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Charles Bland

Member Since 2014

  • 4 reviews
  • 6 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 27 purchased in 2015

  • A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Cynthia Griffin Wolff
    • Narrated By Anna Fields

    The mystery of how a wealthy New York socialite became a major American novelist is brilliantly explored in this fascinating critical biography, widely considered to be the most perceptive introduction to Edith Wharton's life and work.

    Charles Bland says: "Very useful contribution to Wharton biography"
    "Very useful contribution to Wharton biography"

    At the risk of violating Audible guidelines, the review by Linda Lou is so harsh and unforgiving that I want to push back at her just a bit. Quite apart from the criticism of Anna Fields delivery, the book itself, updated from an original version, is one of just a few first rate critical biographies of Edith Wharton, whose life and writing bridged the Victorian and Modern era. Miss Lou must not be familiar with academic writing, much of which is so abstruse and arcane it makes your teeth ache. Professor Wolff has a literate and graceful style and takes on the entire corpus of Wharton writing, placing it in context of the time it was written, differentiating for example between the erotic content in pre and post-Fullerton efforts. Her work on Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome as well as Summer, House of Mirth, and Custom of the Country, is first rate and she may even have presented Hitchcockians with a source for Hitchcock’s famous MacGuffin. Wolff was a Professor of Literature at MIT when this piece came out in the 90s and may be retired by now. She deserves better than the previous review and Audible is to be congratulated for including academic work like this in their offerings. Charles Bland, Niagara Falls New York

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Rachel Maddow
    • Narrated By Rachel Maddow
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Rachel Maddow's Drift argues that we've drifted away from America's original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails. Sensible yet provocative, dead serious yet seriously funny, Drift will reinvigorate a "loud and jangly" political debate about how, when, and where to apply America's strength and power - and who gets to make those decisions.

    Dolf says: "Half the National Debt?"
    "Drift is must reading for everyone"
    Where does Drift rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Not at the top, this is kind of an unfair question, but highly recommended

    What other book might you compare Drift to and why?

    Drift makes a good companion piece to Karl Marlantes, What It’s Like to Go to War. Drift is more about the evolving disconnect between our society and our war making policy and combat soldiers on a national level whereas Marlantes examines the real problems and contradictions that combat soldiers face both during and after combat. His chapters on Killing and Lying are first rate.

    Have you listened to any of Rachel Maddow’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    What other performances? I watch her on the nightly news.

    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Maddow described an accident outside Goldsboro NC in 1961, in which a B-52 jettisoned its two nuclear weapons. One landed and was retrieved, but was found to have exhausted 5 of its six fail-safe triggers before exploding. In another instance, Maddow described a policy that was in effect when I was part of the Strategic Air Command, in which Manned Bombers were kept in flight at all times in case of a sneak attack that destroyed the US. The ridiculous logic of SAC Policy was that these lonely air crews could then fly a limited number of bombers into the USSR and get some payback on behalf of a nation that no longer existed. The policy evidently took no account of the possibility that the crews would be disabled by grief and despair, knowing for example, that there's was a terminal mission in which they would have no base to return to, not to speak of no family, no country, and no nation..

    Any additional comments?

    Maddow should be read by all of us, but as an avowed liberal and gay person who has a nightly news hour on MSNBC, she will be cast into the outer darkness by the good Christian Evangelicals, Tea Party Republicans etc. whose venue is Fox News. The thread of her piece is the evolving so called Unitary Executive, pashed ruthlessly by George Bush and Dick Cheney, which arrogates war making into itself, too often with the consent and collaboration of the legislative branch. Part of this is the increasing trend of detaching war making from the national political discourse. Obama and Bush found it convenient to their very disparate interests, a long slow culmination from the end of the draft to war by drone, in which the drone pilot sits in a cockpit in Nevada or California and unleashes an armed missile against a target in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Or a B-52 pilot kisses his child goodbye in the morning and says he will be back tonight, while in the meantime "Boxing" a target in a war zone someplace and then flying safely back to base. This in turn is a byproduct of a generation of failed education and low information ignoramus voters who vote on the basis of which robo-call gets implanted most deeply in their head but has utter no conception of what's really happening in politics. Maddow's treatment of the Reagan administrations adventure in Grenada and how Reagan deftly circumvented public involvement or opinion, is priceless Maddow's bottom line is that when we go to war the entire country should feel the pain. One solution should be a mandatory National Service for every American from age 18-21, no exception, with military service one alternative form of service. Terms would need to be worked out, but it’s impossible for the foreseeable future. Republicans would see it as a big government burden that has no political upside and Democrats would need FDR-LBj sized supermajorities to get it past the Republicans. Charles BlandNiagara Falls NY

