lead us.

39Forthwith
maig 25, 2015, 10:55pm

25. From Dawn To Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun

I read/studied this 978 page two volume book in the Folio Society's first edition with illustrations. As I have mentioned earlier, the first volume was published with incorrect numerical notations of page numbers indicating when the topic was first introduced and/or when the topic continued. I have been notified that the correct volume has been printed and dispatched. This series of glitches slowed my progress.

As the title indicates this is a life's work written over 10 years of the author's long life. This is a book anyway to linger over. Reading 25-30 pages in one sitting and then thinking over and exploring the people and topics presented offers considerable satisfaction.

Barzun digs deep. He uses commonly used words for clarity and rarely a dictionary is needed. However, he examines the words used and often gives insight into the proper use of the words. This is one of the most valued strengths of the work.

Almost no clichés are brought out without thought and examination. This is a book of fundamentals with thought.

One of the exciting features is the biographical look at little known figures and suggestions of books for additional reading within the text in plain language. This is like attending a small advanced seminar with one of the world's leading teachers.

Reading the final two chapters brings some disappointment since the reader will know the opinions of the writer. This would almost be a better book without the final two chapters. After an almost hopeless review of post-modern western society with little that we have not often heard, he ends with a very brief note of hope.

It was interesting that even though Dr. Barzun resided and taught in the United States, he gives very short acknowledgement of North American contributions. He casts Western Europe as the center of Western Civilization almost exclusively. He is risking being cast with the negative connotations of an elitist or dare I say, a snob.

40Forthwith
Editat: maig 26, 2015, 2:30pm

26. A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

This book really sums up the life and career of Indiana's beloved Kurt Vonnegut. It has several sayings and drawings by the author.

Although it has his usual wit, there is an impending sadness and touch of loneliness in his 82nd year.

Even if you are not a reader of Vonnegut, this would be the simple introduction to him. For those of his many readers, here is a link to his memorial library in downtown Indianapolis. It is a daring venture to honor him in Tea Party Central.

http://www.vonnegutlibrary.org/

41Forthwith
maig 27, 2015, 12:43pm

27. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I could easily take a paragraph at random from this book and appreciate it. The writing quality is outstanding.

42Forthwith
maig 27, 2015, 12:51pm

28. 101 Things You Didn't Know About Irish History: The People, Places, Culture and Tradition of the Emerald Isle by Ryan Hackney Blackwell

I would usually shy away from a book with a title like this but it was a good and interesting read.

This was written in 2006 as the country was going through more changes. The recent gay marriage popular vote is another significant break with their long history of being a "Catholic Country." However, there main export remains their young people. Some returned just to cast a vote. If they can ever get a strong economy, I would look to a vast return of people. The links are still strong.

43Forthwith
juny 17, 2015, 12:47pm

29. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

This is the latest book released a few days ago.

We have another David McCullough book to enjoy that brings history to life. The Wright family is worthy of our admiration. They really did work and focus as a family. The dedication of Wilbur and his brother Orville can serve as a model for our current people being recognized. They made themselves available to the public but kept their focus on their own modest upbringing. This book can be shared with members of your own family with confidence.

I read this while traveling in back roads of the south of France and was not aware how important the support and recognition of France was to the development of early aviation and the Wright Brothers in particular.

Having read this on the Kindle, I was delighted with a generous assortment of photographs following the text.

This book is shorter than many of the other McCullough books and the time spent reading went quite fast because it was like becoming a fan and cheering them on to their next accomplishment.

44Forthwith
juny 25, 2015, 4:41pm

30. Socrates: A Man For Our Times by Paul Johnson

This is a book about Paul Johnson as much as it is a biography of Socrates. It presents an argument in the person of Socrates. Opinions are forced against what we know about Socrates to allow approval for the historic figure.

That said, it is nicely organized and insightful. If one really hasn't the time to learn more about Socrates (Facebook is time consuming leaving little else), this would be a nicely argued sketch.

45Forthwith
juny 27, 2015, 1:35pm

Well, will I make 75 or even 100 books read this year? With over 1,000 now in my personal library I really need to move through 100 plus since I cannot seem to stop adding new books. I try to do a mix of fiction/non-fiction and older classics and relatively recent books. Some are rather hard going and take me off to other books and cross-referencing journeys of exploration. Reading more than one book at any one time seems to be the best way to have a sense of moving forward.

There are so many books through The Folio Society alone that I could keep busy with just their publications. When I first joined them, they published about 12 or so books a year and now they have considerably accelerated their publishing schedule. With my interest also in the classic Franklin Library and the Library of America, it seems quite overwhelming. It is not to be reading a book at the pace that it deserves and being distracted by the growing books not yet read.

