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

Monday, January 30, 2023

At the End of the Matinee by Keiichiro Hirano -2016- 306 pages- translated from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter- 2021

 At the End of the Matinee by Keiichiro Hirano -2016- 306 pages- translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter- 2021

Japanese Literature Challenge 16 January through March 2023

2023 is the 15th Year in which I have participated in The Japanese Literature Challenge hosted by Dolce Bellezza. In 2009 when I first participated I had yet to read any works originally written in Japanese. Now numerous Japanese writers are on my read all I can of their works list.. The post World War Two Japanese Novel is a world class cultural treasure.

Both new and experienced readers will find numerous suggestions on the website. To participate you need only post on one work and list your review on the event website (listed above). New book bloggers will find participation a good way to meet others and expand those following their blog.

At the End of the Matinee centers around a long drawn out romance between a very highly regarded Japanese classical guitarist and a journalist.Makino is a classic guitarist who as of late has become somehow feeling his best work is in the past. His partner is Yoko, a journalist daughter of a Japanese mother and a Croatian father, who happens to be a renowned film director. The two are introduced after one of Makino’s performances through a friend of Yoko and immediately hit it off. Yoko is however engaged to an American man we never learn much about.

Makino is in Japan or on tours for much of the time that take him all over the world. Yoko, who is based in France, is for a period reporting from Iraq— the two begin an email correspondence. Their connection to and feelings for one another are Yoko, who is dealing with PTSD from her experiences in Iraq. Makino is also going through a musical crisis of sorts, he feels like he is no longer a musical prodigy and that he does not compare to up-and-coming young musicians. 

The plot has segments in Iraq, Paris, New York City, and Tokyo. I got little sense of place however.

In part the novel is a meditation on the power of beauty in art, whether in Bach or Death In Venice by Thomas Mann.

I found myself a bit bored with the characters. I guess overall I am glad I read this book, others say his novel A Man is much better.

Keiichiro Hirano(Author) from

Keiichiro Hirano wrote has written more than 15 novels since his debut work “The Eclipse” for which he won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize at the record age of 23. His deeply psychological fiction deals with profound and universal themes like self-love, relationships and acceptance, and spans from short stories and historical novels to essays, love stories, and literary sci-fi. As a cultural envoy to Paris appointed by Japan’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs, he traveled all over Europe giving lectures and many of his books have been translated and are widely read in France, China, Korea, Taiwan, Italy, and Egypt. In his widely viewed TED talk, he discusses what it means to really love oneself, arguing that it’s not easy to holistically love ourselves without knowing all our “selves”, good and bad, but we can discover the “self” we like with the help of the person we love. Based on this theme, his novel “At the End of the Matinee” was a runaway bestseller in Japan and released as a movie in November 2019. “A MAN” is the first of his novels to be translated into English. His second title in English “At the End of the Matinee” was released in April 2021.

・120th Akutagawa Prize for The Eclipse(Nisshoku)(1998)
・59th Education, Science and Technology Ministers Art Encouragement Prize for New Writers for Breach(Kekkai) (2008)
・19th Prix Deux Magots Bunkamura for Dawn (2009)
・ the Watanabe Junichi Literary Prize for At the End of the Matinee(2017)
・ the Yomiuri Prize for Literature for A MAN(2019

Mel Ulm

Saturday, January 28, 2023

"Between My Father and the King" -A Short Stories by Janet Frame- from Between My Father and the King and Other Stories - 2012

 Janet Frame

A Post in Memorium of Her Passing Eight Years Ago

Born - August 28, 1924- Dunedin, New Zealand 

Died - January 29, 2004- Dunedin, New Zealand 

Janet Frame Literary Trust- 

This is my first venture into the work of Janet Frame, I hope it will not be my last. After Katherine Mansfield, she is the third  New Zealand born writer to be featured on The Reading Life.

Today's story was originally published, as far as I can ascertain, in her postummous collection in 2012 and shortly after that in the Manchester Review. (The story can be read in the sample of the Kindle Edition of Between My Father and the King and other Stories.)

"Between My Father and the King" in just a few marvelous pages evokes a very moving account of a soldier from New Zealand, a veteran of what was once called The Great War, feelings toward a debt HD owes the British government, personified in the person of the King of England. The story is narrated by his daughter.

" My father fought in the First World War that used to be called ‘Great’ until the truth of its greatness was questioned and the denial of its greatness accepted. My father came home from the war with a piece of shrapnel in his back, remnants of gas in his lungs, a soldier’s pay book, an identity disc, a gas mask, and a very important document which gave details of my father’s debt to the King and his promise before witnesses to repay the King the fifty pounds borrowed to buy furniture: a bed to sleep in with his new wife, a dining table to dine at, linoleum and a hearthrug to lay on the floor, two fireside chairs for man and wife to sit in when he wasn’t working and she wasn’t polishing the King’s linoleum and shaking the King’s hearthrug free of dust; and a wooden fireside kerbto protect the hearthrug, the linoleum and my father and his wife from sparks when they sat by the fire. All this furniture, the document said, cost fifty pounds, which had to be paid to the King in agreed instalments. I found this document the other day, and the accompanying note of discharge from debt; and it was the first time I had known of my father’s dreadful responsibility. For besides promising to repay the loan he had sworn to keep the bed and mattress and fireside kerb and hearthrug and linoleum and dining table and chairs and fireside chairs in good order and on no account sell or exchange them"

The daughter ( I am assuming it is his daughter rather than a son based on the introduction to the collection) has just found the document in which her father  agrees to let a representative of the King inspect his furniture at any time. The man and his wife get nervous everytime someone knocks on the door, fearing it might be the King’s inspector. This is a profoundly anti-war and colonial story, reflecting how ordinary people are sacrificed in wars for the glory of Kings.  The ending is darkly hilarious and terribly sad.

Mel Ulm 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston -2017- 362 pages- Non-Fiction

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston is one of the very best works of narrative non-fiction I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time. It is a brilliant combination of adventure travel, Meso-American history, contemporary Honduran politics, jungle archaeology, a precis upon tropical diseases, as well as a look about the work and politics of modern archaeology.