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Flowers of War

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Geling Yan, Nicky Harman (translator)
    • Narrated By Samantha Quan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    This moving short novel is based on true events that took place during the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, when the Japanese invaded the Chinese city, slaughtering not only soldiers but raping and murdering the civilian population as well. It tells the story of an American missionary who, for a few terrifying days, finds himself sheltering a group of schoolgirls, prostitutes, and wounded Chinese soldiers in the compound of his church.

    Charles Bland says: "Well Worth Remembering and Reading"
    "Well Worth Remembering and Reading"
    What did you love best about The Flowers of War?

    The story skirts around the worst of the atrocities of the Rape of Nanking yet while making only glancing note of the western heroes of the event like John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin, it captures the essence of fear and terror in the Chinese people who had to cope with out of control Japanese soldiers.

    What did you like best about this story?

    Zhang Yimou is noted as a director who can convey visually the essence of Chineseness to a western audience. Yet the novel is a much more compelling narrative than the film made by ZY.

    Which character – as performed by Samantha Quan – was your favorite?

    Undoubtedly Yu Mo for her essential humanity and her ability to reconcile conflicting interests, her own as well as others.

    Who was the most memorable character of The Flowers of War and why?

    Yu Mo

    Any additional comments?

    This is a fictional narrative based on the true events of the notorious Nanking Massacre, a blot and shame on Japan which it has never come to terms with, and an all but forgotten historical event. The pity is that it will be read by very few and that the inferior film will be seen also by few, but many compared to readership of the book. Anyone who bears witness to horrors that have unfolded in Asia, the Bengali (1943) and North Vietnamese (1945) famines, Nanking (1937) The Cambodian Killing Fields (1975-1979) and the strufggle for freedom in Burma, led by Aung-San Suu Kyi, should read this, and hopefully then some or the more detailed studies such as Iris Chang's study of the Nanking Massacre, Elizabeth's Becker's When the War Was Over. Flowers of War is only a good beginning and if it doesn't whet your thirst for more information about this horrible event, read it again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Wise Blood

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Flannery O’Connor
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel is a classic of 20th-century literature. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a 22-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate faith. He falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Hazel founds The Church of God Without Christ but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God.

    Darwin8u says: "Grotesque Southern Gothic Masterpiece"
    "Good parody of the Republican/Tea Party Base"
    What did you love best about Wise Blood?

    After reading the story about 30 years ago, it was fun to listen to it as a parody of the Current Southern Gothic Political Party (Often called theRepublican/Tea Party. It reads like a cultural parody of them.

    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Enoch Emory for his sad, agressive lonliness and the way he reaches out to others by thrusting himself onto them, sort of like Mitt Romney.

    What about Bronson Pinchot’s performance did you like?

    What's not to like with something this delicous?

    If you could take any character from Wise Blood out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Ned Beatty's character, Hoover Shoates, the slick huckster who made Hazel Motes' unsaleable religion into something popular. Sort of like Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich.

    Any additional comments?

    No disrespect, I come from the south and know and love these characters. I grew up with them. First time I read the story back in the 60s or 70s I was seriously struggling to make them coherent as literature. Now, it was much fun, I got all the works of O'connor through Audible and also read the recent novel by Ann Napolitano, A Good Hard Look (Highly recommended). Is it my fault that in the midst of my reading, Hoover Shoates, Enoch Emory and Hazel Motes should be reincarnated in TV debates as Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. The debates are still going on so there is still time to catch the wave brother. Ha Ha.

    5 of 17 people found this review helpful

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