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Bruce Loveitt (Ogdensburg, NY USA)
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In a Sunburned Country
In a Sunburned Country
von Bill Bryson
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 23,52

4.0 von 5 Sternen Prime Bryson, 22. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: In a Sunburned Country (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Another smooth effort by Mr. Bryson. I bought this book solely for the entertainment value but the author managed to throw in a little history, geology, zoology, botany, etc. which to me was a bonus. As he says at the start of the book, most people don't know anything at all about Australia. It is almost never in the news. Geez, all my life I didn't realize I was mispronouncing Canberra by putting the emphasis on the second syllable rather than on the first! I had never heard of the prime minister, Harold Holt, who in 1967 went for a swim which, as Mr. Bryson delicately phrases it, "required no towel" and was never seen again! I didn't know that people in Sydney make Melbourne jokes, such as "Do you have any children?" "Yes, 2 living and 1 in Melbourne". If you read this book you will also discover 12 foot earthworms, kangaroos that live in trees, and the cassowary- which is as big as a person, looks like an emu but has a bony growth on its head and a murderous claw on each foot. They attack by jumping up and striking out with both feet together. The book is full of interesting stuff like this, just about on every page. As Bryson says, "Australia, what a great place!"


Nelson: A Personal History
Nelson: A Personal History
von Christopher Hibbert
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,99

2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Half-Nelson, 19. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Nelson: A Personal History (Taschenbuch)
I am a great admirer of Christopher Hibbert but I was very disappointed in this book. When I finished it I had the impression that I still didn't know much about what kind of man Nelson was. He seemed to be almost a cartoon character or someone in an old swashbuckler type movie, rather than a real person. One reason for this is that Mr. Hibbert relied too much on quotations from Nelson's own letters. Nelson apparently always saw himself as someone destined to be very special and oftimes when he wrote or said something it seemed as though he did it with one eye (if you'll pardon the pun) on posterity. He would be melodramatic and predict that this or that battle would make his name or result in his death, etc. He would be very upset when he wasn't promoted quickly enough or didn't get prize money after a battle but when he made a comment for public consumption he would say his only wish was to serve king and country. He loved to strut around with medals and ribbons pinned to his chest and he was seemingly always available to have his portrait painted by every artist in England. Mr. Hibbert does not provide any analysis or even express his opinion. It is almost as though he thought this was a story that could tell itself. Well,..... it couldn't! Mr. Hibbert called this book "Nelson: A Personal History", but it is too much about Nelson's personal life and at the same time not personal enough. There are too many quotations from letters to Emma Hamilton expressing his love for her, but not enough information about why Nelson abandoned his wife. There is too much gossip from people who either liked Mrs. Hamilton or couldn't stand her and one is left confused rather than feeling that a balanced picture has been presented, again, because Mr. Hibbert makes no attempt to separate the wheat from the chafe. Nelson's career is given short shrift and it seems as though in a flash he has gone from being a boy at sea to admiral, with no explanation of how he got from one place to the other. We are shown enough to know that Nelson was indeed a very brave (if reckless and sometimes foolhardy) man but it is never explained to us what made Nelson a great strategist or set him above any other captain or admiral of the fleet. We are given only one glimpse of the complexity of the man, and this towards the end of the book. Nelson met the future Duke of Wellington in a room of the Colonial Office, where they were both waiting to see Lord Castlereagh. Nelson had no idea that he was talking with somebody of any reputation or importance, although Wellington recognized Nelson. According to Wellington "he (Nelson) entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was almost all on his side and all about himself and, in reality, a style so vain and so silly as to surprise and almost disgust me." Nelson then left the room for a moment, apparently to find out from someone who exactly he had been speaking with. After finding out that Wellington was "somebody" he came back into the room and his manner was totally different. Wellington continued "his charlatan style had quite vanished...and certainly for the last half or three-quarters of an hour, I don't know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more...I saw enough to be satisfied that he was really a very superior man; but certainly a more sudden or complete metamorphosis I never saw." If only during the course of this 400 page book these depths could have been explored, we might then have been presented with the "real" Nelson!
Kommentar Kommentar (1) | Kommentar als Link | Neuester Kommentar: Aug 6, 2015 3:59 PM MEST


Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare: From the Bounty to Safety--4,162 Miles Across the Pacific in a Rowing Boat
Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare: From the Bounty to Safety--4,162 Miles Across the Pacific in a Rowing Boat
von John Toohey
  Gebundene Ausgabe