"The #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, named one of the best books of the year by The Boston Globe and National Geographic: acclaimed journalist Douglas Preston takes readers on a true adventure deep into the Honduran rainforest in this riveting narrative about the discovery of a lost civilization -- culminating in a stunning medical mystery."

"Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. 

Best selling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn't until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease." From the publisher 

I agree completely with the publisher's description. Here are just a few additional observations I wish to make on this book.

 Preston helped me understand how climate change intensifies the spread of tropical diseases to more temperate climates. He also made me see why giant pharmaceutical companies focus less upon diseases indigenous to the tropics than those found world wide. Millions of people in tropical regions may be infected by diseases spread by sand flies but the people and governments in these areas cannot afford vaccines and expensive drugs so pharmaceutical companies are not interested. I never thought of this before but it makes perfect sense.

Here is the author's account of one such disease:

"Leishmaniasis, a disease caused by protozoan parasites.

Mucosal leishmaniasis struck down two-thirds of the expedition — Hondurans, Americans and Brits alike. It is a very persistent disease, a flesh-eating parasite that attacks the face and eventually causes your lips and nose to slough off, leaving a weeping sore where your face used to be. (I would not recommend Googling pictures of the disease!) It has returned in a number of people. But we are getting the best medical care in the world from doctors at the National Institutes of Health, who are studying us and our disease, which appears to be a unique form. It makes for a fascinating medical mystery"

Preston goes into a good bit of the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Central America. He helped me understand one of the reasons why the Spanish conquest of the Philippines was much more difficult. People living in the 16th century in the Philippines archipelago had hundreds of years of exposure through contacts with China, Malaysia and the Indian Subcontinent to the diseases that brought Apocaliptic devastation to all the Americans so they were able to resist these plagues. 

Preston introduced me to the use of new technologies of ariel photography that are revolutionising archeology. The expeditions were very expensive, just the cost of helicopters was huge. The Honduran Special Forces provided security from looters and narcotics traffickers, a very powerful part of Honduran society. Snakes were an ever present danger.

I am very glad I found this book.  

Mel Ulm

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Caeser:Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy- 2006 - 583 Pages

 Caeser:Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy- 2006 - 583 Pages

A captivating biography” of the great Roman general “puts Caesar’s war exploits on full display, along with his literary genius” and more (The New York Times)


"Tracing the extraordinary trajectory of the Julius Caesar’s life, Adrian Goldsworthy not only chronicles his accomplishments as charismatic orator, conquering general, and powerful dictator but also lesser-known chapters during which he was high priest of an exotic cult and captive of pirates, and rebel condemned by his own country. Goldsworthy also reveals much about Caesar’s intimate life, as husband and father, and as seducer not only of Cleopatra but also of the wives of his two main political rivals.


This landmark biography examines Caesar in all of these roles and places its subject firmly within the context of Roman society in the first century B.C. Goldsworthy realizes the full complexity of Caesar’s character and shows why his political and military leadership continues to resonate thousands of years later." From the publisher 

Having no expertise in Ancient Roman history, I am seeking books to increase my ability to place works of Roman Literature in a cultural and historical context that might deepen my understanding of these works. 

 Caeser is indeed one of the colossal figures not just of Roman history but of that of the World. Goldsworthy reminded me that his revamping of the Roman calender is still used today, with some minor modifications. Goldsworthy portrays Caeser as not cruel just for pleasure but ruthless when it suited his ambitions. His wars killed and enslaved vast numbers of people. Selling captured persons was a huge source of wealth.His conquests greatly enriched the Empire. He sponsored gladiatorial games and gave grain subsidies to ordinary Romans. He gave and took bribes as was normal.

Goldsworthy goes into copious detail concerning the tumultuous and dangerous political intriguing that was how Rome was run. Caeser had many affairs, had sex with slaves. Goldsworthy tells us what can be known about the relationship of Caeser and Cleopatra. Caeser could be merciful with opposition leaders if they agreed to be loyal. He could also let his soldiers sack a town, killing even children if a town resisted him too long. There is a lot about how the army worked. His soldiers were well rewarded and most were loyal to Caeser. He fought amongst along with them on occasion.

Of course the work goes into the conspiracy to kill Caeser.

"Adrian Goldsworthy was born in 1969. He was educated up to the age of sixteen at Westbourne House Preparatory School and Westbourne Boys College in Penarth, South Wales. He attended the Sixth Form at Stanwell Comprehensive School for his A-Levels. From there he went to St John's College, Oxford University and took a First in Ancient and Modern History. Remaining at St John's, he was awarded a D.Phil. in Literae Humaniores (Ancient History) in 1994. The topic of his thesis was 'The Roman Army as a fighting force, 100 BC-AD 200'. A modified version of this was subsequently published in the Oxford Monographs series under the title of The Roman Army at War, 100 BC - AD 200 (1996). This remains in print and is one of the best selling works in the series.

He was a Junior Research Fellow at Cardiff University for two years and subsequently taught part-time at King's College London and was an assistant professor on the University of Notre Dame's London programme for six years. He also did bits and pieces of teaching at other universities. He has lectured on a range of topics, including both Greek and (particularly) Roman History, but also taught a course on the military history of the Second World War at Notre Dame.

Teaching is tremendous fun, but writing is even more enjoyable and in the last few years he has given up teaching to write full time. Best of all this avoids the vast weight of administrative work now inevitable in any university post. It is still nice to give lectures and attend conferences, but only when time permits.

Just in case anybody is interested, he enjoys watching cricket (supporting Glamorgan in the first class game and England internationally), walking, and playing tennis - not terribly well, but with plenty of enthusiasm. He has recently started learning to ride and now wishes he had taken it up long ago.

Adrian Goldsworthy lives in South Wales." From

I have two more of his books on Roman history on my Kindle application, Augustus:First Emperor and Pax Romano: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World.

