Category Archives: History

Struggling to Read “Lawrence in Arabia”

War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Unbelievably Boring Start to the Story of How American Business Destroyed the World

Scott Anderson, Lawrence in ArabiaI’m currently listening to Scott Anderson’s “Lawrence in Arabia” through my Libby library audiobook app and it is remarkably unengaging.

I’m struggling. Would it be better to read rather than listen to it? I’m not sure if that would matter much—there is so much history and political maneuvering, so many individuals beyond the principle figures that are constantly being introduced and threaded into the convoluted history of European and American interference in the Middle East on the brink of war that I’m constantly listening to portions again but coming away not at all more sure of what is happening.

T.E. Lawrence At a quarter of the way through it still feels like an introduction. Although, as I write this, Anderson is now touching on the beginnings of the Armenian Genocide, the German spy who’s brother and nephew would both go on to be the first and seventh presidents of Israel, and the scathingly passive aggressive letters Lawrence sent his incredibly abusive mother regarding the death of his youngest brother, who was her favorite child.

So, one hopes I spoke too soon and the threads of crumbling empires at war, religious communities searching for political identities and oil-hungry corporations manipulating them all begin to tighten together into a more engaging narrative.

Follow me on Goodreads to see what else I’ve been reading….

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Listening to “Slow Burn”

IMG_8479(1)Chuck Grassley once wore a “Free Lisa Myers” button to pressure NBC in 1999 to air an interview with Juanita Broaddrick about her twenty year old allegations against Bill Clinton. It’s interesting how the search for truth regarding decades old allegations and the standards the Republican Party and their supporters choose to apply can shift so dramatically. Grassley clearly demonstrated his party’s malleable morals with his complete disinterest investigating allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, while Juanita Broaddrick openly discounted Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. But these details about recent events are not the most intriguing moments in the final episode of the second season of ‘Slow Burn.’

Episode 8, “Move On”, was a fascinating and disturbing episode from ‘Slow Burn’, one of the best podcasts around. The first season is about Watergate, the second is on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and you need to go listen to both. They’re both a shocking look into how history repeats itself, especially when those who made that history are still in power and allowed to manipulate the course of society and politics.

The first season of ‘Slow Burn’ focused on Watergate and was shocking in everything that I had never learned went on. I was born a decade after Watergate and only knew the general bullet points; the break-in, the secret tapes, Woodward and Bernstein, looming impeachment, resignation, Roach from ‘Point Break’ wearing a Nixon mask and yelling, “I am not a crook” while the Ex-Presidents rob a bank.

IMG_8481(1)Leon Neyfakh goes much farther beyond that, introducing us to Martha Mitchell and Wright Pattman, as well as the team behind the special prosecutors looking into the whole thing, and ties the events of the 1970s to what is happening today.

But where season one introduced a wealth of previously overlooked or forgotten facts, season two was fascinating in how it rewrote what I thought I knew and how the people involved have been portrayed.

It also demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Republican Party, and probably the Democrats too for that matter, and reinforces the idea that when it comes to politicians and those in power, it’s never about the crime or allegations, and it isn’t about justice for the victim or a platform for truth. It seems instead to come down to whatever is convenient to maintaining their grasp on power, even if it means Chuck Grassley has to hide his Lisa Myers button.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bookshop In the Sky

Fine Arts BuildingIn October 1907, a new bookstore opened on the seventh floor of the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago designed entirely by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Designed when Wright was thirty-nine years old and little known outside the circles of Chicago’s elite, Browne’s Bookshop was as unique for it intent to feel very much like a home library or study as for its location on the seventh floor, and despite its short life was known as “the most beautiful bookshop in the world.”

Wright modeled the glass lamp shades from the windows he’d designed for his childrens’ rooms, and organized the store’s bookshelves around reading tables to create cozy alcoves in which to explore.

Browne's BookshopFrancis Fisher Browne, the store’s owner and editor of the literary magazine The Dial, relocated the store to the building’s ground floor  in 1910 but closed it for good two years later.

While the Fine Arts Building still stands at 410 S. Michigan Avenue and some of the interiors look much the same as they did a century ago, no trace of Frank Lloyd Wright remains.

Check out the original article at the Paris Review for more information, including an interesting story about why the future editor of The Little Review, Margaret Anderson, abruptly quit her position as the bookshop’s manager.

More photos of the bookshop and the book covers Wright designed for the Caxton Club can also be found at this online catalog of Wright’s work, The Wright Library.

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