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What are you reading?

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Suskind's 'the One Percent Doctrine.' Excellent, and I must finish it before Tuesday--superstition. Otherwise, I can't say anything, since it's political. However, it came out about 6 weeks before 'The Looming Tower', about Al Qaeda and going up to and just through 9/11, whereas this one starts with 9/11, just before, with the CIA at Crawford in August, 2001, and goes on up to today. So that they make an excellent summary of the facts of the main matters going on in U.S. foreign policy today when read in the opposite order from which they were published. I'll then get to Woodward's book.

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I'm reading the new biography about Katharine Hepburn by William J. Mann.

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Suskind's 'the One Percent Doctrine.' Excellent, and I must finish it before Tuesday--superstition. Otherwise, I can't say anything, since it's political. However, it came out about 6 weeks before 'The Looming Tower', about Al Qaeda and going up to and just through 9/11, whereas this one starts with 9/11, just before, with the CIA at Crawford in August, 2001, and goes on up to today. So that they make an excellent summary of the facts of the main matters going on in U.S. foreign policy today when read in the opposite order from which they were published. I'll then get to Woodward's book.

You know, Woodward's books are always so widely discussed that I rarely get around to actually reading them - I feel as if I already have.

Welcome to the thread, YouOverThere, and thank you for posting. I'm sure you have nothing to be penitent for. :dry:

canbelto, I read an excerpt from Mann's book in Vanity Fair not too long ago. I'm sure some of what he says is on target, but his sources seemed doubtful. I assume that in the book he comes up with more solid research than warmed over hearsay emanating from George Cukor's sewing circle.

Thanks, everyone. Continue to keep us informed.

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You know, Woodward's books are always so widely discussed that I rarely get around to actually reading them - I feel as if I already have.

Exactly! and the same is true of the Wright and the Suskind (especially) books. They are written about in so many op-ed pieces, etc., that you think you know what they are about by reading these sources. So these 3 books, 2 of which I've finished, mark the first time I decided to go ahead and make my way all the way through myself, instead of just counting on Frank Rich, etc., and was I in for a revelation. The things I found in the Suskind, finished last night, were simply incredible: Most of the talk about that book has been on the Crawford briefing by CIA, but in the book you find out about what has really happened to CIA since 9/11--how its evidence-gathering function has been literally gutted. You also read that all persons Suskind interviewed for the book think it's a matter of when, not if. Such things as the August, 2003, plans to attack the New York subways were kept secret and many other things as well. When the blackout of August, 2003, occurred, most people, myself included, thought briefly that it could be a terrorist attack--but the government thought that's what it was for hours, due to what they knew about plans to use cyanide in the subways.

So, no more skipping of O'Neill books, Clarke books, etc., for me anymore. I did not get enough from reading Scheer (when he was still at LATimes) and Dowd.

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Well I've finished most of Mann's book. His main gist is that the Tracy/Hepburn affair was as much myth as fact, and that after Tracy's death Hepburn built up and romanticized the relationship. He claims that Hepburn was drawn to gay alchoholics, and that Hepburn was primarily lesbian (or at least her strongest relationships were with women), while Tracy was gay (or bi). He claims that the Hepburn/Tracy "affair" was primarily platonic, although of course emotionally very intense. Also, he says Tracy and Hepburn were only really a "couple" between the years 1945-49. In the 1950s they led separate lives, and Hepburn was his caretaker from 1960 to 1967, but that the relationship wasn't romantic.

Mann uses an awful lot of speculation. For instance, he says the lack of "physical intimacy" between Hepburn and Tracy in their films was due to the essentially platonic nature of their offscreen relationship. He does rely on a lot of people who lived or worked on the Cukor estate for gossip, including people who now claim to be Tracy's lovers.

I have to say that although it's an interesting read, I don't buy it. Or at least not all of it. There are too many people like Lauren Bacall and Hepburn's own family who have testified over the years about Hepburn's tireless, constant, and perhaps masochistic devotion to Tracy for me to believe that Hepburn really cared more about her girlfriends. Also, while Hepburn may have romanticized their relationship, I think Mann's view that it was mostly a publicity stunt is wrong. I don't think anyone who spends 20+ years taking care of a self-destructive alcoholic does it for publicity.