I also subscribe and read numerous periodicals including Lapham's Quarterly.

31. Creating Change Through Humanism by Roy Speckhardt

This is a review of a pre-publication review copy.

It takes a couple of chapters walking through a kind of self analysis on whether the reader may be considered as a humanist. It looks as the relatively simple general conditions. Basically, it considers moral concerns without the concept of a god - goodness without god.

The book does go into some interesting details of the recent history of the organization and the struggles with being a smaller organization in a sea of religious fervor. It quite provocatively asks whether some who go through the motions of an active religious life really may be humanist in orientation. It encourages those who may be going through the motions to "come out" and join others of like minds.

For those interested in learning about the current status with the growing secular movement, this is a quite useful book with a generous bibliography and short index of definitions. Unfortunately the book is very light on the very rich intellectual history of secular ideas. This is light on the intellectual traditions and even current deeper thought issues. The writing is somewhat repetitive and contains so many clichés that it can be hard to find the hidden bits of information.

46Forthwith
Editat: jul. 24, 2015, 5:26pm

32. Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield

I reread my 1979 Folio Society edition of this book. It also has delightful drawings by Nicolas Bentley.

The book is like reading your favorite fiction in 1930's "The New Yorker" magazine. The fictional account of an average rural British lady is richly drawn. The humor is dry but almost every paragraph will bring a smile.
I cannot say that no fictional cats were harmed in this book.

47Forthwith
jul. 24, 2015, 5:40pm

33. The Middle Ages: A Very Short Introduction by Miri Ruben

This is one of an extensive series of books from the Oxford University Press. It is 144 pages of a well done look at the Middle Ages. Although scholars have studied and published extensively about this 1,100 year period, there is a new look at developments during this time.

Western Civilization did not stand still but with much turmoil manage to survive. As is representative of the period, much activity came from the Catholic Church and its attempts to control and sanction civil authorities and expand it's influence. Non-Catholics were not treated with the greatest kindness and banishment was always near at hand.

This book tries to cover advancements and achievements rather than looking at this as a lost period. Should "The Middle Ages continue to be an insult?

48Forthwith
jul. 30, 2015, 12:08am

34. The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steven Runciman

A wealth of detail awaits the reader with this well researched book. Many primary sources including apparently reliable resources are used to detail the battle itself.

The early parts of the book can bog down under the weight of details. A name is given with additional names and complications in a single sentence. Then the next sentence introduces more people to note and on it goes. The descriptions of the battles are balanced and gripping. The post battle half of the book settles down and brings out more of the drama.

A knowledge of Western Europe in the 15th century and geography is needed to give some anchors to the large set of characters cited.

My interest in history is getting the better of me as I plan to plunge more into middle age period history. I need to work in some fiction though from other times.

49Forthwith
ag. 15, 2015, 4:57pm

35. Edward VII: From Playboy Prince to Uncle of Europe by Tristan Clark

36. Vietnam: The American War by Tristan Clark A clear and dispassionate account of a period that still has a strong emotional impact.

37. The Making of the Middle East by R. W. Southern part of a five book series on The Middle Ages. This does not follow a narrative format and can be difficult depending on the reader's knowledge of Middle Ages major characters. This analysis looks at the period of between 972 and 1204. It focuses on Christian development during the period and is considered as a classic book about this period.

I am currently reading Mohammed & Charlemagne by Henri Pirenne as a continuation of Middle Ages oriented books.

50Forthwith
Editat: set. 29, 2015, 5:06pm

38. Young Lonigan by James T. Farrell

I read this in a leather signed edition. In the author's comments for this edition written in 1979 he specified that he wrote because of his indignation about death.
This 1932 book is not talked about much in public today because it is certainly not politically correct and offensive. It would not be assigned for today's youth even though it tries to recall the world of th 1603at time and place of Chicago in young eyes. Later versions with characters like Holden Caulfield are slightly more acceptable.
Is it the duty of a writer to teach morals directly or to represent moral situations and assume that we can draw a lesson or even accept immoral or even more ambiguous amoral situations?
Even the movies of today seem obligated to insert modern standards onto earlier times. Viewers of films seem to be quite the sensitive lot.

39. Byron in Love by Edna O'Brien

This is a liberating romp if you suspend judgement. O'Brien holds her sentiment and lets forth with what the letters revealed.
So, does a poet have to live a life of excess to write Byronic poetry? Does a poet of Dickinson sensibilities have to be confined to a room? Can the imagination suffice?

