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Book reviews from feeney

North Carolina United States

Number of reviews: 205
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Eat Move Sleep


Reviewed on Dec 24 2013

I read Tom Rath's EAT MOVE SLEEP (no commas!) because a beloved personal trainer sang its praises. Indeed, in a recent newspaper review, my trainer wrote: "If I had to narrow my library to five books, 'Eat Move Sleep' would be one of them." To me personally she said: "I agree with every word in the book." And my wife during and after reading EAT MOVE SLEEP told me: "yes, I agree with everything the author says. But it is not well written." *** My take is, perhaps, somewhat more cynical. The words of EAT MOVE SLEEP are as true as the names, numbers and addresses in a telephone directory. At its very best, stylistically, this book is a very poor man's POOR RICHARD'S ALMANACK (Benjamin Franklin, 1732 - 1758). Compare three of Franklin's adages with three of Rath: *** -- Ben Franklin: (1) "Let thy maidservant be faithful, strong, and homely." (2) "Wine...a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” (3) “There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.” ***-- Tom Rath: (1) "Ties can even cause eye problems, decreased range of motion in the neck, and increased tension in the back and shoulders" (Ch 28). (2) "Stigmatize Sinful Foods ... start to view fatty, fried, and sugary foods with contempt" (Ch. 17). (3) "Be Cold in Bed... try to sleep in a room that is a few degrees cooler than the temperature you are accustomed to during the day" (Ch. 13). *** Like my esteemed fitness coach and my wife, I find very little to disagree with in EAT MOVE SLEEP. But also very little new. A few weeks with WEIGHTWATCHERS will toss out aphorisms similar to Rath's: "Eat less, Move more!" "All Bites Count." Watching nurses doing 12 hour stints in hospitals, almost all of it on their feet tracks well with Rath's notion that sitting behind computers all day long is ruining the health of the human race. Perhaps most "original" in his presentation is the notion that sleep, eating and moving should not be held in mental isolation. Each impacts the other -- for better or for worse. ***The subtitle of EAT MOVE SLEEP is HOW SMALL CHOICES LEAD TO BIG CHANGES. The ancient Chinese believed that "a journey of 1,000 li begins with one step." Tom Rath urges us to have faith that small steps in a good direction can form habits leading to bigger and bolder experiments in good health. Start, for instance, by not "Surrounding a healthy food with two slices of bread. ... Do all you can to eat less bread. Take the top slice off a sandwich so you consume half as much. Better yet, replace bread with a bed of greens for a much healthier option" (Ch. 13). ***The book contains 30 numbered chapters. These are recapitulated at narrative's end by "First 30 Day Challenge." There are also end notes on each of the thirty chapters collected after page 219. To my annoyance, the notes are under chapter numbers without chapter names. There is no subject index. ***This book could be usefully condensed into a daily "health calendar" with an aphorism a day. Or it could be read daily or weekly, a page or two at a time. More sustained attention to EAT MOVE SLEEP would be as sophorific as reading a telephone directory. I find nothing inspired about this book. It is a barely coherent hodge podge of health aphorisms, most of which are reasonable, a few downright odd. Let the buyer beware! -OOO-

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Trilby


Reviewed on Nov 9 2013

If you value your soul, young Miss Trilby O'Farrall, beware of musical geniuses like Svengali who are also powerful hypnotists! *** One of the most widely read novels in 1890s UK and USA was written by painter, book illustrator and social satirist George du Maurier (1834 - 1896), grandfather of novelist Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989). The novel is called TRILBY and has inspired at least three good feature films, two named for its villain "Svengali." And in one of the latter the great John Barrymore played the title role. ***The novel has a rather clumsy structure, in that the first 2/3 is light-hearted, even Bohemian, set in late 1850s, early 1860s Paris and in the ample painting studio shared by three young Britons: "Little Billee," Taffy and "the Laird." And the final third of TRILBY is depressingly tragic. *** None of the three men is married. A frequent visitor and virtual sister to the three artistic chums is 20 year old unmarried Trilby O'Farrall, an orphaned model whose father was a well educated Irishman and her Scottish mother a tradeswoman in Paris. Cheerful, innocent Trilby frequently poses in another artist's studio one storey above the three friends and drops in during her lunch break. Two other visitors to the studio round out the six main characters of TRILBY: a tall, sinister Jewish musical genius and pianist whose real name is Adler but who calls himself Svengali and his violinist friend and supinely devoted protege Gecko. ***For well beyond the first half of the novel, we see little enough of Svengali and Gecko. We focus rather on the two somewhat older British men and their rising admiration of and brotherly affection for the painting genius of 22-year old William Bagot nicknamed "Little Billee" after a young man in a poem by William Makepeace Thackeray. Life among the four friends is made up of daily painting, study under masters, picnics, parties, and for Trilby O'Farrall a round of both clad and unclad posing in studios while darning socks of and tidying up for the three Britons. She also poses for them. *** Things suddenly turn solemn and sad after a Christmas party when a drunken Billy Bagot proposes marriage to gorgeous but unsuitable Trilby O'Farrell for the two dozenth time and is finally accepted. Instantly Trilby knows it will not work. Within a week Billee's widowed mother and her clergyman brother have arrived in Paris and persuaded Trilby to break the engagement. Trilby agrees that she is not right for Little Billee and disappears. Billee is wild with grief and his health begins a long spiral toward death. He searches in vain for years for his vanished love. *** Meanwhile Trilby turns at last to an eager Svengali who cures with hypnotism her terrible headaches. He also thereby gains complete psychic control over the young woman whom he loves as well as does his much younger rival Billee Bagot. For her part, however, in her increasingly rare lucid moments, Trilby O'Farrall despises Svengali. *** Years earlier, using brilliant non-hypnotic pedagogical methods, Svengali had moulded short, semi-crippled Gecko into one of Europe's greatest violinists. Now Svengali realizes a new ambitious project of using hypnotism to make of tone deaf Trilby Europe's greatest female singer. In the process, alas, her health steadily declines as does Svengali's who eventually succumbs to a heart attack during Trilby's final public performance. *** Eventually the Laird, Taffy and Little Billee reconnect with rising performing stars Svengali, Gecko and Trilby. Will Billee be able to break Svengali's hold on his one true love? Will almost constantly mesmerized Trilby recognize through her mental fog young Billee as her one true love? Read TRILBY and find out! It is best to use a good scholarly edition with notes, such as Penguin Classics' TRILBY with introduction and notes by Daniel Pick. -OOO-

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Gerald


Reviewed on Oct 31 2013

Londoner Sir Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier lived from 1873 - 1934. He was a popular actor both on stage and in films. He became financially well off 1910 - 1925 when he managed for owner Frank Curzon Wyndham's Theatre in London. He then moved on with less success to managing the St James's Theatre. His sister's sons inspired J.M. Barrie to write PETER PAN, or THE BOY WHO WOULDN'T GROW UP. Du Maurier played both Captain Hook and George Darling in the 1904 stage premiere. *** Sir Gerald and his actress wife had three daughters: a painter and two novelists. Second daughter Daphne du Maurier (later to write REBECCA) penned GERALD: A PORTRAIT not long after her father's death from colon cancer. She portrayed him, it seems to me, as Peter Pan or at least as a boy who never grew up. The man himself never realized his potential. He had no religion, no serious interests, was an incessant practical joker and made life truly miserable for his three daughters as they passed beyond puberty and explored their sexuality without making him their confidant in their amours. *** As she matured, Dame Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989) became firmly convinced that each and every human being "echoes" his or her ancestors. Not just their blood, their genes, their DNA, but also the lives they lived, the books they read, the enemies they made. To understand her father, Sir Gerald du Maurier, it was, therefore, necessary to understand his parents, brothers and sisters and their friends and milieu. Thus the first quarter of GERALD: A PORTRAIT focuses on Gerald's parents. They were George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier (1834 – 1896) and Emma Wightwick, who married in 1863. George was born in France, bilingual in French and English, a renowned painter and later cartoonist for PUNCH. Late in life he wrote three novels, of which the most famous is TRILBY and its sinister character the musical genius/hypnotist Svengali. Gerald du Maurier, as a very young actor, played in the stage version of his father's novel, TRILBY. Daphne never met her grandfather, but she read his novels and letters and seemed to love absolutely everything she learned of this genial, loving forebear. *** Readers who want to garner all they can learn about Daphne du Maurier will of necessity learn all they can about her distinguished family. GERALD: A PORTRAIT is a grand place to start. -OOO-

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Writing On the Wall


Reviewed on Oct 19 2013

SOCIAL MEDIA - THE FIRST 2,000 YEARS: what a great subtitle! Especially if the title is WRITING ON THE WALL (October 2013) and if the author is much published, insightful Tom Standage, digital editor of the ECONOMIST of London. *** For subjective me, this may be the best non-fiction book of the past ten years. It does two or three important things very well: frames within two thousand years of history today's fast evolving world of texting, FACEBOOK, SKYPE, TWITTER and other social networking media; argues suasively that the roughly 150 years (c. 1830 - c. 1980) of centralized one-way "broadcast" media dominance -- by newspapers, magazines, radio and television -- is an aberration. Writing for people you know who can return your message and pass it along to others who can pass it further along -- i.e., SOCIAL MEDIA -- is the normal, human way to communicate in writing. ***Sweeping through history, Tom Standage speculates about the origin of human language. He then reviews development of writing from Babylonian cuneiform through Egyptian hieroglyphics and into Semitic, Greek and Roman alphabets. Plato denounces writing as inferior to face to face dialog. Writing weakens your memory. Spoken dialog is the natural way to learn. *** One of Standage's finest chapters is on Rome. We see Caesar and Cicero exchanging letters. We find the letter-writing Roman aristocracy's ownership of cheap, learned Greek slaves as a plausible reason why Rome did not invent the printing press and moveable type despite all the elements being at hand. Slaves were just so doggone inexpensive! ***After Guttenberg and his Bibles, we are next shown Martin Luther and the rapid spread of his ideas in Germany once he stopped writing in learned Latin and switched to pithy German pamphlets. His first 60 Catholic opponents replied in academic Latin and Luther was outread by Germans at least ten to one. Those short printed pamphlets passed from hand to hand. They provoked discussion and revision. *** Tudor and Stuart England's experiments with government control of books, pamphlets and printers -- often by chopping off hands or execution -- was essentially dead by 1690. John Milton's 1644 AREOPAGITICA was an eloquent plea for freedom of the press. In the North American British colonies, both while still loyal and later in rebellion, England's efforts at press control failed. Thomas Paine's COMMON SENSE made him the best selling author in the world. Thomas Jefferson said that if he had to choose, he would opt for a free press over a free government! *** And so century by century WRITING ON THE WALL reviews Western Civilization's efforts to communicate in writing with friends without government interference or control -- via Social Networking, Social Media. Early American wired telegraphers formed the world's first simultaneous virtual communities and they used time between business messages to communicate with fellow telegraphers. Marconi made his wireless span the globe. Wireless chaos during and after sinking of the TITANIC ended the free-wheeling, unregulated days of wireless radio. *** Broadcast media became monopolies or oligopolies of governments or for profit capitalist owners and major advertisers. Letters to the editor were not their stock in trade. One-way broadcast messages were the norm for 150 years. Then came ARPANET, the internet, the world wide web, weblogging = BLOGGING, Twitter, Facebook and much much more: biographies, walls, texting, intstant interchanges with "friends." Conventions such as posting messages in reverse chronological order, etc. Today's social media are leveling. Anti-aristocratic. Democratic. But I think aristocrat-lite Cicero would have grasped how charmingly human today's social media are -- at least, at their best. -OOO-

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Writing On the Wall


Reviewed on Oct 19 2013

SOCIAL MEDIA - THE FIRST 2,000 YEARS: what a great subtitle! Especially if the title is WRITING ON THE WALL (October 2013) and if the author is much published, insightful Tom Standage, digital editor of the ECONOMIST of London. *** For subjective me, this may be the best non-fiction book of the past ten years. It does two or three important things very well: frames within two thousand years of history today's fast evolving world of texting, FACEBOOK, SKYPE, TWITTER and other social networking media; argues suasively that the roughly 150 years (c. 1830 - c. 1980) of centralized one-way "broadcast" media dominance -- by newspapers, magazines, radio and television -- is an aberration. Writing for people you know who can return your message and pass it along to others who can pass it further along -- i.e., SOCIAL MEDIA -- is the normal, human way to communicate in writing. ***Sweeping through history, Tom Standage speculates about the origin of human language. He then reviews development of writing from Babylonian cuneiform through Egyptian hieroglyphics and into Semitic, Greek and Roman alphabets. Plato denounces writing as inferior to face to face dialog. Writing weakens your memory. Spoken dialog is the natural way to learn. *** One of Standage's finest chapters is on Rome. We see Caesar and Cicero exchanging letters. We find the letter-writing Roman aristocracy's ownership of cheap, learned Greek slaves as a plausible reason why Rome did not invent the printing press and moveable type despite all the elements being at hand. Slaves were just so doggone inexpensive! ***After Guttenberg and his Bibles, we are next shown Martin Luther and the rapid spread of his ideas in Germany once he stopped writing in learned Latin and switched to pithy German pamphlets. His first 60 Catholic opponents replied in academic Latin and Luther was outread by Germans at least ten to one. Those short printed pamphlets passed from hand to hand. They provoked discussion and revision. *** Tudor and Stuart England's experiments with government control of books, pamphlets and printers -- often by chopping off hands or execution -- was essentially dead by 1690. John Milton's 1644 AREOPAGITICA was an eloquent plea for freedom of the press. In the North American British colonies, both while still loyal and later in rebellion, England's efforts at press control failed. Thomas Paine's COMMON SENSE made him the best selling author in the world. Thomas Jefferson said that if he had to choose, he would opt for a free press over a free government! *** And so century by century WRITING ON THE WALL reviews Western Civilization's efforts to communicate in writing with friends without government interference or control -- via Social Networking, Social Media. Early American wired telegraphers formed the world's first simultaneous virtual communities and they used time between business messages to communicate with fellow telegraphers. Marconi made his wireless span the globe. Wireless chaos during and after sinking of the TITANIC ended the free-wheeling, unregulated days of wireless radio. *** Broadcast media became monopolies or oligopolies of governments or for profit capitalist owners and major advertisers. Letters to the editor were not their stock in trade. One-way broadcast messages were the norm for 150 years. Then came ARPANET, the internet, the world wide web, weblogging = BLOGGING, Twitter, Facebook and much much more: biographies, walls, texting, intstant interchanges with "friends." Conventions such as posting messages in reverse chronological order, etc. Today's social media are leveling. Anti-aristocratic. Democratic. But I think aristocrat-lite Cicero would have grasped how charmingly human today's social media are -- at least, at their best. -OOO-

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Jamaica Inn


Reviewed on Oct 8 2013

I saw JAMAICA INN the 1939 movie before I read the 1936 novel. The movie, with young Maureen O'Hara and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is very, very loosely, too loosely, based on the novel and in my opinion badly told to boot. Novel's author Daphne du Maurier wrote to her publisher: "Don't go and see it, it is a wretched affair." ***Hitchcock's JAMAICA INN frankly depressed me. It was that bad and demotivated me for reading the novel. But, in the end, dutifully, I opened du Maurier's tale of Cornish smugglers and killers in the early 19th Century and was drawn in at once to an astonishingly good yarn. 23-year old recently orphaned Mary Yellan travels by coach to the barren, forbidding interior uplands of Cornwall. There, as she promised her dying mother, she moves in with her mother's older sister Patience and the latter's abusive husband of ten years Joss Merlyn. By trickery Joss had bought from an upright local squire real and still existing Jamaica Inn, perched on a desolate stretch of highway between two towns on the dangerous moors. Joss is nearly seven feet tall, a hopeless alcoholic and apparent leader and brains behind a 100 man strong gang of smugglers. The smugglers are also "breakers," men who lure ships to destruction on rocks of the wild Cornish coast, murder survivors and steal their valuables. *** Mary Yellan is that indispensable figure of every true "thriller," the isolated hero, utterly friendless, up against powerful persons but supported by no allies, at least initially. Like a good modern historian, Daphne du Maurier is careful to make Mary Yellan know no more about what is going on about her than she can learn for herself. The third person narrator's point of view is not godlike. It is realistic. Mary falls in love with her uncle's much younger and far less reprehensible -- but no saint -- brother Jem. Jem despises churches, vicars, religion nore is very fond of women and makes his money stealing, disguising and selling horses from his neighbors across the moors. ***A mouthpiece for du Maurier's own experiences with men, animal-wise country woman Mary Yellan is at a loss to understand why otherwise sensible women fall for objectionable men. Some of her musings: --(1) "Animals did not reason... There was precious little romance in nature, and she would not look for it in her own life"; --(2) Telling Jem why she thinks she loves him and will relunctantly go with him on Jem's terms: "Because I want to; because I must; because now and forever more this is where I belong to be." *** Keep your eye on seldom seen Anglican priest Francis Davey, albino vicar of Altarnun on the moors. He becomes Mary's only friend, hears with apparent empathy her tales of evil that she has seen through living at Jamaica Inn. He is the first person with any real power to show Mary kindness. Yet more than once the novel shows a suspicious Mary Yellan worrying about who and what sort of "freak" albino Davey really might be. Incredibly, his part was written out for the 1939 movie version. -OOO-

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Julius


Reviewed on Sep 25 2013

Thoughtful observers have opined that no first three novels ever written differ from one another as much as Daphne du Maurier's THE LOVING SPIRIT (1931), I'LL NEVER BE YOUNG AGAIN (1932) and THE PROGRESS OF JULIUS later shortened to JULIUS (1933). Julius Levy as a boy endured the 1870 siege of Paris by invading Prussians. One wonders if he also observed the gallant famous use of balloons and carrier pigeons that the plucky Parisians hurled into the atmosphere to mock the surrounding Uhlan cavalrymen and other Prussians. Certainly Julius both as infant and old man was fascinated by clouds (the inspirers of unnavigable balloons). *** Clouds became the image for attractive things that Julius wanted to lay hands on, love, possess and share with no one. Rare brushes with his father's attractive, civilized Judaism tempt Julius in France, North Africa and England to be a good, normal human being. But in the course of the novel he successfully resists that temptation and becomes a thoroughly amoral, detestable human being. *** If Julius loves something but can't keep it, he kills or destroys it, so that no one else can enjoy it. He began that cycle by drowning he pet cat as his family fled from the invading Prussians into Paris. His father would soon enough strangle his unfaithful wife, with the approval of young son Julius. ***In time, through creating a string of restaurants and other innovations, Julius claws his way into respectability in England. His only child, a daughter, learns that she can get her father to do anything she wants -- except accept her falling in love with some man other than himself. -OOO-

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Falling Upwards


Reviewed on Sep 8 2013

How does a professor of biography approach ballooning? In 2013's FALLING UPWARDS: HOW WE TOOK TO THE AIR, Richard Holmes writes of ballooning as biography, as telling of personal stories! Not as pre-history, history or science but threading one ballooning story after another. He distinguishes three aspects of every human balloon ride: launch -- flight -- landing. ***Throughout this 416 page book, chock full of helpful drawings and photos, author Richard Holmes selects among his favorite tales, real and imagined, from cartoons, documentary and feature films and books by Edgar Allan Poe and others. Almost always the focus is on what common traits make men and women go up in balloons. Of his own December 1, 1783 first ever flight by anyone in a true hydrogen balloon, Dr Alexander Charles later wrote that he said to his companion Robert while in flight: "I'm finished with the earth. From now on our place is in the sky!" (Ch. 1). *** American Ambassador to France Benjamin Franklin watched that very flight with a telescope. Franklin then remarked that someone asked him "what's the use of a balloon?" The Philadelphia sage countered: "what's the use of a new-born baby?" *** This book lacks much of what I expected to learn: more on the transition from hot air to hydrogen as lifting element, how hydrogen was initially extracted from water and at what cost, for example. After a while one similar story after another of ballooning began to run together. I was minded of a lecture I heard five days ago by Dr Mary Neal, author of TO HEAVEN AND BACK. She has since shared with 400 others having similar true personal tales her own 1999 near death by drowning experience while kayaking in southern Chile. Dr Neal found not all that much difference from one tale to the other 399. -OOO-http://www.biblio.com/books/629563531.html

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The Science Of the Cross


Reviewed on Sep 2 2013

"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" Thus, In Shakespeare's 1601 play TWELFTH NIGHT tippling Sir Toby Belch taunts Mistress Olivia's spoil-sport puritan steward Malvolio (Act II. Scene III. l. 58). These words express an abiding two-way tug within Incarnation-based Christianity: "virtuous" v. "cakes and ale." *** Catholics and other Christians of 2013 need reminding from time to time that while "cakes and ale" are good and have their place, nonetheless, drawing deliberately closer to God requires something more: not just natural virtue, but supernatural hope: taking up our personal cross daily, thereby personally imitating and following Jesus, the Son of God. *** The Spanish Carmelite priest, mystic, spiritual director of souls and later Doctor of the Church, Saint John of the Cross (Juan de Ypes, 1542 - 1591) in a number of poems and essays taught Spanish Christians of his day how to draw closer to God through openness to personal suffering and consciously willed renunciation of both self and purely earthly pleasures. Centuries later, in a Carmelite convent for nuns in Echt, the Netherlands, the year 1942, 400th anniversary of Saint John's birth, was approaching. Exiled from her original convent in Cologne, German, one time atheist, Jewish Catholic philosopher, feminist, and finally Carmelite nun, Edith Stein aka Sister Teresa of the Cross, would be gassed to death at Auschwitz in August of that anniversary year 1942. Joining her would be her blood sister Rose and hundreds of other Jewish Catholics in the Netherlands, including one family of priests and nuns. Edith's convent superior had earlier directed Edith to prepare a celebratory text on the great Carmelite reformer Saint John of the Cross. Sister Teresa completed her well researched manuscript in 1942. That was not long before Edith and her sister Rose were removed by German Nazis from their Carmelite convent in Echt, Limburg Province, Netherlands, for deportation by rail to occupied Poland and next day execution. The future martyr, canonized saint (1998) and Patroness of Europe, had just composed in German as tribute to Saint John of the Cross, KREUZESWISSENSCHAFT: STUDIE UEBER JOANNES A CRUCE, translated into English and published in 2003 as THE SCIENCE OF THE CROSS. ***THE SCIENCE OF THE CROSS is Edith Stein's pellucid summary and commentary on Saint John of the Cross's description in classic poetry and prose of his recommended ways to discipline human memory, imagination, passions, intellect and will consciously to prepare in this life to receive -- not achieve! -- mystical union with God. For his part God freely bestows the joys and pains of mystical union as His Spirit wills. Thus some persons striving honestly and mightily to love and serve the Lord and also following the specific preparatory paths suggested by Carmelites Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John and future Saint Edith Stein are never rewarded mystical gifts. On others by contrast, God mysteriously showers mystical, intuited love and union without obvious signs of merit or conscious preparation by the human recipients. *** Saint John of the Cross was the chosen spiritual advisor of the great Doctor of the Church Saint Teresa of Avila (1515 - 1582) and also confessor to one convent of her nuns. He was a highly valued spiritual director. In John's celebrated works in poetry and prose, the mystic saint constantly reminds Christians aspiring to closer union with God that they are members of a church, that while they must as indiviiduals be open to God's mysterious graces and doing things God's way, but that they must also submit their visions, stigmata and other signs to their spiritual advisor humbly and obediently and within the ancient framework of Catholic teachings about grace, faith, hope and charity. For it is not only God who can reach the human soul through joys, consolations and sorrows. So can Satan. And humans are so constituted by God as to need human advisors other than themselves for "discernment of spirits." *** Once atheist yet always consciously and proudly Jewish to her death, Edith Stein had been one of Europe's most promising young philosophers -- indispensable assistant to and expositor of her Professor Edmund Husserl (1859 - 1938), founder of Phenomenology -- when she became a Catholic convert in 1921, (baptized January 1922), then a teacher for a decade in a Dominican girls' school in Speyer, lecturer on feminism and finally in her 40s an austerely living Carmelite nun in Cologne, Germany just as Nazis were coming to power. ***Stein writes clear, direct, accessible German. If anyone can make clearer the already clear but breath-taking and daunting teachings of Saint John of the Cross about the cross of Jesus Christ as one freely chosen and personally emphasized Christian way to union with God, it is Saint Edith Stein. Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege! (Pick up this book, read it!) (Saint Augustine CONFESSIONS). -OOO-

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German Europe


Reviewed on Aug 29 2013

Greece, Portugal, Spain even Italy, are facing a debt crisis allegedly created by the impersonal forces of international capitalism led by imprudently lending, greedy giant banks. This unforeseen crisis is further analyzed by German sociology professor Ulrich Beck in DEUTSCHES EUROPA, translated into English by Rodney Livingstone for this Polity Press edition as GERMAN EUROPE. *** Professor Beck argues that Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Europe as currently organized (European Union plus non-members) has to become either more German or more democratic -- with rich EU members uncharacteristically taking empathetic pity on poorer EU members -- or more European, less European, be transformed from within or implode. The debt crisis and the single currency (EURO) crisis are each awesomely powerful and downright nasty in their combined impact on onetime great powers, now poorer EU members and EURO users: Greece, the fountainhead of Europe's culture, Italy which contributed both Roman Empire and Renaissance, Imperial Spain and Portugal. Beck describes the market-driven international financial forces at work either to destroy Europe, save Europe, possibly to improve Europe and ideally to make Europe work for the first time ever not just for European nation-states and national economies, but primarily for individual European men and women. *** More and more the young people of Europe think and act as if they had two names. Their family name is "European." Their personal name is "French" or "Danish" or "Croatian." It is unthinkable that Europe will revert to a system of fully independent nation-states with national borders manned once again by immigration and customs officials and with each nation having its own currency. But neither is Europe's future clear. Needed is a new paradigm of a Europe of conscious, accepted "risk," where old methods for managing crises do not work. At the moment Europe is "Merkiavellian": where the thoughts and policies that matter are those of cautious, indecisive, fiscally solid, Protestantly austere German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Europe's first theoretician of crisis management, Niccolo Machiavelli. Their ideas, to some, assure that the road to bliss must lead through hell. *** The book GERMAN EUROPE is small, restricted in its scope, not notably original but informative and stimulating. It should enliven all book clubs that look from time to time at Europe and debate whither it may be going. -OOO-

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The Loving Spirit


Reviewed on Aug 20 2013

Daphne du Maurier's THE LOVING SPIRIT (1931) may well be the finest first novel that I have ever read. And Daphne was only 22 when she finished it in Bodinnick-by-Fowey, Cornwall, England in January 1930! ***The novel's dominant theme is this: if an ancestor or ancestress cares enough for her genetic downline, even a hundred years later, he/she will find a way to reach a great granddaughter and nephew, show them love, protect, communicate with and be seen or sensed by them. *** We know that Ms du Maurier read Sir Walter Scott and her novel's viewpoint is practically the same as that which Sir Walter embodied in his two novels of Scotland during the Reformation: THE MONASTERY and THE ABBOT (1820). Both Scott and du Maurier show a mysterious, loving guardian spirit protecting a family down the generations through literal wreckage: the destruction of a Scottish Benedictine monastery in Scott's novels and the wreck of the merchant sailing vessel The Janet Coombe in du Maurier's THE LOVING SPIRIT. Both Scott and du Maurier based their novels on real historical events and persons. *** Daphne du Maurier's THE LOVING SPIRIT tells the story of the intertwined lives of a large Cornwall England family from 1830 - 1930. It contains four "Books" entitled in sequence Janet Coombe (1830 - 1863), Joseph Coombe (1863 - 1900) , Christopher Coombe (1888 - 1912) and Jennifer Coombe (1912 - 1930). *** Janet Coombe is "the loving spirit" whom nothing can prevent from watching over her favorite -- not far from incestuously so -- but deeply troubled sea captain son Joseph; his sometimes cowardly, but in the end heroically self-sacrificing son Christopher; and Christopher's youngest child Jennifer. *** By novel's end Jennifer has married and had a son Bill by John Stevens. The couple are third cousins, great grandchildren of Janet Coombe. The "unloving spirit" of this four (or five if we include young Bill Stevens) generation saga is Janet Coombe's youngest never married son Philip Coombe (born 1859), great uncle of Jennifer Coombe and John Stevens, who loves only himself, lives to pile up his money and finds steady joy in doing harm to his kinsmen. He dies spectacularly mad in the novel's last few pages. *** Other elements of THE LOVING SPIRIT derive from Daphne du Maurier's own intense young life, beginning with her love of wild, rugged Cornwall, the sea and boats, her sense that families live on in spirit for generations in their ancestral homes, proceeding through du Mauriet's fascination with incest as a natural human inclination, her belief in the struggle of two souls within every human body, her love of the gothic in literature, her willingness to think outside the box of traditional Christianity, a flirtatious romance since age 14 with an older twice married actor cousin and more. *** Be it known that a real life Cornish seagoing family of the renamed fictional seaside village of Plyn, known personally to du Maurier, had a history much like that of the Coombes, with an ancestress for whom an ultimately wrecked sailing vessel was named, whose likeness was carved into a wooden figurehead for the ship, a figurehead that came into possession of Daphne herself. *** At novel's end in 1930 young mother Jennifer Coombe Stevens , image of her greatgrandmother Janet Coombe at the same age, is looking at the detached figurehead of The Janet Coombe, now mounted outside son Bill's nursery. "She leans beyond them all, a little white figure with her hands at her breast, her chin in the air, her eyes gazing towards the sea. High above the clustered houses and the grey harbour waters of Plyn, the loving spirit smiles and is free." These are the last words of Daphne du Maurier's grand first novel THE LOVING SPIRIT. -OOO-

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The Science Of Yoga


Reviewed on Aug 11 2013

William J. Broad has been a yogi (male practitioner of yoga) since 1970. That makes 43 years immersion in yoga as of August 2013. He is also a Pulitzer prize winning science writer for the New York TIMES. See his home page athttp://williamjbroad.com/ *** In 2012 journalist William Broad issued THE SCIENCE OF YOGA: THE MYTHS AND THE REWARDS. Of it Broad writes: "The Science of Yoga, my newest book, ,,, shows how a century and a half of careful research has been ignored. Millions of people do yoga. But few realize what science has learned about its risks and rewards. My hope is that the book will help practitioners avoid the bad and integrate the good." ***This book has something for everyone, for yoga novices such as myself, and also for more advanced yogis and yoginis, their teachers and for the growing number of scientists and health professionals now laboring to find out what makes for good health in yoga, what is neutral and what is positively harmful. There is much history, much biography, much travel by the author, much interviewing in THE SCIENCE OF YOGA. *** From Broad's pages emerge a handful of heroes of scientific yoga: in alphabetical order, (1) Kenneth H. Cooper (1931 - ), coiner of "aerobics"; (2) Loren Fishman (1940), "Wrote books on yoga for arthritis, back pain, and other afflictions"; (3) Jagannath G. Gune (1883 - 1966), who in 1924 south of Bombay founded "world's first major experimental study of yoga"; (4) B.K.S. Iyengar (1918 - ), Southwest Indian Hindu Brahman, early student and popularizer of reasonably science-friendly and "safe" yoga; (5) N.C. Paul (c. 1820 - 1880), an early western-trained East Indian M.D. Paul performed "world's first scientific study of yoga." See his 1851 A TREATISE ON THE YOGA PHILOSOPHY; (6) Aurel von Toeroek (1842 - 1912), led 1896 Budapest "study of yogis claiming to go into deathlike trances" -- and a few more standout heroes. *** What stays with me from THE SCIENCE OF YOGA are a few of Broad's views, e.g., (1) Since Paul's 1851 TREATISE ON THE YOGA PHILOSOPHY, scientists have increasingly detached "the yogas" (so called from their many almost unconnected varieties) from yoga's misty origins in Hindu religion, Sanskrit language and from wildly exaggerated claims by older yogis to be able to stop and start their hearts, their breathing, etc. at will. (2) At its core, yoga is non-aerboic, stretching, relaxing. Admittedly, yoga styles have of late been created emphasizing hyperventilation and very fast repetitions of movements like Salute to the Sun, in 105 degree heat, etc., but even these are low level aerobic, at best. They are no match for swimming, basketball, tennis, etc. (3) Increasingly some postures are seen by scientists as almost intrinsically dangerous (head stands, Cobra, Wheel (Upward Bow, etc.). (4) Yoga or the Yogas remain decentralized, diverse and barely if at all regulated by governments. -OOO-

