Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Open Heart: A Caridac Surgeon's Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table by Stephen Westaby

Yesterday behind me we had blue skies.

In front of me, however, the weather foreshadowed colder things to come.  And this morning we saw the weather kept its promise.

Those of you in the north probably regard the above scene as a pleasant early spring day, but two inches of snow were enough to shut down East Texas.  I had planned to go to the University today and pick up music, but schools at every level are closed.  And yes, I've already seen cars towed and near the high school a truck knocked over a lamp post.  We are so defenseless against inclement weather.

Ah, well.  Enjoy Symphony no. 2 by Alexander Von Zimmlensky while you read my post.

Open Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon's Stories of Life and Death on the Operating TableOpen Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon's Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table by Stephen Westaby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Open Heart reads like a fast-paced action adventure movie. Westaby takes us on a brief biographical journey as to how he became interested in heart surgery, his training and then torpedoes straight into different life or death situations which require delicate procedures, his abilities and steely confidence.

We meet a young girl with a genetic heart defect, an old man with congestive heart failure, a pregnant woman who needs surgery but refuses to terminate the life of her unborn baby as well as others. One of the most poignent was his time in Saudi Arabia when he worked on the tiny heart of an infant of a Somalian woman who had been kidnapped and forced into slavery. She had escaped and crossed the desert to save her son. The story is as heart rending as it is amazing because Westaby takes out the baby's heart and puts it back in after mending it.

Here we encounter Westaby's frustration with England's National Health Care system.

"...I had just been appointed in Oxford. So why was I in the desert? Heart operations cost money...the annual budget was gone in five months. So the management closed us down..."

This is a recurring theme in the book. Westaby points out that Health Care in the U.K. may be "free", but it is only available to those the government deems worthwhile saving because there is only so much money to go around. Patients considered too old or too sick were told to go home and die. The majority of Westaby's heart implants were funded through charity, not NHS.

And lest you think they're sending away geriatrics, people in their fifties were considered too old for treatment. Children and people in the twenties were turned down because they were deemed too sick. National Health Care may be fine for normal well-checks and colds and sniffles, but if you need highly specialized care, like a heart transplant, good luck. Hope the government thinks you're worth saving.

Westaby, though British, received training in the United States and he introduced inventions by American doctors, such as a tiny electric heart that circulates the blood for the defective heart inside people. Interestingly, there is no pulse as there is no pumping involved.

All of Westaby's stories are suspenseful because you don't know if his patients are going to make it. Much of what he does is brand new and he is only allowed to try the new technology on patients who are going to die anyway. Some of them get a reprieve, some don't, but the medical advancements are stupendous.

My only complaint and why I did not give the book five stars was the foul language used sporadically through out the book. I mean, come on, you're a brilliant man, couldn't you at least pretend to have a professional grip on the English language? I know what he was doing was extremely stressful, but try to show you possess the vocabulary worthy of your mind, not the vocabulary of an adolescent. Or brain damaged people. My grandmother never swore a word until after her stroke.

That quibble aside, I highly recommend this book. It is not only informative and exciting and fascinating, it is well-written. Westaby, assuming he didn't use a ghost writer-and it doesn't read in the stilted, wooden fashion of a ghost writer-apart from the occasional f-and s-bombs, has superb literary skills.

Finally, people interested in changing our health care system to a socialized form because then "everyone can have health care" should read this book. They might have second thoughts.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Right and Left and The Legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth, translated by Michael Hoffman

The incomparable Jacqueline du Pre is performing Dvorak's 'Cello Concerto in B minor Opus 104.  It is forty-five minutes long but it is worth your while to listen to the entire thing; especially the middle and last movement.

Today I am sitting on my swing out back writing book reviews.  Hercaloo is chewing on my shoes.  Oh well, they are old.

Here is the view over my house looking north: 

Blue skies dappled with fluffy clouds.

Then I turn around and take a few photos of the sky over my backyard, facing south:

Right now the weather is comfortable and it's sunny.  We're supposed to get two inches of snow by tomorrow.  We'll see what happens.

A happy discovery when I read a book review about Joseph Roth.  These are the first two stories I've read by him and they will certainly not be the last.

Right and LeftRight and Left by Joseph Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first book by Roth and not going to be my last.

Joseph Roth in a style reminiscent of Thomas Mann, writes about a young man Paul and his family during the early part of the twentieth century. Paul comes from a well to do German household whose fortunes change with the war and the death of his father.

