Best Books I Read in:
Best Books I Read in:
Posting for Cee’s Flower of the Day.
When self returned from the Philippines, end of April, this rose was in bad shape. It looked like it was starving: sparse leaves, riddled with rust and blackspot. But, as dear blog readers can see, it has since made a full recovery!
The players were doing a relay race now, but Ezat’s gaze drifted into the distance, as if seeing his own road ahead — his twelve attempts, the container of diapers in which he’d made it onto the ferry, the forty-eight hours he’d spend trapped inside, the church in Italy where he would take refuge from the police, the train ride without a ticket to France, the freezing alleys of Paris, the Champ de Mars where he would stand trembling in ecstasy, Hamburg where he would be granted asylum, where after two years he’d learn enough German to start university, his past as inscrutable to his classmates as his future would be to his family in Iran, living alone in body and in mind, the cold of the River Elbe in winter seeping into his bones.— The Naked Don’t Fear the Water, p. 266
Self is enjoying Storm of Steel a lot, which is saying something. Junger is such a keen cataloguer of his emotions. Solipsistic? Maybe. There is a reason André Gide called this the best work on war that he had ever read.
On p. 80, he describes the experience of being shelled:
Self driven to hair-pulling distraction by all this coverage of “pomp and circumstance” on cnn. Something happening tomorrow? Hard pass.
She’s on Chapter 6 of Spies, Lies, and Algorithms, and it’s about another thrilling event (possibly second only to the killing of Osama in the thrills meter): the arrest of the FBI mole, Robert Hanssen.
Just after Hanssen had left a small garbage bag under a bridge (his last dead drop ever ever ever), “ten FBI agents” came out of the woods, “surrounded him, cuffed him, and read him his Miranda rights.” Self can just imagine the scene! That’s what makes the Hanssen arrest so satisfying.
Here was the damage:
“Hanssen was found to have betrayed at least four Russian agents working for US intelligence, three of whom were executed as a result of his treachery.”
Spies, as Zegart points out, do not just work for adversaries. She cites the case of Jonathan Pollard, a civilian Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel. “One day an alert coworker saw Pollard carrying what looked like a classified envelope into the parking lot and reported him.” He served 30 years of a life sentence.
“Today, according to former U.S. intelligence officials, two to three million people are engaged in espionage around the world, most of them aiming at the United States.”— Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence, p. 146
Everything in this book! The drug issue is personal — most forms of addiction are examined: cocaine, heroin, crack, etc. Then, the cancer of the narrator’s husband. Finally, in Essay # 9, the cluster of cancer cases in Pima County:
Fernando’s sister-in-law, who grew up on the south side of town, died of lymphoma when she was only forty years old. She had been tired, but she attributed that to working outside in the summer heat, when she supervised juveniles sentenced to community service like cleaning up the parks or roadways. One day she woke up at two in the morning, worried that she was late for work. She was delirious. Her family took her to the hospital, where doctors sedated her, to find out what was wrong. The cancer had already leached the calcium from her bones; the calcium had gone to her brain and given her dementia. Whenever she woke up, she would yank at the tubes in her arms and say, “Home.” They would put her under again. Fernando thought she knew she was dying. For a few years, she had been telling him that she wanted to join the procession to San Xavier Mission at Easter as a manda, or a ritual petition, to ask God for a cure for his hepatitis. He told her she should worry about her own health. Maybe he suspected she was ill. She died in 2005 and only seven years later, both he and her brother would be diagnosed with malignant tumors.
This essay collection really packs a punch. I knew Beth from Stanford, I had only known her as a fiction writer. But her essays, the ones in this collection, are something else!
“Why can’t two people just decide one day that they want to die together?” I asked Fernando in 2000. Death was on my mind then because my father had just died and my aunt Dorothy was in hospice and my mother had a chronic lung disease and was trying to find a doctor who would promise to give her a massive dose of morphine if her lungs started to fail. She wanted to go quickly. She even quit taking her beta blockers, hoping her heart would give out first. In my family, we are more afraid of dying than of death.— “Stars and Moons and Comets”, Essay # 7 in Anxious Attachments