Books About Eleanor Roosevelt: Reviewed in The Economist, 29 October 2016

  • Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939 – 1962, by Blanche Wiesen Cook (Viking)
  • Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady, by Susan Quinn (Penguin)

It is tempting to think that in a different era, Eleanor Roosevelt could have become president of the United States. Widely loved, the longest-serving First Lady was on the right side of history on virtually every subject including civil rights, acceptance of European refugees and the need to end Empires.


“She understood his needs, forgave his transgressions, buried her jealousies, and embarked on her own independent career . . .  FDR encouraged her independence and when he silenced her did so for reasons of state.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

To the Last

Obama:  How do we make sure that we don’t change, even as we protect our people?”

— quoted in The Economist, 26 November 2016

The Economist Books of the Year 2015

Yes, self is a year behind in her reading of The Economist. So pathetic.

Anyhoo, here are the books self picked to add to her reading list: four histories, three works of fiction, one book on Culture, Society and Travel.

HISTORIES

  • Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, by Susan Southard — “a searing account of five teenage survivors of the bombing of Nagasaki”
  • Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles, by Bernard Cornwell — “a great and terrible story of a battle . . . fought 200 years ago, told with energy and clarity”
  • The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East — “how a multinational Muslim empire was destroyed by the first World War”
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard — “about Rome from its myth-shrouded origins to the early third century”

CULTURE, SOCIETY AND TRAVEL

  • Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, by Rebecca Herzig — “a curious account of hair-erasing, and why people have tried clamshell razors, lasers, lye depilatories, tweezers, waxes, threading and electrolysis to try and free themselves from hairiness”

FICTION

  • Seiobo There Below, by Laszlo Krasznahorkai — Seventeen stories, “a fitting winner of the 2005 Man Booker International Prize”
  • Submission, by Michael Houellebecq — “France under Muslim rule,” 2022
  • An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, by Jessie Greengrass — a “spectacularly accomplished, chilly debut collection of short stories about thwarted lives and opportunities missed”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amwriting: “I Eat Bitterness”

Self is writing a 9/11 story called “I Eat Bitterness.”

About a businessman who commutes into Manhattan from his home in Connecticut. On the day of the attack, he’s late for work because he had a fight with his wife. His thoughts on the train are broody and dark. He arrives at the World Trade Center at half past 9 in the morning.

As self explores this story, she occasionally turns to her reading of back issues of The New Yorker and The Economist.

In the 29 October 2016 issue of The Economist, this:

Who will uphold the torch of openness in the West? . . . Hillary Clinton, the probable winner on November 8th, would be much better on immigration, but she has renounced her former support for ambitious trade deals.

Heart breaks.

Stay tuned.

Two 1/2 Years Later, Nothing’s Changed

The Economist, 14 June 2014: Terror’s New Headquarters

  • Perhaps Iraq’s humiliated army will muster the resolve to make a stand, or even retake Mosul. But, with its symbolic victories and an endless supply of young men, that will be of little comfort. ISIS aims to withdraw the map of of the Middle East by creating a Sunni state, starting with Eastern Syria and the heart of Iraq. Its brand of militancy is spreading poison and terror across the Arab world. One day, if they have their way, ISIS’s suicide bombers will also target Europe and America. Without a change of heart in Baghdad and Washington, groups like it will continue to cause mayhem. Even with a new approach, it will be hard to stop the jihad.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

American Quests

Self loves signage, she does not know why.

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An Ed Ruscha, Seen at the de Young in Golden Gate Park

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE WAY TO THE SPRING, p. 117

Self would really like to thank Ben Ehrenreich for The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. The book’s been well-reviewed (She got interested in it after reading a featured review in The Economist) so Ehrenreich certainly doesn’t need self’s approbation or anything like that. But it took courage to do what he did, write from the point of view of an encircled, really powerless people. Who seem to be operating out of sheer nerve.

Ehrenreich writes:

  • From a distance, it was easy to mistake velocity for hope. (p. 117)

She cannot get an image out of her mind: the image of a house in Gaza, cut off from its neighbors, completely encircled by Israeli-constructed fences and barbed wire. The occupants of the house were told they could have fifteen-minute intervals in which to come and go. The rest of the time, they were virtually prisoners. The owner of the house at first refused to accede to this, but then the Israelis kept the locks on the gates for two weeks. So they learned to accept the new restrictions.

A few Palestinian villages are organized enough to keep up a sustained program of resistance, one of these villages being Bab al-Shams (The name means “The Gate of the Sun”). There is a lot of hope in the first months of resistance. But when Ehrenreich returns to Bab al-Shams after an absence of several months, he finds that the village was not, after all, “the beginning of a new stage of resistance, but the climax of an old one. Everything goes in cycles.”

Self picked up a copy of The Economist, a few weeks ago, and in it she learned that the occupation in Gaza, which has dragged on for seven long years, has no end in sight.

