Archives de Catégorie: Biographies



Many celebrations are commemorated through literature. American authorship instills opportunity for the free-willed to proliferate excitement for the jubilant feast of observance to ethnicity through tradition. I recently read two books with an eye to understanding such an icon. This American author praised for his worth through renderings of youthful exuberance for want of behavior betterment, which hopeful authority figures attend and deem suitable for a life lived in reverence to writing(imagination generally will peak an interest in the young). « How The Grinch Stole Christmas » by TS Geisel (mostly known by his pen-name, Dr Seuss), is just one of the 60-plus books this author produced, the first of my reads. The next was his professional biography, « Theodor SEUSS Geisel » by Donald E Pease, which I read since having an interest in the cause which gave rise to the professional use for such a skill devised of talent as these drawings, Dr Seuss’ breadth and wealth, exhibit.

The Grinch stole Christmas with relative ease. He also stole a community’s peaceful communion, though not their peace of mind. He took their feast, though not their means. He, with malice, snagged the sparkle from the occasion, leaving the gleam from purity of reason to ignite spiritual serenity throughout their lives. Fortunately, the dawning of this Who-ism value, that our light shines in observance whether we are blessed with the day’s advantages, and also should this live’s crotchety miscreant have an eye (though not the heart) to abscond with the day’s loot. He left them with their joy.

TS Geisel, Dr. Dr. Seuss, the artist, ‘draws’ his talent, he drew it from sketches. His talent was as a sketch artist, which he managed as a skill since growing his professional ability through networking and through collaboration. His drawings took on the burden of novelty, he then required a suitable professional outlet for this skill to provide livelihood. He was an ad man, a caricature artist, a writer of politics by way of cartooning. He worked in editorial management on subscription publications. He stayed well-connected through educational tracks; he was resourceful, and witty with words and rhymes which his art endorsed. His sketch art and his wordplay were natural guides which lead him into service, and then to social participation as an early development specialist. He was enabled with the talent to ignite curiosity for learning. Youthful curiosity could be rewarded with behavior controls. His creative artwork was different enough to be interesting to the youngest viewers. The naughty, deliberately non-human personalities, as heroes, provoked the worst outcome, which then would coax the imagination to provide honest solutions to his world of speculation. Strangers may be strange, the result may need correction, or maybe you’re just weird. Still, it’s interesting enough to want to read. His renderings withstand change insofar as the youthful are captivated first by the unusual and then by the sing-song, easily read and memorized, therefore learned, jargon.

SEUSS is an icon for American innovation, and patience.


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Classé dans Art, Biographies, Books

« Ike’s Bluff, President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World » – by Evan Thomas

« I haven’t worried about the weather since June 6, 1944. » The invasion of Normandy (I looked it up).

General Eisenhower is cagey.

He reads war. This presidency is a separate animal; it is not the progress of technological advances, nor media’s ability to interpret and deliver information which gives breath, not breadth, to mankind. It is neither that media offers the stage for curious reassurance, and rather that media deserves the reverent diversion. President Eisenhower is masterful. Games are inherent, to war, to security, to ably access intelligence. President Eisenhower commands reverential distance.

It is not that this President’s health suffered for the apparent strain of blame and responsibility, it is that suffering was internalized. He played his hand in stoic solitude. He was a presidential panacea for secrecy of military operations.

This book is about evolution. It is about the presidency, not the politics. This evolution is of advantage; all presidencies evolve, the position is explicit to its seat for the moment. As America’s conscience deems inexcusably ideal, so the world invites itself to collaborate, and with each presidency evolves this citizenship’s ability to access information. This evolution was not one of war, but destruction; it was the evolution of strength, the evolution of fortitude.

Evan Thomas pens words which spark interest to any politically-minded circulation for readers of independent political philosophy and intrigue. It is a tell-all with his know-how.

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Classé dans Biographies, Books, Reading

Agatha Christie ‘An Autobiography’

Memory is a mystery. Life seems to recollect in consistency. The high points of her life being stored with descriptions of places she’s loved, seasons, lessons learned and lessons valued. This isn’t a book, it is handiwork. Agatha Christie knows crewel. She has written a lifetime from a tapestry of relationship in this, her autobiography.

In this book, it’s not what she says, it’s what she doesn’t say. If you read her novels, you will know who she is, she writes-in her characters. In her familial cast, her brother Monty plays the villain, (p. 323/324), « I thought that Monty ill would be just as difficult as Monty well. People’s natures don’t change. » Other members of the cast: various nurses and nannies, a philosophy of doctors, the oftentimes overbearing stranger providing the occasional literary concept or phrase. She herself even provides the role of the dispensary nurse, protecting ill-advised patients from the arrogance of professional ineptitude.