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Hard to believe that the witty, erudite, and knowledgeable people who post to this site aren't doing that much reading. Keep us informed, please. :clapping:

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Finally finished Mailer's book on Picasso ('Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man'), found it utterly illuminating. When faced with the austere Cubism, before it began to be infused with some colour when the affair with Marcelle began and progressed (and developed into the 'Synthetic Cubism'), I realized more than I ever did at a museum that I considered myself to know nothing whatever about painting. The dark tans, browns, umbers of the first great works of Cubism would not be anything I could really recognize or understand without great help. So therefore, I've gotten a good start, but just those plates made me know more than anything I've ever looked at what a dilettante I am when it comes to the complex works of the modern painters.

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RE: Katharine Hepburn--you might enjoy reading A. Scott Berg's book about her: Kate Remembered. Berg interviewed Ms. Hepburn about her life and her relationship with Tracy is discussed. This book was difficult for me to read because it discusses many movies I have never seen but I managed to get through it and enjoy parts of it.

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Thanks for posting, Tiffany. I didn’t read that one all through but dipped in and out of it. Berg is a good writer – his bio of Charles Lindbergh is excellent. I thought the Hepburn memoir a tad self serving, and was rather put off by the way it was hustled out onto the market in what seemed like days after her death, but I agree it’s well worth looking at if you are interested in Hepburn.

And by all means, check out those movies, too. Some of them are pretty good. :)

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Hard to believe that the witty, erudite, and knowledgeable people who post to this site aren't doing that much reading. Keep us informed, please. :dry:
Lord, how can one resist an invitation like that.

It got me to thinking about the patterns we follow when it comes to choosing reading topics and materials.

Sometimes I seek out books I've read about and have piqued a sudden interest. (This often happens with ballet books referred to on Ballet Talk.) :)

A varient of this for me is when I come across a reference that reminds me of an old interest, leads me to a specific book, which then pushes me onward and outward to a series of related books. One leads to another. You can become immersed in a different cultural world. In my case, this tends to happen more with past events than with what is going on today. It also happens to involve RE-reading almost as much as reading unfamiliar material. (This may just be a function of growing older.)

The process began again recently when I came across a review of a new edition of selections from the Goncourt Journals. (Edmond and Jule de Goncourt were brothers and literary partners. Their vast and obsessive journalizing in the Paris literary scene from 1851 to 1896 (Jules died in 1870) -- includes intimate views of Flaubert, Zola, Theophile Gautier, Degas, and just about every major and minor cultural figure in France during that time. (Pages from the Goncourt Journals, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, NY Review Books Classics). For those who might be intimidated by the big namess, there's lots of fascinating, bitchy gossip, back-biting, and ... sex. Not to mention syphillis, which effected just about everyone and which actually killed Jules de Goncourt.)

This led me to an old copy of Victor Hugo's History of a Crime, his outraged account of President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'etat which transformed him into Emperor Napoleon III. (And which led to Hugo's exile untl 1970, when "Napoleon le Petit" in turn was overthrown as a result of disasters in the Prussian War.) It's a great story (with Hugo, who took part in the events, as the hero). You can appreciate the gargantuan narrative talent that have made Les Miserables and other Hugo novels so powerful even today.

Then ... onward to a few bios of Napoleon III and Victor Hugo's (Graham Robb's recent one is large, thoughtful and brilliant), and a plan to revisit some Flaubert (Sentimental Education) and Zola (Nana, because I just saw a ballet based on the Camille storyo, Le Debacle, because it takes place duirng the disastrous Franco-Prussian War, and Ladies' Paradise, beccause it's fun and takes place in one of the new department stores that were invented in Paris in the 19th century). And to try one more time to figure out why so many people consider Hugo to be the greatest lyric poet in any language. And to try a second time to get through Les Miserables -- a long, thick book, and a little old-fashioned to our taste. Robb has convinced me that it's worth the effort. (We have an Impressionist exhibit at our local museum -- a travelling show from the Clarke Museum in Williamstown -- so that covers some of the art.)