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I'Ll Never Be Young Again


Reviewed on Aug 3 2013

In London, June-July, 1930, barely 23-year old Daphne du Maurier, dashed off her second novel, I'LL NEVER BE YOUNG AGAIN. Its structure is simple. Its English anti-hero, Richard, tells the story of his own life more or less from birth to some time short of age 30. The book's Table of Contents reads merely: PART I Jake, PART II Hesta. *** Jake prevents a despairing young Richard/Dick from jumping from a bridge into the Thames and offing himself. We learn that Jake is seven years older than Dick and has just completed a prison term for killing in the boxing ring a man who had unthinkingly ruined an innocent young woman. For a year or so Jake takes Dick under his indulgent, healing wing. They ship out together as merchant marine sailors. They tour Norway on foot, on horseback and on a tourist vessel. Before drowning in a sea wreck off the coast of France, Jake makes it clear that he believes Dick will surely at some time get a grip on himself and turn out all right. Jake points out a bird to Dick that seems to sing to itself, "I'll never be young again -- I'll never be young again." *** Be it noted that scores of pages later Dick, now a steady, slowing rising young London banker, hears a bird sing from a tree in his London garden. "At first he is lost, and then he is happy again. Sometimes he is wistful, sometimes he is glad. He seems to be saying: 'I'll never be young again -- I'll never be young again." These are the final words of du Maurier's novel. *** Between the two widely separated bird songs, readers learn that Richard is the only child of England's greatest poet. His mother lives almost entirely for his father. His father is a genius. He ignores his son, considers that he will never amount to much but in the end leaves Richard his entire considerable estate. Richard, after floundering around for months with Jake, settles in Paris and eventually writes a play and a novel in order to eclipse his father's literary glory. In the process he relentlessly, selfishly seduces an innocent English girl devoted to her music. Richard makes it clear to Hesta that he cannot live without virtually unending sex with her. She gives in, moves in with him, gives up her music but wants marriage and children. *** Richard/Dick browbeats Hesta into seeing the world as he sees it: marriage is a trap; they must remain free of entanglements, etc. Maybe she should even consider prostitution! After months of self-indulgence Dick inexplicably and suddenly becomes absorbed by his writing. He then takes Hesta's presence for granted, much as he would a comfortable piece of furniture. Richard then goes off to London for two or three weeks to show his two completed manuscripts to his famous father's publisher, who has known Richard since Richard was a child. Richard says no to Hesta's request to go with him. Hesta warns Dick not to leave her alone. In London, both novel and play are rejected as something "anti-father" that Richard just had to get out of his system as the price of growing up. He is not meant to be a writer. *** Returned to their flat in Paris, Richard finds that Hesta has moved out to live with Julio, a violinist. Once naive and restrained, Hesta now uses lipstick, paints her nails and is determined to live for parties and fun, one man after another, as Richard has taught her to want to do. Richard is both stunned and relieved. He mulls over traveling the world to solace himself. *** Richard is, however, unexpectedly summoned by telegram back to London by news of his father's death. He then accepts the publisher's advice to enter a dull but socially useful carer and also the latter's recommendation of a good club to join for meals and helpful personal contacts. At novel's end narrator Richard claims: "I am happier now than I have ever been. The restlessness has gone ... There is peace and contentment." ***COMMENT: Persistently self-absorbed, whining, rootless, unattractive Richard accepts the publisher's assessment: "Your father sits alone, Richard, a genius ... caring for nothing and no one, while you live and love, and hurt yourself and are miserable, and are happy, and you aren't a genius, Richard, you are only an ordinary man" (Part II, Ch. VIII). Anti-hero is the right word for Richard. He ruins a good girl, a vile thing for doing which his savior Jake had killed another man. Richard has no religion, lives only for himself on the basis of the feeblest of insights and conscience, aspires to nothing morally good. He reacts. Richard does not mould himself into anything admirable. -OOO-

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A Carnival Of Destruction


Reviewed on Jul 28 2013

Appearing in markets in September 2012, Tom Elmore's massive book (580 pages following xxxiii pages of preliminaries) with the subtitle SHERMAN'S INVASION OF SOUTH CAROLINA is today in July 2013 less than one year old. Its title A CARNIVAL OF DESTRUCTION encapsulates a remark by Union Major Genearal W. B. Hazen: From Pocataligo, Georgia "began a carnival of destruction that ended with the burning of Columbia, in which the frenzy seemed to exhaust itself. There was scarcely a building far or near on the line of that march that was not burned." ***Here are a few of the major points that linger in memory once a first reading of A CARNIVAL OF DESTRUCTION: SHERMAN'S INVASION OF SOUTH CAROLINA is done: (1) Union Major General Henry Slocum, commanding Sherman's left wing, on December 18th tried to establish a toehold in South Carolina but was repelled. By then the South was already clearly defeated. Atlanta and Savannah had fallen to commanding Major General William Tecumseh Sherman. Confederate General Hood's army, having lost Atlanta, was in the process of being annihilated in Tennessee and Kentucky. Nothing prevented Sherman from marching or sailing straight to Petersburg, VIrginia to join General U.S. Grant and compel Robert E. Lee to evacuate Richmond, the Confederate capital. *** (2) Continuous Union military actions in the South Carolina campaign lasted from January 19 to March 8, 1865. During that time Sherman continued and intensified his new concept of "total warfare" introduced in the "march to the sea" from Atlanta to Savannah. His troops took food without payment in a 50-mile swathe wherever they marched. In South Carolina -- despised as the birthplace of secession -- the Yankees burned far more houses, churches and masonic lodges than in Georgia. *** (3) Confederate military resistance to Sherman's 65,000 men was disorganized and downright stupid. The South spread its 35,000 or so troops available to defend the Palmetto State far too thin, tried to hold too many cities, including Charleston and Augusta. At the same time crafty Sherman succeeded in avoiding head-on big battles. Through feints elsewhere with his left and right wings, the Major General brilliantly concealed his real intention to capture Columbia, South Carolina's capital. Nowhere in South Carolina did he encounter armed resistance that seriously threatened his movements. Only Confederate and Union cavalry units engaged each other almost daily in skirmishes. *** (4) Sherman's greatest enemies were not rebel armed forces but ferociously cold, wet weather and more than a hundred miles of swamps and rivers in flood that Confederates were sure would stop him from mounting a winter campaign. Yet nothing stopped "Uncle Billy's boys." They may have been forged into the most motivated, talented, relentless army in human history. And they all loved Uncle Billy with a passion. *** (5) By the time Sherman left South Carolina he had destroyed huge quantities of munitions, bales of cotton, entire factories, railroad lines and their metal tracks. South Carolina could no longer send desperately needed materiel to General Lee besieged outside Richmond. Sherman and his boys had broken the belief of most Carolinians and Georgians that the Confederacy could possibly win independence so long as newly re-elected Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States. By April 1865 Richmond had fallen, Lee had surrendered. The war was effectively over. -OOO-

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Rumi


Reviewed on Jul 24 2013

It is, I fear, a tall order to expect a child of the recommended eight years or not much older to tackle author-illustrator Demi's RUMI: WHIRLING DERVISH (2009). In 31 pages this attractively and lushly illustrated biography for youngsters presents the life and legacy of Jalaluddin "Rumi" (1207-1273). His bones lie at Konya in modern day western Turkey. *** My wife and I, who in the 1960s in Kabul, Afghanistan, began reading Rumi in Persian, have been working into the book RUMI: WHIRLING DERVISH with two visiting granddaughters eight and 11-years old. The elder girl decided, for her first viewing, simply to thumb through the pictures without reading text at all and thereby decipher their story. This she did very well, calling, however, the depicted 13th Century Persian characters "Chinese" from their looks. With adult help she then read aloud selected English translations of Rumi's verses. She especially liked the one about angels (p. 15) but found some others rough going. *** Like me, our older granddaughter wished for a second map to supplement page 2's "Rumi's World", with its four seas bounding Rumi's World on the north (Mediterranean, Black, Caspian and Aral) and to the south Red Sea, Persian Glf and Arabian Sea. Knowing virtually nothing previously about that part of the world, our 11-year old granddaughter derived little help from the author Demi's blue and gold map. *** The written text is pitched to young children, and both our granddaughters could read and follow it easily -- except for the 13th Century Arabic names. We, of course, filled in gaps. I don't think the girls will ever forget that the word "din" is Arabic for "faith." Devout young Catholics both, they fell into easy sympathy with Rumi's notion of a God who is everywhere, always near them, both loving them and worthy of love and honor by them. Our girls were also attracted by Rumi's use of slow spinning and dancing as a help to find God in prayer. They enjoyed their grandmother's stories of a visit two years ago to Turkey and to Rumi's old hometown of Konya (Iconium in New Testament days) where "Gran" and an aunt of theirs observed re-enactors of Rumi's famous "whirling dervishes. *** If parents or adult family members are willing to take time to help youngsters, then the latter can learn a fair amount about history, painting, dance and religion from RUMI: WHIRLING DERVISH. But absorbing all dimensions of the little book will not be a romp and may not prove very entertaining. I suspect that young teens will the readers to profit most. -OOO-

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Daphne Du Maurier


Reviewed on Jul 17 2013

You need not have already read a great deal of the written output of Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989) before opening Richard Kelly's literary biography of 1987's DAPHNE DU MAURIER. I first read Kelly's book a couple of months ago when I knew no more than du Maurier's novel THE SCAPEGOAT (1956). Before rereading the biography in the last few days, I have since perused three more novels, two books of short stories and have watched movie versions of REBECCA, FRENCHMAN'S CREEK and JAMAICA INN. I profited equally, I think, from both readings. *** Even when I knew even less of Daphne du Maurier than I do today in July 2013, Kelly was useful because he gave short but adequate descriptions of contents of du Maurier's published works, included his own interpretations and also cited contemporary book reviews by Graham Greene and others. Written two years before the still reclusive Miss du Maurier died in 1989, Richard Kelly's book is a decent place to begin your study of the author of REBECCA (1938), "one of the most widely read novels of all time" (Kelly, Chapter Three, p. 66). *** In his Preface, University of Tennessee English Professor Richard Kelly says that he has composed "the first comprehensive critical and analytical evaluation of her fiction in the hope that it may stimulate further discussion of her works." Chapter by chapter the Professor sketches the author's life, then her early novels, her masterpiece REBECCA and in Chapter 4 her romantic fiction of the 1940s and 1950s with their focus on"escapist themes of love adventure and rebellion," then the "more introspective novels of the last thirty years," next her supernatural and macabre short stories and finally in the concluding Chapter 7, du Maurier's present standing and contributions. *** Richard Kelly portrays Daphne du Maurier as the great 20th century revivalist of the gothic novel. Whether writing of her beloved Cornwall or of somewhere else, du Maurier is drawn repeatedly to "seductive villains and houses of horror and mystery, set against a pseudo medieval atmosphere of castles, cliffs, lonely moors and storms" (Chapter Three, p. 53). Miss du Maurier is also shown repeatedly bringing in themes from her personal life, her efforts to make her father love her more than Daphne's mother, his actress wife, or more than any of the young actresses with whom Gerald du Maurier had short, meaningless flings. Sex is a big part of Daphne du Maurier's novels aimed at women. Incest is touched on again and again. Also duality is deep within each individual human: both feminine and masculne, good and evil, dreamer and realist. *** The book is not overloaded with end "Notes and References, offers only two pages of "Selected Bibliography" and a 4 1/2 page Index. There are no maps or photographs, a notable absence. On balance: this a better than average introduction to a great, neglected author. -OOO-

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Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki


Reviewed on Jul 12 2013

In December 2012 rolled from the presses in Australia a sensational book, YOGA, TAI CHI, REIKI. Its subtitle? A GUIDE FOR ALL CHRISTIANS. Its message? Like other Western countries, Australia in very short time had taken to its ample, uncritical bosom a trio of Eastern physical activities. In origin one was Indian/Hindu, the second was Chinese/Tao and the third was Japanese/Buddhist. All that most Australians taking up yoga, tai chi or reiki wanted as results of their classes were relaxation, better health and/or benevolent ability to hand-heal themselves or others. *** Author Max Sculley is a non-clerical Roman Catholic de la Salle teaching brother based in northeastern Brisbane, Queensland, Australia but drawing many real-life experiences and opinions from southern Sydney and New South Wales. He warns that yoga, tai chi and reiki are spiritually dangerous. When learned as their founders intended they be learned, the three Oriental disciplines develop in practitioners altered states of consciousness, dimmed logical thinking, weakened will power and growing passivity, all of which combine to create in the advanced learners pretnernatural strengths and skills, to allow uncanny explorations of past and future, astral travel and virtually invite evil spirits to take over minds and bodies. *** Brother Max Sculley notes common characteristics of the three Asian disciplines. (1) All emphasize slow, deep breathing with a view to bodily relaxation and greater control of body by mind. (2) All three push for emptying the mind of extraneous, distracting thoughts and images. (3) Each is rooted in a religion or philosophy (or both) different from and in some ways hostile to traditional Biblical Christianity. (4) Each discipline trains learners to search for and find ultimate reality within the practitioner. Spend enough time doing tai chi and related chi kung (qigong) and you will likely become more physically powerful than most people dream possible and you will, by your own unaided efforts, find the Divine within you. (5) The Divine force within you is also in and behind the universe -- call it chi or something else -- it is eternal and above all IMPERSONAL. That is the most fundamental difference from Christian teaching of a triune PERSONAL God incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth. *** Perhaps 20 to 25% of the text of YOGA, TAI-CHI, REIKI goes to concrete case studies from life designed to show that these Asian practices are not merely dangerous if pressed to extremes but intrinsically, INEXTRICABLY wrapped in anti-Christian philosophies or theologies, are "occult" and that they open practitioners to "mental illness, demonic influence, spirit possession and occult bondage" (Preface, p 9). *** Brother Sculley retells in five pages the story of Italian-Chinese onetime world kung fu champion now English Christian evangelist Tony Anthony as told in Anthony's 2004 autobiography TAMING THE TIGER. During years of training beginning at age four with his mother's Chinese father, Tony was immersed in Shaolin Temple-derived martial arts and related practices. He believed that he was learning to unleash "seemingly supernatural power within yourself" (Ch. 6, p. 83). He learned that the chi of chi kung and tai chi was "the god within, the root of my power" (p. 84). He learned to sense the movements of an opponent in the dark, to distribute chi throughout his body to wherever needed. At age 17 he survived (many do not) the "test of the tunnel" and walked on bare feet along the edge of a razor sharp eight-meter long blade. He became bloodthirsty and violent and ended up in Cyprus's Nicosia prison where a Christian evangelist convinced him that "Kung fu might CLAIM to be A way; but he (Jesus) is THE way. Just accept it Tony" (85). And on and on Max Sculley piles up case studies, including some of demonic possession. *** YOGA, TAI-CHI, REIKI is notably alarmist. But the text is well illustrated, the case studies documented and the theses are rooted in Old Testament and New Testament warnings to be on guard against evil spirits and not arrogantly to presume by unaided human exertion to reach levels of unity with a (false, impersonal) god that are the free gift of the one true God. -OOO-

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Myself When Young


Reviewed on Jul 6 2013

English novelist Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989) tells us that she kept a diary from age 12 in 1920 until she married in 1932. This tidbit she shares with readers in her Author's Note to MYSELF WHEN YOUNG: THE SHAPING OF A WRITER (1971). Her subtitle reveals the organizing principle of her partial autobiography: at what points in her long life Daphne du Maurier did or learned the things that made her one of the world's most widely read 20th Century authors. *** The text contains six chronologically arranged chapters and an index. From the Author's Note: "The following pages ... cover my thoughts, impression and actions from the age of three until I was twenty-five, after my first novel had been published" (ix). *** That first novel was THE LOVING SPIRIT (1931) and would be famously followed among other books by JULIUS (1933), JAMAICA INN (1936), her masterpiece REBECCA (1938), FRENCHMAN'S CREEK (1941), HUNGRY HILL (1943), THE KING'S GENERAL (1946), THE PARASITES (1949), MY COUSIN RACHEL (1951), THE APPLE TREE (short story collection including "The Birds" - 1952) and THE SCAPEGOAT (1957). *** Chapter by chapter, decade by decade, step by step, MYSELF WHEN YOUNG leads young Daphne du Maurier into the only work she ever did: writing. Let the first chapter "24, Cumberland Terrace" stand for all of her first 25 years in this respect. Her first memories begin at age three, living in London with her older sister Angela and new baby Jeannette in the house of "D" and "M," introduced as Daddy and Mummy, words "seldom used today" and never called Daddy and Mummy again. D was a famous actor and producer and M herself had been an actress till the birth of Baby. The family loved attending theater and visiting D backstage. *** "I saw why D liked to dress up and pretend to be someone else. I began to do it myself, and so did Angela and even Baby..." (12). A governess suggested that the children put on skits when their mother entertained her lady friends. Daphne always wondered what happened next following on the parts they acted from Shakespeare or in the children's stories read to them as they learned their alphabet. And why, why, always why did people in stories act as they did? *** Daphne was especially fond of summers spent away from London in the countryside. She would populate the local area with characters from HENRY V or THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS (15). It was doubt of the literal truth of stories about fairies or Father Christmas or even God that made young Daphne ask why did grown-ups act so wickedly and deliberately deceive gullible children? "If something was not true, why make it up in the first place? But then, here was the puzzle. Stories in books were not true. The person who wrote the book made them up. Somehow, that did not matter. ... People looked awkward when you kept asking why, why, why.." (16). *** In World War I death came to family members fighting in foreign fields. The du Mauriers moved out of London to escape Zeppelin raids. Angela told younger sister Daphne that in wartime it was expected of girls to "make eyes" at soldiers -- whatever that meant. And through all this Daphne kept discovering new writers, happily and creatively acting out with her two sisters new scenes, e.g. from famous beheadings in the Tower of London (Daphne was always the male executioner). She even wrote a novel in her young head called JOHN, IN THE WOOD OF THE WORLD. *** Year after year Daphne never ceased longing to be a boy, not a girl. As much as possible Daphne acted out boys' parts, created imaginary boy characters. For boys had all the adventures! By contrast Angela loved being a girl and acting parts of girls and women -- even beheaded or beheading queens! The sisters learned to talk like characters from books in front of friends, servants and family. Thus from THE WRECK OF THE GROSVENOR, young Daphne was known to mutter over lunch in the sisters' beloved kitchen before baffled staff, "The buscuits are full of weevils, the pork stinks" (25). *** MYSELF WHEN YOUNG can be read and reread with great pleasure for no end of reasons: tips on writing your own memoirs, glimpses into the achieving literary and artistic family of du Mauriers and their many friends who were writers, aristocrats, actors and doers and for much much more. This is a wonderful introduction of Daphne du Maurier, the great 20th Century re-inventor of Gothic writing. -OOO-

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Find the Right Ccrc For Yourself or A Loved One


Reviewed on Jun 25 2013

The number of books about American retirement communities is rising. But such books remain few and their quality and ways of presenting their subject are all over the map. There are several good things to say about FIND THE RIGHT CCRC FOR YOURSELF OR LOVED ONE by Ruth Alvarez. Its subtitle is WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CONTINUING CARE RETIREMENT COMMUNITIES ... aka CCRCs. Like its earlier compeitors, this book gives a bit of history of life-to-death-care retirement communities and how they are now regulated (or not) by Washington and the States. *** Ms Alvarez, a retired real estate agent now living in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) herself, helps readers decide for themselves or their parents or siblings whether and why to opt for this more pampered and definitely not inexpensive life style, with its paid staff who are responsible for mowing your grass, replacing your roof, preparing all or some of your meals and keeping you fit, amused and assuring a well attended hospital bed for you in health care should you ever need it. *** The author also suggests formulas to help us readers decide whether our income is more than enough to cover our entry and monthly CCCR costs, firmly stresses our need to make sure that a particular retirement home is financially sound, and Ms Alvarez also points out a number of things one might easily overlook doing during an orientation visit. *** Unlike some, Ruth Alvarez's book does not gush, nor drown us with details of the author's painful searches and anguished mistakes during a minutely detailed search for the perfect retirement Eden. FIND THE RIGHT CCRC has rather the feel of a long, dry but not boring check list of dos and don'ts, all worth knowing. *** The book is and feels "up to date," with statistics and facts about current trends in American demographics and in policies that States, Congress and Obamacare are likely to push soon for the retirement community arena. One example of several things I read about for the first time in Ms Alvarez is the rise in "affinity communities," e.g. for Catholics, Armed Forces retirees, same university alumni, etc. In that context she also cautions gay and lesbian retirees that while the law may prevent management of a retirement community from openly discriminating against them, "legal doesn't necessarily equate to welcoming, however" (p.51). Thoroughly check out therefore a particular CCRC in advance before you and a same sex partner go to all the expenses of moving into what may be de facto a cold, unwelcoming set of residents. Or just do as many do and pretend that your partner is a brother or sister! *** Another point: during your exploratory visits to CCRCs, see how well or ill management treats and respects it staff! *** FIND THE RIGHT CCRC FOR YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE is as good an introductory book to an increasingly important segment of American living as you are likely currently to find. Enjoy learning from it. -OOO-http://www.biblio.com/books/579486103.html

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Hungry Hill


Reviewed on Jun 17 2013

Englishwoman Daphne du Maurier's Irish dynastic novel of 1943, HUNGRY HILL, is long, slow, weak on emphasis but otherwise competently written. *** The biggest weakness about HUNGRY OPINION, I think, is that the author does not understand Irish history. The Normans who came early to Ireland assimilated well, learned Gaelic, married local women, became thoroughly Irish. This is not the case with the Brodricks of Doonhaven. They had been centuries in Ireland before the novel begins in 1820. And yet till novel's end in 1920 the Brodricks play oil to Ireland's water. Brodricks claim to be Irish but act as if they had arrived only yesterday. They marry among other Anglo-Irish gentry. Their incompehension is profound of the Irish men and women whose labor makes their copper mining and later tin mining ventures deep within Hungry Hill. It is also inexplicable and hard to swallow. One strong man of no great social standing, "Copper John" Brodrick launches the family's wealth from mining in 1820. For the next four generations one male heir is weaker than the one before him. The women, with two exceptions are not much better. *** Supposedly a curse by the head of a "native" clan, the Donovans, once mighty locally, dooms the Brodricks. And there is indeed mild friction down the generations between Donvans and Brodricks. But it is half-hearted, unconvincing and trotted out from time to time only when the slow-moving narrative seems to demand to be freed of its sluggish shackles. Not one of Daphne du Maurier's masterpieces. -OOO-

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Birds and Other Stories


Reviewed on Jun 10 2013

THE BIRDS AND OTHER STORIES -- title of the 1977 and 1992 collection of six Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989) stories released by the UK's Arrow Books Limited -- was first published in Britain by Gollancz in 1952 as THE APPLE TREE (name of one of the six yarns). *** Of the six tales, the best known is "The Birds," made into a 1963 feature film by Alfred Hitchcock. Du Maurier's thriller novella about massive, mysterious, coordinated attacks by normally peaceable birds on humans is set on the coast of Cornwall in southwestern England. Its structure is much simpler than Hitchcock's technicolor film (no humor or romantic hi-jinks) which is set on Bodega Bay in California. The novella is understated but (unlike the Hitchcock version) with a plausible suggestion how an incredibly cold and enduring Arctic cold wave might have triggered events which spread all disaster across the United Kingdom at enormous speed. *** In my opinion by far the most orginal and memorable story of the collection is "Monte Verita." Two friends since boyhood, both avid mountain climbers, are swept into mystery after one marries Anna. When Anna without notifying her husband enters an ancient, never visited almost inaccessible mountain monastery in Central Europe and becomes the abbess of men and women who worship the moon, tragedy is set in motion. The ancient connection between mountains, goddesses and worship is explored. *** In "The Apple Tree" an underappreciated wife dies and returns to life as a hitherto barren now blooming apple tree in her garden, apparently to torment the widowed husband who had ceased loving or even noticing her years before. *** In "The Little Photographer," set somewhere on the Continent, a bored marquise on vacation without her husband seduces a simple native photographer. She regards the mousy man as a pastime to be dropped at any time. Before she pushes him off a cliff he has, however, declared his passionate not to be denied love and taken nude photographs of the marquise. When the dead man's sister discovers the photos, blackmail begins. *** In "Kiss Me Again, Stranger," a post-World War II demobilized soldier in London falls madly in love with a beautiful young woman who might well be a vampire. Had he proven to have once been any form of airman, she would have torn out his throat. Why? Because unnamed German aviators had destroyed her flat and her family in a bombing raid. *** The collection ends with by far the shortest tale (11 pages), "The Old Man." In one of the author's famed surprise endings the old man in question, after struggling for food and interacting with his mate and growing children, suddenly leaves the neighborhood where he has been under observation for some time. "... suddenly I saw the old man stretch his neck and beat his wings, and he took off fom the water, full of power, and she followed him. I watched the two swans fly out to sea right into the face of the setting sun ... alone, in winter." Up to that passage I had no reason to doubt that the old man was thoroughly human. Very well done, Miss du Maurier! -OOO-

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Sharpshooter


Reviewed on Jun 5 2013

Some books turn out to be more complex, to move on more levels, than a first reading might suggest. The Gospel of Mark comes to mind. As does John Bunyan's 1678 THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS FROM THIS WORLD TO THAT WHICH IS TO COME. Similarly, in my opinion, comes Keith Pruitt's historical fiction of 2013: SHARPSHOOTER: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TILMAN MANUS. *** Who is Tilman Manus (1835 - 1941)? And who might care? Beyond the man himself what kind of narrative has author Pruitt woven as a model for others to "go and do likewise?" *** Tilman Manus was born Scots-Irish in Tennessee in 1835, the same year that former Tennessee Governor Sam Houston began to lead Texas to April 1836 independence from Mexico at the battle of San Jacinto. Manus died in 1941, the year that the Empire of Japan attacked the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. He died old. Around 5'6" tall and neither smoker nor drinker, he remained notably healthy almost to the very end. In his youth he had sired a son by a nearby Indian girl. At age 19 Manus and his slightly younger uncle trekked 500 miles to Shreveport helping a family move there from Tennessee. He then removed with his uncle to Illinois, worked on laying railroad tracks, married and in 1858 stood listening to one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. In the Civil War Tilman Manus was disowned by his Tennessee father for fighting for the Union at Vicksburg and elsewhere. In the Army of the Tennessee, he tied in a swimming race across the Mississippi River. Tilman alone, of several who tried, successfully wrestled a soldier's pet bear and threw it onto the ground. He said: "You all trying to wrestle this bear like it was another man" (p. 149). Manus was literate but had only a second grade education. He became famous within his multi-generational family as a story teller. He died old, comfortably beyond the century mark. *** Educator/writer Keith Pruitt uses one not terribly remarkable man's biography (such little of it as has been preserved and documented) to teach young readers of 2013 how to write vividly and with disciplined imagination about their own family history. Pruitt's tale is narrated by a fictitious woman who allegedly interviewed the ancient hero and one of his sons around 1937 for a local Illinois newspaper or historical society. Most of the text is presented by the narrator in the words of Tilman Manus himself. Some is rather breathy commentary by the narrator herself and some are the words of other contemporaries as Mr Manus appeared to them. The book is generously illustrated by contemporary black and white photographs. *** SHARPSHOOTER: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TILMAN MANUS is timely. It rides the wave of growing current enthusiasm for blogging, self-revelation to friends and family, memoir writing and oral histories. The deceptive simplicity of its narrative can empower shy teens and others to write their family histories or monographs (wee and not so wee) of individuals whom they have heard their elders reminiscing about. The author spent four years immersed in the life and times of one man about whom, when you come right down to it, not as much is known as we might wish. But that one man interacted with giants like Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln. Tilman Manus and author Keith Pruitt let us see those mighty men and others like Senator Stephen A. Douglas as thousands of other little people might have taken notice of them. *** Tilman Adams, Civil War sharpshooter, paterfamilias, farmer, who walked 3,000 miles during hostilities 1862-1865: it was little people like him who helped make the rest of us what we are today. -OOO-

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Where Should I Live When I Retire?


Reviewed on May 29 2013

In 1998 much published writer and lecturer Bernice Kohn Hunt and her husband Morton moved 200 miles from New York to an unidentifiable retirement community in a Philadelphia suburb. At that time there were many fewer retirement communities than now, theirs had over 300 persons. Since then both facilities designed for full-service retirement living and literature about them have ballooned. But pioneering in this field was Mrs Hunt's 2006 WHERE SHOULD I LIVE WHEN I RETIRE? A GUIDE TO CONTINUING-CARE COMMUNITIES. *** The book is about continuing-care communities, also called lifetime or life-long retirement communities (they include assisted living, health care and even Alzheimer's units). Mrs Hunt limits her hands on descriptions to eight or ten facilities that she and her husband visited in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. She has very strong prejudices or opinions about which type of retirement living is the best in principle for everyone, not just for herself. And not-for-profit, all costs including prescription drugs paid in advance, continuing-care communities constitute Mrs Hunt's gold standard. In addition they also need to be "certfied." *** Perhaps most strikingly useful in WHERE SHOULD I LIVE WHEN I RETIRE? is Bernice Kohn Hunt's Appendix A. Checklist for Comparing CCRCs, pp. 85 -92, As she lucidly argues, when you visit three or four facilities over several days, after a while details blur and you can't remember what you saw, liked or disliked where. The written checklist for each continuing-care retirement home becomes an essential memory aid, with topics from philosophy/mission statement through architectual style, square feet of house or apartment, exposure to light, kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, closets, monthly fee, waiting list and availability of a bridge home while your former home is waiting to be sold. *** There is perhaps too much in A GUIDE TO CONTINUING-CARE COMMUNITIES of the personal, often quirky reactions of the author and her husband to their new home. On the other hand, without her firmly stated attitudes toward liquor, towards fellow residents who just want to have a good time rather than do hard thinking or volunteering and much more, then Hunt's lists of dos and don'ts might become boring. All in all, WHERE SHOULD I LIVE WHEN I RETIRE is still a valuable pioneering study of an important part of America's evolving life styles. -OOO-

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Settling In


Reviewed on May 22 2013

Reverend Richard L. Morgan's 2006 SETTLING IN: MY FIRST YEAR IN A RETIREMENT COMMUNITY defies simple categorization. *** --(1) It seems primarily a memoir worked up from a journal the author kept. The book's focus is the author, what he did, what he thought, how he felt, how he prayed and what he did to be of use to people in his retirement community and the town in which it is located. The book is a first person singular narrative with perhaps 90% of the attention focused like a laser on the author himself. *** --(2) Next, SETTLING IN is about the author's residence: a Presbyterian retirement home named Redstone Highlands (URL: http://www.redstonehighlands.org/). It is located in North Huntingdon Township, Pennsylvania (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Huntingdon_Township,_Westmoreland_County,_Pennsylvania), a city of 31,000 near Pittsburgh. *** --(3) The author warns against being an Aesopian grasshopper and putting off till too late thinking about moving into a retirement community. Your children will thank you if you do not dump caring for yourself and spouse in old age onto your younger, often frantically busy downline. Rather be like Aesop's ant: think things through, plan, consider what you can afford, plus climate, proximity to family and more. *** --(4) Put yourself in God's hands. Find and read relevant Scripture passages. Imagine that you are moving into a bisexual lay monastery. Life there is slow and can be meditative. What is God calling you to do with and for other residents there? But in addition do not neglect your neighbors outside the walls of your retirement community. ***Finally, SETTLING IN contains two "attaboy" essays by others praising Reverend Morgan's book. The first attaboy is the Foreword by Jane Thibault, Associate Professor of Family and Geriatric Medicine, School of Geriatric Medicine, University of Louisville. Professor Thibault opines that Richard L. Morgan addresses well four fears commonly confronted by people in the fourth quarter of life: age 75 and older. *** The second attaboy is "Introduction: The Third Age." It is penned by Dr. Henry S. Simmons, Director/Center for Aging, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia. The "third age" is made up of the years "from fifty to death." Reverend Morgan is praised for his word pictures framed by his experience in a retirement community of four great life themes especially urgent in the last third of life: "freedom, intimacy, meaning, and death." *** In addition to readings from Scripture and secular authors scattered through the narrative, Morgan's book concludes with NOTES, BIBLICAL INDEX AND ABOUT THE AUTHOR. "He is the author of many books on the spirituality of aging, published by Upper Room Books." *** Over to you. I hope that this sketch of contents gives you enough information for a rational decision whether to read this book. -OOO-

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Nassau Plantation


Reviewed on May 15 2013

If only NASSAU PLANTATION - THE EVOLUTION OF A TEXAS-GERMAN SLAVE PLANTATION had a map or two of south central Texas in the mid-late 1840s, this historical essay by Dr James C. Kearney would be close to perfect in its genre. *** As it is, the book is blessed by 14 fast moving chapters and a postscript, six appendices, a note on sources, a close to exhaustive set of end notes, a select bibliography, and index and very few typos or fuzzily expressed ideas. *** In two waves before the Civil War and World War I, millions of German-speaking immigrants came to the USA -- including first to the Republic of Texas and mainly then to the State of Texas. A handful of German nobles, including relatives of Queen VIctoria of England and Prince Consort Albert, conceived and financed a scheme which sent far more than 3,000 German families and single men to towns like La Vaca, Victoria New Braunfels and Friedrichsburg (today's Fredericksburg) and others in the mid 1840s. If they could meet the terms of million acre land grants, especially in Comanche lands just north of the Llano Rive, those German immigrants would own more property than they could dream of back in Germany or Austria. *** Texan historian and linguist James C. Kearney not only details the month by month saga of high hopes, near starvation and all too soon financial bankruptcy of the dream of the German nobles, but he also lays out the larger framework of Texas relations with the USA and Mexico, agricultural contributions and innovations of German settlers in south central Texas and much much more. Heroes like Meusebach, Schubbert and others are lovingly sketched. The colossal importance of slavery to Southern prosperity is also convincingly displayed. *** On balance NASSAU PLANTATION is a keeper, clearly conceived and expressed and lays out an important chapter in general German-speaking history. -OOO-

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The Scapegoat


Reviewed on May 8 2013

Daphne du Maurier's eerie thriller of 1957, THE SCAPEGOAT, places an uncommonly heavy burden on any reader willing both to ask "what if" and to accept Ms du Maurier's prima facie implausible answers. *** Thirty-eight year old Englishman John lectures in London on French history. His command of the French language is perfect. He can and does pass for French. He is unmarried, all his family are dead. He has few friends. He is a classic "loner." He has been depressed for years. He wants to become intimately involved with real-life French people but his personality will not let him. As usual John is spending his summer- early autumn holidays writing and researching in France before returning home to another year as a boring lecturer. He is seriously considering spending time at the not far away venerable Cistercian abbey La Grande Trappe in Normandy. There he would explore among God-seeking members of this notably non-speaking order whether God's light is to be found in the darkness of silence. *** One evening he breaks his road travels by car at Le Mans. There he and Jean de Gue, Comte de St. Gilles, Barthe have a chance encounter near the train station. Count Jean and lecturer John are 100% look alikes and sound alikes. The count dopes John, takes his clothes and car and drives off to London to escape family responsibilities. Stupidly, John does not alert the French police but allows a servant to take him to the count's chateau. Will he fool Jean de Gue's widowed mother, wife, daughter, brother, an unmarried sister who despises him, servants, relatives, friends and adoring dog? *** Can and will Englishman Jean undo in a short time the considerable evil wrought by the Comte within his family and to the family's ancient ceramic business? What if for some reason the count tires of his game and returns from London to toss the Englishman out? How will he cope with the well intended but not necessarily profitable changes that John has made within family and in business? *** Always hovering in the background is the less than 50 miles distant Abbey of La Trappe. Is that where the troubled Englishman really belongs? And will the count's willing mistress convince our English hero that he is no better nor worse a man than prima facie despicable Jean de Gue? *** If you make a generous enough leap of faith and wholeheartedly embrace du Maurier's implausible premises, you will find in THE SCAPEGOAT a tale of mixed identities to rival Stevenson's 1886 JEKYLL AND HYDE. The novel is also a brooding religious meditation on ways to find or at least seek effectively the God of both the saints and the sinners. -OOO-