40. The Wonderful Year 1603 by Thomas Dekker

I read this in a wonderful 1989 letterpress edition with hand-marbled endpapers and moire silk sides. The book itself is wonderful to hold. Publishers of "regular" commercial hardbacks and even some paperbacks need to rethink their products. Yes, without shame, this does influence the reading experience. Holding an artistic object enlivens the attention of the reader.

Oh, yes, about the content: The "wonderful" is used as a description of wonders and not the pale use presently of bland delight. There, I rail against manners.

The descriptions of the plague are stirring. It reads as though he meant this for his contemporaries but we can now lift the box and discover this "wonderful" pamphlet. As A. L Rowse notes in his enlightening introduction for this particular book "What a pity it is that hardly anything is known about Thomas Dekker.

The book starts with grand descriptions of the death of Elizabeth I and concludes with light anecdotes from this annus mirabilis. To grab the readers and say look here toss them into 1603 with his few words indeed is something.

41. Mohammed and Charlemagne by Henri Pirenne

This is a remarkable book that invites discussion and scholarly insight. I am unworthy to engage.

The story of how this came about and the intense determination of the author is one most intense. Mr. Pirenne taught Belgium history and is still regarded for his Pirenne Thesis. He challenges Gibbon as to when Rome fell. (Reading Gibbon and then this book would be a suggestion.) Pirenne was jailed by the Germans and this book could seem to be a petty revenge but for the astounding knowledge and scholarship. He makes the argument that the Germanic invasions as far south as Rome did not yet cause the dissolution of the essential Roman influence. He instead views the military and cultural influences of Mohammed and Charlemagne as essential.

The book does little about the lives of it's title characters but instead weighs heavily on their impact. It is the most scholarly rant that you can imagine and quite a challenging but worthy read.

42. The Golden Ass by Apuleius

I read this in the Adlington translation and if I was a drug taker (I am not- this is better I would imagine), I would describe this as a trip. As I understand this edition was translated about 1566. Yes, that was the date of the translation. We are told that he used the second century original words along side the French edition and took us with him on this translation.

I am as much delighted with this translation as I am with the stories. Much of the charm, if that is appropriate for much of the subject matter, come from this translation.

This is definitely not appropriate for our current crop of censors but find a way to read it instead. It is a fancy after all and a very Roman one at that.

I read this in the Kindle edition and it was one of the books that is available for no cost at all.

Where have we come that some of the best literature can be delivered in our humble hands for a soft click? OK, we are in a Golden Age but we don't deserve it. Admit it. Imagine showing a Kindle to Thomas Jefferson and downloading this work at no cost. He would have made no time for his salons of music.

51Forthwith
nov. 11, 2015, 4:48pm

After an online Course through the Classical Wisdom web site called "Essential Greeks" and going through The Great Courses "1066: The Year That Changed Everything" and their 48 lecture "The Foundations of Western Civilization Part 1" I returned to those things still called books. Also, I must admit getting captivated by the new Curiosity Stream Documentaries on subjects as far ranging as Knights and Quantum Theory. Then, returning from a bit of guided history travel in the Virginias exploring Jefferson and our later Civil War, this prodigal son returns to the book. At least, these other distractions may be considered as bookless worthies. Don't you think? (Note: I am not affiliated in any way with these enterprises but I confess to be enthusiastic.)

43. The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski

I joined millions of viewers some years ago when PBS broadcast the BBC series that the book is based on. Actually, the book is a sort of readable transcript to the lavish television series. This is somewhat like the book-booklets that accompany The Great Courses.

The series was intended as a sort of counter to Lord Kenneth Clark's Civilization. Sadly, we follow the ancient Alexandrian model of separation of science and the arts.

I took this book at an episode (Chapter) at a time. To read on to another Chapter would seem like binge-watching which I do not understand.

Both books and the television programs evoke wonder, which otherwise is an overused word. I had the unashamed pleasure of reading the book in a beautiful slip-cased edition with a stunning cover design by Neil Gower. OK, I am susceptible to what I am holding. Maybe, clothes do make the man.

52Forthwith
nov. 11, 2015, 11:01pm

44. The Diary of a Superflous Man by Ivan Turgenev

Depressing and yet enlightening? Yep.

Of course we are talking about a Russian novel here. With no plot about a dying man and unrequited love or much of any plot, we can indulge in the language (even as translated) of a master of restraint and beauty. The writing overshadows the plot and the characters and that is a beautiful thing.

