Profile of Peter Bridges
Peter Bridges is a former ambassador to Somalia, and cofounder of the Elk Mountains Hikers Club in Colorado. He was born in New Orleans, grew up in Chicago, and studied at Dartmouth College and Columbia University. Aside from CLR, his articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in the “Christian Science Monitor,” “Foreign Service Journal,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Michigan Quarterly Review,” “Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London,” “Virginia Quarterly Review,” “Washington Times,” and elsewhere.
Articles written for the California Literary Review:
- Notes From Italy: The Oversized Embassy
Posted on 06 Nov 2007 in Italy, Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics
Nor, it seems, do Americans get out of their diplomatic fortress the way they used to. Italians say they do not have the American friends and acquaintances that they used to. What do embassy officers do with their time? Like many professionals in this country, they spend hours in front of computer screens, busy with e-mail. That may be work, but it has little to do with representing the United States.
- Notes from Italy: Romulus and Neighbors
Posted on 17 Oct 2007 in History, Italy, Non-Fiction Reviews, Travel
The next time you go to Rome, take a half-day to go to Pomezia, just south of the Alban hills, a few miles inland from the sea. The town is unlovely but the new Pomezia museum contains some of the most beautiful terracotta statues of women that I know, dating from several centuries before Christ. It also contains exhibits that trace the story of Aeneas in Italy back to at least the eighth century B.C. You may well leave Pomezia convinced that someone, whose name may have been Aeneas, landed on the nearby coast a millennium or so before Christ–and married the daughter of the king of the local Latins–and had a descendant named Romulus. Not just Virgil but Dionysius gives a detailed account of all this.
- The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II by Andrew Nagorski
Posted on 08 Oct 2007 in Germany, History, Military, Non-Fiction Reviews, Russia
He focuses on the assault on Moscow, the largest battle in history between two opposing armies. In this battle seven million men took part, and of these 2.5 million were killed, taken prisoner, wounded, or went missing. The invading Nazi army numbered about three million, which as Nagorski might usefully have mentioned was six times larger than Russia’s last previous major invader, Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812.
- Notes From Italy: Running, Rome, and Red Brigades
Posted on 12 Sep 2007 in Italy, Non-Fiction Reviews, Travel
I knew what was coming but it was always a thrill. Suddenly to our left the world opened out and there was the grandest of piazzas, Piazza Navona. The name Navona and the piazza’s long oval form go back to its origin as the Circus Agonale. This was a stadium, inaugurated by the Emperor Domitian in 86 A.D., that was designed to host a Roman alternative to the Olympic games (and to the gladiators in the Colosseum, that had been built by Domitian’s father and brother, Vespasian and Titus). I never liked Domitian. He was big on public works but a terrible administrator. He may or may not have killed a lot of Christians but he was certainly a murderer of many opponents–until they murdered him in the year 96.
- Notes From Italy: Looking Back at Mussolini
Posted on 28 Aug 2007 in History, Italy, Military, Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics
Mussolini was not the only dictator of his time. In his Europe, in a time of worldwide economic depression, a whole series of governments were run by “strong men.” Besides Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany, there were authoritarian regimes if not dictatorships in the 1930s in Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. There were Blueshirts in Ireland, Blackshirts in Britain, and Vidkun Quisling’s followers in Norway. At the eastern end of Europe lay the greatest dictatorship of them all, Stalin’s Soviet Union.
- Notes From Italy: Cimitero Acattolico
Posted on 15 Aug 2007 in History, Italy, Non-Fiction Reviews
In 1738 came the first burial by the Pyramid that we know of, that of a young Oxford graduate named Langton. After him a number of other non-Catholic foreigners were buried there, and not just English people; there is a record of a student from Hannover being buried there a few years later. But while the Papal authorities now tolerated the non-Catholic burials, they had to take place at night, probably to lessen the possibility that the local folk would mock if not attack the foreigners’ funeral processions. (As late as 1854 a small mob tried to assault a Protestant clergyman who had officiated at the funeral of the wife of a German diplomat.)
- Notes From Italy: Dawn in the Suburra
Posted on 24 Jul 2007 in Italy, Non-Fiction Reviews, Travel
In early June, the best time in Rome is dawn. A little after first light the song of a neighbor blackbird wakes me in our little fifth-floor flat on the Via Urbana. I dream for a few minutes but again the blackbird wakes me and I get up. I walk to the window. High above the rooftops the swallows are already darting, soaring, plunging, on their morning quest for insects. A plump big seagull flies over, one of the many that have invaded Rome skies in recent years. I manage to shave and dress without waking my wife, and I walk down the stairs and out into our street.
- Notes From Italy: Sunday With the CAI
Posted on 10 Jul 2007 in Italy, Nature, Non-Fiction Reviews, Travel
This is not Labrador. We are fifty miles northeast of Rome and a mile above sea level, climbing Monte Cava in the Central Apennines, on one of our Sunday jaunts with the Club Alpino Italiano, Sezione Roma. Just ahead of me is my wife, Mary Jane, and beyond her I can see Antonello the orthodontist, and beyond him Alessandro, a banker on weekdays but today our Leader.
- Dear Minister, America is Headed Down; Can It Reverse Course?
Posted on 13 Jun 2007 in Economics, Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics
In my view, the Americans’ most serious problem for the longer term is the development of a new class of super-rich, while at the same time their middle and lower classes find themselves increasingly burdened by debt and worried whether their jobs will be “outsourced” to India or China.
- Lincoln Emancipated: The President And the Politics of Race edited by Brian R. Dirck; foreword by Allen C. Guelzo
Posted on 10 Jun 2007 in Biography, History, Non-Fiction Reviews
What is heartening is that, as Professor Michael Vorenberg stresses in his essay, Lincoln’s thinking about race did evolve, especially during the war.
- The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk
Posted on 24 Apr 2007 in History, Israel, Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics
The title of Fisk’s new work is a mocking one, taken from a campaign medal his father won as a British officer in the First World War–which few people, and certainly not Fisk, see now as having been a war for civilization.
- Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa: From Vermont to Italy in the Footsteps of George Perkins Marsh – by John Elder
Posted on 24 Apr 2007 in Biography, Nature, Non-Fiction Reviews, Travel
This is a beautiful book. The author is a professor of English at Middlebury College whose writing has centered on our natural environment.
- The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream – by Barack Obama
Posted on 22 Apr 2007 in Biography, Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics
Senator Barack Obama, it seems, has far to go. As this is written, he is continuing to take steps toward running for President in 2008.
- My Father Il Duce: A Memoir by Mussolini’s Son – by Romano Mussolini
Posted on 22 Apr 2007 in Biography, History, Italy, Non-Fiction Reviews
Benito Mussolini had more than one mistress but only one wife, whom he legally married five years after the birth of their first child, Edda.
- Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War – by Rodric Braithwaite
Posted on 22 Apr 2007 in History, Military, Non-Fiction Reviews, Russia
The 19th century Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev wrote mystically that “Russia is not to be understood with the mind.”
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