I’m trying to get my library books back before the weather turns uglier but here’s a quick wrap of my readings of the past 2 week checkout period.
A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer by Nina Burleigh [Bantam Books, 1998]. I didn’t end up caring a lot for this woman, although I do recall the murder when it happened – barely. What was fascinating to me was the juxtaposition of 2 1960’s movements and how one likely stymied the solving of this crime. Meyer is presented as that woman of the 1960’s that bores me to tears anymore; affluent, well-educated, bright, beautiful, well-married and we’re supposed to pity and/or admire her forays into serial adultery, drugs, lefty politics, and lefty art because she was, you know, oppressed by her dull drone of a husband. Cry me a river. In this case, the husband was a CIA official and Burleigh loosely tries to allude there might be something suspicious there but it remains loose enough to fly off. The juxtaposition was the emerging civil rights movement which was ready to explode with DC rights. It seems quite clear she was murdered by a troubled black man with a criminal record. He was seen following her in the isolated canal area, seen standing over with a gun, ran away, lied about his alibi, hid incriminating clothing and more but got off by a black lawyer making a name for herself by drawing the contrast between the 2 worlds of the not-so-smart deprived black man and the sassy elite white woman. The man got off the murder charge and went on to numerous other assaults against women, black and white, plus robberies.
Assault in Norway by Thomas Gallagher [Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1975] was an exciting true story of the 1942 commando raid on the Nazi heavy water facility in Norway. I knew the story well from other books and a movie, but this day-by-day version to slow the Nazi nuclear bomb is thrilling, short and a top recommendation from me.
Since I’m part Dutch, I thought I would enjoy The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto [Doubleday, 2004] more but his drum-pounding central thesis that the early liberal, diverse, multicultural Dutch settlement of Manhattan accounts for the initial success of the island as a world trade spot and to its liberal, diverse, multicultural society becamd boring and ended up as much a political diatribe as anything else. The history, including rare illustrations and pics, is genuine so if you can ignore the political prejudice of the author – it begins on page one – and focus on the history, you’ll appreciate this book.
Politics also got in the way of Coalfield Jews: An Appalachian History by Deborah R Weiner [University of Illinois Press, 2006]. I was an undergrad sociology major for 3 years and even though I was a liberal college student back then, the lack of scholarly discipline and frankly, the lack of moral discipline among the university faculty and students of this area of study, was apparent and disturbing even to me then. I didn’t end up respecting the area and I still don’t. This book reminded me of so many of those sociology publications. This “might be” “could reflect” “may represent” ‘some said” and the heartfelt accounts, all in the context of invented phrases to add to the sociology academic knowledge base, left me cold. In the end, I will credit Weiner with the study of a subject – Appalachian Jews – that is important and little studied. . There were some excellent pics, but they weren’t rare or of major importance, mostly family pics.
The book Disinformation by Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ronald J Rychlak [WND Books, 2013] hit me across the face. The story of a Communist spy chief [Romanian] who defected to the US was a stunner. How complete was the Russian whitewashing of history but also the actual writing of history not just in the Communist countries but in the Western world, was staggering. This book is easier to comprehend by someone my age, who recalls the propaganda of the USSR but especially the Eastern European satellites. It’s incredible what the Berlin Wall hid I recognize that WND is a very conservative book publisher and I intend to buy this book, reread it, and explore other views to this one but I was appalled that as a liberal college student and liberal Dem for most of my life, I believed virtually all he deems Communist propaganda carefully fed to Westerners like me through Western media. Terrifying.
I cannot review Monty: The Making of a General by Nigel Hamilton [McGraw-Hill, 1981], the definitive biography of a legendary British Field Marshall by a renowned biographer. It would take several posts and more time than I can allow. Let me say that I had the common American distaste and puzzlement over this distinctly British hero and I now believe my thoughts were prejudiced by that American viewpoint. Bernard Montgomery comes across poorly both personally and professionally in this book but began to see that he was a genius trainer and planner and in both personal and professional respects – such as his profound ego – he was no worse than other military figures. This book finishes with the Alamein campaign and its desperately-needed win and includes great depth of material including the original and altered operation plans [the book is 871 pages] and left me wanting to find out more. I highly recommend this brilliant book.