3.0 von 5 Sternen Potable, 14. Juni 2000
If you are going to write a defense of William Bligh, you are going to have to deal with what happened on "The Bounty". This book doesn't address that and this is a major problem with the book. This is not a story about a ship sunk by a storm or by a whale. It is a story about a Royal Navy captain whose crew committed mutiny and put him adrift in the Pacific. It seems to me if you are going to tell Bligh's story you just can't start at the point where he is lowered into the boat by the mutineers. Especially not when you are going to spend a lot of the book defending the man's character. I can only think that Mr. Toohey felt that people had such a cartoonish image of Bligh as some sort of sadistic beast that he needed to concentrate on Bligh's positive leadership qualities and navigational skills in bringing those loyal to him over 4,000 miles across the ocean to safety. But even here we have a problem, as some of the men who went with Bligh did not respect him and were openly rebellious. Their criticisms are made to seem petty and indeed they were. Bligh's second in command, John Fryer, clearly did not like Bligh and made false accusations that Bligh gave himself larger rations and overcharged the Royal Navy for supplies. But other men besides Fryer did not respect Bligh either. Since Toohey will go no further than to say that Bligh was not very flexible and was a stickler for regulations you really can't see what the problem was. The author asserts that Bligh was not a brute. He was a loving husband and father. He did not believe in flogging, which is rather remarkable for that period. So something is missing as the book loses its focus. Rather than being able to concentrate on the remarkable journey to safety we are always left wondering at what was behind the whole thing. In the epilogue Mr. Toohey explains that Bligh was later the victim of another mutiny when he was in command of the aptly named "Defiance" and on the "Director" his men voted to have him replaced! What was the problem with this man? The reason I am still giving this book 3 stars is that is well-written in the sense that it has a nice style and flows along smoothly. It is almost novelistic. The descriptions of Bligh's encounters with Pacific Islanders are interesting and exciting. But it is not enough to overcome the fundamental flaws of the book.


In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
von Nathaniel Philbrick
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 24,63

5.0 von 5 Sternen Extreme Whaling, 12. Juni 2000
To use an old-fashioned phrase, this is "a ripping yarn"! I plowed through this book in just 3 days and if it hadn't been for work and chores that couldn't wait I would have finished in 2. Mr. Philbrick has a great gift for telling a story. Not only that, the layout of the book was wonderfully conceived. The author gives you some background on Nantucket and explains that although a large part of the population were peaceloving Quakers, that didn't stop them from hunting whales with a vengeance. Mr. Philbrick mentions that everyone on the island, women and small children included, would use seafaring and whaling expressions in their everyday speech, and the youngsters would even go around trying to "harpoon" things as part of their play. Mr. Philbrick gives you great descriptions of the men and the ships and the sea. He includes fascinating bits of information concerning human nutritional needs (at one point in the story the men were down to trying to survive on about 350 calories per day) and also the psychological as well as the physical effects of starvation. Mr. Philbrick explains that right after the "Essex" was sunk the captain of the ship, George Pollard, had to make a decision about which direction the survivors should go. They could have gone west towards the islands near Tahiti. The tradewinds from the east would blow them in that direction anyway, and the islands were not that far. They could have reached them in about a week. But the men had heard rumors of cannibals living on some of these islands, so they decided to go east, towards the coast of South America. This was a much more difficult journey. It meant going south until they were away from the tradewinds blowing from the east and only then being able to turn towards the coast of Chile. Because of the roundabout route this trip would take 3 months and make them cover over 4,000 miles! Another interesting aspect of the tale that Mr. Philbrick covers is that 6 of the 20 sailors were blacks, and that 5 of these 6 men were the first to die. This might seem very suspicious at first but Mr. Philbrick explains that due to a generally poorer diet before the "Essex" even left Nantucket these men were at an immediate disadvantage. The author also states that studies have shown that black people generally have less fat stored in their bodies than white people, and this factor would have also made a difference as once your body runs out of fat to burn it will start to use up muscle. Captain Pollard, who was short and stocky and who was older than most of the crew, and who therefore had more fat stored and also a slower metabolism, would seem a good candidate for survival- and, indeed, he did live to tell his tale of the disaster! In the epilogue Mr. Philbrick mentions that a few months after getting back to Nantucket Captain Pollard was given command of another whaling ship. On his first trip out he was in the Pacific and hit a coral reef and this ship sunk as well! Fortunately for Pollard and his crew, they had been sailing close by another whaler and were picked up the next day. The captain rightly surmised that he would be perceived as being "jinxed" and would not be given another command...


