What Are You Reading

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Lancealot, Aug 13, 2006.

  1. Turnip

    Turnip Practically Family

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    Tiki Tom: Deutscher Europäer...;)

    After having read that compendium and some additional titles I finished that chapter of German history for me now.
    In my opinion it is important as a citizen to have a high resolution pic of that to stay alert and awake in that respect.
    Personally I wanted to know as exactly as possible how this mess took its way, who was responsible, how things worked because, not to forget those countless numbers of other victims, apart from one grandpa no other male family member of that generation returned back home from war.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2020
  2. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    I note all that you say. It is a strange world... I only hope that the world is not slipping towards disaster again. Hopefully not! We are watchful and have hopefully learned a lesson or two. Not that it is my business (it isn’t), but it encourages me to hear your perspective.
     
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  3. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    The Human Comedy by William Saroyan, first published in 1943

    "'The world's gone Mad,' he says. 'In Russia alone, so near our own country, our own beautiful little nation, millions of people, millions of children, every day go hungry. They are cold, pathetic, barefooted - they walk around - no place to sleep - they pray for a piece of dry bread - somewhere to lie down and rest - one night of peaceful sleep. And what about us? What do we do? Here we are in Ithaca, California, in this great country, America. What do we do? We wear good clothes. We put on good shoes every morning when we get up from sleep. We walk around with no one in the streets to come with guns or to burn our houses or to murder our children or brothers or fathers. We take rides out into the country in automobiles. We eat the best food. Every night when we go to bed we sleep - and then what are we? We are discontented. We are still discontented. The grocer shouted this amazing truth at his little son with terrible love for the boy.'"

    - First generation American grocer to his son, but really, to no one in particular


    The Human Comedy is a slice of life from America's home front during WWII. Ithaca California represents America in this tale imbued with spirituality and religion tempered by skeptical pragmatism. Much less a story than a series of related vignettes, we see life in this town, mainly through the preternaturally observant and pensive fourteen-year-old Homer Macauley who just started working as a messenger for one of the two telegraph companies in town.

    And the telegraph office offers Homer a shortcut to all of life's ups and downs as celebratory birthday-wishes telegrams come in as frequently as do U.S. Military ones notifying a family of a son's, husband's or father's death. The telegraph's dispassionate beeps become words on paper which become messages of the human comedy, that, upon delivery, Homer quickly learns results in a welter of emotions.

    Homer grows up fast in this job. But he also grows up just observing and participating in life like when his slightly older sister begins to show interest in boys as a few soldiers on leave spontaneously take her and a girlfriend to the movies. And he grows up just a bit more when a high school coach plays obvious favorites in a track event dispelling the notion that all adults are honest, virtuous and promote fair play.

    Regular life in the community also goes by. Boys swim in the nearby lake, play pickup games of baseball, tease a bit, but also protect (what today we'd call) a mentally challenged boy - children can be alternately cruel and kind. Games of horseshoes get played, apricots get "stolen" from a neighbor's tree (the tree's owner loves that the boys do this), while Cokes get drunk and lemon pies get eaten.

    Homer's four year old brother - who is given free rein in the town (his good and loving mother for the times would be in jail today on child-abuse charges) - takes joy in waving to the men on passing trains (hurt when they don't wave back, ebullient when they do) or watching his brother work at the telegraph office or his mother hanging clothes out to dry.

    With Homer's older brother, whom he worships, away at war, Homer connects the tragedy of the telegrams he delivers to the fear his mother feels and he begins to feel. But the family carries on enjoying dinners, playing piano and singing together or just walking into town to run errands.

    Homer's boss is a wealthy young man who manages the telegraph office out of a passion for the business not a need to work He introduces Homer to the economics of business, the nuances of relationships - will he marries his pushing-for-a-proposal girlfriend - and respect for the elderly as Homer and his boss take care of the old telegraph operator, a functioning alcoholic who's been kinda broken by life.

