Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Hip, Cool and Crass: Making Culture

Want to be cool and hip?  Not thought of as a square?  Whether you care or not lots of others do.  Here are my books on who the cool kids are:

1.  The Taste Makers, Russell Lynes (1954).  Lynes writes in a conversational style about the history of taste in America.  He looks at those that try to shape taste from architects, designers, corporations critics artists. and frauds.  Takes you to the cusp of the Beatnik era.  Black and white pictures.  Bought used at an unremembered location.



2.  Hip: the History, John Leland (2004).  Leland looks at sex, musicrace, fashion and drugs and youth rebellion to bring us the idea of Hip.  He starts with Walt Whitman and moves to the Jazz Age, the Beats and Punk Rock.  Black and white pictures.  Gift from a friend.





3.  Modern Times, Modern Places, Peter Conrad (1999).  Conrad takes a broad look at the world at the end of the 20th Century.  He surveys at the art scenes of Vienna, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo.   Black and white pictures.  Bought on Amazon.




 4. and 5.  Class, and Bad.  Paul Fussell  (1992),   Fussell, a 2nd Lieutenant in WWII, a professor of English at an all women's college and likeable curmudgeon provides a guidebook to the customs of the American class system.  Class looks at art, speech, clothing and intellectual pursuits of American classes -- You'll find yourself somewhere between the high brow an low brow.  Fussell's second book Bad focuses on worst America has to offer and how we can be persuaded that almost anything that's bad is good.  Both used book store finds and forgot where.  

Friday, March 29, 2013

Duty and Mutiny on the High Seas

There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting and enslaving than the life at sea.
---Joseph Conrad

Life on a ship is a world in miniature.   Everything you know is there populated by a crew, officers and captain.  To survive the storms, privation and wartime, the crew must follow the structure of a strictly controlled environment.  This can either degenerate into mutiny or great success.   Here's a short list of books that show both sides of the coin.

1.   The Mutiny On Board the H.M. Bounty, William Bligh (Signet Classic, 1961).  First published in 1972, Captain Bligh's account is the most well known of mutinies.  He uses the ship's log to present an objective account leaving the reader to judge what type of captain he really was.  If nothing else, Bligh and his small crew of loyalists demonstrated an amazing account of seamanship to survive a 3,600 mile south Pacific voyage in the Bounty's long boat.   Made even more popular by several Hollywood movies commanding the likes of Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson.  Bought used somewhere.

2.  The Mutiny on the Globe, Edwin P. Hoyt (1975).  From 1824, an extraordinary story of a American whaling ship that sailed from Martha's Vineyard to Hawaii, Japan and the South Pacific.  A bizarre set of circumstances leads the mutineers to establish a "kingdom" on a south pacific island, which later degenerates into infighting and  a bloody war with the natives.  The mutiny evolves to an unexpected ending.  Discarded from the West Hempstead, NY Public Library. 

3.  At Twelve Mr. Byng was Shot, Dudley Pope (1962).  A Captain can be a tyrant or a scapegoat.  Pope tells the story of one of the English Navy's darkest hours--described as the "most cold-blooded and cynical acts of judicial murder in British history."  Admiral John Byng was made a scapegoat for the stupidity of his superiors in a battle against the French.  Bought at a Norwalk, Ohio used book store.

4.  Every Man Will Do his Duty: An Anthology of Firsthand Accounts from the Age of Nelson, 1793-1815, Dean King (1997).  The title takes its inspiration from Lord Nelson's famous quote that "England expects every man will do his duty."  Accounts are taken from British and American fighting ships during the French and English wars, the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic wars.  More amazing that the stories of C.S. Forester or Patrick O'Brien because they are the real thing.  Bought used in an Amherst, MA second-hand book store.

Monday, March 18, 2013

In the Drink

You don't need a book to learn how to drink but plenty of books have been written to show us where and what to drink.   Here's what I have.

1.  New York City's Best Dive Bars: Drinking and Diving In the Five Borough, Wendy Mitchell (2003). An entertaining little gem of a guide.  Mitchell sets out rules for what it means to be a "dive" and what constitutes successful "diving".  Each bar gets a rating onperks and dive factor.  Helpful catagories including smokiest, most women and best Sunday afternoon drinking and worst bathrooms.  Bought new somewhere forgotten.  Drink was not involved.
2.  And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, Wayne Curtis(2006). Curtis gives us an American history lesson in booze.  Starts with the explosion of rum in colonial America through Prohibition to the smart 1950s cocktail to hipster micro-brews.   Bought on Amazon.

3. The Drinking Life, Pete Hamill (1995). The great New York City writer looks back on his life 20 years after taking his last drink.  As a child during the depression and World War II he learned that drinking was part of being a man but later reveals the dark side of how it destroyed lives.  E-book.
4. Esquire Drink Book(1956). As entertaining as the most deft cocktail banter you could hope to hear from a 1950's cocktail party. Over 1000 cocktail recipes and a list of excuses to celebrate every day.  Originally my father's from his days of 1950's bachelorhood and later appropriated by me. Lent to a friend and can't remember whoMissing from my library for some 8 or 9 years but remembered here.
5.  Dictionary of English Pub Names, Wordsworth Reference (1987). Essential field guide to the land that gave us pubs.   Bought used at BJ's Books, Warrenton, VA.

What Do Mayflower's Bring?

The Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock is an iconic moment of American history.  The small colony was nearly wiped out in the first few years through sickness, hunger and fighting among the each other and the native Americans.  My maternal grand mother  joined the Mayflower Society after tracing the family lineage to Samuel Fuller, the colony's "self-taught" surgeon.  Nothing makes history more compelling than a personal connection. And so I collected the following books.

1.  Mayflower, Nathaniel Philbrick (2006). Philbrick sets a dark theme of starvation, Indian wars with less than pious Pilgrims.   He starts with the Pilgrims departure from England and ends with the creation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1677.  Named one of the best books of 2006 by the NYT.  Pictures and sketches throughout.  Bought used at BJ's Books in Warrenton, VA.

2.  The Plymouth Adventure, Ernest Gebler ((1950). Voyage of the Mayflower presented as a novel.  Later turned into a Hollywood movie starring Spencer Tracy and Gene Tierney.   Bought used at the State Department Book Store.

3.  William Bradford of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1647, Edited by S.E. Morison (1952). William Bradford was the main chronicler for the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of the Plymouth Colony.  He later become governor of the Colony.  Journals and letters edited by the great American historian Samuel Elliot Morrison.  Bought used at the State Department Book Store.

4.  Winthrop's Journals: 1630-1649 (Two Volumes)(1908). Winthrop led the second wave of migrants from England to Massachusetts in 1630, and served as governor for 12 of the colony's first 20 years of existence. Winthrop first wrote of the young colony as a "shining city upon a hill."  With maps and facsimile.  Bought used at the Book House in Arlington, VA.