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Doug Briggs

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
von Robert Pirsig

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5.0 von 5 Sternen What? ... WHAT? You haven't read this masterpiece? Why not?, 22. Juli 2000
A review of this book by me, or even a thoughtful critique,could add nothing to what has been so well-said in the numerouseloquent essays among the 200 below. Among the decisively best dozen, reviewer Barron T. Laycock, only a few reviews below, describes "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" about as well as it need be done. Another finely-drawn perspective is provided immediately below by reviewer Cicha1994, who gets to the bottom of Pirsig's magic of delivering an incredibly complex synthesis with timely spoonfuls of sugar thusly:
"Mr. Pirsig has an uncanny sense of timing, and he never allows the heavier passages to labor on too long. This is avoided by craftily interspersing his philosophical discourse amongst very down-to-earth and charming observations made during a motorcycle trip ..."
Not daring to venture into the rarified air of the erudite reviews already here, I humbly offer a more fundamental observation, one that is "down-to-earth as fertilizer," as we say.
How I came to read this book the first time -- of how many? -- I can't imagine. I have no interest in Zen, never owned a motorcycle and so needed no advice about keeping one humming. What I found I did have very strong interests in was everything Persig had to say.
"Zen and the Art..." was an immediate best-seller when it was published 26 years ago. That couldn't have inspired my interest in it, for I have instinctive misgivings about best-sellers. But I did read it and have been all the better for it. Every subsequent reading has opened a little door or niche missed before.
Call any used book store and mention of "Zen and the Art..." and you'll get immediate recognition of it, often a comment like, "Oh, yeah. That Robert Persig book. No, we can't keep them." Still selling like crazy, after all these years.
There is a positively bone-chilling aspect about "Zen and the Art...". The millions who have read this supreme intellectual and artistic masterpiece -- many, many of whom, like me, were profoundly enriched by it -- came perilously close to being denied the experience. If memory serves, Persig's manuscript was rejected 122 times before William Morrow picked it up (probably after having also rejected it a few times). That says volumes about the dismal state of publishing back then, an industry that is in even blacker depths today.

How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them
How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them
von Sol Stein
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Yet another sharp arrow for your literary quiver, 11. Juli 2000
Coming right on the heels of Stein's "Stein on Writing", I was apprehensive that "How to Grow a Novel" might be a rehash of it. With the former seeming to be such a full treatment of both fiction and nonfiction, what more could Stein have to say?
A lot. I will offer one example. Chapter two of "How to Grow a Novel" focuses on conflict. He reminds us that conflict need not be a knock-down-drag-out fight. He writes, "Many people ... bristle at the term 'conflict' because of memories and overtones, and so I propose another term for their consideration, 'adversarial... The conflict is often verbal, not high drama, sometimes even mundane."
While reading Stein's words on conflict, I was reminded of a scene in "Emma" by Jane Austen that so clearly demonstrates low-key, verbal conflict.
Emma's governess, who has evolved into the dearest friend Emma has in the world, has married and gone. The conflict within Emma over the loss of Miss Taylor, and shared by her father ("Poor Miss Taylor," he said at their first dinner without her, "What a pity it is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her!") has been exposed in detail when an intimate friend of the family drops in. Mr. Knightly is a man some 18 years older than 21-year-old Emma and "one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them."
The absent Miss Taylor is, of course, on their minds and tongues. Mr. Knightly observes, "Every friend of Miss Taylor must be glad to have her so happily married."
"And you have forgotten one matter of joy to me," said Emma, "and a very considerable one -- that I made the match myself. I made the match, you know, four years ago; and to have it take place, and be proved in the right . . . And after such a success, you know! Everybody said that Mr. Weston would never marry again."
Mr. Knightly shook his head at her. "I do not understand what you mean by 'success,' Success supposes endeavor. Your time has been properly and delicately spent, if you have been endeavoring for the last fours to bring about this marriage. A worthy employment for a young lady's mind! But if, which I rather imagine, your making the match, as you call it, means only your planning it, your saying to yourself one idle day, 'I think it would be a very good thing for Miss Taylor if Mr. Weston were to marry her,' and saying it again to yourself every now and then afterwards -- why do you talk of success? Where is your merit? What are you proud of? You made a lucky guess; and THAT is all that can be said."
After more debate, Emma said, "And as to my poor word 'success,' which you quarrel with, I do not know that I am so entirely without claim to it. You have drawn two pretty pictures; but I think there may be a third -- something between the do-nothing and the do-all. If I had not promoted Mr. Weston's visits here, and given many little encouragements, and smoothed many little matters, it might not have come to anything after all."
Mr. Knightly yields not an inch, saying, "A straightforward, open-hearted man like Mr. Weston, and a rational, unaffected woman like Miss Taylor may be safely left to manage their own concerns. You are more likely to have done harm to yourself, than good to them, by interference."
This is conflict indeed, escalating conflict, even if it is kept on a genteel level. One can feel Emma's pulse rising, sense Mr. Knightly's deepening smugness, while through it all the narrator's voice is almost silent. While few writers have wielded their literary rapiers as deftly as Jane Austen, her demonstrations of conflict are what I believe Stein wants us to strive for, when appropriate.
I feel certain that Stein has never once implied that he discovered the Rosetta stone of writing. His guidance is based on techniques so fundamental that Jane Austen applied them 180 years ago, Shakespeare more than 200 years sooner yet. Those of us who write, much like other craftsmen, must constantly hone our skills, discovering and re-discovering techniques as old as the hills, if we are to improve them. In both of his books, Mr. Stein provides us with valuable, thought-provoking "discoveries."
I don't see how anyone can learn to cook by reading cookbooks yet not attempting the dishes described. Similarly, it seems that reading about writing and storing the information away in one's head for future use would be of little use. Fortunately for me, I'm never without a work in progress. Currently it's a near-finished novel that has given me a lot of trouble -- numerous scenes required "fixing." Every one of the problem areas I'm aware of is in my mind being worried over from time to time. As I read Stein's books, solutions to problems frequently pop out at me -- I see what is at the heart of this problem, that one. I go to work on the one at hand and often it is fixed.

