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review 2021-03-24 20:59
Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theater Disaster, 1903 by Anthony Hatch
Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903 - Anthony P. Hatch
Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theater Disaster, 1903 by Anthony P Hatch 
Six hundred and two people, mostly women and children, lost their lives in the fire even worse than the Great Chicago Fire that destroyed most of the city in 1873. The Iroquois Theater was advertised as “absolutely fireproof.” It was not.
Hatch has written a very readable, but scholarly, look at the causes, failings, politics, and machinations of the owners, builders, managers, politicians, firemen and inspectors charged with safeguarding the lives entrusted to them.
Illustrated by 30 pages of photographs and drawings and supported by personal interviews with survivors and voluminous research, he details the fire itself and the changes that resulted from the fire.
Any group interested in history, fires or politics will find this an interesting and revealing look at the fire, what lead up to it and the changes it forced.
5 of 5 stars

 

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text 2020-04-04 19:05
Yet another reason why I miss Inter-Library Loan
British Aviation: The Pioneer Years, 1903-1914 - Harald Penrose
British Aviation: The Great War and Armistice, 1915-1919 - Harald Penrose
British Aviation: The Adventuring Years, 1920-1929 - Harald Penrose
British Aviation: Widening Horizons, 1930-1934 - Harald Penrose
British Aviation, The Ominous Skies, 1935 1939 - Harald Penrose

Lately I have been on a First World War aviation reading kick. I don't know why, but the topic is engaging me more than others. I read a couple of books back in February, and I've been searching for some others that can fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge.

 

That's how I found about Harald Penrose and his five-volume series on British aviation. Penrose was an amazing individual, a test pilot who later in life wrote several books on flight and the history of it. I have no doubt that I've seen his books on shelves before, only now my interests have aligned with his work, and I wouldn't mind trying him out.

 

Only I can't. My usual starting point after a brief confirmation that my local libraries don't have a book is to request it through Inter-Library Loan. Then after a week or so the book shows up for me to peruse, after which I start it, buy my own copy, or pass on it and move on. But I can't do any of those this because well, you know why.

 

At this point, I'm deciding whether to take a plunge on one of the first two volumes, which are the ones that currently interest me the most. This would be easy if the price were right, but while I'm willing to spend $70-80 on a book that I want, I'm much less willing to do so to decide whether it's a book I want. So I'm bidding on a copy on eBay to get it to a price I can live with. Fingers crossed that the seller is either reasonable or desperate!

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review 2014-05-12 21:39
Review: The Wind in the Rosebush and Other Stories of the Supernatural
The Wind In The Rose-Bush - Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

First some linkage, for those of you who also like background info!

 

Free ebook: at Gutenberg and University of Adelaide and Amazon (be aware that it's not always easy to find the free version of this at Amazon - a lot of Freeman work is sold there even when a duplicate ebook is at Amazon for free. Insert here your own mental-gif of me eyerolling at this idea.)

 

Length: 6 short stories, 152 pages (Look, a quick read!)

 

Published: 1903

 

Contents:

The Wind in the Rose-bush
The Shadows on the Wall
Luella Miller
The Southwest Chamber
The Vacant Lot
The Lost Ghost

 

Author: Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

 

I'm somewhat embarrassed that I continually forget Freeman's name and work, even though I've read some of these stories many, many times. She's also a graduate of my undergrad, and you'd think that might have helped make her name stick in my head - but no. Not until I start reading and then finally the light bulb turns on and I have my usual "oh right, Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman!"

 

Freeman's work is found in many anthologies of ghost stories. Not that rereading her work bothers me at all - but then I'm like that with many older ghost stories. Hers are the kind of stories that run on atmosphere and characterization - no monsters or gore - and all have a very old fashioned feel to them. Some definitely work much better than others. Many focus on women and their interactions/relationships with friends and family - well, that and the ghost (or whatever It is), of course. Freeman's descriptions of women and their conversations somehow seem accurate and familiar. I realized I was assuming that in some of the stories the women were southern, but from Freeman's bio (and the occasional hints in the stories) I'm guessing that the setting for all of them is probably New England.

