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What are you reading?Autumn 2010


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 05:59 AM

I'm just finishing Rudolf Vrba's "I escaped from Auschwitz", the author's dramatic first-hand account of how he managed to escape from the notorious death camp, and helping save more than 120,000 Jews from slaughter. :bow:

On a lighter side, I'm indulging in one of my guilty pleasures: John Grisham's "The Partner"... :blushing: . I know...I know...but still...yummy as hell... :)

#2 Helene

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 06:13 AM

I just finished a remarkable book by Edmund de Waal, "The Hare with Amber Eyes", which tells the history of his mother's family, the Ephrussi's, after they left Odessa as very rich, successful grain merchants and established greater fortunes in finance throughout Europe. The memoir/history centers around a vitrine of netsuke purchased by Charles Ephrussi, one of the models for Swann, a collector, critic, and editor of the "Gazette des Beaux Arts", and given as a wedding present to a favorite cousin, Viktor, and his new wife Emmy, who lived in one of the great buildings on the Ringstrasse. The description of the Nazification of Austria was especially vivid; the author's mother, Elisabeth, an accomplished lawyer, was responsible for holding as much of the family together during the 30's and 40's.

#3 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 07:18 AM

I just finished a remarkable book by Edmund de Waal, "The Hare with Amber Eyes", which tells the history of his mother's family, the Ephrussi's, after they left Odessa as very rich, successful grain merchants and established greater fortunes in finance throughout Europe. The memoir/history centers around a vitrine of netsuke purchased by Charles Ephrussi, one of the models for Swann, a collector, critic, and editor of the "Gazette des Beaux Arts", and given as a wedding present to a favorite cousin, Viktor, and his new wife Emmy, who lived in one of the great buildings on the Ringstrasse. The description of the Nazification of Austria was especially vivid; the author's mother, Elisabeth, an accomplished lawyer, was responsible for holding as much of the family together during the 30's and 40's.


Helene -- "The Hare with Amber Eyes" received a very enticing write-up in the latest edition of The New York Review of Books ("Searching for a Lost World" by Walter Kaiser) -- but it's behind the paywall, alas. It sounds like a perfect storm of people, places, events, narrative arc, and a sensitive, probing writer. I'm sold!

#4 Cygnet

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 07:51 AM

I'm in the middle of Daniel Silva's, "The Rembrandt Affair." It's summer 2010. Europe's major art museums, private collections and galleries are being plagued by a rash of thefts. The ring turns out to be a French team of serial art thieves. It concerns the theft of an unknown portrait of Rembrandt's mistress that has never been seen in public. A prominent art restorer has been murdered by one of the theives in the ring while working on this portrait, who takes the portrait back to the ring leader in Marseilles. Now the painting now has a bullet hole and the restorer's blood on it. But, it's what's in the painting that's the key to this story. The dead restorer was a good friend of Gabriel Allon another art restorer and one of the Mossad's top assassins. Allon comes out of semi-retirement to find the painting for his friend, London art dealer Julian Isherwood. In the process, his quest leads him to Amsterdam and then Buenes Aires. In Amsterdam, he interviews an old woman who is the sole survivor of the Jewish family that originally owned the painting. With the help of the Mossad, Allon sets out to return the painting and the assets of it's contents to her, the rightful owner.

In the beginning, the portrait is stolen from a prominent Jewish banker's family in Amsterdam during WW2. They were forced into hiding, but after a year they were discovered and sent to the deportation center. Before the family is separated, the SS officer in charge of the deportations bargains with the banker for the painting. The banker also has a small sack of diamonds, which the SS officer immediately confiscates. The SS officer then bargains for the painting in exchange for the life of one of the banker's two daughters. The father is forced to sell the painting in exchange for his youngest girl, a 5 year old, who is the only one in the family who is blonde and blue eyed. The SS officer gives the banker a receipt. Her father slips the child that receipt as proof of the SS officer's theft. That's the last the little girl sees of her family. She keeps the receipt over the years to remind her of her family, and as the proof of the officer's crimes.