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Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day


Reviewed on May 2 2013

What phrases come to mind when describing Winifred Watson's 1938 comic novel MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY? *** "The mouse that roared? *** "The end of innocence? ***"It's never too late for love?" *** "Cinderella updated?" *** You get the idea. Pushing 40 maiden lady Miss Guinevere Pettigrew has no friends, no family, is underfed, poor and a very inadequate governess. The novel is about the final chance she has to land a paying job to keep her literally from a British poor house. She is mousy, terrified, desperate when she turns up at 10:00 a.m. (or 10.00 a.m. British-style) on a cold November London morning at the home of gorgeous, oversexed young singer/actress Miss Delysia LaFosse (born Sarah Grubb). The employment agency had mixed up Miss LaFosse, whose maid had just quit, with Mrs Hilary who wanted a governess. And MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY is well launched by page three. *** The text is famed for its black and white sketches by Mary Thomson of the Great Gatsby world of pre-World War II class-conscious Britain. The plot is charming. Strait-laced Guinevere Pettigrew is swept as an uncomprehending social equal for several intense hours day and night into a world of dashing men (including one older male who will call upon her next day with romance in the offing), gorgeous women who care for their complexions, figures, hair-dos and parties. *** Miss Pettigrew mothers in her own fashion much younger Miss LaFosse as well as London's greatest independent hair dresser Miss Dubarry. She helps them find and land the right men to marry. Where on earth did this churchy mouse find such wordly know-how within her psyche? She drew lessons on how to behave in such a frothy social world from her weekly immersions in escapist movies. She also blossomed simply because for the first time in her life someone treated her kindly, with respect and absolutely trusted Miss Pettigrew to get her out of one romantic jam after another. *** The narrator invites us to answer this question: "How do we know what latent possibilities of achievement we possess?" (Ch. I -- titled 9.15 a.m. -- 11.11 a.m.). Read MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY once. And you will want to chuckle through it again and again. -OOO-

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God Bless John Wayne


Reviewed on Apr 20 2013

If you don't already know Kerrville, Texas humorist, songwriter, detective story composer, observer of America's passing parade, onetime candidate to be governor of the Lone Star State (campaign slogans: "How hard could it be?" and "Why the hell not?"), then there are worse places to begin than by reading his first person narrated detective story GOD BLESS JOHN WAYNE. *** Richard S. "Kinky" Friedman (born 1944 in Chicago) grew up in rural Texas. After taking a 1966 degree in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, Friedman spent two years with the Peace Corps in Borneo. He has never looked back. A new "Rat Pack" mutual admiration association could be formed around Friedman, Don Imus and Howard Stern. Kinky consistently plays games with and/or tortures the English language in ways less cerebral than did James joyce, but generally funnier. *** Friedman's 1995 detective novel GOD BLESS JOHN WAYNE drags The Duke in by the hair. Two pages before Chapter One, Friedman quotes from his earlier man-of-the-people song, "People Who Read People Magazine" saying "That I am a country picker with a bumpersticker/That says God Bless John Wayne." And toward novel's end fellow detective, dazzling Californian Kent Perkins shows lifelong remorse for not letting his blind John Wayne loving Uncle Rosie run his hands over Kent's showy Rolls-Royce. Next day Uncle Rosie died. What this dash of John Waynesiana has to do with the novel is beyond me. *** GOD BLESS JOHN WAYNE is about a disreputable but kind-hearted, miserly 47 year old friend of Kinky's nicknamed "Ratso." Adopted at birth, Ratso is suddenly keen to find his birth mother. He enlists Kinky. Soon murdered people abound, especially people trying to prevent Kinky, Kent Perkins and a crowd of zanies from finding Ratso's real mom. Along the way, loft-living New Yorker Friedman holds soliloquies with his cat, admires pictures in his loft of Jesus and Mary, longs amorously for a statueque young female neighbor who helps with Ratso's dream; he puffs on a dozen cigars a day, pours down Jameson's whiskey and orchestrates the pursuit of truth about Ratso's antecedents. Ratso hopes that he will prove to be heir to a candy fortune. *** Kinky also returns over and over to Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson, wondering why the man from Edinburgh ever fled to the South Seas, why the natives loved him so and serving up doses of Stevenson's insights. Relevance to plot? You tell me. *** Friedman the detective shocks with nasty language, occasionally enlightens with insights into American politics and culture and is funny, funny, funny throughout. A hoot to read. -OOO- ***

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Friedrichsburg


Reviewed on Apr 11 2013

Friedrich Armand Strubberg (1806 –1889) released 21 books written in German between 1858 and 1873. Of these ten are set in Texas. *** Scholars for a couple of decades have been actively noticing Strubberg as a source for or corroboration of trends and facts about the last days of the Republic of Texas and the first years of Texas as a State of the United States. Additionally, Strubberg wrote historic novels after the romantic manner of Sir Walter Scott's WAVERLEY (1814). Strubberg was also as fascinated by American Indians and had even more personal experience with them than America's own James Fenimore Cooper. *** His 1857 novel was issued in 2012 in an English translation by James C. Kearney, PhD, who also annotated and illustrated what he called FRIEDRICHSBURG: A NOVEL - COLONY OF THE GERMAN FUERSTENVEREIN. Systematic German emigration to the Republic of Texas was set in motion by one German noblewoman and a score or more of high German noblemen -- including kin of Britain's Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. *** Friedrichsburg (now Fredericksburg) was founded in 1846 and its first director was none other than author Strubberg himself. Using another name in the novel, he displays medical skills and shepherds his hundreds of recent arrivals from Germany into agricultural self-sufficiency and towards an 1847 treaty of peace with most Comanche and some other tribes of Texas. This peace held for 20 years. Basically Comanches, Shawnee and others preferred Germans as neighbors to Anglo-Americans. The former lived close together in villages. The latter went as individuals wherever they chose and to hell with Indians. *** Romance is carried by two fictious young Germans. Two Indians, one evil, the other good, are lost in admiration for the young woman Ludwina and the evil one first captures her, then saves her from a huge gray bear. *** Introduction, notes, bibliography and index round out and frame the novel. A good read. -OOO-

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Song Without Words


Reviewed on Mar 14 2013

Were I to give a title to this my review of Gerald Shea's 2013 quasi-autobiography SONG WITHOUT WORDS: DISCOVERING MY DEAFNESS HALFWAY THROUGH LIFE, it would read "no one ... had any idea that I could not hear well." *** The lesson that I draw from SONG WITHOUT WORDS is that every school child in America should have thorough hearing tests at least twice before they are 16. ***Incredibly to me and other reviewers, author Gerald Shea was 33 when a pro forma physical exam for a new position with MOBIL oil found him hearing only five of twenty tones. Before that he had had only one thorough hearing examination: in first grade -- shortly before simultaneous attacks of small pox and scarlet fever destroyed most of the cochlear hairs sensitive to mid range and higher sounds. He later failed a draft board test to be drafted for Viet Nam -- but for heart problems, not for bad hearing. A doctor had waved Gerald on when the future author said "yes" to the seven-word question: "Do you hear what I am saying?" *** In one meeting years later with Saudi Arabian oil VIPS, to take one of hundreds of examples in SONG WITHOUT WORDS, the oil minister complimented lawyer Shea by saying "fast work." What Shea heard was "Aa eur." He then decoded this to "Aa = fast" and eur into erd into "work." "Fast work." Aids to decoding included lip reading, context and body language. *** Gerald Shea went through prep school, Yale University and Columbia Law School mishearing almost every sincle sentence directed at him. He did not hear words, he heard instead the weird babble that he called his "lyricals" and then had to turn them into normal English speech. When he took notes of lectures a heard via "lyricals," Shea would later spend hours in the evenings deciphering his notes and recasting them in standard English. Almost incredibly it was 25 years after he lost most of his hearing that he realized that he was largely deaf. He thought every speaker and listener did language the way he did. Only the others were very fast and he was very slow. *** Only twice in those 25 years did as many as two persons come close to seeing that his quirky conversational behaviors were rooted in terribly flawed hearing. Both were girl friends: one in high school, one in college. Other than those two no one, not even Shea himself, suspected possible hearing loss. *** I hope that this sketch of a book's unusually rich substantive content written lucidly and simply has given you enough of a sense of SONG WITHOUT WORDS for you to decide whether to read the book for yourself. -OOO-

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All In a Garden Fair


Reviewed on Feb 23 2013

In 1883 English writer Walter Besant published his long novel ALL IN A GARDEN FAIR. In Allahabad, India where he was editing an Anglo-Indian daily newspaper, young Rudyard Kipling read this novel about how a French emigre taught a young English country boy to be a writer, short story writer and playwright. As Kipling tells in his unfinished autobiography SOMETHING OF MYSELF, Besant's ALL IN A GARDEN FAIR: THE SIMPLE STORY OF THREE BOYS AND A GIRL instantly convinced the future Nobel Prize winner to depart in 1888 his growing fame as a writer in India and go to London and become world famous. *** The four young people grow up together in a distant London surburb still blessed with its woods and rural ways and walkways. Their economic futures would be bleak indeed except for the fact that the orphaned girl Claire Philipon had been born in 19th Century France to a poet and revolutionary who fled his native country for asylum in England. There he teaches French to unappreciative young women in their school. *** Claire grows up with three boys, Allen, Will and Olinthus (whom all call Tom). M. Philipon sees various degrees of promise in each lad. Two accept his overtures to learn French and read widely with Philipon in French and English classics. Their minds are transformed. When she is 18, all three young men, perhaps three years her senior, propose marriage to beautiful Claire. M. Philipon insists that they wait three years before he will permit his daughter to answer.Meanwhile polyglot Will's London firm sends him to China to manage their Shanghai office. Allen (to whom the overseas appointment had first been offered) resigns from the same firm and takes up a life in London as a starving but budding writer. Tom plunges into speculations in stocks and bonds and makes a quick fortune -- by mysterious means that you will have to read for yourself. No spoilers! *** Most of the novel is taken up with the three year waiting period before either Allen, Will or Tom is permitted actively to court or propose to Chaire. Which, if any, shall the lovely, empathetic, musical young French teacher wed? That is the question. *** In the final few chapters, with decreasing suspense as to the outcome Claire herself narrates the process by which she makes up her mind.Complicating factors are a rich old woman in London who patronizes artists, who takes Allen under her wing and her beautiful young kinswoman who superbly reads aloud at fashionable society soirees poems, stories and a play by Allen as he produces in regular succession? Might she take Allen away from Claire?Most of the prominent male inhabitants of the London suburb where the three boys and the girl grow up are failed, ruined, but once mightly London financiers. They wear their economic rises and falls as badges of honor -- a comic touch. *** ALL IN A GARDEN FAIR is a surprisingly readable albeit neglected classic. Find out why Kipling was right to value it highly and what was author Besant's later reaction when Rudyard Kipling told him that face to face. -OOO-

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Anna Of the Five Towns


Reviewed on Dec 9 2012

I had never read a word by Arnold Bennett before recently tackling ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS (1902). I read it because I was about to teach an adult education course "Young Rudyard Kipling," and a Kipling expert said that ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS would provide great background on a part of England important to the the Kiplings. *** How so? Because Rudyard's very, very gifted father, John Lockwood Kipling (1837 - 1911) as a young man worked as an artist in the ceramic industry of Northern Staffordshire, "the Potteries," where author Bennett himself had grown up and where he set so many of his tales. And all the scholarly claims for atmospherics and social life of ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS regarding "the Potteries" proved true. *** Read this novel if you want a sense of English Methodism in the 19th Century, a reformed religion working hard to save sinners in a smoke-enveloped industrial area of Britain. Bennett brought the puritanical side of the religion of John Wesley to life. But in the novel, primitive Methodism seems joyless, barely charitable and notably supportive of some very selfish industrialists' life styles. Still, we see people of the Five Towns making lives for themselves outside work and family within a bustling, well-organized, non-spontaneous world of religious revivals, Methoist sewing-circles, church services, catechism classes and church picnics. *** We also see utterly unwitting heroine 21 year old Anna Tellwright on her birthday being told by her miserly Methodist father that she has inherited via her mother a fortune worth 50,000 pounds. He makes over all the ownership papers to Anna who, we fear by novel's end, will automatically through the likely coming marriage to another greedy industrialist, Mynors, hand over the only thing (wealth) that makes her independent in male-dominated England. We all know mousy people, but deep-down agnostic Anna's supreme virtue or weakness is meekness and unresisting subjection to her father. I found this very hard to accept, but so it goes in ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS. *** Anna was 21. She could have moved out of her widowed father's home, got her own lawyer and left Staffordshire altogether. Did this enter her mind? Not that I noticed. Her feeble efforts to befriend her fellow beaten down men go nowhere in the face of her father's greedy instructions on how not to spend her own money. All in all, I am glad that Rudyard Kipling's Methodist father got away from those Potteries, though he had met Rudyard's lively Methodist mother Alice Macdonald in those parts. Bombay was a much better place for the author of KIM to have been born than any of the Five Towns (in reality Six Towns which grew into Staffordshire's one city of Stoke-on-Trent). A good read. -OOO-

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The History Of British India


Reviewed on Sep 15 2012

In 2006 Praeger published THE HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA: A CHRONOLOGY. John F. Riddick, Professor Emeritus of Central Michigan University, authored this CHRONOLOGY which covers under nine different headings or sub-headings the years between 1599 and 1947 and presents sketches in alphabetical order of leading Britishers involved with India. Having read too many history books with verifiably wrong historical dates, an annoyed Professor Riddich issued this book as a scholarly service to other readers. ***I have never read a book quite like it. It has three parts. Part I is called "Chronology of Political History" in seven chapters. Part II is "Chronology of Topics" also in seven chapters. The seven "topics" include economic development, religion and missions, education, cultural developments, law, oriental studies and finally (Chapter 14) science, technology and medicine. ***Part III contains short biographies of "400 noteworthy English men and women who played a role in the creation of British India" (Author's Introduction). By "English" the author clearly means "British" as he includes Stewarts, other Scots and Irish and, if memory serves, a Welshman or two. *** Of the book as a whole, author Riddick says, "The focus of the work is on the British and the role of the Indian is only supplementary." The book is presented two columns to a page. ***I acquired THE HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA: A CHRONOLOGY while preparing to teach an adult education course on young Rudyard Kipling. Rudyard receives nearly half a column in Part III. Errors therein include (a) Rudyard's death in 1937 instead of the correct 1936: (b) an overly compressed description of Kipling's time as journalist in Lahore and Allahabad which is literally correct as to combined dates when he sub-edited or edited two related newpapers, but makes it read as if had not essentially left the one paper for the other in his final year and a half working in India -- a huge promotion. I noticed no other errors for Rudyard Kipling's bio snippet. I am, however, a bit puzzled that Rudyard's father John Lockwood Kipling is not separately noticed for his very original contributions in both Bombay and Lahore, England and France on behalf of India -- as artist, educator, author in his own right and for some works as virtual co-author with his more famous son. ***The book would benefit from having at least one map of India, pinpointing such trading posts as Surat. A second map should show the whole expanse eastward from Africa beyond through Burma and the Spice Islands. *** This is a hard book to pick up and read from beginning to end. In that sense it resembles a telephone directory. Know a date in Indian warfare or education and look up the event. At times I felt as I imagined Mark the Evangelist must have when handed a list of "Sayings of the Lord Jesus" and been commissioned to convert it into a Gospel. This is not a cohesive narrative. Despite careful reading and re-reading, for instance, of the first pages of Part One, I could not be sure when precisely a second East India Company had been created or for what purpose. Something seems to have been left out. ***On balance, I am glad that I purchased the book. Someone had to do this very exacting chore. The more you already know about British India (1599 - 1947) the more likely you will profit from THE HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA: A CHRONOLOGY. -OOO-

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Holy War How Vasco Da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide In a Centuries-Old Clash Of Civilizations


Reviewed on Aug 12 2012

Author Nigel Cliff has, in my opinion, written an extraordinarily good, attention-riveting book of both history as well as intercultural and interreligious interaction. But its title and subtitle are long, argumentative and a bit obscure. I refer to HOLY WAR: HOW VASCO DA GAMA'S EPIC VOYAGES TURNED THE TIDE IN A CENTURIES-OLDCLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS (2011, HarperCollins). {FYI: as I write in mid-August 2012, we are mere days before HarperCollins reissues this book with a new title for the U.K.: THE LAST CRUSADE: THE EPIC VOYAGES OF VASCO DA GAMA. As titles go, I personally find its newly found brevity an improvement. END FYI} *** A glance at the book's table of contents and its 19 Chapters will remind you of the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott and their often long explanatory backgrounder introductions. Or to take a more recent author: of James A. Michener and his epic treatments of Hawaii and other locales, their geology, their millennia of history and the people who built them. HOLY WAR is similarly grand, minutely explanatory, covering centuries and is perhaps twice or thrice as long as a G.K. Chesterton or Ernest Hemingway would have told the same story. ***If today's children are taught history the way I was in grade school over 70 years ago, they will have heard at least a little something of the great 15th and 16th Century voyages of Christopher Columbus for Spain and of Portugal's earlier Prince Henry the Navigator with his many expeditions by sea farther and farther south along the west coast of Africa. And youngsters will remember that Vasco Da Gama in 1498 sailed around Africa to India. And recall that Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan and his crew circled the globe 1519 - 1522. What more should they and we learn and why? *** English author Nigel Cliff (born 1969 in Manchester) lays out his rationale for HOLY WAR both in his book and in his very informative website at http://www.nigelcliff.com/ It looks as if Nigel Cliff's first book, THE SHAKESPEARE RIOTS (in New York!) is going to be made into a film. An author to keep our eyes on! *** Nigel Cliff sees the voyages of Vasco Da Gama as key episodes, even turning points in an ongoing clash of civilizations. The civilizations in question are not India or the Spice Islands or China or Japan or other areas first visited by Da Gama and other Portuguese explorers, conquerors and rulers -- but rather militant, imperialistic, all-conquering Islam and an initially routed then stubbornly defensive Christianity, especially of the Roman Catholic Iberian (Portuguese, Spanish) variety. A Portuguese King sent Da Gama to India for one main reason: to outflank Islamic power, to cut it off from the Eastern spice trade, to drive Islam out of the Red Sea, to capture Egypt and to free the Holy Land. There were other motivations: to establish contact with the fabled Christian King Prester John and to fight beside him against Islam, to find Eastern spices at their Eastern sources and no longer depend on high-priced Muslim middlemen. *** The religious dimension, according to Cliff, is far from being a side show. Fascination with the East as source of salvation and enlightenment is Biblical. To give context to the two voyages of da Gama, the author devotes his first eight chapters to historical background: from the Eastern Roman Empire through the life and crusades of Mohammad and centuries of armed conflict when civilizations clashed in North Africa and in Europe by land and by sea. Freed of Muslim occupiers centuries before Spain, Portugal went on the crusading offensive by capturing Ceuta on the African coast opposite Gibraltar and by rounding the African coast and entering the Indian Ocean. Accommodation with Muslims was never once sought by Portugal. It was war at sea, war by land. Hindu rulers -- originally briefly misidentified as exotic Christians -- were pressured to drive out all Muslim traders from their centuries old warehouses and trading stations. *** As for the Indies with their spices, Da Gama found the real thing that both he and Columbus sought but which Columbus did not find. *** The inside covers of HOLY WAR give maps of early Portuguese voyages (including the accidental discovery of Brazil by Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500). The author provides other maps, paintings and contemporary drawings of places and peoples discovered by Portugal. Read HOLY WAR to the end and enjoy its NOTES (pp. 424 - 511), its SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY (512 - 526) and admirable INDEX (527 - 547). Then award yourself a grade of A-Plus in the equivalent of a year-long graduate seminar in Christian-Islamic-Far Eastern warfare, trade and cultural misunderstanding that shaped the modern world and whose effects are still with us in August 2012. -OOO-

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American Notes


Reviewed on Jul 22 2012

In the spring and summer of 1889 23-year old Anglo-Indian journalist Rudyard Kipling spent four months traveling acoss the USA from West to East. He was en route from seven years as assistant editor of two newspapers in India to instant fame as a writer in 1890 London. He was traveling from Calcutta with close friends the S. A. Hills who had lodged the young editor for months in their home in Allahabad. WIth her husband Samuel Alexander Hill, an English professor of meteorology, American Mrs Edmonia Hill nee Taylor was en route to Beaver, Pennsylvania to visit her ailing mother; and eventually Rudyard would join the family in Beaver for a full two months. *** The story of Kipling's travels in North America (after San Francisco he trained north through Oregon State and Washington Territory, then took ship to Vancouver British Columbia then entrained again eastward to Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Chicago, Boston and elsewhere is told in AMERICAN NOTES: RUDYARD KIPLING'S WEST by Rudyard Kipling, edited and with Introduction by Professor Arrell Morgan Gibson of the University of Oklahoma. The book also concludes with a two-hour interview of Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling's favorite American writer (along with Bret Harte, Joel Chandler Harris and Walt Whitman). *** Rudyard Kipling had already published in Queen Victoria's India many reports of his journalistic travels through the sub-continent. He now sent "letters" reporting his travels from India en route to London for publication in the Allahabad PIONEER -- his last employer. The money received for the articles helped defray his travel expenses. The American articles were not, however, copyrighted and as many as 18 pirated American editions of AMERICAN NOTES would appear. This greatly annoyed young Kipling but made him very well known in the USA in affordable editions. Kipling eventually issued his own authorized and copyrighted edition of AMERICAN NOTES in 1889. Editor Gibson's text is based on a 1910 approved edition. *** Kipling was far from the first European traveler to describe the USA. Think of Tocqueville, Dickens and Mrs Trollope. But uniquely Kipling's were first impressions that began on the west coast and developed through additional travel across the west and midwest into the older settled easternmost parts of the USA. *** There was much about 1889 American practice that Kipling disliked and said so: spittoons in all public places and much used by chewers of tobacco; rape of natural resources (e.g. trees for lumber) with no effort to replace them; incessant boasting about American superiority to Britain; carrying and overusing firearms; undertrained soldiers, especially cavalry; nasal voices of American women and high protective tariffs that made Kipling pay twice as much for cigars and everything else as he ever had before. *** On the other hand, there was much that Rudyard Kipling loved about America and Americans. After bad initial reactions, San Francisco, for example, grew on him for its incipient elegance and watering hole spirit of play as well as for young women rich one day and poor the next after a father's financial collapse, "maidens" instantly taking up typing and seeking office work without complaint. He loved fishing for trout and salmon. He admired Americans' willingness to befriend and be frank with a total stranger such as himself. He admired Yellowstone National Park guarded by U.S. cavalry against depredations by the huge influx of men, women and children indulging, as did he, in five-day package tours. *** But above all Rudyard Kipling loved American women, especially young "maidens." He wrote: "They are clever; they can talk. Yea, it is said that they think. ... They are original, and look you between the brows with unabashed eyes as a sister might at her brother. They are instructed in the folly and vanity of the male mind. ... They possess, morever, a life among themselves, independent of masculine associations. They have societies and clubs and unlimited tea-fights where all the guests are girls." And on and on. Be it noticed that Rudyard became briefly engaged to one American girl met in Pennsyvlania, Edmonia Taylor Hill's younger sister Caroline, and in 1892 married Vermonter Caroline "Carrie" Balestier, sister of his close American friend and co-author of novel THE NAULAHKA, Wolcott Balestier. *** All in all, WESTERN NOTES is a grand read. I am, however, underwhelmed by Professor Gibson's limping Introduction drawing heavily as it does on secondary sources -- an Introduction which, inter alia, erroneously, has Rudyard Kipling bribed by the Allahabad PIONEER to get out quickly from an India in which he had made himself persona non grata to the powers that be. For WESTERN NOTES' Rudyard Kipling: five stars, minus one star for the editor's lame Introduction. -OOO-

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Rudyard Kipling His Life and Work


Reviewed on Jul 15 2012

If you ask me to recommend as close to perfect a literary biography as I know, I would name RUDYARD KIPLING: HIS LIFE AND WORK (1955) by Charles Edmund Carrington (1897-1990). In 1929 Carrington earned a modest literary fame with A SUBALTERN'S WAR, his recollections of his military service from age 17 in World War One. Later he wrote of Gibraltar, Lawrence of Arabia and other historical topics. He was authorized by Kipling's only surviving child Elsie Kipling (Mrs George Bambridge) to write RUDYARD KIPLING. Carrington quotes at length from the diary of Rudyard's wife Caroline (Carrie) Balestier Kipling, an invaluable document that the family later caused to be destroyed! Elsie contributed the Epilogue to this biography. *** Want my advice on a good way to bury yourself in Rudyard Kipling for three weeks on a desert island? Bring three or four Kipling novels (each a critical edition with good notes): KIM, STALKY & CO. and THE JUNGLE BOOKS (Two in one volume), plus Random House's fat RUDYARD KIPLING COMPLETE VERSE -- DEFINITIVE EDITION, also Everyman's Library's RUDYARD KIPLING COLLECTED STORIES with an Introduction by Robert Gottlieb and, finally, two biographies: Kingsley Amis's RUDYARD KIPLING (mainly for its fabulous collection of drawings, cartoons and photos) and Carrington's RUDYARD KIPLING: HIS LIFE AND WORK. First, race through Amis's bio once over lightly. Next read slowly and meditatively Carrington's RUDYARD KIPLING. When you reach his coverage of individual works, e.g. STALKY & CO. or poems such as "Danny Deever" and "If" or short stories like "The Man Who Would Be King," set Carrington aside for long enough to read and savor the Kipling work in question in the two collections mentioned above. Then return to where you had bookmarked Carrington and resume reading Kipling biography. That method has much to commend it. It constitutes nearly a quarter of the way I have prepared myself to teach in October 2012 an adult education course on "Young Rudyard Kipling." *** Kipling's admiring parents in faraway Lahore, Punjab, India, without their son's knowledge, published his first book of poems in 1881 when "Ruddy" was only 15 years old. Before he was 25 years old Kipling took London by storm. A very few critics had managed to lay hands on and read scarce copies of his poems and short stories written and published in India during his seven years there as a journalist, beginning at age 16, in Muslim/Sikh Lahore and later in Hindu Allahabad. A couple of reviewers had even seen his travel letters written back to Allahabad as Ruddy came from India to England via China and Japan and then across North America (where in 1889 he interviewed his hero Mark Twain.) But he became all England's man of the hour in December of that same year when Macmillan's published (under the pseudonym of "Yussuf") Kipling's "Ballad of East and West. Suddenly young Rudyard was in "the first rank of contemporary writers." "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet..." was on thousands of English-speaking lips. As a London writer, 1890 was Kipling's "annus mirabilis", with dozens of reprinted poems and stories, many fresh ones pouring out in magazines and book form. His was the sudden fame that had been Lord Byron's when Childe Harold burst upon the scene in 1812 and quickly drove Sir Walter Scott to give up poetry for WAVERLEY and novel-writing. In France Rudyard Kipling reminded of Guy de Maupassant. *** Charles Carrington dwells at leisure on Kipling's early and middle years, beginning with birth in Bombay, India in December 1865. In his own savoring later memory young "Ruddy Sahib" was deliriously spoiled and happy there for five years. Then came six years of misery in a seaside English boarding house with two years younger sister Trix. Next, after daily mistreatment and descent into near blindness and a dramatic rescue by his mother, he had four wonderful, creative years in an innovative, affordable all male public school on the north Devon coastline -- remembered mischievously and fondly in STALKY & CO. -- a school created by India-serving Generals and officers for the sons of cash-strapped armed forces and civilian officers in India. Then came India's seven years as assistant editor in succession of two anglo-Indian journals. Next the trip via China and Japan across America to London. Marriage followed in 1892 to his American best friend's younger sister Caroline "Carrie" Balestier. We soon find the young Kiplings settling down for four years in Vermont where Rudyard wrote THE JUNGLE BOOKS. And on and on we read of many an English winter spent by the growing, prospering Kipling family in or near Captetown South Africa, through the loss of two of his three children, into and beyond the First World War, and of his final dark but hugely creative literary outburst in the illness-driven final twenty years of his life. Curiously, biographer Carrington devotes only a couple of paragraphs to Kipling's 1907 Nobel Prize. He was the first Englishman to receive that great literary award and to this day remains its youngest recipient. He was 41. *** Carrington's gift is to weave a seamless garment made up of Kipling's life and writings. Rudyard Kipling was not only an imaginative fabulist but also a pioneer of science fiction, displaying from youth an inordinate curiosity about all things mechanical and technical. He could fantasize about talking animals, talking steamships and thinking American locomotives and envision a future world of the years 2000 and 2020 united by technocrats managing a worldwide air transport network. *** Kipling was the poet of the common man. He wrote more often than the elite cared for in dialect. He echoed conversations heard in barrack rooms of India. You can see this in SOLDIERS THREE and MULVANEY STORIES. He made the world of both New England cod fishermen and transcontinental railroading come alive in CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS. In THE NAULAHKA he brought a starry eyed Coloradan medical missionary girl to ancient, corrupt Rajputana north of Bombay. And throughout his llfe Kipling's sympathies were with working underappreciated men and women, not with the dreamers and the rich they supported. Read his 1907 poem, "The Sons of Martha." "Her sons must wait upon Mary's sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest." And what of the sons of Mary? "They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and -- the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons" Kipling's philosophy of life: find your duty, be loyal to it, work hard and with pride at its way of being useful to your fellow men and women. *** Carrington roots each written work of Kipling's that he studies in Kipling's life, past or present, in his memories and in his day to day imaginings. From Kipling's wife, daughter and other relatives we learn that Rudyard first caught an idea for a poem, then paced up and down sometimes for uninterrupted hours humming hymns or dance hall tunes till he found the rhythm that he wanted (and his rhythms were vast in range, often very unconventional) and then the poem virtually wrote itself. The book's notes and index are first-class. Try RUDYARD KIPLING: HIS LIFE AND WORK. You will not be disappointed, unless you want nothing to do with the author of "The White Man's Burden."-OOO-

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Leaky Boots


Reviewed on Jul 3 2012

If you have never been to Northern New York State's Adirondack Mountains, there is one book that will make you want to go there -- but perhaps not in bitter cold January. It is LEAKY BOOTS AND OTHER COMPLAINTS (self-published 2007 second edition) by Carol Gregson. The book contains 44 short autobiographical essays by a sprightly, creative octogenarian who did her toddlering and girling way out west in Seattle. In 1945 she fell in love with and married Albert Allen Gregson, a U. S. Navy sailor. Disliking any variants of Albert and Allen, Carol dubbed him Greg. They moved back east to where he had grown up in a mountainous area north of Albany and west of the Hudson River. Adirondack! *** With the exception of six intermediate years following her husband, children in tow, from one far away place to another in search of more lucrative employment, Carol has lived continuously to this very day in a rugged, heavily forested land intersected by I- 87, the "Northway" connecting Albany to Montreal. In late June 2012 I met Mrs Gregson and daughter Kris, the oldest of the seven Gregson children, at the rotating annual conference of IATC (International Association of Torch Clubs), this year held in Portsmouth, Virginia across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk. With Carol and her married daughter Mrs Kris Moss (Kris makes her name pretty much rhyme with "Christmas") my wife and I and others with us from the higher mountains of Western North Carolina engaged in some of the wittiest, most shrewd and imaginatively stimulating conversations we have had in decades. *** Carol Gregson is a wonderful raconteur and autobiographer. If she had stayed on in Seattle, you would still want her, just because she is Carol, to tell you what wherever she chose to live was like. But from 1945 onward her life was and remains the Adirondack Region of Northern New York. And Carol's wry, detailed impressions of the passing parade of bears, skunks, woodsmen and other humans make you want to go there yourself well before you die. *** We are talking about what has been called "a six-million-acre civilized wilderness," with over 3,000 bodies of water and maybe 137,000 year round residents. Young Mrs Gregson's first impression of her husband's ancestral home in 1945: "I found that his mountains were certainly wild and untidy, but they were not very high. ... I was used to a more vertical landscape. On the other hand, I had not actually lived in the middle of it." How did she look to her new mother-in-law when the young couple temporarily moved in? "I was young, pregnant and inept. We more or less circled each other." ***And so it goes. One yarn after another. "Adirondack is the name of a disease. Something on the order of diabetes, perhaps. It's a condition you might not die of, though the complications thereof might do you in." Especially winter, more especially January (Carol devotes a whole chapter to January). And after a very long winter, the ice and snow finally melt. "It is called mud season. ... Boots that tried to be warm all winter turned out not to be water-proof in the spring." It's a long ride just about anywhere: to church, school, junior college. The big not terribly close metropolis is Glens Falls, population 14,700, immortalized for its waterfall veiled cave in James Fenimore Cooper's adventure novel THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Mrs. Gregson devotes three chapters to modes of transport she has used down the decades. *** My favorite chapter is the unnumbered 19th, "It's the Berries." Paragraph by paragraph Carol Gregson tells us of the joys of searching out, gathering and eating blueberries, blackberries (the bears compete with you for them at season's end) and wild apple trees. Then after the first frost she and family sought out cranberries in the bogs and at the very end of season wild grapes. When her woodsman husband was alive (he died in 1973 of his second heart attack), the family was always awash in maple syrup. *** Other topics of LEAKY BOOTS include tourists and their "leaf peeping," square dancing, the family's experience building and running a 100 acre RV and wilderness camping site 1800 feet above sea level atop a steep hill 3 1/2 miles from the nearest paved road. Also we learn why it is not a good idea to dig what proves to be a gushing artesian well on the very top of that hill. Its exposed machinery gets struck by lightning every winter during powerful storms and put expensively out of commission. *** For several seasons Carol worked in nearby Frontier Town, where tourists came to see what life had been like long, long ago in a mythical wonderland only partially Adirondackian, complete with saloons and shootouts in the streets. Her specialty: to display old-timey weaving skills. These she had already mastered. But her tough 99 year old boss lady said she would also have to demonstrate spinning -- so learn it fast! Later Carol was assigned every day at 2:00 p.m. to walk to Frontier Town's saloon where she beat a drunkard with a broom and berated him soundly. "Then he'd wander out into the street and get shot." *** "1973 was the year Greg died." During World War II, Carol had lived with her brother in Fort Worth and did war work. There she learned mechanical drafting. In the Adirondacks the author later became very active in Parent-Teacher work. When she was 50, around 1976, Carol decided that to do more than eke out a living, she would become a teacher -- of art. The chapter "Wheels III" describes some of the toil that went into her enrolling in a community college and then a four-year college farther from home. In 1980 she took her degree in art education. Finally Carol could count on steady income during the long, harsh, very, very cold months of winter. In 1984 she received tenure and her financial future remained modest but for the first time as a widow secure. *** One final thing to note about LEAKY BOOTS: it is illustrated by black and white drawings by the author herself. I counted 45 of them, including two of -- what else? -- a pair of clunky, battered, presumably leaky boots. Read this book for facts and lore of the Adirondacks, for Carol Gregson's winning cartoons and for dry-witted, dead pan, talkative Carol herself, for her husband Greg, her seven children, and for more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than she cares to make individual photo albums of. -OOO-

