In The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, it’s 1985 in the fictional world that is parallel to our own. Someone is kidnapping literary characters. It’s the job of Thursday Next, the occupant of our world but the detective in the Literary Detective Division, to find the culprit and stop them before it’s too late.
Every book claims to be like the work of a bestselling author. They’ll up the ante saying that the work is by an author who is the modern version of the author to whom they’re likened. Usually, they could not be less like the author whose name they use to promote themselves. In the case of Fforde, it would be in no way inaccurate to liken him to Douglas Adams. It would also not be inaccurate to say that they are nothing alike. Fforde and Adams share a well-defined imagination with a lightness of being. Their worlds are intricate. Fforde is extremely well-read. The characters created by others in his story are wholly within character. The description of the fictional world is beautiful and complete. Continue reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
In Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel, it’s the early 1970s and Daisy Jones is a major L.A. talent playing in small clubs and dreaming of living life to its fullest and making the kind of music she loves, but she and her record label have different ideas of success. When Daisy meets Bill, they clash in a big way but together they will become epic. Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel is a rock & roll autobiography set in the days of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
The literary circle in which I travel has been raving about this book for a few weeks, so I decided to pick it up and ended up reading the 336-mock-rock history in one sitting. Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel is a visual read. Framed as an oral history, it starts with Daisy, the poor little rich girl. She is a free-range child with a big talent and is broken in a way that leads her to the sort of self-destruction that will lead readers to think they’ve heard the story before … because they have. In fact, I have read that this novel is a fictionalized version of Fleetwood Mac, a band about which I know almost nothing (I was only permitted to listen to gospel music growing up so my actual rock knowledge era is the 1990s and Queen) so caught none of the parallels.
Overall Daisy Jones & The Six is a generic saga of decadence in the era of bell bottoms, booze and blow. There is a heavy reliance on readers being familiar with the decadence of the rock scene in the 1970s. Reid paints a very accurate emotional picture of the era. The fashion and music culture read true. Reid in no way goes for broke. She alludes to the uncomfortable, skirting around it. There’s something to be said for a lack of gratuitous self-destruction but that’s the 1970s; you do it or you don’t and there are ways not to celebrate the illegal. Word on the street is that the novel is becoming a movie and to translate, the screenwriters will sensationalize, so in the end, discretion is not valorous.
Daisy, herself, is somewhat poorly characterized. She is an amalgamation of troubled female singers. I have seen the hand-wringing and worried trigger warnings. Let’s be clear, a lot of what is on the page is very general. There are groupies and there are no ID checks. There are some really questionable things but they’re glossed over. There is a saint vs. whore subtext for Daisy and another female character that is perplexingly overdone in literature and discredits everyone, and really, distracts from the core story adding a tragic Janis Joplin spin without the emotional impact because that’s hard to connect with the cliff notes of a 1970s singer. This is in no way a spoiler because I don’t know if readers, in the end, will care if Daisy wins or loses … and in this case, winning is perhaps not holding the expected definition. We know Daisy captivates because we’re told she does, it isn’t something we see.
If you’re considering reading Daisy Jones & the Six, do it because it’s getting rave reviews and I may be the lone 2-stars. If you’re looking for a really interesting story of the 1970s, head over to Netflix and watch When You’re Strange; a film about The Doors.
If you like the 1970s, check out Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel by Tara Jenkins Reid on
Brooke Astor lived a rich and adventurous life. In Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon, her twilight years should have been comfortable and uneventful. Instead, as Alzheimer descended, the Centenarian was living under the guardianship of her son, Anthony Marshall, and living in squalor. Her worried grandson approached her dear friends, Annette de la Renta and David Rockefeller for advice and what transpired in the aftermath of that meeting was more than any of them could have imagined.
In Everyone Can Learn Math by Alice Aspinall, Amy is in 5th grade and is frustrated with her math homework. She struggles with a word question, sparking an outburst toward her mother, who also struggles with math but is doing her best to help her daughter succeed. Will Amy give up or will she learn the secret to unlocking her potential?
On February 24, 2019, at 2 p.m., author and historian Guy St. Denis launched his latest book, The True Face of Sir Isaac Brock. The fully reserved event was held in the lovely Interpretive Centre of the Duff-Baby House located at 221 Mill Street in Windsor, Ontario.
Windsor, Ontario may seem an odd place to launch a book about Sir Isaac Brock, but the author felt the General’s connection to the area, and especially to the place St. Denis chose for the launch, was strong. The Duff-Baby House is thought to be the oldest building in Upper Canada and the author believes that given the historic home’s strong military connection, especially to the War of 1812, that Sir Isaac Brock visited at least twice.
The first visit likely took place in 1810 and the second in 1812. Though St. Denis did not locate a definitive primary source that would validate the hunch, his expert opinion of the stature of the visiting military official that his visiting a home, so important in military history would have been a given.
St. Denis has spent a decade wading through the hosts of portraits painted after the death of Brock at the Battle Queenston on October 13, 1812. A military hero, artists and, historians after the death of Brock would accept the image of the hero. St. Denis, a lively and entertaining speaker, regaled the packed house with the story of his search for a true image. The cover image of The True Face of Isaac Brock, while perhaps the well-known image of Brock is not actually a picture of the late General. The young, handsome, noble image is actually that of Lieutenant George Dunn. While St. Denis insisted to his publisher that no one should pretend the cover photo is actually Brock, it’s really the point of his research, isn’t it? A librarian way back when saw the image of the young and handsome Dunn and thought, “That’s what Brock should look like” and suddenly he gets a historic makeover. Why the portrait is cut off is a mystery to the author but makes for a book that will catch the eye of any history buff walking by a bookstore shelf.