Paul is forever re-inventing himself. As a young boy he was the benevolent, condescending privileged son of a wealthy man. When war came, Paul aspired to become a Calvary man, but when he was turned down he became a passivist, writing vitriolic letters against the war, while nevertheless staying a soldier in a different capacity. A close encounter with death made him change again.

After the war he endeavored to salvage the family's fortunes by administrating their financial affairs, something he was no good at, largely because he spent his money like pouring out water. At the end of his tether he seeks help.

He meets a rich girl and decides he must marry her. Her guardian, an Uncle who owns the largest chemical company in Germany is not a fool. He decides that Paul is a man who came from a family once well off but now in need of money. Paul knows that he must present a good face so he goes to a man who might help.

Nikolei Brandeis is an enigma. His mother was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, his father a Lithuanian Jew. Brandeis knows how to make a fortune and through his own wits becomes powerful. He offers Paul a job because he wants the connection to the Chemical Company.

While most of the story is about Paul there are side tracks to his brother, Theodor and also Brandeis. Theodor is troubled and angry. He decides to join a nationalist, supremacist group called the brown shirts. After running from the law and living in exile and poverty, he returns home. He, too, seeks and obtains a job from Brandeis.

Brandeis has several passports, identities and money; but he is determined never to stay anywhere long. We see him in Russia where, as a member of the police, he must enforce communal ownership. Disgusted he leaves and comes to Germany.

Here he has free enterprise and wealth but he can no longer live with this identity either. In the end he packs up and leaves. Where he disappears to is anyone's guess.

Paul does marry the rich girl and his troubles are over. But the gnawing emptiness in his soul manifests itself through perpetual discontent and ever greater isolation from the rest of society.

Roth narrates in the third person but limited narrator. While mostly he narrates from Paul's viewpoint, he switches to other characters, such as Theodor, Nikolei Brandeis and also Paul and Theodor's mother. It is interesting to read the inner thoughts of all of these characters.

Roth was a keen observer of human nature and readers interested in the socio-political climate that was developing prior to Hitler's rise to power and human nature inside that environment will like this book.

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The Legend of The Holy DrinkerThe Legend of The Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This bizarre little story left me pondering the possible meanings that Roth might be trying to communicate.

A homeless man, Andreas, is approached by a stranger who insists on giving him two hundred francs. The man's stipulation that he must eventually pay the sum back to St. Therese at at particular Cathedreal. Andreas promises.

It looks like his luck has changed. He spruces up and drinks,gets another job, more money and drinks. On Sunday he goes to Mass to pay back St. Therese. He comes too early so waits at a cafe across the street. He drinks a great deal while waiting and soon forgets his purpose.

This happens a lot to Andreas. He falls down, fortune picks him up: he finds one thousand francs in his new wallet; an old friend who is now a famous soccer player meets him and sets him up in an apartment. Then he blows all of his money on women and drink.

But Andreas no longer cares because he realizes that fortune is going to help him out every time.

It is strange that Roth, a Jewish writer, would write something from the perspective of a Catholic. What are we to make of Andreas? He makes no good decisions but he keeps getting reprieves. Another stranger gives him two hundred pounds after he has wasted all the previous money granted him.

But when he is going to repay St. Therese? The ending is strange as the whole story is strange and I'm not sure what we are to make of it.

Perhaps that a unrepentant hedonist will be given so many second chances but finally he will have to answer the call of the reaper and give an account.

Roth wrote this short story in that last few months of his life, dying the month after he finished. The story was published posthumously. Like Andreas, Roth drank heavily and hastened his own demise at the age of forty-five. Was he writing his own epitaph?

Here's an excerpt from the 1988 movie starring Rutger Hauer (the man on the cover of the book).  Be forwarned that this is a foreign film.  Very little happens, but it is still interesting to watch a little of it.

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Has anyone else read Joseph Roth and what is their opinion of him?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

I previously had linked to Morten Lauridsin's choral work O Magnum Mysterium.  Here is another soul-subduing piece written for James Agee's poem, "Sure on this Shining Night."

The Singing Sands (Inspector Alan Grant, #6)The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every time I read a book by Josephine Tey I think, "This is my favorite mystery by Tey!" Well, this one so far is my favorite.

Inspector Alan Grant is on leave due to burn out and an unexpected development of claustrophobia due to work stress. He is traveling by train to Scotland where he plans to relax with a cousin's family and fish. In his compartment on the train he fights a burning desire to open the door to escape an ever growing feeling of strangulation.