    Homer has a crush on the pretty girl at school, irrationally acts out at another boy she shows interest in, stirs the pot in class and then genuinely apologizes to the teacher. He inconsistently practices for the community's annual big running competition, races around town like mad on his bicycle and ignores injuries, rightfully confident in his adolescent body's ability to heal itself. Basically, Homer is a fourteen-year-old boy.

    Meanwhile, back at his job, Homer sorta discovers the town brothel when he delivers a telegram to one of "the girls." Separately, he also intuitively and kindly plays surrogate son for an hour to a mother who just learned, from a telegram Homer delivered, that her own son was killed in the war.

    Harvests come, prisoners from the local jail take exercise in the town square, the hardware store gets in a newly invented trap for catching animals that proceeds to trap only Homer's four-year-old brother, the telegraph office gets held up, the wonderfully name Mary Arena, Homer's away-at-war brother's girlfriend, becomes a de facto part of Homer's family and on it goes.

    There's no plot other than real life moving forward for the year or so the book covers. But you feel the 1940s, the home front, Ithaca, California, people, life, goodness, decency, some mendacity, a little corruption and people's hope, dreams and fears - you feel America during World War II. You also feel, as the quote above avers, a materially fortunate America, with many of its men fighting overseas, a bit discontent, but soldiering on. Taking it all in, you feel in Saroyan's book - just gotta say it - the human comedy that is life.
     
  4. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    The Divine Miss Marble: A Life of Tennis, Fame and Mystery by Robert Weintraub

    Alice Marble might be the most-famous twentieth-century athlete that almost no one today has heard of. She is a tennis great with a long list of 1930s National titles who, also, sang at famous nighclubs and on the radio, overcame tuberculosis in the middle of her career, was bi-sexual when it was neither chic nor easy, edited early Wonder Woman comics and boldly used her fame and pen to open tennis up for black athletes. Oh, and she might have been a spy in World War II.

    But before all that, Alice Marble was born in 1913 into a hardscrabble Northern California farming family who fortunately moved to San Francisco when Alice was six, thus giving her exposure and access to municipal tennis courts. However, even prior to taking up her life-defining game, her preternatural athletic skills revealed themselves early as, by fourteen, tomboy Alice was shagging practice flies for the local professional baseball team the San Francisco Seals.

    But it was on those pedestrian city-sponsored tennis courts where Alice found her future in an amateur sport that favored wealthy kids with early access to good equipment, courts, coaching and sponsorship. All things that young Alice lacked.

    A book could be written about the craziness, at least to our modern-day perspective, of amateur sports. While it might sound noble on paper - athletes pursuing excellence for the love of the game, not money - the most salient feature of amateur sports is that it keeps the money away from the athletes who generate it. So even superstar amateur athletes, unless independently wealthy, need to scrounge for sponsorship and outside work.

    During her career, Alice wound up with an interestingly eclectic but uncertain mix of sponsorship and work that ran the gamut from occasionally being her coach's secretary to a modestly successful effort as a nightclub and radio singer owing to her genuine vocal talent and tennis stardom. That she headlined at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City, when that was a thing, tells you she had some singing chops to compliment her tennis fame.

    But she only achieved that tennis fame, like every elite athlete, by overcoming several obstacles with some combination of arrant grit, passionate drive, out-sized talent and timely serendipity. And Alice had more than her share of obstacles - lack of funds, lack of coaching, lack of guidance and a crushing early career illness (the aforementioned tuberculosis). But she did have an, overall, supportive family with older brothers who, despite limited means themselves, early on came through with funds at critical times as did, later, wealthy sponsors and her coach.

    And it is that coach who proved to be the single biggest obstacle smasher and life-impacting deus ex machina for Alice. Eighteen years her senior and a former tennis star herself, Eleanor "Teach" Tennant became Alice's tennis coach, life instructor and maybe lover.

