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Beiträge von Bob Newman
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Bob Newman "Bob Newman" (Marblehead, Massachusetts USA)

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Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory-City (Library of New England)
Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory-City (Library of New England)
von Tamara K. Hareven
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 28,99

5.0 von 5 Sternen "Been through the mill, and the mill's been through me", 25. Juli 2000
Nineteenth century American travellers waxed enthusiastic or properly melancholic amidst the ruins of Europe. Writers such as Henry James often contrasted the youth and vigor (and innocence) of America with old, tired Europe. None of them could have imagined that less than a century later, the busy New England mills that turned out huge quantities of shoes, textiles, and useful products of all kinds would be silent, weed-strewn ruins. When I look around at cities like Salem, Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence, and Brockton, Mass., at Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire, at a dozen small towns in Maine, I realize that I grew up during the fall of a whole civilization. I saw the tail end of it. Today so many of those thriving factories and mills have been razed to the ground, turned into condos or specialty shops, or even, into museums of industrial history.
AMOSKEAG is the story of one textile mill, once the largest in the world, along the banks of the Merrimack River in New Hampshire. The story is told through 37 interviews after an introduction of thirty-odd pages. The effect is most immediate: you feel as if you had lived the whole experience, grown up around these people. The reader is taken through the lives of management to the world of work---the varieties of tasks and social interactions to be found within the giant factory. Then we get an idea of family life, how the factory permeated every aspect of existence, and finally of the strikes, shutdowns and rising costs that eventually drove the mill out of existence (or rather, the whole textile industry to other states and countries). The text is punctuated by numerous black and white photographs which add to the atmosphere of "bygone days" that emanates from the whole book. If you are looking for a book on industrial history or early 20th century New England, you must read this one, it's unforgettable.


Clambake: A History and Celebration of the American Tradition (Publications of the American Folklore Society, New Series)
Clambake: A History and Celebration of the American Tradition (Publications of the American Folklore Society, New Series)
von Kathy Neustadt
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 24,49

4.0 von 5 Sternen Of Clams, Cooking, and Ambivalence, 24. Juli 2000
As a New Englander born and bred, for me there's nothing better than a plate of finely fried clams with a bottle of beer and some tartar sauce or perhaps, a dish of fragrant steamers to be dipped in clam juice and butter. So I had this gut feeling (sorry) that I was going to enjoy Neustadt's CLAMBAKE. I wasn't wrong either. Here, in a most user-friendly format, you can find everything you ever wanted to know about clambakes---the history of clambakes in New England; 19th century customs such as Squantum feasts, political banquets, and Forefather's Day; the rise of tourism and public transportation; the manner of collecting and cooking all ingredients, and how a particular clambake, celebrated every year in a small community in southeastern Massachusetts, related to its participants and performers. Neustadt collected all manner of posters, old photos, and magazine illustrations from the past which are scattered appealingly throughout the text in conjunction with her own photographs. All this is most pleasing and I don't hesitate to recommend the book to anyone interested in the subject.
The second side of the book is one in which the author attempts to link her study of clambakes to the larger field of anthropological theory. As regards this aspect of the book, I think I might have titled my review "To Deconstruct or Not To Deconstruct", for I feel that Neustadt remained extremely ambivalent about her own profession or at least, her participation in its peculiar rituals and behavioral system. She aptly points out that what people refer to as the "tradition" of clambaking is, in fact, invented tradition which draws attention to what was considered a "suitable" past. She nicely concludes that the clambake underlines the imagery of inheritance (from the Indians, from the Pilgrim fathers) rather than the inheritance itself, it being unproven that the Indians ever had any clambaking tradition. So far, so good. But, if I were you, I would skip Chapter 7, in which she tries gamely to relate her research to the work of all sorts of "heavies", but backs off each time, saying that, to her, it really doesn't fit. She is so ambivalent about getting theoretical that one wonders why she even wrote this chapter. (Could it be that it was part of a prior thesis ? Part of her own initiation rites?) Then, surprisingly, in the final chapter, she sums up in excellent form what she thinks it all means, connects clambakes to identity, community, continuity, harmony. Why she needed that previous chapter is even more questionable. She plumps for experience over analysis---which is great as advice for life---but doesn't cut much ice in the arena of intellectual activity. She remains dithering between readers of popular folklore and an academic audience, uncertain of whom she is writing for. It's a strange performance in an otherwise fine book, because you know, she wrote for both.


