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What are you reading?


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#331 innopac

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 12:24 AM

I am "reading" this beautiful photographic essay by KayLynn Deveney called The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings. The book was mentioned in Allison Arieff's NYT's blog on memories.

#332 papeetepatrick

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 07:49 AM

Patrick McGilligan's 'Nature of the Beast', an excellent bio of Fritz Lang, director of 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari', the 3 Dr. Mabuse films, 'Die Nibelungen', 'Metropolis', 'M', 'Scarlett Street', and many others. The exhaustive detail of early German film-making and the Ufa Studios is a great pleasure, but I had no idea what a sadistic person Lang was. He was tyrannical and cruel to all the stars (esp. Brigitte Helm as Maria and the robot-Maria), as well as the thousands of extras who he constantly put at great risk to their health and lives, and may even have killed his first wife Lisa Rosenthal. His mistress Thea Von Harbou, who was also his brilliant writer and collaborator through the 20s, testified to his innocence in court, but that doesn't prove anything, of course. I've seen some 15-18 of the films so I wanted to find out where they came from--and they are often involving crime, courtrooms, and the unjustly accused.

#333 dirac

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 01:14 PM

Thank you for keeping us posted on your reading. I hope others will, as well.

Currently reading: A People's History of the Civil War and Gettysburg by Noah Andre Trudeau.

#334 Adam

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 01:20 PM

Fritz Lang . . .may even have killed his first wife Lisa Rosenthal. His mistress Thea Von Harbou, who was also his brilliant writer and collaborator through the 20s, testified to his innocence in court, but that doesn't prove anything, of course.


I'm thinking of the line near the end of "Witness for the Prosecution" where Charles Laughton says to Marlene Dietrich "You testified [on behalf of Tyrone Power] because you knew he was innocent". And I won't go any further here, in case some of you haven't seen the film.

#335 Rosa

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 05:40 PM

I am currently reading Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria, by Julia P. Gelardi. So far I've been really enjoying this fascinating book about Alexandra of Russia, Marie of Romania, Victoria Eugenie of Spain, Maud of Norway, and Sophie of Greece. (Of the five I'm only familiar with Alexandra's tragic story.) Mrs. Gelardi has done a good job of weaving the stories of the queens together.

#336 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 06:06 PM

...revisiting Marx's "Capital" after many years since I read some of it...(last time I did it was included as a mandatory textbook in one of my college classes: Marxism-Leninism Theory). Now it has a vintage feeling, at least to me. Oh boy...time has changed for sure...! :thumbsup: Anybody with a similar experience with the book out there, by any chance...?

#337 kfw

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 06:21 PM

I'm reading Daniel Bell's "The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism" and Sasha Anawalt's "Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Company." My wife and I are reading together Richard John Neuhaus' "Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross" and Studs Terkel's memoir "Talking to Myself."

I recently read K. Robert Schwart's "Minimalists," Julia Hartwig's "In Praise of the Unfinished: Selected Poems," and Barrack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope."

#338 papeetepatrick

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 06:27 PM

...revisiting Marx's "Capital" after many years since I read some of it...(last time I did it was included as a mandatory textbook in one of my college classes: Marxism-Leninism Theory). Now it has a vintage feeling, at least to me. Oh boy...time has changed for sure...! :thumbsup: Anybody with a similar experience with the book out there, by any chance...?


No, I read all of it in 1999 or 2000, and I'm glad I did, because I know what Marxists and Marxist theorists are talking about--use value, exchange value, fetishes, commodification. It's an analysis of capitalism, of course, and I wouldn't call it all that 'vintage' in some ways, given that things are so complicated in the economy that one doesn't know from free markets, socialized health care possibilities, etc., It's made it possible for me to recognize where some of the ideas have worked and where they have failed (in all the totalitarian versions. The better aspects of Marxism seem to have been appropriated by highly successful capitalistic nations in Western Europe, i.e., they are like a final luxury for rich, mature nations. The welfare states of Sweden and the others are where a successful socialism is found, much more than originating in proletarian revolutions, where they always had to hire the decadent leftovers to help them run the bureaucracies.) Marxist critiques of art, which I've mentioned elsewhere recently, are interesting although I'm no fan of most of them; some of the Frankfurt Marxists like Agnes Heller and Theodor Adorno are interesting on art, but they are always dead serious and rule out all frivolity--reading ideology into every work. There's nothing more revealing than Adorno's discussions of the 'light popular cinema' and jazz, but these people always conveniently ignore the fact the most famous Marxist state, the Soviet Union, could not do without Classical Ballet, and used it shamelessly (fortunately for us, of course), given that it's not very much like Franz Kafka...or Karl Marx...I mean, can you imagine a truly Marxist ballet? What they kept at the Kirov and Bolshoi had to do with their grip on totalitarian power, it didn't have a thing to do with, say, the workers owning the means of production or price ratios, etc. Lenin's silly talk about Beethoven's 'Appassionata Sonata' is pretty awful too. But here and there you can find things in 'Kapital' that do seem very valid, especially in the over-commodification of High Capitalism as reflected in current commercial products like mainstream film and television, which get flatter and more bloated by the week. This may change, but it has yet to.