Barrow's Boys
Barrow's Boys
von Fergus Fleming
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen Ice Capades!, 9. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Barrow's Boys (Gebundene Ausgabe)
I hope that Fergus Fleming has a long, healthy, happy life and writes a lot more books! I really enjoyed "Barrow's Boys". A cynic might say that this is a story that sells itself. But that would be unfair and untrue. After all, we are talking about a book that is mostly about trip after trip to arctic waters, in search of that other Holy Grail, the Northwest Passage. In the hands of a less skilled author this could become tedious. How many ways are there to describe wind, cold, stormy seas and icebergs? But Mr. Fleming really delves into the personalities of the explorers and when each trip is over he goes back to England and takes you inside the walls of the Admiralty and the Royal Geographical Society to show you the jealousy and backbiting and political shenanigans that went on between voyages. He ladles up a generous amount of quotations from Barrow and "his boys", who were thoughtful enough to provide us with extensive written records in the form of government memoranda and journal entries. Mr. Ferguson describes life aboard ship, wintering in the long, dark arctic night. How did the men pass the time? Well, they ate and exercised and many of them took reading lessons so that they could become literate. They also rigged up a stage aboard ship and put on shows, some of the men getting themselves "rigged up" as women by performing in drag! Another thing that prevents this book from ever becoming boring is that, especially in the middle section, Mr. Fleming alternates between telling us about the arctic explorations and the men who were sent to Africa to find the source of the Niger and to find Timbuctoo. The sections on Africa provide a nice contrast, sort of like a tangy sorbet in between the appetizer and the entree! One of the interesting explorers that went to Africa was Gordon Laing, who was an absolute fanatic about going through the Sahara to find Timbuctoo, despite warnings that he was going smack dab through bandit country. Before he set off on his journey he fell in love with a young English lady and wanted to marry her. Her father was none too happy about his daughter marrying someone who was quite possibly deranged. The father couldn't stop the marriage, but he got the newlyweds to agree not to consummate the marriage until Laing got back from his great adventure. Needless to say, Mr. and Mrs. Laing never got to enjoy conjugal bliss. After barely surviving one bandit attack, Laing was not so lucky the second time around. He was strangled and then decapitated. Mr. Ferguson closes the book with a twenty page section telling us about what happened to the explorers in their later years (those lucky enough to make it back, that is!). You get interesting and amusing insights into their lives. Let me finish this review by quoting a paragraph concerning Richard McCormick, who sailed with an 1852-3 arctic expedition: "McCormick retired to Hecla House in Wimbledon, where he spent his last years with a menagerie of stuffed animals that he had collected on his journeys, an irritable Greenland husky called Erebus, and a tame Aylesbury duck that slept on a cushion by the fire alongside a pet sparrow. Dog, duck and sparrow followed McCormick wherever he went until one day he walked from his sitting-room to the dining-room and closed the door too hastily behind him. The sparrow flew into it and broke its neck." Poor sparrow, but great writing!


Reflections in Bulloughs Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England (Revisiting New England)
Reflections in Bulloughs Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England (Revisiting New England)
von Diana Muir
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen On Reflection: Dazzling!, 5. Juni 2000
This is one of the best books I have ever read- period! At the core of the book is Ms. Muir's message that we are part of nature, not separate from or above nature, and we have a great responsibility to maintain the integrity of the environment. Granted, this message is not new. Where this book is very different is how Ms. Muir leads up to this message. She shows how the New England landscape changed from one where farming dominated to one that was a mixture of many different types of mills and factories. You learn the consequences of everything that was done along the way: the consequences to fish and birds of damming rivers; the consequences to forests and to the air we breath of heavy logging; the consequences of catching too many of one type of fish, etc. What is great about this book is that Ms. Muir does not deal in hazy generalities. She takes you step by step and shows you specifically how certain actions cause certain changes in the environment, often unforseen. There is nothing simplistic in her observations and she knows there are no easy answers. She lays out the data for you and you can come to your own conclusions. But what really takes this book to another level is the fascinating biographical information that Ms. Muir provides concerning the many, many New Englanders that invented the machines of the Industrial Revolution and kept the economy vibrant as the importance of agriculture diminished. The way this book is put together is very unusual, due to the combination of all of the above factors and in the space of 248 pages you will learn a great deal of information. The research Ms. Muir must have done in writing this book is staggering and her knowledge across many different areas is amazing. Don't miss reading this book.


Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere
Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere
von Michael Kimmelman
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen Artists On Art, 5. Juni 2000
What could be better than going through art museums with artists and listening to their comments about the art on display and the artists who created that art? Michael Kimmelman, a distinguished art critic, had the great good fortune to do just that, and he wisely put himself in the background and let some very articulate people express themselves concerning things that they have thought about their whole lives. These are people who are passionate about art and who know all about making art. Some of the comments are educational and some are funny and, depending on the artists you like or dislike, some you might find irritating. For example, here is Chuck Close at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC: "About some of the other artists he passes along the way he is dismissive. Renoir is "Italian restaurant painting and unless you're having pizza you wouldn't want to look at it." He doesn't care much for Titian or Tintoretto either." But before you dismiss this as a comment by somebody saying something to be outrageous, you should know that at the age of 48 Mr. Close had a spinal artery collapse, which left him what is called an incomplete quadriplegic. He had to relearn to paint, with brushes strapped to his hands. (An irony, not mentioned by Mr. Kimmelman, is that in his later years, due to very bad arthritis, Renoir also had to have brushes strapped to his hands!) Listen to Mr. Close again, talking about a trip to The Met after his disability had struck him down: "So I went to look at the Petrus Christuses and Holbeins and realized that everything I loved in the history of painting, and portrait painting in particular, is small and tight and the product of fine motor control, which I had lost. I was depressed for days, but then I ended up with a cathartic experience because I found myself in my studio feeling so happy just to be working again that I was literally whistling while I painted and at the same time tears were streaming down my cheeks." My heart sank when I read that paragraph! Another artist expresses his opinion that the greatest artist of the 20th century was not Picasso and not Matisse, but rather Pierre Bonnard. A very large statement to make! What I found especially interesting was that 3 or 4 of the artists, with different styles, all agreed on the greatness of Ingres and all were angered by the commonly held opinion that although he was a master of line, Ingres was not a very good colorist. These artists felt that Ingres was not only a good colorist but that he was a great colorist! Even better, they tell you why they feel he was a great colorist. This is a wonderful book and I wish I could have been a mouse in the corner when Mr. Kimmelman was walking and talking with these artists!


1700: Scenes from London Life
1700: Scenes from London Life
von Maureen Waller
  Gebundene Ausgabe

2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen More Than 1700 Scenes!, 5. Juni 2000
This is a wonderful book and I had a great time reading it. It is full of many interesting tidbits on many topics, such as: marriage, childbirth, death, fashion, food and drink, amusements, coffeehouses and taverns, etc. The book is beautifully written and holds your attention from start to finish. Here is the first paragraph from the opening chapter, concerning marriage: "Thirty-four years after the Great Fire, the worshippers at St. Paul's still gaze up at open sky. Within a decade, Wren's completed dome will cast a shadow over the grim Fleet Prison, the ominous building where debtors count out their days. At the foot of Ludgate Hill lies the Fleet Ditch, wide enough for a coal barge to sail north to Holborn, if it can tackle the stinking sewage, discarded guts and offal, drowned puppies and dead cats sliding down its muddy channel towards the Thames. Passing the brawling concert of fishwives and stall-holders gathered around the Fleet Bridge, we come to a warren of alleyways known as the Rules of the Fleet. Here, forty marriage-houses do a busy trade." Every chapter is chock-full of interesting things and I guarantee that no matter how many books you may have read on English history you will still learn many things and be thoroughly entertained. In the chapter on disease, for example, you learn a little about sanitary conditions and the state of medical knowledge. Here are two quotes:"Contaminated food and drinking water caused frequent outbursts of bacterial stomach infections. Flies traveled from faeces to food. It did not occur to those preparing or handling food to wash their hands after defecating." "The eminent physician Sir Thomas Sydenham prescribed his own highly popular remedy (for dysentery): two ounces of strained opium, one ounce of saffron, one drachm each of cinnamon and cloves in a pint of canary wine." In the chapter on amusements you find out that the common people entertained themselves by attending public executions and by going to Bethlehem Hospital (popularly known as Bedlam) to watch the antics of the insane. When coffeehouses became all the rage after coffee was introduced by a London merchant who had been trading in the Ottoman Empire, women became jealous of all the time their husbands spent in these establishments, and also suspected the vile black brew made their men impotent. "Never did men wear greater breeches," they complained, "or carry less in them of any mettle whatsoever." I had a blast reading this book and I can't recommend it highly enough!