Mel Ulm

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Thyestes by Seneca - c. B. C. E. 62- included in the Collection Seneca: Six Tradgedies- translated with an Introduction by Emily Wilson- 2010

 Thyestes by Seneca - c. B. C. E. 62- included in the Collection Seneca: Six Tradgedies- translated with an Introduction by Emily Wilson- 2010

Ancient Reads Post

This is the third drama by Seneca I have so far read. Previously I have posted upon his Phaedra as well as Trojan Women.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Born- 4 B. C. E. - Cordoba,Spain 

49 A. D. Appointed Advisor to Nero

Died 65 A. D - Rome. - ordered to commit suicide for his possible role in a conspiracy to murder Emperor Nero 


Thyestes, Brother of Atreus, in exile

Atreus, King of Argos

Tantalus, father of Thyestes

Plisthenes (silent role), son of Thyestes

Tantali umbra (ghost of Tantalus), grandfather of Atreus & Thyestes

Furia (Rage, Fury), often interpreted as Megaera

satelles, attendant or guard of Atreus

nuntius, messenger


"Tantalus killed his son, Pelops, and gave him as a feast to the gods. As punishment in the underworld he suffered eternal hunger and eternal thirst, with water and food forever just out of his grasp. The two sons of Pelops struggled for power over the throne of Mycenae. They agreed that whichever of them possessed the golden sheep from Atreus’ herd should be king. Thyestes produced the sheep, and seized power, ousting Atreus. But Atreus accused his brother of plotting with his own wife, Aerope, to steal the fleece and the throne; he seized power in turn, and exiled his brother. Seneca’s play shows what happened when Thyestes returned from exile." From the introduction 

The plays of Seneca I have read present a very dark vision. People are motivated by Greed, jealousy, envy and lust. No one can be truly trusted. Love turns to hate to violent revenge. The old Gods are depicted sometimes as cruel, capricious sporting with people just for their own amusement. Sometimes their existence is said to exist only in fairy tales, delusions people cling to for comfort. Roman society was built on a foundation of cruelty and oppression through slavery and warfare. With a turn of fortune today’s aristocrats can become Tommorow's slaves.

Thyestes takes place partially in the Underworld. The summary from Edith Wilson depicts the horrors of the plot.

The sacrificing of children was common in numerous Ancient cultures, including Celtic, old testament Judea, India and Meso-America as well as Grecian. Killing a rival's children was a prime means of revenge.

The next play by Seneca I read will be his Medea but first I will read Medea by Euripides.


Emily Wilson is the College for Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classical Studies, and graduate chair of the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Wilson attended Oxford University (Balliol College B.A. and Corpus Christi College M.Phil.) and Yale University (Ph.D.). In 2006, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome in Renaissance & Early Modern scholarship. In 2019 she was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2020 she was named a Guggenheim Fellow. She lives in Philadelphia with her three daughters, three cats, two rats, and one dog.

Follow Professor Wilson on Twitter @EmilyRCWilson. Professor Wilson frequently tweets about the Odyssey, translation, and her pets." From

Reading her bio, I thought I live with my three daughters, five cats and one dog but no rats 

Mel u

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Libraian Spy by Madeline Martin - 2022- 401 pages

 The Libraian Spy by Madeline Martin - 2022- 401 pages

In December of 2021 I read The Last Bookstore in London by Madeline Martin, set in London during the Blitz years of World War Two. I loved this deeply moving vivid account of the impact of Germany's bombing of London on a small Bookstore.

I was delighted when her just recently published novel, The Libraian Spy, was offered in a flash sale of the Kindle Edition for $1.95.

The Libraian Spy is set during World War Two in Paris as well as Lyon and Lisbon. Paris is occupied by the Germans. Portugal is neutral but in danger of being invaded. People come from all over Europe to Lisbon hoping to get a visa to go to America. 

Ava loved working as a librarian at The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C, she loved her job:

"There was nothing Ava Harper loved more than the smell of old books. The musty scent of aging paper and stale ink took one on a journey through candlelit rooms of manors set amid verdant hills or ancient castles with turrets that stretched up to the vast, unknown heavens. These were tomes once cradled in the spread palms of forefathers, pored over by scholars, devoured by students with a rapacious appetite for learning. In those fragrant, yellowed pages were stories of the past and eternal knowledge. It was a fortunate thing indeed she was offered a job in the Rare Book Room at the Library of Congress where the archaic aroma of history was forever present."

 Then one day Ava is asked to go to Lisbon to work attached to the American Embassy gathering information from publications that might help the Allied War effort. America had not yet entered the war but was helping. Ava was recruited for her expertise microfilming documents.

Meanwhile, in occupied France, Elaine has begun an apprenticeship at a printing press run by members of the Resistance. It’s a job usually reserved for men, but in the war, those rules have been forgotten. Yet she knows that the Nazis are searching for the press and its printer in order to silence them.

As the battle in Europe rages, Ava and Elaine find themselves connecting through coded messages and discovering hope in the process.

There are lots of exciting developments, I became very involved with Ava and Elaine. Elaine's husband was very against her getting involved with the resistance. Ava's brother is fighting in the American Army. Lisbon is full of desperate refugees from all over Europe. In Lyon Elaine gives her ID card to a Jewish woman to save her from the camps. The Gestapo takes Elaine into custody in a very frightening segment.

Food is very much a central issue. Foodies will be ready for a trip to Lisbon. Rationing is very strict in Lyon. If one German is killed by the resistance, they kill 100 French persons in retaliation.  

Both cities are very brilliantly depicted.  

The Libraian Spy is obviously very well researched. It kept me enthralled from the start.

"Madeline Martin is a New York Times and International Bestselling author of historical fiction and historical romance.