    They met in 1932 when Alice, after some losses in prestigious east-coast tennis events, realized she needed a coach to take her game to the next level. And as with all good relationships, Tennant saw an equally auspicious opportunity in Alice as the athlete she could coach to reach the pinnacle of tennis, which would also drive more top-tier students Tennant's way.

    Under Tennant's tutelage, Alice's career took off. Author Weintraub does a serviceable job of taking us on the journey of Alice's playing career, including her initial defeats on the East Coast - the locus of U.S. tennis then - her nearly career-ending bout with and recovery from tuberculosis followed by her success at the sport's highest venues and events. Those heights saw Alice win eighteen National titles (the equivalent of Grand Slam titles today), including five singles titles, two of those at Wimbledon.

    On her way up, owing to some connections of Tennant, her rising fame, blonde good looks and bi-sexuality, Alice, like many athletes today, found herself hobnobbing with that era's Hollywood royalty including power couple Clark Gable and Carol Lombard at famous glitterati retreats like San Simeon and Palm Springs. Perhaps not crucial to her career - although Gable and Lombard became good friends providing timely emotional support for Alice - the exposure to that world is fun for Alice and the reader.

    But with World War II breaking out and shutting down most international tennis competition, and after two years of completely dominating amateur women's tennis, Alice turned pro to, finally, earn some money at a career that had provided her with fame but no wealth. And Alice made good money, effectively, barnstorming around the country playing exhibition matches with a few other well-known amateur-turned-pro athletes.

    Alice then spent her war years doing some sponsorships, some radio announcing and a lot of selfless fund raising for the war effort. She tried to join the "women" branches, but her former tuberculosis made her medically ineligible.

    Toward the end of the war and quite dramatically, Alice either did or did not perform a spy mission for the US government which involved going to Switzerland to revive an old romantic relationship with a Swiss banker now controlling money for bigwig Nazis. She either did or did not sleep with him to gain access to his files so that she could obtain photographic evidence. Finally, she either did or did not get shot trying to escape with that evidence at night, during a high-speed chase on a dark and winding Swiss road.

    In one of her biographies, Alice tells this incredibly gripping tale in believable fashion, but author Weintraub is unable to produce almost any supporting evidence leaving this reader leaning toward disbelief but open to new evidence being found. Also hurting Alice's credibility here, and in general, is a penchant for exaggeration and fabrications that makes you suspicious of this and other of Alice's claims.

    Also during the war and continuing for many years after, Alice had a long running affair with wealthy scion William Du Pont - he wanted to marry, she didn't - that provided her with often-needed financial support and high-level connections. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, assuming they were honest with each other, but as a feminist icon, this is not Ms. Marble's most ennobling and independent act.

    Away from that and following the war itself, Alice's activities included traveling the country giving inspirational speeches, performing tennis exhibitions, coaching young players, doing radio work and writing columns and articles. Her writing efforts included some editing work on the early Wonder Woman comic strip and typing scripts for Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone fame.

    Somehow or other, Alice touched many twentieth-century cultural icons in her long and atypical life. But it was one article she penned - really an editorial - that changed the game of tennis, the life of Althea Gibson and showed Alice at her moral and fighting best.

    After the American Tennis Association, in 1950, rejected Althea Gibson's application to play at the Nationals on a technicality, but effectively, because she was black, Alice wrote a powerful and scathing pro-Gibson editorial. In American Lawn Tennis, "the bible of the sport," Alice passionately, logically and morally argued on behalf of Ms. Gibson's application challenging the sport of tennis to live up to its own ideals and accept players of all races. This editorial broke the dam leading to Gibson and other black players competing in American Tennis Association events.