She gives us glimpses of who she is in small doses. Her favorites:

archaeology (and a passion for understanding why people are drawn to visualize death)
garden parties
stage plays

She is the product of an age. She is gentle, she is delicate, she is Victorian.

She teaches, and learns. She discovers a moral to discouragement, and reminisces upon her childhood. In acceptance of circumstances, (p. 172), she was brought up to discover a moral, « … you are never too old to learn… Be attentive, there may be a new point of view being shown you, unexpectedly. »

She discusses her feelings toward innocence (p. 440), liberally, as an ointment to society’s ignorance. She concludes that this genre of writing has a passion, that passion being to help save innocence, « because it is innocence that matters, not guilt. » She prays for the loss and the lost in hopes of societal repair.

This book spans 20 years of writing, the final chapter written in 1965 (after a twenty year intermission from the previous chapter). She writes beginning from her first memories as a precocious baby girl, through her Victorian-inspired education, two wars, more houses than she would describe, the unearthing of various discoveries and important historical artifacts on numerous archaeological sites, and global travel in an age of romantic expedition, (p. 221), flight is disillusionment, but « ships can still be romantic… and what can beat a train? To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches, and rivers – in fact, to see life. » She is expressive.

Her zest for life, her writer’s grace… she was the inspired ideal, the Lady Agatha, a queen of mystery.

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Classé dans Biographies, Books

Balzac’s Omelette, a delicious tour of French food and culture with Honore de Balzac by Anka Muhlstein

I started this book, excitedly, from the idea that it would offer insight into styles of cooking. And, since the subtitle enticed literary purpose, I assumed I would find what I was looking for – an introduction to a culture by way of its food according to its most notable literary artists (at least one of them). Surprisingly, it was less about what we ingest throughout the course of a day in a life, in favor of what one requires of what we ingest. This book speaks to food. It speaks to an economy of virtue, but also to economic strengths of class participation… we consume what we divulge.

Her writing is attractive. She writes, prettily, and seems as a palate cleanser within this work for the ambitious reader. Do you love Proust? She serves Balzac, instead, as the progressive in a world of expressive flamboyance. She stresses the importance of culinary imagery, (p. 3), « If you want to imagine savoring an oyster as it melts on your tongue, read Maupassant; if you dream of jugs filled with yellow cream, try Flaubert; and if the thought of beef in aspic tickles you, turn to Proust. » She then offers Balzac as the escapist, realist with a passion for practicality in a big way, « But, if you are interested not so much in the taste of the oyster as in the way a young man orders it, less the cool sweetness of the cream than how much it costs, and less the melting quality of the aspic than what it reveals about how the household is run, then read Balzac. » And, I am captivated.

A biography of writing, Ms. Muhlstein gives the reader a work which begs assimilation. What if all authors/writers made complete their work through characterizations of cultural familiarity by the humble acknowledgment of idiosyncracies of nutrition? Better yet, what does food offer the plot? What does intensity of one’s appetite or distaste for food offer to civilization? She writes in generalities, but her knowledge requests a feast for the famine of literary conformity.

Her chapters are the work. She writes her vast understanding on cultures of cuisine, Balzac’s Europe, history, from ideas of literary impact; one feels she could use these chapter definitions (titles) to clarify or expound on any topic with profound french consistency. Her style has manner. Her manner is properly and comprehensively compact, as all french should be… exhaustive. (This french word means complete, and nothing more. Whereas, the English, exhaustive, while not only being less interesting in pronunciation, will drown its subject with lavish definition « spent, over, done » and possibly even « thorough, » which hesitates to refine. The idea being, french gives all of something, there’s nothing more, but there may be something less.)

I wondered where the book’s title originated. There is a secret to the omelette, a perfect french method, perhaps, (p. 166), « … an omelette is more delicate when the whites and yolks of the eggs are not beaten together with the brutality that cooks usually put into that operation… the white should be beaten until it resembles foam and the yolk introduced a little at a time, … « . This is the only recipe found in Balzac’s repertoire, apparently. Her thought may be that Balzac’s Omelette inspires gentility. This is a writer’s influence on consumption.

And, it is a reader’s repast.

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Classé dans Biographies, Reading, Writing

« Virginia Woolf »

She does not have God. She does not know God.

I read the biographical novel, as told through the eyes of Alexandra Harris. My first biography.