53Forthwith
nov. 18, 2015, 3:17pm

Catching up on some reading a bit:

45. There I Grew Up by William Bartlet

Having been on a trip a few months ago hosted by the author, I was intrigued about the scant attention paid to the formative years of Abraham Lincoln rowing up in Indiana. From about age 7 until 21, he grew up in a very small log cabin (really) in southern Indiana. It is located in the next county from where I live. Indiana has made no effort to acknowledge this in contrast with the bombast in Springfield, IL.

In this book, Bill has taken a sound research based account of any available scrap of detail for those years. Lincoln, himself wrote very little about those years. Perhaps the strained relationship with his father (he did not attend his father's funeral) and tragic loss of his biological mother kept any memories buried.

This book belongs on any distinguished Lincoln shelf.

I was very pleased to read this in an autographed copy in memory of our earlier history trip to Springfield, IL.

46. Letter To a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

I decided to retrieve this from my to be read stack as I tried to gather my thoughts about the tragic events in Paris. Harris makes a compelling case that religion itself in reliance on works written in very different times needs to be more openly addressed.

47. Wren's London by Eric De Mare

This heavily illustrated book draws much on earlier reporting of the Great Fire of London as well as the always fascinating diary of Mr. Pepys. It makes for a nicely written recollection of that dramatic period of rebuilding.

48. The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant

This is a collection of reflections from the magisterial History of Civilization series and the life studies of the Durants. Although it was written in 1975, much of it could have been written today. The long and sometimes tedious writings of the vast Civilization series is summarized into these lessons. The Chapters on Religion and Government are most compelling. So, have we really progressed?

54Oberon
nov. 18, 2015, 3:43pm

>53 Forthwith: Out of curiosity, are the illustrations you refer to in Wren's London pre or post fire?

55Forthwith
nov. 22, 2015, 4:29pm

Continuing a bit on a Civil War trek, I have noted two books with local interest.

49. Thunder From a Clear Sky by Ray Mulesky

This is the story of the little told tale of the Confederate Raid in 1862 through so-called neutral Kentucky across the Ohio River north to Newburg(h) Indiana. Living in same city, I eagerly participated in the 150 year anniversary ceremonies and the walking tour by the author. Eagerly securing an autographed book, I placed it on my large stack of to be read "someday."
Like perhaps some of you, I downplay or simply ignore anything local as having any real significance. I will get around to it after reading about anywhere else first. Little known to me, I was holding a crackin' good read. One of the most colorful characters possible, is vividly brought to life.

I have not been much interested in the Civil War but this book was quite exciting to read. The character of the Confederate Stovepipe Johnson is wonderfully drawn. The book contains a fully researched tableau. This is storytelling for anyone.

This was the first incursion across the Mason-Dixon line by the Confederates. Yes, we were defeated by a perceived canon - actually a stovepipe. To this day, we flee in the sight of a heating and cooling truck.

50. Corydon: The Forgotten Battle of the Civil War by W. Fred Conway

The story cited above of Newburg(h) was considered as a Raid even though it was quite significant and hundreds of troops were later involved.

The Battle of Corydon Indiana was officially recognized as only one of two Civil War battles fought on northern soil. The other one was at a place named Gettysburg.

As in the book above, this Battle is led by a colorful Confederate character, General John Hunt Morgan leading what is called Morgan's Raiders. This significant battle, like the Newburg(h) Raid, receives limited attention. However this gives the opportunity for both stories to look deeper into the individuals and character of the participants. The Battle logistics themselves, although necessary to discuss, are background for the story of character and place.

Both of these books are awaiting two types of readers. One type would be the aficionados of the Civil War looking for those fringe developments to shed light on the War. The other type would be those who want a good story well told.

56Forthwith
nov. 22, 2015, 4:48pm

I have to respond with a definitive: both.
The front endpapers have a two page map of the affected area drawn just after the fire. The back endpapers have drawings prepared before and after the fire.
In the book itself of the 85 illustrations fewer than 20 were pre-fire.

57Forthwith
nov. 25, 2015, 2:36am

51. The Double Helix by James D. Watson

Well, this is certainly not what you would expect. The discovery/identification of the structure of DNA by a Nobel Prize winner would be expected to read like an acceptance speech. It is not.

It is written based on his letters to his mother and is written in the way that he would have done so had he written it during his young years of studies. He is not likeable and the sort of person that even a contemporary might have avoided. It describes others as lacking dignity and from the viewpoint of a discontented low maturity sort.

He describes Rosalind Franklin as a feminist that would be better in another laboratory. In his contemporary Epilogue, however, he expresses respect and sadness at her untimely death. (There is a new film with Nicole Kidman being released based on her life.)