House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories (Japans Modern Writers)
House of the Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories (Japans Modern Writers)
von Yasunari Kawabata
  Taschenbuch

3.0 von 5 Sternen Weird old man likes to sleep with drugged women, 19. Juli 2000
Kawabata is a great writer, but these three stories are not his best work in my opinion. The title piece, by far the longest in the book, is a sensitively-written story about a sad, kinky practice. I have no idea if it ever really existed. It has to do with old, impotent men who sleep (literally) with drugged, naked young women who know that they will have "customers", but not whom, and not what they will do. Actual sex is completely forbidden. Most people will not find this story erotic, though Mishima Yukio, the famous writer, calls it that in his introduction. The words "beautiful" and "poetic" seldom came to my mind, though "disturbing" and "thought-provoking" did. The protagonist, Eguchi, sleeps with a number of different "beauties", each of whom reminds him of something in his past. Also, "there seemed to be a sadness in a young girl's body that called up in an old man a longing for death." (p.59) The end is stark and brings out the inhumanity of such fantasies or such practices. If you like this sort of subject, introversion in a rather sick way, an attraction to body parts separate from the whole human, a peeping Tom version of eroticism----a style of ailing or macabre fascination similar to that found in Tanizaki Junichiro's "The Key" and "Diary of a Mad Old Man"----then this book is for you. The other two stories: "One Arm" and "Of Birds and Beasts", are also about such lonely, introverted men, ("autistic" comes to mind), with rather unpleasant themes. I did not like either one. I admit that the writing is good, the translation brilliant; it is just my own taste in subjects. Don't say I didn't warn you.


The Sound of the Mountain (Vintage International)
The Sound of the Mountain (Vintage International)
von Yasunari Kawabata
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen That's the Sound of Life, That's the Sound of Death, 17. Juli 2000
Kawabata Yasunari won the Nobel Prize in 1968 and this novel above all his others, in my opinion, gives readers a chance to find out why. This is a classic of world literature, a work of genius. It is a finely-written tale of family, a simple story about an older man who is fond of his daughter-in-law, though his relations with his own two grown children, son and divorced daughter, are ambiguous. The story line, as in other Kawabata novels, is simple----there are no great events, no dramatic conclusions or climaxes. Natural phenomena---birds, animals, plants, and weather---play a large role in setting the mood and are used as symbols throughout. Far from being a recurring theme, the "sound of the mountain" is heard only once, on page 10, yet it and many other signs presage changes in life that follow a pattern unseen by human eyes.
The most amazing thing about THE SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN is its capacity to summarize or to encapsulate family life, the compexity of family relationships. The only other book I know that comes close is Christina Stead's "The Man Who Loved Children", but that is a most verbose book whose characters verbalize nearly every emotion, or else the author does it for them. Kawabata's novel, however, succeeds in portraying family life equally well, if not better, with an absolute minimum of brush strokes. The indecision, the steps not taken, the regrets, the lost loves who return in dreams---all the myriad small events from which marriages and families are constructed---flow in a way that is both typically Japanese and universal. Shingo, the old man, was particularly kind towards Kikuko, his daughter in law, who "was for him a window looking out of a gloomy house." "Kindness towards her was a beam lighting isolation. It was a way of pampering himself, of bringing a touch of mellowness into his life." There is nothing so definite (or crass) as an out-and-out love affair between the two. Rather, there are solutions that are no solutions, compromises that have to paper over the disappointments. Life goes on and Hollywood is for children. What a brilliant book !


The Master of Go (Vintage International)
The Master of Go (Vintage International)
von Yasunari Kawabata
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,97

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Japanese Culture à Go-go, 10. Juli 2000
In 1938, a go match was played over six months in 14 sessions at several different locations in Japan. The opponents were the grand master, Shusai, and Otake, a younger professional challenger. Kawabata, then 39 years old, was the newspaper reporter who covered the match for Tokyo and Osaka newspapers. After the war, he turned his reportage into a novel which still retains much of the feeling of reports. If you don't know the game of 'go', played with white and black stones on a board, or if you are not at all familiar with Japanese culture, then this book is probably not a good place to begin. However, if that is not the case, then Kawabata's subtle depiction of many themes in Japanese culture and in human life, may give you pleasure. The sick old man versus the young one. Life versus death, even. The author wrote"From the way of Go, the beauty of Japan and the Orient had fled. Everything had become science and regulation." (p.52) Players worried about points, not elegance or dignity. Otake represents the new, the ambitious, the unrefined; the old master all that was vanishing, all that Kawabata mourned. As a novel about an arcane contest which still can bring out all these important, even universal, themes, THE MASTER OF GO is an amazing feat. If this sounds interesting, give it a try. You definitely won't find another novel like it ! Kawabata certainly deserved the Nobel Prize.


