Displaying articles for: January 2009
It is not uncommon to date the 19th century -- the "long century" -- from 1789 to 1914, so deep were the fissures of those two years. While the French Revolution has long been another country, we still live in the shadow of 1914. We have what Jacques Barzun termed a "laggard state of mind": "largely due to the blurring and dislocating effect of the First World War, we still hunt for solutions already found, we stumble over mental hurdles already removed, we rediscover naively and painfully." The mighty cultural, social, political, and technological ferment of Europe in 1900-14 is the subject of Philipp Blom's new book. He wants us to look at these years as more than foreshadowing, to look back as if we knew nothing of "the Sarajevo assassination, the Somme, the Great Crash, the Reichskristallnacht, Stalingrad, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Gulags, or the Berlin Wall." Blom gives over a chapter to each year and seems to have every conceivable subject comfortably to hand. The essay for 1906 flows from the Wilhelm II's miserable childhood and envy of his uncle, Edward VII of England, to the naval arms race between England and Germany, to Europe's militarism and extensive honor culture, to the trial for homosexuality of Wilhelm's close confidante, Philipp zu Eulenberg (and that of Oscar Wilde), to the celebrity of the bodybuilder Sandow the Great, to British popular novelists' Germanophobia, to Zionism (and ideas of Jewish virility), to the general worry over threats to the masculine identity. Each of Blom's chapters flows as sweetly and over topics as diverse. The Vertigo Years is a dazzling journey through a world changing rapidly.
In Peggy Blair's latest crackerjack thriller, ghost-haunted Cuban cop Ricardo Ramirez hits Canada, where he must clear the name of a colleague who stands accused of murdering his own wife.
Adrianne Harun plumbs the depths of rural despair with an eclectic cast of characters who face not only the traditional pitfalls of drugs and poverty, but also the malign supernatural attentions of an itinerant musician who might be Old Scratch himself.
Andy Weir's stirring paean to the will to survive finds a castaway on the Red Planet, as astronaut Mark Watney outdoes Jules Verne, Tom Swift and George Clooney in his quest to live and even flourish in this forbidding environment.