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Kenneth Blum (Orrville, Ohio USA)
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Home Fires Burning
Home Fires Burning
by Robert Inman
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, Soulful Tale of a Hometown Editor, April 17 2004
This review is from: Home Fires Burning (Hardcover)
The clatter of a moody Linotype ready to spit lead at the ceiling. The rattle of a typewriter. The eye-watering smell of ink on a hot summer evening, press night. The taste of good whiskey, shared with an old friend at the other side of the desk. The clutter that seems to be the required décor for any tradition-abiding hometown newspaper office.
If there's one thing that author Robert Inman has down pat, it's the atmosphere of a community newspaper, circa 1944.
And he uses that setting as an integral part of a story that is both comic and tragic, the story of Jake Tibbetts, the cranky owner/editor of a small-town southern weekly inherited from his grandfather, a Confederate war hero.
Jake and wife Pastine are raising their grandson, Lonnie, whose alcoholic, irresponsible father Henry is disowned, disinherited and thoroughly despised by Jake. Henry joined up with the National Guard. He's fighting in a hellhole called Bastogne.
In the meantime, Jake handles all matters on the homefront in his usual manner, stubbornly and cynically trying to control friends, family and the town.
"Home Fires Burning" is a story that surprises (the first chapter is a fooler), amuses with its cast of cornball characters, thrills with its flashbacks to the Civil War, and ultimately delivers thought-provoking messages about honor, the futility of foolish pride, and forgiveness.
It's worthy of your "must read" list.

Lindbergh
Lindbergh
by A. Scott Berg
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
64 used & new from CDN$ 1.28

5.0 out of 5 stars Lucky Lindy? - You Be The Judge, Feb. 25 2003
This review is from: Lindbergh (Paperback)
So how did a farm boy from the backwoods of Minnesota become one of the most revered heroes in world history?
Perhaps no book written about the ice-veined, brilliant aviator Charles A. Lindbergh answers this question better than A. Scott Berg's "Lindbergh", a marvelous, smoothly-written biography that uses heretofore unavailable sources to chronicle the unimaginable ups and equally unimaginable downs of Mr. Lindbergh's life.
The book is the first biography of Lindbergh that was written with the input and blessing of Lindbergh's family, including his widow, the noted author Anne Morrow Lindbergh. For the first time, the family granted unrestricted access to masses of material in the Lindbergh archives.
After reading this book, one concludes that two extreme forces shaped this great man's destiny.
The first was flight, taking off with his days as a barnstormer and airmail pilot, soaring with his courageous solo in a monoplane across the Atlantic, and coming to a soft but significant landing with the endeavors of his later life that involved not only aviation, but innovative projects in the fields of medicine and environmentalism. He also distinguished himself as an author (with, I suspect, the assistance of his wife, Anne, herself a talented writer.) In 1954, "The Spirit of St. Louis" the book won the Pulitzer Prize. It remains one of this country's most compelling, true-life adventure stories.
The second force was fame, the scourge of this extremely private man's life. Keep in mind that this was no normal fame, but a fame that bordered on fanaticism. It was fame that directly related to the kidnapping and death of his infant son, the family's exile to Europe, and the scorching criticism directed Lindbergh's way for his anti-war stance in the years preceding World War 11.
And although Mr. Berg's book was written with the cooperation of the Lindbergh family, it doesn't gloss over the consequences of his remote personality and long absences from home. Both had much to do with Anne Morrow Lindbergh's love affair with her doctor.

Some day, I hope that an ambitious television network such as HBO creates a mini-series based on this captivating biography. There is no way that a single movie can do justice to the expanse of dramatic events and stunning accomplishments that made up the life of America's greatest hero.
Here was a man. And here's a biography that does him proud.

The Spirit of St. Louis
The Spirit of St. Louis
by Charles A. Lindbergh
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 17.74

5.0 out of 5 stars An Adventure That Soars, Feb. 7 2003
It's no surprise that Charles Lindbergh was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for the book he had labored on - perfecting, if you will, as a perfectionist does - for fourteen years.
One would expect that a soft-spoken, intellectual type such as Lindbergh would write a rather drab, scientific account of the most dangerous and thrilling flight in history (yes, even more dangerous and thrilling than the Apollo missions.)
Instead we get a book that that carries us on wings of a pulsating first person indicative, from the beginning: his days as one of the first airmail pilots when the idea for the flight originated; to the final destination: the spectacular night landing at the Le Bourget Airport in Paris where a throng of hundreds of thousands swarmed toward the little monoplane, nearly swallowing it and its exhausted pilot.
The Spirit of St. Louis is likely the most absorbing true adventure story written by an American. It's a masterwork that rates as Lucky Lindy's second great achievement.

