GREATER GOTHAM/WALLACE/EXCEEDS ALL EXPECTATIONS

Mike Wallace’s sequel to GOTHAM  is another enormous undertaking for both the author and the reader.  GREATER GOTHAM A HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY FROM 1898 TO 1919 epic and heroic.  Having completed both volumes ( search GOTHAM at gordonsgoodreads.com) I heartily recommend this new work.

Wallace advances a deep understanding of the evolution of the economic, political and social fabric of New York City as the five New York Burroughs became one. It is a fascinating look at the multi-cultural and political conflicts that impacted the growth of the city.  Wallace leaves out no aspect of city life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Media, music, art, race, gender, gentrification, Tammany, titans, aristocrats, prostitutes, swells and hacks. Irish, Jews, Chinese, Greeks, Italians and the unlikely alliances  among them that drove the city politic during this period of enormous growth for the manufacturing, financial and cultural capitol of  America.

I look upon Wallace’s work as earning a Master’s Degree in the History of New York.  At 1052 pages, not including the bibliography and index, this is not an airplane read but rather for comfortable surroundings in which to be astonished, inhaling and contemplating the complexities of the great City of New York.

Wallace is already at work on the next volume of GOTHAM which will focus of the 1920s,30s and 40s. I can’t wait.

GIANT OF THE SENATE/FRANKEN/ ROBUST SATIRE FINDS TRUTH

Al Franken  is a wonderful writer and story-teller and GIANT of the SENATE  is a  powerful memoir and a highly recommended read.

GIANT of the SENATE is filled with insight into Franken the individual (SNL), his politics, the legislative process  and skewers many of the political personalities of our time.   Franken has no problem pulling out the daggers shrouded in his unique brand of humor. His use of satire energizes the narrative.

Franken covers all the terrain. Health care, bi-partisanship, immigration, begging for money, running for office and the degrees of comity among senators.  This insightful book is for readers who love politics and Franken’s style makes the lessons enjoyable. Of course, it is a call to arms for Progressives:

” Even if you don’t run for office, in order to be part of determining what our shared future looks like, you have to be willing to give up things like time, energy and money…. You have to endure an overwhelming amount of noise and  nonsense… and the worst part is, you’re not guaranteed a return on your investment…..but I’ll tell you this: I’m glad I’m here. ”

I wholeheartedly agree with Franken that we should strike the word “robust” from political discourse even though I satirically used it in the headline. You’ll see!

Also from Al Franken:  Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot, Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them- A Fair and Balanced look at the Right and The Truth (with jokes).

 

 

 

 

TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT/ HEMINGWAY

Playing catch-up on some of my overlooked Hemingway reads.  To Have and Have Not is quick and worthwhile.  A classic example of the use of dialogue as the story telling vehicle.  Set in the Florida Keys and Cuba, so much a part of the Hemingway lifestyle. Little wonder he tells the story  so well. Smuggling is not a good business or a lifestyle with a future.  Few happy endings.

Enjoy this short fiction.  No more than a lengthy one or two sitting read.

Search gordonsgoodreads for other Hemingway classics. It is the most sought after subject on this blog.

 

 

 

Homegoing/ Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi details the beginnings of the slave trade as African  tribes  raid one another’s villages to gain riches by kidnapping  young men and women at the behest of  British slave traders. The Gold Coast of Africa became Ghana where to this day stands the Cape Coast Castle and the  “Door of No Return ” leading to the beach where the slave ships waited to sail to the Caribbean and America.

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Homegoing is a story of Africa and the havoc wrought  by British colonization.  The book tells a parallel  story of Africans chained together and cast upon the shores of America. Gyasi writes  in Homegoing of generation after generation of her people searching for identity in frightening and ever-changing worlds in Africa, the American South and the streets of present day Harlem. Listen to Gyasi’s  voice:

White men get a choice. They get to choose they job, choose they house. They get to make black babies, then disappear into thin air, like they wasn’t never there to begin with, like these black women they slept with or raped done laid on top of themselves and got pregnant. White men get to choose for black men too. Used to sell ’em; now they just send ’em to prison like they did my daddy, so they can’t be with their kids.

Homegoing is compelling, engaging, insightful and beautifully written The novel follows  generations of descendants seeking answers and understanding as to how their past became the present. Through it all, Gyasi never loses the thread, weaving back and forth taking the reader along on an emotional journey. There will be much more to come from this brilliant first time novelist.

 

 

 

 

WINTER IN MADRID/ A DIFFERENT C.J. SANSOM

C.J. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid is a wonderful departure from his excellent Shardlake Series.  Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation,and Heart-stone are all  Sansom novels set in sixteenth century England. ( See my overviews of the aforementioned here at gordonsgoodreads.com).