"She lives in sunny Florida with her two daughters (known collectively as the minions), one incredibly spoiled cat and a man so wonderful he’s been dubbed Mr. Awesome. She is a die-hard history lover who will happily lose herself in research any day. When she’s not writing, researching or ‘moming’, you can find her spending time with her family at Disney or sneaking a couple spoonfuls of Nutella while laughing over cat videos. She also loves to travel, attributing her fascination with history to having spent most of her childhood as an Army brat in Germany." From

Mel Ulm


Monday, January 9, 2023

Trojan Women by Seneca - composed c. 54 A. D. - included in the Collection Seneca: Six Tradgedies- translated with an Introduction by Emily Wilson- 2010

 Born - 4 B. C. E. - Cordoba,Spain 

49 A. D. Appointed Advisor to Nero

Died 65 A. D. - ordered to commit suicide for his possible role in a conspiracy to murder Emperor Nero 

An Article from the Enclopedia Britanica has a detailed account of Seneca's involvement in Roman imperial politics 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE- in order of appearance 

 HECUBA, Queen of Troy TALTHYBIUS, Greek herald PYRRHUS, son of Achilles AGAMEMNON, Greek leader CALCHAS, Greek prophet ANDROMACHE, wife of Hector OLD MAN ASTYANAX, Andromache’s son ULYSSES, HELEN MESSENGER CHORUS [POLYXENA: silent part

 The action is set in the city of Troy, in the aftermath of the ten-year war. The Greeks—led by Ulysses and Agamemnon—have used the trick of the wooden horse to break the siege, invade the city, and defeat the inhabitants. The wealth of Troy is looted; the Trojan men are dead, including the great hero Hector, killed by Achilles; the Trojan Women enslaved, and will be taken home as servants and concubines by the various Greek soldiers. But before the Greek fleet can set sail, fate has decreed that two Trojan children must be killed: Astyanax, son of Hector and Andromache, must be thrown from the city walls; and Polyxena, daughter of Hecuba and Priam, the king and queen of Troy, must be given in ‘marriage’ to the dead Achilles, and then slaughtered. Seneca’s play plots the fulfilment of these terrible predictions.

In my post on his Pheadra I observed that contemporaries of Seneca were coming to see Rome as entering a period of decadence and decline.  Educated Romans were beginning to doubt the  Gods, even seeing them as fairy tales.

"CHORUS Is it true, or a myth to deceive the fearful, that spirits live on after bodies are buried, when the wife has laid her hand on the dead man’s eyes, and his last day has blocked out the sun and the mournful urn contains his ashes? Is it pointless to give our souls to death, since we, poor things, still have to keep on living? Or do we totally die, and does no part of us remain, when with a fleeting gasp...

. Hungry time and emptiness devour us.  Death is a single whole: it kills our body and does not spare the soul. The realm of Taenarus,* kingdom of cruel Hades, and the guard-dog Cerberus, fierce defender of the gate, are fictions, tall tales, empty fairy stories, myths, as close to truth as a bad dream. Do you want to know where you will be after death? Where the unborn are."

In Trojan Women the Greek Leaders are very much vilified, no Homeric Hero emerges unblemished

The women of Troy themselves do not know what the future holds for Ulysses and other Greek Leaders but the Chorus makes sure it is paramount in the mind of the audience.

There is no glory in war. Other women expressed extreme contempt for Helen.

I would suggest that those interested first read Euripides’s version of Trojan women.Emily Wilson is the College for Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classical Studies, and graduate chair of the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Wilson attended Oxford University (Balliol College B.A. and Corpus Christi College M.Phil.) and Yale University (Ph.D.). In 2006, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome in Renaissance & Early Modern scholarship. In 2019 she was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2020 she was named a Guggenheim Fellow. She lives in Philadelphia with her three daughters, three cats, two rats, and one dog.

Follow Professor Wilson on Twitter @EmilyRCWilson. Professor Wilson frequently tweets about the Odyssey, translation, and her pets. From

There are links to links to several articles by Wilson as well as several interviews on her website.

The next play by Seneca I will read is Thyestes.

Mel Ulm

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Phaedra by Seneca - 54 A. D. --from Seneca- :Six Tradgedies: Translated by Emily Wilson - 2010

Phaedra by Seneca - 54 A. D. --from Seneca:Six Tradgedies: Translated by Emily Wilson - 2010

An Ancient Reads Post

An Autodatic Corner Work

"‘Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light’" - Hamlet, II,ii,395


Born - 4 B. C. E. - Cordoba, Spain

49 A.D. -appointed Advisor to Nero

Died- 65 A. D. - Rome, Italy - ordered to commit suicide for his alleged role in a conspiracy to murder Emperor Nero 

This is my first venture into Roman drama. I grateful to Emily Wilson for her highly informative introduction to this collection. She provides an illuminating account of the influence of the tribulation in Roman imperial politics had on Seneca's life and his involvement with Nero.

Several of Seneca's plays have counterpart in Greek Tradgedies. For Phaedra this is Hippolytus by Euripides. Wilson helped me to understand the differences between Seneca's work and Greek Tradgedies. 

"Readers who come to Seneca fresh from Athenian tragedy may miss the lightness, the irony, the possibility of open-ended dialogues between one character and another, or between human beings and the gods. Above all, we miss the sense of community. . Seneca’s tragedies focus less on the relationships of people to one another, and more on the relationship of individuals to their own passions. These plays are far darker, but also often much funnier, than their Athenian equivalents." From the Introduction 

The plays of Seneca influenced Shakespeare, Racine, Ben Johson and other dramatists. If Time is permitted to me by the capricious Gods, I hope to reread the plays Wilson mentions.

Wilson elegantly lays out the contrasts of Seneca's treatment of the myth of Phaedra with that of Euripides:

"In comparison with Athenian tragedy, Seneca’s plays focus less on the workings of the divine in human life and more on the conflicts within human nature itself. For example, Seneca’s Phaedra is based on the same story as Euripides’ Hippolytus. Euripides’ play is framed by two goddesses: Aphrodite, goddess of love and sex, who speaks the prologue; and Artemis, goddess of the hunt and of chastity, who appears to the dying Hippolytus in the penultimate moments of the play. It that Phaedra’s incestuous passion and Hippolytus’ excessive chastity are two extreme sides of the same spectrum. Seneca removes the divine machinery, to create a drama about the conflict between passion and self-control within the human psyche."

Educated Roman's, as reflected in the writing of period historians had come by 50 A.D. to view Roman society as entering a period of decadence and depravity, far from the glory days of Rome.

In Reading Phaedra I see the darkness, the lack of community but I admit I found nothing funny in this play. I do find more hatred, little regard for the morality of the often cruel and capricious Gods.

Stoicism is based on the idea that a failure to control human passions, Greed, lust and desire for material wealth are the sources of human misery. (I will obseve when long ago I read the stoical Meditations of Marcus Aurelius i thought, "Easy for an Emperor to say this) The picture of the sexual obsessions of Phaedra paint a troubling view of the impact of sexual passion on women. 