One Writer's Beginnings (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization)
One Writer's Beginnings (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization)
by Eudora Welty
Edition: Paperback
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Soothing as a Southern Breeze, Dec 30 2001
This is not a "how to" book about the writing of literature, but a short autobiography of a famed writer's growing up years. Any instruction is inferred rather than offered directly in Eudora Welty's recollections of her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi.

The book has charm and a wonderful mood about it. It's like sitting in the parlor of an old southern mansion while your gentle and eloquent Aunt recalls fascinating times gone by.
Perhaps Ms. Welty is one of the few literary authors who claims no childhood crutch to lean on. She had wonderful parents and relatives who nurtured her creativity and encouraged her dreams.
It's a fine thing that she pays homage to them in this wonderful little book.

Steinbeck: A Life in Letters
Steinbeck: A Life in Letters
by John Steinbeck
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.91
21 used & new from CDN$ 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Honest Eloquence, Dec 19 2001
If you appreciate the art of letter writing, you'll be delighted with this collection of letters from John Steinbeck.
Wow! can this man, write. But perhaps "write" is the wrong term - "think" is better. Wow! can this man think. And then he is able to express those thoughts in a clear, eloquent and, most of all, honest way that is a treat to read.
The book begins with a letter from the young, penniless author to a friend. At the time, Steinbeck was in isolation when he took a job as the winter caretaker of a lodge in Lake Tahoe. From there, he takes us along on a life journey through three marriages, financial success that always made him uncomfortable, fame that he often detested, Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, adventure in settings from the Sea of Cortez to Saigon.
The insights are astounding. His lack of pretension in the midst of his success amazes.
Here was a sensitive, often gruff but completely honest man who was not afraid to reveal himself in total to the friends he cherished.

Life: Century of Change America in Pictures 1900-2000
Life: Century of Change America in Pictures 1900-2000
by Time-life Books
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 6.11

3.0 out of 5 stars Flashy Pictures; Floozy Writing, Nov. 21 2001
If you buy a book with "LIFE" imprinted on the cover, you know you're going to get a quality product for your buck, and this is especially true if you're a connoisseur of fine photographs.

Such is the case with Century of Change, a big (nearly 400-page) book that is meant as a companion volume to America In Pictures.
This volume attempts to show us how we changed in the last millennium and does that in ten sections that muse about and illustrate the themes: the home, machines, life span and medical advances, design, family, shopping and the consumer economy, sex, celebrity, entertainment and racial and ethnic diversity.
The book delivers with its photos, cutlines, layout and overall organization.
But it gets all knotted up when we get to the important introductory text to each section. The editor, Richard Stolley, selected academic eggheads to write these pieces, and most of them read like bad chapters in bad textbooks. The text is a bona fide excursion into pretentious gobbledygook, guaranteed to give you a headache.
Enjoy the pictures, but get out the bottle of Tylenol if you plan to read the introductions to each section.

At All Costs
At All Costs
by John Gilstrap
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A fine story about a family on the run, Nov. 21 2001
Clancy has his military hardware, Grisham has his law offices, and Gilstrap is a fine author who, at least thus far, specializes in weaving skilful tales about innocents on the run.
John Gilstrap's first novel, Nathan's Run, follows the trail of a 12-year-old, wanted for murder, who is on a desperate flight from law enforcement and a determined hit-man.
The second, At All Costs, is another page-turner about The Donovans, a couple that takes flight with their young son after they are accused of slaughtering sixteen of their friends and initiating the country's worst-ever environmental disaster.
After fourteen years on the run, a false arrest puts the Donovans in a plight that will either destroy them, or prove their innocence.
Gilstrap is not a particularly fine stylist, but he does excel in structuring original, exciting stories that entertain and surprise. The net effect is very similar to a John Grisham story, and that's not bad company.