    As the fifties and sixties moved along, Alice's name faded (but, fortunately, Du Pont's necessary-to-Alice's-lifestyle money did not) and her health deteriorated, but she kept active and even managed a doctor's office for a while - there's little this woman didn't do. And by the seventies and eighties, with her health declining further and with not much more to live on than the modest income from a trust set up by the now-deceased Du Pont, Alice struggled to make ends meet. She lived the final years of her life in a nondescript home in Palm Desert California, with the sport she loved occasionally remembering her with an award or ceremony.

    The best biographies read like novels while transporting you to an almost different world. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand and The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost are two outstanding biographies of athletes that do this: they entwine their subject in his or her (or the horse's) cultural, social, economic and political zeitgeist. You almost forget that you're reading a biography as those books take you to another time and place.

    The Divine Miss Marble: A Life of Tennis, Fame and Mystery doesn't do this as many parts read like a very thoughtful and well-researched straight timeline of Alice's life where the surrounding cultural, political and social context is competently noted, but not seamlessly weaved into Alice's world. Notwithstanding its limitations, it is still an outstanding recounting of one of the twentieth-century's top athletes and all-around charismatic figures.
     
  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I've also just finished the above -- and thanx to Bro. Fading for calling it to my attention, since I've always considered Alice one of the most intriguing "forgotten personalities" of the Era.

    I knew the basic outlines of her career before reading the book, but there was quite a bit here that I didn't know, especially the amount of self-reinvention that went on behind the scenes of her life. You can argue that any celebrity presents a more-or-less self-invented persona as their face to the world, but Alice takes it to extremes. It was arguably a lot easier to do that in the Era than it is now, without the constant microscope of the internet scanning your every move -- and in following the course of her life, I kept wondering how someone like her -- an omnisexual polymath who never let herself be boxed in by what the world expected her to be -- would go over in the 21st Century. We like to think we're more open today, but Alice was also someone with a deeply sensitive core underneath her public bravado, and I have to think the internet attacks she'd be bound to generate in 2020 would have driven her out of public life. The media in the Era could be vicious to celebrities who got out of line, but for whatever reason, by and large they treated Alice Marble kindly. That wouldn't happen today.

    Did she or didn't she serve as a spy? Did Joseph Norman Crowley -- her purported war-hero husband -- ever actually exist? Weintraub can't find any evidence to prove the affirmative in either case -- but he also admits that's not a definitive discovery, since there are many holes in the official records. If Joe didn't exist -- probably under some other name -- Alice made a deliberate and elaborate effort to keep up the fiction that he did for more than forty years, holding onto a photo of a handsome Army flyer for the rest of her life, and identifying herself in her will as "Crowley's" widow. We know from the life of baseball player-spy Moe Berg that it wasn't unheard-of for a professional athlete to carry on a secret career as an espionage agent -- but we also have a legitimate paper trail proving the truth of Berg's story. There's none of that for Alice -- but if there wasn't any truth at all to her story, why make up something so completely outlandish out of whole cloth? To sell books? Maybe. Or maybe she did have some connection to wartime intelligence, and she concocted the story she told to divert any possible attention from what she actually did. Or, maybe it really did happen just the way she told it, with names and places changed to protect the innocent. Weintraub, in the end, has to admit that we just don't know -- and at this late date, with all participants in the story dead, we probably never will.

    That brings up another interesting aspect of the book -- Weintraub himself is a character in it. He switches on several occasions to a first-person narrative, depicting himself as the dogged investigator trying to run down the facts and tracking down people who knew or worked with Alice. It's kind of an odd shift for a biography, but it actually works in this case, given the amount of obfuscation that had to be unraveled to get to the heart of Alice Marble's story.

    Usually after finishing a biography, I'm left feeling that I know the person, at least to an extent. But how do you really *know* someone with as many layers as Alice Marble? Who was she underneath all the public personae? An insecure kid from the wrong side of town trying to prove herself? An empowered woman in a time when women were just discovering what it meant to be empowered? A formless chameleon, taking on whatever shape the circumstances required -- a Zelig with a tennis racket? All of these at once? By the end of the book, Weintraub really doesn't know, and neither do I.

