Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests








Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Reading Life Review - September 2022



The Reading Life is a multicultural

book blog, committed to Literary Globalism . 


  Our posts have been read over 6.7 milion times with readers ranging from scholars from The Vatican Library,MacArthur Genius Grant Winners, publishing industry professionals to teenage   book lovers.  


Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among our Interests.  Narrative non-fiction also is of importance.




Column One


  1. Howard Zinn - USA - historian - author of The People’s History of The United States- first appearance on The Reading Life
  2. Honorée Fanonne Jeffers - USA - poet and novelist - author of The Love Songs of W. E. B. Dubois - first appearance on The Reading Life 


Column Two


  1. Arkady Martine - USA -AnnaLinden Weller,  her pen name Arkady Martine, is an American historian, city planner, and author of science fiction literature. Her first novels A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace, which form the Teixcalaan series, each won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. She has a PhD in Byzantium History.  First Appearance on The Reading Life.
  2. Dorothy Evelyn Smith - UK -very prolific writer of works set in rural England  between the World Wars - first appearance on The Reading Life


Column Three


  1. David de Jong- The Netherlands- Author of Nazi Billionaires - The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties- David de Jong is a journalist who previously covered European banking and finance from Amsterdam and hidden wealth and billionaire fortunes from New York for Bloomberg News. - First Appearance on The Reading Life
  2. Emily Saint John Mandel - Canada-Emily St. John Mandel is a Canadian novelist and essayist. She has written numerous essays and six novels, including Station Eleven and The Glass House. First Appearance on The Reading Life


All six featured writers made their first appearance in September.  Two are deceased, four are women.


Blog Stats


Our posts have been viewed 6,780,792 times. There are currently 4113 posts online.


Top Home Countries of September Visitors


  1. USA 
  2. The Philippines 
  3. The Netherlands 
  4. India
  5. Israel 
  6. Canada
  7. Germany 
  8. The UK
  9. Russia 
  10. The Ukraine 
  11. France
  12. Singapore 
  13. Denmark 
  14. Poland 


The most frequently viewed posts were about Short Stories by authors from the Philippines and India.


Future Plans


Not sure at this point.  


Mel Ulm.








 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Nazi Billionaires:The Dark History of Germany's Wealthiest Dynasties by David de Jong - 2022 - 400 pages


 


Nazi Billionaires:The Dark History of Germany's Wealthiest Dynasties by David de Jong - 2022


The biggest fear of wealthy Germans was the specter of communism.  Wealthy Germans were summoned to meetings where donations to the party was solicited by high ranking Nazis, sometimes by Hitler himself.  Per de Jong, most of the wealthy were very Anti-Semitic and relished the opportunity to take over Jewish assets.  Some fell under the sway of Hitler, others flattered and bribed him to gain contracts with the German military.  We also see how leading German banks were heavily involved, becoming ever richer.


“At the Esplanade dinner, Günther arranged his executives across fourteen tables, seating each next to a Nazi bureaucrat or general to discuss arms deals and Aryanizations. Naturally, the men who financed these transactions — the leading executives of Commerzbank, Dresdner Bank, and Deutsche Bank — were present. These financiers of the Third Reich competed bitterly to serve the deep-pocketed Nazi regime and to satiate their private clients’ ravenous appetite for credit.”




The dynasties treated include, THE QUANDTS Günther Quandt: Patriarch. Industrialist, his second wife was Magda Goebbels.  After they divorced she married Goebbels and became “The First Lady of Nazi Germany.”  She worshiped Hitler.  Also detailed is Friedrich Flick: Patriarch. Industrialist, THE VON FINCKS August von Finck Sr.: Patriarch. Private banker, Ferdinand Porsche: Patriarch. Creator of Volkswagen and Porsche, and Dr. Oetker a German multinational company that produced baking powder, cake mixes, frozen pizza, pudding, cake decoration, cornflakes, party candles.  All of these companies were family run and employed top,SS officers as part of management.  All greatly benefited financially from the war, employing slave laborers and stealing Jewish firms.


