"The Bishop's Daughter, A Memoir"
Honor Moore, Norton
I could not wait to receive my copy of this book, following it's excerpts in the New York Times and again in the New Yorker. I was initially attracted to it because of the discussion Honor Moore has about her father's closeted homosexuality. However, having picked up the book, it is difficult to set it down. We are the same age, and with an uncanny accuracy she seems to have captured in her fascination with her clergy father, my own fascination with my own father. The cultural currents of her times are the same currents that I experienced, as well, and her spiritual journey, although ending in a different place than my own, seems to have had the same roots and initial development. As I near the end of the book the momentum of evolution and revelation continue undiminished. This is a very good read.
Zadie Smith, Penguin Books - Trinity Book Club Selection
This is an excellent accompaniment to Honor Moore's book, noted above. The interplay between Ms. Moore's account of her father and mother's ministry in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Zadie Smith's humorous account of the culture wars exhibited by two African American families allows each of them to comment on the other. Ms. Smith's writing is warm and exhilarating - you want to keep coming back to it.
This is not finished for me, either, and I am looking forward to picking it up again, once Moore's book is finished. There will be a grand discussion at the book club on this volume.
Evan Fallenberg, Soho Press
I haven't even cracked this open yet. My colleague at work, Steven Weiler, often plunks a book down on my desk and says, "Mr. Hiller, you have to read this!" And I ususally do. Steven introduced me to Augusten Burroughs' "Running with Scissors", and I went on to read other works by him. So, I trust Steven's taste and judgment.
This volume plays with the notions of Jewish life and homosexuality, and promises to be an interesting read. I shall report on it when I have finished it.
"In Europe, Travels Through the Twentieth Century",
Geert Mak, Pantheon
This was a gift at Christmass from Arthur. He was so taken by the book that he got his own copy so that we could not bother each other's reading. In this engrossing volumn, Mr. Mak, a journalist, takes a series of journeys through the century to the cities that provided news and developments during that period. For example, chapter 1 is the period from 1 January 1900 through the end of 1914, and he visits the cities of Amsterdam, Paris, London, Berlin, and Vienna. In each chapter he gives not only an enlightening report on what was happening, but a savvy analysis of why it was happening.
Would that George Bush had been exposed to this kind of historical study, he might have understood some of the exigencies of life in the Middle East, and be rightfully wary. You, however, can do it, and you will find the effort well worth your while.
"Other Colors, Essays and a Story",
Orhan Pamuk, Knopf
My hero is Orhan Pamuk. For one thing he is very readable, secondly he courageously attacks difficult issues not only in his native Turkey, but in the West as well, and finally his life and stories are just plain fascinating.
This is the ideal kind of book, after reading many of his novels. It is a collection of essays on life and culture, and a bit of fiction to make it all worth while. If you've never read any of his material you might just start here, although I highly recommend "Istanbul" as an excellent starting point.
"Sailing from Byzantium,
How a Lost Empire Shaped the World"
Colin Wells, Delta Trade Paperback
This is one of my famous airport purchases. In the United Terminal at SFO there is a wonderful outlet for Books, Inc., a marvelous bookshop that puts other airport bookshops to shame. I'm shameless in just sticking my head in to see what's there and ending up buying something for my trip, even though I've already packed something.
This book is comprised of three sections. The first deals with Byzantium's influence on the West, in particular Italy. My first reaction was, "and..." thinking that all of this was a foregone conclusion. I didn't realize that Greek had to be recovered by the scholars of Italy. (Petrarch flunked his Greek lessons, and never mastered the language). There are interesting moments of raprochment between the Eastern and Western churches, and there is the shame of the crusades. It turns out that the Renaissance was more difficult to achieve than I previously thought.
The second section is on the influence of Byzantium on the newly emerging Islamic nations. These inheritors as well as conquerors of the Byzantine lands were in turn conquered by Byzantine ideas, and classical philosophy. It is an ideal place to if not begin, to complement any Islamic studies you might be interested in.
Finally, the third section deals with the New Rome, Moscow, and the wholesale transference of ideas and culture north to the Slavs. Writing, theology, iconography, philosophy are not only mined for their symbolic attachment to the ancient Roman hegemony, but to their ideas and values as well; all transmitted by the Byzantines.
It is all quite engaging and completes so many holes in my thinking about Europe and its role from the Fall of Rome on. If you like history and art, this will make your day.
"Mesopotamia The Invention of the City"
Gwendolyn Leick, Penguin
A long time ago, in the Kimball Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas, I purchased a book by Susan Pollock ("Ancient Mesopotamia", Cambridge University Press). It turned out to be a difficult but fascinating read. Since it is a Cambridge publication, I should have guessed that it would be academic and detailed in nature.
If you are interested in Mesopotamian studies and history, then Leick's book is for you. She takes each of the ancient cities, and builds on them (pun intended) so that we can see the development of ideas and culture. We go from Eridu, to Uruk, to Shuruppak, to Akkad, to Ur, to Nippur, to Sippar, to Ashur, to Nineveh, and finally to Babylon. And since we're senselessly waging war on the sites of these foundations of civilization, it might be good to read about what we're putting into harms way, and might loose.
If you're religious, then this book is a must. It spells out the context of certain Biblical texts and traditions and puts a new slant on the religion of the Hebrews.
"New Spiritual Architecture"
Phyllis Richardson, Abbeville Press
This was found with my Easter basket this year, a gift from Arthur. It is a compendium of new religious architecture, Christian, Islamic, and Jewish. What grabbed his attention and mine was The Church of the Sacred Heart, in München, Deutschland, by Allmann Sattler Wappner, (see page 148 - if you've got the book in front of you). It is an amazing building whose western wall (liturgical) is actually two large doors that encompase those whole of the wall to open up the church to those outside.
There is one strange omission and that is Mario Botta's San Giovanni Battista in Mogno, Switzerland. Perhaps its 1995 construction date makes it too old.
Return to home pageMTH - 3/29/08