There is less use of the Chorus in Seneca's dramas.  

Here are the closing lines of the play as Theseus laments his role in the murder of his son and curses Phaedra:

"What can this be, so ugly, disgusting, pierced all over with multiple wound.
 I do not know what part it is, but I know it belongs to you; Put it here: not where it belongs, but where a space is empty.
 Is this your face, which used to shine with starry fire, your spirited, piercing gaze? Has your beauty come to this?  
 O terrible fate, O cruelly-helpful gods! Is this the answer to a father’s prayer, a son’s return? Here are the final gifts your father gives you.

You will need multiple burials... Meanwhile, burn these parts. Open the house: it stinks of death
. Let all the land of Attica ring loud with piercing funeral cried
. You, make ready the flame for the royal pyre, and you, go out and seek the missing parts of the body scattered in the country.

 And as for that woman—bury her, and may the heavy earth crush down on her"

Emily Wilson is the College for Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classical Studies, and graduate chair of the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Wilson attended Oxford University (Balliol College B.A. and Corpus Christi College M.Phil.) and Yale University (Ph.D.). In 2006, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome in Renaissance & Early Modern scholarship. In 2019 she was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2020 she was named a Guggenheim Fellow. She lives in Philadelphia with her three daughters, three cats, two rats, and one dog.

Follow Professor Wilson on Twitter @EmilyRCWilson. Professor Wilson frequently tweets about the Odyssey, translation, and her pets. From

There are links to links to several articles by Wilson as well as several interviews on her website.

The next play by Seneca I will read is his Trojan Women.

Mel Ulm


Thursday, January 5, 2023

South to America : A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation by Imani Perry. - 2022 - 410 pages

 South to America : A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation by Imani Perry. - 2022 - 410 pages 

National Book Award Winner for Non-Fiction -2022


New York Times Best Seller

"An meditation on the complexities of the American South—and thus of America—by an esteemed daughter of the South and one of the great intellectuals of our time. An inspiration.”
— Isabel Wilkerson, New York Times bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

My ancestors first arrived in the American South long before anyone thought to use use that expression to refer to the region, my estimate is maybe 1650. Some how some of my maternal ancestors moved to then Florida about 1790, settling near what is now Orlando. Family records document that they founded the first library in central Florida. Like everyone else they were farmers. I would acknowledge some ownded slaves.. They fought for the Confederates in the Civil War. In junior high school, maybe 1960, students sang "Dixie Land", said the Lord's Prayer, all things unthinkable now.
I learned to love the staples of southern cuisine. I was also brought up to view racism as an aborent shameful way of thought. I was among the last of students in Florida to attend legally segregated schools in 1965 when I graduated from high school.

In her marvelous book Perry talks about how white American students were taught to view the "War Between the States" as a "lost cause". Little mention was ever made in the classes I took the early 1960s about slavery. Students never learned that iconic American presidents like Washington and Jefferson owned slaves.

Try to think back to what you might have learned in college or high school about how enslaved persons were to be counted. Here is the truth:

"The enslaved, it explains, were property and people both. The logic that followed was insincere: as people they must have some form of representation. But of course the three-fifths clause was not representation of the enslaved at all. This is what it doesn’t say: we believe in amplifying the representation of those who have dominion over other souls, and this is why those individuals must count for more in our government. It is not the case, as some argue, that the clause was a term of art meaning that Black people people counted for three-fifths of a person. They did not count at all. Rather slaveholders were made larger people by virtue of holding others as slaves. Sven Beckert described the impact as follows: “Southern slaveholders had enshrined the basis of their power into the Constitution with its three-fifths clause. A whole series of slaveholding presidents, Supreme Court judges, and strong representation in both houses of Congress guaranteed seemingly never ending political support for the institution of slavery.” "

Perry is an African American woman, descended 
from enslaved peoples, who grew up in Alabama, went to college initially in an historically Black college. Part of this marvelous book is a memoir of her return to the south, she grew up partially in Birmingham, Alabama, and the emotions and thoughts this journey through out the South invoked in her. It is also a very valuable source of historical insight.

Perry deals with the divide in American society. It is no coincidence that almost all the states of the South, but for Georgia, went for trump. The central political theme of Going South is that the blame for the abominations exemplified by the support by around half of White Americsns is claimed to belong totally on the American South is a false and pernicious idea used as an excuse 

Perry devotes a lot of space to talking about Queer culture, particularly Drag personalities (and the Governor of Florida seems obsessed with Drag Shows). I knew nothing of the history Perry reveals:

"Here is another contradiction. The South is home to some of the richest queer culture in the world, and some of the deepest intolerance to any order other than patriarchy. I suppose that is why the Lady Chablis was wont to say, “Two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it.” Every cruelty is also an acknowledgment that the thing or people reviled are there, and ain’t going nowhere. I think this was Flannery O’Connor’s point when she said, “Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” Lest that sound too glib or cruel, she also said, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”

As Perry documents through the published letters of Flannery O'Connor, she made use of racist expressions. I was saddened by this.

Perry talks about now revered African American writers like James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison (both Gay and both moved to Paris once they could) and Toni Morrison dealt with their Southern heritage. She goes in depth into Zora Neale Hurston’s treatment of the experiences of African Americans in central Florida. 

"The pride Hurston took in being from Eatonville was due to how she saw it. It provided a much different origin story than Jacksonville could give. Eatonville was the first incorporated Black town in the United States. It was established in 1887 by freedpeople who, through collective purchases, established and advertised their town as a place of possibility for African Americans. They built wood-frame houses, schools, and a municipal government. It provided a refuge from the violence just outside their borders. Orange County, in which it sits, was once the center of racial violence in the South. Florida had the highest per capita rate of lynching in the South, and Orange County had the highest number of lynchings in the state between 1877 and 1950. You can understand why Eatonville was precious to its daughter. Hurston set her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, in Eatonville. The town still exists. It is small and overwhelmingly Black to this day, but isn’t defined by a story of racial violence in the way many of the other incorporated Black towns during Jim Crow were."

I have quoted more than I normally do from a book. I want to share the beautiful prose of Perry with my readers.