Finally, he comes to his stop and walks down the train aisle to leave. He passes another compartment to see the porter shaking a man to rouse him and tell him he needs to leave.

Grant enters the compartment straightens the man up and asks the porter, "Don't you recognize a dead man when you see one?" Then he leaves the sputtering porter to call the police (he's on vacation!) and goes to a restaurant in town for lunch. He opens the paper he carried out with him from the train to find a strange poem.

"The beasts that talk
The streams that stand,
The stones that walk,
The singing sand,

That guard the way
To Paradise..."

Grant realizes this is the paper that the dead man had under his arm. Without thinking he had picked it up while taking the dead man out of the clutches of the porter.

What was supposed to be a vacation turns out to be a quest to solve a mystery.

As usual, Tey's stories are interesting for their psychological portrait of the different characters and all of us Tey fans enjoy Inspector Grant. Not that he shows up in predictable ways in her stories. None of Tey's stories follow a formula which keep the reader guessing as to the outcome.

Unlike Agatha Christie, whose characters I find often flat and unsympathetic (sorry Christie fans), Tey draws characters that are overall nice, normal people. Not perfect but not un-dimensionally ugly. I like Tey's people. With the exception of Hercule Pierrot, I find it hard to care about any of Christie's.

Not to say that the reason Tey is good is because Christie is bad, but I guess we find it hard not to create a point of reference. Tey's stories would be wonderful even if Miss Marple, Hercule Pierrot or Mr. and Mrs.Beresford never existed.

I just find reading Tey to be a light-hearted and even touching experience. Her characters are living and breathing and have blood in their veins, not ice.

And she flat out writes a darn good mystery.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

The Young Thomas Hardy; The Older Hardy by Robert Gittings

Hello to all!  I hope you have had a refreshing vacation and are rejuvenated for the new year! I am back from Florida visiting family.  It was freezing but did not deter us from getting around.  In fact I think the cold made the colors more intense.

I did indeed make my goal of 200 books and I did it without cheating, unless you count my including a book on architecture, which was mostly comprised of photos, cheating.  It still took several days to complete and the photos were fantastic!  I will post reviews of my final books for 2017 at a later date.  In the meant time I have been looking over my library and have made a few goals for 2018.

While in Florida, I asked my brother-in-law what sort of goal I should make for this year and he said I should up my game by fifty books.  So I did and thanks to his little girls I have already read eleven books. Yes, they were picture books but a book is a book.  Kind of.

But to my personal tastes, and maybe I have been influenced by Foyle's War (of which sadly I've seen the last episode) I've been looking through my library and have decided to work my way through my books about the Russian Cold War and also Germany under the Third Reich. 

The music I'm listening to is a jovial work by Beethoven, The Piano Trio in B-flat called "The Archduke"Trio.  I hope you enjoy it.

Young Thomas Hardy (Penguin Classic Biography)Young Thomas Hardy by Robert Gittings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first of two volumes, this book centers around Hardy's years growing up. We learn of his humble back ground, his family were workers, servants and laborers, and how he spent the rest of his life trying to hide his family and upbringing.

He married into a class higher than his own and even barred his wife from his past. Soon Emma suspected, especially since so much of his writing focuses on the lay people rather than the aristocracy. Her comment on one of his books, "Too many servants."

His biography offers insight as to how class conscious people were back then. It makes one grateful that we don't exist in such suffocating times. Although economic lines are still drawn, no one is forced to stay behind the one they were born in, not in this country.

Gittings explores the real life people behind Hardy's characters. They are all based on family members and the heroines are based on people he was in love with. Hardy had a life long fixation on THE beautiful woman. Even after he was married he was hopelessly falling in love with these women.

He wrote countless poetry about them much to the chagrin of his wife but he insisted that the women were not real. No one bought that. Emma retaliated by writing voluminous amounts of venomous editorials about her husband. After she died, Hardy read them and was deeply affected by their bitterness. He burned her papers after reading them.

Hardy was known as a realist. He did not romanticize love or people and his stories reflect a strong belief in fate. After rejecting the Christianity of his youth, it was all he was left with. Most of his stories do not end well for the protagonist.

Young Thomas Hardy ends with Thomas in middle age. The rest of his life is documented in Gittings second book called the Older Thomas Hardy.

