California Literary Review

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100 Greatest Gangster Films: M, #45

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December 20th, 2012

A child murderer is terrorizing the city. The police hunt is intense, but fruitless. So the cops redouble their efforts—rousting bars, hassling citizens walking the night streets, turning a bright spotlight on the creatures of the back alleys. The killer still remains at large, but there’s an unexpected side effect: with every flophouse and crime den being raided on a nightly basis, the underworld pimps, thieves and pushers cannot operate.

Book Review: Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries by Peter Conrad

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November 28th, 2011

Perhaps, the best way of approaching Conrad’s book is to regard it primarily as a meditation on creativity. As with opera itself, where passion and empathy lead, intellectual appreciation will follow. The key insight of this fine book is easy enough to grasp. In an age of strutting nationalism, both Verdi and Wagner gave the world music that ultimately transcends the limits of borders or political ideology, regardless of how subsequent regimes used it.

Book Review: René Blum and the Ballets Russes by Judith Chazin-Bennahum

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July 11th, 2011

All of Blum’s many accomplishments were bracketed between the anti-Semitic turmoil of the Dreyfus Affair that tormented France from 1894 to 1904 and the Nazi-led Holocaust in which he perished. To his dying day, Blum thought of himself as a French patriot. Yet it was the complicity of French officials during the German occupation that set him on the road to Auschwitz.

The Weekly Listicle: Ballad Of The Soldier

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January 21st, 2011

This weekend, Peter Weir graces us with The Way Back, a tale of daring escape by prisoners of war. In due fashion this week’s Listicle salutes the soldier in film. From comedy to adventure to stark, sobering drama, soldiers have faced a great deal on the movie screen.

Art Review: Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy and Germany, 1918-1936

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October 4th, 2010

Chaos and Classicism tells the story of good intentions that went terribly wrong. After the carnage of trench warfare, sensitive spirits in Europe craved artistic depictions of beautiful bodies, unscathed by shrapnel, and timeless, uncluttered architecture inspired by the Greek and Roman past. Yet, it was not long before this craving for life-affirming art was transformed into the soulless ideology of Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and Hitler’s Third Reich.

With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler’s Valet by Heinz Linge

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September 28th, 2009

Unfortunately the book, while delivering a few marginal insights into Hitler’s character, motivations and global strategies, seems largely a one-dimensional narrative that more resembles a loss of contact with reality than a recounting of anything worthy of notice.

Imag(in)ing America

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July 1st, 2008

The confrontation between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was to the Italians the “political, intellectual, and moral equivalent of the first U.S. moon landing; and as a European I am stuck down here on earth watching the Yankee space ship make its landing way up there,” Valli wrote.

The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II by Andrew Nagorski

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October 8th, 2007

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.

Frau Braun and The Tiger of Auschwitz

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March 26th, 2007

The principal accused was an Auschwitz commandant, one Wilhelm Boger, whose sobriquet was “The Tiger of Auschwitz.” He was a man who had been arrested after a successful post-war career, having become a rich businessman who’d never been questioned before. At that time he was in his late 60s. Of the many witnesses for the prosecution there was a woman called Frau Braun.

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