Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Obit watch: March 27, 2015.

Friday, March 27th, 2015

This has been covered elsewhere, but I did want to highlight the NYT coverage of Richard III’s reburial.

After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — “Richard III, 1452-1485” — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times.

I wish I could have been there.

To those seething at the spectacle of a notoriously violent monarch being rehabilitated by the church, the cardinal cautioned that power in Richard’s time was “invariably won or maintained on the battlefield and only by ruthless determination, strong alliances and a willingness to employ the use of force, at times with astonishing brutality.”

Giggle. Snort.

For more than 500 years, he has been popularly cast as one of the most odious villains of English history — the “poisonous, bunch-back’d toad” of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” reviled as a child killer for his role, as Shakespeare and generations of historians have depicted it, as the prime mover in the smothering murders of the two young brothers known as the Princes in the Tower.

Since the 1700s, there has been a minority voice among writers and historians that has cast Richard as the victim of a conspiracy by the Tudors, whose dynasty was founded on Henry Tudor’s victory. Among these protagonists, Shakespeare is seen as having won favor at court as a spin doctor for the Tudor cause, especially for Queen Elizabeth I, who, this version contends, wanted Richard’s reputation blackened to strengthen the Tudors’ own shaky legitimacy.

I’m just going to leave these links here.

The Richard III Society.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

Also: nice tribute by the NYT to the author, John Burns.

Obit watch: March 23, 2015.

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Izola Ware Curry passed away on March 7th. This is slightly old news, but I’ve been waiting for a good link.

For those of you who are saying, “Who?”: Ms. Curry was the woman who stabbed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The stabbing nearly cost Dr. King his life, requiring hours of delicate surgery to remove Ms. Curry’s blade, a seven-inch ivory-handled steel letter opener, which had lodged near his heart. If he had so much as sneezed, his doctors later told him, he would not have survived.

Ms. Curry was found incompetent to stand trial and spent the rest of her life in a series of institutions.

Chinua Achebe, noted Nigerian author, has also passed away. Somewhere I have a copy of Things Fall Apart. I need to dig that out, as I’ve been meaning to read it, and I seem to be out of Ross Thomas books at the moment.

Pratchett.

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

NYT. BBC. Tam. A/V Club. The discussion there, and on Fark, is surprisingly civil (at least, last time I looked).

I think I’m an outlier here. I’ve only read one and half Pratchett books. The half was Good Omens (which, as I recall, I read in an advance reading copy I picked up at an ABA convention).

One of my friends and cow orkers at Dell pushed Guards! Guards! on me when he found out I hadn’t read any Discworld novels. I liked it about as much as I liked Good Omens, which is to say quite a bit. But one thing that struck me about it was that, buried in this funny story, was actually a kind of nice and sweet vision of how the police should work: how they should combat crime, and how they should relate with the citizens they protect. In some ways (and I’m not sure Pratchett knew it), Guards! Guards! was very much like “Dragnet”, except funnier. Other people have made a similar point: Pratchett overlapped silly fantasy with contemporary social commentary.

I haven’t picked up any of his books since Guards! Guards!. That’s because I wanted to hold them in reserve. Now, I feel like I’ve got enough to keep me busy for several years.

There may be additional links tomorrow, but I’ll leave off with this. I wanted to purchase a membership in the NRA (or the British equivalent) for Pratchett when I first encountered it. From Night Watch:

There had been that Weapons Law, for a start. Weapons were involved in so many crimes that, Swing reasoned, reducing the number of weapons had to reduce the crime rate.
Vimes wondered if he’d sat up in bed in the middle of the night and hugged himself when he’d dreamed that one up. Confiscate all weapons, and crime would go down. It made sense. It would have worked, too, if only there had been enough coppers – say, three per citizen.
Amazingly, quite a few weapons were handed in. The flaw, though, was one that had somehow managed to escape Swing, and it was this: criminals don’t obey the law. It’s more or less a requirement for the job. They had no particular interest in making the streets safer for anyone except themselves. And they couldn’t believe what was happening. It was like Hogswatch every day.

Edited to add: LAT.

Edited to add 2: WP.

Random notes: February 23, 2015.

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Am I understanding things correctly? They made a movie out of “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law“? And it won Best Picture?

Ackquille Pollard is a rising young rapper under the name Bobby Shmurda. Mr. Pollard’s rap career has been temporarily sidetracked:

Mr. Pollard was arrested for what city prosecutors said was his role as the “driving force” and “organizing figure” behind the street gang known as GS9, an offshoot of the Crips. In one incident just a month before he was signed, prosecutors said, Mr. Pollard shot at his brother, shattering glass at a Brooklyn barbershop. He faces up to 25 years in prison for conspiracy, reckless endangerment and gun possession; others charged, including Mr. Pollard’s childhood friends, face more serious accusations, including second-degree murder.

Mr. Pollard is being held on $2 million bail. And he’s upset that his record label hasn’t bailed him out.

But as rap has become more corporate, that kind of aid is unusual. Matthew Middleton, Mr. Pollard’s entertainment lawyer, said that while Epic is not obligated to cover bail or legal fees for Mr. Pollard, the artist expected more support, financial and emotional, especially after the label’s spirited pursuit of the rapper made them business partners.

“These companies for years have capitalized and made millions and millions of dollars from kids in the inner city portraying their plight to the rest of the world,” Mr. Middleton said. “To take advantage of that and exploit it from a business standpoint and then turn your back is disingenuous, to say the least.”

Obit watch: Herman Rosenblat. Mr. Rosenblat was a Holocaust survivor who wrote a memoir of his experiences. In that memoir, he told a story about a girl who threw an apple over the fence to him while he was in a concentration camp; later, after he moved to the United States, he met the girl again and married her.

