Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Books and Another Show

Catching up with some very good books I've read thus far in 2010.
  • Cleek, The Man of Forty Faces
    I listened to the Librivox recording done by the marvelous Ruth Golding. Cleek is a bad man who goes right for the love of a good woman. As well he is perhaps the cleverest detective I have ever read of, putting M. Poirot's little grey cells to shame while indulging his idiosyncratic love of flowers and nature. This allows for many short, quirky mysteries with the overarching theme of how Cleek hopes to redeem himself enough to approach his true love with honor. A wonderfully entertaining story from the turn of the century of mystery, chivalry, and intrigue. #10

  • Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado
    Sandra Bullock's sister finally couldn't take Hollywood any more after running her famous sister's production company for years. She turned to her true passion, baking, and has a wonderful voice in this book about her life as a baker. A thoroughly enjoyable book that holds up standards without judging everyone around her by them, which these days is increasingly rare in the food writing world. Also, this is one of the few baking books that I have read recently to excite my imagination and interest me in trying some of the recipes. I have baked for long enough and read so many baking books that such an achievement is rare indeed.

    On an aesthetic note, we shall return to my pet peeve ... the layout is lovely but the type is huge. Huge. I always suspect that the publishers were trying to achieve a certain number of pages without adding to the content when I see that. Or it is a style and, if so, one that I hope will change soon. #11

  • Genesis: Translation and Commentary by Robert Alter
    I read this a bit every day and was blown away by Alter's translation and notes. Reading both for morning reflection and prayer AND as prep for eventually reading Genesis on my podcast, with commentary from various sources, one of which will be this book. No translation and commentary I have read has so vividly brought alive this scripture. The commentary is cultural and literary rather than religious, just fyi, but that simply enhances it for the reader who already has a religious grounding. The introductory article about scripture from a literary standpoint as well as how modern translation tends to explain rather than accurately translate is almost worth the price of admission alone. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. #12

  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
    Took a flyer on this when I was given a Barnes and Noble gift card and they didn't have a single one of the six current books I was seeking. It carries the reader into the heart of living in Paris with young American Elizabeth Bard who is having an extended affair with a young Parisian who sounds like a truly wonderful fellow. Her attacks of angst over not having a career or achieving enough or that her Parisian dreamboat is too happy can become rather annoying especially considering she is living what most people would call the epitome of a dream. However. She is young. And the entire book is not like that, thank heavens. In the end I found most enjoyable, despite the occasional bouts of angst. Quite a fun, light read, especially the parts about her mother adjusting to the Parisians. #13

  • Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time
    My review is here but the short story is that if you can take some realisitc looks at how what culture was like among the Greeks and Romans in St. Paul's day, then you will have a much better understanding of this apostle's message of love and equality as expressed in his letters. Highly recommended. #14

The Show: WWII in HD
Just when you thought that you could not possibly see (or endure) another World War II documentary, along comes this series which makes the war much more immediate and personal than before. Some of this comes from the fact that almost the entire thing is in color and, although I am sure that it was restored, there is the feel of watching your family's home movies.

The other reason is that we come to know twelve people as we follow them through their part in the fighting that took place. We hear excerpts from letters and diaries of many characters ranging from a celebrated journalist immersed with troops in the Pacific to an army nurse in Africa to an Austrian immigrant who joined before the Pearl Harbor bombing because of his first-hand experiences at the hands of the Nazis. We see and hear how intimately they were affected by all they experienced. In fact, I identified enough with many of these characters that I would be on tenterhooks wondering if some survived, and then release my breath with relief when remembering that this particular person did live because we have seen him speaking in modern times.

Likewise, because the footage was in color and taken by those on hand, both Tom and I have been affected deeply by the sheer carnage and horrible waste of life that was inflicted. Also, I never really understood just how destroyed many of the towns in Europe were until I saw these pieces. Strangely enough, you would think that this would prove depressing but we haven't found it so. It is simply that we now have a greater identification when someone of that generation talks about what it was like to live through those times. Of course, there is also the greater understanding of battlefield conditions and how the men in the field felt.

This is a three DVD set. Highly recommended.


  1. Re: WW2 in HD.

    I am a bit of a amateur military historian (ie Arm Chair General).
    I grew up watching Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and the wonderful BBC "World at War".

    Visually, it's like "The World at War" on steroids. The color and clarity make this feel like it is happening right now.

    I too un-reservedly recommend this for anyone interested in history or film.

  2. I guess that's it ... and we don't even have HD. It is a revelation.

  3. little john3/1/10, 1:14 PM

    Watched about two hours of this. Pretty cool. There's nothing more entertaining than world war!

  4. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Contrary to what you've just seen, war is neither glamorous nor fun. There are no winners, only losers. There are no good wars, with the following exceptions: The American Revolution, World War II, and the Star Wars Trilogy. If you'd like to learn more about war, there's lots of books in your local library, many of them with cool, gory pictures." -- Bart Simpson

    I concur.