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From Enemy To Brother


Reviewed on Jun 26 2012

On January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany. Uprooting and eventual annihlation of Jews immediately became and the signature value of Hitler Germany's national policy until the Third Reich was crushed in war in May 1945. On December 8, 1965 there ended the fourth and final session of the Roman Catholic Church's Second Vatican Council (1962 - 1965). That ecumenical council approved the "REVOLUTION IN CATHOLIC TEACHING ON THE JEWS 1933 - 1965" which is the subtitle of Berkeley History Professor's John Connelly's 2012 book "FROM ENEMY TO BROTHER." *** In his Introduction John Connelly notes that in in Rome in October 1965, 2,221 bishops had approved Nostra Aetate ("In Our Time") the solemn Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, and only 88 bishops voted against. Chapter Four of Nostra Aetate at first blush seems unexceptional, in summary: "Christ, his mother, and the apostles were Jews. The church began in the Old Testament. The Jews -- whether from that time or ours -- may not be held responsible for Christ's death. The church decries all forms of hatred, including antisemitism. And finally, the church looks forward to a day when all humans will be united." *** Here are three crucially pragmatic passages from Nostra Aetate's very words on the Jews: the Council "remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock. ... God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues -- such is the witness of the Apostle (Paul). ... in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." *** And yet, according to Jesuit priest Stanislaw Musial: "the church had never in its history looked upon the Jews in the ways specified in Nostra Aetate." An American Paulist priest Thomas Stransky put it this way in 2006: The Declaration on relation with Jews signaled "a 180 degree turnabout." As early as the 200s A.D. onward important Church authorities taught "that the Jews' destiny was to wander the earth suffering retribution from God for rejecting Christ." Only at the end of time would Jews decisively accept Jesus as Messiah of Israel. *** The bulk of Connelly's book describes the anti-Judaic, even antisemitic early 20th Century theological framework which set the boundaries within which any official new Catholic speculation on the Jews had to evolve. In Europe, especially in Germany and to a lesser extent, in Austria and elsewhere, racial theories, eugenics and collective thinking inspired by Hegel and Darwin were propounded by many intellectuals, Christian or otherwise. Thus German antisemitic Protestant and Catholics alike interpreted Scripture in racist ways, even spinning the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan to insist that the first object of Christian love is the self, expanding naturally into the family, the clan, the Volk, the nation). Even baptized Jews bring with them a peculiar Jewish "Erbsuende" (Original Sin) -- for having murdered their Messiah. Baptism and the sacraments, faith in Jesus and Divine Grace, can indeed overcome the deeply inbred traits flowing from that peculiar Jewish guilt for killing Jesus and for rejecting his gospel. But to become a good Christian was far, far, far harder for Jewish converts than for Christians whose ancestors had accepted Christ while still non-Jewish pagans. *** Connelly names and studies the ideas of a handful of German, Austrian and French thinkers who in the 1930s and 1940s and even earlier had rejected anti-Jewish racism in terms much like those eventually adopted in 1965 in Rome. But those few radicals were not theologians. They did not play the academic theology game. Instead they applied common sense, a straightforward reading of the gospel and a natural human empathy for Jews as the good people of a good Creator God. Thus, thinkers such as Austrian activist and anti-Nazi Irene Harand cannot be numbered as forerunners of Vatican II. For they were outside the box, not in the theological mainstream. They influenced almost no one who would eventually matter. Change would have to come from courageous, dissident but orthodox theologians groping for new models and paradigms. *** The forerunners of Vatican II were therefore more conservative, even slower-thinking, less daring men like Catholic converts Dietrich von Hildebrand and ultra-Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain. They rethought, often with only partial success, racism and antisemitism from within and using the tools of the dominant race-poisoned hoary Catholic theological and philosophical framework that not even Popes seemed able to break away from. Theologically, they emphasized not the often invoked anti-Judaism sentiments of the Gospels of Matthew and John, but four long ignored chapters of Paul's Epistle to the Romans. *** Of course there was more: twenty years before 1965's Nostra Aetate the Nazi Shoah/Holocaust of Europe's Jews had been seared into horrified, guilt-seared Christian consciousness. How all these currents came together to revolutionize Catholic teaching about the Jews is very well told and in massive but well selected detail by John Connelly in FROM ENEMY TO BROTHER. -OOO-

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The Cambridge Companion To Rudyard Kipling


Reviewed on Jun 16 2012

Editor of 2011's THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO RUDYARD KIPLING is Howard J. Booth, lecturer at the University of Manchester. In addition to his own excellent Introduction and Chapter 10, "The later short fiction," Booth has assembled penetrating monographs in English by 12 other authors from America, Scotland, England, New Zealand, India and Italy. *** Topics range over Kipling's busily writing in London in the 1890s, the British Empire, over the extraordinary and rarely noticed relationships of Rudyard Kipling with the USA (which produced his closest male friend, his wife, Vermont-born children and much more), his pioneering fascination with technology and science fiction, over Kipling's attitudes toward war, men v. women, children (THE JUNGLE BOOKS, KIM, JUST SO STORIES, etc.), the many voices in which he spoke prose and poetry, the short fiction of his sadder, later years, over Kipling's place in so called "post-colonial" literature, over the way Rudyard's father John Lockwood Kipling illustrated his son's works and how Kipling is read (or ignored) in today's India. *** Here are three selected highlights: (1) Kipling's 1891 novel, THE LIGHT THAT FAILED, has two different endings. In the second (book) version the painter hero Dick tries but fails to impose on his painter girl friend Maisie a stereotyped female role as his "beloved" and therefore as his destined helpmate wife. She cannot see how to reconcile her passion to be a successful painter with marrying Dick and opts decisively for painting. But in the earlier (magazine serialized) version, Maisie in the end succumbs to a lifetime of tending to the needs of by now fully blind Dick (Ch. 1, Robert Hampson). (2) In Chapter 5, "Kipling and Gender," University of Kent's Kaori Nagai gives many examples of Kipling's treatment of women. In chapter end note 10, Nagai says that she focuses exclusively on the later version of THE LIGHT THAT FAILS because it is "a unique text in Kipling's oeuvre, as the heroine manages to escape the hero's control. *** (3) I found Indiana University's Patrick Brantlinger's Chapter 9, "Kim" extraordinarily good and thought-provoking about the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature winner's much acclaimed novel of 1901. KIM is described by Kipling himself as "picaresque." For Kimball O'Hara (Kim) a young Irish scamp born and orphaned in India is off and away on three open-ended quests: (a) for "a red Bull on a green field" (his father's Irish regiment) which (b) leads him to be selected and trained as young spy for the British Secret Service in the "Great Game" being played out against expansionist Tsarist Russia and (c) in a completely different direction: volunteering to be Tibetan Teshoo Lama's chela or disciple as the two roam northern India searching for the river where an arrow shot by Lord Buddha fell long ago. *** The amiable Irish orphan, skin tanned dark as any Indian's and fluent in several native tongues, does not lack for foster-fathers. If Kim plays Cervantes's Sancho Panza to dreamy, idealistic Teshoo Lama's Don Quixote, Kim is also at some level the celibate Red Lama's son. Other father figures of every religious stripe include "a Muslim in Mahbub Ali, and a hybridised Hindu in Hurree Babu ... an occultist (Lurgan Sahib), a Roman Catholic (Father Victor) and an Anglican (Revd Arthur Bennett). *** At novel's end, which author Brantlinger calls "A happy unending," young Kimball O'Hara is still an adolescent. He has yet to make a final choice between serving either Buddhism or the British Raj. Only service in the Irish regiment seems definitively ruled out: the Lama refused to see his chela educated to be a killer. Throughout all his dangerous adventures Kim remains supremely happy (except when briefly bullied during terms at Saint Xavier's school for Sahibs, for attending which the Lama donates the money). Kimball O'Hara remains throughout what he was shown to be from the beginning, "the Friend of all the World." He is "happiness personified...left in a still-adolescent state ... -- he can have his cake and eat it too. ... (Kim's) is a lost dream of possibility for an eternal childhood in an imagined India." As the novel itself declared, within the framework of a passionately relived love story between Kipling and India, the land of his birth in 1865, "Kim dived into the happy Asiatic disorder which, if you only allow time, will bring you everything that a simple man needs." *** THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO RUDYARD KIPLING seems to presuppose that its readers already know their Kipling, at least his major prose works and the most quoted two dozen of his more than 700 poems (e.g., "The Ballad of East and West," "Danny Deever"). As expected, this collection of learned monographs gives in adequate detail the impressive credentials of its 13 contributors. The chapter end notes provide a treasure trove of sources. Editor Howard J. Booth ends the volume with FURTHER READINGS in Kipling's own works, with Collections, editions and reference, Biographical studies and Criticism as well as with a solid 7-page Index. It is hard to fault THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO RUDYARD KIPLING and I for one shall not make that effort. -OOO-

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A Concise History Of Portugal


Reviewed on Jun 10 2012

I bought and read the 2003 second edition of David Birmingham's A CONCISE HISTORY OF PORTUGAL shortly after returning from a two week Road Scholar/Elderhostel study trip to the Douro River, Porto and Lisbon -- the first time in my 76 years to set foot in that country. That visit, built around a river cruise through the port wine region of northern Portugal, had pulled together much of my previous knowledge of the country. Birmingham's book has added considerably more. *** The author makes no secret of several biases, slants, emphases and theses that appear and reappear throughout. These include Portugal's longtime economic and political dominance first by England and later by the United Kingdom; Portugal's economy and its usually unhealthy trade balance; the country's cultural and religious conservatism and the passivity of its farmers; the usually negative impact of Roman Catholicism, especially of the Inquisition and finally dictator Antonio Salazar's political misuse for nationalistic purposes of the religious shrine at Fatima. There is not as much about national language, art and literature as one might expect. But, with caveats, A CONCISE HISTORY OF PORTUGAL is a slightly above average survey of and introduction to Portuguese history to the year 2003. *** At 225 pages the book is not long. It is well illustrated, has good maps, genealogical charts of the ruling royal families from 1385 - 1910 and of "Presidents of the Republic," with emphasis on the long rule of Antonio Salazar (1932 - 1968). Materials consulted are indicated in two consecutive sections, "Select Source Materials" and "Selected Works Published Since 1990." The book concludes with a substantively helpful 11-page Index in unhelpfully small print. *** Like other authors, David Birmingham notes that Christian Portugal threw off the yoke of Muslims long before Spain did -- and with the notable help of English Crusaders. He showcases the work of Prince Henry the Navigator (1394 -1460) in giving a solid technical basis to Portuguese explorations of the coasts of Africa and the later discovery of new sea routes to India, China and Japan. Unsurprisingly, Brazil is made much of. The author, who in other books writes mainly about Africa, stresses the importance of Portugal's colonies as safety valves via emigration for impoverished farmers and fishermen. Portugal suffered immensely by being bullied by Britain into World War One. Dictator Antonio Salazar, by contrast, stayed out of World War II, but won virtually eternal gratitude from the USA for providing it bases in the Azores. *** One notable result of Portugual's entry into the European Community and the Euro financial zone was the de facto final reunification of the Iberian Peninsula through its suddenly opened border with Spain. Mass tourism has since played a very large role in the economy. Portugal was still educationally and economically backward when its ten million people "entered Europe" in 1986. "... the entire Portuguese domestic product amounted to only one per cent of Europe's total product. ... The national product of an average Portuguese, although only one half of an average Spaniard, and one third that of an average European, rose towards 5000 US dollars a year during the 1980s, ten times the 500 dollars per capita per annum during the painful post-war years" (Ch. 7, p. 200). *** Bottom Line: A CONCISE HISTORY OF PORTUGAL is not subtle in what the author likes and dislikes about his subject and its history. During our April 2012 cruise on the Douro River with a very talented instructor, and later in Porto and Lisbon, my wife and I saw for ourselves that Portugal was well into the painful earliest stages of belt-tightening in the face of Europe's 2012 banking crisis. The country was surprisingly well endowed with good roads and tourism was thriving. But like Spain and others, Portugal had lived well beyond its means and would now have to pay the price. David Birmingham's book deserves one quick read if you know little of Portugal. Then move on without lingering to something better and less biased. -OOO-

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Orestes Brownson


Reviewed on Jun 1 2012

Who was Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803 - 1876) and why should we care? *** In his Prologue to ORESTES BROWNSON: SIGN OF CONTRADICTION biographer Robert A. Herrera answers the question this way: "Orestes August Brownson is the Catholic thinker par excellence of the United States. There are no rivals. The decks have been cleared. No Catholic thinker has equaled him in national prominence, international presence, density of thought, variety of concerns or sheer volume." *** Herrera spends the next 235 pages unfolding and arguing for the truth of that assertion. The American Catholic thinker? Then why haven't we heard of Brownson -- as many surely have heard -- of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, John Courtney Murray, S.J. or Father Richard Neuhaus? Never mind, argues R.A. Herrera: we owe it to ourselves to know this man. As early as 1939 very young Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. thought highly enough of him to write ORESTES A. BROWNSON: A PILGRIM'S PROGRESS. And academic and ecclesiatical writers are today alive to Brownson's incisive criticisms of Blessed John Henry Newman and also his creation of several bold "American" ideas on liberty of conscience and religious toleration at the core of contemporary Catholicism since the 1960s and the Second Vatican Council. *** In the subtitle, SIGN OF CONTRADICTION, Herrera tries to capture Brownson's Socratic temperament, the eternal gadfly who irritates friend and foe alike, asks new questions, essays new answers and whose thought never settles into the kind of "settled truth" that makes Brownson easy to grasp, much less evaluate. *** In Herrera's view one abiding feature in the life and thinking of Orestes Augustus Brownson is a passion for religion and the search for God. This may have grown out of longing for his father Sylvester whom he barely knew as twin youngest children in Vermont -- a father who died young leaving a widow with five young children. Separated from his twin sister Daphne, Orestes was placed with a God-fearing old couple in Royalton, Vermont. He did not attend school. At age 14, the twins and the other three children went with their mother to nearby Ballston Spa, New York. By then he knew much of the Bible by heart. There at age 19 Orestes joined the local Presbyterian church. In 1826 he was ordained a Universalist minister, the year before he married Sally Healy of Elbridge, New York. In 1844 in Boston he converted to Roman Catholicism in which religion he died in Detroit in 1876 ***Over the decades Orestes Brownson did many notable things. He was a founder of the Transcendentalist Club. He knew all the other leading Transcendalists. He gave a teaching job to Henry Thoreau. He founded and edited more than one magazine and wrote prodigiously for other journals on politics, slavery, Negro emancipation, the Irish, Americanizing immigrants and especially what made America uniquely American. Biographer Herrera describes several of Brownson's works in moderate detail: notably, the three autobiographical works CHARLES ELWOOD, THE CONVERT and THE SPIRIT RAPPER, but also what some consider his political masterpiece, THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC. *** Polymath, multi-lingual Orestes Brownson was almost entirely self-educated. He immersed himself in French, German and Italian writers and would stay with authors like John C. Calhoun, Juan Donoso Cortes, Victor Cousin and above all Pierre Leroux, digging for their core insights, wrestling with them, rejecting some, assimilating others into his current, temporary synthesis -- and then moving on. Brownson passed through various phases as a thinker: radical, creative ontologist, conservative, demanding a new Jesus and a Church of the Future -- and more. As a result he can be quoted on almost any side of any issue today: evolution of ideas, communion of the human race with one another and with God, democracy, republicanism, women, liberation theology and on and on. *** Herrera is a good, clear writer. His ORESTES BROWNSON is a useful introduction to and revival of an original American thinker. It will probably make you want to know more about its subject. -OOO-

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Schooldays With Kipling


Reviewed on May 24 2012

SCHOOL DAYS WITH KIPLING (1936) is about 4 1/2 early years in the life of 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936). From January 1878 to July 1882 Joseph Rudyard Kipling, aged 12 - 16, was a boarding student at recently created United Services College at Westward Ho! (sic!) near Bideford on the north Devonshire coast of England facing Wales across the Bristol Channel. *** In 1899, 17 years after leaving UCC (aka "the Coll.") Kipling issued STALKY & CO., a classic English schoolboy novel drawing heavily, very heavily, on his own days at Westward Ho! It is hard to imagine that anyone today would read G. C. Beresford's SCHOOL DAYS WITH KIPLING who had not already read STALKY & CO. and wanted to learn more about young Rudyard Kipling. That novel is about three great chums usually fictitiously named Beetle (based on Kipling), Stalky (future Major General L.C. Dunsterville) and M'Turk (future famed society photographer G. C. Beresford). Dunsterville devoted three chapters of his 1928 STALKY'S REMINISCENCES to his own schooldays with Kipling on the north Devon coast. He also wrote the Preface for his friend Beresford's 1936 recollections of days at the USC. *** Admirers of Rudyard Kipling know that STALKY & CO. is a novel = fiction, but often succumb notwithstanding to a widespread misconception that it is also minutely autobiographical. Both Dunsterville and Beresford demonstate that STALKY & CO. is not entirely factual, is not simply a diary or chronicle of the years 1878 - 1882. *** The point of much of Beresford's SCHOOL DAYS WITH KIPLING is to separate historical fact from Kipling's creative imagination. Thus, for instance, Kipling/Beetle was never "caned" by the headmaster. Nor was there such a thing at USC as involuntary "fagging," that is virtually indentured servitude of younger students to olders, to run errands, brew cocoa and such like. Bullying was something practiced by masters, not by students. The theme of pre-meditated ("let the punishment fit the crime") revenge running through STALKY & CO. was absent from the lives as actually lived of the three friends Beetle, Stalky and M'Turk. *** Their adventures were very tame and schoolboyish compared with those complex fictional stratagems masterminded by future military genius Dunsterville/Stalky. Pranks there were but very good natured and non-humiliating to recipients. One characteristic of Stalky/Dunsterville was however true both in life and in Kipling's novel: his pranks and alarums were so designed so that the perpetrator would not only never be caught but would never even be suspected. * * *Beresford is also invaluable in showing what characteristics of young (aged 12 to 16) Rudyard Kipling were already present or in early evolution and what others appeared only during his seven years as a journalist in British India. Kipling was a gifted 12-year old poet at least five years before he became a master of prose. *** Yet the seven issues of the defunct United Services College CHRONICLE (revived to be run by Kipling at Headmaster Price's command) that Rudyard edited were perfect preparation for his first job after leaving Westward Ho!: as assistant editor of a weekly English-language newspaper in Lahore, Punjab. It was Kipling's poems and short stories published in India that made him world famous by age 24 when he arrived in London in 1889. Rudyar was heavily influenced even at age 12 by the pre-Raphaelite circles in which his wealthy, artistic in-laws moved in London (and of which United Services Head Master and family friend Cormell Price was a fringe member). *** At USC Kipling, virtually blind without his thick stone glasses, lived his life to read everything of belles lettres he could get his hands on and to write verse. WIthout his knowledge his parents published his SCHOOLBOY LYRICS in 1881. These 20 some poems were not circulated at USC but Beresford talks about them and a famed poem to Queen Victoria, "Ave Imperatrix," published when Kipling was only 15 and allegedly admired by the Queen-Empress herself. Beresford's SCHOOLDAYS WITH KIPLING is must reading for people who crave to understand what made a genius tick. -OOO-

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The Hated Wife


Reviewed on May 16 2012

Adam Nicolson's 2001 THE HATED WIFE: CARRIE KIPLING 1862 - 1939 is, I believe, the first "Short Book" that I have ever read. The publisher is Short Books, 15 Highway Terrace, London N5 1UP. *** The paperback book is indeed "short," a mere 96 pages. THE HATED WIFE draws heavily on Caroline Kipling's diary. It is not, I think, a book for persons only vaguely interested in or barely informed about 1905 Nobel Prize winner Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936). THE HATED WIFE is about Rudyard's wife Caroline Starr Balestier, three years Rudyard's senior, who married the rising literary star when he was 24. Henry James gave the bride away in a small London wedding. *** Why is this book not for everyone? Mainly because it presupposes that you are fairly knowledgeable already about Rudyard Kipling, his times, his parents and sister Trix and his marriage and children. Not once, to my recollection, does author Adam Nicolson's narrative give Carrie's Christian name of Caroline, though he does once reproduce that name as her regular signature. The author assumes that readers are already fiercely prejudiced against Carrie Kipling, regarding her as a friendless, dominating, somehow limiting force on her husband's great genius. Now I, for one, have read a dozen books or so about the Kiplings. And never elsewhere have I seen her called with no little venom "the hated wife." I fear that Nicolson has created a strawman in order to knock it down. *** That said, Nicolson, as do other lengthier biographers, records the concerns of Rudyard's parents and of Henry James about the romance and marriage. In the hands of Carrie, mama Kipling's Ruddy becomes simply Rud. Nicolson argues that whenever possible during their marriage, Rud would dash off alone to be with men in London. If so, it is remarkable how many letters, sometimes two or three daily, the author wrote to his wife on such occasions. ***Nicolson argues that Rudyard Kipling liked his women older and masculine, dominating and capable. He argues as well that after her wedding Carrie let herself go, gained weight, dressed dowdily and lost any original sexual appeal to her husband. He gives her credit for stiffening Rud's spine at times of crisis, but also sharing his cowardly inclination to assign unhappy experiences to oblivion and never speak of them again -- e.g., the death of their young daughter. -OOO-

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The Hated Wife


Reviewed on May 16 2012

Adam Nicolson's 2001 THE HATED WIFE: CARRIE KIPLING 1862 - 1939 is, I believe, the first "Short Book" that I have ever read. The publisher is Short Books, 15 Highway Terrace, London N5 1UP. *** The paperback book is indeed "short," a mere 96 pages. THE HATED WIFE draws heavily on Caroline Kipling's diary. It is not, I think, a book for persons only vaguely interested in or barely informed about 1905 Nobel Prize winner Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936). THE HATED WIFE is about Rudyard's wife Caroline Starr Balestier, three years Rudyard's senior, who married the rising literary star when he was 24. Henry James gave the bride away in a small London wedding. *** Why is this book not for everyone? Mainly because it presupposes that you are fairly knowledgeable already about Rudyard Kipling, his times, his parents and sister Trix and his marriage and children. Not once, to my recollection, does author Adam Nicolson's narrative give Carrie's Christian name of Caroline, though he does once reproduce that name as her regular signature. The author assumes that readers are already fiercely prejudiced against Carrie Kipling, regarding her as a friendless, dominating, somehow limiting force on her husband's great genius. Now I, for one, have read a dozen books or so about the Kiplings. And never elsewhere have I seen her called with no little venom "the hated wife." I fear that Nicolson has created a strawman in order to knock it down. *** That said, Nicolson, as do other lengthier biographers, records the concerns of Rudyard's parents and of Henry James about the romance and marriage. In the hands of Carrie, mama Kipling's Ruddy becomes simply Rud. Nicolson argues that whenever possible during their marriage, Rud would dash off alone to be with men in London. If so, it is remarkable how many letters, sometimes two or three daily, the author wrote to his wife on such occasions. ***Nicolson argues that Rudyard Kipling liked his women older and masculine, dominating and capable. He argues as well that after her wedding Carrie let herself go, gained weight, dressed dowdily and lost any original sexual appeal to her husband. He gives her credit for stiffening Rud's spine at times of crisis, but also sharing his cowardly inclination to assign unhappy experiences to oblivion and never speak of them again -- e.g., the death of their young daughter. -OOO-

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Kidnapped


Reviewed on May 10 2012

If ever a book's title clearly sketched its contents, it is Robert Louis Stevenson's full name for his 1886 novel "KIDNAPPED - BEING THE ADVENTURES OF DAVID BALFOUR: HOW HE WAS KIDNAPPED AND CAST AWAY; HIS SUFFERING IN A DESERT ISLE; HIS JOURNEY IN THE WEST HIGHLANDS; HIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH ALAN BRECK STEWART AND OTHER NOTORIOUS HIGHLAND JACOBITES; WITH ALL THAT HE SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF HIS UNCLE, EBENEZER BALFOUR OF SHAWS, FALSELY SO-CALLED; WRITTEN BY HIMSELF AND NOW SET FORTH BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON." Phew! *** KIDNAPPED was an instant literary success. -- First, because it was about Scotland, both the author's native lowlands and the wild, mysterious, alien-language islands and highlands. It narrates a few warm weather months in 1751. -- Second, with both his parents now dead, late teens David Balfour is sent from the village where his father had been schoolmaster back "home" with a letter of introduction to his father's evil younger brother Ebenezer Balfour. Ebenezer is currently the miserly laird of Shaws, a dilapidated estate near Edinburgh. To prevent David from reclaiming his rights, uncle Ebenezer sells him to a greedy sea captain for later resale into servitude in South Carolina. -- Thirdly, at sea, sailing all around the top of Scotland from the east coast into the treacherous, rocky waters of the Inner Hebrides, David Balfour's life intersects with that of historically attested Alan Breck Stewart. Stewart is collecting money for Scottish losers in the 1745-46 rising, now living in impoverished exile in France with James Stewart, their "King across the water." *** After fighting off together an evil captain and crew, then shipwrecked and briefly parted off the west coast of Scotland, David and Alan pursue their now intertwined missions. Alan needs to get safely across enemy territory back to France with money that he has collected. David must return to the Firth of Forth to regain his inheritance. Each is of service to the other. Alan helps puritanical David become a man, teaches him swordcraft and the ways of the life-embracing Catholic highlands. *** Their story is told in later years by David Balfour himself, from the point of view of a sheltered adolescent lowlander, a Calvinist, a temperate and docile accepter of the political status quo in Scotland. David writes with both exasperation and deep affection about his meteoric and astonishingly opposite hero: a Catholic, the greatest swordsman of the Highlands, an unapologetic man of the world, a gambler who loses all David's money at cards playing with a Highland chief. Women and girls are few and far between. Romance barely flickers once toward tale's end as a brave girl rows the pair across the Firth of Forth to safety. David is frequently ill, very ill, a human condition, he notes in passing, that is rarely mentioned by writers of books for boys. ***On the surface KIDNAPPED is pure boys' adventure tale, complete with unrelenting chase over mountains and through the heather by King George's Redcoats who think -- erroneously -- that Alan, abetted by David, has murdered a high ranking, historically attested Scottish collaborator of King George. Here is a pair of moral and cultural opposites who do much good to each other. In 1886 author Stevenson had just read Mark Twain's THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN and it shows in KIDNAPPED. *** More deeply, KIDNAPPED is about an abnormally cruel period in Scottish-English history, told largely from the point of view of the gallant highland losers. KIDNAPPED is Robert Louis Stevenson's exploration of the divided Scottish psyche: highlands v. lowlands, Gaelic v. Scots as mutually incomprehensible languages, Catholicism v. Presbyterianism, Stewart Kings v. Hanoverians, agricultual mountain clans v. small nuclear retail trading nuclear families living between Glasgow and Edinburgh. This is not a profound book, but it is a very good one. And in pock-faced, diminutive, swashbuckling Alan Breck Stewart readers have a hero not soon forgotten. -OOO-

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Sale Day At C Mart


Reviewed on May 6 2012

Joe Basara's second novel, SALE DAY AT C MART, like his first, is set in a fictitious (or perhaps better "mythical") 1980s part of North Central Florida which the author styles Cypress Lake. C MART is a large, incompetently managed discount department store that sits across the street from and snarls at its rival T MART. According to the book's back cover we have here a "comedy about one day in the life of a discount store." That we are dealing with a chronological phenomenon is clear from the chapter titles, e. g., ONE: 7:00 a.m., FOURTEEN: 3:00 p.m. and finally EIGHTEEN: 5:00 p.m. *** With a nod to Charles Dickens, C MART is run by Ebenezer Scrooge wannabe store manager Don McKeever. He is determined to rise toward corporate headquarters in Atlanta through paying low wages, getting rid of workers before they put in ten years and become vested for a pension and other unkind management practices. Novel's hero is American Indian BIlly Buffalo assisted by a magic Santa Claus suit worn throughout the day by various employees, each of whom is transformed into an idealistic, caring person during the annual Christmas in July sale. *** Between the two moral poles of Don McKeever and Billy Buffalo there is stretched a plot suggesting Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland. From store opening till store closing a lengthy parade of zanies and one obscenity spewing escaped parrot strut their stuff, with one eye toward the Mad Hatter. Store worker Carrie was right when she told Billy Buffalo, "You work here long enough, you'll see just about every variety of oddball there is. I think this store attracts them" (Ch. 12: 2:00 p.m.). *** Author Joe Basara loves humor based on caricature, exaggeration, and a plot endlessly piling on one weird character after another. My personal reaction is "something too much of this." There is for sure humor, satire, bloviating, opining and more. Not my cup of tea, but in the universe of niche writers and niche readers, there will, I predict, be some who will enjoy reading SALE DAY AT C MART -- at least once. -OOO-

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The Naulahka


Reviewed on Apr 6 2012

Together, two young best friends, Englishman Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936) and American Charles Wolcott Balestier (1861 - 1891) as early as July 1890 agreed to compose together THE NAULAHKA - A STORY OF WEST AND EAST. While this collaborative novel was being published in nine monthly installments in New York in The Century Magazine (November 1891 - July 1892), Wolcott Balestier died suddenly of typhoid fever in December 1891. *** Scholars are not in complete agreement about the relative roles of Kipling and Balestier in their novel about two young Coloradans Nicholas Tarvin and Kate Sheriff who sail off separately and for different reasons to the deserts of Rajputana, India for a few months of altruism (nurse Kate), greed and Colorado home town boosterism (Nicholas), and for adventure and danger (both). *** On learning in Lahore, India while visiting his parents, of Wolcott Balestier's unexpected death, Kipling rushed back to London, marrying Wolcott's sister Caroline "Carrie" ten days after arrival. For all future magazine issues (January to July 1892), and for the hardcover publications and revisions, Rudyard Kipling became solely responsible. ***The novel was made into a silent feature film in 1918 that follows the original novel fairly closely. It is possible to regard THE NAULAHKA (a numerical allusion "Nine-Lakhs" = 900,000) as a late nineteenth century predecessor of today's highly popular American literary genre, the "Christian Romance." In the latter genre the basic plot runs: gorgeous young Christian maiden loves Adonis-like pagan man. After vicissitudes maiden brings pagan to Jesus and all ends well. ***In THE NAULAHKA (the name of a fabulous necklace valued centuries earlier at nine lakhs/900,000 rupees whose centerpiece is a black diamond), there is a twist on the Christian Romance motif. Diminutive Kate Sheriff, while in boarding school in St. Louis, had heard a lecture by Pundita Ramabai, a visiting Hindu woman, about "the sad case of her sisters at home." Kate was instantly transformed: God wanted her to go as a medical missionary to India. After two years very hard, intense study she was an accredited nurse and came home to Topaz, Colorado, to say goodbye to her affluent parents. *** While there, local insurance salesman, property speculator, entrepreneur and rising politician, dashing young Nicholas Tarvin tried every formidable wile he knew to make Kate stay home in Colorado and marry him (they had known each other since childhood). But Kate traveled East alone to a Presbyterian mission in a forlorn princely state in Imperial British Rajputana, north of Bombay. *** Republican Party man Nick was in the middle of a winning campaign, ultimately overwhelmingly defeating Kate's easy-going Democratic Party father for a seat in the Colorado legislature. Suddenly a powerful railroad tycoon visited two nearby boom towns competing for his business. Nicholas Tarvin then cultivated and promised Mrs. Mutrie, the magnate's young wife, that he would bring her back the fabulous Naulahka and she in return would win her dotng husband's consent to turn Nick's home town Topaz into the centerpiece of a new north-south CC&C railroad line. *** That done, Nick speeds 14,000 miles west to India, beating the unsuspecting Kate by a few days to the princely city of Rhatore. The rest of the story tells the steps that Nick takes to find and secure the great necklace the Naulahka while nurse Kate keeps the Maharajah's eldest son alive despite the machinations of the all-powerful although only the newest and most junior (of 300 in the harem) royal wife, a murderous gypsy named Sitabhai. In a plot worthy of Indiana Jones, the young Americans face and survive plots to murder them both. Nick persuades the Maharajah to divert a river and pan for gold. The Raj's local British representative goes along with that development scheme to modernize the princely state of Gokral Seetarun. How can all this possibly turn out well for Christian maiden and her mostly amoral hustler lover? Read THE NAULAKHA and find out! *** There is a passing similarity to Kipling's long short story or novella of 1888, "The Man Who Would Be King," in which two British con men make themselves (briefly) rulers in Kaffiristan not far outside the British Raj. In THE NAULAHKA two late 19th Century Americans try for different personal reasons (she for God and he to make her his wife) and with varying degrees of success and failure to bring American know-how and hustle during a half-year or so to a hot desert British Indian princely kingdom and to its half-heartedly scheming but lethargic ruling class.-OOO-

