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review 2018-01-22 00:16
Defining Teddy for the ages
Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon - Michael Patrick Cullinane

Presidents experience one of two fates after their death. While most recede into history and are remembered by most Americans as little more than images tacked up in rows on elementary school walls, a few become icons whose names and faces become part of the culture. Among the latter group is Theodore Roosevelt, a larger-than-life figure whose image remains almost as publicly recognizable today as it was during his heyday. Michael Patrick Cullinane's book is about the ways in which his image has endured, and the efforts of many people to ensure that it did.

 

The effort to define Roosevelt's posthumous image began with the moment of his death. As news of his passing spread throughout the nation, obituary writers and eulogists strove to define him in a variety of ways, all of which spoke to his multifaceted life and career. Memorial organizations soon emerged that sought to define his legacy with monuments and other programs. At the forefront of this was Roosevelt's family, though the seemingly unassailable control of Roosevelt's wife and children was soon challenged by political ascension of Theodore Roosevelt's distant cousin Franklin, who as president laid claim to Theodore's memory in ways that created a rift within the family. By the 1950s, memorializaton took on a different cast, as the generation that remembered Theodore Roosevelt was replaced by one who knew him only as a historical figure. Picking up on the themes outlined by their predecessors, this new generation continued to define and defend Roosevelt's legacy in ways that reflected efforts to establish his continuing relevance to a changing country and kept him at the forefront of the historical imagination.

 

Cullinane's book provides readers with a good look at how Roosevelt;s image has remained alive long after his body was laid to rest. His description of the memorialization efforts is a particular strength of the book, as he shows just how much thought and effort went into creating monuments designed to define Roosevelt's complex legacy for future generations. Yet for all of his labors, one person is surprisingly absent from Cullinane's analysis: Theodore Roosevelt himself. As good as his book is, it would have been much stronger had it begun with a chapter that examined his subject's own efforts to shape his public persona while he was alive. Given how media savvy Roosevelt was, his own efforts made him the single most influential definer of his posthumous image, with every other person involved working with the material he left them.

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review 2018-01-19 04:34
Podcast #87 is up!
Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of the American Century - Hendrik Meijer

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Hendrik Meijer about his new biography of the 20th century United States senator Arthur Vandenberg. Enjoy!

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review 2018-01-17 18:53
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
My Best Friend's Exorcism - Grady Hendrix

Steeped in 80's nostalgia, I thought this book was a blast!

 

It was never really scary, and I'm not sure that it was meant to be. My instincts tell me this book was written as an homage to the 80's and the silly fun that the horror genre provided at that time. Sure, there were crazy Satanism scares, Geraldo and diet fads but there were also great music videos, Blockbuster stores and a horror book boom to beat all booms. A lot of them were just like this...about young people, influenced by culture and cliques, just trying to fit in. Carrie, Audrina, and all those kids from the covers of John Saul novels know what I'm talking about it.

 

If YOU know what I'm talking about and if you're smiling at those memories as I am, then I recommend this book. It was made for you!

 

*I bought MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM with my own hard earned money. It's the enhanced version and it's a lot fun, especially those flies crawling on the cover!*

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review 2018-01-17 16:15
An excellent narrative about the naval war in the Pacific
Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 - Ian W. Toll

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941 caught the U.S. Navy by surprise in more ways than one. For not only did Japan succeed in disabling a major portion of the Pacific Fleet, the attack by waves of bomb- and torpedo-carrying planes inaugurated a new style of naval warfare for which the United States was unprepared. The learning curve that the U.S. was forced to undertake serves as a key theme of Ian Toll's book, which chronicles the first six months of the war in the Pacific. During these months the Japanese enjoyed virtually free reign in the Pacific, as their planes and ships swept aside what opposition the Western powers could throw together on short notice. The result was a succession of victories won at a pace that astonished even the Japanese themselves.

 

Yet as Toll demonstrates, the United States was quick to absorb the lessons of the new style of warfare. Here he focuses on the carrier operations that formed the initial response to the Japanese onslaught. While the famous Doolittle raid gets its due here, Toll rightly highlights the often overlooked strikes on Japanese bases in the Marshall and Gilbert island chains Not only did these strikes give the U.S. Navy valuable experience, but they were central to Admiral Yamamoto's decision to stage an invasion of Midway Island in an effort to draw the remaining U.S. forces out for a decisive engagement. The resulting battle in June 1942 proved the turning point of the war in the Pacific, however, as the sinking of the four carriers that formed the core of the Kido Butai deprived the Japanese of their ability to conduct further offensive operations.

 

Toll describes these months in a text that engages the reader with dramatic yet straightforward prose. His pen portraits of the major commanders -- men like Chester Nimitz, Ernest King, and Isoroku Yamamoto -- are a particular strength of the book, as is his integration of the role American codebreakers played in this stage of the war. Though he bases his book almost entirely upon previously published works, his analysis and his evocative writing style make this a book that even readers familiar with the subject will find well worth their time. It's a promising start to what, when completed, could prove to be an enduring go-to source for anyone interested in reading about the Second World War in the Pacific.

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review 2018-01-16 04:34
More entertainment than science.
 Atomic Adventures: Secret Islands, Forgotten N-Rays, and Isotopic Murder - A Journey into the Wild World of Nuclear Science - James Mahaffey,Keith Sellon-Wright

That is, the author was more interested in telling amusing stories than explaining science, though he had a go at it ever so often, but didn't leave me feeling notably enlightened. Which is fine. I'm more interested in amusing stories than knowing what a proton does, and for the most part the stories were pretty good. He did some times get sidetracked into non-science stuff that was less interesting, and he was perhaps a little to flippant about serious matters that might kill us all.

 

The highlights of the book were the nuclear rocket experiments and other adventures that mostly weren't likely to kill us all, but hit the amusing mono-focus that science/engineering types can get into, and also explosions! The assassination part was less intrigue-laden and interesting than I thought it would be, and was mostly very sad. I'm never going to understand quantum entanglement. As far as I can tell, it's witchcraft. Liked the interstellar travel bit at the end, even if none of it works.

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