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The Older HardyThe Older Hardy by Robert Gittings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book takes up where Gittings previous book leaves off. Hardy is married and older and enjoying his success as an author.

Gittings intertwines Hardy's personal life with his stories. We learn the back ground of Jude the Obscure; the Mayor of Casterbridge; the Woodlanders and others. We see how his heroines were based on women Hardy knew and worshiped.

Hardy fell in love with beautiful young women. The fact that he was older and married did not interfere with that. He idolized a type and as that woman aged out, he replaced her with a younger version. He even wrote a story about a man who falls in love with a woman, then her daughter and then her grand daughter. The character bore no small resemblance to Hardy himself.

His wife Emma had become chronically ill and miserable. She suffered for most of her life living with a man who did not hide from her his infidelity, although he insisted the poetry he wrote was to no real person, no one, least of all Emma was fooled.

In the final years of her life, a twenty year old woman moved into their house. Emma kept herself mostly upstairs while this woman, Florence, stayed with Hardy and was ostensibly his secretary. She would soon be his second wife. Florence, who had already one relationship with a married man seemed to be innocent or ignorant of why Emma would find her presence intolerable.

She soon discovered why after Emma died. Like Sergeant Troy in Far From the Madding Crowd, Hardy developed a strange, sentimental attitude towards his dead wife. The wife he neglected when alive, became an icon that he worshiped afterwards. Florence was forced to accompany him on his many pilgrimages to Emma's graveside.

Age happened to Florence like it happens to everyone and soon Hardy had new young women to obsess over.

Florence stepped into Emma's shoes and became the sickly neglected wife. Two photos in the book are striking. The first shows a young, fresh Florence next to a depleted, haggard Emma. The second photo shows Florence with Thomas. Thomas looks as dapper as ever, even in old age while Florence looks about eighty years old, even though the photo was taken a mere ten years after the first photo. She couldn't have been forty.

In Hardy's later years he turned to writing poetry. While most of his novels take place in the 19th century, Hardy lived on into the 20th and through WWI. This war had a profound impact on him and his poetry reflects that. He became the idol of the new poets and writers which included Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, and James Joyce. His writing is considered the pioneer of modern poetry.

Hardy lived to be eighty-eight years old. He lived a long, rich life. The same could not be said for either wife. Florence only outlived him by a few years.

In the words of one of Hardy's editors, "He was a great author; he was not a great man."

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

All Creatures Great and Small; All Things Bright and Beautiful; House Styles in America; Thomas a Kempis of the Imitation of Christ (Selections) Typewriter: The History, The Machines,The Writers by Tony Allan

I am listening to one of the most gorgeous acapella works for the human voice:  O Magnum MysteriumO Magnum Mysterium is a six-voice motet in the Aeolian mode in two musical parts. O Magnum Mysterium is a responsorial chant from the Matins of Christmas.

My husband knows I love coffee and bought me a French press for Christmas!

For those of you who celebrate Christmas I hope you had a blessed time and for all of you I pray God makes his love real to you.  Just know that I pray for all of you (that I know about) every day.

Well, so far I have read 196 books this year.  My goal on Goodreads is 200 hundred. Will I slide into home plate and successfully read four more books before the 31st?  It won't be easy because tomorrow I am driving with my son and Hercaloo to Florida to spend the week with my parents and my two adorable nieces and the people who brought them. (My sister and her husband-that's a joke; I told Debbie that after you have babies no one is interested in you anymore.  She doesn't think it's funny.)  Seriously though, I am excited to see everyone.

It's a ten hour drive and I plan on reading while my son drives, which won't be across Louisiana.  He'll be sleeping since we're leaving early.  But from Vicksburg Mississippi to Mobile Alabama, while I have light, I hope to get through some pages.  I'm reading some great books right now:  two presidential biographies about the same man; a nonfiction account of four people's lives in the South the year the Civil War ended; a fascinating book about Handel and his librettist and how they wrote the Messiah and a fantastic encyclopedia picture book about Irish history.  Let's see if I finish any of these before the new year.  Oh, and I almost forgot I am halfway through the most amazing book on modern architecture from all over the world.  I may throw in a TinTin just to help.

But this is what I have just finished reading over the past couple of weeks:

All Creatures Great and Small & All Things Bright and BeautifulAll Creatures Great and Small & All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beatuiful edition of two books. I recently bought it because my original books have fallen to pieces from multiple readings over the years. I am cutting and pasting my original review.