Still, despite knowing that most of the characters in Ehrenreich’s book are as oppressed as ever, despite how very depressing this knowledge is, she has sworn to finish the book, and to read all the way to the bitter end.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Special Report, The Economist: Technology and Politics

The piece (26 March 2016) begins:

  • Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for the American presidency . . .

Is self dreaming? Aaargh, aaargh, aaargh. She must be dreaming.

Because here it is May. And Trump IS going to be the Republican nominee.

Stay tuned.

More From The Economist’s What Is the Deadliest Sin? (June 14 – 20, 2014)

Surely self doesn’t need to remind readers why she is reading a copy of The Economist dating from last June?

Here’s novelist Will Self on PRIDE:

“Most men can withstand adversity,” Abraham Lincoln said, “but if you want to see a man’s character, give him power . . .  It’s impossible to see how power can be exercised without pride, since to consider yourself capable of directing the hearts and minds of others is, ipso facto, to embrace the notion that you are superior to them. Since most power is gained arbitrarily, this is never demonstrably the case.”

Fantastic!

BTW, Will Self is also a travel writer. He wrote a book about walking from England to the far reaches of America. Which self thinks is rather a quaint notion. Because, for one thing, to get from England to America, one has to ride a plane. Self explains this part (how he leaps the Atlantic). The book Will Self wrote about the journey is Psychogeography.

Stay tuned.

Pile of Stuff, Pile of Stuff, When Will You End?

When self’s inspiration for her fan fiction dries up, she has a very convenient pile of unread magazines very close by.

This pile reached previously unheard-of heights during Year 2014, because self was so often traveling (by choice: All of self’s trips are self-imposed)

Now to The Economist of June 14 – 20, 2014.

There is a humongous article titled What Is the Deadliest Sin?

Answers are given by seven intellectuals, ranging from a “former Bishop of Edinburgh” to a “conservative MP.”

Self finds the answer of Camila Batmanghelidjh, Founder of Kids Company (a support organization for vulnerable children) most interesting. She picked SLOTH as the Deadliest Sin (After reading her answer, self is inclined to agree)

She states: “The sin of sloth is not caring, not noticing, not doing.”

Her explanation begins:

We all suffer from moments of duvet apathy, when we can’t get it together to lift ourselves out of bed. In small doses, sloth is survivable. But on a national scale it can be lethal. Perhaps the contemporary word for sloth would be “complacency” : the condition in which we don’t aspire to greather things. I’m not talking about material enhancement, but an inner lack of ambition or responsibility for yourself and for others — a lethargy of the spirit.

Self is reminded of her good friend Margarita Donnelly, who passed away just before Christmas.

She founded Calyx, the oldest women’s press in America (Self would dearly love to say she started it with a credit card, but she’s afraid her memory might be faulty on this point)

Margarita was the Anti-Sloth. She was that strong voice that was never afraid to take on someone or something if she thought the cause was justified. And self got the full-on exposure to the Margarita Anti-Sloth when she spent time with her in Venice, in 2013.

Self must admit that a 24/7 exposure to such a dynamo did sometimes make her feel like hiding under a rock. Alas, Margarita would not brook self hiding under a rock. Self just had to face Margarita (and Venice) the hard way. Full-on, eyes wide open, muscles flexed in readiness.

Because, self is a product of an island culture, and if given the choice she would willingly spend whole days in the lobby of the Danieli (packed to the gills with YOUNG Asian tourists who arrived with matching Louis Vuitton luggage) sipping Pernod.

But instead she was with Margarita in a small apartment in Ca’ San Toma, and she got lost every single day. And every single street had a bridge with steps going up (as well as steps going down, let’s be reasonable, but the steps going up were extremely challenging, especially when self had no idea where she was going). And when the heavens opened up and it poured rain, self was never within sight of an awning. Never.

Which is why she just had to take off for Trieste one day. Assured Margarita she’d be back, and then lost herself in a very nice B & B next to a restaurant in a convento rustica/rustico, where little red mopeds could be rented by the day, and self was never lost because she hardly moved from the quay. Trieste will always be, in self’s mind, that cocoon where complacency trumped everything else. She can just see herself fleeing there when she’s ready to have a nervous breakdown.

You know, this is turning out to be quite a funny post (as well as a very long one) and self figures that must be a good thing.

She almost made it to Oregon to catch Margarita on her very last day on this earth, but she missed her and instead got to speak to Margarita’s daughter, Angelique, who told her there would be no funeral, Margarita had a “celebration of life” in November, right after Thanksgiving. And self now recalls that Margarita herself called to tell her about this celebration of life, but because self was in that moment in a state of high-functioning complacency, she got her ticket for AFTER the holidays. And totally missed the boat.

But, you know, Venice. She did get to tell Margarita this astounding thing: “I think I will go back to Venice. Want to come with?”

Made Margarita laugh. The week before she passed away.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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