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition
Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition
von Marc Reisner
Preis: EUR 17,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Water, water everywhere. Except in deserts., 8. Juli 2000
This outstanding history of a century of water projects is a lot to get your arms around -- 50,000 major dams provide a vulgar extravagance of water for desert metros like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, El Paso, Tucson ... Trillions of dollars spent. A perpetual stream of the boldest lying imaginable (for the times), graft, theft, piracy, and political corruption was behind many of the projects.
Regarding the water projects built over the last 150 years, Reisner wonders, "What has it all amounted to? ... Not all that much ... Modern Utah, where large-scale irrigation has been going on longer than anywhere else, has 3 percent of its land area under cultivation. California has 1,200 major dams, the two biggest irrigation projects on earth ... but its irrigated acreage is not much larger than Vermont.
Owens Lake in California dated back to the Ice Age. In 1905 it was about 35 feet deep and covered over 100 square miles. It was plied by steamboats. An Eden sparkled along the Owens Valley while snow sparkled nearby on Mt. Whitney, the highest peak between Canada and Mexico. It was so productive agriculturally that there was talk of building a railroad to carry the produce to Los Angeles.
But Los Angeles wanted the Owens Valley's water. And L.A., although 250 miles away, was 4,000 feet downhill. With a population in 1907 of 500,000, the city had enormous political power and a cell of brutally cunning politicians - they inspired the U.S. Forest Service to designate much of the treeless Owens Valley a National Forest to seal the valley's doom. In 1913 the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed and the Owens River started flowing on to Los Angeles. Coincidentally, L.A. would need only a fraction of the water for years, so it was used for - guess what? -- irrigating desert land in the San Fernando Valley that had been bought up by a syndicate. The syndicate's clairvoyant members were the arch capitalists of Los Angeles: the two owners of the L.A. Times and other molders of public acquiescence, the chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, bank presidents, power company executives ... Five years later 75,000 acres of San Fernando Valley desert were under irrigation with water paid for by the taxpayers, almost as much land as was dropping OUT of production in the Owens Valley. Land values increased a hundred fold.
From 1913 until 1990, Los Angeleans were supposed to just use water, not think about it, certainly not to worry about where it came from to transform their glaring desert into a Babylonian garden with its thirsty lawns, hedges and palm trees, with thousands of decorative fountains and waterfalls, swimming pools, even cooling mists sprayed into the air where people congregated. It wasn't until 77 years after the rape of Owens Valley that L.A. first began promoting water conservation.
Thirteen years after the Los Angeles Aqueduct began flowing, Owens Lake was dry. The people of the Owens Valley did not go peacefully into oblivion. They occupied the aqueduct's flood gates and turned the water into the desert. Eventually they were driven off, then a series of explosions destroyed seventeen sections of the aqueduct. Finally, an army of Los Angeles police put an end to the resistance.
The rape of Owens Valley started a feverish race between the competing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation to throw dams across every waterway in the country. Major rivers were dammed time and time again. Not one good unused dam site remains in the U.S. Projects like Hoover Dam were extremely beneficial. Without its output of electricity, West Coast industries might not have produced the aluminum and the thousands of planes it took to win WW II. Lake Mead has made an oasis out of Las Vegas. A network of canals laid in the Mojave Desert offers waterfront homesites! Many of the projects, however, were based on arithmetic that would have earned a schoolboy failing grades.
The dams were big and bigger. "Hoover was big; Shasta was half again as big; Grand Coulee was bigger than both together ... The largest and longest concrete dam in the world ... so massive it would have ordinarily taken hundreds of years to cool down [as the concrete cured] and cooling pipe had to be laid through it at close intervals ... The pipe would have connected Seattle to Chicago."
The story of Teton Dam (a Bureau dam) is a tragedy. Geologists recoiled at the idea of a dam at the fissured, earthquake-prone site. A Geological Survey geologist was so certain of the failure of any dam built there that he ended a memorandum with these prophetic words: "Since a flood could be anticipated, we might consider a series of strategically-placed motion-picture cameras to document the process."
June 5, 1976: The reservoir behind brand-new Teton Dam is almost full. A seepage in the canyon wall began two days before and now the dam itself is vomiting mud. A spring appears at yet another seep, becomes a torrent and a whirlpool forms inside the dam. The dam disintegrates and 80 billion gallons of pent-up water is released -- the second largest flood in North America since the last Ice Age. The torrent continued all day until the huge reservoir was empty. The dam cost $100 million. Damage downstream: about $2 billion.
PBS produced a commendable video of this important book. The four-tape special, available on Amazon's video site and at many libraries, is well worth watching. In it, the author of this book speaks at length, impressively.
Chinatown, the movie with stellar performances by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, is based to some extent on events described in Cadillac Desert.

Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels: Which Is a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels
Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels: Which Is a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels
von Anne Chotzinoff Grossman
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Another superb port of call in O'Brian's wonderful voyages, 8. Juli 2000
I once knew a lady who had a vast collection of cookbooks. She read them, too, even if she indulged in little adventurous cooking. I often wondered how one could find entertainment reading recipes - was the recreation as adventurous as poring over the instructions for assembling a barbecue pit one was not going to assemble?
Perhaps if I had peeked into her cookbooks I would have discovered some enchanting prose among the recipes, as I have in "Lobscouse & Spotted Dog". Open the book anywhere ... Aah, here on page 92 is the recipe for drowned baby, also called boiled baby, introduced by this passage from "The Nutmeg of Consolation":
"The gunroom feast for the Captain was if anything more copious than that of the day before. The gunroom cook, by means known to himself alone, had conserved the makings of a superb suet pudding of the kind called boiled baby in the service, known to be Jack Aubrey's favourite form of food, and it came in on a scrubbed scuttle-cover to the sound of cheering."
Sure, I read this passage during my several reads of "Nutmeg", but standing here alone it seems to sparkle with more clarity. Now I clearly see the pudding, gliding in on a scrubbed wooden hatch cover (to the surprise of no one there) and I thrill to the sound of cheering.
Here, once again, the perfect team has stepped forward to contribute an enchanting and tantalizing contribution to the Aubrey/Maturin series. A daunting task it must have been for this multi-talented mother and daughter (sailboaters, too, they are), to unearth and translate into modern terms the scores of recipes found in this book, to translate the contemporary equivalents of their ingredients.
And, in addition to its being seasoned with exquisite excerpts from the novels, we are served a selection of the songs encountered in the stories - words and music.
While you are satisfying your literary and musical appetites, you can sample some of these recipes. I found I could actually create the ones I've tried. To think that now I've figuratively dined with Aubrey and Maturin ("There you are, Doctor. Good morning."), Tom Pullings, William Babbington, Mowett ...
What is it about Patrick O'Brian's writing that so challenges and inspires readers of such fine tastes and writing ability of their own? First, it was A.E. Cunningham, who edited "Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography", a wonderfully enlightening collection of articles published not too long after the O'Brian wave swept ashore.
Then came Dean King with "A Sea of Words", his splendid glossary of everything we couldn't fathom in O'Brian's sea stories. With John B. Hattendorf, King followed with "Harbors & High Seas," a desperately needed atlas and geographical guide to the stories. And right on the heels of those came this beautiful work of art, a cookbook like no other. Happily, I have not observed evidence of an opportunist at work among those contributing to O'Brian's legacy.
"Lobscouse & Spotted Dog" is another brilliant achievement, infinitely worthy of standing at muster alongside the O'Brian stories and the other contributions to them. Authors Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas have labored mightily to assemble these recipes, and to season them with such delicate care. That much is evident even to the meanest understanding. Patrick O'Brian himself recognized the quality of this work and provided its apt foreword. Not surprisingly, publisher W.W. Norton put it all together very nicely.
A glass of wine with you, my dears. And let us also raise a toast to my friend who knew, just KNEW, that I would love your book.

Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK
Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK
von Gus Russo
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 25,35

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3.0 von 5 Sternen Definitely offers some new and worthwhile material, 10. Juni 2000
Eight years ago, thirty years after President Kennedy was shot down in Dallas, the Oliver Stone movie rendition of the assassination of JFK inspired the declassification of virtually all the files on the case.
Gus Russo had already been involved in investigative reporting on the assassination. This book is the result of his prior knowledge or beliefs, and from his access to the new material. No doubt Russo had strong leanings as a result of his prior involvement. Who wouldn't?
Over the years I wavered between the conspiracy and the lone-gunman theories, never really settling on either. Russo's arguments in this book are sufficiently convincing that I believe Oswald could have killed Kennedy single-handed. I must say I found a different Oswald in this book than the inept Marine deserter I had envisioned all these years.
It is not all that important to me now, however, who killed JFK or how. While Russo has me believing that Oswald was the single assassin, I do not cringe from the certain belief that a conspiracy could just as well have been employed, for there are people in this country and inside the U.S. Government as capable of pulling off a coup as usurpers regularly do all over the world.
What I found interesting about this book, as I labored through its mountains of irrevelance and redundant arguments, were the more human aspects of JFK. It was no secret that JFK was a relentless womanizer, but I was unaware that he was one so determined that he had what seemed to be incurable venereal disease. Russo writes:
"JFK suffered from severe and persistent venereal disease -- gonorrhea, specifically. Long-rumored, this fact became conclusive when the notes of JFK's physician, Dr. William Herbst, were made available at the Kennedy Library in Boston in 1992 [following the gov't mandated declassification of all files]. Those notes clearly reveal his treatent of Kennedy's massive 'gonoccal infections.'
"Herbst was originally called in 1950, after the renowned Lahey Clinic of Boston had failed to halt Kennedy's VD infection. Not only did the clinic admit failure, but so did Herbst, who treated Kennedy for ten years before passing the baton to Dr. Janet Travell, the new President's personal physician. The available medical record shows that Kennedy continued to receive massive doses of penicillin (600,000 units at a time) throughout his presidency."
Massive? Yes, 600,000-unit doses of penicillin are massive. One tenth of that would cure a common case of gonorrhea in a patient who had no built-up resistance to penicillin.
The theme laid down by the book's title, "Live By the Sword", is that John and Robert Kennedy were obsessed with ridding the world of Fidel Castro. Perhaps Robert more than John, considering what we now know of the private social demands on JFK. Both RFK and JFK were publicly humiliated by the consequences of the incredibly reckless Bay of Pigs fiasco, yet still they passionately pursued a vendetta against Castro. It was that vendetta, Russo believes, that inspired Oswald to doggedly pursue his plans to assassinate John F. Kennedy. Russo builds a quite reasonable argument that Oswald did what he set out to do.
One thing is hardly arguable. The general belief by official USA at the time was that Cuba was somehow accountable for JFK's death -- perhaps justifiably so considering the endless attempts by RFK and JFK to assassinate Castro -- and if a lid wasn't kept on the pot we could find ourselves in WW III.
Russo builds a strong foundation for his theory, one shared by many other credible researchers. This book is significantly marred, however, by a large infustion of trivia that is not needed to make the arguments advanced, and which in many cases is so easy to disbelieve that it tends to undermine the rest of the book. For instance, much space was given to intrigue surrounding Dallas's Redbird Airport -- ingrigue that simply fizzled out after being thrashed from every conceivable perspective. At one point in the detour Russo wites, "According to CIA documents released in 1977, two Cuban men (on the night of JFK's murder) arrived at the Mexico City airport from Dallas, via Tijuana, on a twin-engine aircraft."
A writer must avoid parroting reports of virtually impossible occurrences, even if they came from the CIA (maybe especially if they were CIA), and even if they were important to his argument (in this case they were not) -- arguments must be founded on credible matter. This material was injurious to Russo's narrative, not to mention that it was an unnecessary diversion. Such a flight would have made no sense even if it was possible. It is about 900 miles from Dallas to Mexico City. Tijuana is 1200 miles in the wrong direction, and it is another 1450 miles from Tijuana to MEX. A twin-engine plane of 1963 vintage (like the 200 mph Beechcraft Baron I was sitting in at the Abilene arport when the first reports of the shooting came over the ADF) could not have departed from Dallas after Kennedy's murder and flown to Tijuana and arrive in Mexico City before the next morning.
I got a world of new information from Russo's book, but at an awful price. It was uphill all the way.