 

This is where that feeling of familiarity comes in - the conversations immediately had me thinking of accompanying my grandmother "going visiting," which in old southern-speak means dropping by a friend's house for gossip and ice tea/whatever beverage was offered. (In the south you must offer guests a beverage, at the very least. For anyone who drops by, not just friends - if you have a plumber coming over to fix something, and he stays to work for a long time, then he should be offered a drink. Thus is the unwritten Rule of Politeness I was taught. It's not a coincidence that the character Sheldon has a similar concept of When One Offers Beverages in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory - actor Jim Parsons is from roughly the same area of the south I'm talking about.) This in ye olden days of the 1970s, where people in small towns still noted the tradition of being "at home to visitors," and in some places women still used calling cards (Not in my grandmother's town though, it was way too laid back for calling cards. I had a high school friend who had her own though.) Anyway, Freeman's women share gossip and tell stories like women I've known.

 

Because the stories are all so short there's no way I can really summarize them without ruining something. I will say that I think one of the best is the last one - The Lost Ghost - and the first part/opening of the story is always what makes me forget that I've read it, because there's a gradual shift in tone (the second part is the heart of the matter). But I think the reason I like it us because it uses a couple of ghost story tropes (SPOILER:

 

a quick four - house "everyone knows is haunted" referred to at start, compared to actual house with ghost told about in second half, ghostly child that's a product of a tragedy, kindly maternal older woman who is selfless - I'm sure there are more. It's specifically the child ghost trope I'm thinking of that can get into maudlin territory.)

(spoiler show)

 

without being overly sappy with them. That's a pretty subjective call, but then I have read a lot of ghost stories from Freeman's time that were/are high melodrama and heavy treacle using some of the same tropes. There's a lot more to Freeman's work than those sorts of tales.

 

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review 2012-05-28 00:00
A Kind of Compulsion: 1903-1936 (The Complete Works of George Orwell, Vol. 10) - Peter Hobley Davison,George Orwell A Kind of Compulsion is Volume 10 of The Complete Works of George Orwell. The first nine volumes are Orwell’s books. Volumes 10-20 contain his letters, essays, poems, journalism, book reviews, movie reviews, diaries, drawings, tax records, long division calculations, grocery lists, ticket stubs, and sudoku puzzles. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but only a little (I’m not kidding about the long division).

This volume is aptly titled, because editor Peter Davison clearly had a kind of compulsion in trying to track down everything Orwell wrote. Ever. He then meticulously traced and verified it all, working out dates for undated material, identifying all of the people referenced in letters, analyzing Orwell’s writing in the Eton school paper to see if unsigned pieces were written by him, evaluating anything anyone who knew him had written or said about Orwell to help place material, and footnoting everything with all of this information. Davison faithfully notes where Orwell has crossed things out and misspelled words (Orwell apparently had trouble with the words “aggressive” and “address” his entire life). You can get a visual sense of the type of effort involved here by looking at Davison’s editing of Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Facsimile of the Extant Manuscript (my review has some pictures), where he valiantly deciphered handwriting and typescript. Extrapolate that to the thousands of pages involved in The Complete Works to get a sense of what a monumental task this was.

Volume 10 covers the years from 1903-1936, giving the widest variety of writing in The Complete Works. The first item is a 1911 letter from eight-year old Eric Blair in boarding school, writing home to his mother:

Dear Mother
I hope you are quite well, thanks for that letter you sent me I havent read it yet. I supose you want to know what schools like, its ? alright we have fun in the morning. When we are in bed.
from
E. Blair


There are articles from the Eton paper, short stories, newspaper pieces in French with corresponding English translations, and a play about Charles II that Orwell wrote for his students to perform when he was a teacher, with large sections in blank verse. Later letters involve the publication of his earlier novels and the changes he had to make to avoid libel charges (a very serious issue at the time that could involve jail sentences for writers, publishers, and even the printers), as well as his research for The Road to Wigan Pier.

I’ll conclude here with one of Orwell’s sketches for Burmese Days (handwritten in ink on reverse of Government of Burma paper), an epitaph for John Flory. I think it’s kind of catchy.

JOHN FLORY
Born 1890
Died of Drink 1927.

Here lies the bones of poor John Flory;
His story was the old, old story.
Money, women, cards & gin
Were the four things that did him in.

He has spent sweat enough to swim in
Making love to married stupid women;
He has known misery past thinking
In the dismal art of drinking.

O stranger, as you voyage here
And read this welcome, shed no tear;
But take the single gift I give,
And learn from me how not to live.
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review 2012-03-14 00:00
The Unity Of Plato's Thought (1903)
The Unity Of Plato's Thought (1903) - Paul Shorey Shorey's masterpiece - reprinted, so it seems...
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