This is an old favorite that I've read countless times. What do I like about it? Let me count the ways.

First of all, I like the way Herriot (or Alf Wight, if you like) turns a phrase. His use of absurd imagery to create a comical effect is superb. I found myself re-reading certain paragraphs just because I enjoyed how he expressed certain concepts.

Secondly, I like being taken to another time and place. Reading books is the closest thing we have to time travel. Reading about Yorkshire farmers surviving through the depression with the old dialect that the author uses to good effect provides me with a vicarious experience of life on the Dales and with a group of people I will never meet in real life.

Thirdly, I enjoy the way he intertwines his personal life, the two vets he lives with and their personalities and interactions and also meeting his wife with his veterinary practice. Each chapter involving treating an animal is like a little mystery as he has us follow his exertions to try to uncover what is wrong with an animal and how to treat it. He plainly reveals life before the age of penicillin and antibiotics and how vets struggled with what little resources they had. He also shows with compassion and admiration the grim poverty and grimmer determination of the farmers to make their farms thrive.

Finally, his writing is something I aspire to. I have no hope of ever writing like George Orwell or Evelyn Waugh, but if someone said my writing reminded them of James Herriot's I would feel as if I had arrived.

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House Styles in America: The Old-House Journal Guide to the Architecture of AmericanHomesHouse Styles in America: The Old-House Journal Guide to the Architecture of AmericanHomes by James C. Massey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fabulous book on the various architectural styles throughout the history of America starting with colonial times to the present. Styles include: Roman and Greek Revival; Paladian, Georgian, Colonial, French Creole, to the twentieth century styles of Wright's Prairie Homes, French Creole, Arts and Crafts, Sears and Roebuck pre-fabricated homes and Art Deco.

Each style is thoroughly described accompanied by several examples of actual homes in large glossy, colored photographs. Anyone interested in the development and history of architectural as applied to living residences will enjoy this book.

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THOMAS A KEMPIS' "Of The Imitation Of Christ" IN TODAY'S LANGUAGE by Thomas à Kempis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book as an Advent devotion for the month of December. It is a beautifully rendered exposition of Christ's words of love to his children.

Kempis at times writes in the voice of Christ by paraphrasing Scripture to create a greater sense of intimacy with the reader and God.

An excellent read to enter into the spirit of Christmas.

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And last but not least:

Typewriter: The History - The Machines - The WritersTypewriter: The History - The Machines - The Writers by Tony Allan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A cute small book with glossy pages, lots of photos and a concise history of the invention and development of the typewriter.

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I know that you are all on the edge your seat wondering if I'll finish my books on time.  I'll let you know in my next post, same Bat Time; same Bat Channel!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Diane Arbus: A Biography by Patricia Bosworth; Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer by Arthur Lubow

These are my raggedy jeans that I wear around the house.  They keep getting more and more ripped as time goes by.  Why am I wearing them?  Because if I have some spare money I will use it to buy a book.

It's a beautiful time of the year! Enjoy it by listening to Corelli's Christmas Concerto!

One of my passions is photography.  Arbus was always a favorite but I had no idea how tragic her life was until I read these biographies.  She was a fascinating but also a sad and even repulsive individual but I still find her photos fascinating.

Diane Arbus: A BiographyDiane Arbus: A Biography by Patricia Bosworth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a briefer biography than Arthur Lubow's by about two hundred pages. While Bosworth did not shy away from Arbus' deviant sexual proclivities, she avoided that salacious detail Lubow enjoyed indulging in, which may account for the shorter version.

Also, this biography was written in 1984 and without the cooperation of Arbus' husband, lover Marvin Israel or her daughters, Amy and Doon, which could also explain a greater lack of detail than Lubow's book. Her brother, Howard, mother Gertrude, and some of Diane's close friends, and about two hundred others did contribute. Having read Lubow's book, I see where he used Bosworth's biography as a resource.

It is also interesting to see how much time has changed things. Many of the important or remarkable people Bosworth includes in her biography as reference points are unknown now. One, Richard Avedon, is still known, if for no other reason that a biography has just come out on his own life. The others you'll be lucky to find a Wikipedia bio.

Arbus was a sad, tragic figure. She grew up in a rich, privileged home on Park Avenue with nannies and servants. Her parents were self-made businessmen whose families escaped the Jewish pogroms of Europe and created wealth through the fur coat business.