Snow Country (Vintage International)
Snow Country (Vintage International)
von Yasunari Kawabata
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,72

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4.0 von 5 Sternen A Rake's Non-Progress, 10. Juli 2000
I studied Japanese for four years in college and as a senior, more years ago than I care to count, I read this novel in Japanese, one of only two I ever made it through. Recently, having forgotten everything about the novel and because I have forgotten too many characters to read in Japanese anymore, I re-read it in English. SNOW COUNTRY is nothing if not a strange work. At the risk of sounding snobbish or whatever, I have to say that it is stranger in English than in Japanese. Japanese allows for a great deal of vagueness and reading between the lines. English prefers definite words about definite events. So, as I read the novel again, I did wonder why I had found it so enthralling the first time and concluded that language had something to do with it. Nothing is definite. As usual, Kawabata is not strong on plot. An idle playboy-type (we never learn where his money comes from) visits a resort in the mountains of Western Japan, facing the Japan Sea, the snowiest region of the world. He meets an offbeat sort of geisha, Komako. He rather likes her: she likes him, maybe more than that, but the relationship is touchy. Everything is extremely vague, the surroundings are beautiful, and as always, the reader can enjoy the Japanese fascination with the tiniest details of the natural world. Komako, available and prone to drink, is contrasted to the distant Yoko, a pure girl, with a beautiful voice, who shows devotion to one man and to duty. The end perhaps underlines Kawabata's view of postwar society, his disappointment at what Japan had become. If you have read "Memoirs of a Geisha", this might be a satisfactory antidote---not that the former was bad, but it is an American viewpoint. This completely Japanese view of a geisha could be more realistic in terms of what the average geisha's life would have been like in the provinces, far from the splendid inns of Kyoto and Tokyo. If you like haiku, Mondrian, minimalist photography, you would like this novel. If however, your taste is Faulkner, Zola, Balzac, the Russians, then I doubt if you would enjoy SNOW COUNTRY.


Thousand Cranes (Vintage International)
Thousand Cranes (Vintage International)
von Yasunari Kawabata
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Expiation in the Summer Heat, Japanese Style, 5. Juli 2000
Mishima Yukio, that troubled, brilliant, versatile author of numerous great novels, said that if a Japanese writer was going to receive the Nobel Prize, it should be Kawabata Yasunari. The latter did win the prize in 1968, four years before his death. Both Kawabata and Mishima should be numbered among the great writers of the 20th century, both committed suicide, and both were Japanese. That's where the similarity ends. Any novel of Kawabata's opens the deep treasure of Japanese understatement, the minimalist style of sumi-e, haiku, and Noh theatre. Every sentence says less than expected, but as some people like to say nowadays, "less is more." So true. THOUSAND CRANES is brief and to many Western readers could appear overly simple and without strong flavor. To assume this would be to miss the main attraction of the novel, which, admittedly, might not be for everyone. In delicate brush strokes, the author deftly paints the picture of a complex relationship which would have attracted Henry James, had he not been so stoutly Victorian in his choice of plots. A young man has an affair with Mrs. Ota, his father's former mistress, rejects the meddling of a second woman, also a former mistress of his father's, and is attracted, full of guilt and hesitation, to Mrs. Ota's daughter. Like much Japanese writing, the novel is full of natural symbols as well as the signs of the seasons. Tiny details assume great importance, take on important symbolism----two tea bowls used by deceased lovers, an ugly birthmark on a woman's breast----details which would be drowned in the mass of verbiage present in most Western writing. Tea ceremony and the delicate beauty of old ceramics suffuse the pages. The novel is about sex, love, guilt, revenge, and the need for children to outgrow their parents' transgressions. The stunning part is that these words are almost never mentioned ! There is a belief in Japan that if a sick person can make a thousand paper cranes (origami style), they will recover. The title thus refers to a healing process, though the thousand cranes appear only on a kerchief carried by a girl whom the protagonist does not marry. This novel is a tour de force by one of Japan's and the world's best modern writers. If you want to try something completely different, I strongly recommend THOUSAND CRANES.


The Carreta (Jungle Novels)
The Carreta (Jungle Novels)
von B. Traven
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,93