I may never get through it all on this voyage. But there's always next time.

Unfortunately, this bout of time-travelling has pushed aside a small pile of books on the current religion-v-science disputes. They gather dust (only figuratively, of course :wallbash: ) and wait patiently until I get the need to roll around in French history out of my system. :flowers:

P.S. I'd like to thank the public library system in our county for continuing to by serious books when media hype sometimes suggests that 20,000 copies of Oprah Winfrey or Dan Brown might be sufficient. And ... Amazon, for sponsoring Ballet Talk and providing that convenient link at the top of each page so we can go on adding to our shopping carts.

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My list:

Colm Toibin's latest, Mothers and Sons (short stories)

Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian

A. Roger Ekirch's At Day's Close: Night in Times Past (nonfiction)

Cervantes's Don Quixote (in a newly republished ed'n of Tobias Smollet's late 18th-c translation--very witty!)

--and beginning to re-read Mann's Magic Mountain (new translation)

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I haven't kept up with this thread, but I am currently reading Queen Isabella by Alison Weir.

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I haven't kept up with this thread, but I am currently reading Queen Isabella by Alison Weir.

No need to 'keep up' with it, Hans, we're just glad to hear from you. I haven't read any of Weir's books, although I see her name regularly in the history section of bookstores, so I'd be interested to know what you think.

Ray, your post reminds me that I have a paperback of 'Memoirs of Hadrian' sitting at home - bought it two years ago and haven't yet got round to it. Embarrassing.

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Weir is good at what she does, at least it seems to me.

In general, British "popular historians" are trained at the best universities and are quite knowledgeable about locating and using sources critically. I don't think that Weir has that kind of education, but she clearly has been influenced by those who do.

Weir's series of royal women -- Elizabeth I, Henry VIII's 6 wives, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary Queen of Scots -- in some ways parallels the work of the more well-known Antonia Fraser, but Weir is a tighter self-editor and less likely to insert her own prejudices than Fraser, who most recently let her enthusiasm go in her attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Queen Marie Antoinette.

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[Ray, your post reminds me that I have a paperback of 'Memoirs of Hadrian' sitting at home - bought it two years ago and haven't yet got round to it. Embarrassing.

You won't be disappointed (unless, of course, you're looking for sex. None there, really); interestingly, in the course of my own research I've seen many scholars refer to Yourcenar's work--pretty amazing (she did the translation too). By the way, plug the title into the IMDB--there is actually a Memoirs of Hadrian flim "in production"! We'll see if it ever comes out....... Perhaps Eifman should choreograph the story? ("Spartacus" meets "Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death" :) !)

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[Ray, your post reminds me that I have a paperback of 'Memoirs of Hadrian' sitting at home - bought it two years ago and haven't yet got round to it. Embarrassing.

You won't be disappointed (unless, of course, you're looking for sex. None there, really); interestingly, in the course of my own research I've seen many scholars refer to Yourcenar's work--pretty amazing (she did the translation too). By the way, plug the title into the IMDB--there is actually a Memoirs of Hadrian flim "in production"! We'll see if it ever comes out....... Perhaps Eifman should choreograph the story? ("Spartacus" meets "Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death" :) !)

Thanks for directing me to the imdb link, Ray - interesting. Boorman is one of those directors who's either terrible or terrific, in my experience. I can't see Banderas as Hadrian, though - maybe the talks will fall through. :)

I haven't gone out of my way to read Weir because so many of her books appear to be retreads of familiar subjects, but I've been known to be wrong. I can't address the Marie Antoinette, not having read it, but Fraser's account of Mary Queen of Scots is excellent - in many respects definitive, unless there's been new research. She is opinionated, but I like that - her opinions are out front where you can see them right off, and it makes for lively reading.

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Didn't mean to imply that Fraser is inferior to Weir -- far from it. She's different, but very on top of the sources and issues she writes about.

