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20 october 2018

I didn't grow up with Holling C. Holling's large-scale picture books, though they were hardly antiques when I was young, and Holling himself lived on till I was in high school. But by the 1960s, books like Seabird, full of optimism about Yankee know-how and the indomitable spirit of the white American male, already seemed passé.     read more

18 october 2018

The next stop on my public library's mystery shelf after Harold Adams is Catherine Aird, a pseudonym for Kinn Hamilton McIntosh. Aird has been writing detective-inspector novels set in the fictional English county of Calleshire for fifty years now, and the first of them that my library holds is Harm's Way, about twenty years in.     read more

16 october 2018

Till just now, I had never read A Moveable Feast, the classic, posthumously-published grab-bag of Ernest Hemingway's reminiscences about being a young struggling writer in Paris. Nevertheless, I knew quite a few details from the book, which is the founding text of so much "Hemingway in Paris" mystique, despite being decades removed from Hemingway's sojourn there. A Moveable Feast is not meant to be read as a coherent narrative, though its editor, Hemingway's widow Mary, tried to give it some shape and dramatic purpose. But then, Death in the Afternoon, which Hemingway saw through the press, is perhaps less coherent. Like so much of Hemingway's writing, A Moveable Feast is irritating and admirable by turns. And it's part of modernist culture now: sooner or later, even when you're pushing 60, I suppose, you have to account for it if you are interested in the writers of its generation and milieu.     read more

15 october 2018

I recently read Matthew Kneale's history of Rome, which is scathing about Pope Pius XII's complicity in the Italian Holocaust. Kneale's book is mostly based on secondary research, so to investigate his claims, I looked up his sources. On the issue of the Vatican and the Holocaust, Kneale relies on Susan Zuccotti's Under His Very Windows, an award-winning book from nearly 20 years ago. Zuccotti's work remains readable, convincing, and disheartening.     read more