4.0 von 5 Sternen On pre-revolutionary Mexican society-----plus a simple story, 28. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Carreta (Jungle Novels) (Taschenbuch)
B. Traven, a German leftist who fled the chaos of post World War I Bavaria for the New World, wrote many novels of Mexico, including the movie immortalized by Bogart, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre". This is the first one I've read, so don't put me on your list of Traven experts. I have learned that this novel, THE CARRETA, is part of a series. I hope that the characters continue from novel to novel, but have no idea if this is true. If they do not, then this book is a very slight effort, in terms of a story and sequence of events. A young Indian man, a peon on a hacienda, is traded off by his patrón during a card game. His new boss runs a cartage company---the workers are on the road all their lives, and due to an extreme system of debt slavery, can never escape their hard existence. Andrés, the young man, finds a young woman at a fiesta and makes her his wife. They love, but must part when Andrés learns that his father, back on the plantation, has been sold to a timber cutting firm deep in the jungles, a fate that nearly nobody can survive. This is the entire plot of the book. What makes the book interesting is the great amount of detail the author gives on Mexican life in the time of Porfirio Dias, the dictator who was overthrown in 1910. The land, the lives of the simple people, Indian legends, the details of work are all depicted in beautiful prose interspersed with considerable irony on the cruelties and injustices of the whole system. Some people might find the political slant not to their taste, but how could you ignore or accept a system that kept more than half of the Mexican people in virtual slavery all their lives ? If you read this book, which is set in the southern state of Chiapas, and wonder how the Revolution changed everything, think about what has been taking place in that very state during the 1990s. The Indians are still in a state of armed revolt against the landlords, who still think that the native peoples are theirs to use and discard. If you link the times described by Traven and the news of today, you will find that his novel remains entirely relevant to our times.


Ake: The Years of Childhood (Vintage International)
Ake: The Years of Childhood (Vintage International)
von Wole Soyinka
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 15,06

5.0 von 5 Sternen The Flavor of Childhood is Universal, 18. Juni 2000
I've never been to Nigeria, nor even West Africa, and though I've known many Nigerians, including a number of Yoruba, I could never say, until I read AKÉ, THE YEARS OF CHILDHOOD, that I had any real idea about where they came from. You can read other Nigerian writers---Tutuola, Achebe, Ekwensi, Nzekwu, Amadi---or listen to Nigerian music from Fela, Ebenezer Obey, 'King' Sunny Ade, or Olatunji---there's a vast world of Nigerian culture, but until you've read Soyinka, you haven't tasted the real flavor of it. Seeing that I've just confessed that I haven't been there, how do I dare to say such a thing ? It's because I believe that the human experience has both particular and universal elements and Soyinka is at his best in describing his childhood days in such a way that both are clearly present. Childhood is a welter of impressions, small events, accidents, misunderstandings, broken promises, smells, sounds, and feelings. Everyone's childhood is composed of just these things. But how about a childhood in Abeokuta, Nigeria in the late 1930s and 1940s ? In Soyinka's autobiography, we appreciate the specific qualities of those years in that place in magnificent detail...addiction to powdered milk, getting lost because you followed a marching band, stewing a snake, dislike of being an 'exhibit', learning to love books. Everything is told from a child's point of view, with no attempt to be prescient after the fact. [The thing that annoyed me tremendously about Jean Paul Sartre's "The Words".] Soyinka comes across as a very honest man.
The first few pages are a little bewildering, before you sink into the comfortable flow of humorous, tender, wondering memories. I liked the use of Yoruba expressions and sayings, translated at the bottom of each page-if Europeans could bombard us with German, French, Latin, etc., why not Yoruba ? Soyinka makes no concessions, and that's great. Most of the famous autobiographies of world literature have come from Europe and America. Now Africa has produced one to stand up with the best of them.


The Remembered Village (Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies, Uc Berkeley)
The Remembered Village (Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies, Uc Berkeley)
von M. N. Srinivas
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 33,17

5.0 von 5 Sternen Warm, in-depth portrait of a Karnataka village in 1948, 30. Mai 2000
Neither anthropologists nor men come much better than M.N. Srinivas, who passed away not long ago. One of the first Indians to write on the ethnography of his own country, he studied in England with both Radcliffe-Brown and Evans-Pritchard, now deities in the hagiography of Anthropology. Back in 1948, Srinivas studied a village in what was then Mysore state, investigating everything he could, from agriculture to caste relationships, from religion to village politics. It was the classic style of field study. In succeeding years, Srinivas published a large number of important articles and several books, including "Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India", "Caste in Modern India and other essays" and "Social Change in Modern India". He never actually got around to writing up his old village study. In 1970, he was a fellow at Berkeley and finally was about to finish the work. An arsonist burned his office and all three copies of the work. THE REMEMBERED VILLAGE, then, is literally "remembered" because the bulk of the work went up in flames, though some notes were saved and the original data was in Delhi. What emerges is a wonderful portrait of an Indian anthropologist's time in the field, his relationship with the various villagers, and a lovingly detailed picture of the village itself, covering all the usual aspects of an anthropological study. Perhaps adversity and misfortune combined to produce a greater work. As an anthropologist who has worked on India for many years and as a person who was impressed with the warmth and humanity of Prof. Srinivas (though I only met him briefly many years ago in Australia), I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know the feel, the look, and the inner workings of an Indian village back in the days before the Green Revolution, television, and globalisation. This is Anthropology without jargon, India from the inside.


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