twentieth century

14 posts

Edward S Curtis: Self Portrait

Book Review: Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan

The course of Curtis’ campaign to document the lives and life style of the Native American peoples is related by Egan with considerable detail and page-turning élan. There were plenty of incidents of physical ordeal and, in some cases, real danger. An Apache medicine man who divulged secrets of his tribe’s religious practices died under suspicious circumstances shortly after Curtis left the reservation. That fate might well have befallen Curtis…

Book jacket: Diaries by George Orwell

Book Review: Diaries by George Orwell

Europe had yet to recover from the First World War and the Allied peoples were at a grave psychological disadvantage in comparison with the civilian population of Nazi Germany. Through nearly a decade of political indoctrination, news censorship and threats of imprisonment or worse, the German people were schooled for war. To Orwell, the only things that could shake the British out of their complacency were the drone of the engines of German aircraft over London and the detonation of the bombs they dropped.

Book Review: George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis

George Frost Kennan was one of the most influential of all American diplomats, as well as an historian and writer who won two National Book Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes. It was Kennan who, first in his “long telegram” sent from the American embassy at Moscow in February 1946, and then in his anonymous “X” article in Foreign Affairs the following year, laid out for policy-makers, and then for the American public, the true nature of Stalinism and Soviet policy at a time when some still took a benevolent view of our wartime Soviet ally.

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

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.

Book Review: From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847-1928 by Julie P. Gelardi

Following this betrayal, the Romanov dynasty was swept off the stage of history. Many of the family were arrested by the Bolsheviks and executed, some with a degree of cruelty and incompetence that beggars belief. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna were evacuated to safety, but the lives of both women were blighted by the near extermination of the Romanov family.

Book Review: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Pasternak ranges the individualism of Zhivago against the heartless society that is being erected by the Bolsheviks on the grave of Tsarist Russia. Where Zhivago questions his every deed from the standpoint of conscience, left-wing leaders like Lara’s husband, Pasha Antipov, who styles himself as Strelnikov or “Shooter,” kill without blinking or thinking.

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

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.

Book Review: Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America by Erika Lee and Judy Yung

For those who fell in the “only” 7 percent category, the decision to deport them was often a death sentence. Several wrenching accounts of suicide are featured in the book, including that of a Chinese woman, waiting to be deported, who rammed a sharpened chopstick through her ear canal into her brain.

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War by James Bradley

James Bradley doesn’t like Theodore Roosevelt. Let’s get that clear from the get-go. Nor does he have much time for William Howard Taft, the gargantuan gourmand, Roosevelt’s right-hand man and his successor as president. And after reading The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, I have the sneaky suspicion that there’s not much love lost for George Bush, either.

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Sing in me, Muse quotes Homer (the original one). “Jacqueline, my muse, I speak to you directly for a moment,” quoth our modern man. It is no accident that Homer addresses his story to a French reporter whom he briefly met. For, in a way, his account is his own universal newspaper, an elegy to the disintegration of 20th century America, the winding down of the clock.

The Bolter by Frances Osborne

She introduces a woman who may have upset those around her by her promiscuity, even nymphomania, drug use; but also gives us access to a fearless beauty with gifts of intelligence, wit, and extraordinary powers to attract the opposite sex. Then too, she reveals that her antics as combined with her endowments were nevertheless insufficient in her hunt for love and lasting affection.

Moscow & St. Petersburg 1900-1920: Art, Life, & Culture of the Russian Silver Age by John E. Bowlt

Writers of the caliber of Anton Chekov, Alexsander Blok and Anna Akhmatova, visionary artists like Mikhail Vrubel, Leon Bakst and Kazimir Malevich and inspired patrons like Diaghilev were matched by counterparts in music, architecture, the social sciences and Russia’s burgeoning Industrial Revolution. Composer Igor Stravinsky, the aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky, dancer Vaslav Nijinksy and a host of others formed a constellation of talent worthy of comparison to the leading lights of Florence in the age of Lorenzo de Medici.