    Which, I suspect, is exactly how Alice would have wanted it.
     
  6. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Really good and interesting thoughts and observations. I feel remiss now that I left out the part about he made-up or not husband. There was a lot in the book - I should have taken notes.

    The thing is, I want to believe both the husband and the spy stories and don't disbelieve them, but have to admit, objectively, I could only build a very weak and circumstantial argument in support of either.

    More than anything, Alice came across as very human to me. Neither a hero nor a villain just a human being with extraordinary talents, but morally, one who did some pretty darn good things (Gibson), a few nothing-to-be-proud-about things (her affair with Du Pont, her fabrications and, it kind of comes through even though Weintraub doesn't push it, but she sounds like she could have been pretty self-absorbed at times, as are many pro athletes), but nothing evil or villainous.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
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  7. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I have to think *something* happened to Alice in 1942-45, something that provoked those stories. The idea that she made up Crowley as a "beard" to conceal her adventuresome sex life doesn't hold water when you consider that there is no publicity whatever about that "marriage" during the time she was supposedly married to him. A publicity marriage doesn't do you much good when you don't publicize it.

    As for the spy story, there *is* proof of a "back injury" in wire-service stories in late May/June 1945, and there is sort of a hole in the public record of her movements between May 21st and June 1st -- so if anything did happen, it happened in that narrow window. It's hard to square the story laid out in her book with less than a month elapsed time, but we don't have solid proof that she was doing anything else during that span. Without hard proof one way or another, there's nothing more that can be said.

    Meanwhile, here's a good example of Alice's radio persona, her appearance on "Information Please," from September 12, 1939...



    The recording is transferred slightly off speed, so her voice is pitched just a tiny bit higher than it actually should sound, but you get a good idea of how comfortable she was before the microphone. She doesn't let Fadiman finish too many sentences, though, which may explain why she didn't get asked back.
     
  8. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    She's got a really good voice with crisp pronunciation (taking into account your comments about the speed/pitch).

    And yes, she's comfortable on air, but she did drive over Fadiman a bunch.

    As to proof, I'm modestly hopeful it could still come out as all it takes is some researcher looking for it or for something else and stumbling on it. Or someone passes away and it's in their papers, etc.

    Stuff still come out and one small piece of paper would be all it took to, at least, support the general outline of the Swiss adventure (or her marriage).
     
  9. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Wow. Thanks FF and Lizzie. I confess that I don’t think I had ever heard of Alice Marble before today. What a multi-faceted, thoroughly interesting story. And very well written and informative reporting on your parts. Thank you. Am particularly interested in the spy mystery part. By its nature, I guess the spy biz tries to remain unverifiable. Who knows? Fascinating.

    It also occurs to me that I probably spent a long weekend or two in Palm Desert (very late 1980s) when she was still alive.
     
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  10. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Thank you, I appreciate the kind comments.

    In case you decide to pick up the book, just know that the spy stuff makes up about five percent or so of the story. It's still well worth the read, just didn't want you to be disappointed at its limited role in the book.

    Since the athlete-spy angle seems to have interested you, have you read about Moe Berg?

    I read this one and it had a lot more spy story in it https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34629.The_Catcher_Was_a_Spy
     
  11. Horseoak

    Horseoak Familiar Face

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    I'm currently reading The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky...yes...yes..I've heard all the jokes.

    I've finally hit the halfway point, where Dostoevsky really starts getting good, after a bit of a block this year. A lot of timely reading on the concepts of Jungian shadow and (un)originality for me lately.

    Laugh out loud moments provided by Lebedev and Nastasya Filippovna. There's always a Nastasya Filippovna in every FD novel it seems ❤

    What's your favorite book lately?
     
