Talking About Books . . .

After an absence of a few months, I’m back.  There are many more interesting tidbits about books that I hope to bring you during the coming months.  This initial post is dedicated to Mary Nell.

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Normally Book TV (C-SPAN2) only features nonfiction, but for some reason – which I haven’t been able to figure out – the monthly feature, In-Depth, is interviewing authors of fiction during 2018.  Novelist David Baldacci will be the guest on the May edition of In-Depth. The live interview will air Sunday, May 6, 2018 from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET.  Mr. Baldacci’s many books include Memory Man, The Last Mile, and The Escape.

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Gorky Park

Like crime novels?  The Guardian recently featured an article in which writers discuss their favorite crime novels.  The list includes Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (discussed by SJ Watson), The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (discussed by Nicci French), and Mystic River by Dennis Lehane (discussed by James Lee Burke).  It also includes a few surprises such as Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (discussed by Laura Lippman), and Bleak House by Charles Dickens (discussed by Ian Rankin).

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“I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist.  I did not wish to be accused of dark, twisted inventions, or of misrepresenting the human potential for deplorable behavior.  The group-activated hangings, the tearing apart of human beings, the clothing specific to castes and classes, the forced childbearing and the appropriation of the results, the children stolen by regimes and placed for upbringing with high-ranking officials, the forbidding of literacy, the denial of property rights—all had precedents, and many of these were to be found not in other cultures and religions, but within Western society, and within the “Christian” tradition itself. (I enclose “Christian” in quotation marks, since I believe that much of the Church’s behavior and doctrine during its two-millennia-long existence as a social and political organization would have been abhorrent to the person after whom it is named.)”

The above quote from an article that Margaret Atwood wrote about the origins of her best-known novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is shocking in that most of us look at the work as a dystopian novel about the future when, in fact, the terrible things that occur in it have already been visited upon millions of our fellow human beings.

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In the Shadow of Statues

We often find lists of the best novels for a particular period of time, but seldom see a similar list of the best nonfiction books.  Esquire magazine’s list of “The Best Nonfiction Books of 2018 (So Far)” is a welcome if rare compilation.  I was particularly gratified to see that In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu made the list.  It took a lot of courage for New Orleans’ Mayor Landrieu to order the removal of the statues celebrating the men who fought to keep slavery alive in Louisiana.

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Last year marked the 350th birthday of Jonathan Swift who is best known as the author of Gulliver’s Travels.  To celebrate Swift’s birthday Smithsonian magazine ran an article about Gulliver’s Travels that features some little known facts that might interest you.  There is a section on words that Swift coined in the book, but nothing about the name “Gulliver.”  In fact, Swift was making fun of his main character by implying that he was easily fooled.  He was “gullible.”  In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing there is a scene that is referred to as “The Gulling of Benedick” in which some of the characters set out to make Benedick fall in love with Beatrice, who seems to hate him.  And he is easily gulled.

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As I sit here writing this post I am sitting among the volumes of my personal library.  Well, I’m sitting among some of them.  Hundreds more are in my Kindle library and my Audible app.  Wherever they are, no matter how old and tattered they are, I cherish each and every one of them.

The above thoughts came to me after I read an Atlas Obscura article about libraries of many types.  Some are public libraries while others are very private.  Some are well-known while others are hardly known to anyone but their owners.  They all have two things in common: each is unique and every library has a story to tell.

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The Great Movies

I continue to co-host Music on the Sunny Side which is a three hour program that airs each Sunday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CT on WBRH-FM radio (and on the internet at here in Baton Rouge, LA .  On Sunday, May 6th I’ll feature lots of Big Band music as well as a few special features such as selections from an old two LP set entitled “25 Years of Recorded Sound from the Vaults of M-G-M Records,” and a segment from a series, One Night Stand, that was popular during the golden age of radio .  The featured broadcast was originally aired on February 8, 1945, and features Vaughan Monroe and his orchestra, the Norton Sisters, and Johnny Bond.

The following Sunday, May 13th, I’ll once again host Music on the Sunny Side. One of the features will consist of parts of an interview that lyricist and composer Johnny Mercer did in 1970 with his long time friend the radio host Willis Conover.  In the interview Conover throws out the titles of songs that Mercer wrote the lyrics and/or music for, and Mercer recounts the origins of the song ideas. Then I play what I consider to be a notable interpretation of the song that was just discussed.  For instance, Mercer talks about “That Old Black Magic” and I follow it with Frank Sinatra’s version of the song.  I’ll also play excerpts from the soundtrack of Casablanca (1942), my favorite movie of all time, and I’ll read a fascinating excerpt about it from film critic Roger Ebert’s 2002 book The Great Movies.

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