The only thing her parents did not provide her or her brother and sister with was love, affection and attention. Gertrude Nemerov, Diane's mother, was self-absorbed and suffered from acute depression. David, her father, played mind games with his children. When he was angry with them he completely withdrew until he chose to "forgive" them.

Diane, according to her own accounts was already showing signs of emotional disturbance at a young age. In fact she sounds like she may have suffered from Radical Attachment Disorder, something children from neglected households can develop.

Whatever the reasons, Diane's heart gravitated toward the deviant and marginalized in society, "freaks" as she called them.

Her photographs focus on circus entertainers, midgets, giants, deformed people as well as the grungier streets of New York City. A large part of her repertoire include transvestites, lesbians, and drug addicts.

Arbus said that everyone has a secret and she wanted to pull that secret out of them with her camera.

She was largely unrecognized during her life time. Many found her photos to be repulsive. Since her death in 1971 she has been considered one of the defining photographers of the sixties.

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Diane Arbus: Portrait of a PhotographerDiane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer by Arthur Lubow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arthur Lubow's biography is the most thorough one of Diane Arbus to date. While crediting Patricia Bosworth's 1984 biography for its valuable original information, his is almost three hundred pages longer.

One of the reasons is because archives and information have been released since Bosworth wrote her biography. Lubow took over a decade to write his biography and he had access to many people who were personal friends with Arbus. These friends have also since passed away which may be why Lubow's book is much more detailed and graphic about the less savory aspects of her life than Bosworth's biography.

Arbus was born into wealth. Her parents and grandparents were self-made wealthy businessmen. Immigrating to America to escape the Jewish pogroms of Europe, possessing nothing but the clothes on their back, they pushed against the Anti-Semiticism that was prevalent at the time and soon were living the lavish lifestyles of their WASP predecessors. I have to admire a people who never made excuses for themselves but simply worked hard and succeeded.

However, Arbus rejected her privileged upbringing, but she was still very much a product of her environment. Her childhood was without any affection or attention from her parents. According to Lubow she and her brother Howard tried to compensate by being absorbantly affectionate with each other, beyond what would be considered healthy. I do not know how accurate some of Lubow's information is, because Bosworth makes no mention of this and the people involved are all dead, but Arbus apparently casually remarked to her therapist that she and her brother carried on an incestuous relationship since she was very young.

Diane was casual about her sex life. She did not believe in prohibitions of any kind. This belief is partly what drove her to photograph deviants of society. She felt like a freak and identified with them. She detested normal people and loathed privilege ones. Her photographs reflect this.

She claimed to be pulling truth out of her subjects but all a photographer can really do is reflect themselves. If they love people, it shows; if they hate people it shows as well.

Arbus hated regular people. Her "regular" people are shown to be ugly, jaded and nightmarish in her photos. People belonging to an underworld, of circus freaks, prostitutes, transvestites, lesbians and drug addicts, are shown with compassion. Interestingly she refused to photograph hippies, insisting that they were fabricated. They weren't truly freaks or outsiders.

She also took photos of people engaged in group sex, in which she participated, and nudists, which she also participated in.

Several people remarked that she dressed and talked like a little girl. This is classic symptoms of sexual abuse as a child and may explain her attraction to the rejects of society.

Diane did not see any reason for sexual fidelity to one's spouse and was open about sleeping with another man to her husband. Lubow claims that her husband, Allan, had no problem with this, but shortly after, he began seeking girlfriends and finally left Diane who was devastated.

Diane also had a lover who was married. She did not care he was married but did not understand why he did not spend more time with her. It's as if she had created her own moral code and could not understand why the rest of the world did not live by its rules.

When someone is intimate with everyone, they can get close to no one and Diane, for someone who only wanted truth, discovered this painful truth as she became more and more isolated and alienated from the people around her. She suffered from severe bouts of depression that was only alleviated when she threw herself into photographing.

Everything she did was an attempt to "feel". She felt numb and wanted to know she was really alive. The sex and photography did this for her, but it did not last and she finally reached the end of her endurance.

One day, she took an overdose of barbituates, got into her bath tub fully dressed and slashed her wrists. She was found by her lover Marvin Israel who never visited her, but came when she did not return his calls. He told no one and her funeral was sparsely attended. This angered many of her friends because they did not know about her death until it was too late.

Biographies are useful in that after reading them one feels as though one has almost acquired a new member to their family. For all of Diane's complexities, I feel an attachment to her and an appreciation for her photography that I did not previously possess.