  12. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    The two I've enjoyed the most lately are
    1. “Lillies of the Field” by William Edmund Barrett (comments here: #8413)
    2. “Eight Men Out” by Eliot Asinof (comments here: #8388)
     
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  13. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    I'm reading a friend's novel that was published just this month called In the Shadow of Dora about the slave labor used by the Nazis to make the V-2 rockets. About halfway through and it's quite wonderful.
     
  14. Old Mariner

    Old Mariner One of the Regulars

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    My interest in UBoats is mainly WWI, inter-war development, and into early WWII (I don't focus on mid to late war like many others since this specific period is more interesting to me), so starting this one... 20200919_191520.jpg
     
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  15. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    Finished In the Shadow of Dora. It's quite good. Here's my review:

    As a Jewish slave of the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, Eli Hessel works on the Nazi’s V-2 missile program. Terror and death, his constant companions, make it nearly impossible to remember that he is a living, breathing human being suffering utterly inhumane conditions. He toils in the tunnels dug deep in the Harz Mountains of Germany, always hungry, always thirsty, always fighting to survive. The SS, especially SS-Hauptscharführer Erwin “Horse Head” Busta, torment Eli and his fellow prisoners through beatings, intimidation, torture, and sadistic games. Nazi scientists watch with indifference, all too willing to sacrifice lives to see the V-2 program succeed. Eli, gifted in mathematics and with a keen intellect for science, often stares at the stars and moon, wishing for escape. And then one day, miraculously, Eli finds himself liberated, the war over, and a new life ahead. But he will forever carry his old life, the burden of the survivor, the burden of the living.


    Eli moves to New York, marries, becomes a father, and earns his college degrees. And then, another miracle: he lands a job with the American space program, NASA, and works at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. His demons, however, haven’t left; indeed, some of them are literally in the flesh: the Nazi scientists at Dora-Mittelbau are now the beloved, much-lauded scientists making it possible for the United States to have a space program. That the men complicit in and, indeed, responsible for, the death of so many now stand as darlings of NASA without facing justice torments Eli. But what can he do? Eli tries to focus on the upcoming launch of Apollo 11, but the trauma he lives with begins to consume him once more. Is surviving really the best revenge?

    [​IMG]

    In the Shadow of Dora is as ambitious as it is profound. Patrick Hicks has a gifted ability for writing gritty, vivid realism. From the lice biting inside Eli’s camp uniform and the sickening thud of a SS guard’s truncheon on an inmate’s skull, to the clacking typewriters and ringing telephones inside NASA offices to slabs of ice falling from Apollo 11’s fuel tanks, Hicks engages all five senses with startling clarity. Hicks’ thorough research provides compelling historical details, both for Dora-Mittelbau and the Kennedy Space Center. But the power of this novel lies in how Hicks’ makes us wrestle with difficult questions. What price technology? What price justice? Why should those who inflicted pain and death upon so many escape punishment? That the U.S. government spirited away numerous Nazi scientists as part of Operation Paperclip is a well-documented fact; less documented, however, is how Holocaust survivors grappled with this grave injustice. Through Eli, Hicks forces us to examine this issue, and we must face the disturbing answers, just as Eli must face how his past collides with his present.

    In the Shadow of Dora presents a unique, compelling story of survival and endurance, one that shows how the future often intertwines with our past, and how we must never, ever give up hope that “all is well.”
     
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  16. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.

    She wrote The Thirteenth Tale which I totally gobbled up within a few days. This one is much slower, but I'm going to keep with it.
     
  17. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene published in 1958

    A tired, middle-aged British expat living in Cuba whose wife left him with a charmingly willful and crafty daughter to raise is running a struggling vacuum cleaner dealership. And now, with his daughter's expenses increasing as she gets older, he is all but unable to make ends meet until fate drops an opportunity in his lap.

