Tuesday, March 02, 2021
Monday, March 01, 2021
Just Finished Reading: Parisians – As Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb (FP: 2010) [436pp]
Paris has existed as a recognised settlement since at least 52 BC when the Romans occupied the left bank of the Seine, though wisely the author of this fascinating work restricted himself to a more modern (and modest) tour of that city of light. Starting with a brief visit of the young Napoleon Bonaparte – before his became a one name only celebrity – the author parades a host of Parisians, a good number of which I had never heard of, who make up that cities history and both created the place itself and our appreciation of it. There are stories of how the last King of France and his entourage became lost in the labyrinthine streets whilst fleeing the revolution so ensuring their later capture and execution by the mob, tales of crime, betrayal and mystery kept (and lost) in the files of the Sûreté, life in the 19th century Latin Quarter where artists, poets, authors, dancers produced some of the greatest works of art ever seen or heard whilst living on little more than cheap wine, cheap coffee and applause. There are tales of wholesale reconstruction (or destruction depending on your viewpoint) to create a modern city separated forever from its medieval past – demanded by the modernising Napoleon III and designed by the Baron Haussmann (or which more later!). There are tales of revolution and the Commune, tales of alchemy and atomic bombs, stories of the Eiffel tower and the fears that it would change the cities weather, tales of Marcel Proust and of Hitler’s whirlwind tour of the city to both disparage and steal its artwork, the nightmare of Jewish roundups and deportations, the return of De Gaulle and the snipers he faced, the activities of the Secret Army in its attempts to stop the loss of French Algeria, of student demonstrations and near destruction for the French state and life in the multi-racial high-rises surrounding the city. It is a city of a million stories with millions more untold.
This was definitely a reading highlight of the year. Not only does the author clearly love the city he can put you there, standing next to architects as they plan a city to dazzle the world or a student as he hurls a street cobble towards the hated CRS police as they attempt to crush a demonstration which threatens the fabric of an ordered society. You can hear the scratching of the pen that writes symphonies and the clink of cups in the street side cafes where political and cinematic arguments wash between tables. This is a book to lose yourself in. Mostly the experiences are pleasant ones even when rooms are cold and food is scarce. Some are not so pleasant with occupation and the violent suppression of political fervour. But what we are presented with, and left with once the last page is turned, in the life of a city in all its complexity and contradiction. Despite the impossibility of adequately describing the heartbeat of a vibrant metropolis between the pages of a book bereft of the sound of laughter (and gunfire) or the smell of perfume (and car exhausts) this goes a fair way to explaining exactly why Paris has maintained a spiritual pull on millions of people for centuries. Not only will you want to learn more about this city and the country it often exemplifies after reading this book you’ll want to book tickets to go there. Highly recommended for existing and, no doubt future, Francophiles.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Arrakis...... Dune..... Desert Planet.....
These are two of my favourite YouTube channels on the Dune Universe. If you're a fan like me you might be interested in these. BE WARNED: These videos contain SPOILERS if you haven't read all 6 of the original books. Have FUN.
Friday, February 26, 2021
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Just Couldn’t Finish Reading: Naked Came the Robot by Barry B. Longyear (FP: 1988) [214pp]
The nuclear war was really the last straw. When the radioactive dust had settled the protesters shouted out their message: “No more War”. But both sides – The Americans and the Soviets – had the same problem. With only 10% of their populations dead but their economies destroyed they needed to do something to keep their side in the fight – but without actual fighting. The answer? Welfare for the people and Robots for the economy. Within a few years it was all humming along nicely. The general population were quiet and the few humans still in the economy were doing very nicely thank you. But all was not as advertised in the new Cold War economy as new young executive Henry Fleming was about to find out. Joining the Economy on the eve of an expected Soviet victory he discovers that the robot economy is a mess of strikes and civil unrest and that being caught up in a riot is only the start of his problems.
OK, I admit I was somewhat cautious about this from the get-go. I’d read a few books by this author before and, although they were rather ‘weird’ at times I enjoyed them. This, however, was pretty much dross after only a few chapters. How I managed to get around 100 pages in before abandoning it I’m not exactly sure. It was an interesting concept that could have been a fun read. Some of the plays on words and silliness did in fact make me chuckle but overall it quickly became clear that the author was literally making shit up as he went along and what might have been an entertaining surreal adventure just became a total farce. Now my second DNF of the year, but hopefully my last! Avoid.