Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book #2 of 2015

I've read and enjoyed a couple dozen books about WW2 and/or its key figures. This is one of the best, penned by a skeptical, analytic historian, a very careful and methodical researcher who doesn't make claims without first tracking down all available accounts and assessing the deviations. And yet Trevor-Roper is never dull--he's scathingly funny in his descriptions of Nazi Court insiders like Himmler and Goering, and his writing about Speer contains the finest analysis of that troubling figure I've encountered. This little book about the last days in that Berlin Bunker is a classic. Highly recommended, but mostly for readers with a more than casual interest in the subject.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Book #1 of 2015

I must admit I almost bailed on Wilton Barnhardt in the middle of chapter one. I found the central consciousness so annoying, so cloying, and so close in maturity and temperament to the middle school students who assail me daily in class that I nearly shelved the book in my "donations" pile. But I persevered, and gladly...because this novel progresses through the points of view of several characters associated with a grand old Southern family not only in decline, but in precipitous free-fall. Many chapters are dark and sardonic in the tradition of Southern Lit, but there is always a lively and wry sense of the humor of things, and some outrageous laugh-out-loud moments. Barndhardt captures the South, and its damnably intractable problems with race, poverty, and historical accuracy. But this South is not your grandparents' Dixie, and it is doomed to fall a second time to the combined civilizing pressures external to it and to those continuing to rise within its boundries.