Saturday, August 28, 2010

Little Big Man

by Thomas Berger

Indians and cowboys and more Indians. I liked it, but it was kind of weird. Or maybe I liked it because it was kind of weird. I don't know.

Good waiting room material.
LibraryThing link


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by Betty Smith

In the days of my youth I discovered two things. The first was the Marx Brothers. The second was that people actually wrote books about popular culture, giving more details about the creation and creators of the media I enjoyed. These two discoveries led me on a journey through a number of biographies of Sam and Minnie's sons and then on to books about vaudeville and its stars. I fell in love with the turn of the 20th Century, an era where all sorts of immigrants came to America, struggled through poverty and assimilation to build a better life for themselves. Today one of my bookshelves bears testimony to that love affair, packed with some of those books I read all those years ago.

Anyway, back to the present. I've just ended my summer break by picking up the next school book my daughter will be reading. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a (semi-autobiographical) tale set right in the middle of that beloved era, in that wonderful city of cities, New York. I should be delighted, no? Well, it seems like Ms. Smith didn't have the same experience as those vaudeville heroes of yore. Or, more likely, she didn't sugarcoat the reality of life in Brooklyn a hundred years ago. This story of a girl, Francie Nolan, growing up in a poor neighborhood was hard to read. Unlike the stories where the immigrant families "had everything but money", the Nolans had to fight and struggle for every little thing and sometimes they ended up losing. I longed for a thread of hope, some indication that Francie would indeed triumph in the end. That hope, however, was very tenuous--at times I lost it entirely. Much like life, of course. And that's the real strength of this book. It is incredibly real. As I read, I got lost in the tenements of Brooklyn and, quite frankly, that dragged me down. I loved some of the characters, but my affection was tainted with disagreements with some of their actions and regret with their character flaws. I still haven't decided if I want to keep this book or lt it go, but it is definitely one that was worth checking out.

LibraryThing link


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In Search of the Source

by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore

Gotta keep this one on my shelf.
LibraryThing link


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Alternate Presidents

edited by Mike Resnik

Check it out.
LibraryThing link


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Andrew Johnson: A Biography

by Hans L. Trefousse

This bio came as a bit of a surprise. I had always pegged Andrew Johnson as a second class president--one of those men who make the Jacksons and the Roosevelts look oh, so good. Instead, Professor Trefousse presents a very successful politician, a self-made man who not only earned his way into the vice-presidency, but made a lasting impression on the country. The problem is, I didn't care much for his contribution.

While this book covers Johnson's entire life, the bulk of it naturally focuses on the Civil War years and his subsequent presidency. His determination and independence were admirable as he stood up for his principles against both secessionists and congress. In a way, I would think that his power struggles with the latter would qualify him as a war-time president. While he didn't win that "war", his actions certainly affected how the reconstruction played out, mostly to the detriment of Southern unionists and the freedmen. As one who finds Johnson's racism contemptible, I wished he hadn't been so determined. But to be fair, his racial views were not unique at that time. Who knows how much, if any, difference there would have been if the White House had been occupied by Lincoln, or by some other man more in tune with the Republican congress than Andrew Johnson?

All-in-all, Professor Trefousse has written a informative and readable book. Y'all should check it out.
LibraryThing link

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