The Mezzanine (Vintage Contemporaries)
The Mezzanine (Vintage Contemporaries)
von Nicholson Baker
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen In Search Of Lost Marbles!, 21. Mai 2000
The narrator of this novel is nuts.... but don't let that stop you from reading this wonderful book! Just be aware it might take you a little while to get comfortable with the quirky way the protatgonist has of thinking about things. After the first ten pages I was laughing out loud but after thirty pages I almost put it down because I didn't know if I could keep handling 2 page footnotes on, say, the physics of what makes shoelaces break! But I stayed with the book and I was glad I did. It is a pleasure to keep up with the narrator as his mind meanders through the minutiae of everyday life. He has a childlike curiosity about the world. Everything fascinates him! He is a lucky man because he enjoys understanding the little things in life and life presents a neverending supply of little things to think about. This is a guy who will never be bored! I also get the feeling that this is the way the mind of a really good scientist works, analytical but childlike as well. Want to know if you will like this book? Here is one sentence, expressing the narrator's admiration for the way the old-style packages of Jiffy Pop popcorn were engineered: "Jiffy Pop was the finest example of the whole aluminous genre: a package inspired by the fry pan whose handle is also the hook it hangs from in the store, with a maelstrom of swirled foil on the top that, subjected to the subversion of the exploding kernels, first by the direct collisions of discrete corns and then in a general indirect uplift of the total volume of potentiated cellulose, gradually unfurls its dome, turning slowly as it despirals itself, providing in its gradual expansion a graspable, slow-motion version of what each erumpent particle of corn is undergoing invisibly and instantaneously beneath it." Whoooh! I can see where this book would be the type of thing you either love or hate, so if the above sentence made you squirm, stay away. But if a smile emerged while you read it I think you will enjoy "The Mezzanine" as much as I did.


Karl Marx
Karl Marx
von Francis Wheen
  Gebundene Ausgabe

1 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Good/Bad, 19. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Karl Marx (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Ah, "dialectical materialism","urban proletariat","opium of the masses". The days of my youth and memories of my college course in radical political thought with Professor Fleisher at Brooklyn College came back to me as I read the above phrases...But, I digress! I feel that two important things a biography must accomplish to be considered successful are that the subject should come alive for you and you should come away from the book feeling you know what made the person tick. This book accomplishes the first goal but not the second. As mentioned by other reviewers, the book has many colorful anecdotes and Mr. Wheen is a good writer, so Marx does come to life for you. You can just picture the burly Marx with his beard and lion's mane of hair bullying his associates and always getting things his own way. You can also picture him as a loving husband and father, thoroughly bourgeois in his home life. But after I read this book I didn't get the feeling I really knew what made Marx tick. How could he be so selfish and insensitive and brutish one moment and loving and caring the next? Why would a man who enjoyed middle-class life and to be in the bosom of his family subject himself and them to a life of penury? You don't get an answer from this book. Mr. Wheen is also very selective about his comments concerning Marx's works. While Wheen does not hesitate to criticize Marx the man he is extremely reluctant to criticize Marx the political and economic theorist. He oftimes would come to Marx's defense and show where Marx had been misunderstood or where Marx had been shown to be right in his predictions or descriptions concerning capitalism, but equal time is not given to the areas where Marx has been shown to be wrong. In fact, Wheen tries to deflect criticism from "Das Kapital" when he says that Marx never claimed his economic analysis was scientific, that he considered his writing to be "artistic". Oh? Well, he did claim that he was correct and everybody who criticized him was incorrect, so that certainly gives us the right to "test" his theories. It is almost 120 years since Marx's death and capitalism still seems to be quite lively! I want to end this review by returning to what is good about this book and that is in showing Marx's relationships with those around him. His long-suffering wife Jenny comes alive from the pages as a smart and funny person and Mr. Wheen does an especially good job in giving us a portrait of Friedrich Engels. Engels was not just a collaborator but a true friend. He wrote articles for Marx and pilfered money from his father's business in Manchester and sent it to Marx to keep him on his feet and he was always there when Marx needed him. He was also quite the ladies man and liked a good bottle of wine! In fact, one of the best things about this book is that it comes close to being a dual biography of Marx and Engels. So, when I added up all the pros and cons I found this a book worth reading. It is flawed but you will come away knowing a lot more about what Marx's day to day life was like.


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