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Winter in Madrid is a novel set in 1940, just after the Spanish Civil War. It is a story of love, friendship and high adventure surrounding the rescue of a young veteran who left England after the evacuation of Dunkirk to join in the fight against the Fascists in Spain. English prep school friends find themselves together on Spanish soil some seeking their fortune, others justice and lost love.

Sansom delivers a bonus history of post Civil War Spain enveloped in an intriguing story that moves with a fine pace and bountiful energy. His writing is never flowery but captures the moment perfectly with a judicious vocabulary.  One exception is ” coffee.”  You will see what I mean as you devour this good read.

Samson’s latest in the Shardlake Series is Lamentation, which is next on my Sansom list. I will post upon completion.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

BLIZZARDS FOR REAL

I am researching a book about life in a small Massachusetts Town and the current hysteria over the ” Blizzard of 2015″ caused me to want to share this passage from the 1700s near Boylston, Massachusetts.

” During the early 1700s New England winters were extremely severe with front arriving in October and heavy snowfall on the ground until early April. George Wright in his history of Boylston tells of storms that kept settlers in their homes for days before being able to dig out through the huge snowdrifts. Quoting from a letter written by Rev. Dr. Cotton Mather to a friend in England, Wright wrote in his paper Historical Phenomens from the Papers of George L. Wright: “On the twenty-third and twenty-fourth 1717 occurred the greatest snowstorm known in the history of New England. Rev. Dr. Cotton Mather in a letter to a friend in England has preserved a full account of this storm. In this letter Dr. Mather said there had been a heavy body of snow covering the ground through the winter. A terrific snowstorm came on the twentieth of February, which was so violent that all communication was stopped and people for some hours could not cross from one side of a street to the other.“

On the twenty-fourth day of the month came another storm, which buried the memory of the former. This storm came on a Sunday and no religious assemblies were held throughout the country. Indians there nearly 100 years old, affirmed that their fathers had never told them of any stories that equaled it. Vast numbers of a cattle, sheep, and swine perished; some of them were found standing at the bottom of snowdrifts weeks after the storm. One farmer who lost above 1100 sheep found two of them still alive twenty-eight days after the storm at the bottom of a snow bank sixteen feet high having sustained themselves by eating the wool of their dead companions. Hogs were found alive after twenty-seven days burial, hens after seven days, and turkeys after twenty-five days, in positions where they were utterly unable to obtain any food. Great damage was done to the orchards; the snow freezing to a crust as high as the branches broke and split them, and the cattle walking upon the crust greatly damaged them by browsing. Houses were completely covered with snow, not even the tops of chimneys being seen.” (Boylston Historical Society: Historical Phenomena from the Papers of George L. Wright, Transcribed by Amy Gilgis.

Perspective!

SHORT NIGHTS OF THE SHADOW CATCHER

Author Timothy Egan in his book Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher  crafts a splendid and enjoyable biography of  world-renowned  American Indian anthropologist, photographer  and chronicler  Edward Curtis.

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Egan captures the epic story of Curtis’s extraordinary creation of the 20-volume The North American Indian, an incomparable photographic and narrative now considered a work of art, documenting the complex and tragic story of the vanishing Native Americans. Egan writes in extensive detail of the thirty years during which Curtis became a slave to the completion of the work, capturing the personal sacrifices and near death adventures necessary for the narrative to be “preciously”  Edward Curtis. “This was a place like no other he had seen through three decades of portrait foraging, ”  writes Egan.  ” Think of it,”  Curtis wrote in his diary, ” At last, and for the first time in all my thirty years work with the natives, I have found a place where no  missionary has worked.”

Edward Curtis

Edward Curtis

At the Little Big Horn  battlefield and only after extensively interviewing Sioux who were present  that day, Edward Curtis uncovers a very different story of what actually happened at Custer’s Last Stand. ” Let them fight, there will be plenty of fighting left for us to do.”  George Armstrong Custer as told to Curtis by Crow Scout White Man Runs Him overlooking the  battlefield where General Marcus’s troops were slaughtered.

The reader will meet those who inspired Curtis to pursue his dream including Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, J.P. Morgan, George Bird Grinnell , Chief Joseph and Geronimo. Egan’s portrait of Curtis is explicit in that it would be impossible to find another American who sacrificed  to the extent of Edward  Curtis to pursue the documentation and preservation of the vanishing way of life of the first Americans.

More than a biography, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher shares with the reader Curtis’s depth of knowledge and understanding of the widely different cultures, rituals, and beliefs of the various American Indian tribes.  It is also a wonderfully crafted story of how the creative work of those who possess incomparable talent and vision are often  lost in their own time only to attain rightful acclaim by future generations.

Before The Storm--Apache 1906--Edward Curtis

Before The Storm–Apache 1906–Edward Curtis

I commend Short Nights Of The Shadow Catcher to all who have interest in poignant literature surrounding our first Americans.

Other books I have posted on gordonsgoodreads by Timothy Egan include The Worst Hard Time and The Big Burn.  Utilize the search tab found here.