Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Cello Suites : J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, And The Search For A Baroque Masterpiece
by Eric Siblin

I really must stop reading books where Simon Winchester raves about them. The best book that he ever wrote was The Professor And The Madman. He should just stick to writing and not reviewing because I haven't agreed with any of them.
The Cello Suites is about Bach, Pablo Casals and the author's sleuthwork. You get a short biography of Bach and Casals, how Bach came to write the music, what happened to the original manuscript; Casals' discovery of the music when he was just thirteen years old; descriptions by the author of the different movements and his interviews with cellists.
The book sounded like a good idea but it jumps around too much and is kind of pedantic. Just when you get your head around Bach's life and career, the book changes course with Casals and what he did. These two narratives are actually interesting but then there's a third one with the author and it all becomes muddled.
I like reading quirky books but this one doesn't work.
Not recommended.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind : A Bestseller's Odyssey From Atlanta To Hollywood
by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr.

Unless you're a true, avid fan of Gone With the Wind, you probably wouldn't want to read this book. The second author, John Wiley, Jr., owns one of the largest private collections of GWTW memorabilia in the world which includes every American edition of the novel. He and Ellen F. Brown attempt to write an account of how the novel came to be, in the first place, getting it published, then the movie rights and dealing with her tremendous success. After 60 pages, I had had enough. It's very detailed with excessive amounts of minutiae. I'm glad that I only had to pay 25 cents to request the book and no more than that. It's not worth the paper that it's printed on.
Not recommended.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day Of Honey : A Memoir of Food, Love, And War
by Annia Ciezadlo

Can you imagine spending your honeymoon in Baghdad? That is exactly what Annia Ciezadlo did in 2003. Both she and her husband, Mohamad, were reporters and they spent the next six years living in Beirut and Baghdad. Even though Annia wrote political articles, her forte was to use food as a panorama for the Middle East. She writes of these delicious meals (there's a whole chapter in the back of the book of recipes). I never did get to try them out. The book started to drag for me halfway through and became rather tedious. Way too many metaphors.
I was looking forward to reading this book and it was a disappointment.
Not recommended.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Reading My Father : A Memoir
by Alexandra Styron

I should have taken this book back to the library the day it was due. Now I have to pay a fine and it's certainly not worth the price. I struggled to finish the last forty pages.
Alexandra Styron attempts to write about her father when she barely knew the man. She was the youngest of the family (always called "the Baby") and didn't know about her father's early successes with his first bouts of writing. She was twelve when Sophie's Choice was published and that's only a brief memory. Alexandra leans heavily on William Styron: A Life by James L. W. III for most of her material. The rest that she can glean is from manuscripts from Duke University and what she can remember of their lives together.
You would think from the title that Alexandra read all of his books. Nah, that didn't happen. She really only read one much, much later.
William Styron was not much of a father. He spent most of his time closed up in a room writing feverishly and barely spent time with his family. The four siblings knew never to disturb him (he would fly off in a rage if the stupidest things happened) so they stayed away from him. His pleasures were to drink himself into a stupor and all of their parties consisted of an exorbitant amount of alcohol which lasted well into the early morning.
The biggest problem that I had with this book was that the author seemed to write mostly about herself and a small part about her father (of course, he was so miserable that the more you read about him and his behavior, the more disgusted you became). Also, there was an inordinate amount of name-dropping. When William became a celebrity, he hobnobbed with quite a few: Mike Nichols, Lillian Hellmann, George Plimpton, Leonard Bernstein, Art Buchwald, Arthur Miller, the list goes on forever.
I liked her style of writing, at first, but then it became a giant irritant. Too many flowery phrases with metaphors thrown in.
Unless you're a true William Styron fan, you might want to plow through this book. For the rest of us, skip it.
Not recommended.