The industries owned by the dynasty families used slave laborers, concentration camp inmates and Russian prisoners of war.  This was  expedited by their close tied to the Nazi party and the SS. Many had S S officers in their employ.After the war, of course, claims were made that they had no idea of the horrible conditions those in their factories and mines labored.  


With the defeat of Germany, numerous business leaders were arrested and tried.  Many got off by having their attorneys present letters exculpating them from wrong doing.  In the American controlled zone policy shifted against punishment for German business men. America wanted Germany as an ally in the developing Cold War with Russia.  


De Jong goes into the reparation process.  This included reimbursement for the theft of Jewish assets and payment for  enslaved workers.  For a year in concentration camp you might get about $700.00.  


To me the Porsche family came across very venal,  denying all blame.  Ferdinand Porsche did three years in prison while denying everything.  He even cheated the Nazis by overcharging them in the developing of the Volkswagen, one of Hitler’s pet projects.  Only 625 cars were produced by war end and all were given as gifts to Nazis.  Thousands of ordinary Germans paid for cars but never got them. Thousands worked as slave laborers in his factories.  During the war, he produced and designed tanks and military vehicles.  


Descendants of the dynasty leaders are now among Germany’s richest people, worth billions of dollars.  Some of the grandchildren have acknowledged how the got this wealth and paid some reparations. Others say all criticism of them are politically motivated prevarications.


There is a lot of fascinating material about American pre-war attitudes.


David de Jong is a journalist who previously covered European banking and finance from Amsterdam and hidden wealth and billionaire fortunes from New York for Bloomberg News. His work has also appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, the Wall Street Journal, and the Dutch Financial Daily.


Anyone interested in German history should read this book.




Mel Ulm

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

THE LOVE SONGS OF W. E. B. DU BOIS. Copyright © 2021 by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. - 802 Pages


THE LOVE SONGS OF W. E. B. DU BOIS. Copyright © 2021 by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. - 802 Pages 


“Epic…. I was just enraptured by the lineage and the story of this modern African-American family…. A combination of historical and modern story—I’ve never read anything quite like it. It just consumed me." —Oprah Winfrey, Oprah Book Club Pick


The novel focuses on several generations in an African-American family located in a fictional town in Georgia.  The history of the Family begins in slavery times about 1840 or so up to 1995.  The protagonist of the story is Ailey Pearl Garfield. Her father is a doctor and Ailey’s mother wants her to follow him. Aikey instead enrolls in a PhD program focusing on her families history.  Her Family was enslaved by Samuel Pinchard, a rapist and a child molestor.  We see how skin color is very important, with genetic mixtures of White, Creek, with enslaved persons to contemporary African Americans.  The skin tone of every character is described. Ailey has a lingering relationship with a fellow college student with a white wife.  We see in Ailey a deep need for male approval, she does seem to use sex like her sister Lydia used crack, as a means of escaping the roles history has imposed on Black women.


Throughout the novel there are “Love songs” focusing on Ailey’s distant ancestors, of African, Scottish, and Creek descent.  Jeffers unflinchingly shows us the lingering psychological impact of slavery still effecting African American women in the 1990s.  Ailey’s older sister Lydia becomes a crack addict, trading sex for drugs. 


The novel has numerous quotations from the writings of W. E. B. Dubois.  Two male characters debate about whether or not Dubois or Booker T. Washington is a better role model.


We see how attending a largely white college versus an historically black college are two very different experiences for Ailey.  There are numerous descriptions of food, graphic sex throughout the novel, and marvelous dialogue.  The college is said to be modeled on Howard University.


An African American highly distinguished professor, a graduate of Harvard, is accused by white police as having stolen the expensive car he owns.  