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Breath Found Along the Way


Reviewed on Mar 28 2012

54 short poems make up BREATH FOUND ALONG THE WAY by Anne Schneider, formerly of Houston, now of Kerrville, Texas. In the collection's Introduction Mrs Schneider explains the title of both the book and a poem within it as derived from a martial arts teacher's definition, "Tai Chi is the breath I found along the Way." Schneider then implies that her verses reflect experiences found along her way and are, scattered among other ever evolving self-expressive acts, "the sweet exhalation of that breath." *** From her "About the Poet" it is clear that Mrs Schneider's way has included extended stops and tarryings along the way in Houston, Texas, in Catholic schools, Catholic church work, in two marriages (the second happier than the first), two daughters, and personal explorations of yoga, tai chi, chi kung, Reiki, mask-making, doll-making, leadership of the Kerrville Writers Association and writing short stories and verse. *** The narrator of each poem can be interpreted as a determinedly individualistic adult American female in her late 40s or older. Whether there are 54 separate narrators, several or only one is for the reader to figure out. Nor is it self-evident that the narrator is always or ever the real-life author. It seems natural and perhaps intended by Anne Schneider that readers think of the narrator and the author as identical: one real woman with a highly compartmentalized and nuanced, evolving psyche, on an increasingly self-directed journey into ever more self-defined personal fulfillment. ***I recall only one poem that is rhymed, "Christmas Carol." It begins: "It's Christmas in the kitchen/and Grandm's drinkin' wine,/ Mogen David Blackberry,/ inspirin' pies divine." This continues for another 12 short lines, bouncing merrily along in the mood of James Whitcomb Riley's "When the Frost is on the Punkin." Christmas Carol is one of very few entirely happy poems in BREATH FOUND ALONG THE WAY. ***Most of Anne Schneider's poems exude either fear that happiness cannot last, or that mother and family may not always understand the narrator but do well to love her anyway. The narrator is often very thin-skinned, prickly, hates to be judged but weighs everyone around her. *** In longer than most other verses "Jail House Rock" the narrator seems to be mad as hell that for her whole life other people have been telling her what to do and finding her less than perfect when she tries. "What will the neighbors think?" ... "Old friend whines THAT was a secret/ while Father Flynn cross-examines/ Why weren't you attending Mass/ instead of Shaman caves?" A natural enough question put to a once very publicly active lay Catholic who now reads and re-reads Rilke but does not, at least in BREATH FOUND ALONG THE WAY, readily quote Scripture or seem to spend time reading John of the Cross or Teresa of Avila. ***Indeed, the intensely, no nonsense secular, ultra-individualistic, earthy, sensuous nature of these wee but very bright poems is striking. BREATH FOUND ALONG THE WAY does not remind of religious writers like Gerard Manley Hopkins or John Henry Newman. The narrator might instead evoke for some readers the many "seeking" American women of recent decades. For many people, organized religions, including traditional supply-side Christianity with its dos and don'ts and its Cross, no longer work as they once did for searchers after meaning. Many now seek and are sure that they will find a brand new pole star, a new wondrously fulfilling demand-side religion or spirituality and a new heaven on earth. *** The Schneider poems are uniformly chatty and limpidly put. That they are formally divided into lines seems a concession to publishing convention. *** In "Phoenix 2001" a grandmother reflects on the birth of a grandson. He should have been born the day terrorists flew planes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center but arrived two weeks earlier into a happier world. Two weeks later a distraught mother asked the boy's fireman father, "Why in the name of God did we bring a child into this world?" *** In "Mama's House" the narrator visits a dilapidating ruin where her mother once lived, "Adrift in rooms empty without her." But in a sense mother is always one of the "old women who never leave home." ***A final selection from among my dozen favorites: "Extravagance." It begins: "A friend calls me exravagant,/ maybe I am. / At 48, I refuse anymore/ to buy cheap toilet paper." This reminds contrastingly of young Rudyard Kipling's poem "My Rival" in which his 17-year old sister Trix during cool summers in Simla, India's summer capital, is jealous of her 49-year old mother Alice who outshines all women at the Viceroy's balls and attracts all the young men. Never mind! Trix will have her revenge one day: "Just think, that She'll be eighty-one/ when I am forty nine!" You, dear reader, can do Trix's very imaginative math in that last calculation. It is hard to imagine Alice Kipling at 48 giving up flirting and looking for a rocking chair in Kerrville, Texas. *** Anne Schneider's BREATH FOUND ALONG THE WAY flashes from time to time with bold insights. It is also tastefully illustrated on front and back covers and throughout the poems by examples from Mrs Schneider's own work in masks and other media. This small 84-page book is carefully put together and should make gracious, thought-provocative reading for many, especially for the apparently growing universe of individualistic American women demanding novel and fresh forms of self-expression. -OOO-

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A Separate Star


Reviewed on Mar 22 2012

I am looking at the title page of A SEPARATE STAR: A SCIENCE FICTION TRIBUTE TO RUDYARD KIPLING. Put together in 1989 by science fiction authors and editors David Drake and Sandra Miesel, this paperback is the companion volume to HEADS TO THE STORM: A TRIBUTE TO RUDYARD KIPLING: same editors, publisher (Baen) and same year of publication. *** Both books are similarly arranged: in this case, eleven essays offering tributes by 20th century Sci Fi writers to earlier Sci Fi pioneer Rudyard Kipling; eight Kipling-influenced stories by those later writers; three stories and a verse by the master himself: Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936). *** In the "Tributes" portion we learn how later, more familiar to us as Sci Fi writers were read Kipling yarns practically in their cradles by grandmother, mother or father. We hear an ageing L. Sprague de Camp say in 1987, "Now, as a very senior citizen, I am interested in Kipling as a celebrant of one of history's most consequential movements: European conquest of the world." *** Nestled among the short stories of the other later science fiction authors we encounter L. Sprague de Camp's poem "Ghost Ships." In a harbor in the sky sailing vessels from galleys through galleons to air craft carriers to atomic submarines lament how each successive improvement in warfare has sunk from earlier glorious standards of sea power (e.g., face-to-face combat or opening up China or Japan). The poem ends with an ancient Phoenician craft predicting that should the next war be atomic: "If any live, they'll fight from bark canoes in broils marine;/ So take your sentimental leave of human naval war!" *** Like HEADS TO THE STORM, its companion volume, A SEPARATE STAR concludes with pieces from Rudyard Kipling. The product of a very young man traveling from India all about North America en route to fame in London, "An Interview with Mark Twain," has nothing obvious to do with science fiction but is a great read for all that. The two intertwined companion stories "With The Night Mail" and "As Easy As ABC" are about the 21st century conquest of war, overpopulation and individualism along with characteristic Kipling descriptions of how machines work. The political verse "MacDonough's Song" mulls over State power and asks "If it be wiser to kill mankind/ Before or after the birth." A future world will look back with satisfaction to Leviathan's annihilation of rule by "The People." ***What strikes me is that were you to pick at random any five phrases or sentences of the four selections of Kipling and compare them with any five phrases sentences randomly chosen from those of his much published, brilliantly creative admirers like Poul Anderson, Gene Wolfe, Joe Haldeman, Gordon Dickson, Sandra Miesel, Richard McKenna, Robert A. Heinlein or others -- then Kipling would win hands down. *** Take six ordinary words from Kipling's "With The Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D.": "three hundred feet nearer the stars." *** The context is this: a giant dirigible or mail packet is about to fly its regular run from from London to Quebec. Five what we would call "containers" (but men of 2000 A.D. call "coaches") contain large work crews. Those coaches are noticed by the story's narrator who is about to be an honored passenger on one such voyage over the Atlantic. Inside the containers men are busy sorting mail bags from various countries for delivery to Canada. Toward five different dirigibles above them the five coaches were "shot up the guides to be locked on to their waiting packets three hundred feet nearer the stars." *** I for one have never coined a phrase as apt as "three hundred feet nearer the stars." Nor can I recall reading anything as good in the essays, poem or stories offered in this superb book by David Drake or Poul Anderson & Company. But Kipling seems to scatter them through every other paragraph with unconscious grace and ease.-OOO-

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Turnaround


Reviewed on Mar 18 2012

In 2004 Regnery published TURNAROUND: CRISIS, LEADERSHIP, AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES. The top of the dust jacket reads "Governor of Massachusetts MITT ROMNEY." From 1999 until early 2002 Mitt Romney was CEO of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC). Suddenly, on Monday March 18, 2002, from one day to the next, he gave up that job and rushed back home to Boston to run in the primaries for State Governor against a Republican incumbent widely considered unre-electable. Hence Regnery's correct assertion in 2004 that the book was written by a sitting Governor of Massachusetts (a position cleanly won and held for the next four years by Willard Mitt Romney). TURNAROUND was re-issued in 2007 with same cover photo but without being attributed to a sitting Governor. For Romney had just finished his stint in the state house and was now running for President! *** When Romney took over as CEO of SLOC in 1999, that organization was reeling from just revealed scandal (the organization having offered dubiously ethical favors to overseas officials to vote that Salt Lake City host the 2002 winter games). Might those games now be cancelled? Or re-awarded to another city? Mitt Romney determined otherwise and tells the story of how he applied to the looming disaster everything he had learned both at Harvard (advanced case study-rooted degrees in law and business) as well as corporate consultant and turnaround specialist in decades with two Boston-based Bain companies. When all the dust had settled March 15, 2002, the Salt Lake City winter games had a $56 million surplus. Athletes were happy. Olympic associations were happy. Fans were ecstatic. It was time to move on to turning around another mess. *** In TURNAROUND's "Epilogue," Romney tells how neither he nor wife Ann made time to celebrate on the spot the triumph of the 2002 Winter Olympics. After three years of unpaid work in Salt Lake City, they were flying back to Boston to save the Republican party in Massachusetts from feared extinction. He would run (successfully) for Governor. "The campaign was a good deal like a turnaround," Mitt wrote. Romney laid out the four elements of the so called "Bain Way" that he had used in Salt Lake City and would now use once again and with greater than ever confidence in the Bay State political campaign. (1) "... vision: know why you're running ... to help people"; (2) "assemble the right people for the team"; (3) "carry out a strategic audit. We analyzed the state and its problems"; and (4) "communicate the vision and challenge the team to stretch." *** TURNAROUND in its passages both about Utah and about Massachusetts shows its author, Mitt Romney, in his apparently pre-ordained element when facing titanic challenges. As wife Ann told the Boston GLOBE, her husband tackled only big messes: "He loves emergencies and catastrophes" (Ch. 3 "Strategic Audit"). *** COMMENT: Presumably, if he should take office as President in January 2013, then turning the Federal Government around from drowning in red ink to budget balance and surplus would be the kind of "emergency" that Mitt Romney "visions" himself putting right. -OOO-

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Mormon In the White House?


Reviewed on Mar 12 2012

On January 4, 2007 Willard (Mitt) Romney, born 1947 in Michigan, ended his four year elected term as Governor of Massachusetts. On February 13, 2007 he officially announced his run for U.S. President as a candidate within the Republican party. Less than a year later, February 7, 2008, Mitt Romney announced his withdrawal in favor of Senator John McCain from a race that he was losing badly for the Republican nomination. The national election that chose Democratic Senator Barack Hussein Obama to be President followed in November 2008, nine months later. *** Meanwhile on March 12, 2007 there was published the book A MORMON IN THE WHITE HOUSE? 10 THINGS EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MITT ROMNEY. Author was Hugh Hewitt, Law professor at Chapman University in southern California, host of a nationally syndicated daily radio talk show and widely read blogger at HughHewitt.com. *** In his book Hugh Hewitt makes two main points: (1) Mitt Romney is eminently qualified to be President of the United States and (2) his vigorous practice of his Mormon faith is not a disqualifier for that high office -- though it may cause millions to vote against him for no other reason. ***Hewitt points to Romney's spotless personal and family life as a starting point for being qualified. From the Governor's biography he focuses on Romney's two years as a Mormon missionary in France. Six months advance immersion in French had laid a foundation for him to remain fluent in that languge even today. Having completed a year at Stanford before his time in France, Romney then went back to college, graduated from Brigham Young, then completed a joint doctorate at Harvard in business and law. He next went to work for global management consultant firm Bain & Company outside Boston. *** Bain and its rigorous methodology for fixing ailing company's was absorbed into and remains part of Romney's psyche. A team of "Bainiacs" would be sent to an ailing company, spend weeks sizing up the problems, with emphasis on gathering data, interviewing, analyzing and then prescribing. Some executives would then hang around the firm to make sure recommendations were implemented. A few years later Mitt Romney took other hard charging Bainiacs with him to found Bain Capital. This new firm not only consulted but invested and sometimes took over an ailing company, turned it around and sold it for a profit. ***In 1981 Romney was summoned back to parent Bain & Company to turn it around, which he did. Chapter Three of A MORMON IN THE WHITE HOUSE? then details Romney's 1999- 2002 turnaround of the woefully mismanaged winter Olympic games in Salt Lake City, with stellar results and big bragging rights. *** Chapter Seven is entitled "Under the Golden Dome: Romney's Governorship." In 1994 he had run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Ted Kennedy. He won the governorship of Massachusetts in 2002 but did not campaign for re-election in 2006. His successful incumbency is remembered for vigorous intervention in Boston's "Big Ditch" scandal and for crafting a state health insurance system. *** After concluding that Willard Mitt Romney is eminently qualified to be President, author Hugh Hewitt devotes no few pages to Romney's Mormon faith. Under the original U.S. constitution, religious tests for office are impermissible. Indeed, according to Hewitt, several Presidents have been outside any recognizable Protestant/Catholic mainstream. George Washington's religion was clearly Freemasonry. Thomas Jefferson was an agnostic at best. Abraham Lincoln never joined a church. ***Hewitt tackles and shoots down three fears of American evangelicals of Mormon Mitt Romney in the White House: (1) Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City will tell him what to do; (2) 60,000 male Mormon missionaries will redouble their zeal to make all Americans Mormon and (3) the Mormon faith is just too weird. All these fears were laid to rest in interviews by the author first of evangelical Protestant Chuck Colson and then conservative Roman Catholic Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput. Said Chaput inter alia: "If Mormon missionaries are successful, it's because other religious communities are too often doing a bad job." Speaking of whether Mormons are handicapped by their "weird" beliefs, Archbishop Chaput said: "If they're hobbled in any way by their beliefs, they're extraordinarily good at hiding it" (Ch. 10). *** Hewitt's A MORMON IN THE WHITE HOUSE? 10 THINGS EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MITT ROMNEY is useful for understanding the Romney presidential campaign of 2011 - 2012. The author, a Presbyterian, is unabashedly pro-Romney and has no patience for people who say that they will never under any circumstances vote for a Mormon in the White House. On the negative side, the book is probably twice as long and wordy as it needs to be to make all its points. On the other hand, whether it's discussing the "Big Ditch" scandal in Boston or all the problems of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, A MORMON IN THE WHITE HOUSE? does not lose itself in trivia or minutiae. It is worth reading. -OOO-

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Heads To the Storm


Reviewed on Mar 7 2012

The 1989 Science Fiction anthology, HEADS TO THE STORM: A TRIBUTE TO RUDYARD KIPLING, cannot technicalliy be called by the German term "Festschrift." But this collection, edited by renowned SciFi-ers David Drake and Sandra Miesel, is a conscious tribute expressed in writing by admirers. To that essential extent it is a Festschrift. But the honoree, 1907 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature Rudyard Kipling, died in 1936, and Festschriften are written to honor the living -- often on their 70th or later birthdays. *** Honoree Kipling appears himself in the final two selections: "The Eye of Allah" (1926) and "They" (1904). Late in life Kipling had described the former as "about a medieval artist, a monastery, and the premature discovery of the microscope." In it we have a profound problem resonating through the ages: how does mankind manage a new discovery that its culture is not ready for: e.g., the splitting of the atom, human cloning, etc. "They" imagines a British country home near Kipling's own house in Sussex where the souls of dead children from the neighborhood like to abide near a kindly childless blind lady for a time. ***There are another 15 SciFi-Fantasy tales in HEADS TO THE STORM. All are by SciFi writers active in 1989 and each writer's tale is preceded by a personal tribute to Rudyard Kipling. Short story writers represented include editors David Drake and Sandra Miesel, Poul Anderson ("Introduction," "The Visitor" and more), C.J. Cherryh, Gene Wolfe, Theodore R. Cogswell, John Brunner ("Mowgli"), Cordwainer Smith, Anne McCaffrey and others. *** Many tributes simply recall the authors' childhood reading and adult re-reading and growing admiration for Kipling's imagination, his attention to the world of machines and to the future. One or two speak of periods when they themselves wrote piece after piece deliberately imitating great writers of the past, especially Rudyard Kipling. In his short but rich essay, "Kipling," John Brunner sees Rudyard Kipling as "possibly the most completely equipped writer ever to tackle the short-story form in the English language. ... he was a master as making the fantastic seem credible." Of particular interest to SciFi readers is Brunner's reporting that "one in six of his published short stories were science fiction or fantasy." *** If you doubt that Rudyard Kipling lives only in his children's stories or in poems like "If" and "The Road to Mandalay," read HEADS TO THE STORM and learn in detail what today's masters of the craft of SciFi and fantasy have to say about their honored pioneering Master. -OOO-

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Hearts That Survive


Reviewed on Feb 27 2012

Who might enjoy North Carolina fiction writer Yvonne Lehman's newest Romance, 2012's HEARTS THAT SURVIVE: A NOVEL OF THE TITANIC? I can think of at least four kinds of readers. *** -- (1) People who are into historical novels based on well documented facts. Fact: the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic was nearly 900 feet long, was registered at over 46,000 tons and had nine decks. It was the world's largest ship then at sea. Crewman shoveled coal into 29 boilers, each three storeys high. Fifteen watertight bulkheads made the RMS Titanic theoretically unsinkable. On its maiden voyage from Portsmouth to New York, carrying mail and roughly 2,200 passengers and crew, shortly before midnight Sunday April 14, 1912, the Titanic scraped an iceberg and sank within hours. Roughly 1,500 souls perished and 700 survived. If all lifeboats had been filled to capacity (they were not) barely 53% of the people aboard could have possibly been saved. In fact, not quite 31% lived to tell the tale. The sinking of the unsinkable, ultra-modern, hyper-safe RMS Titanic was widely seen as a tragic rebuke to human hubris and modern man's reliance on technology. Some said that even God himself drowned with the Titanic. The drama fascinates to this day, for its passenger list (tycoon John Jacob Astor, Mrs Molly Brown -- "the unsinkable" -- et al.) and for the public investigation into what had gone wrong. Novelist Yvonne Lehman, however, adds an entirely new, futuristic dimension: what would the next fifty years have brought a handful of selected fictional survivors? *** -- (2) Readers who love a complicated plot that demands unraveling. In a fast-paced tempo worthy of James Fenimore Cooper at his best, novelist Yvonne Lehman's most graphic, memorable writing in HEARTS THAT SURVIVE describes the chaos, competence, cowardice and heroism during the few scant hours when the giant passenger steamer died and before its survivors were taken from their lifeboats. But even better than those gripping passages is the imaginative plot itself. Lehman invents a fictitious wedding witnessed by 300 first class passengers and crew aboard ship, not many minutes before iceberg collision. Groom John Ancell goes down with the RMS Titanic but not before completing a sonnet to his English bride, 21-year old Lydia Beaumont, and their unborn son Beau. That poem, along with a Scripture reference, John, an English toy train designer and poet, puts into a champagne bottle, corks the bottle and leaves it to the cold sea rushing in. Decades later that bottle will be found and its message reach both Lydia and their grown, now married son Beau, an internationally renowned film maker whose dream is to portray the sinking of the Titanic. For the first time Beau learns who his real father was. *** -- (3) People who like to be reminded that the Christian religion is a living, meaning-giving part of the lives of millions will be intrigued by the varying degrees of Protestant religiosity displayed by leading characters. Young lovers John Ancell and Lydia Beaumont lament their only weeks old, impulsive pre-marital sexual sin, repent, seek and receive Divine forgiveness and then happily rejoice in their coming (but not publicly declared) parenthood. Later a small church in Nova Scotia introduces friends of some characters for the first time to baptism by immersion. And the will of God is seen as a driving force in all of history, including surviving the sinking of the Titanic. Characters act out their religious convictions from time to time with entire naturalness and attractive spontaneity. *** -- (4) A fourth category of readers who will find much to admire in HEARTS THAT SURVIVE are students of psychology and motivation, particularly of what it is that makes women women. Young Rudyard Kipling's fictional Anglo-Indian Mrs Hauksbee was quite firm about women: "we know a great deal more of men than of our own sex." Mrs Yvonne Lehman proves Mrs Hauksbee wrong. She dissects female minds and hearts with the delicate skills of a surgeon. *** I think of Yvonne Lehman's 2012 HEARTS THAT SURVIVE: A NOVEL OF THE TITANIC as an experiment, an extremely bold and in large part successful one. Hitherto the author's best works have been long short stories or novellas. Now comes HEARTS THAT SURVIVE. And this true novel announces to the reading world that we can expect another quantum leap and then one more -- in length, complexity and analysis of emotions in any future fictional works of this popular Western North Carolina writer. Yvonne Lehman has now made herself a promising apprentice writer in the field of the historical novel along the lines created by Sir Walter Scott in WAVERLEY (1814). Unlike Lehman (who relies entirely on written reports) Scott was able to interview old men who had taken part in their boyhod and youth in the 1745 Scottish rising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie Stuart. Lehman has only read about the April 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic. She has not put boots on the ground in Nova Scotia. Her imagination has supplied all the rest of an often dazzling plot. *** Like almost everyone else in our small mountain town of Black Mountain, North Carolina, I know and like our local celebrity author Yvonne Lehman. I have watched her growth as a story teller for nearly 15 years. And grow she does. HEARTS THAT SURVIVE is not without weaknesses. Its Britons, Canadians and Americans tend to sound alike. Her careful efforts at limning British class differences fall short because she has not lived them. Her writing is more simple and folksy than her enormously imaginative and intricate plot might command. But on balance, this, Mrs Lehman's first true historical novel, augurs very, very well for others to come and that will, I trust, be closer to home (German detainees in North Carolina in World War One, for instance) that Yvonne Lehman is known to be considering. -OOO-

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Wee Willie Winkie


Reviewed on Feb 15 2012

We all know "Wee Willie Winkie", don't we? Whether recited in its original 1841 broad lowland Scots or as quickly rephrased in English, generations of mothers have lulled their restless babes to sleep with its rollicking lines. Remember? "The cat is singing purring sounds to the sleeping hen,/ The dog's spread out on the floor, and doesn't give a cheep, /But here's a wakeful little boy who will not fall asleep!" *** But "Wee Willie Winkie" is also a short story dashed off by 22 year-old Rudyard Kipling in 1888 in his last of seven years of newspapering in British India. He had been born in Bombay in December 1865. It begins "His full name was Percival William Williams, but he picked up the other name in a nursery-book, and that was the end of that." Six-year old "Willie-Baba" as he is called by his mother's Indian ayah, is son of the Colonel of the 195th Infantry regiment. One day his favorite subaltern's fiancee rides across the border of British India into the land of the Afghans. Willie rides after on his pony. She is thrown and both are about to be held for ransom by what Willie calls Bad Men or Goblins. But the men of the 195th ride up and Wee Willie is a hero. *** This story also lends its title to a book: one of 14 longish short stories dashed off by Kipling in 1888 or earlier in between stints for pure journalism for two Anglo-Indian newspapers. Advertising in 1888 said this about the content of WEE WILLIE WINKIE AND OTHER CHILD STORIES: "illustrations of the four main features of Anglo-Indian life, viz., the Military, Domestic, Native and Social." *** Not all of the 14 stories are about children. And certainly some are distinctly NOT for children, being about light-hearted or bored adulteries of 7,000 foot high hill station Simla, summer capital of the British Raj. Tales readers might already know include "The Phantom Rickshaw," "Baa Baa, Black Sheep," "The Drums of the Fore and Aft" and "The Man who would be King." The last was made into a 1975 feature film directed by John Huston and starring Sean Connery as ill-fated free-booting Freemasons Daniel Dravot and Michael Caine as Peachy Carnehan. "Baa Baa Black Sheep" is a depressing tale of child abuse, as Kipling and sister Trix (Alice) lived it from age 5 to 12 in a seaside English boarding house where he had been left by his parents when they left the youngsters there and returned to Bombay and then moved on to Lahore in India. *** WEE WILLIE WINKIE AND OTHER CHILD STORIES abounds in tales worth reading even if you have no knowledge of Kipling's life. But they are also part of the Kipling biography and especially its annus mirabilis 1888 when Kipling published some of his earliest works of genius. -OOO-

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Winter King


Reviewed on Feb 12 2012

In a "Dear Bookseller" epistle introducing his 2012 edition of WINTER KING: HENRY VII AND THE DAWN OF TUDOR ENGLAND, author Thomas Penn writes the following: "Henry VII was the first Tudor king. He is also the one Tudor monarch that we don't know, and his is the story that has until now remained untold." He held power for nearly 25 years. In many respects Henry VII "remains ... the most fascinating Tudor of them all." He proved that royal power could grow "through surveillance, commodity trading and the manipulation of money markets" in an age "in which everything was up for grabs." Secondarily, WINTER KING also dissects the not notably affectionate relationship between Henry VII and his second son and successor, Prince Henry, later King Henry VIII. *** Two men could not have been temperamentally more different. And Henry VIII ostensibly quickly tore down almost all of his father's centralizing ad hoc institutions which placed terrifying power over subjects in the the hands of the King. And yet a quarter century after coming to power as a strapping teenager, Henry VIII had destroyed the power of the Pope in England and Ireland, using revived elements of his father's system of control of his subjects and a string of villainous ministers worthy of those chosen by the first Tudor. ***If there is any thoroughly off-putting element in this well researched biography, it is the author's distinctly personal "non-timeless" at times smart Alec English. Thomas Penn's text abounds in slang and anachronistic terminology. Characters "parachute in" to events. When fearing death, Henry VII lets a little "glasnost" slip into his rule. People are "framed" for crimes they did not commit. I have found paragraphs with two or three such howlers in the space of very few words. Serious history as comic strip? -OOO-

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A House Divided


Reviewed on Jan 25 2012

Who can profit most from Vincent Martin's 1995 A HOUSE DIVIDED: THE PARTING OF THE WAYS BETWEEN SYNAGOGUE AND CHURCH? Who least? *** Scholars who have spent their lives studying the whys and hows of Christianity's separating from its mother Judaism will probably spend three or four easy hours with a text that skims through (from a pedant's perspective) libraries of controversy. They will note that Martin interprets. He spins. Scholars will take as normal the author's view as just one more among many. *** Laymen, by contrast, just getting started on how Judaism spun off Christianity will find A HOUSE DIVIDED a slow but very rewarding read. Especially so, if they have alrady read two or three books which sweep through the centuries giving "the big picture." They will have read a bit about Second Temple Judaism, the controversy as to whether Jesus was a loyal Jew or an apostate, the decisive turning to the Gentiles by Saul/Paul, the influence of the Septuagint translation of Hebrew Scriptures, about synagogues of the diaspora and more broad brush materials. ***Broad brush preliminary reading is excellent preparation for A HOUSE DIVIDED. The author will not be rushed. He spends time with the life and personality of Jesus: did he attract the first disciples because of his friendliness rather than his teaching? Martin also looks with delicate care at various strata of Jews in Palestine at the time of the Crucifixion. How many people were really set against Jesus and why? Decade by decade we move with the Apostles outward toward Antioch and more interaction with Hellenized Jews and God Fearers of the Diaspora. We see Saul/Paul as almost the Leon Trotsky of early Christianity or a Henry Ford: "History is bunk" for Paul. Of the whole Old Testament it is the story of Abraham that matters to Paul.Paul was not "taught" his Christianity and he is not empathetic with people, who like the earliest disciples, were slow, slow learners. ***Movement toward a Christian break with real-life post Temple Destruction (70 CE) rabbinic Judaism accelerates in the diaspora as more and more pagans move directly to baptism without submitting to the Jewish law on circumcision, diet and more. But the decisive break comes with the second century popularity of the writings of John, probably the Beloved Disciple. For the first time with great clarity Jesus the carpenter's son is presented as the pre-existing Word of God. God stooped to become matter, human. To emerging rabbinical Judaism this conception was an abomination: to insult God when Jews were deepening their sense of God as utterly other than his creation, transcendent. ***Those are some of the main lines of A HOUSE DIVIDED. It is not the first book a novice will want to read as he/she digs into the history behind 2000 years of Jewish-Christian interaction, misunderstandings and conflict. But it may well be book number five or six. -OOO-

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The Science Fiction Stories Of Rudyard Kipling


Reviewed on Jan 18 2012

It is no secret to scholars that 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936) was a master and innovator within the genre of the short story. But who ever thinks of Kipling as a pioneer science-fiction (SciFi) writer? And yet he was. Distinguished British SciFi novelist John Brunner assures us of that fact. And in homage to his master he has collected and edited nine Kipling short stories and a poem from KIM and issued them in 1994's THE SCIENCE FICTION STORIES OF RUDYARD KIPLING. *** Not only does Brunner individually frame each story first published between 1893 and 1932 with incisive introductory notes and needed glossary but also, in a general introduction "About Rudyard Kipling" locates the writer convincingly against his times, biography and physical ailments. *** And what a collection we have: a true sea serpent story which no one will believe unless presented as fiction; a thinking, talking steamship whose thousands of rivets, plates and other parts only form themselves into a unified soul during a first Atlantic voyage amid high winds and higher waves; a brand new thinking, communicating train engine that proves its mettle on its first night in service; in the early days of Marconi an effort to communicate wirelessly taps into time and produces a manuscript poem being labored over many decades earlier by young John Keats. *** Then come two intertwined tales: 1909's "With the Night Mail - A Story of 2000 A.D." and 1912 (written), 1917 (published) "As Easy As A.B.C." Both foresee a world united by ligher than air flying ships, carrying mail, passengers and other cargo. The world of 2000 and later has not eliminated tuberculosis but has virtually stamped out both anarchism and democracy in the name of law and order. *** 1917's "In The Same Boat" assumes that mental horrors can be traced back to a mother's trauma imprinted on her child in the womb: in this case on two affluent, very attractive young adults whose doctors cause them to share an overnight train ride to the west of London. Editor Brunner "can never help wondering whether this was where L. Ron Hubbard stole the idea for the pre-natal traumas that in DIANETICS he termed 'engrams.'" *** This short SciFi anthology races to its conclusion with 1926's "The Eye of Allah," 1932's "Unprofessional" and a poem " The Fairies' Siege -- Enlarged from KIM" (1901). ***What a great romp! Some of the stories are long enough to feel like mini-novellas. But all challenge mind and imagination. Kipling was one of the first poets of machines and the machine age. He showed machines empathizing with their human masters, much as dogs do; but in the case of machines, people do not notice. -OOO-

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Christouch


Reviewed on Jan 13 2012

A March 25, 2009 negative evaluation in GUIDELINES FOR EVALUATING REIKI AS AN ALTERNATIVE THERAPY seems to have provoked as one of several responses the short 2011 book by Lauri Ann Lumby - CHRISTOUCH:A CHRIST-CENTERED APPROACH TO ENERGY MEDICINE THROUGH HANDS-ON-HEALING. GUIDELINES was issued by the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. That document found Reiki "not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence." Over time, I suspect, GUIDELINES will be defeated by CHRISTOUCH much as Charles Kingsley's critiques of John Henry Newman were annihilated by Newman's APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA. *** In rebuttal of GUIDELINES, relying primarily on passages from Scripture (mainly New Testament -- principally the four Gospels but also I Corinthians) author Lumby makes a very creditable and useful first effort to Christianize Reiki. That Oriental approach to hand healing originated in early 20th Century Japan with marked Buddhist thought components and related Eastern origin hand healing methods. Reiki stressed that the healer is merely a channel for "divinely guided energy" ("Rei Ki") to heal the sick. *** Having learned Reiki herself from a Roman Catholic Reiki Master Practitioner, Lauri Ann Lumby makes an outstandingly good preliminary, cutting through the underbrush effort of showing that Reiki and related hand healing can be understood using completely Christian, Bible-based thought processes by which to frame and baptize originally Buddhist/Hindu expressed aspects of Reiki and related non-traditional healing methods. *** Obliquely, Ms Lumby raises such questions as why the Roman Catholic Church does not place more emphasis on Jesus the healer. For the great Galilean beyond doubt healed the sick who flocked to him precisely in order to be healed. He empowered his followers to heal as they simultaneously preached the Good News. Perhaps not every Christian is individually gifted to heal. But some surely are within the context of 1 Corinthians 12: 4 - 11; 22-27, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good...to one ... to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit" (the healing gift is explicitly distinguished from the next listed gift of miracles). ***The creative author gives advice on how to discern spirits and to determine whether God is calling an individual reader to healing ministry. She limns no less than Jesus himself as the model for Christian healing. Ms Lumby also, citing Rocco Errico, argues that prayer -- which she commends as a staple of daily living --is itself a form of Reiki's "attunement." As with a radio tuning dial, one who prays adjusts the dial until it resonates with "a clear connection with God." *** In Chapter Four Lauri Ann Lumby intertwines Christian doctrine and Eastern Energy medicine by way of "baptizing" the Oriental chakra system of energy flows. In Eastern medicine the seven major chakras of the human body are seen as channels (1) to observe the human body, (2) to diagnose its ills (energy blockages) and (3) to cure them. Ms Lumby interprets the sacred symbolism of Judaeo-Christian use of the number 7 (e.g., deadly sins, sacraments and on and on) as expressing wholeness, completeness as an ideal human basis for relating to the Divine, as when Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary of Magdala. *** Chapter Five, "The Protocol" speaks of how to deal with a client who has asked for healing. It displays 12 black and white photographs of hand positions in relation to the seven chakras to facilitate God's healing through the praying practitioner of Christouch. Chapter Six relates hand healing to the great Christian experience of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire. Three Appendixes (A) relate the Chakra system, within a Christian framework, to a general theory of human wholeness; (B) present a suggested Christouch "Commissioning Ceremony; and (C) give a checklist of "The Practical Stuff" to bear in mind in hand healing (e.g. liability insurance, ad hoc tables and chairs, music and atmospherics. The book concludes with a one-page Suggested Reading list, most of it thoroughly unfamiliar to this reviewer. *** As a pioneering effort to Christianize Eastern Reiki and related hand healing alternative healing techniques, Lauri Ann Lumby's CHRISTOUCH treads a path gone along before her by Saint Augustine when he integrated the Gospel with the thinking of pagans Aristotle, Plato and Plotinus or when Saint Thomas Aquinas unearthed and baptized the core of Aristotle in the writings of Muslim Avicenna and Averroes. Whatever its flaws (if any) in terms of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, CHRISTOUCH is a bold original attempt at cross-cultural, religions-spanning framing of Reiki and her energy healing sisters -- which boast plenty of anecdotal evidence that they work. If it is any consolation to the author, even Saint Thomas Aquinas, if memory serves, was once excommunicated by an Archbishop of Paris. -OOO-

