Aretha Franklin recently sang at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Carole King, reprising the song Carole wrote for her, A Natural Woman. The performance was glorious, and drew tears from the President, as well as from myself as I watched and listened to it later on video. Obama said of Aretha afterwords: 'Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R. & B., rock and rollâ€”the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. American history wells up when Aretha sings.'
Book Briefly Noted, Title Spandau: The Secret Diaries, Author Albert Speer, Rating 4.0,
Spandau: The Secret Diaries
Albert Speer, Hitler's personal architect and Reich Armaments Minister, kept a diary while he was in Spandau prison following his conviction at the post-war Nuremburg trials. These diaries provide a fascinating, hooded glimpse of the 'smartest man' in the Nazi leadership. At least, smart enough to evade the death penalty at the Nuremberg Trials ...
Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts. My early view of Napoleon was as a cartoon figure: A megalomaniac who tried to take over the world. I recall looking down at Napoleon's tomb in Paris in the company of my brother Craig, the two of us mocking his immense sarcophagus and elaborate surroundings, wondering aloud why the French would semi-deify such a bloody tyrant. The typical American republican conceits aside, we were woefully uninformed about much of the life of Napoleon.
Book Book Review, Title A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Author Flannery O'Connor, Rating 3.0,
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
Within Flannery O'Conner's famed short story collection, a good man is not just difficult to find, but impossibly so. Thank God I am not Flannery O'Connor. I would not trade her ability to tell a story, and she is uncommonly good in some ways, for her brutal and dismissive view of the world. Harshness, of circumstance and character, forms her viewpoint; what is also redeeming finds little place in her stories.
Book Book Review, Title Heart Of Darkness, Author Joseph Conrad, Rating 5.0,
Heart Of Darkness
In Joseph Conrad's classic novella, Heart of Darkness, the sailor Marlow serves as the author's version of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, compelled to tell his story of conscience to whatever audience he finds. The story he tells is indeed dark, and indeed about the heart, albeit mostly the lack thereof. Conrad takes apart the European colonial enterprise, particularly the carving-up of Africa in the nineteenth century, and strips bare all of the tales of adventure from those times and places, along with the high-flown language of imperialism which was used to mask the utter barbarity of the undertaking.