St. Denis spoke for around 40 minutes about his book and future projects and he was such an engaging speaker that time flew. The question period following was brief but imbued with laughter as one savvy attendee asked if Brock would be “someone he would like.” St. Denis, who is also writing a biography of Brock, shed some light on what he considered the General’s “humanity,” and while he wasn’t initially a fan of the Six Nations, believed that opinion changed when the General met Tecumseh for whom he had great respect. A statue of the pair stands at a newly constructed roundabout leading from the east to Olde Sandwich Towne, the oldest area of Windsor. Les Amis Duff Baby provided coffee and baked treats including a lovely cake featuring an image of the book’s cover. If only I’d been able to get a picture. I purchased a book which the author signed and must say, I can’t wait to start reading. The author’s next project is a study of the court-martial of General Henry Procter.
Les Amis Duff Baby hosted a lovely and well-organized event. To join them in their quest to preserve and educate, visit them on their Facebook page and send a message to the administration. Guy St. Denis is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at the University of Western Ontario. You can connect with him on Goodreads.
You can buy The True Face of Sir Isaac Brock by Guy St. Denis on
The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon is a biography. Huguette Clark, born near the beginning of the twentieth century, was the daughter of the nation’s second richest man and grew up in luxury. She was a lively and social philanthropist who relatives one day realized, had become gradually more distant until she virtually disappeared. What happened to this once vibrant personality?
The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark is an infuriating read. It is a dispassionate account of the life of Huguette Clark, and what happened to her once she went into isolation. The biography was written by the journalist, Meryl Gordon. What is infuriating about the book is the connection that Gordon builds between her subject and the reader and then the revelation that she was basically a tool for gain in her later years outlined in an objective fashion that could not make clearer the motivations of the century-old woman’s carers. Continue reading The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon
To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild is a look at the often ignored World War I moral objectors along with those people who wholeheartedly believed in the cause.
Is it the job of the historian to moralize and pontificate? History is propaganda written by the winners, so to read a book highlighting the moral objectors is supremely interesting. To sermonize that an event already placed in history shouldn’t have happened is not appealing. People died in World War I. It happened. It’s done. It’s 100 years in the past. History is about facts and while “woulda” “shoulda” and “coulda” are nice to suggest that a war in which an estimated 37 million people (civilian and military) died was a waste of human life. Maybe. But it happened and isn’t it a disservice to chide key figures in history-making portraying them as Keystone Cop archetypes. Despite my distaste at the author’s position, the story of the objectors is one that should be told and was presented with delicacy, mindful of the challenges they faced. Continue reading To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild
In Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham, it’s 1954 and Juliet Hulme and her friend, Pauline Parker, killed Pauline’s mother. The crime, committed by two teenage girls who lived rich fantasy lives and simply did not want to be separated when Juliet would be sent to South Africa, rocked Auckland, New Zealand. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century chronicles the crime, trial and Peter Jackson film that led to the hunting down of the two long released convicts.
It seems a widely known fact that English author, Anne Perry, was born as Juliet Hulme and spent five years in prison after she and Pauline Parker were convicted of killing Pauline’s mother. Given the first name when released from prison and returning to England, she took her stepfather’s last name. A secret for many years, the release of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures brought the crime back to the public eye and interest in tracking down the now elderly teen killers. Continue reading Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham
On December 31, 2018, Hector Xtravaganza, Grandfather of the House of Xtravaganza (one of the early Latino drag families), died at the age of 60. Hector was featured in Paris is Burning and served as a consultant on the Ryan Murphy show about the New York gay ballroom scene of the 1980s. Pose.
Paris is Burning was filmed in the mid to late 1980s and chronicles the ball culture of New York City’s Black, Latino, Gay and Transgender community.
Paris is Burning follows the largely African-American Ball scene in New York City. Livingston became interested in the scene when she met a group of young gay men doing what they called “voguing” in Washington Square Park. Thinking the ball scene would make an interesting university project, the men suggested she contact the creator of the vogue moves, Will Ninja, who introduced her to the ball scene where contestants would have walk-off competitions in a variety of categories. Contestants would be scored on a number of categories including realness of drag whether it be boy drag (banjee — or passing as straight), girl drag or androgyny. In exploring the ball scene, Livingston connected with many individuals and highlighted their stories.
In Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter, Belle Gunness was a serial killer who operated between 1884 and 1908. She killed at least 14 people (including her own adopted daughter) but possibly as many as 40. Detected in 1908, she apparently died in a house fire with her remaining three adopted children, and though a man went to trial for the arson and murder, not everyone was convinced.
Let me say right from the start, Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in a long time. Not a generally well-known serial killer today, Belle Gunness was a Norwegian-American who operated out of La Porte, Indiana. Her victims appear to have been exclusively her fellow Norwegian immigrants. She’d advertised in the Norwegian papers located in Chicago for a handyman and then would operate a love scam quite a lot like we see today online. Continue reading Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter
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