Man Against Himself
Man Against Himself
von Karl Menninger
Preis: EUR 21,49

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Even more essential than when it was written in the 1930s, 24. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Man Against Himself (Taschenbuch)
I recall smiling complacently (stupidly) at the old German saying: "I grew too soon old and too late smart." That's when I was young and "smart".
Then there was the one where the speaker recalled that when he was young his father was dumb. "It was amazing how much Dad learned by the time I was grown." I wasn't all that impressed with my dad's wisdom when I was a young punk. It was amazing how he wised up along with my growing up.
I was a corporate pilot when I first read "Man Against Himself". Karl Menninger's warning played itself out many times before my eyes as some of my businessmen passengers warred against themselves.
Want a deserved raise? Pick a day when the company stock just jumped 10%, or a good earnings statement is issued. Or ...
Gritted teeth and jutted jaws. Men against themselves stalk into the company president's office knowing in advance he's on a tear, a rampage, and demand a raise at the very WORST of moments. Sometimes they are fired. On other occasions they are earmarked for replacement. Not once have I ever seen a man get a raise on a day that the boss had Baker flying.
Why did they pick that day? "By God, I've sat here waiting for a raise all this time ..." I tried to caution a vice president once: "Jimmy, wait another day, another MONTH."
"No, by God, I've waited as long as I'm going to ..."
Nice knowing you, Jimmy. He was gone.
At some point I began to wonder -- just barely, and not seriously -- if it could happen that I would ever be a man against himself.
Yes, I had done so, and would do so again. "How," I once asked, and not idly, "did Menninger know me before I was born?" Men are just too alike for comfort.
Menninger describes that it can happen in ways that range from subtle to suicidal. Forewarned by Menninger's advice, we can do something about the phenomenon, pull a ripcord, don a life preserver, put on a gas mask ...
Do you know a good friend who is destroying himself? Give him this book, which he won't read. But then go over and discuss it with him. Friends divorcing? Perfect candidates for this book. They probably aren't in a mental state to read or understand it, but you tried. AND, it just might hit a vein in one of them.
The chances aren't much better than finding gold in the Klondike. But I've seen it work one time. Only once. But that once was worth a thousand tries.

