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Search tags: memoirs-biographies
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review 2017-03-03 20:54
The Fall of the House of Wilde / Emer O'Sullivan
The Fall of the House of Wilde: Oscar Wilde and His Family - Emer O'Sullivan

Not the easiest book to read, but it does provide a comprehensive view of Oscar Wilde and his family. And the author is correct, you don’t really understand Oscar the man without the backdrop of his famous family.

Unfortunately, I went into this expecting to adore Mr. O. Wilde, but I came away with my illusions dented, if not shattered. I kept wanting to shake him and yell, “That person doesn’t really care about you! Let him go!” or “Pay attention to your money, dammit!” I will probably regain my fondness for this brilliant man, but it was difficult to see how he fooled himself about so many things. After spending time in prison and penury, all for the sake of a man who must have been a narcissist, Oscar still didn’t “get it” and continued to think that loving the jerk was the thing to do. I’ve watched many women do the same thing, and it drives me crazy!

The whole family had money issues, i.e. they wanted to spend it, but they also wanted it to just magically appear with no effort on their part. I have some sympathy for them—I don’t want to go to work every day either. The difference is that I suck it up & go, whereas they tried marrying people, reissuing books, or just ignoring their lack of money until the problem was breathing down their necks. Oscar really didn’t stand a financial chance, as neither of his parents were dreadfully responsible with cash and he and his brother took that tendency to new lows for the family. To his credit, he endured a personally horrendous tour of North America, all for the money, but squandered that effort by spending the cash almost immediately.

It was also spooky to see how much Oscar’s marriage & affairs mirrored his father’s life. His father chose women while Oscar chose men, but the parallels beyond that difference were uncanny. We really do absorb patterns and behaviours from our families, don’t we?

Considering how small his output was, it is amazing how famous Oscar Wilde continues to be. There is absolutely no doubt that the man was a genius, even if he was a self-destructive one. I will continue to enjoy his many epigrams and his still-relevant & funny plays and try to purge some of my dismay with the realities of his life.

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review 2017-02-28 13:58
Beginning French: Lessons from a Stone Farmhouse - Les Americains

This is the story of 2 Americans  (and their adult daughter) buying a holiday home in France  (Dordogne).And of course the expected ups and downs.The leaking pool, a wonderful nightmarket, plumbing problems, wine tasting opportunities,a different language ....bref,la France!

It is a fun read, scattered with recipes  (not great ones, just French ones).

The thing is, it has been done before, and quite well  (for example:A year in Provence by Peter Mayle),so yes, it is a sunny read but not an brilliant sunny one.

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review 2017-02-21 18:16
Leonard / William Shatner
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man - David Fisher,William Shatner

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner first crossed paths as actors on the set of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Little did they know that their next roles, in a new science-fiction television series, would shape their lives in ways no one could have anticipated. In seventy-nine television episodes and six feature films, they grew to know each other more than most friends could ever imagine.

Over the course of half a century, Shatner and Nimoy saw each other through personal and professional highs and lows. In this powerfully emotional book, Shatner tells the story of a man who was his friend for five decades, recounting anecdotes and untold stories of their lives on and off set, as well as gathering stories from others who knew Nimoy well, to present a full picture of a rich life.

 

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Star Trek fan—I started watching the original series while in my tweens. It was “must see” after school TV (even though the show was cancelled by this point & I was watching re-runs). Mr. Spock was my absolute favourite character and I was happy to see him popping up in later incarnations of Star Trek, especially the new series of movies. So I was saddened by Leonard Nimoy’s death in 2015. I appreciate that he did many other roles, by it is Spock that I will remember him for.

In January, I was able to see his son’s documentary For the Love of Spock while flying to Johannesburg. I enjoyed seeing Nimoy & Spock from his son’s perspective, even the difficult parts of that relationship. Naturally, when I got home, it seemed appropriate to read William Shatner’s memoir concerning Leonard Nimoy as well.

I was pleasantly surprised at how honest Shatner seemed to be in this memoir. I think that it takes courage to admit that you don’t have many friends, that you don’t know how to make or maintain friendships, and that you screw up friendships & don’t know why. His co-writer, David Fisher, lets Shatner’s voice shine through and I felt some empathy for a man who may have career success, but seems like a lonely old guy.

Mind you, this book is replete with Shatner’s two favourite words, “I” and “me.” While nominally about Leonard, the memoir reveals far more about Shatner than it does about Nimoy. Shatner can’t be an easy man to befriend—he doesn’t seem to fully understand concepts like teasing, for example. He tries to participate, but more like a person following a ritual than like someone who truly understands what’s going on and as a result, he often misses the mark.

Although his egoism is obvious, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Shatner at the book’s end, when it seems that he and Nimoy were estranged. Shatner quite honestly couldn’t understand why and seemed honestly distressed by the situation. Despite their rift, he has written an honest and moving account of their 50 year association and has tried to give a fair portrayal of their relationship.

If you too are a Star Trek devotee, you will probably enjoy this memoir. Others may not find it quite as interesting.

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review 2017-02-19 02:36
Drive!: Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age - Lawrence Goldstone

Given its scope, this book provides the reader with a widely comprehensive view of how both the automobile and the industry surrounding it developed and evolved from the late 19th century to the eve of the First World War. I read "DRIVE! Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age" more out of curiosity and also because I hail from Michigan. So I grew up with a keen sense of how the automobile has profoundly influenced and shaped both society and the world economy.

 

I was also intrigued to learn about the patent battle between the backers of George Selden (who had taken out a patent in the late 1870s on the concept of an internal combustion engine later considered to be essential to the future development of the automobile) --- i.e. ALAM (or the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers) and Henry Ford. This took place between 1903 and 1911. ALAM sought to break Henry Ford the outsider, who after failing twice to establish an auto company, was now on the threshold with his latest company to achieve unrivaled success with the Model T.

 

The story of the lawsuit between Ford and ALAM is one that the author tells in great detail. The only difficulty I had in reading this book was in trying to fully grasp some of the technical aspects of the various engines vital to the automobile's viability and the related technologies. Yet, on the whole, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about how the automobile and the industry it spawned developed during its formative years - and revolutionized the world. Hence, the five (5) stars.

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review 2017-02-08 05:55
All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy - Edward Klein

This book offers some interesting observations and insights into the 10 year marriage of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy (1953-1963) via what the author was able to assemble of the historical record, as well as from personal interviews with people who had close relationships with both Kennedys

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