From The National Book Foundation 

"Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Perry is the New York Times bestselling author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. She is also the author of Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, winner of the 2019 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography; Breathe: A Letter to My Sons; Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation; and May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem. Perry, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chicago, lives outside Philadelphia with her two"

I offer my thanks to Imani Perry for this wonderful book.

Mel Ulm

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Trojan Women by Euripides - first produced 415 B. C. E. - Translated by Emily Wilson 2016-This play is included in The Greek Plays: Sixteen Plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides-Preface, general introduction, play introductions, and compilation copyright © 2016 by Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm

 Trojan Women by Euripides - first produced 415 B. C. E. - Translated by Emily Wilson -This play is included in The Greek Plays: Sixteen Plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides-Preface, general introduction, play introductions, and compilation copyright © 2016 by Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm

Ancient Reads

The Trojan Women-A 1971 movie with Katherine Hepburn as Hecuba and Vanessa Redgrave as Andromache 

Translations of Euripides by Emily Wilson I have so far read 

Electra -420 B. C. E.

Trojan Women -415 B. C. E.

Trojan Women is the second translation of Euripides by Emily Wilson I have so far read

CAST OF CHARACTERS (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE) POSEIDON, ATHENA, HECUBA, widow of Priam; queen of Troy, CHORUS of captured Trojan women, TALTHYBIUS, herald of the Greek army, CASSANDRA, Trojan prophetess; daughter of Hecuba and Priam, the late king of Troy ANDROMACHE, Trojan noblewoman; widow of the Trojan hero Hector, ASTYANAX, young son of Andromache by Hector MENELAUS, king of Sparta and co-leader of the Greek army HELEN, wife of Menelaus, whom she left for the Trojan prince Paris (the cause of the Trojan War)

"Homer’s Iliad was already some three hundred years old during the golden age of Athenian tragedy, but it remained the central literary text for the Greeks and colored all their thinking about war and loss. The downfall of the Trojans, made inevitable by the death" from the introduction by James Romm 

The coda of the Iliad consists of a long dirge for the fallen Hector, as his corpse is lamented by his sister, Cassandra, his widow, Andromache, his mother, Hecuba, and even his sister-in-law, Helen— widely considered the cause of the war. The center of the play is in the laments of these four women.

Trojan Women focuses on the horrible impact of the war on aristocratic Trojan women. An extreme denunciation of Helen is prominent. The capricious of the Gods is paramount.

There are translations of two more Plays of Euripides by Emily Wison, Bacchae and Helen, that I hope to read soon.

Mel Ulm 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

This Torrent of Indians War on the Southern Frontier 1715–1728 by Larry E. Ivers - 2016 -292 Pages

 A post in honour of the birth anniversary of my our Mother- No finer Floridian ever lived. She was born in High Springs, Florida on January 3, 1916.

Florida Timeline

8000 BC - First Native American settlement, near Sarasota

1000 AD - there are nine distinct tribes 

1500 - estimated population of the state was 375,000- 150,000 speak Timuca

April 2, 1513 - Ponce de Leon lands somewhere between Melbourne and Jacksonville. In time the indigenous population will be reduced to near zero, from disease and warfare. 

1521 - first colony, from Spain, near St. Augustine

1579 - The cultivation of oranges, introduced from Spain begins. By 1835 millions of oranges were being shipped north and to Europe, for the next hundred years oranges, cattle and timber were the major sources of cash

1624 - First African American born in Florida, in St. Augustine

1763 to 1765- England Owns west Florida panhandle area

Based on research my research as well as by others in the family and history, I conjecture my maternal ancestors first entered Florida, coming from. Georgia where they arrived around 1650, about 1800

1808 - importation of slaves into USA is banned, a very large trade in slaves smuggled in from Cuba begins 

1821 - USA acquired Florida from Spain.  

1822 - Tallahassee is chosen as the territory capital, being half way between the then major population centers of St. Augustine and Pensacola

1835 Second Seminole War begins, by 1842 most Seminoles were shipped west but some escaped into the Everglades.  

The make up of the Seminoles was largely not Native originally to Florida but a mixture of escaped slaves and Creeks from Georgia and South Carolina.

March 3, 1845 - Florida becomes a state, slavery legal.

1859 - by the end of the third Seminole War the around four hundred survivors retreat to the Everglades

Population of Florida 1861. - 154,494 - 92,741 Free, 61,75 enslaved

January 10, 1861 Florida suceeds from The Union. Per capita, Florida sent The most men into war, 15000. It was then the least populated southern state.

In January 2019, in consultation with Max u, it was decided every January there would be a post about a book in tribute to our Mother. Our mother was born in a very small town in northern Florida, High Springs on January 3, 1920

An ancestor started the first public library in the central Florida era in 1820.. I speculate our ancestors probably entered Florida about 1790.A knowledge of history indicates our prior maternal ancestors came to the USA from the UK in the 1600s,possibly in part as bound servants. Somehow they wound up in South Georgia. After the American Revolution people from that area began to enter then Spanish Florida, which the USA acquired on February 22, 1819 from Spain.

The colonies of East Florida and West Florida remained loyal to the British during the war for American independence, but by the Treaty of Paris in 1783 they returned to Spanish control. After 1783, Americans immigrants moved into West Florida.

In 1810 American settlers in West Florida rebelled, declaring independence from Spain. President James Madison and Congress used the incident to claim the region, knowing full well that the Spanish government was seriously weakened by Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. The United States asserted that the portion of West Florida from the Mississippi to the Perdido rivers was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Negotiations over Florida began in earnest with the mission of Don Luis de Onís to Washington in 1815 to meet Secretary of State James Monroe. The issue was not resolved until Monroe was president and John Quincy Adams his Secretary of State. Although U.S. Spanish relations were strained over suspicions of American support for the independence struggles of Spanish-American colonies, the situation became critical when General Andrew Jackson seized the Spanish forts at Pensacola and St. Marks in his 1818 authorized raid against Seminoles and escaped slaves who were viewed as a threat to Georgia. Jackson executed two British citizens on charges of inciting the Indians and runaways. Monroe’s government seriously considered denouncing Jackson’s actions, but Adams defended the Jackson citing the necessity to restrain the Indians and escaped slaves since the Spanish failed to do so. Adams also sensed that Jackson’s Seminole campaign was popular with Americans and it strengthened his diplomatic hand with Spain.