Jeffers has written a beautiful book that is being proclaimed as an addition to classic literature by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Richard Wright.


At 802 pages this is a long book for one published in this time. As I read on I came to see the length  as reflective of the long history of African Americans.  


The book has garnered numerous awards.


“INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2021

AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB SELECTION

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR FICTION

FINALIST FOR THE PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT NOVEL • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION • A FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE FOR FICTION • SHORTLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • LONGLISTED FOR THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE • A NOMINEE FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD” -from the publisher


Her website THE LOVE SONGS OF W. E. B. DU BOIS. Copyright © 2021 by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. - 802 Pages 


“Epic…. I was just enraptured by the lineage and the story of this modern African-American family…. A combination of historical and modern story—I’ve never read anything quite like it. It just consumed me." —Oprah Winfrey, Oprah Book Club Pick


The novel focuses on several generations in an African-American family located in a fictional town in central Georgia.  The history of the Family begins in slavery times about 1840 or so up to 1995.  The protagonist of the story is Ailey Pearl Garfield. Her father is a doctor and Ailey’s mother wants her to follow him. Aikey instead enrolls in a PhD program focusing on her families history.  Her Family was enslaved by Samuel Pinchard, a rapist and a child molestor.  We see how skin color is very important, with genetic mixtures of White, Creek, with enslaved persons to contemporary African Americans.  The skin tone of every character is described. Ailey has a lingering relationship with a fellow college student with a white wife.  We see in Ailey a deep need for male approval, she does seem to use sex like her sister Lydia used crack, as a means of escaping the roles history has imposed on Black women.


Throughout the novel there are “Love songs” focusing on Ailey’s distant ancestors, of African, Scottish, and Creek descent.  Jeffers unflinchingly shows us the lingering psychological impact of slavery still effecting African American women in the 1990s.  Ailey’s older sister Lydia becomes a crack addict, trading sex for drugs. 


The novel has numerous quotations from the writings of W. E. B. Dubois.  Two male characters debate about whether or not Dubois or Booker T. Washington is a better role model.


We see how attending a largely white college versus an historically black college are two very different experiences for Ailey.  There are numerous descriptions of food, graphic sex throughout the novel, and marvelous dialogue.  The college is said to be modeled on Howard University.


An African American highly distinguished professor, a graduate of Harvard, is accused by white police as having stolen the expensive car he owns.  


Jeffers has written a beautiful book that is being proclaimed as an addition to classic literature by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Richard Wright.


At 802 pages this is a long book for one published in this time. As I read on I came to see the length  as reflective of the long history of African Americans.  


The book has garnered numerous awards.


“INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2021

AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB SELECTION

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR FICTION

FINALIST FOR THE PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT NOVEL • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION • A FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE FOR FICTION • SHORTLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • LONGLISTED FOR THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE • A NOMINEE FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD” -from the publisher


Her website honoreejeffers.com has a detailed bio. There are several video interviews with Jeffers on her website I found very illuminating.


Mel Ulm.


 
 



Saturday, September 17, 2022

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine - 2019 - 480 Pages- Hugo Award for Best Novel 2020







A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine - 2019 - 480 Pages- Hugo Award for Best Novel 2020


Website of Arkady Martine



A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine completely fascinated me.  Martine has created an amazing world, a gripping space opera, full of lush images.  Martine even includes a glossery.


The central figure is an ambassador, from an independent Space station of maybe 30,000 people, to  the huge sprawling Teixcalaanli Empire. 


The Teixcalaanli empire governs most of human space, and is about to absorb Lsel, an independent mining Lsel. Ambassador  Mahit Dzmare was sent to the imperial capital to prevent this, and quickly finds herself embroiled in the empire's complex intrigues.