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Interwoven Destinies


Reviewed on Jan 8 2012

Working in cross-confessional teams, seminars and ad hoc groups around the globe, Christian and Jewish scholars are hard at work tackling every aspect of their INTERWOVEN DESTINIES, the title of an exciting collection of essays that appeared in 1993. The collection's editor is much-published Roman Catholic scholar Eugene J. Fisher. The book's subtitle is JEWS AND CHRISTIANS THROUGH THE AGES. *** All but one of the book's eight essays (as well as the author's Introduction and Epilogue) were first presented in May 1986 at the Ninth National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations, held in Baltimore. *** The book's content is rich and forward looking. Its authors move within an emerging and generally accepted framework of seven important historical periods for research: (1) the life, death and teaching of Jesus the Galilean and his Jewish context; (2) Resurrection of Jesus and First Century CE writings before the 70 CE destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem (earliest writings of Paul; (3) the "Parting of the Ways" of the two Abrahamic Faiths (70 - 350); (4) From the Christian Roman Imperium till the Crusades; (5) from the Middle Ages till 1600, nadir of Jewish-Christian relations; (6) from the Enlightenment to Nazi Germany; (7) from the 1944 Allied liberations of Nazi death camps to the present. *** The final period in Jewish-Christian relations since 1944 has seen the re-creation of a land and state of Israel, Rome's Second Vatican Council and changed Catholic thinking on historic anti-Judaism and condemnations of anti-Semitism as well as intense scholarly cooperation among Christians and Jews. What has, allegedly, not yet happened to any great extent is trickling down of scholarly advances to "the men and women in the pews." *** The eight essays are presented chronologically in order of the seven periods touched upon by their authors. Thus, the first essay by Jesuit Daniel J. Harrington is "The Teaching of Jesus in his Context." Jesus is now seen in both confessions as a Jew sui generis, but in many ways totally contextualized by his world of First Century Israel: in politics, languages and trends within Judaism. Once Judaism of that time seemed very simple. "There was a time not too long ago (with clear assumptions) ... There were Pharisees and Sadducees, something like Democrats and Republicans in America today. Off by the side were the so-called 'peoples of the land,' the shadowy Essenes, the elusive Zealots, and wild apocayptists" (p. 15). *** No more! Not, that is, since the 1940s and 50s discovery of the library at Qumran. First Century Judaism is now seen as vastly complex and it may therefore prove impossible to answer "What sort of Jew was Jesus?" *** INTERWOVEN DESTINIES is a fine survey of Jewish-Christian scholarship as it had evolved by the early 1990s. Much has happened since. But the essays and the bibliographies lay a reliable foundation for lay Jews and Christians to read with much fruit more recent books on the same general subject or on the seven periods studies by specialists. -OOO-

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Sister Queens


Reviewed on Dec 31 2011

Isabella Queen of Castile and Leon (1451 -1504) and her husband Ferdinand King of Aragon (1452 - 1516) had five surviving children: one son and four daughters. Two other pregnancies miscarried. Of these five children of the royal house of Trastamara, author Julia Fox in SISTER QUEENS (2012) highlights Katherine (1485 - 1536) Princess of Aragon and her older sister Juana (1479 - 1555), Queen of Castile. *** The children and grandchildren of Queen Juana of Castile were plentiful, starting with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and his younger brother Ferdinand, important within the Hapsburg Dynasty, who succeeded Charles as Emperor. For over two centuries the downline of Queen Juana were important European rulers or their consorts. Queen Juana's younger sister Katherine, wife in succession of Arthur Prince of Wales and Henry VIII, King of England, produced only one living heir, Mary Tudor (1516 - 1558). Marrying at age 37 her cousin Philip, son of her nephew Emperor Charles, Mary Tudor (Queen Mary I of England 1553 - 1558) produced no living heirs. Philip became King of England, with no right of succession if his wife produced no children. Mary briefly restored England to unity with the Papacy, a unity quickly undone by her half-sister Queen Elizabeth I. *** Queen Juana of Castile was called "the Mad" during her lifetime. Her mental disorders, largely discounted by subsequent historians and author Julia Fox gave a pretext to three power-mad, ungenerous men in succession to rule her kingom in her name, her Hapsburg husband Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy, then her father King Ferdinand of Aragon and finally her son Charles V. They kept her a virtual prisoner. ***Julia Fox gives perhaps three times as much space to Juana's younger sister Katherine (who like their mother Queen Isabella also had English royal blood through John of Gaunt). Although only a consort, Katherine was regent of England while Henry VIII was waging an early war in France. To her goes much credit for the decisive defeat of Henry VIII's brother in law King James IV of Scotland at the battle of Flodden Field (9/11/1513). Both Queens were cruelly misused by their male relatives and both died isolated from their people. -OOO-

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Reiki the Healing Touch


Reviewed on Dec 27 2011

FYI: The copy that I am reviewing of REIKI THE HEALING TOUCH by WIlliam Lee Rand is dated 1998. Editions listed by biblio.com are dated 2000. The first edition was issued in 1991. End FYI. *** An advanced Reiki practitioner in my town has applied a few hours of reiki to me in connection with 18 hours of Pilates therapy. She did not, however, "attune" me and thereby give me, like her, the ability to "channel Reiki energy" to myself or to others. That is the extent of what I knew about Reiki before reading this book. ***William Lee Rand's book is not repeat NOT aimed primarily at general readers like me. For such as me, this book can be helpful as an aid in deciding whether we wish to take standard Reiki training. REIKI - THE HEALING TOUCH has, however, a different intended primary readership: people who have already received some systematic Reiki training or are actively preparing themselves through such reading to begin training very soon. ***I have read the entire text straight through from beginning to end, taking many notes. For general readers like myself I recommend that you read the first sentence of Chapter One: for a preliminary defining of Reiki. Next skip straight to the back of the book and read Appendix C to learn how long you must study and how much pay to be empowered to provide elementary Reiki energy transfer. Thereafter dip around the book at random: Index, hand positions, metaphysical and religious underpinnings as you see fit. *** Preliminary Definition: "Reiki (pronounced RAY-key) is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing." *** Elementary Training and Cost: Reiki Levels I and II are taught together during a two-day weekend for $310 (within the USA). By close of day two, the novice will have been attuned and empowered to transfer Reiki energy. He has learned hand positions, how to give a complete Reiki treatment, Reiki symbols, distant healing and the all important scanning and beaming. "Nurses, massage therapists and body workers" and other health care practitioners who have completed this weekend training are now eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEU) training within their disciplines. *** The book is well illustrated and begins with the life, work (early 1900s) and teachings of Reiki founder Dr Mikao Usui. There is discussion of learning in previous lives, the nature of Reiki energy, its uniqueness among energy medicine techniques of not draining personal energy from the practitioner and much, much more. It is very practical. It is clearly written.The book gives you an adequate elementary vocabulary to discuss with a local practitioner whether you can helpfully be treated with Reiki for lumbar pain, anxiety or other ailments. -OOO-

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Reiki the Healing Touch


Reviewed on Dec 27 2011

FYI: The copy that I am reviewing of REIKI THE HEALING TOUCH by WIlliam Lee Rand is dated 1998. Editions listed by biblio.com are dated 2000. The first edition was issued in 1991. End FYI. *** An advanced Reiki practitioner in my town has applied a few hours of reiki to me in connection with 18 hours of Pilates therapy. She did not, however, "attune" me and thereby give me, like her, the ability to "channel Reiki energy" to myself or to others. That is the extent of what I knew about Reiki before reading this book. ***William Lee Rand's book is not repeat NOT aimed primarily at general readers like me. For such as me, this book can be helpful as an aid in deciding whether we wish to take standard Reiki training. REIKI - THE HEALING TOUCH has, however, a different intended primary readership: people who have already received some systematic Reiki training or are actively preparing themselves through such reading to begin training very soon. ***I have read the entire text straight through from beginning to end, taking many notes. For general readers like myself I recommend that you read the first sentence of Chapter One: for a preliminary defining of Reiki. Next skip straight to the back of the book and read Appendix C to learn how long you must study and how much pay to be empowered to provide elementary Reiki energy transfer. Thereafter dip around the book at random: Index, hand positions, metaphysical and religious underpinnings as you see fit. *** Preliminary Definition: "Reiki (pronounced RAY-key) is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing." *** Elementary Training and Cost: Reiki Levels I and II are taught together during a two-day weekend for $310 (within the USA). By close of day two, the novice will have been attuned and empowered to transfer Reiki energy. He has learned hand positions, how to give a complete Reiki treatment, Reiki symbols, distant healing and the all important scanning and beaming. "Nurses, massage therapists and body workers" and other health care practitioners who have completed this weekend training are now eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEU) training within their disciplines. *** The book is well illustrated and begins with the life, work (early 1900s) and teachings of Reiki founder Dr Mikao Usui. There is discussion of learning in previous lives, the nature of Reiki energy, its uniqueness among energy medicine techniques of not draining personal energy from the practitioner and much, much more. It is very practical. It is clearly written.The book gives you an adequate elementary vocabulary to discuss with a local practitioner whether you can helpfully be treated with Reiki for lumbar pain, anxiety or other ailments. -OOO-

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Eden In Limbo


Reviewed on Dec 20 2011

Under review: Ms Jan Peregrine's 1999 EDEN IN LIMBO: A THREE ACT PLAY IN SPIRIT. Its Dedication: "This novel is written for all the marginal people of society. ... I hope to inspire reflection and compassion through these words." *** An introductory Verse "Eden" asserts the reality of a paradise that all of us can hope to find; "if it is not shared, though,/it is Eden in limbo." In a page and a half "Prologue" the unidentified third-person narrator places stage center a character called "Third God ... or rather the Third Emanation of God." He has been given yet another assignment by "Boss, the First God." Third God is to assume human form, gather together some humans and answer their questions. Why? "Nothing else seems to be working, anyway. So few people inhabit the spirt and the soul of God." *** How assemble the right people? By "advertising on the Internet." Third God will go in the door of many who reply to his Internet invitation (they are hoping for an encounter with Jesus the Good Shepherd) in order to come out Third God's own door: namely, to realize how "he is much more than Jesus, yes indeed, more than one religion's concept." Third God finds the perfect scene, "a quiet lovely meadow in the hills," to encounter his human auditors and is made welcome there by its inhabitants: oak trees, a cooling wind, flox and buttercups. *** The rest of EDEN IN LIMBO spreads for a few hours of an afternoon across three Acts and 20 Scenes, an Epilogue and three verses. 25 additional verses in the Appendix then "show you why I wrote EDEN IN LIMBO, how it came to be. You will also see my dreams in a very real way," says author Peregrine.*** The Third God, God's Holy Spirit, sets up folding chairs for his guests. After they arrive in cars, he reads the thoughts of the dozens of people whom his Internet invitation has persuaded to the meadow, invites their questions, joshes with them and tries to make himself and "Boss" unnecessary to their daily lives! Boss kindly makes the sun stay above the horizon a few hours longer than usual, so that there is time enough for divine-human interaction before Third God falls silent and eventually goes away. *** The author singles out a few humans in the crowd for attention, including a male homosexual couple, two ailing, believing Christian women, an East Indian couple and others. But the principal human heroine is a tall, angry, emotionally damaged Sioux Indian woman named Felicia. Whites have confined the Lakota to reservations. Circumabient Jesuits have killed the Indian Gods. ***Third God first tells how Boss, a female, created the known universe -- not from nothing but from pre-existing tightly packed, dazzling, annoying, noisy, congolomerates of lights -- by Boss's breathing and spreading the lights out far and wide where they can be seen to be beautiful. The rest of the afternoon is given over to dialog between Third God and his visitors. *** The message that Boss wants the Holy Spirit to share (In a nutshell, spirit and soul are what is important, not organized religion) is laid out most unequivocally and powerfully in Scene Five that concludes Act II. People have to learn to think for themselves. Third God: "My job ... is to make it so you don't really need me! Yes to work myself out of a job." Speaking to Felicia and her new friend Kyle, Third God asks: "Has Jesus changed your life, Felicia, Kyle? If you hadn't heard of him, would your life be any different? Same thing with God. If you hadn't heard about God, would you be the same person?" ***The bottom line: EDEN IN LIMBO is a well constructed novella or short play. In its narrative and through her 28 poems author Jan Peregrine of Omaha, Nebraska, presents a vision of God(s) meant to cut across all organized religions and empower the marginalized and humiliated persons of Earth to live in soul and spirit. This they could never do when simply obeying divine decrees laid upon them from without. Third God can be flippant, patronizing, generally superficial compared to an Aristotle or a Thomas Aquinas. But his message of self-confident individualism undeniably provokes thought by readers. And that seems to be a large part of what the author wants. -OOO-

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The Picture Of Dorian Gray


Reviewed on Dec 13 2011

Within months of each other appeared two sensational first English novels: THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY and THE LIGHT THAT FAILED. The first was by Irishman Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854 - 1900); the second by Anglo-Indian Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936). Both appeared in the same Philadelphia magazine in 1890. Both were then in 1891 quickly reworked, enlarged and issued as books. Both novels are about London painters, paintings, art and theories of art. Both have been made into excellent feature films. Both novels end tragically for their heroes, respectively pleasure-seeking Dorian Gray and war scenes painter Dick Heldar. *** Oscar Wilde preached that life imitates art, Rudyard Kipling the opposite. For Kipling (who grew up in artistic circles on both his mother's and his father's side) a good painter looked carefully at a scene then painted his memory of it better than what he had actually seen. Much traveled painter Dick Heldar notes that during his months in London he heard more admittedly competent painters talking at parties about painting than he ever saw evidence that they actually worked with canvases. That would have been the fashionable world of Oscar Wilde and his fanatic imitatators. It is, in a nutshell, instructive to read and compare THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY and THE LIGHT THAT FAILED. *** Dorian Gray is 20 at novel's beginning and 38 or older when on Wilde's novel's last page he is found in his locked childhood nursery deformed, hideous and dead, a knife in his heart and with his famous picture once again that of a beautiful, innocent 20-year old, looming in judgment above him. Gray's ten years older Ch. 19) friend Lord Henry Wotton very early on convinces a still innocent Dorian that his youth and beauty are his greatest assets. An agitated Dorian then wishes or prays that his body might remain young while a just completed adoring portrait would both age and display his moral developments -- instead of Dorian himself. Over time the picture and its changes for the worse became Dorian's conscience. *** Dorian got his wish. Despite sporadic, perhaps merely hypocritical efforts to be good, Dorian Gray does heartless deeds. He callously rebuffs Sybil Vane, a young, good, innocent actress who loves him and who then takes poison. Dorian Gray murders his onetime friend and admirer the painter Basil Hallward who created the picture that is Dorian's conscience. Over an 18 year period, Gray alienates most of the ostensbily correct, decent upper class people in London. His friends are always the worse for being his friends. *** At times throughout the novel's 20 chapters, a reader feels as if half the text is non-narrative, given over to philosophizing about morality and art, to discussing aesthetic theories and to giving hints at literary sources behind the decadent nihilism preached by Dorian Gray and his mentor Lord Henry Wotton. This didactic dimension of the novel is well summarized when Dorian Gray tells Lord Henry: "You would sacrifice anybody, Harry, for the sake of an epigram" (Ch. 18). ***THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is good read. The narrative is undemanding, gothic, realistic, and moves forward, posed tableau following tableau with increasing speed. The didactic half, with its digressions into architecture, decadent French literature, tapestries and priestly vestments and far more demands close attention. The last ten chapters are shorter than the first ten and the pace of the narrative accordingly accelerates. This is above all a novel of conscience, religion, morals and the life of artists. It abounds in epigrams, smart sayings and repartee. -OOO-

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The Light That Failed


Reviewed on Nov 24 2011

In 1889 the 23-year old Rudyard settled in London after seven intensely active years as a very young journalist in British India. Before he was 25, verses and stories originally published in India such as the short story "Baa Baa, Black Sheep" had been re-issued to acclaim in England and America. And fresh materials poured out, notably 1891's THE LIGHT THAT FAILED. Kipling dashed off that hugely autobiographical novel off within a three-month publisher's deadline. It drew heavily on his first and just then ending romance with painter Florence Garrard which had begun when both were teenagers. Florence became the model for aspiring painter Maisie in THE LIGHT THAT FAILED, as was also Kipling's beloved sister Trix, drawn on for Maisie when very young. *** Hero of THE LIGHT THAT FAILED is Dick Heldar, talented, rising but more than a little cynical London artist and onetime companion in Africa of famed war correspondent Gilbert Belling Torpenow. During the 1885 Sudan campaign to relieve besieged General Charles Gordon in Khartoum, Dick and Torpenow defended themselves together during a battle when Dick received a blow to the head. Within a few years that fateful saber cut made Dick blind, just after completing his greatest painting, "Melancholia." Without now blind Dick's noticing, but just after it had been admired by a stunned Torpenow, that great painting was destroyed by Heldar's vengeful, low-class scheming young model Bessie Broke. Bessie had made a romantic play for Torpenow, which Dick had put an end to. *** THE LIGHT THAT FAILED is about art and what makes it good or bad. It was written during the heyday of Oscar Wilde and Wilde's view that life follows art. Kipling is of the opposite view. Not for Kipling, Torpenow or Dick Heldar is there appeal in the effete artistic dandies of London salons who would rather talk about art than paint. Torpenow and other war correspondents write of and Dick at his best paints with honesty he-men soldiers of the Queen dying and doing and suffering unspeakable things in foreign wars. *** Dick loves Maisie with growing passion, which she never reciprocates, thanks to the baleful influence of her roommate, "the red-headed woman." In the end forever blind Dick returns privately, unponsored and uninvited to a later war in Sudan only, after adventures, to be shot from his saddle about to descent from a camel and die at the front in Torpenow's arms. *** Critics marvel that THE LIGHT THAT FAILED has never once been out of print, despite its being, in their view, of the third among perhaps five ranks in Kipling's voluminous writings. The novel has been twice transformed into a feature film, most recently in 1939 starring Ronald Colman as Dick Heldar. The book has staying power, even today being studied in university courses in feminism where Kipling's explorations of inter-sex and intra-sex personal relations come to the fore. -OOO-

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Healing Touch


Reviewed on Nov 16 2011

"Practitioners can receive energy through their heartfelt intentions and send it to a recipient with their hands." So writes Cyndi Dale, author of THE SUBTLE BODY: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF YOUR ENERGETIC ANATOMY (2009). The sentence quoted above appears in Ms Dale's Foreword to her friend Dorothea Hover-Kramer's HEALING TOUCH: ESSENTIAL ENERGY MEDICINE FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS (2011). *** Elsewhere (Ch. 17) Linnie Thomas writes,: "Of the over 200 therapies that I have investigated within energy medicine, Healing Touch is the best entry-level program in energy medicine available, and the most professional." Linnie Thomas is the author of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ENERGY MEDICINE (2010, 568 pp.) ***Who will, who should read HEALING TOUCH? Allegedly, there are at least two to six million clients or patients who have applied, taught, taken or benefitted from energy medicine. Readers of HEALING TOUCH will certainly include thousands of American nurses, the core users of the hand healing techniques described by Dorothea Hover-Kramer. In addition, users or beneficiaries of Reiki, a different, Buddhism-derived hand healing system, will be curious about how Hover-Kramer's Healing Touch Program (1989) differs from the Reiki revealed in Japan during a Buddhist retreat to Mikao Usui (1914). Novices simply curious about new buzz words involving magnetic medicine, chakras, meridians, Chinese medicine, energy healing, Ayurvedic medicine, auras, bodyfields and other terms will want to add HEALING TOUCH to his or her short list of "must" readings. *** With so many energy therapies, related associations and web sites now available, each major technique is, perhaps inevitably at this early stage, very teacher specific or author specific. Dr (Phd in Educational Psychology) Hover-Kramer therefore lays out her earned credentials as well as her 30-year healing career, including nothing but successes in relieving headaches or accelerating the healing of wounds, etc. through Healing Touch, a very concrete program (HTP) widely taught since 1990. *** Dr Hover-Kramer lays out a brief history of the Healing Touch Program (HTP) and its predecessors such as Therapeutic Touch. The author concedes that evidence to date for the effectiveness of Healing Touch as an alternative to traditional Western diagnosis and chemical and surgical healing is still overwhelmingly anecdotal and episodic. But there are now, as well, nearly 100 scientific studies of the emerging field of energy medicine. And more are on the way. In addition NIH (National Institutes of Health) has been studying alternative (non-allopathic) medicines since the 1980s. The NIH's NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Aternative Medicine) has listed seven areas of "adjuncts to conventional medical care." Reiki and Healing Touch fit among area Seven: "Interventions that bring about integration of body and mind such as yoga, prayer, mental and emotional healing, and energy medicine modalities." Not-unrelated bio-electromagnetic applications make up area One. And be it noted that Healing Touch assumes that human bodies are vibrating magnetic fields and that removing obstacles in flows within those fields heals. *** With many black and white drawings of how and where to place hands in order to heal, HEALING TOUCH is an impressive, simple, easily understandable, not very deminding but rewarding read. Demystification of energy healing and hand healing is what this book is all about. To be effective, a practitioner must above all care for, will the good of, love the person being treated. The rest is a matter of training. This is non-interventive medicine at its promising best. But way out there Healing Touch is -- at the cutting edge of main-stream medicine's rawest, newest frontier. -OOO-

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The Gospel Of John Set Free


Reviewed on Nov 11 2011

John the Evangelist and his Christian community had recently gone through very hard times with their Jewish neighbors. Had John and other Christians had their way, they would have at a minimum have still been regarded as Jews -- Messianic Jews to be sure, believing that the Messiah of Israel had come and that he was Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter's son. Other Messianic Jews had continued to be regarded as Jewish. But the other Jews who controlled access to the local synagogue had expelled John and his fellow followers of Jesus. John's people were no longer fellow-worshippers of the followers of Moses. John was emotionally scarred and bitter.***In THE GOSPEL OF JOHN SET FREE: PREACHING WITHOUT ANTI-JUDAISM, Roman Catholic theologian George M. Smiga of Ohio explains how elements of that small but contentious, early Christian-Jewish quarrel spilled over into John's Gospel -- with disastrous centuries-long consequences still with us today souring Christian - Jewish interactions. ***Possibly as a result of the fight that expelled him and his fellow believers from their synagogue, John preached a uniquely unbridgeable gulf between light and darkness, between believers in Jesus and any and all who did not receive him as Messiah of Israel. *** By the time John wrote, the temple in Jerusalem was long destroyed and its central liturgical and legal role in Jewish religion and culture was a thing of the past. There were no more high priests, temple guards, other staff, merchants selling animals for sacrifice or temple Scribes. The aristocratic, largely perhaps pro-Roman Sadducees, once closely linked to temple worship, had ceased to dominate Jewish practice. The previously somewhat marginalized seven schools of Pharisees (Jesus's personal torah was regarded as close to at least one of those schools) now increasingly dominated a splintered Judaism. John's late first century enemies were Pharisees. But John's enemies were not necessarily Jesus's foes a half century earlier. *** In Father Smiga's view, John made a bad mistake when he read back into the days of observant Jew Jesus of Nazareth the quarrels that Christian John & Co. had mounted with neighboring Jews. Jesus had been cynically put to death not by non-existent Jewish legal authority but rather by the personal decision of Roman procurator Pontius Pilate -- and on a cross at that, a peculiarly Roman punishment for crimes against the state. Pilate had appointed the Chief Priests of the Jewish religion. They and their staff were therefore beholden to Pilate and were expected as their first duty to keep the peace. After seeing Jesus welcomed with palms on his last entry into Jerusalem, "the authorities" (Greek: hoi archontes), a faction of the Rome-beholden Temple aristocracy, warned Pilate that they needed his help to keep the lid on, to assure that the Jesus people did not disturb the peace during traditionally nationalistic Passover worship in Jerusalem. *** In writing up his life of Jesus, light of the world and son of God, John rather carelessly misrepresented the main, most lethal opponents of Jesus during Jesus's three year long public ministry. John at times misidentified them as Pharisees (political "outs" in Jeus's day), at other times simply "the Jews" (Greek: hoi Ioudaioi). And John threw those very dubious title about as if all Pharisees or indeed every single Jew in the world was determined to snuff out the one, true light of the world, to injure or kill their true Messiah and thus to deserve severest punishment. *** Father Smiga's book is conceived as an aid to Roman Catholic preachers. It identifies and clarifies (including by means of Rabbinical interpretations) every passage of John's Gospel in all the major Masses prayed during the currently enforced three year liturgical lectionary cycle. Smiga then examines each passage in each text for signs of possibly misleading anti-Jewish sentiment or argumentation and shows preachers how to mitigate the damage. *** And damage there has been down the centuries, starting with early Church fathers, and culminating in the writings of early fifth century patriarch of Constantinople and Doctor of the Church, Saint John Chrysostom. *** Since the 1960s, following the lead of the Second Vatican Council, Catholics have been re-examining their attitudes toward Jews and Judaism. No longer is it permissible to see Catholicism as having "replaced" Judaism as the best and only way to worship God. For Jews of good conscience, the faith of Moses remains an authorized path to God. Preachers must take care not to categorize Jews as Christ Killers. For every sinner of every religion cast a stone at their redeemer. African and Third-World Catholics are in error when they substitute their own ancient traditions for Judaism as the root of Christianity. ***This book, modest in intent, is quite good. It lends itself to illumination discussion by Jewish-Christian study groups. -OOO-

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Captains Courageous


Reviewed on Oct 29 2011

By mistake I ordered and read this adaptation for young children weeks before I received and read the scholarly Oxford edition for adults of Rudyard Kipling's CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS. ***In my opinion, no adaptation, either in print, on stage, or on the silver screen (there have been three of the latter since Spencer Tracy's 1937 Oscar-winning portrayal of Manuel the Portuguese fisherman) is likely to be as good as its classic original. Which adapters or screen writers are likely to be in the same league as the 1907 Nobel Prize winner Rudyard Kipling? *** Nonetheless, adaptations and retellings of JANE EYRE, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, THE THREE MUSKETEERS and other classics do occur. And some are much better than others. Among the three films, for instance, I liked the 1937 Lionel Barrymore, Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney version for showing the hard, hard, back breaking, seemingly never ending work that went into fishing the Grand Bank from sailing vessels and rowboats. Each screen version, however, took liberties that I do not understand. Manuel in the 1937 film was killed. In one other version, boy hero Harvey Cheyne has no mother. In the third he has neither father nor mother! And on film 15-year old Harvey was usually portrayed as age 12. ***So how should we compare Malvina B.Vogel and Rudyard Kipling as reteller and original teller of CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS? Ms Vogel, the Lord be praised, follows the Kipling story line more faithfully than any of the three films. Here is that simple story: one day in late May on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, spoiled 15-year old rich boy Harvey Cheyne, Jr., dizzy from smoking his first cigar, falls off an ocean liner through thick fog into the Atlantic Ocean. He is rescued by and spends the next three months aboard the 70-ton fishing schooner We're Here. In late August from the schooner's home port of Gloucester near Boston, Harvey telegraphs his railroad tycoon father in San DIego that he is alive. The parents rush in three days by private train to Boston, are reunited not with a spoiled brat but with a young, tanned, muscled, responsible, widely liked young adult. There is a brief concluding scene years later showing young Harvey well on his way to becoming a new generation of Stanford-educated, American M.B.A-type business tycoon. ***In the un-illustrated Oxford paperback edition, Kipling's text spreads over 157 pages distributed across ten untitled chapters. In the 2002 Great Illustrated Classics Library edition published by ABDO Publishing Company, Malvina Vogel presents in larger than average print CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS in 15 titled chapters -- e.g., 6: "The Cook's Prophecy," 8: "Squid O" and 14:"Two Captains Meet." Every right hand page has a full-page captioned pen and ink drawing by Ken Landgraf. So Vogel's retelling has only about 20% as many words as Kipling's telling. *** For the sake of her intended young (5th grade and higher) readers, Ms Vogel condenses, freely substitutes for Kipling's words and largely avoids technical seafaring or fishing jargon. Perhaps 50% at best of the Vogel text is made up of unchanged sentences of Rudyard Kipling. Ms Vogel also retells many scenes in her own words. *** A sample comparison of the two authors: Chapter One: Harvey is speaking to rather unadmiring men passengers in the liner's smoking room. (1) Kipling:"'Say, it's thick outside. You can hear the fish-boats squawking all around us. Say, wouldn't it be great if we ran one down?'";(2) Vogel: "Say, the fog is real thick. You can hear the fishing boats ringing their bells when we get close. Wouldn't it be great if we ran one down in the fog?'"; ***(3) Kipling: "'Who'll stop me?; he answered, deliberately. 'Did you pay for my passage, Mister Martin'"?;(4) Vogel: "Harvey Cheyne tilted his chin up impudently. 'Do you plan to throw me out, Mr. Martin? You didn't pay my way.'" *** Ms Vogel preserves important roles for both of Harvey's parents; Junioe is no orphan. We meet all eight other individualized fishermen aboard the We're Here - including "Doctor" MacDonald, the black, Scots-Gaelic speaking cook, who can also foresee the future. With him we look into the future of both Harvey and his new friend and mentor, 16-year old Daniel Troop, son of the schooner's owner/captain. ***Ken Landgraf's 116 black and white drawings are not remotely Picasso-quality. They are romanticized; the same characters look slightly dissimilar from one frame to another. But for average American ten-year-old readers they probably bring the simplified text to easily imagined life. Not being a seaman myself, I cannot judge how true to life Landgraf's sketches are of schooners, rigging, tackle, dories, fishing costumes and such like. But ten-year olds probably do not care. *** Bottom line: judging from my own eight grandchildren, I can imagine myself or their grandmother happily reading aloud the Vogel-Landgraf version of CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS to any of them from age three or older. The boys and girls would ask the meaning of words not understood. They would also enjoy talking about the drawings. In that sense, there may be a younger audience for this GREAT ILLUSTRATED CLASSICS edition than the publishers had in mind. This book is a solidly defensible "translation" of Kipling's CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS. -OOO-

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Rudyard Kipling


Reviewed on Oct 22 2011

In RUDYARD KIPLING (1975), Kingsley Amis in 128 packed pages surveys the life of Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936). Also how that life intertwined with Kipling's huge volume of written work. More than a third of this book is filled with enlightening black and white illustrations, cartoons, photographs and newspaper clippings. *** Kingsley Amis notes that from around 1890 to 1930 Kipling was the most widely read poetry and short story writer in the English-speaking world. For the next forty years he was criticized for being racist ("Take up the white man's burden," he exhorted the Americans after their wresting the Philippines from Spain); for jingoistic praise of all things British, including the Empire, and for other alleged weaknesses. But he has since been rehabilitated as a man who wrote about things inadequately noticed by most others: India, the British Raj, travel, imperial politics and administration and more. *** Kipling has been admired by D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot and other important writers. Writes Kingsley Amis: "a large amount (of Kipling's work) can now be seen to be of the highest quality. The diverseness of his poetry alone is wihout parallel in our language, and, among the varied forms in which he excelled, the ones he invented himself predominate. With all his breadth there went the gift of distilling a whole thought into a few memorable words. No modern writer has added more phrases to the language." *** Uniquely after Charles Dickens, Kipling spoke to all levels of society, from royalty to soldiers, to women, to children, to lovers of poetry and to scholars, too. Amis's RUDYARD KIPLING is a handsome, rewarding book. Display it proudly on your coffee table. Reach for it when you are snugly in bed at night. -OOO-

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Captains Courageous


Reviewed on Oct 12 2011

Rudyard Kipling spent four years (1892 - 1896) at home in Vermont with his American wife Carrie and their young family. There, in 1896, he wrote CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS: A STORY OF THE GRAND BANKS. It was first serialized then appeared in book form, with many revisions from the manuscript -- which is still preserved. Much background Kipling derived from a local doctor with hands on fishing experience three decades earlier. Together the two friends visited harbors of Boston and Gloucester to speak with fishermen, boat owners and sea captains. ***This is mainly the story of a few months (late May-late August) aboard a fishing boat in the life of Harvey Cheyne, age 15. When we first see him, Harvey is quick-witted, neglected by his immensely wealthy, generally absent railroad tycoon father, and beyond the control of his adoring, neurotic, underappreciated mother. Mother and son are steaming across the Grand Banks toward schooling for the latter in Europe. Harvey intrudes himself into the evening relaxation of male passengers and makes a pompous pest of himself. Given a never before tried cigar to replace his cigarette, he becomes sick, staggers out on deck, falls into the sea and is given up by his mother for drowned. *** Harvey's fall is, however, seen by Manuel, a Portuguese cod fisherman alone in a small dory. Harvey comes to consciousness on top of a pile of Manuel's fish, is delivered to the 70-ton fishing schooner We're Here owned by Captain Disko Troop. As soon as he is able, Harvey arrogantly demands that Troop sail him at once to New York where Harvey's father will lavishly recompense the Captain and crew of the We're Here. As Harvey continues to insist, Captain Troop, judging the boy's tale of wealth either a lie or a product of involuntary delirium, gets Harvey's attention by bloodying his nose. Instantly, Harvey is transformed. Out with the old, in with the new. *** Inspired by the Captain's 16 year old son Daniel Troop, Harvey pitches in and day and night after day and night doing his rishing share of work till reunited with his parents in Gloucester in late August. Sensing Harvey's keen intellect, Captain Troop teaches him to use the sextant and to record ship's finances. In later years, as soon as Harvey graduates from college, he takes over management of the fleet of speedy tea merchantmen that his father had just acquired at novel's beginning. And Dan, Harvey's greatest chum, rises to become skipper of one of the finest clippers in that fleet. *** Sounds simple, right? Just for kids? Wrong. *** Kipling wrote an anything but shallow novel of America's immigrant past (the thousand multi-national fishing boats on the Grand Banks) and Gilded Age cutthroat capitalist future then emerging. The two principal captains of CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS are sea captain Disko Troop and land captain, railroad tycoon, Harvey Cheyne, Senior. The episode in which Mr and Mrs Cheyne are whisked at record-breaking speed from California to Boston in a private car on a private train across lands until recently only sparsely inhabited by Indians is one of the most celebrated passages in railroad fictional literature. *** Moreover, symbolism abounds in this tale of a young man's quasi-religious conversion. Wretched young Harvey will either be drowned by the sea or saved by it. If his falling off the steamer and rescue by a fisherman is his baptism by sea water, then his confirmation comes soon after, via the bloody nose administered by Captain Troop -- reminiscent of a bishop's symbolic tap on the cheek when the sacrament is administered. *** CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS is a stronger, deeper book than a quick reading might make you think. I therefore recommend that you read or consult a scholarly edition with explanatory notes. -OOO-