Dream Catcher: A Memoir
Dream Catcher: A Memoir
by Margaret Ann. Salinger
Edition: Hardcover
44 used & new from CDN$ 1.11

4.0 out of 5 stars Catcher's Daughter Clears The Bases, Nov. 8 2001
According to novelist Pat Conroy, "the greatest gift a writer can be given is to come from a dysfunctional family."
In this respect, Margaret Salinger hit the jackpot. Not only was she born into the "greatest gift" but her dad, J.D. Salinger, is perhaps the most revered writer ever of dysfunctional childhoods.

So you would figure, wouldn't you?, that Ms. Salinger would be a chip off the old blockhead.
Well, she is a fine writer. A sensitive, intelligent, supra-introspective woman comes through in these pages.
And it all comes back to the old man who, really, doesn't come off quite as weird as most of his literary fans picture him. As portrayed in Dream Catcher, he is definitely reclusive and self-exclusive, an intolerant perfectionist, and the latter quality seems to be the source of most of his daughter's psychological struggles. But, at the same time, he's certainly not the Howard Hughes of literature, as many people probably visualize. J.D. is a little nutty, a lot aloof, but more normal than you expect.

The weakness of this book is the grinding first one hundred pages, full of psychobabble and interminable footnotes that belong in a Doctoral Thesis, not a memoir. Some editor fell asleep at the switch, and should have convinced the author to throw it out or rewrite it. Ms. Salinger doesn't find her voice until after this century of manuscript, and when she does the narrative is a delight, a remarkable first person account of a celebrity's daughter who struggles to find, and then does find, her own identity.
(Particularly memorable is a stark, harrowing, honest account of a teenager, Ms. Salinger, pregnant and all alone. The passage was taken from her diary in 1972.)
In the opening of J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye", Holden Caulfield, says, "my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything personal about them . . . especially my father."
So one can imagine the music of popping blood vessels in the remote New Hampshire countryside.
That's okay, because his daughter opened a few veins of her own to write this fine memoir.

War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars
War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars
by Andrew Carroll
Edition: Hardcover
54 used & new from CDN$ 1.35

4.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt Phrasings from the Front Lines, Oct. 8 2001
It's good to find a book that puts the carnival of carnage known as war in perspective, and such is the case with "War Letters", a collection of correspondence from just about every great and not-so-great conflict in American history.
The editor, Andrew Carroll, does a superb job of mixing the types and plights of the American servicemen and women who pour their hearts into the pages of these letters. Examples: a man who writes a last letter before his hanging for participating in John Brown's Raid at Harper's Ferry; a WWII soldier who describes the horror of liberating the Dachau Concentration Camp; a Gold Star mother writes to her son, thirty years after his death in Vietnam.
The editor also sets up the letters nicely with italicized lead-ins that provide historical perspective.
As a whole, love of country is somewhat evident in these letters, but even more prominent and common is love of family.
War represents the despicably vicious side of mankind, and it's a poignant irony that the experience yields some of the most tender, loving and eloquent phrasings ever placed on paper.

May There Be a Road
May There Be a Road
by Louis L'Amour
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Hardy Boys for Adults, Sept. 21 2001
This review is from: May There Be a Road (Hardcover)
Louis L'Amour is never going to be considered one of the great literary geniuses of our time, but the man does know how to tell a story and pull a reader into a story.
So you don't need to stretch your mental powers or keep a thesaurus handy to enjoy his work. Consider the stories from this collection as the Hardy Boys on an adult level. This is thin writing but fun nevertheless.
There are ten stories in this book, and the quality varies. It gets off to a weak start with "A Friend of a Hero", a yarn about a detective who investigates the murder of a buddy from the Korean War. It picks up with some good tales about boxers on the fix - "Fighter's Fiasco and "The Ghost Fighter" - if you can believe in the latter case that one boxer so closely resembles the other that he can take his place in the ring. The best piece is "Wings Over Brazil" in which soldier of fortune Ponga Jim Mayo discovers some nasty Nazis have stolen his cargo ship and plan to overthrow the government of Brazil.
In all cases, however, the stories entertain. If you have a need to think, read Steinbeck or Hemingway. If you have a need to take a mental vacation, you'll love L'Amour.

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