Mahit has been implanted with an imago of the previous ambassador,a man who died under mysterious circumstances. (From the glossery- “imago—An ancestral live memory.”  Mahit finds it challenging blending her identity with a man.  She was selected for her position after extensive schooling in Teixcalaanli history, language, and literary culture going backs 1000s of years.  Almost every chapter begjns with a quote from a famous Teixcalaanli poem, work of history or official Manual. I loved these marvelously creative items which helped make the vast Teixcalaanli Empire come to  reality for me. (“Expansion History, The—A history of Teixcalaanli expansion, attributed to Thirteen River, attribution debunked; current literary scholars of Teixcalaan refer to The Expansion History as being composed by “Pseudo-Thirteen River,” an unknown person”.)


“Five Needle—Teixcalaanli historical figure, memorialized in the poem “Encomia for the Fallen of the Flagship Twelve Expanding Lotus.” Died defending her ship after a series of field promotions left her the ranking officer. Five Orchid—A fictional Teixcalaanli historical figure, the protagonist of a children’s novel, in which she was the crchesib of the future Emperor Twelve Solar-Flare.”


All the Citizens of the Empire (non-Citizens are called “Barbarians”) are linked together by device called a Cloudhook (from The glossery “cloudhook—Portable device, worn over the eye, which allows Teixcalaanlitzlim to access electronic media, news, communications, etc.; also functions as a security device, or key, which can open doors or give accesses; also functions as a geospatial positioning system, communicating location to a satellite network.”  


Most imperial Citizens are humanoids, either male or female. The role of sexual identity and politics is an important and complex theme in Memory Called Empire.  Mahit has assigned to her an imperial civil servant whose job is to advance her understanding while keeping Mahit from finding out why her predecessor may have been murdered. The two women quickly bond.  They both enjoy, and I could use one also an, “ahachotiya—An alcoholic drink, popular in the City, derived from fermented fruit.”.  There are lots of food references.  (Lost Garden—A restaurant in Plaza North Four, famous for its winter-climate dishes.)


Martine acknowledged that she was inspired by Aztec culture (amalitzli—A Teixcalaanli sport, played on a clay court with a rubber ball which opposing teams attempt to throw, bounce, or ricochet into a small goal. Versions of amalitzli specialized for low- or zero-gravity environments are also popular”)as well as Byzantium and Roman history.


I highly reccomend this amazing book. The plot quickly intrigued me.


Her second novel A Desolation Called Peace, which won The 2021 Hugo Award for best novel takes place also in The Teixcalaanlian Empire now Under attack. I hope to read it next  Month.


“Arkady Martine is the author of the teixcalaan series, a multitude of short stories, and various other science fiction, fantasy, & horror. she is also dr. annalinden weller, who is a byzantinist, a climate & energy policy analyst, and a city planner. she is not bored, but she is often tired.” From The author’s website.


Mel Ulm









 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Station Eleven - A Novel - by Emily Saint John Mandel - 2014 - 336 Pages


 


Station Eleven- A Novel by Emily Saint John Mandel- 2014 - 336 pages 


Written before the current Covid 19 world wide pandemic began, Station 11 is an account of what happen when the Georgia Flu (it originally came from Georgia in Eastern Europe) ends up killing 99 percent of the population of the Earth in a just a few months.



For those seeking a plot summary, Wikipedia has a decent one, so I will just post a few observations on Station Eleven.


As I read this book I did at times feel maybe a book about a horrible World Wide Pandemic was not the best choice for me but as I read on I did find the descriptions of the impact of the Georgia Flu, dating from what became known as “Day O” interesting.  The primary story line takes place in Year 20 in The Great Lakes region of what was once the USA and Canada, all national Borders are gone.  Older people remember the internet, TV, air conditioning, cars that still run, and much more.  Younger people have no real pre-Year O memories.  There is a second story line, tied in with the primary, set in the old days, centering on a movie Star and his romances.


We follow a traveling symphony company that also puts on Shakespeare as they tranverse through very dangerous roads.  Everyone is armed, they savange what they can from abandoned houses and stores.  They hunt deer and rabbits.