    If left alone, James Wormold would be content to pass away his time licking his marital and career wounds in Havana, while raising his daughter. But that daughter wields her Catholic faith (he's a lapsed Protestant or "pagan" as she calls him) and forceful temperament like a weapon to coax and guilt what she wants out of him. Unfortunately, her victories have him sliding toward bankruptcy. Hence, when he's approached by Britain's MI6 to be "their man in Havana," his initial resistance breaks down as the additional income from spying looks appealing.

    The problem is he has no background and receives all but no training from MI6 in espionage, so he does what any reasonable, amoral, modestly desperate but creative man would do, he makes up a network of spies versus actually doing the real work to recruit them.

    This is the book's perfect moment: a life-weary vacuum cleaner dealer with a charmingly manipulative and spendthrift daughter discovers a talent for taking bits and pieces from local newspapers, government economic statistics and Havana's social registry to create a convincing network of non-existent spies that delivers fake reports so credible that the home office is impressed.

    And that also becomes the problem. His "information" and "network" are viewed as being so good in the eyes of his superiors that MI6 sends him more resources, including a secretary and radio man. His small office quickly becomes quite crowded making it hard for him to "create" his reports with, in particular, his new, smart and attractive secretary trying to organize his efforts and, even, become the contact for his ersatz network. Effectively, it's hard to find time to file fake reports from your fake network when your new staff wants to meet your non-existent real network and file real reports.

    Amping everything up, both the Havana government and the USSR get interested in his activities as they, too, believe his efforts are real; ironically, they believe because MI6 believes. Okay, so our humble vacuum cleaner dealer finds himself in the middle of a cold-war spy battle over his whole-cloth network. And when things start to get serious - midnight chases, assassination attempts, actual murders, threatened torture, you know, real spy stuff - he can't easily back out as no one believes him when he tells them he made everything up.

    Because spies operate in a covert world of lies and deception, his "I made this all up" confession appears to everyone else like just another machination from the brilliant British spymaster in Havana. Throw in a local police chief trying to court Wormold's daughter while also investigating Wormold's covert activities, and Wormold's own budding affair with his secretary, who's beginning to get suspicious of him, and the entire gambit starts to unravel as the book races to a conclusion. And we'll leave it there as you'll want the end to be a surprise.

    As a fan of Graham Greene's complex stories that have this reader, usually, a little lost for a while, it's nice to read one of his lighter efforts. Despite being just that, it still has all of Greene's usual wit and canny observations, especially of human wants and foibles, but without requiring the reader to regularly thumb back pages to figure out what the heck is going on.

    Some hard-core Greene fans dismiss Our Man in Havana as "entertainment," but, one, what's wrong with that and, two, it's also satire that exposes the arrogance and insularity of several countries' intelligence efforts. Either way, it's a fun, well-written, quick page turner that also gives you a contemporary feel for both the Cold War's intelligence game and pre-communist Cuba.
     
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  18. MisterCairo

    MisterCairo I'll Lock Up

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    And for the first time in English, the words slave labour, Nazis, V-2 rockets and wonderful are used in the same paragraph!
     
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  19. Just Jim

    Just Jim One of the Regulars

    Oh, I am so going to have to read this one--thanks!

    Just started The Holocaust by Bullets by Father Patrick Desbois. it is an account of Desbois' search for mass graves of appx 1.5 million Jews murdered in Ukraine during WWII, attempts to get proper burials, and to document in a way that cannot be denied that it actually occurred. I have a feeling that at no point will I be using the word "wonderful" to describe this book.
     
    Fading Fast and MisterCairo like this.
  20. St.Ignatz

    St.Ignatz Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,366
    Location:
    Left of Philadelphia
    20201013_152444~2.jpg Written in 1935 by the man who seems to have been everywhere and met everyone, Seldes pulls few if any punches. Seldes was an accomplished newspaper man and author, the former being evident in his style. Always engrossing he takes you along on an intimate exploration of a man he knew personally. Sawdust Caesar fills out the somewhat limited biography presented in the "Dictators Playbook" episode on the founding fascist.
     

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