1950s

13 posts

Book Review: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman

A potential reader sizing up Liza Klausmann’s new novel, Tigers in Red Weather, would do well to pay more attention to the cover art – a vintage photo from the Conde Nast archives showing two models on a beach, their red straw hats and parasols silhouetted against the blue sea – than to the knowledge that Klausmann is Herman Melville’s great-great-great granddaughter and that the title is taken from a Wallace Stevens poem. The book, in the end, is a bit more upscale beach read than Great American Novel.

Book Review: In One Person by John Irving

And therein shines the beauty of Irving’s tale, who we used to be as a society and who we have become. How these people who dared to feel different about their sexuality were treated, ridiculed, harassed, ignored, suppressed, repressed and in many cases cast aside. But over the five decades that we see Billy, we are shown a society that has grown more informed if not more compassionate; a society that has grown more tolerant if not more accepting and a world that makes place for acknowledging everyone instead of treating them as if they were invisible.

The Great Music Videos #2: “Thriller” (dir. John Landis)

Jackson as a zombie in “Thriller” William Bibbiani noted in the Great Music Videos #1 post that music videos are effectively commercials. They’re produced to sell copies of albums, to “sell” a musician to the public, or at the very least to boost (paid) MP3 downloads. Michael Jackson’s video for […]

Book Review: Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War by Ted Morgan

Giap had lost several family members to the rigors of French colonial rule, including his wife who was arrested and died in a French prison. A model of cool, methodical persistence, Giap was not goaded or tricked into a rash counterattack on Dien Bien Phu. He patiently assembled his forces, digging gun positions in the forested slopes overlooking the French defenses and amassing a huge supply of ammunition carried by thousands of porters through the jungle. Then on March 13, 1954, Giap struck at Dien Bien Phu, capturing several key strong-points and pounding the air strip so that supply planes could no longer land. The base aero-terrestre had become a death trap.

The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan

She sees faces in the flaking walls of the kitchen, fears for the soul of a matriarch’s fox fur, and interprets the ever-changing moods of the decorative beer steins on the mantle. Gwenni is a contradictory combination of fearlessness and naiveté, unable to discern the boundary between her imaginative world and the real one. In this way, she recalls such classic girl heroines as Anne of Green Gables or Jo from Little Women. But it’s her similarity with another classic heroine, Nancy Drew, which really draws readers into her world.

Knife Song Korea by Richard Selzer

On arriving at his small and isolated army base in Korea, Sloane is met by Larry Olsen, the army physician he is replacing. Olsen speaks to him as follows; “There’s no roof that doesn’t leak. The rats are fearless. Flies rule the country. Everybody steals. Orphans, refugees everywhere. They’re coming down from the north. There’s no equipment to speak of. There’s no sterilizer. And the dirt, the vermin….It’s yours now.”

Events Leading to America’s Involvement in Vietnam

Given the political vacuum in the South, a Communist takeover of all of Vietnam within two years, or even less, seemed unavoidable. Beyond vague ideas of somehow rallying the Vietnamese in the South and contingency plans for creating stay-behind agents to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Vietminh, the U.S. had little idea of how to prevent a complete Communist take-over.