I enjoyed Station Eleven.  It was sort of fun to read the descriptions of the World  after Year 0, though i found the secondary plot less interesting.


“Short bio:

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of six novels, including Sea of Tranquility, The Glass Hotel, and Station Eleven. She lives in New York City”. From https://www.emilymandel.com






Sunday, September 11, 2022

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Copyright © 1980, 1995, 1998, 1990, 2003 by Howard Zinn. Introduction copyright © 2015 by Anthony Arnove. - 764 Pages


 




A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Copyright © 1980, 1995, 1998, 1990, 2003 by Howard Zinn. Introduction copyright © 2015 by Anthony Arnove. - 764 Pages 


American history is traditionally taught as a story of heroic self-sacrificing leadership by great men, including no women or non-whites.  Zinn sees things very differently.  He very convincingly develops a very different account of an America in which the majority are emotionally manipulated to support policies that benefit elite wealthy rulers across political parties and no one else.


Zinn sees the American Revolution as only benefiting very wealthy slave owning land owners.  Ordinary soldiers fought because they needed food, because they were duped into believing it was a heroic cause.  Slaves were promised freedom by both sides for serving for them.  These were all lies.  Native Americans  mostly sided with the British, knowing white residents wanted them gone, either shipped out west or exterminated.  This is exactly the policy of all American presidents, treaties were made to get Native Land then broken when no longer convenient to wealthy landowners.


Zinn devotes much space to the developing of the railroads.  Railroad barons were given grants of millions of acres by political figures responding to bribes.  Congressmen got free passes.  Railroads made slave labor more valuable as cotton, tobacco and other goods could be shipped to markets.  Most ordinary Americans owned no land and no slaves.  Increasingly small land owners lost their property when they could not pay the mortgage to banks.  Developers bought their land and the former farmers became either share croppers or laborers paid hardly living wages.


The participants in the American civil war on both sides fell for the drum beats of patriotism.  The wealthy could buy their way out of military service.  Southern soldiers come across as complete dupes, owning no slaves  or land but seeing it as their duty to die for those who did while wealthy slave owners set the war out.  Zinn details how after the south lost, laws were passed to keep ex-slaves in subjugation.  Poor whites were made to think they were superior to African Americans and did not understand that the elite cared nothing for them.  Fraternizing between the races was not allowed.  Many ex-slaves were lynched  for just looking at white women.


As Americans factories and farms began to produce more than Americans could themselves consume American politicians became to seek to create an American Empire through wars with Spain and Mexico.  I live in the Philippines and was very glad Zinn went into the wars between Filipinos seeking freedom and the Americans, 1899 to 1903. Zinn estimates at least half a million Filipinos died as a direct result of the war.  African American soldiers often saw more of kinship with the Filipinos than white Americans.  The average American got nothing of benefit from the war, only the very wealthy who wanted it as a trading base with China.


World War One, as Zinn explains, was a terrible waste of Millions of lives.  No one benefited from it but Arms dealers and Wealthy Americans who supplied both sides.  Once American entered the war their was a huge wave of patriotic manipulation directed and building up enthusiasm for the war.


Zinn goes on into the World War Two era.  He acknowledges that there was a real reason for Americans to enter the war.  Not everyone will agree with his reasons for saying there was no need to use atomic weapons on Japan. He bases this claim on the fact that Japanese ambassador to Russia had basically agreed to surrender under the condition the Emperor stays in place.  American leadership refused this.


He goes into the Korean and Vietnam wars as well, ending with the Clinton era.


I found Zion’s claims totally convincing.  I urge all interested in American history to read A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. 


Biography


Howard Zinn was a historian, author, professor, playwright, and activist. His life’s work focused on a wide range of issues including race, class, war, and history, and touched the lives of countless people.