Adams used the Jackson’s military action to present Spain with a demand to either control the inhabitants of East Florida or cede it to the United States. Minister Onís and Secretary Adams reached an agreement whereby Spain ceded East Florida to the United States and renounced all claim to West Florida. Spain received no compensation, but the United States agreed to assume liability for $5 million in damage done by American citizens who rebelled against Spain. Under the Onís-Adams Treaty of 1819 (also called the Transcontinental Treaty and ratified in 1821) the United States and Spain defined the western limits of the Louisiana Purchase and Spain surrendered its claim.s to the Pacific Northwest. In return, the United States recognized Spanish sovereignty over Texas.

This post is a continuous tradition began in January of 2019 when, in consultation with Max u, it was decided every January there would be a post in her honor 

Today's book is a detailed military history of the Yamasee War, the drawn-out conflict between South Carolina colonists and a number of southeastern Native American groups including the Yamasees, Creeks, and Catawbas in the years 1715–1728. The focus is on the geography and physical tactics of the war, including troop movements, battle locations, and settlements.. 

Ivers takes the reader immediately into the war; his first chapter describes the cross-country ride made by two South Carolina Indian traders to warn Charles Town of the arising conflict. The chapter sets the tone for Ivers’s study. After three background chapters that provide the colonial and Native American contexts leading up to the war, the remainder of Ivers’s seventeen chapters take the reader through the conflict month by month, and sometimes even day by day. Drawing on the South Carolina Commons House Journals and a variety of other colonially produced documents, Ivers teases out South Carolina and Native American tactical responses during the ongoing conflict.

Ivers’s attention to location is a great strength of his work. Using wills, journals, acts of the South Carolina assembly, and over fifty maps, as well as his own personal reconnaissance, Ivers reconstructs the exact locations of forts, plantations, towns (both South Carolinian and Native American), and battles whose locations have been obscured over time. Ivers transparently explains how he determined each location in his text and in detailed end-notes. Along with a number of useful maps, Ivers describes all locations in relation to current-day landmarks such as highways and cities, so that readers can trace the movements of the war on a map of present-day South Carolina.

Ivers aims to produce a “detailed narrative and an analysis of military operations” and, within his method, to “avoid showing favoritism or allegiance” to any group involved in the war (pp. vii, viii). On the first, Ivers is entirely successful, but on the second, elements of organization and habits of [End Page 147] phrasing work to align his writing with South Carolina’s perspective on the conflict. Ivers relies on a documentary record that was principally produced by South Carolina colonists; his chapters’ contents reflect his sources. In other small ways, Ivers positions his narrative in the South Carolinian stance. For example, the chapters are dated according to colonial time markers, such as chapter 5, “Easter Weekend.” Phrasing that includes the term warrior to refer to all Native American men and describing Native American motivations as a lust for war mirror the colonists’ opinion of their Native American opponents (p. 39). Nevertheless, Ivers mitigates this slant elsewhere in the text; for example, when listing the South Carolina traders killed in the first wave of the war, he notes each trader’s alleged or confirmed abuses, such as beating, killing, or cheating Native Americans.

Ivers offers a wealth of detail regarding South Carolina’s military operations during the Yamasee War, from the Commons House’s efforts to supply the war to methods of fort construction. For students and readers unfamiliar with the particulars of eighteenth-century warfare, details such as the precise methods of loading a flintlock musket may be particularly helpful. For scholars of this period of South Carolina history, Ivers’s careful reconstruction of the locations of the war will be 

Florida was the property of Spain in this period. Ingenious Americans retreated into Florida. Troops from South Carolina followed them. Tribal groups fought each other, captive women and children were sold into slavery and opposing warriors were tortured to death as were captured South Carolinians. No mercy was shown on either side. The various tribal groups tried to present a unified front but never really achieved this. Indians, Ivers uses this term, wanted trade goods, rifles, and alcohol.  

The Spanish tried to coop Indians as allies to protect their claim to Florida. Some Creeks did settle in North Florida.

This Torrent of Indians: War on the Southern Frontiers by Larry Ivers gave me further insights into the tumultuous and dangerous lives of our ancestors.

Larry E. Ivers, a retired attorney, served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division, as an instructor in the Army Ranger School. He is the author of three books on Early American history 

Mel Ulm

Sunday, January 1, 2023

The Reading Life Review- December 2022

 The Reading Life Review - December 2022

Blog Stats 

Since inception on July 9, 2009 there have been 6,871,717 Page Views

There are currently 4146 posts online 

In December there were 9 posts on male writers, 5 on women. The dead and the living both had 7. 8 writers were featured for the first time, 6 previously 

The home countries of Authors were

1. UK. 4

2. Greece 4

3. USA 3

4. Russia 1

5. France 1

6. Philippines 1

Home Countries of Visitors

1. USA

2. Germany 

3. France

4. India

5. Philippines 

6. Canada 

7. Sweden 

8. Isreal

9. UK

10. Bangladesh 

Nonfiction For 2022 on The Reading Life

 Here are the works of non-fiction I read in 2022, with an occasional comment. I recommend any book on the list to those interested in the subject matter


1. Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins - 2005 - 701 Pages -winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize From the Pulitzer Award Statement 

“Imperial Reckoning is history of the highest order: meticulously researched, brilliantly written, and powerfully dramatic. An unforgettable act of historical re-creation, it is also a disturbing reminder of the brutal imperial precedents that continue to inform Western nations in their drive to democratize the world.”

2. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson - 2020- 477 pages - essential reading for all into American history.  

3. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee- An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown - 1971-a foundational book- I should have read this long ago

4. Florida Oranges: A Colorful History by Erin Thursby - 2019-very informative f


1. The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive by Lucy Adlington - 2021- 391 

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz is a very well done valuable addition to Holocaust studies. It focuses on a group of women confined to Auschwitz who used their sewing skills to survive by creating outfits for the wives of important SS officers of the camp.  

2. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Eric Larson - 2020 - 593 Pages -A New York Times Best-seller-


1. The Auschwitz Photographer: The Forgotten Story of the WWII Prisoner Who Documented Thousands of Lost Souls Luca Crippa and Maurizio Onnis -2021- 378 Pages. A valuable addition to Auschwitz scholarship 


1. White Mughals Love and Betrayal in 18th Century India by William Dalrymple (2002)

William Dalrymple is probably the leading non-academic historian focusing on India. His White Mughals Love and Betrayal in 18th Century India won the highly prestigious Wolfson Prize in 2003 (awarded by the Wolfson foundation for best history book by a British subject). As I am very interested in the 18th Century in Asia I was eager to read this book.

2. Mastering the Art of French Eating:Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah. 2015 - 273 Pages- a delightful work which will make you hungry 

3. Kl: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps By Nikolaus Wachsmann - 2015 - 881 Pages- best work on the subject- Wachsmann is the first historian to write a complete history of the camps.  He shows us how The camps were organized while vividly detailing horrors, the sadism, and the central role in murdering those Nazi ideology dictated were parasites, sub-human and enemies of the State.  We see how German doctors were among the most vicious of camp officials, giving lethel injections, performing barbaric experiments and selecting which of newly arriving inmates were at once sent to be killed.


1. Educated by Tara Westover - 2018- A Memoir - 381 

“NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW • ONE OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR • BILL GATES’S HOLIDAY READING LIST • FINALIST: National Book Critics Circle’s Award In Autobiography and John Leonard Prize For Best First Book • PEN/Jean Stein Book Award • Los Angeles Times Book Prize”


1. Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeletons and the Origins of Humankind by Kermit Pattison. - 2020- 534 pages- 

Fossil Men tells the story of the discovery of the fossil remains of human ancestors over a million years older than Lucy, dating back 4.4 million years.


1. After the Romanovs- Russian Exiles in Paris from the Belle Époque to Revolution and War by Helen Rappaport - 2022

2. Shirley Hazzard - A Writing Life by Brigitta Olubas 2022- 576 pages is a truly wonderful literary biography.  

Brigitta Olubas, Hazzard’s authorized biographer, draws on Hazzard’s fiction—which itself drew on her lived experiences—as well as her extensive archive of letters, diaries, and notebooks, and on memories of her surviving friends and family, to create this vibrant portrait of an exceptional woman. Born in Australia she was truly a citizen of a world now largely gone.

3. Yiddish Paris : Staging Nation and Community in interwar France by Nicholas Underwood. - 2022 - a valuable expansion to this topic 


1. The Red Rooster: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem by Marcus Samuelsson - 2016 - A Memoir, Cook Book and a history of Harlem.

Anyone with an interest in American food history or contemporary cooking will greatly benefit from this marvelous book. Samuelsson knows and deeply loves the food found in America cooked by descendants of Africa slaves, many of whose grandparents arrived in New York City during the Great Migration. 


1. Nazi Billionaires:The Dark History of Germany's Wealthiest Dynasties by David de Jong - 2022-a very interesting work

2. 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.


1. Anna Karenina Fix - Life Lessons in Russian Literature by Viv Groskup - 2019- 228 Pages 

In this marvelous book Viv Groskup shows us how she used lessons she drew from a life time reading of Russian literature to cope with the trials of her life while she became a wiser, happier person using her reading of Russian classics.

2. SASSOONS THE GREAT GLOBAL MERCHANTS AND THE MAKING OF AN EMPIRE , 2022 by Joseph Sassoon- I found this book fascinating. I highly reccomend it to anyone interested in World wide financial history

3. The Crimean War by Orlando Figes -2010- 834 pages- is The best source on this war. Valuable background reading for current war

4. The House of Morgan: an American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow - 1990 - 1232 Pages- the 4th of his six biographies I have read.WINNER OF THE 1990 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR NON-FICTION


1. Au Revoir, Tristesse: Lessons in Happiness From French Literature by Viv Groskup -2020- 249 pages- a delightful book similar to her book from last month on Russian literature 

2. 1493 Uncovering The New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann - 2011 -506 pages-I was completely fascinated by this powerful work.

3. The Queen of Gay Street by Esther Mollic -A Memoir -2022 - 189 pages - An open honest account about Lesbian life in NYC. At times a near x rated work


1. Revolutionary Russia:1891 to 1991 A History by Orlando Figes - 2014 - 336 Pages- a good starting point though his analysis of Russia under Putin is flawed

  2. Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization by Ian Gately - 2001 - 426 Pages - 

3. History of the Philippines: From Indio Bravos to Filipinos by Luis H. Francia- 2014 - 495 Pages

I have read numerous books on the history of the Philippines. Luis H. Francia's is by far the best. 

4. The Year of No Garbage:Recycling Lies, Plastic Problems and One Woman's Trashy Journey to No Waste by Eva Schaub- Forthcoming January 2023- 336 Pages

"When we say “garbage” what we’re really saying is climate change. What we really mean is discrimination. What we really mean is cancer. Garbage is at the root of so many things that are going wrong in the world today— from global warming and environmental racism to cancer: the number two killer of Americans— and it’s getting worse all the time." From a year of no Garbage by Eva Schaub

This is a delightful account of Eva Schaub's very determined attempt to go a year without 

Creating any garbage. Living in Vermont with her husband and her two daughters, one in high school the other in college, she, began to wonder about what eventually happens to the estimated 6000 plus pounds of stuff they put in the garbage bins in front of the a year. 

5. The Countess From Kirribilli, The Mysterious and Free-spirited Literary Sensation That Beguiled the World by Joyce Morgan-2021-419 Pages- A Biography of Elizabeth von Armin - a first rate literary biography 

6. Birdgirl: Looking to the Sky for a Better Future by Mya-Rose Craig - A Memoir- forthcoming March 28,2023.

Birdgirl is a very powerful deeply moving memoir by a twenty year old woman.The focus is on how a love of birdwatching, called "twitching" in England, lead her to a deep interest in conservation and climate issues. Interwoven with this is her story of growing up dealing with her mother's serious mental health problems, she was bipolar. Her mother was from Bangladesh and her father English which impacted her life in a society with biases against minorities. 

Mel Ulm