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Anatomy Of Yang Family Tai Chi


Reviewed on Oct 7 2011

Tai chi people are a breed unto themselves. Mostly they are practitioners -- from Duffer to Master. But tai chi people are also spectators, kibitzers, critics, DVD makers, teachers and writers. There are writers in clumsy English who think in Chinese. *** Then there are writers like Steffan de Graffenried who probably think in Flemish but also do very well in English as a second languageto bring tai chi alive in the vivid language of Rudyard Kipling and Ernest Hemingway. *** Consider de Graffenried's 2007 paperback, ANATOMY OF YANG FAMILY TAI CHI. It begins with "Tai Chi Chuan Lineage," tracing the author's credentials back to Manchu Dynasty master Yang Lu-Chan. It ends with seven "Exercises to Improve Your Tai Chi." Each homey exercise is illustrated in grainy black and white and relates to the Yang Family Long Form of tai chi through such names as "Snake Creeps Down," "Square Horse" and "Cobbler's Stretch." *** And lest you think stretching unimportant, de Graffenried devotes a two-page meditation to the subject, "TIghtness and Weakness." *** "A proverb that is quoted quite often in Chinese martial arts is 'inch long, inch strong,' meaning that the ability to reach longer increases your power." ***Might not that motto be true for related non-martial arts as well, such as Feldenkrais, Pilates and Yoga? "Inch long, inch strong" can be rephrased as "strength through length." And what Feldenkrais teacher does not sing of the good things that flow from a relaxed but lengthened spine? ***ANATOMY OF YANG FAMILY TAI CHI is a good read. It is no substitute for a teacher, as the author -- himself a tai chi teacher of renown -- is first to admit. But it can help you understand better what you are doing in your weekly tai chi classes, give you a bit of a flavor for classical Chinese martial arts thinking and offer you tips as well for smarter yoga, feldenkrais, pilates, and more. -OOO-

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Outlaw


Reviewed on Sep 28 2011

Born in England in 1976, author Stephen Davies now lives with his wife Charlie as a missionary on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Burkina Faso (BF), formerly Upper Volta. He writes books for children, including the recent boys adventure tale HACKING TIMBUKTU. *** Davies's boys adventure story for 2011 is OUTLAW. Jake Knight, the rather thoughtless 15-year old son of the British Ambassador to BF, finds everything in his English boarding school boring except his smart phone. One of his parkur pranks (he vaults on a dare into a prison yard, but can't vault back out) gets him suspended from Waltham College for four months. So it's off to BF's capital Ouagadougou to rejoin his father, mother and 13-year old sister anti-imperialist rebellious Kirsty better known as Kas. ***Kas is kidnapped and held for ransom in a plot by evil parties in BF out to blame an 18-year old African boy named the Chameleon and to get British Intelligence and the army to blow up the Chameleon and his band of young people ("The Friends of the Poor") who right wrongs in francophone BF and neighboring countries. By the way, Jake was kidnapped as an unplanned afterthought along with his sister, merely because he tried to save her. *** Indeed things go well for the evil plotters, one of whose leaders is BF's top police official. The innocent Friends of the Poor are targeted by Britain for extinction by smart bomb. Meanwhile Jake and Kas work with Jake's ever present smart phone to convince their father the Ambassador that the Robin Hood wannabe Friends of the Poor had nothing to do with the siblings' kidnapping. *** OUTLAW is fast paced, reminiscent of R. Sydney Bowen's 15 boys adventure novels set in World War II involving American teen Dave Dawson flying for the R.A.F. But OUTLAW also becomes notably preachy and persistently strident. OUTLAW excoriates foreign gold extraction companies for taking jobs away from natives. It highlights corruption in the BF government and features a clearly insane MI-6 British Intelligence officer who commits, unchallenged, cold blooded murder of children active in Friends of the Poor because he, like James Bond before him, is "licensed to kill." OUTLAW preaches non-violence and a few other values. *** Read this book for atmospherics of outlaw and ordinary daily life in Burkina Faso and for the ability of young people of different cultures, languages and religions to find common ground. OUTLAW is an average book moving at a faster than average pace. Do not expect rounded three-dimensional characters. -OOO-

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The Midwich Cuckoos/E01505sf


Reviewed on Sep 23 2011

On September 23 not long after the end of World War II, say 1947 or thereabouts, the narrator of THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS drove off with his wife from the village of Midwich to London to celebrate his birthday. Luckily for him (Richard Gayford) and her (Janet Gayford), the couple were absent from Midwich when an alien vessel (whether coming from somewhere on earth or outside the solar system is never made clear) landed there. The UFO stayed long enough to erect a force field around all the buildings which rendered temporarily unconscious every man or beast within its range. Trying to reach home on foot, avoiding hastily set up police and military road blocks, Janet and Richard walk into the force field and fall to the ground. *** Over the next few months the Gayfords and other villagers slowly learn that every fertile woman present in Midwich on the night of September 23-24 is with child. Married, unmarried, sexually active, virginal, it doesn't matter: all are preggers -- 60 or so of them! Janet is not. *** The village's rector and physician work together to piece together the facts and guess at an explanation. But keep your eye on Midwich's resident genius, thrice-wed Renaissance thinker, the much published ethicist Gordon Zellaby. In the end, years later, it is Zellaby, who has grown fond of the Children and who gives them sweets and shows them movies, who finally figures out what has happened, what the Children are capable of and what must be done. *** Other players are mainly outsiders, a representative of military intelligence,transient staff of a hush-hush village-based research laboratory, London Ministry educational types that begin a multi-year watch of the Children born. For those offspring are not human. They look human, but they grow faster, they learn like lightning and what one girl learns, all other girls also know instantly. The boys are they same. And not only do the Children learn together all at once. More importantly, they exhibit and focus their will power to influence the thoughts and behaviors of the humans arround them. When provoked, they react decisively, quickly and violently. Is a happy ending even conceivable? *** Read this 1957 sci-fi novel and enjoy finding out for yourself. And/or view the two film versions: both entitled THE VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960, 1995, the latter set in California with Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley). *** Author John Wyndham, at times maddeningly, takes his time over every detail and character of his narrative, including eventually expaining his title, THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS. Some 59 species of cuckoo birds are "brood parasites," laying always or often their eggs in the nest of other species of birds that will raise them to maturity. Brood parasitism aka exo-genesis is what happened in Midwich. An alien intelligent species impregnated human females. To what end? Author Wyndham deliberately keeps things vague, very vague. But by the time they are eight years old, the human-looking aliens of Midwich look and act like 16-year olds and know that human forces are gathering to exterminate them if they can. -OOO-

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Puck Of Pook's Hill


Reviewed on Sep 15 2011

Rudyard Kipling's PUCK OF POOK'S HILL appeared in 1906. Its prose "yarns" are placed in southeastern England, East Sussex, near "Batesman's," Kipling's home, which was set in an estate of 300 acres enlarged for maximum privacy. *** In the course of the story-telling, we learn from ancient fairy Puck himself that Pook's Hill means Puck's Hill. To two young children, Una and Dan, sister and brother, Puck conjures up or himself plays the parts of earlier inhabitants of Sussex. In non-chronological order of presentation we meet and hear (1) tales about Saxons before the Norman Conquest of 1066, (2) then of Normans becoming masters of Sussex. (3) A Danish longboat takes Norman knight Sir Richard Dalyngridge and his Saxon friend Hugh on a successful voyage for gold into west Africa. A powerful, magic sword is also introduced and plays a role. (4) We then move back in time to around the year 1100. (5) We next go even farther back -- to 4th Century Rome and the rise and fall of the fortunes of a young centurion named Parnesius. His family had been resident in Britain for over two centuries. Sent to Hadrian's wall, he and a Roman fellow Centurion Pertinax then become close to a Pictish prince north of the wall. As general Magnus Maximus takes up arms against the young Gratian, Emperor of the West, he strips the Wall of troops (6) while leaving Parnesius and Pertinax to hold off both Picts and invading Norsemen. (7) The children, under Puck's guidance, are then brought forward to the late 1400s for a tale of explorer Sebastian Cabot outwitting wily local Sussex cannon makers. (8) A bit later, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, myriads of fairies all around Britain panic. For these people of the Hills are suddenly regarded as forbidden Catholic "images." They succeed in persuading a seer woman to let her two sons, one blind, the other mute, row them to nearby France where humans, at least for a while, remain more welcoming of the Little People. (9) Finally, a Jewish physician and moneylender named Kadmiel tells how lack of gold forced King John to cede power to the barons and to the people of England at Runymede in 1215. We learn at last what happened to the large amount of gold brought back from Africa and hidden centuries earlier by a Norman knight and a Saxon noble. *** PUCK OF POOK'S HILL also contains 15 or so poems by Kipling. They function as a kind of chorus for the narratives. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that PUCK OF POOK'S HILL was the source of a beloved song that I first heard and memorized with no context around age 12 in Shreveport on a 33 1/3 rpm recording of Kipling's poems set to music. I speak of "A Smugglers' Song" which begins, "If You wake at midnight, and hear a horses's feet,/Don't go drawing back the blind or looking in the street." *** My edition of PUCK OF POOK'S HILL lacks a map of Sussex or southeastern England. Ditto glossary or end notes. Kipling limns his local landscape in loving detail with generous dollops of local speech patterns and vocabulary. One way or another you will therefore have to learn old Roman names for Sussex places, also the Weald (forest), the Downs, terminology relating to growing and processing hops, Bath Oliver (a cracker eaten with cheese) and such like. But all this is a small price to pay for imagining this loving recreation of England (and a bit of Scotland) down through the centuries. -OOO-

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Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger On Christians and Jews


Reviewed on Sep 10 2011

He was born Aron Lustiger in 1926 in Paris, France. His parents were non-practicing Jews who had migrated from Poland. He died aged 80 battling bone and lung cancer in Paris in 2007. He was then called Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, from 1981 till retirement in 2005, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris. *** Lustiger's 2010 book, ON CHRISTIANS AND JEWS, is not an autobiography. But he draws often on his own life experiences: baptized in 1940 at age 13 as a Catholic; his mother's deportation to and death in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943; his ten years as student chaplain at the Sorbonne; after 1981 became a pioneer in French Catholic TV programs; he championed private religion-based schools under increasing pressure from the secularizing French government; and was elected member of the distinguished French Academy in 1995. *** With Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Lustiger was one of the leading pro-Jewish spokesmen of the Catholic Church. The book ON CHRISTIANS AND JEWS demonstrates his international prominence and how sought after he was as a speaker on Christian-Jewish relations. *** ON CHRISTIANS AND JEWS consists of seven speeches and one interview given by Cardinal Lustiger between 1982 and 2003. Two speeches were delivered to Jewish audiences in New York. The most far ranging of his remarks are embedded in a 1987 interview with Jean-Louis Missika and Dominique Wolton. The questions are learned and tough. And Lustiger does not dodge them. The core of the Cardinal's several theses is that God has distinct missions for both Jews and Christians -- valid till the end of time. It is important that each confession understand and respect the other. Christians, especially Catholics, in the past 1500 or more years have been guilty of horrible crimes against Jews. This must stop. It is the will of God that Catholics consult Jews when examining their own Christian consciences. *** The three page bibliography consists entirely of offerings in the same series that Cardinal Lustiger wrote for: "Studies in Judaism and Christianity: Explorations of Issues in the Contemporary Dialogue Between Christian and Jews." This series is supported by the Stimulus Foundation and the Paulist Fathers. ON CHRISTIANS AND JEWS is rich in hope and insight. -OOO-

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Stalky's Reminiscences


Reviewed on Sep 5 2011

Why would an ageing American like me, with no military service, be eager to read a 1928 book named STALKY'S REMINISCENSES by a British Major-General named Lionel Charles Dunsterville (1865 - 1946)? Because Dunsterville was the fictional Stalky in STALKY & CO., Rudyard Kipling's tales of his school days as the 1870s turned into the 1880s spent at United Services College (USC), at Westward Ho! on the North Devon Coast. And STALKY & CO. is one of my very favorites by Kipling. *** Dunsterville is close to invaluable for recollected background on then recently founded (1874) USC; for his own and Kipling's days and merry pranks there; for the poor crop of entering students uncritically harvested by an inexpensive school with no waiting list; for that school's inevitable lack of tradition and the unruly confusion caused by its collection of masters from a variety of schools with clashing traditions; and for the greatness, seconded by Kipling and others, of founding Headmaster Cormell Price. *** Dunsterville wrote of Kipling's portrayal of Dunsterville: "Stalky himself was never quite so clever as portrayed in the book. ... But he represents ... one of the prevailing spirits of this most untypical school." *** Of both George Beresford (the third inseparable member of STALKY & CO.) and Rudyard Kipling the author said: "Beresford and I had our fair share of brains, but Kipling had a good deal more than his fair share, and added to it the enormous asset of knowledge -- intuitive and acquired" (Ch. 1, 'Childhood'). *** I began STALKY'S REMINISCENCES for nothing more than Kipling. I continued reading for Dunsterville, for his humor, his avoidance of name dropping (not even wife and children are named) and for the author's impressive way of framing through humor and under-statement a long and distinguished career soldiering in the Indian Army. Dunsterville followed in the steps of his grandfather (who served in the East India Company's formations) and father, both Major-Generals in the Indian Army. *** From STALKY'S REMINISCENCES I learned that Queen Victoria studied Urdu to communicate with her beloved Indian domestics and guards (Ch. 6, 'The Die-Hards'). A prodigious linguist (11 certified languages under his belt), Lionel Dunsterville is worth listening to on what makes a language unique: "Every language has its own peculiar little song in quarters of semi-tones; and correct grammar, idiom, and pronunuciation help one very little towards perfection if one has not caught the song" (Ch. 10, 'Germany and Russia'). Running an allied railroad line near Peking during the Boxer Rebellion, Dunsterville cleverly foiled without violence a German attempt to annex a small British plot of ground near the railroad station. "The matter got as far as being mentioned in Reuter's telegrams, and THE MORNING POST of Delhi referred to it under the heading 'Stalky Holds Up The Germans'" (Ch. 13, 'Railway Work'). *** STALKY'S REMINISCENCES is a minor classic of low-key humor and depiction of very human Britons, East Indians and others in times of war and peace. No wonder the book has recently been reprinted. -OOO-

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Servants Of the People


Reviewed on Aug 30 2011

In the year 2000, English journalist Andrew Rawnsley issued SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE: THE INSIDE STORY OF NEW LABOUR. It covered Prime Minister Tony Blair's British Labour Party's rule during its first three years in office, beginning in May 1997. The first edition of SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE was in circulation before the end of Labour's first term. The very next year, 2001, Rawnsley produced a revised post-election edition, published by Penguin Books, including five new chapters and a largely reworked original text. Rawnsley carryied the Labour government 13 months farther along, through the end of its first of three consecutive terms in office. In 2010 the author would round out his saga with THE END OF THE PARTY: THE RISE AND FALL OF NEW LABOUR. *** SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE (2nd edition) ends with Labour's first back-to-back national election victory in 101 years. Blair & Co. pulled off what no previous Labour Party ever did. "Old" Labour had been the party of equality for all and "down with privilege!" "New" Labour was the creation of four men, according to Rawnsley: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell. They are the four "stars" of SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE, though they interact with a cast of dozens of other. ***New Labour's goal was to change the direction of Britain from Conservatism to Progressivism in the 21st Century. Key issues were health care and education, reform of the House of Lords, devolution of power to Wales and Scotland and integration with Europe. Soon moving across the plates of Prime Minister Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown were, however, the death of Princess Diana, killings in Northern Ireland, a war in Kosovo, a unified European currency, foot and mouth disease outbreaks among domesticated animals, and much else besides. *** The second revised edition of SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE is 568 pages long, of which xix pages go to a preface and introduction and 24 chapters and 508 pages are for narrative, hypothesizing, analyzing and commentary. There are no maps or charts. This is not history, but ripped raw pre-history. Rawnsley, via off the record interviewing, persistently and systematically pried open the tightly closed small inner circle of New Labour as no other British writer was doing. He may have been the first to flag the never-ending tussles between Premier Blair and veto-wielding Chancellor Brown. *** This book was a new approach a semi-selective antidote to the then prevailing non-selective instant "avalanche" reporting of every gossipy tidbit and scandal that the tabloids could lay hands on or invent. Before SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE, a British government would be gone for ten or twenty years before its participants began to come clean in self-serving memoirs. *** SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE: THE INSIDE STORY OF NEW LABOUR sprawls and rambles. Nothing stands out as more important than anything else. The Queen, whom Prime Ministers are supposed to advise and serve, comes across as one large irrelevancy to Brtish life. We learn a fair amount about the Liberal Democratic party but little of the feckless Tories. Of Bill Clinton there is plenty: as early model to Tony Blair for media savvy and as later, distracted by l'affaire Lewinsky, requiring a wise Blair to build a fire under America over Kosovo. *** Bottom Line: I can think of no friends to whom I can unconditionally commend this meandering, unfocused, often boring, shallow book. -OOO-

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Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses Together With Departmental Ditties


Reviewed on Aug 23 2011

In late 1882, 16 year old Rudyard Kipling became Assistant Editor of the Lahore, India, Civil & Military Gazette. It appeared six days a week and was not distributed beyond the Punjab. Rudyard contributed verses of his own and only three years after beginning his journalistic career published DEPARTMENTAL DITTIES. *** I find these ditties by a boy aged 17 - 19 of a high order, all things considered, though less consistently good than BARRACK ROOM BALLADS, his second book of verse which first appeared in 1892. The BALLADS are remarkable for how much space is taken up with the British "rankers" in India: army privates, corporals and sergeants. DEPARTMENTAL DITTIES, by contrast, was more given over to British civil servants, though there is some overlap of the other's themes in either volume. *** DEPARTMENTAL DITTIES consists of 14 poems, supplemented by 36 OTHER VERSES. All are short, most taking up only two or three pages in the 1921 Methuen and Co. edition now before me. The DITTIES, generally speaking, are not so quotable as BALLADS. But here are some samples: (1) "And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a Smoke" (The Betrothed); (2) "With our hymn-books and our psalters we appeal to other altars" (i.e. other than Hindu altars -- Christmas in India); (3) "So long as debt leads men to wed,/Or marriage leads to debt" (An Old Song); (4) "You'll never plumb the Oriental mind" (One Viceroy Resigns); (5) "Its incommunicable, like the east" (One Viceroy Resigns)." *** DEPARTMENTAL DITTIES dabbles in politics, amours, death, aromas, the steaming plains, the cool hills, drought, famine and the varied little peoples of India and Burma. It is a remarkable literary product by a busy, very gifted teenager. From his earliest days, Kipling's verse expressed his ideas more than adequately. The contrast with the lumbering prose and occasional verses of James Fenimore Cooper is striking. -OOO-

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Aunt Edith


Reviewed on Aug 17 2011

AUNT EDITH - THE JEWISH HERITAGE OF A CATHOLIC SAINT (1998, second edition 2003) is about Saint Edith Stein (1891 - 1942). The book is written by Susanne M. Batzdorff nee Biberstein, daughter of Edith Stein's next older sister Erna. As we learn from AUNT EDITH, Erna was only 16 months older than Edith and the two were raised almost as twins. Having lost their father early on, Erna and Edith were the only two of numerous siblings to attend University, Erna in only the second year in which it was possible for women to attend Prussian universities. ***The book contains 20 black and white photos. The book cover for the 2nd edition (2003) shows teenage Edith Stein in Hamburg holding a 2-year old niece (not Susanne Batzdorff), daughter of Edith's oldest sister Else. The cover photo is cropped from a photo reproduced in the book's interior. Is it meant to suggest, misleadingly, that the cover shows the young, future Saint and another niece, the author of AUNT EDITH? *** The book explores the Jewishness of Edith Stein, PhD, Catholic convert, Carmelite nun, murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942 and since 1999 one of three female Patron Saints of Europe. Batzdorff denies that a baptized Jew like Edith Stein can be a model for Jews, including Jewish women and girls. The best thing for Jews about her 1987 beatification and 1998 canonization may be simply that, thanks in part to her, Pope John Paul II and other Catholic leaders, today's Catholics in ever greater numbers are studying and honoring their Jewish roots. -OOO-

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Stalky & Co


Reviewed on Aug 3 2011

Rudyard Kipling was no Franz Kafka. By contrast with the Prague writer, Kipling's narrative genius did not consist in making up characters whole cloth from a vivid imagination. Kipling's men and boys in KIM, THE JUNGLE BOOKS, MULVANEY STORIES and other narratives were based on living three-dimensional people whom he had met, interacted with or whose real-life stories others had told him. Academic and literary careers have been built on tracing Kipling's "originals." One way to look at Kipling's fiction: there is always a lot more Rudyard in it than you might suspect. *** STALKY & CO (1899) is a hugely successful fictional re-creation of Rudyard Kipling's half dozen years as a boarder at the United Services College on the seacoast of North Devon at Westward Ho! In the novel, Kipling is "Beetle," a disheveled, near-sighted poet, editor of the school newspaper, one of three inseparables which includes Irish aristocrat M'Turk and team leader Stalky. The 1899 edition has nine chapters. Down the years Kipling would write more of their adventures. We focus on Stalky, M'Turk and Beetle in their last two years of school, when they are 15 and 16 years old. *** United Services College was an almost brand new prep school whose students were mainly born abroad of parents serving Queen Victoria's Empire, especially in India and Burma. Most of them were being prepared to become Subalterns in the army. ***The three boys are all destined for eccentric greatness when they grow up. They betray signs of this early on. We readers are shown them as deliberate "outsiders" who go their own way (within limits prescribed by loyalty to the school and to the school's beloved Head -- in real life an old school chum of Kipling's family). *** The three boys are indulged and their good qualities much appreciated by the Head and by the school's congenial Chaplain, while thoroughly disapproved of by the four rigorously traditional Housemasters. Nor are the three entirely approved of by their fellow students. *** A constant theme of STALKY & CO is revenge. If wronged, the three will find an appropriate punishment to fit the crime. Thus M'Turk makes friends with a local Irish landowner and receives permission to wander on his estate. Ostensibly this going off campus violates school rules and a house master trespasses in pursuit of them and is punished by the landowner for his sins. And on and on. *** In a reunion of Old Boys 15 years after graduation, the tale is told of Stalky leading his beloved Sikhs out on the northwest frontier of the Indian Raj. He is besieged by two tribes that normally hate one another. While out on a solitary patrol, Stalky employs on a hostile corpse a form of mutilation characteristic of the other tribe. This was the same carving on a chest after tribesmen had killed Stalky's deputy officer. The ploy saved the besieged. What a book! -OOO-

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Stranger In a Strange Land


Reviewed on Jul 31 2011

Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND is a clear example of the "didactic" novel. It teaches, it preaches, its characters rant and debate, parry and thrust. Its story is not much. But its message resonated with millions of confused "searchers" for meaning in the turbulent 1960s and even into the cooler, more blase 1970s. *** Valentine Michael Smith, after his pioneering parents died opening up Mars, was raised in a nest on Mars by Martians as close to a Martian as he could be. A later expedition from Earth to Mars found young Mike Smith and returned him home. Meanwhile the ostensibly pacifistic Martians, it is hinted throughout the novel, are planning something nasty for the Earth and earthlings. Mike seeks for a way to defend the Earth without tipping his hand to the alien race that raised him. ***Smith goes through one cross-cultural shock after another, eventually deciding that he can prepare earthlings to resist suspected Martian imperialism by making it attractive for them to learn selectively features of Martian civilization (ceremony of sharing water, thinking empathetically aka "grokking" and others) while going beyond even the Martians by adopting a new Smith-created religion, Church of All The Worlds. *** Smith's intially sceptical admirer is crusty old libertarian lawyer Jubal E. Harshaw. Via dialogs and monologs of Harshaw, author Heinlein criticizes received human religions, mores, thought processes, nudity, clothing and more from a Martian point of view -- as filtered through hybrid Martian-Human Mike Smith. *** The level of argumentation ranges somewhere between 1960s American 7th grade and college sophomore, arguably, on balance, sub-adult. But STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND proved wildly attractive to an increasingly rootless, restless generation of young Americans thirsting for they knew not what, eager to grok and to say, "I am only and egg" and "Thou art God." Study STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND not as literature but as 1960s sociology. -OOO-

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Never Forget


Reviewed on Jul 27 2011

In 1891 Edith Stein was born Jewish and culturally and linguistically German in Breslau, Prussian Poland. When she and her sister Rosa were gassed by Nazis in Auschitz in 1942 as a baptized German Jew, Edith had no doubts that she was BOTH Jewish, Christian and a Carmelite nun. Some Jews have criticized Edith Stein, the person, for not having used her massive intellect to plumb her inherited Judaism more profoundly before becoming a Christian. But no one seriously disputes her right to change her religious views. *** And yet to this day no small number of Jews is upset about other aspects of Edith Stein: not so much her personal life 1891 - 1942 but what the Catholic Church made of her death and martyrdom. *** Edith Stein became an atheist in her teens. She was 29 when she converted, not, technically, from Judaism but from Atheism to Roman Catholicism. In her own mind she was no less a racial, cultural or even RELIGIOUS Jew once she became Christian. And she and scores of other Roman Catholic Jews in the Netherlands were rounded up and quickly executed in August 1942 because Nazi leaders dared not do the same to the Catholic bishops and every parish in the Netherlands that had only days earlier denounced German deportation of Jews from the Kingdom. To the Vatican, Edith Stein, her sister, four Trappist siblings and other Catholic Jews executed at Auschwitz were killed as Roman Catholic martyrs to the Christian faith. *** German Carmelite nun Waltraud Herbstrith has collected the thoughts and recollections of several dozen writers, including Jews and Christians, in NEVER FORGET: CHRISTIAN AND JEWISH PERSPECTIVES ON JEWISH STEIN. What fueled widespread Jewish objections were two actions by Pope John Paul II: (1) in 1987 he beatified Edith Stein, PhD; (2) in 1998 he canonized her as the Catholic martyr, Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce. It might be noted that before he was a bishop and pope, Karol Wojtyla was a professor of philosophy and a serious student of that philosophical approach called "phenomenology" of which Edith Stein was an earlier pioneer. There was, I suspect, a natural mental affinity and sympathy between these two thinkers of historical, culturally divided Poland. *** I call your attention to two especially good essays in NEVER FORGET. *** The first is by Pennsylvania Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, "Sister Edith Stein: A Rabbi Reacts." Not an Edith Stein scholar, Rabbi Fuchs-Kreimer admires Stein as a great, thoughtful, prayerful woman. "She always considered herself a proud member of the Jewish people and she admired traditional Jewish life. ... The question that remains for me as a Jew is whether and how Stein sought spiritual nourishment from Judaism before she turned to Christianity. ... Did she read the Baal Shem Tov or Maimonides? Did she know of Martin Buber? Did she attend the Frankfrt Lehrhaus where a brilliant renaissance of Jewish learning was occurring at the very time of her conversion? This we don't know. ... I am angry when a Jew chooses not to continue to struggle with the civilization into which she was born, however difficult she may find it." *** The second, more critical analysis is "The Canonization of Edith Stein" by Rabbi Daniel F. Polish of New York. Both Edith Stein and many Catholics wish to see Stein as a bridge between Jews and Christians, especially Catholics. Rabbi Polish does not expect that to happen. Was she Jewish when she died? Hitler would have said yes. Edith Stein herself certainly did say yes. But "from a Jewish perspective," Stein had exercised her right and had left Jewish life. "While a non-practicing, even nonbelieving, Jew is considered to be Jewish, one who embraces another faith is understood by Jewish teaching as renouncing Jewish faith and must, as a consequence, be considered no longer a Jew." Rabbi Polish fears that the Vatican, by canonizing Edith Stein, as a "Jewish-Christian" was consciously campaigning to convert Jews by making them feel "comfortable" as Catholics, much as is currently happening with married Anglican and Lutheran clergy and their flocks who convert to Catholicism with special concessions from Rome. *** NEVER FORGET: CHRISTIAN AND JEWISH PERSPECTIVES ON EDITH STEIN is a book well worth reading for insightful contemporary views on what makes Jews Jewish and followers of Jesus Christian and whether Jews can be simultaneous Christians or, if not, whether Edith Stein, as a topic for discussion, as a role model, as a self-proclaimed "Queen Esther for her people," might possibly help Jews and Christians better to grasp their differences and to respect one another despite tensions created by Rome. -OOO-

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Barrack Room Ballads


Reviewed on Jul 24 2011

Rudyard Kipling's two-part (1892, 1896) BARRACK-ROOM BALLADS is holding up as a good read more than a century after its 38 poems first appeared in book form. *** These are soldier stories, Tommy stories, British GI in India Thomas Adkins stories. The points of view expressed usually come from rankers and non-coms in barracks in cantonments, from little people who put in their six years soldiering abroad for Queen Victoria and then go home to England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland. ***A half dozen of the ballads are still recited or sung today. -- (1) "Tommy": "We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,/ But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you"; -- (2) "Gunga Din": "'E'll be squattin' on the coals/Givin' drink to poor damned souls,/An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!"; -- (3) "The Widow at Windsor"; -- (4) "Mandalay": "Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,/Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst"; -- (5) "Gentlemen-Rankers": "We're poor little lambs who've lost our way,/Baa! Baa! Baa!/We're little black sheep who've gone astray,/ Baa--aa--aa!/Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,/Damned from here to Eternity,/God ha' mercy on such as we,/Baa! Yah! Bah!"; -- (6) "Cholera Camp": "We've got to die somewhere -- some way -- some'ow --/We might as well begin to do it now!.; *** Other things being equal, buy a scholarly edition of BARRACK-ROOM BALLADS. You will profit from some historical context on the 19th Century British Raj in India, also from a glossary of Hindustani or Anglo-Indian phrases as mauled by common soldiers and from a map or two as well. But even as stand-alone verses, BARRACK-ROOM BALLADS is a strong keeper. -OOO-

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The Cape Cod Canal


Reviewed on Jul 18 2011

How important is the Cape Cod Canal in Massachusetts? For starters it is the world's "widest artificial waterway." Secondly, although not completed before 1914, it was proposed in the 1620s by Pilgrim hero Miles Standish: the first "conceived" public works project in the new world. *** Robert H. Farson's (1977, 1993) book has five chapters. Covering the greatest time span is Chapter I: "From the Pilgrims to 1899: False Starts and Pipe Dreams." Throughout the book one question is repeated over and over: why did it take so long to build a relatively short (at its current length, 17.4 miles long) canal? The great era of American canal building (e.g. Erie Canal) came and went and no Cape Cod Canal emerged. The usual answer is that the motivation behind earlier canals was usually trade and commerce. But the motives behind the less than 18 mile Cape Cod Canal were non-commercial: (1) maritime safety (hundreds of avoidable wrecks strewn all around Cape Cod) and (2) national defense (a need demonstrated in both the Wars of the Revolution and of 1812). A question never raised, therefore never answered, is: why with so much earlier experience in canal building (Erie, Suez with Kiel and Panama about to be built), were so many avoidable mistakes made in Massachusetts, particularly in choice of dredgers? Had those mistakes not been made, the canal would have opened in 1912, not 1914 and for far less cost. ***The book's driving heroes are Miles Standish (the Pilgrim realist who paced off the route of a canal and August Perry Belmont, the entrepreneur who built it between 1899 and 1914. A new, third, motivation to build the Cape Cod Canal was as a filial tribute to Belmont's seafaring maternal ancestors, the Perrys (of Lake Erie and Japan fame). ***The book has 80 pages of text followed by 89 pages of black and white photos with comments, a bibliography up to the early 1970s and a brief index. There are 161 photos. Five of them are either aerial photos or maps of Cape Cod Bay and environs and proposed and actual routes of the "17.4 miles of the canal and the approach channels" (Ch. 5). The photos begin with a collection of early shipwrecks, then show personalities and varieties of equipment used to dredge and build the canal. A weakness of the book is that there are no footnotes or endnotes within the basic narrative explicitly linking text to photos. *** That said, the photos are arresting, well explained and definitely illuminate the text. This book (2nd edition of 1993) clearly contains at least one photo later than the 1977 first edition. Its front and back covers are memorable scenes of activity on a canal in continuous use since July 1914. Anyone keen for Cape Cod, for U.S. Congressional appropriating details or how to build (or in some respects not build) a canal will thoroughly enjoy Robert H. Farson's THE CAPE COD CANAL. Display it on your coffee table. Review it from time to time. -OOO-

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Edith Stein Her Life In Photos and Documents


Reviewed on Jul 14 2011

In her lifetime Edith Stein, PhD (1891 - 1942) was a practicing Jew, a convinced atheist since mid-teens, an accomplished philosopher and finally a martyr with millions of others to German Nazi hatred of all things Jewish. She is also a canonized Saint (as Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). For her philosophical, autobiographical,political, theological and mystical writings, Edith Stein may someday be proclaimed one of a handful of Doctors of the Universal Church. *** Apart from her long autobiography (LIFE IN A JEWISH FAMILY 1921 - 1916), many of Stein's academic and other writings are intricate, deep and sometimes difficult to unravel. For that reason, as her fame rises, it becomes increasingly necessary to find books notably useful for "introducing" Edith Stein to unfamiliar readers. *** One such stand-out introductory biography was written in German in 1987 by the Saint's fellow Carmelite nun, Sister Maria Amata Neyer, O.C.D. It was translated into English in 1999 by Edith's niece, Waltraut Stein. Its English title: EDITH STEIN: HER LIFE IN PHOTOS AND DOCUMENTS. *** Only 83 pages long, EDITH STEIN is thickly packed with contemporary photos, documents (school leaving papers, baptismal certificates, manuscripts, at least one black and white sketch, citation references and a small bibliography. The chronological authorial narrative is interspersed among the many photos and documents and takes up no more than 40% of the 83 pages. Each word is carefully chosen and the overall result is informative and satisfying.We see young Edith Stein growing up fatherless in Prussian-Polish Breslau in a happy, commercially achieving conventionally Jewish family. Seen by all as intellectually brilliant from her crib, Edith Stein, despite bouts of depression and self-doubt, swept upward and onward through her doctoral dissertation in 1916, a pioneering work on "Empathy." She then bumped into two post-World War I academic glass ceilings: she was Jewish; worse she was a woman. In 1921 she converted from atheism to Roman Catholicism. In 1933 she warned Pope Pius XI that if Nazis were permitted to persecute Jews, Christians would not be far behind. At age 40 she became a Carmelite nun. At age 50 she and her older sister Rose were gassed to death at Auschwitz. *** Author Neyer gives a sense of the substance of Stein's writing and thinking at every stage of her life. If the little book has a weakness, it is that Neyer towards the end goes beyond biographing and, in effects, begins to commend her heroine to readers as a model for how to think and live. I personally agree with that evaluation, but think that making it detracts a bit from a deceptively simple but solid introduction to EDITH STEIN: HER LIFE IN PHOTOS AND DOCUMENTS. -OOO-