But Weir has her virtues. I look forward to the Isabella book, especially since Iberian history of that period is so little known over here.

The Fraser Mary Queen of Scots is much richer and more interesting than Weir's more narrowly-focused Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley. Fraser's excellent Cromwell is very dense, very serious, and has little of the glamour reades look for in royal bios. Fraser's work also has the knack of getting used for major and expensive international films.

I was also interested in finding out that Memoirs of Hadrian is "in production". There may be "no sex," but there's the over-the-top relationship with Antinoos, his beautiful Greek boy. The current political climate may not be right for a big-budget movie about that. Although I enjoyed when I read it many years ago, a re-visit several years ago left me disappointed. I much prefer her book about a 16th-century outsider during a time of great religious intolerance and violence: The Abyss in English, but L'Oeuvre au noir in French.

Glad to hear there's a new translation of Magic Mountain. The old Vintage paperback translation is very tough going. But does a new translation mean that I actually might have to finish the book??? :)

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Glad to hear there's a new translation of Magic Mountain. The old Vintage paperback translation is very tough going. But does a new translation mean that I actually might have to finish the book??? :)

Not only Magic Mountain, but Buddenbrooks, Doctor Faustus, and Joseph and His Brothers too! John E. Woods, the adept translator, has been very, very busy.... Of course, you could wait for the John Neumeier versions to come out first :)

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Thanks, Ray, for the information, which I'll pursue.

I :) to admit that Buddenbrooks is my favorite -- along with the wonderful stories and maybe Confessions of Felix Krull.

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Thanks, Ray, for the information, which I'll pursue.

I :) to admit that Buddenbrooks is my favorite -- along with the wonderful stories and maybe Confessions of Felix Krull.

I agree absolutely! I hope Woods takes on Krull...

Wasn't there a Masterpiece Theater version of Buddenbrooks once? I can't find it anywhere, but I'm sure I remember the ads for it (I don't remember watching it, for some reason).

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Wasn't there a Masterpiece Theater version of Buddenbrooks once? I can't find it anywhere, but I'm sure I remember the ads for it (I don't remember watching it, for some reason).

IMDB has a listing for a 1965 British 7-part miniseries and the 1984 Masterpiece Theater version you're talking about. One of the commenters says it's not on DVD.

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I haven't read much history (except the usual public school textbooks) so I don't have much to compare to, but I love Weir. I've read her Eleanor of Aquitaine; Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley; and The Princes in the Tower. As far as I can tell, she seems to do an excellent job of substantiating her conclusions and presenting them in a very readable way, but I would like to read other well thought-of authors to compare.

Bart, I agree about Fraser's Marie Antoinette. Surely she deserves some sympathy, but I finished the book wondering whether she had been canonized yet.

I really enjoyed Andrea Stuart's The Rose of Martinique about Josephine Bonaparte, but I was not reading it with any sort of prior knowledge or objectivity in mind. However, it was very entertaining. :)

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I haven't read much history (except the usual public school textbooks) so I don't have much to compare to, but I love Weir. I've read her Eleanor of Aquitaine; Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley; and The Princes in the Tower. As far as I can tell, she seems to do an excellent job of substantiating her conclusions and presenting them in a very readable way, but I would like to read other well thought-of authors to compare.

I like reading history , bios as well, so I read a lot of historical biographies.

I liked Weir's Eleanor, Mary S, and the Princes so I'll look out for Isabella.

Right now I'm reading Mountains of the Pharaohs by Zahi Hawass

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I read mostly biographies and right now I am two-thirds of the way through Doris Kearns Goodwin "A Team of Rivals" on the presidency of Lincoln.---it is eye-opening to read of his Cabinet---(most of them did not agree with him)---it is a pleasure sometimes to sink back into the past.....

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But Weir has her virtues. I look forward to the Isabella book, especially since Iberian history of that period is so little known over here.

I have the impression that Weir writes chiefly of English monarchs, although I suppose Eleanor of Aquitaine was hardly English, and I'd think the Isabella must be the French Isabella who married Edward II, Hans?

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