God is the ever-present mortar creating sense through thought distortion. The necessary ingredient for an artist to make sense from delusion. (Feel free to quote me.)

Virginia Woolf was not grounded. She had no one to orient her life, never having recovered from her mother’s death, she was 13 year’s old.

P.16 – The young Virginia respected her father’s « free-thinking intellectual integrity that made him speak out as an atheist. »

I continue reading despite my horror at the waste of her talent. Her work parallels my own; meager formal education, she was an essayist, a reader who writes reviews. We separate ways where she becomes a feminist with a writer’s complex. She is exceptionally talented (for a woman in a man’s world). She is ahead of her time, yet unwilling to sacrifice any of her intellect for pursuit of a faith.

Still I’m reading. In some ways the comparison and the likenesses between our empassioned literary reasoning, (her’s with more of a voice, mine with more of an ear), makes her life difficult for me to ignore.

The year 1911, living as the only female occupant, the landlady, in a « respectable middle-class » time (p.47). She lived a questionably unconventional life, almost as if enticing others to wonder about her morals. This says to me that she was craving attention as removed and unconventional, rather than crazy or sick.

She suffers breakdowns in which she attempts death. She falls into despair and is hospitalized. She writes. The cycle of her life.

There are 46 illustrations accounted for in this account of a life’s history. Many are photos of Virginia. She looks mostly distracted, uninvolved, distant.

I’ve only read one book authored by Virginia Woolf (so far). In it, I get the feeling she’s written a statement, firm and direct, that her style, her talent as a writer, having been questioned one too many times, needs justification and proof. She provides it soundly.

A life inspired by Greek Tragedy.

P.57 – « It is the glimpse of clarity towards which all Woolf’s novels strive. »

Born into a home, a family, which respected art. A home-full of writers, artists, art and work. Though she has no trouble keeping her individual voice (her terrific confidence evident in her writing), she caved to illness by willful disinterest toward enforceable psycho-medical interference.

This biographer/author conceives that all of Mrs. Woolf’s novels are written towards seeking clarity… I read her work, instead, as a statement to sanity. She has lucid moments.

To be without God, is to be unreachable, and she denies God.

Her philosophy for her writing was abstract. Her words profound, and simultaneously debilitating, « …there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven » … she denies there is God (p.98). She claims victorious over all art « we are the words, we are the music, » we are all that exists.

She was despondent.

Ch.7 – A Writer’s Holiday.

With the appearance of the book « Orlando, » this biographer reiterates Mrs. Woolf’s range of talent but only mentioning it as being a « departure » from her previous works. Again, her belief being that part of Mrs. Woolf’s « appeal is her tremendous variety » (p.99), yet this chapter being dedicated to a « holiday » from the writer’s intention. Specifically, she notes that, as with « Night and Day », the tone was different from all her previous works. This seems to me an indication of irrational whimsy. Flighty speculation, which caused some of those who followed her work to wonder if this book was a « prank ».

This biographer provides specifics, references to facts known. I’ve never read a factual account of a life, a biography. This is the first, as I said. They seem jaded. Interesting, but dry. This biographical work, though well-written, would have been better if it had a more focused path. It gave this reader the impression that opinion was the purpose for the endeavor. It makes me wonder what Virginia would have thought – having a well-educated, writer, historian, documenting her life with factual opinion.

This book leaves me questioning whether the biographer is a reader, or an educated professional seeking publicity. In my opinion, a true reader, reads as the writer in an attempt not only to understand, but to know the author through their work. Perhaps the difference between a reader, a writer, and a biographer… one who seeks, one who professes, and one who decides.

« Night and Day » from the description provided by this biographer was written while she was under observation, post-attempt at suicide. She being allowed only one hour per day to write. The biographer notes that this style, form and content is a departure for Mrs. Woolf, and that the belief is that the book deals with the question of « how to live » (p.57), then she goes on to describe attributes of the book.

I would believe, more to the point, that, if this book was so very « contained » and not like the rest (« not a tragedy, but a comedy » – p.56), it may have been designed as more of a statement. Perhaps pointing to resignation since she was being watched. Not « how to live » but « is this life. » I’ve never read the book. The next V. Woolf book I will seek out will be « The Waves. »

Where this book’s author feels that Virginia Woolf’s writing « was a counter to transcience » (p.16), creating permanence for her work (« if you wrote something down, you could make it stay put » – again, p.16), I am more inclined to think her work was written medication. She was a true authoress, a writer, not a scholar… and she was partially insane.

So begins my adventure into the writings of Virginia Woolf.

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Classé dans Biographies, Writing