What are you reading?Autumn 2010
Posted 24 September 2010 - 05:59 AM
On a lighter side, I'm indulging in one of my guilty pleasures: John Grisham's "The Partner"... . I know...I know...but still...yummy as hell...
Posted 24 September 2010 - 06:13 AM
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!
Posted 24 September 2010 - 07:51 AM
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.
Posted 24 September 2010 - 09:49 AM
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.
Posted 24 September 2010 - 10:21 AM
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.
Posted 24 September 2010 - 12:31 PM
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.
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!
Posted 21 October 2010 - 02:57 PM
*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
Posted 11 November 2010 - 08:58 PM
The book has been out of print for some time, but I found it at the Lincoln Center Library.
Posted 13 November 2010 - 10:24 PM
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.
Posted 14 November 2010 - 03:30 PM
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