The Ionian Mission (Aubrey-Maturin (Hardcover))
The Ionian Mission (Aubrey-Maturin (Hardcover))
von Patrick O'Brian
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 22,49

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5.0 von 5 Sternen "My kingdom for a sheep", 4. April 2000
"The Ionian Mission" is every bit as worthy as any of the Aubrey/Maturins that came before. This time they are engaged in Jack's worst nightmare: a blockade, which is bad enough, but in this case Rear Admiral Harte is second in command. Harte is a scrub to those under him whom he doesn't especially dislike. But to Aubrey! Ugh.
But Jack gets a respite from the tedium when ordered to escort the ship captained by his old mid, now Commander William Babbington, on a mission that Harte hopes will set Aubrey up for a fall.
We're at sea. Babbington is visiting Captain Aubrey aboard the Worcester, his Dryad sailing along over there, when we are treated to one of tasty little morsels that O'Brian's sack is so full of. Babbington and Aubrey are leaning on the Worcester's rail when the quote begins:
The Worcester and the Dryad had hardly sunk the squadron's topsails below the western horizon before the sun came out and the breeze increased so that the sparkling blue was flecked with white horses.
"Buttons, the French call them," observed Captain Aubrey in his thick, cold-ridden voice.
"Do they indeed, sir," said Captain Babbington. "I never knew that. What a curious notion."
"Well, you could say that they are as much like sheep as they are horses," said Jack, blowing his nose. "But sheep ain't poetical, whereas horses are."
"Are they really, sir? I was not aware."
"Of course they are, William. Nothing more poetical, except maybe doves. Pegasus, and so on. Think of the fellow in the play that calls out 'My kingdom for a horse' -- it would not have been poetry at all, had he said sheep."
In this episode Jack re-encounters that dusky maid, Mercedes, a re-encounter that might have been a reunion if Stephen had not made the most untimely and unwelcome entrance to the Crown in his life. And it is Stephen's turn to issue the call, "Come brother. There is not a moment to lose. We must run to the boat."
It ain't all poetical and dashed hopes, however. Fate delivers to Jack his favorite ship, the Surprise. She takes on two ships in as furious a little battle as you could ever wish to see. And wins, with Bonden doing it the civil, tucking the vanquished Turk's swords under his arm with savoir faire.

Treasure Island
Treasure Island
von Robert Louis Stevenson
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 26,29

5.0 von 5 Sternen I loved it way, way back then and love it now, 23. März 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Treasure Island (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Robert Louis Stevenson played a big part in my young life -- he and Edgar Rice Burroughs started me reading in earnest and kept me reading. Unlike some of the reviewers below me, at 9 I had no trouble at all comprehending Treasure Island or anything else Stevenson wrote.
Full-blown characters, and what a passel of them. The story runs on from the start like a runaway freight train. The duplicity of Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey versus the cunning of Long John Silver made for excellent conflict. Captain Smollett was the right kind of leavening.
And even after all his conniving and treachery, Stevenson was able to give Silver a certain likeability -- I wasn't unhappy to see him sail away, and neither was Jim Hawkins.
Of course, even with all his initial innocence, Jim Hawkins came from just the right mold, believably apprehensive and fearful when that was called for, but able to rise to essential occasions.
This wonderful story was praised more eloquently than I can by below.
It's a pity that school teachers still force-feed good stuff down the throats of kids today, then turn them loose to plaster graffiti all over these review pages. With all the Judy Blume lying around, why waste the likes of Stevenson and Steinbeck and London on them?

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
von Dava Sobel
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Lucky us that it was Dava Sobel, 15. März 2000
It's wonderful when just the right writer takes on a subject of particular interest to me. Dava Sobel, in her lean, crisp, yet penetrating style, captures the history of the development of that critical instrument -- the chronograph for mariners. How many ships, how many lives were saved by this one achievement? Dava told the story just right, in my opinion.
Not surprisingly, John Harrison learned that there was political finagling to contend with back then, as there is now. So his prize for solving the problem of keeping accurate time on ships wasn't as forthcoming as it should have been.
Fans of O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series will love "Longitude", and rejoice that the invention came along before Aubrey and Maturin's voyages. Those two encountered enough slings and arrows without having to wonder where in the world they were.
That old saw that claims "You can't tell a book . . ." is off the mark in this case. The designer of the jacket of Sobel's treasure was smack dab in harmony with the book.

von A. Scott Berg
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 25,25

5.0 von 5 Sternen My review below was meant to be five stars, 3. März 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Lindbergh (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Perhaps I mis-clicked. I give "Lindbergh" five stars.
This second chance allows me to say something that came to me after posting the review. Few biographies have left me feeling so inferior.

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