#339 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 10:18 PM

I know what Marxists and Marxist theorists are talking about-

One of the things i always found fascinating, and i still do, is the whole surplus value/surplus labor theory. Back in the days many tests questions were based on resolving this type of problems in a numeric format, in which specific data was given to us to calculate the amount of exploitation taking place to the worker by " the capitalist"...I had the tendency to found the concept pretty reasonable...(and still do)-although not being totally clarified and/or resolved.

#340 sandik

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 11:17 PM

Patrick McGilligan's 'Nature of the Beast', an excellent bio of Fritz Lang, director of 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari', the 3 Dr. Mabuse films, 'Die Nibelungen', 'Metropolis', 'M', 'Scarlett Street', and many others....


I'll have to look for this -- I'm very fond of his films, but didn't know he was such a harsh individual.

I'm almost done with The Wisdom of Whores, by Elisabeth Pisani, about epidemiology and AIDS research. Full of information, and very engaging. Great writing about medical research for those of us who are not in the sciences.

#341 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 09:23 AM

sandik--I'm still not finished with it, maybe another 150 pages, but it is definitely phenomenal in terms of giving 4-8 pages for even the minor Hollywood films (much more for 'Metropolis' and 'M' and 'Siegfried'). McGilligan's style gets a little tiring with wanting to point out literally all of Lang's unpopular habits, e.g., every one of his exaggerated tales in which he aggrandizes himself, esp the 'Goebbels episode', when Goebbels wanted to make him run the propaganda films for Hitler; but the research and scholarship are first-rate. (He fled Germany and Goebbles because he was afraid, being half-Jewish, although raised a Catholic; but even here he turned it into a meeting with Goebbels in which he was always watching a clock so he could escape ("5 minutes too late to get to the bank and withdraw all my money', etc--then we find out he took several months and going back and forth freely to get to Paris.). The most fascinating thing about this book for me is you inadvertently get a very sharp and unexpectedly new perspective on Hollywood, because Lang the master of German film directors was forced to compromise in ways he hadn't in Germany, and yet managed to get it to work for him anyway, albeit after some setbacks and a few big flops like 'You and Me.'

Edited to add: There's esp. interesting stuff about Brecht, who wrote most of the screenplay but was only credited with the story, and the making of 'Hangmen Also Die'.

#342 Giannina

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 09:37 AM

I have spent the past couple of years reading Christopher Hibbert. Discovered him and now I can't get enough of his books. History was my worst subject in school, and his books are easy historical reading. I particularly like his biographies, but am currently reading his histories of cities, i.e. Venice and Florence. I break the monotony with books on ballet and art.

Giannina

#343 bart

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 10:07 AM

Giannina, I like Hibbert too. He must have written dozens of books, all quite well-researched and well written. They're good introductions to major historical periods/figures/etc. The library branches where I've lived often stocked a number of Hibberts.

This past summer I re-read his Medici book and the book on Florence, enjoying both thoroughly. (My father's family came from Lucca, which was rather nearby. Unfortunately, Lucca and Florence were always at war with one another. My grandfather never entirely accepted the unification of Italy. We were, he said, Lucchese, though he was sometimes willing to admit to being a "Toscano.")

Which have been your favorites?

#344 Giannina

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 02:58 PM

Bart, I started with the Medici's and was hooked. I recently read George IV and truly enjoyed it. Soon afterwards I was in London, and since the book had no illustrations (paintings, etc.) I had a wonderful time in the Portrait Gallery searching for the characters in the book; I found many of them and it was like meeting old friends. Of the cities I've read Venice (who can't love Venice in any form?), and am now reading Florence; I'm having trouble getting into it but I know treasures await me. I also enjoyed Il Duce. My Dad was from Italy and often talked about him. My only total failure so far has been Samuel Johnson. To begin with the book is a tome, and I think the size of the book more than anything deterred me. I'll eventually go back to it; fascinating man, and he appears in so many of the books I've already read.

The emotional/personal unification of Italy is such a lost cause, and so much a part of their history. One of our Elderhostel guides (Italian) said that not only are the districts divided but also the cities, neighborhoods, streets, and houses! Such a shame, but it makes for great stories.

I buy most of my books second hand through Amazon; many times the price of the book is less than the shipping charges. There are treasures out there.

Giannina

#345 bart

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 04:38 PM

I buy most of my books second hand through Amazon; many times the price of the book is less than the shipping charges. There are treasures out there.

Indeed. But I've found that all those bargain books require periodic shelf-building, which adds considerably to the cost. :)

Have you read John Julius Norwich's history of Venice? Another Englishman. More detailed, but marvellous. He also has some fascinating volumes on the history of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily plus a 3-volume work on the Byzantine Empire.

I'm interested in post-unification Italian history, and increasingly in the 20th century part of it.. I've never read Hibbert's bio of Mussolini. It's now on my list. Thanks for the suggestion.


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