This was, of course, a great story. Mr. Rosenblat made “Oprah” twice, got a book deal, and there were plans to turn his story into a movie.

And sadly, it turned out that Mr. Rosenblat completely invented the story about the girl and the apple. The book was never published and the movie was never made.

There is an Indian actor named Amitabh Bachchan. He’s apparently not well known in the United States, but he’s hugely popular in India. “He has appeared in more than 150 Bollywood films and served as a longtime host of the country’s wildly popular version of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'” according to the LAT. He also had a small part in the 2013 “Gatsby”.

And because of that small part, a group of Sikhs in the United States are claiming Mr. Bachchan is subject to US jurisdiction.

The group has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. making the improbable argument that Bachchan’s work with a U.S. film company gives American courts the ability to hold him responsible for the massacre of thousands of Sikhs in India three decades ago. The group alleges that the actor, now 72, made statements that incited a violent mob.

More:

The suit hinges on the Alien Tort Statute, which in recent years has become the center of a debate over whether American courts can and should be the arbiter of human rights abuses committed elsewhere in the world by non-U.S. citizens. The 1789 law, which was passed by the first Congress and initially used in cases of piracy and stolen goods, states that federal courts shall have jurisdiction over wrongs “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

It seems unlikely this will work, at least according to the LAT: the Supreme Court has restricted the ability of plaintiffs to pursue claims under the Alien Tort Statute, and they are also likely to have issues accomplishing service on the defendant.

One Wisconsin suit was dismissed after it became clear the process server hired by the group mistakenly served another Sikh man with a long white beard and turban, not the chief minister of the state of Punjab. Hospital security and Secret Service agents proved a hurdle in serving another Indian politician at a New York cancer treatment facility. A case against Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister at the time of the suit, was thrown out after the U.S. State Department stepped in to declare to the court that Singh was entitled to immunity as a head of state.

On at least one occasion, the group resorted to offering a $10,000 reward for anyone who could successfully serve the lawsuit on Punjab’s chief minister.

Obit watch: February 19, 2015.

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Dr. John P. Craven, a hugely important figure in Navy history.

From 1959 to 1969, as chief scientist of the Special Projects Office, Dr. Craven led the Navy’s drive to expand its presence into the crushing depths of the sea. Among other things, he turned submarines into spy machines that could reach down miles to inspect and retrieve lost enemy matériel, including nuclear arms.

Dr. Craven shows up frequently in the many recently published histories of the US Navy during the Cold War. His own book, The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea is well worth reading.

Oliver Sacks is dying. I don’t want to write this obituary now; I plan to wait until I have to.

Obit watch: February 17, 2015.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Arnaud de Borchgrave, journalist and author.

Lesley Gore. A/V Club.

Not really an obit in the conventional sense, but: the Bob Feller museum in Van Meter, Iowa is closing. One of the interesting things about this is that the Feller museum was one of the last remaining “free-standing” museums devoted to one player:

Only two remain: the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, two and a half blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library in Greenville, S.C. Six others, including the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University in New Jersey, are either housed at or supported by larger entities.

Also interesting: some of the memorabilia will stay at the musueum (which is going to become the new city hall), some of it is going to Progressive Field, and some of it is going to the U.S.S. Alabama:

In Van Meter, Feller is equally revered for his military service. He enlisted in the Navy two days after Pearl Harbor, the first United States professional athlete to volunteer, costing him three full baseball seasons and most of a fourth. He saw combat in the Pacific theater as a gun captain aboard the Alabama. Feller proudly called himself the only Navy chief petty officer in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Obit watch: February 13, 2015.

Friday, February 13th, 2015

David Carr, prominent NYT journalist, passed away last night.

Carr also wrote the critically acclaimed memoir, The Night of the Gun, about his struggle with drug addiction.

I now inhabit a life I don’t deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end any time soon.

Edited to add: nice tribute from Amy Alkon.

Edited to add 2: A/V Club.

TMQ Watch: February 2, 2015.

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

The ultimate TMQ! (At least, for this season.) Plus, we almost, but not quite, apologize to Gregg Easterbrook. After the jump, this week’s TMQ

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Obit watch: January 30, 2015.

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Colleen McCullough, author (“The Thorn Birds”). A/V Club.

Rod McKuen, poet. A/V Club.

Obit watch: January 26, 2015.

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Alice K. Turner, fiction editor of Playboy.

I know the joke: “I just read it for the articles”. But as fiction editor, Ms. Turner was hugely influential:

Ms. Turner helped keep literary short fiction on life support in the late 20th century, when few other publishers would or could. And writers like Terry Bisson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joyce Carol Oates, Bob Shacochis, Robert Silverberg, Dan Simmons, John Updike and David Foster Wallace were not shy about having their words abut illustrations of naked women.

I was tied up most of the weekend, so for the record:

Joe Franklin
.

Edgar Froese, founding member of Tangerine Dream. How about a little musical interlude?

And Ernie Banks. Related.

You know, I have a good feeling about the Cubs this year. I think they’re going to do the memory of Mr. Banks proud. As a matter of fact, I think there’s a good chance they will win the World Series this year.

Obit watch: January 22, 2015.

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

John Bayley, literary critic and husband of Iris Murdoch. Bayley wrote Elegy for Iris about his life with Murdoch and her decline from Alzheimer’s disease.

Alan J. Hirschfield, former president of Columbia Pictures.

Hirschfield was the studio president during the David Begelman affair, and is one of the central figures in David McClintick’s excellent book Indecent Exposure.

TMQ Watch: January 20, 2015.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

We’re grumpy. Apparently, this is a day ending in “Y”. Let’s just jump right into this week’s TMQ

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