Zinn grew up in Brooklyn in a working-class, immigrant household. At 18 he became a shipyard worker and then joined the Air Force and flew bombing missions during World War II. These experiences helped shape his opposition to war and his strong belief in the importance of knowing history.


After attending college under the G.I. Bill, he worked as a warehouse loader while earning a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. From 1956 to 1963, he taught at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, where he became active in the Civil Rights Movement. After being fired by Spelman for his support for student protesters, Zinn became a professor of political science at Boston University, where he taught until his retirement in 1988.

Zinn was the author of dozens of books, including A People’s History of the United States, the play Marx in Soho, Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, and SNCC: The New Abolitionists. He received many awards including the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction, the Eugene V. Debs award for his writing and political activism, and the Ridenhour Courage Prize.” From Howardzinn.org


Mel Ulm 








Tuesday, September 6, 2022

O, The Brave Music by Dorothy Evelyn Smith - 1943- British Library Women Writers Edition published 2020 - with a Preface by Lucy Evans and an Afterword by Simon Thomas


O, The Brave Music by Dorothy Evelyn Smith - 1943- British Library Women Writers Edition published 2020 - with a Preface by Lucy Evans and an Afterword by Simon Thomas


Part of a curated collection of forgotten works by early to mid-century women writers, the British Library Women Writers series highlights the best middlebrow fiction from the 1910s to the 1960s, offering escapism, popular appeal and plenty of period detail to amuse, surprise and inform.-  From The British Library


There are currently 15 works in the British Library Women Writers Series.  I am hoping to read through them. Most are fairly brief  and all include author bios and expert commentaries.  The Kindle Editions are under $4.00.


British Women Library Women Series Works I have so far read


Strange Journey by Maud Cairnes -1935


The Love Child by Edith Olivier - 1927




Tea is So Intoxicating by Ursula Bloom (writing as Mary Essex)- 1950


Father by Elizabeth Von Armin - 1931


O, The Brave Music by Dorothy Evelyn Smith - 1943


O, The Brave Music opening about 1910 in a small town not too far from London. It is narrated by Ruan, looking back to thirty years ago starting when she was seven.  She lives with her father, a Non-Conformist Minister and her mother.  The mother is a great beauty, now in a love-less marriage.



 When illness causes Ruan to move out to a friends place up in the Yorkshire Moors, she falls in love with the place . There are some beautiful descriptions of the place by an author who obviously knows and loves the area herself. It was really lovely reading about her visits to the almost wild life up on the moors with her friend David, a young lad a bit older than herself.


We follow Ruan and her familiy’s life through about 12 years, ending prior to World War One.  Her mother leaves her father for another man.  Her father goes to Africa to be a missionary, leaving Ruan and her older sister in the care of the estate owner she stayed at earlier. Ruan comes to love Reading, riding in the moors, and David, whose passion is to become a doctor.


O, The Brave Music perfectly develops a broad spectrum of characters.  There is much more in this wonderful work than i have mentioned.


My goal is to read all 15 of The British Library books by July One of next Year.





“Dorothy Evelyn Smith (née Jones) was born in 1893 in the Peak District of Derbyshire.

Her father was a minister in the United Free Methodist Church, the family eventually moving to London. However, Dorothy set many of her novels in Yorkshire, which she knew well.

By 1911 Dorothy was a part-time student at an art school, and in 1914, she married James Smith, the son of another non-conformist minister.

During World War I, Dorothy began to write poetry and short stories, some of which were published. The Smiths had moved to Essex by 1920 where a daughter and later a son were born. The couple remained in the county, and after James’s death, Dorothy moved to a bungalow at Leigh-on-Sea to be near her son and his family.

In the early years of the Second World War, Dorothy Evelyn Smith began writing her first novel, O, the Brave Music (1943), the first of eleven novels ultimately published, the last in 1966.


Dorothy Evelyn Smith died at the age of 76, in 1969” https://www.deanstreetpress.co.uk/pages/author_page/75




Mel Ulm