I am an avid eclectic reader.
This is a series of class lecture by Professor Karen Karblener for the Modern Scholar. This series is on Walt Whitman 1819 to 1892. According to Karblener Whitman was beginning of American poetry and is often called the “father of free verse”. The teacher goes through Whitman’s life and his poetry. She brings up controversy regarding his sexual orientation, his politics as a liberal democrat, being banned in Boston, and his opposition to slavery. She says Whitman was educated only to elementary school but was a printer and a reader. She states he was not considered successful in his lifetime but his poetry became sought after in the 20th century. She reads from some of his poems and discusses them such as “Leaves of Grass”. Overall it is a good introduction to Whitman. I remember little of what we discussed about Whitman in high school so this audio book allowed me to have a good understanding of Whitman and his place in American poetry.
This is a book of 32 short poems divided into three parts published in 1978 written and read by Maya Angelou. I know Angelou is controversial and her books, plays and poems are banned in many places and like many great poets people either love her or hate her poems. I enjoy her poems not only for the story they tell and the optimism but the rhythm and rhyme. I have books of her poems but particularly enjoyed this audio book because of her beautiful voice reading her own poems. In this book I particularly like the poem “Willie” about her crippled uncle. I also enjoyed the working poems “One More Round” the man’s working poem and “Women’s Work” about women. The poems follow the even number stanzas in the eight stanza poem to create a refrain like those found in many work songs and are variations of many protest poems. Angelou wrote a play in 1976 about discrimination called “Still I Rise” the poem came from the play. It is one of my favorite poems. The opening of the poem is as follows:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise
Comparing how she continuously rises herself up emotionally to stay strong just, like how the moon and sun rise every day no matter what happens. By repeating I rise it makes the words that much more powerful and makes it stand out emphasizing the message which is to stay strong and to never allow anything or anyone stop you from fighting and living strong. The main theme of the poem is discrimination. The poem teaches readers that all humans have strength that lies within us that can help to overcome any obstacle. There is rhyme every other line for most of the poem that immediately guides the reader though the poem I think I will keep this book permanently on my iPod so I listen to it whenever I am in the mood.
This is a long book. Caro provides extended passages of background about a quarter of the book on the history of the Senate, from the great days of Webster, Clay and Calhoun to current times. He also went into detail about the architecture and seats in the Senate both before and after the War of 1812. Approximately half of the book covers in detail the epic battle over the 1957 Civil Rights Bill. Johnson’s magic is the main subject of the book: how he made things happen in the U.S. Senate. Johnson’s wheeling, threatening, stroking large egos, explaining why his goal was essential for the Country‘s good, he ran an institution that had never before been run by anyone.
“Master of the Senate” is the third volume of Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson. I seem to be reading this series backwards as I started with Volume four. Caro presents a Johnson that is well rounded. We get to see him with all his warts and all, but also are given admiring recognition of all his accomplishments. Race was the great test for Johnson and the country during his years as Senate Majority leader 1955-61. Caro reveals the obstructed federal action on the cruel mistreatment of blacks in the South; no civil rights legislation had been enacted since 1875, at the end of the Reconstruction.
For years after Johnson entered the Senate in 1949, he mostly voted with the Southerners. He chose as his mentor senator Richard Russell of Georgia, one of the most powerful men in the Senate. Johnson’s friend Philip Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, kept telling Johnson he had to do something for civil rights. In 1957 President Eisenhower proposed Civil Rights Legislation. It appeared impossible to pass the legislation, but Johnson made it happen. Caro’s description of how he did it is masterly. His strategy was to persuade the Southerners that is was in their best interest to let something labeled civil rights go through. The Eisenhower bill was focused on the right to vote, which the South denied the blacks by force and trickery. Johnson weakened the bill but if he didn’t it would not pass. Johnson thought of it as a beginning as opening to further more meaningful legislation.
Caro shows how Johnson learned the rules of the Senate and then used them. He then learned about the men in the Senate, their vanities, frailties and their weakness. He then sold himself to each as their friend, political adviser, their sounding board their Mr.-Fix-it. He also found a way to bridge the chasm between the Southern Democrats and the Northern liberals. The author goes into detail about the Olds Hearing. I will never again watch a Senate hearing without remembering what Johnson did to this man. Olds was up for re-confirmation of the Utilities commission and Johnson destroyed the man accusing him of being a communist just so he could obtain the favor and backing of the Texas gas and oil companies. Johnson organized a sneak attack and controlled the whole hearing so the man could not have the opportunity to refute the charges.
Caro concludes that with the single exception of Lincoln, Johnson was the greatest white champion of blacks in American History. Grover Gardner does an excellent job narrating the book.