After the war, the SS officer escapes prosecution, moves to Italy, and smuggles all of the Holocaust assets he has stolen to Switzerland in several numbered accounts in one bank. He put the itemized list of all his stolen assets and account numbers, each corresponding to all the names of his victims on a sheet of onion-skin paper. He concealed this paper in an air tight sack hidden behind the shoulder of Rembrandt's mistress. He sends his wife and son to Buenos Aires. Years go by. Then in 1964, he sends his wife to Zurich to make the withdrawal. The banker, knowing the contents of the painting, turns her away, saying that she has "the wrong bank and there are no such accounts." In 1967 the officer tries again by sending an Argentinian diplomat on his behalf to request the painting. The diplomat ends up dead the day before he is to leave for Zurich. In time, the Zurich banker dies and leaves the establishment to his son. The son soon becomes a ruthless billionaire. His father told him about the contents of the painting, and the billionaire will do anything including murder to protect his family's "good" name, his fortune, and his philanthophic reputation. To that end, the billionaire has built his own private intelligence network and army, equipped with hit teams and operatives to protect his interests.

#5 bart

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 09:49 AM

Taking a break from ancient Rome to read Martin Stannard's new biography of Muriel Spark. (He's also a biographer of Evelyn Waugh.) I can still remember the astonishing effect of seeing almost an entire issue of The New Yorker devoted to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

I'm up to the chapter on Spark's conversion to her own version of Roman Catholicism. It has helped me to understand better her post-conversion life, something which has always confused me considering her lack of dogmatic orthodoxy and her pattern of self-centeredness in relating to other human beings.

There are several drawbacks -- as with the recent biography of Patricia Highsmith. Sharp is not really a sympathetic character (though much more so than Highsmith). Many of the people who influence her life most are not particularly interesting (or, perhaps more relevant, don't come across as interesting in their interactions with Sharp).

Once she began her literary career, Sharp seems to have been driven to advance and protect it at any cost. And there were costs, both in human and artistic terms. I can't think of a single character in her work about whom I really care, though many of them are fascinating and unforgettable.

#6 richard53dog

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 10:21 AM

I just started today The Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster.

The Silva book looks interesting; I've read quite a few of his novels. The whole injection of art history/restoration gives his books a sub-theme that sets his books apart from other spy thrillers.

#7 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 12:31 PM

I'm in the midst of re-reading "In the Wake of Diahgilev" by Richard Buckle, downloaded notes from the V&A and a guidebook to London, in preparation for my trip, and and running to other related books now and then.

The newly-purchased catalogue to the exhibit and new bio of Karsavina go unopened, and it's a bit more than a week before I leave. I have noticed real problems reading for long periods of time since I started using the internet in 1994. But I'm also looking at documentaries: "Doubrovska," by Virginia Brooks (beautiful but too, too short) and "Once at a Border" about Igor Stravinsky, by Tony Palmer. Maybe a return to "The Red Shoes" would be a good idea, as well.

#8 sandik

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 09:42 AM

Taking a break from ancient Rome to read Martin Stannard's new biography of Muriel Spark.


That is indeed a change!

#9 Rosa

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 02:57 PM

*The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong
*As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
*And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
*Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality: A Brief History of the Education of Dominated Cultures in the United States by Joel Spring
*Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge
*The Unnameables by Ellen Booraem
*The Giver by Lois Lowry
*Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
*Elizabeth Gaskell and the English Provincial Novel by W. A. Craik
*The Bronte Novels by W. A. Craik
*Who Am I Without Him?: A Short Story Collection about Girls and Boys in Their Lives by Sharon G. Flake

#10 LiLing

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 08:58 PM

A House in Bali by the composer Colin McPhee chronicles the year he lived in Bali in the early thirties. It describes rituals in vivid detail, the intricacies of gamelan music and the training of dancers. He was able to become part of the community, and he takes the reader right along with him into a fascinating world.
The book has been out of print for some time, but I found it at the Lincoln Center Library.

#11 dirac

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 10:24 PM

I've heard wonderful things about that book, LiLing.

Makes me reflect on what a very different time we live in. Now music from almost anywhere on the globe is literally at our fingertips, but there was a time when if you wanted to hear Balinese music you had to go to Bali.

#12 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 03:30 PM

I'm trying to get through Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, but I must confess that I eagerly lay it aside for something--anything--else the slightest provocation. I didn't get the fuss over The Corrections and I get the fuss over Freedom even less. I'm in that sour place of being determined to finish it just so I can gripe about it with impunity.

#13 dirac

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 03:55 PM

Thanks for posting, Kathleen. There is a pre-existing thread on Franzen (a short one) and I cross posted your comment in the hope that it will spark discussion there.


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