52. First Love by Ivan Turgenev

This is a good entry into Russian Literature. Turgenev was one of Gore Vidal's favorite writers and relatable for modern American readers. Well, there is that issue with the Russian proper names, I grant.

The pace is in a set rhythm and then in the final couple of pages, he hurriedly wraps it up. Actually, the final few pages really soar in writing quality and depth.

53. Days of Reading by Marcel Proust for being so.

With the troubles in France and respecting memories of a recent visit there, this selection is stirring. The essay on John Ruskin, is idolatry and with a censure.

The reader has to turn over any attentions to Proust and trust him to take you away.

58Forthwith
nov. 26, 2015, 1:25am

54. The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty

I am reading this in the beautiful leather bound signed edition with a message from the author. Rather than a few sentences, she gives us a few intimate pages relating the characters and the story to her own life. No, these are not duplicates to her life but certainly death and the impact are. Holding a treasure of American Literature also given birth and held by Ms. Welty is the best antidote for overreliance of the digital book.

Ms. Welty is a superb writer of place, specifically the character and rhythm of the south. This opens in New Orleans but it is not long before we are back home in Mississippi. She also draws a picture of West Virginia and Cairo, IL where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers converge.

It was nice to meet you, bridesmaids.

59Forthwith
nov. 27, 2015, 2:19am

55. American Heritage Great Minds of History

Television reporter Roger Mudd conducted interviews with the following historians: Gordon Wood (American Revolution); James McPherson (Civil War); Richard White (The West); David McCullough (period between the Civil War and WWI); Stephen Ambrose (WWI, Eisenhower and Nixon).

The interviews were edited down for the book. It seems like these may have run in full on television.

David McCullough's section really covers his career and books with a discussion of the importance of and teaching of history. You can hear his voice when reading his responses. His these are reiterated in many of his more recent talks and interviews. Richard White's interview seems to meander about and loses focus. Gordon Wood's interview gives a thumbnail look at key figures and displays confidence. McPherson's section is broad as his writings reflect. Stephen Ambrose is rigid and quite opininated.

These are uneven but reflect the styles of the writers.

60Forthwith
nov. 29, 2015, 7:16pm

56. History by John H. Arnold

This is a pleasant read that walks the reader through historiography. The book reads like a collection of college lectures. The author indeed does teach the philosophy of history.

It starts with a story and builds arguments on what history is and its purpose. He concludes that history is enjoyable, a device to stimulate thinking and a tool to think differently about ourselves.

It is generous with illustrations and as the author reminds us defensively at least three times, it is a short read.

61Forthwith
des. 3, 2015, 6:40pm

57. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

This was an early rejected manuscript found and published after the author's success. I think that I will withhold any reaction until I get to read more of his work. This is certainly not a coming of age story. What is true? The impressions are so.

58. A Separate Piece by John Knowles

This is a solid work that may be more revealing about the author than intended. The story is, for certain, an anti-war story but instead is an internal fatal conflict.

62Forthwith
des. 5, 2015, 11:17pm

Surprise.

59. Vanity Fair's Presidential Profiles

This is a delightful romp with splendid pencil profiles of each of our US Presidents. Writers include Judy Bachrach and Todd Purdum. These are followed by a section of quotes from each President describing his predecessor.

OT: Recently, I put down the books and attended the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch performance of Hamlet recorded live at the National Theater in London and broadcast to over 200,000 people in movie theaters throughout the world. Then this week, I jolted down the Expressway to see "The Winter's Tale" with Dame Judi Dench and Kenneth Branham with his own theater company. The performance was recorded live and transmitted into US theaters Nov. 30. Sadly, The Winter's Tale was delayed nearly 1/2 hour and then the picture cut out periodically in the final 15 minutes. However, I remain an enthusiast of this concept of bringing in stunning digital HD these events.

In the midnight hour I give a rebel yell and say more, more, more.

63Forthwith
des. 13, 2015, 5:51pm

60. Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich

It may not be good to read a book that I completely agree with but I did it anyway. She takes a personal experience with cancer and shows us around.

Realism please.

61. Justine by Lawrence Durrell

You didn't think it was by the other guy did you?

This was a chore. I read it but let me elaborate.

I softly spoke a sentence or two and then went back looking for meaning. The phrases are so evocative that the eyes close and the mind is directed. The plot interferes with the book. Reading broadens as a process with this book. After many pages the meditation jells some.

I wonder if one paragraph a day followed by a complete read would do it.

This is a post-Proust cubist presentation. Take it or leave it.

Take it.

62. The Humbling by Phillip Roth

If I was Portnoy, I would certainly have the right to complain.

Was this submitted to fulfill a contract to payoff a second mortgage?