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Plain Tales From the Hills


Reviewed on Jul 9 2011

Rudyard Kipling was 32 when his first collection of short stories, PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS, was published in 1888. He had first issued 28 of them in the pages of his Anglo-Indian employer, The Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, India (1886-7). *** The 40 short stories are of high quality and soon won for the young author a readership in India, Britain and America that propelled him to the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. Most of the characters displayed are British (including Irish) men, women and children. The men are often young Lieutenants (Subalterns) or enlisted men just assigned to a British or Native regiment in Queen Victoria's India. Less often the men are in business or are civil servants, married or not, assigned to running a district of several hundred thousand natives or advising the rulers of Princely States. *** Romance is a major theme. Thus the tale, "The Strength of a Likeness," begins: "Next to a requited attachment, one of the most convenient things that a young man can carry about with him at the beginning of his career, is an unrequited attachment. It makes him feel important and businesslike, and blase, and cynical." A couple of pages later: 'Open and obvious devotion from any sort of man is always pleasant to any sort of woman." *** From April to October things are so hot in India's Plains that the officers and civilians send their womenfolk and children to cool Hill Stations at 6,000 feet or higher. Thus, Simla, in the Himalyan foothills, became the summer capital of British India. Kipling's newspaper sent him there to file reports. And he observed the going ons of Viceroys, Commanders in Chief, older women who delighted in wrapping subalterns around their fingers and natives interacting with their white rulers. *** PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS contain more than one excellent ghost story, premonitions of death, the trials of boredom, ill health (especially the threat of cholera and typhoid), career frustrations, barely understood relations with the Hindus and Muslims being ruled and miitary and spying adventures in Burma and Afghanistan. *** In my own reading experience and judgment, a dozen or more of the PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS deserve appearing in any anthology of the world's finest short stories. Read a few and see if you agree! -OOO-

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The Honourable Schoolboy


Reviewed on Jul 4 2011

1977's THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY is yet another spy novel by David John Moore Cornwell (b. 1931) whose far better known pen name is John Le Carre. Once again aging George Smiley is back in harness with MI-6, British Counter Intelligence or "the Circus" as it is called in the novel. He is patching together again in the 1970s a demoralized, discredited British Spy service after first detecting and neutralizing a Soviet mole. *** Like a good chess player who, proverbially, "learns more from a game he loses than a game he wins," George Smiley analyzes what archenemy Soviet spy master "Karla" was doing at uncharacteristic expense that Karla's English mole felt he had to take desperate but failed measures to prevent seeing the light of day. A money trail, laboriously followed up by Smiley and his favorite in-house English sleuths, leads from Moscow through Laos to Hong Kong. What on earth are the Soviets improbably up to in Britain's largest remaining Crown Colony? *** With excursuses to Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and wartime Viet-Nam, THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY gives a worm's eye view of one of Smiley's several unstable agents in the Far East, The Honourable Jerry Westerby. Like almost every other well sketched character in the novel, Westerby's hold on conventional morality is slim. He drinks too much, wenches too much and thinks too little. Yet his bulldog tenacity allows him to uncover key elements of what Soviet master spy Karla was up to in Hong Kong. At novel's end Westerby is trying to protect two aging Chinese brothers from the CIA determined to wrest one of the two away from Smiley and Britain in Britain's very own Hong Kong. *** THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY is a large, complex canvas. It is anything but profound. Its characters are almost uniformly dim in cross-cultural understanding. A better than average book this is, with appeal for lovers of Allen Dulles's "the craft of intelligence," or of Hong Kong in the 1970s, and of students of the American defeats in Cambodia and Viet-Nam and appeal for believers that God writes straight with unusually crooked British and Chinese lines. -OOO-

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Maria Mitchell


Reviewed on Jun 19 2011

It is easy to lose track of how very many children's books Margaret Gormley (b. 1942 in California) has written: on Marie Curie, Julius Caesar, President George Bush, Senior and on and on. A few years back Ms Gormley wrote a biography of a woman born in 1818, one of the dominant Quakers of Nantucket, Mass., when that island was still the whaling capital of the world. That woman became noted for the following striking things: (1) Before she was 30, Maria discovered Comet 1847 VI and was handsomely rewarded by the King of Denmark; (2) She was America's first professional woman astronomer; (3) She was ... (a) the first professor of astronomy and mathematics at newly founded Vassar's Women College; (4)... (b) first woman member of " the American Academy of Arts, of the American Association for The Advancement of Science, and of the American Philosophical Society (founded by her distant relative Benjamin Franklin)"; (5) "A crater on the moon was named after her"; (6) In 1994 "she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York." *** This important woman, who lived 1818 -1889, is the subject of MARIA MITCHELL: THE SOUL OF AN ASTRONOMER. Like her parents, she pronounced her name mar-EYE-ah. And biographer Gormley does a better than average job of bringing Professor Mitchell to life. *** Astronomy she learned working as a precocious girl by the side of her father calibrating nautical clocks to empower masters of Nantucket whaling vessels to calculate longitude. She read voraciously, absorbing the practical works of early astronomers like Tycho Brahe and theoreticians like Galileo and Newton. She was not herself a theoretician, but she taught and critiqued astronomical and other theories (e.g., Darwinism) for her classes of bright young women at Vassar College for Women. *** The book's subtitle is THE SOUL OF AN ASTRONOMER. Author Beatrice Gormley rounds out Maria Mitchell through consideration of her religious evolution (from Quaker to sort-of Unitarian), her belief in women's intellectual equality with men, her distinguished and bold leadership in the early women's movement, her writings on slavery and on women's education. *** For adults MARIA MITCHELL: THE SOUL OF AN ASTRONOMER is a simple but solid introduction to the life and times of an important American woman. Author Gormley clearly credits her key sources, provides a good short follow-on bibliography and topical index. This is a solid peace of exact, albeit elementary and popular scholarship. *** One edition of MARIA MITCHELL describes the books as for 9-12 year olds. The author does not "write down," but at times is so compressed that she may have assumed that young readers know more of an issue and its key figures -- say, the women's movement -- than they do. Thus four of Gormley's 16 pages of well selected black and white photos and paintings include two pages showing women's rights pioneers and/or achievers Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Julia Ward Howe -- but not a whole lot more. *** My wife bought this book as a gift for a woman friend of ours in Germany, an intellectual who has published on Continental European women astronomers. When we recently visited Maria Mitchell sites on Nantucket Island, we decided that Ingrid would like this biography and would easily pick and choose among the items in the bibliography. -OOO-

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Jungle Books


Reviewed on Jun 11 2011

Rudyard Kipling's THE JUNGLE BOOK (1894) and THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK (1895) were written in Vermont. There he and his American wife Carrie were expecting their first child. *** The word "Jungle" as used in the two volumes which together constitute THE JUNGLE BOOKS goes far beyond the thick forests of Central India in which are set the childhood and coming to manhood of the human wolf-cub Mowgli "the Frog." The broader jungle even includes the cold climates of the Arctic and Anarctic. And JUNGLE BOOKS animals include not only Kaa the rock python, Baloo the bear, the Bandar Log Monkey People and Shere Khan the malicious lame tiger but also seals, sea lions, walruses and sharks. *** Kipling's Jungle, as Daniel Karlin points out in the Introduction to his edition of THE JUNGLE BOOKS, is "a border area." It is principally inhabited by animals of the land and the sea, but they are not far from humans. Animals communicate with one another and sometimes they can understand the language of men, especially if they have been raised in captivity and serve Queen Victoria's Raj as army elephants, mules, cavalry mounts, artillery bullocks or camels. *** Mowgli, the man cub, separated from his wood cutting parents by a hungry Shere Khan the tiger, toddles fearlessly into a family of wolves, shoves in among the cubs and begins to suckle. In the last tale of THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK, nearly 17 year old Mowgli is inevitably and by consent of the Jungle creatures drawn back into his human family. The clincher? "... a girl in a white cloth came down some path that led from the outskirts of the village. ... He could almost have touched her with his hand when the warm green stalks closed before his face and he disappeared like a ghost." To the question of Gray Brother, his loyal wolf follower: "And now what is it to be?" Mowgli replies "And now I do not know." Just before he sighted the girl, Mowgli was fully determined to remain among the wolves, poison people (cobras), bears, deer, bees, panthers and other jungle dwellers as their acknowledged ruler. But one sight of a girl and he must, he understands not why, return to his human family. *** THE JUNGLE BOOKS are as fascinating for adults as for children. Baden Powell's Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Walt Disney have drawn on their imagery and wisdom. But nothing can substitute for the prose and poetry in Rudyard Kipling's telling of tales of more than one kind of jungle. -OOO-

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Mulvaney Stories


Reviewed on May 17 2011

If there are better short stories out there than Kipling's even dozen MULVANEY STORIES I do not know them. In his earliest years as a published author working as a journalist in India, Rudyard Kipling dashed off 18 tales of three British privates serving in India. The three were Irish, London Cockney and Yorkshire: respectively, Terence Mulvaney, Stanley Ortheris and John Learoyd. Learoyd was 6 1/2 feet tall and powerful, Mulvaney not much shorter but perhaps even stronger, but Ortheris was a little, feisty, moody man, expert in dog raising and taxidermy. *** The story that launched the three army friends into literature was published in 1887 in an Anglo-Indian newspaper that employed Kipling. It was titled, "The Three Musketeers." Twelve of the 18 yarns of the three soldiers were later pulled together in 1897 for the future (1907) Nobel Prize winner as THE MULVANEY STORIES. Each is told by an Anglo-Indian newspaperman who, after initial suspicion, has been accepted by Mulvaney, Ortheris and Learoyd as a respected friend of much higher social standing than they. Let's just call that narrator Rudyard Kipling himself and be done with it. *** This book tells tales of the Soldiers Three in war and peace, on the Grand Trunk Road, being kind to poor underpaid natives ("naygurs") while playing tricks on well off babus and Hindu priests. One feature that turns some readers off is Kipling's rendering of the speech patterns of North England, of London and of southern Ireland. Kipling has, in my opinion, a great ear for speech patterns as well as for soldiers' bragging and boasting. I despise misrepresentations of regional dialects (as in Richard Hooker's M.A.S.H.). But judge Kipling for yourself from a sample below. *** The tale is "The Courting of Dinah Shadd." Young Dinah would become Mulvaney's adoring wife and narrator Kipling's great friend. But the marriage almost didn't happen, as Mulvaney tells Kipling, Learoyd and Ortheris. As he often did, Mulvaney, when telling his yarns, would cast a mournful eye back to his glory days 15 or 20 years earlier when he was a lofty Corporal working hard for his sergeant's stripes: "In the days av me youth, as I have more than wanst tould you, I was a man that filled the eye an' delighted the sowl av women. Niver man was hated as I have been. Niver man was loved as I -- no, not within half a day's march av ut. For the first five years av me service, when I was what I wud give me sowl to be now, I tuk whatever was within me reach an' digested ut, an' that's more than most men can say. ... I could play wid four women at wanst, an' kape them from finin' out anything about the other three, and smile like a full=blown marigold through ut all. ... An' so I lived an' so I was happy..." ***If you have never read Kipling, THE MULVANEY STORIES are as as grand a starting place as any. And, I predict, you will not stop with them. -OOO-

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On the Problem Of Empathy


Reviewed on May 10 2011

I have heard it said that all subsequent philosophy after the 4th Century BC in Greece is commentary on Plato. And also that all much more recent philosophy is a debate with David Hume (1711 - 1776). The subject of this book review is an English translation of the 1916 doctoral dissertation in German of Edith Stein (1891 - 1942). Stein was a student of Edmund Husserl, founder of phenomenology, and for him she wrote her 1916 dissertation on THE PROBLEM OF EMPATHY. *** Like her master Husserl and other phenomenologists, young Edith Stein must have always had David Hume somewhere in the back of her mind. Like Hume, both Husserl and all his students (including Martin Heidegger) at one time or another asked themselves: What is it that I perceive through my five senses? Do those perceptions put me beyond any shadow of doubt in touch with real, independently existing objects outside my individual knowing self? ***To oversimplify his position: Hume held that our senses give us nothing directly but a chaos of colors, smells, flavors, sounds, prickles -- all unorganized. We ourselves through memory and imagination organize the raw data into cause and effect, into place and time and into a supposedly real external world. But, for Hume, men cannot possibly be sure if there is anything really "out there" beyond our senses. ***Husserl, Stein and other phenomenologists thought that Hume erred. For he did not really look carefully and dispassionately at what he sensed, at whatever phenomena we are in contact with. He brought to his perceiving too many prejudices and preconceptions. He did more than just perceive. *** To phenomenologists, if I am honest and accurate, at any moment when I focus on what I am perceiving (abandoning all preconceptions), I do not perceive chaos. I perceive, for instance, a white screen onto which I am typing this review. In her 1916 dissertation, Edith Stein moves from such personal perceptions step by step, layer of consciousness by layer, to perceive herself perceiving her own solid body as "here"; not only that but another body as "there." And she perceives herself moving from here to there. And the other moving from there to here. She perceives her own consciousness and her own will causing the movements of her own body. *** Through "empathy," Stein, you, I, anyone just looking at the data, then knows beyond doubt that some of those other bodies "out there" do not depend on our individual consciousness, rather, those bodies are conscious like me, indeed, "ensouled." Through empathy, I know their thoughts and feelings and they know mine. *** Scholars say that Stein drew on her World War I experience as a nurse in an Austrian army hospital for men with infectious diseases. There brilliant linguist Stein quickly developed a fair working proficiency in eight different Austro-Hungarian army languages, including Ruthenian. She held soldiers' and civilians' hands as they died. She emptied their bedpans. She changed their linen. She corresponded with their loved ones. Edith Stein also learned to see their facial expressions as identical with the emotions behind those grimaces. ***After this point in her 1916 dissertation, onetime psychology major Stein began to sketch a complete theory of the human person -- in the end, only hinted at in her 1916 paper, but soon to be developed in follow-on documents. Indeed ere many years had passed, this brilliant young philosopher had developed a philosophy of man in society and man in the state. ***Edith Stein's ON THE PROBLEM OF EMPATHY is the work of a very young and "new" philosopher. It is not without flashes of originality and evidence of thorough scholarship. But it is an apprentices's work. More questions are raised than are answered. It seems clear that in her own mind, Stein intended her dissertation to be no more than a first step into a lifetime career in academic philosophy. ***Alas, Stein soon discovered that even in enlightened post World War I Prussia in particular and Germany in general she bumped up against a double glass ceiling: for she was both a woman and a Jew. She wanted to become the first tenured woman professor of philosophy at a German University. But, despite the originality and brilliance of subsequent writings designed to win her that position, she failed. *** She lived, fortunately, a great follow-on life, first as teacher of girls, then convert to Christianity then as lecturer around Europe on feminism and women in the professions, then as a Carmelite nun and finally an executed martyr in 1942 at Auschwitz. Edith Stein is now a canonized Roman Catholic saint. And many Jews and Christians are painfully evaluating the workability of her personal prayer to be a bridge forever between the Torah of Judaism and the Cross of Jesus Christ. *** Who should read Edith Stein's 1916 dissertation on Empathy? It is not for everyone. There are many other works of hers far less knotty for general readers to grasp, starting with her autobiography, LIFE IN A JEWISH FAMILY 1891-1916. Her dissertation text is densely reasoned, sprinkled, it is true, with examples. But it is a book for academic philosophy majors with considerable prior familiarity with David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Edmund Husserl. It is not a literary or even a philosophical masterpiece. But it is a great start for a young philosopher with several cultural and political strikes against her. -OOO-

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Move Into Life


Reviewed on May 7 2011

I have found much on line about Ms Anat Baniel, but not her age or date of birth. The latter I guess to be around 1950 and the former, inferentially, about 61 in 2011. She was born into a scientific milieu in a very young Israel. As a child she met Dr Moshe Feldenkrais, whose apprentice and unusually close associate she became in her 20s. She now lives, teaches and practices healing in California. *** Moshe Feldenkrais was one of a number of 20th Century pioneers who focused on the the human brain attending to bodily movements as a major driver of human health. As structured today, Feldenkrais practice takes two major forms: Awareness Through Movement (ATM), often taught to fairly large groups at fitness centers, and Functional Integration (FI), which tends to be one-on-one work by a client with a certified Feldenkrais practitioner. ATM is said to be "active." A student, more often than not lying on a mat, applies to himself instructions on attending to minute bodily movements (in neck, head, spine, feet, etc.) being given orally by a hands-off instructor. In FI, the client, student or perhaps 'patient' is said to be "passive," being touched, gently guided and manipulated by a Feldenkrais practitioner. Often the client's goal is to be relieved of pain. If Feldenkrais doesn't work. the next step may be surgery. *** Anat Baniel in 2009 issued her first book, MOVE INTO LIFE: THE NINE ESSENTIALS FOR LIFELONG VITALITY. Her reliance on the theory and practice of Moshe Feldenkrais is obvious, admitted and celebrated. But she also cites another dozen or so major sources behind her views. Mainly, however, Ms Baniel presents and draws conclusions from case studies selected from her three decades applying and enlarging the practices of Moshe Feldenkrais. She is up to date on advances in neuro-plasticity and stresses that her work is brain work. She lays out nine ways to train the brain to guide the human body into healthful ways. *** Ms Banat uses black and white drawings by David Gerstein to showcase gentle exercises designed to bring quick changes in awareness of various organs and limbs through active "lighting up" of millions of brain cells. Each of her nine numbered chapters concludes with a kind of test or quiz to allow the reader to measure herself on various aspects of personal vitality: enthusiasm, imagination, goal-setting and the like. And on that basis to concentrate on what needs to be improved. *** BOTTOM LINE: Ms Baniel does not claim originality as an abstract theorist of health. What is original, I think, in Anat Baniel's book is her thirty years of hands-on success in helping her clients improve their healthy, happy living in their bodies. Her sources for theory and some aspects of practice are clearly listed. She generalizes, hypothesizes, derives laws from practical real-life successes. That she was and remains so effective in helping people is a big drawing card to make many readers want to take up her book and peruse it from cover to cover. -OOO-

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Pelvic Power


Reviewed on Apr 29 2011

I have not found by googling a good biographic sketch from birth to today of Eric Franklin, author of PELVIC POWER. But it seems probable that he was born and educated in Switzerland, where he now works. He also later studied dance in the United States. *** Eric Franklin appears to write in German and then have his books translated into good, idiomatic English. PELVIC POWER is largely a reference book. You are free, admittedly, to leaf through it and read it from cover to cover in two or three hours, with an hour or two given to sampling well illustrated physical exercises. But you can also treat PELVIC POWER as an encyclopedia of anatomy and anatomical English, with focus on the human pelvis bones and their related muscles and nearby organs, especially diaphragm and lungs. It is a book to return to again and again. *** It was news to me that "sit bones" and "pelvic tuberosities" are interchangeable in meaning. But tuberosities goes beyond simply sitting; they connote attachment to certain pelvic bones of ligaments or muscles. And so it goes with dozens of other technical descriptive words, such as os coccygis, pubic symphysis,sacrum, ilium and on and on. A reader's eventual mastery of systematically presented, repeated and illustrated anatomical terminology may be the single greatest empowerment of PELVIC POWER. *** PELVIC POWER is a detailed, systematic look at the human body within the author's patented conceptual framework called "The Franklin Method." That method specializes in the use of imagery. Imagery, however, is a broad term. Sometimes it seems synonymous with mental. Emphasis in PELVIC POWER is on the brain, on thinking and how the mental is a living component of the physical body. Personal or student advancement in good posture, health and flowing movement requires an ever growing awareness built up through exercises of mind, organs, skeleton, ligaments, joints, muscles and more. Such awareness is promised and delivered in PELVIC POWER. -OOO-

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Mash


Reviewed on Apr 19 2011

I found Richard Hooker's 1968 novel MASH disappointing. I think of it as "poor man's Rudyard Kipling." Like Kipling's immortal SOLDIERS THREE tales of British India and his fictionalized school boy reminiscences in STALKY & CO., Hooker's MASH is about male bonding among a trio of people engaged in the same occupation: whether, as for Kipling, soldiering for Queen Victoria in an alien sub-Continent, or atttending together in England a prep school for future government servants or, in the case of Hooker's MASH, surgeoning together north of Seoul during the 1950s Korean War. Part of the glory of Kipling's depictions (like Shakespeare's) is that Kipling had a very good ear for English as it is really spoken. Richard Hooker, alas, does not. And this is the most annoying single fault in a frequently disappointing novel. *** The novel's title, MASH, is an acronym for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The MASH about which the tale revolves is the 4077th, located in 1951 and 1953 45 miles north of Seoul, capital of South Korea, and on the 38th Parallel of Latitude separating the two warring Koreas. The tale begins in November 1951. Enter forthwith two newly assigned surgeons, both draftees, "Captains Augustus Bedford Forrest and Benjamin Franklin Pierce." Pierce aka Hawkeye is 28. Forrest aka Duke is 29. Soon Captain Forrest commits for the first time an authorial tin-ear malapropism to be pointlessly repeated hundreds of time before novel's end. Speaking to the only other person in a Jeep driving north from Seoul, Duke asks Hawkeye, "What are y'all anyway? ... A nut?" "Y'all" is supposed to let the reader know that Captain Forrest is a Southerner, specifically a Georgian. Trouble is, of course, we Southerners do not use "you all" or its variants when addressing single individuals. *** Whereas Shakespeare and Kipling individualize their characters through accurate reproduction of the sounds they make speaking English, almost every single character in MASH sounds as if he was born and raised in the same Midwestern neighborhood -- despite Hawkeye's being from Maine and Trapper John's being from Boston. Obvious exceptions are Captain Forrest and a late in the yarn black football star whose father had been a sharecropper on a farm owned by Forrest's father. And they both sound like tin-ear parodies. *** In Chapter 3 there enters chest surgeon John McIntyre, formerly a famous high school and college athlete nicknamed Trapper John. He moves into a tent called the Swamp completing the third of the three Swampmen, the novel's heroes. The rest of MASH is about their growing companionship as unusually good but eccentric surgeons performing "hurry-up, short-cut or call-it-what-you-will surgery you have to do in a place like this" (Ch. 14). Like SOLDIERS THREE and STALKY & CO., MASH is essentially a string of short stories focusing on Hawkeye, Duke and Trapper John at work and at play, in depression and exaltation until each one's 15 months of front line surgery are over. *** The novel spun off a movie directed by Robert Altman which followed the book fairly well, albeit with exaggerations of the mayhem that the surgical Musketeers strewed about them. An eleven-seasons television series was more popular than either novel or movie. If you must read MASH the novel, do it as the price of admission to the movie or television MASH. --OOO--

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Kipling Sahib


Reviewed on Apr 12 2011

Rudyard Kipling celebrated his 35th birthday in December 1900. That same month the first chapter of his prose masterpiece KIM was published in the USA by McClure's Magazine. KIM and its immediate popular and critical success are where Charles Allen breaks off his compelling 2009 biography KIPLING SAHIB: INDIA AND THE MAKING OF RUDYARD KIPLING. *** According to Allen, Kipling continued for another three decades to grind out works of no little technical merit. A few later poems remain in the memory: "If," "The Smugglers" and "My Son Jack." Some later prose works for children endure: "Just So Stories" (published virtually simultaneously with KIM), "Puck of Pook's Hill," but not much else. Charles Allen's narrative ends: "With KIM he had said it all." *** The fictional boy Kim reflects, according to Allen, Kipling's own psyche: a rational, masculine side devoted to law and order and all things British and a passionate, anarchic feminine side increasingly admiring of Asia. In the novel Kim is pulled toward obedience to the great British Raj in India by Afghan horse trader Mahboob Ali, but toward mysticism, love of God and neighbor by the Red Lama. Which way Kim will go is left explicitly undecided by Kipling. Most scholars and writers of later KIM pastiches, take it for granted that Kim will opt for the Raj and a career as a spy. Not so Allen: the Lama has won. Kim is a devoted Buddhist, basking in sudden, eleventh-hour illumination. *** Allen's focus are the thirteen or so years that Rudyard Kipling spent as baby and boy and later as a very young man and journalist in Bombay, Lahore, Simla and Allahabad. India made the 1907 future Nobel Prize winner -- far more than did England -- according to the biographer. Kipling was writing memorable verse and prose at age 18. Charles Allen makes a good case for his thesis. Much, it seems to me, is, however, Allen's personal interpretation (how much time did Kipling really spend in India with prostitutes and opium?). But this merely means that it will take more than the four or five Kipling biographies now in print to give us Rudyard Kipling in the round. KIPLING SAHIB abounds in photographs and drawings. It has useful maps, ample endnotes, an up to date bibliography and a chronology of Kipling's works. A very, very appealing and useful read! --OOO--

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Just So Stories


Reviewed on Apr 3 2011

The original edition (1902) of Rudyard Kipling's yarns for children, JUST SO STORIES, has 12 tales. Some later editions added a 13th ("The Tabu Tale") and might have added a 14th from 1895, THE JUNGLE BOOK, on how the tiger got his stripes. *** Most of the stories are about animals, usually having one part of their anatomy being transformed by outside pressure ( e.g. a young elephant's puffy nose being stretched out to today's dimensions by a crocodile trying to drag the curious youngster for its dinner into "the great gray-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees"). But my favorite is about the domestication by earliest humans of the first wild animals: dog, horse and cat. It is called "The Cat That Walked by Himself." And the free-spirited cat was notable for negotiating, not entirely to his satisfaction, the anarchical terms under which he will consent to live with Man, Woman and Baby "for always and always and always." *** Standing far apart from the animal tales are two inter-twined yarns: "How the First Letter Was Written" and "How The Alphabet Was Made." Rooting the alphabet as we know it in a young cave girl's efforts to send a message home through a stranger speaking a different language but carrying with him an incomprehensible sketch she had drawn, Kipling makes learning the alphabet extra fun for youngsters and adds a bit of spoofing history as well. *** It is easy to imagine that the "O my Best Beloved" to whom Kipling later told the JUST SO STORIES was his oldest child, Vermont-born Josephine ("josie") who died of pneumonia at age six. -OOO-

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Body Awareness As Healing Therapy


Reviewed on Apr 1 2011

Buncombe County in Western North Carolina (county seat: Asheville) is fortunate to have three renowned teacher/practitioners of Moshe Feldenkrais's health through body awareness techniques. The first two are John Robson and Lavinia Plonka. I take weekly "Feldenkrais" aka Awareness Through Movement aka ATM classes from both masters at Cheshire Fitness Center in Black Mountain, NC. *** I am a still raw beginner in all things Feldenkrais. Virtually everything I know on the subject comes from my two teachers -- including from books by others that they recommend (Lavinia has written two brilliant ones of her own). After sharing with Ms Plonka the difficulties I had with the first book I read by Dr Moshe Feldenkrais (AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT), I was only too happy to accept her advice to tackle Feldenkrais's book here reviewed - BODY AWARENESS AS HEALING THERAPY: THE CASE OF NORA (1977, 1993). For Lavinia Plonka told me that THE CASE OF NORA is widely regarded as the Master's "most accessible" book -- i. e., one most easily understood by beginners like me. And John Robson was equally enthusiastic for the book's insights into the way Moshe Feldenkrais's mind worked during his "Functional Integration" (FI) hands-on approach to solving concrete problems of individuals with back pains, poor postures or whatever. *** In the CASE OF NORA, Dr (of Science, not Medicine) Feldenkrais was asked to help a well educated, polyglot Swiss woman in her sixties whom a stroke had deprived three years earlier of the ability to read and write. After some initial examinations in Switzerland, Nora and her family were persuaded to send her to be with Feldenkrais at his base in Israel. in THE CASE OF NORA we relive with Moshe Feldenkrais and his students the many months of daily half hour sessions that Nora and Moshe spent together. *** First he helped her regain the ability to read. Later, after a separation while he traveled abroad, Nora returned to Israel able to read but still very weak in writing. She learned. Throughout his text, Feldenkrais shares his false starts, his already formed hypotheses about to to proceed with such a case and the new insights that emerged during his lengthy experience with Nora. He emphasizes the importance of Nora's having to learn to relax. He was surprised to discover how his therapy reminded Nora of her school days, when she had had a dread of coming ate to school -- something that never happened. He lays out important information about our nervous system and brain. *** THE CASE OF NORA is indeed "accessible." It introduced me to "the second half" of Feldenkrais method: Functional Integration aka FI. That is hands-on, one-on-one treatment or physical therapy, healing if you will. This has not been requested by or tried on me -- yet. The first half of "Feldenkrais" is hands-off, classroom instruction, ATM, laid out in Feldenkrais's much more difficult book AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT. *** I find it useful to think of the two halves in terms of my personal adaptation of one seminal metaphor used by Moshe Feldenkrais: in an ATM classroom a piano tuner teaches a group many ways to tune their out-of-tune pianos (their bodies). Whatever the tune or sonata they want to play will sound better on a well tuned body. in FI healing, by contrast, a piano teacher shows me or you how to play those ivories better. I think that is correct to say that it is "FI" that our third Feldenkrais activist, Black Mountain's Clifford Shulman -- along with Lavinia Plonka and John Robson -- practices with his medical doctor-referred patients and others in need of physical therapy. Cliff also gives occasional Feldenkrais-rich ATM lectures, when he can find the time from his healing practice. ATM and FI are two sides of the same coin. And Buncombe County is Feldenkrais country! -OOO-

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The Memoirs Of Lt Henry Timberlake


Reviewed on Mar 25 2011

Professor Duane H. King's scholarly 2007 edition of THE MEMOIRS OF LT. HENRY TIMBERLAKE frames perfectly an important eye-witness narrative of 18th Century Cherokee - British interactions. In 1762, 26 year old Virginia militia Lieutenant Henry Timberlake accompanied the Emperor and two Chiefs of the Cherokee nation to London for an audience to confirm peace with 24 year old King George III. Britain was about to triumph in its Seven Years War with France. France was to lose almost all of its Canadian possessions to Britain. Great Britain seemed poised to be the paramount North American power forever. ***Seemingly the Cherokees had chosen well in rejecting their earlier preference for the French (who treated the Indians as equals) and choosing the cross-culturally tone deaf English for their new friends. But the British would soon lose the American Revolution. And the trimphant Americans would make Cherokees pay dearly for remaining stubbornly loyal to that gracious "last King of America," who had hospitably honored them in London during the summer of 1762. *** Thanks to Lt. Timberlake's accurate observations of Cherokee games, war dances and folk ways (a fair amount later lost), 21st Century Cherokees have now revived some of what seemed gone forever, especially the great war dance. TImberlake ruined himself financially in personally paying the expenses of the visiting Cherokee delegation. He was not well treated by either colonial or central British governments. But he lives on in his MEMOIRS, published just before his death in 1765 at age 29. -OOO-

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Awareness Through Movement


Reviewed on Mar 22 2011

Did you know that AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT by Moshe Feldenkrais (1972 and in later editions) is more than the name of a book? It is also a "movement" within health and fitness studies, with its own acronym, "ATM." Some specialists are busy doing scientific studies of Feldenkrais ATM to see whether and to what extent it really "works," i. e., does what it claims to do. Other experimenters are extending ATM to solving problems that I doubt were tackled by Moshe Feldenkrais himself, including obesity and eating disorders. *** Moshe Feldenkrais's text is built around a fair number of "do-it-yourself" exercises, most illustrated but some not. The exercises can be as simple as how to get up from sitting on a chair to breathing, using either side of the lungs consecutively. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was a brilliant, extraordinarily well educated scientist, at one time a student of radium pioneer Marie Curie. A major goal of Dr Feldenkrais is to help people sit, stand, walk and move comfortably and pleasantly. We are to become as conscious as we can (in time we shall improve!) of every part of our body, including eyelids straining as we strive during a dull lecture to stay awake. *** I, for one, have been taking weekly one hour "Feldenkrais" classes off and on for nearly a year. I have found the book AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT a great help in forming a "big picture" of what all the scrunching, twisting, contorting and rolling I have been doing as directed in class is supposed to accomplish. Balance while standing and walking is a large part of it. Not doing any exercise to the point that it hurts is another part of ATM practical lore. Different cultures inculcate different postures. Think of the Japanese who "sit" on their haunches. Moshe Feldenkrais teaches that there are better and worse ways to reach any culture's habitual posture. And most adults do many things wrong. Hence, we experience avoidable, correctible pain. Replacing old bad habits with new good ones is what ATM shows us how to do. We make tiny, tiny movements of neck or torso or shoulders. After each series of repetitions (Feldenkrais's favorite number in the book is 25), we relax and pause. I was surprised to read that those pauses were perhaps the most important parts of an exercise. We are to use pauses to remember what we had just been doing and then try to make what we were doing correctly stay with us as new good habits. The author also stresses (something I had not heard in ATM classes with two different teachers) how very important it is to be doing our exercises while listening to and following the instructions of the teacher. This is consciously intended multi-tasking and the authorized Feldenkrais instructor is carefully trained to make her every word count. *** This book AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT carries credibility. The author gives his view of how spirit, imagination, memory, muscles and bones are meant to work together in humans for good posture, easy, pleasant motion and exertion of no more "will power" than is absolutely required. If you are not taking ATM classes already, this book should motivate you to sign up somewhere near your work or home. If you are already taking classes, then AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT, the book, will likely deepen your sense of where all the minutiae you are exposed to in class are leading you. -OOO-

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