Roughing It

Discusses the stagecoach trip from Missouri to Nevada; lingers in Mormon country for awhile, attacks the text of the Book of Mormon for being hogwash (ripping off the Old testament but adding in modern elements, such as during the Ark rip-off, they had a compass…). Silver mining in Nevada, and living it up in San Francisco; sailing to Hawaii. Contrary to the misattributed quote that “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” Mark Twain actually noted that the weather in SF is 70 degrees year round. (see the reprints page)

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How to Be Alone: essays

Franzen begins to grate on me after awhile. I enjoyed the essay Lost in the Mail about the Chicago post office and its seriously problems (mountains of undelivered mail from years ago to present day, stashed bundles hidden in carriers’ apartments, fires lit with undelivered mail).
Most of the other essays were at least skimmable. I glazed over a couple of times and just had to give up outright on some essays.

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The tipping point

Very much enjoying this one. The three rules of epidemic: law of the few, stickiness factor, power of context.
Law of the few: connectors, mavens and salesmen
Paul Revere was a connector (one who is charismatic and knows a lot of people) and a maven (broker of information). Hence the revolutionary war.
How ideas tip into the majority, from being thought up by a minority of innovators. Highly recommended.

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Autobiography

the life of A. A. Milne (Alan) takes you from his Little Lord Fauntleroy days as a child through his life as a writer. The early sections are the best, telling of adventures with beloved brother Ken and mathmatical aptitude. This made me want to explore his oevure further. Besides Winnie the Pooh, he wrote plays and novels. Soon after finding a wide audience for his children’s books, he tired of writing them. Bless him for continuing on in his own way.
Born in 1882, book written in 1939

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Into a Desert Place: A 3000 Mile Walk Around the Coast of Baja California

Thoroughly entertaining travelogue of a Brit’s walking journey around Baja. Miraculously, he alternated between dying of thirst and drinking alcohol heavily. Cheesed it up at the end by proclaiming he would drink no more as a New Years Resolution. I’m reading Erle Stanley Gardner’s account of wandering the wilderness next to see how much MacKintosh ripped off.

A House for Mr. Biswas

(I read this over a year ago, just wanted to add comments because I still remember part of this work)
Some stories fade quickly from my memory because they have nothing which lodges them in my mind. Mr. Biswas is an exception. Scenes that stick in my mind: him building his house, sheltering from the huge rains, moving his family in away from the crowded extended family house. Working in the newspaper, helping his son study to be accepted as an engineer. His column “Deserving Destitutes” in the Trinidad newspaper. Making sure his son drank milk, which was a luxury.

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brody

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher in her “prime” who teaches what she thinks is important. She picks six girls as her favorites (know to everyone as “The Brodie set”) to teach art, love, and how to be a proper woman. She encourages the girls to become sexually active and tells them stories of the love of her life. The book details the lives of the girls until they are older and no longer talk to Miss Brodie.

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The City in Mind

Unfortunately, didn’t write my thoughts down at the time of reading, so I’m logging on now to give you the scoop from the Library Journal:
“Cities are good. Suburbs are bad. Paris is good. Las Vegas is bad. Boston? Stay tuned. Kunstler, a vociferous, highly opinionated critic of the urban landscape, takes an uncompromisingly hard look at how eight cities (Paris, Atlanta, Mexico City, Berlin, Las Vegas, Rome, Boston, and London), either through inspired ideas or chaotic greed, became sublime expressions of the human spirit or of gigantic monstrosities and perversion. The subtitle is appropriate, for the author makes little attempt to be systematic or comprehensive in his discussions. Although he never raises the analysis above the level of a popular magazine article, his writing is admittedly bold and thought-provoking throughout. One can learn a great deal about Louis Napoleon’s renovation of Paris, Hitler’s and Albert Speer’s megalomaniac architectural plans for Berlin, Bugsy Segal’s “setting the tone” for Las Vegas, and more. The real charm of the book, however, is not Kunstler’s rambles through each city’s historical and geographical spaces but his plea for a more human-focused urban landscape.”
–Glenn Masuchika

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Amsterdam

Molly Lane is dead. Clive and Vernon were Molly’s lovers long ago, and meet at her funeral. Clive is a successful composer and Vernon is a newspaper editor. Other lovers include Julian Garmony, the foreign secretary. After the funeral, Clive and Vernon make a euthanasia pact; compromising pics of Molly & Julian find their way into the press.
Bland, boring, obvious.

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The Comfort of Strangers

This sleepy vacation novel turns into horror story toward the end; Colin and Mary are disinterested lovers on vacation, rekindling their love interest. They bump into Robert, who takes them to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to dine with the locals. C & M end up staying with Robert and his wife Caroline, who is crippled. Violent scenes follow.
Originally didn’t think that I liked it too much, but it has stuck with me more than McEwan’s other works have (very different from the bland Atonement).

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Imperial San Francisco

Not my words (didn’t capture them at the time of reading):
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Challenging San Francisco’s popular image as a tolerant, carefree, gracious city, Brechin unearths 150 years of deeply unsettling history. San Francisco’s founding aristocracy were Southerners drawn to California as a mecca newly opened up for enterprise–particularly for plantation culture. After the 1849 gold rush, San Francisco was built on what Brechin terms a “Pyramid of Mining”–a pre-capitalist financial structure employed from Roman times through the Renaissance, uniting miners, financiers, the military and land speculators in a power elite whose only concern was limitless economic growth. While press lord William Randolph Hearst converted a mining fortune into a media conglomerate preaching the superiority of “the American race” and calling for the annexation of Mexico, other San Franciscan power brokers, according to Brechin, channeled mining profits into gas works, currency speculation, political and judicial bribery and the exploitation of forests. From Nevada to Northern California, they wrecked towns, deforested the pristine Lake Tahoe region, buried acres of farmland under mining debris and contaminated the soil, lakes and rivers. A historical geographer and coauthor of Farewell, Promised Land, Brechin concludes with a look at the University of California’s pioneering nuclear research program laid the groundwork for the Manhattan Project. Enlivened with period engravings, photos, political cartoons, magazine art, posters and maps, this stirring, environmentally conscious history ranks with Kevin Starr’s Americans and the California Dream, powerfully establishing the city on the bay as a true emblem of the atomic age.

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