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Neither of my reviews do these books justice.  There was so much more to Diane Arbus.  Both books quote her feelings and beliefs about how to take photos and why she took them.  A lot of her explanations are rather rambling and incoherent but are still worth reading.  Both of these books allow one a bit of an inside to this mysterious woman who died so tragically.

The books do not have any photos of her work (they were not given releases) but one can buy collections of them from Amazon, eBay or simply look them up on the internet.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers; The Case of the Horrified Heirs: a Perry Mason mystery by Erle Stanley Gardner; Ancestral Shadows by Russell Kirk

 I've made a recent discovery in piano music, the compositions of Arthur Farwell.  He wrote some reflective tone poems that I like to listen to when I write.  Here is Roses and Lillies  from his collection called Tone Poems After Pastels in Prose.

 It's Advent and I did not have candles so I went to Walmart.  They did not have Advent candles but they did have this Starbucks mug for five dollars so the trip wasn't a waste.  To me at least.  According to my husband it was.

We're nearing the end of the year and I am scrambling to make my Goodreads goal of 200 books this year.  I thought such an ambitious target would get me to read through more of my TBR pile but all it's made me do is cheat and read a bunch of picture books to make the quota. 

Today I am going to combine three book reviews.  They are not long nor are they very profound but I hope you enjoy reading them, or better, are inspired to read the books.  If you have already read them, tell me whether you liked or hated them and why.

Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey, #3)Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another good mystery by Sayers.

An elderly woman dies. She was terminally ill with cancer, so no one is surprised that she dies of heart failure. Except the doctor doesn't think she should have died so soon. Peter Wimsey picks up the scent and begins to investigate. It turns out the lady's niece, who happens to be a nurse and who was caring for her, also is going to inherit all of her aunt's money. (The aunt was very rich). No one suspects foul play and an autopsy does not reveal anything but heart failure. Yet Wimsey is not persuaded.

When Wimsey begins to interview other people who worked in the house before the old woman died and they begin to die as well, his suspicions are confirmed.

This was a very interesting story with many different clues and incidents that do not seem to be connected but all the threads are tied together at the end.

Sayer's always does thorough research when writing a story. In this case we get the low down about wills and the different laws that arbitrate them. She weaves this information into her story to make crucial plot developments.

And, of course, what makes Sayer's mysteries especially enjoyable are the lively characters and Wimsey's sharp and, at times, scathing wit.

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The Case of the Horrified Heirs (Perry Mason Mystery)The Case of the Horrified Heirs by Erle Stanley Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Virginia Baxter is framed for possession of drugs but why? Who did it? Someone is intent on getting her out of the way, not by murder but by having her thrown in prison. What is the motive? Who did she offend or does she know something that could obstruct someone's goal. But what is that goal? What does someone want and how is Virginia in the way?

Lauretta Trent is a wealthy woman in her sixties. She is financially supporting her two sisters and their husbands. She has left a will that was signed by her lawyer and his secretary, who happens to be Virginia Baxter.

For the past few months Lauretta has been hospitalized for digestive upsets. Is it the spicy Mexican food she can't resist or is something else going on? It turns out that her hair and fingernails test positive for arsenic. Who is trying to kill her?

Is it the siblings? They are not given anything in the will. They're better off if she lives. Or is it the chauffeur who stands to gain the most? He also prepares her food.

Nothing is as it seems and what I enjoyed about the story was all the different threads that seemed unrelated and how they come together in the end.

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Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly TalesAncestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales by Russell Kirk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Russell Kirk is best known for starting the Modern Conservative movement. A devout Catholic, his beliefs permeate each and every story. Therefore, the stories are not simply ghost tales but stories with a higher, other worldly message.

"...the tale of the preternatural- as written by George Macdonald, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and other masters- can be an instrument for the recovery of moral order." -Kirk

All of the stories are surreal, whether they are talking about demon possession, haunted houses, or Native America spiritism. In one story, a man stumbles into a place where dead friends dwell. At first he thinks he is dead, but it turns out that he made a "wrong turn" somewhere. If it was supposed to be heaven, it was a little bleak.

They are not traditional or run of the mill but they are extremely suspenseful and I found them to be rather frightening. Some people will enjoy these stories and some probably won't understand what he's getting at.

You'll have to read them for yourself and decide.

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For Advent devotions I'm reading Thomas A Kempkis' The Imitation of Christ every night.  I'll be reviewing that book at the end of the month.