I cannot complain about Nasaw's writing: he is generous and understanding. I liked Joe Kennedy going in, and he didn't suffer much on the way. Nasaw disposes of the "bootlegger" lie handily; it is too bad he had to bother with that at all. A little more on the Hollywood years would have been appreciated here, but there is only so much you can squeeze into a fat biography.
My reservations are mainly about the narration, which does not seem to have suffered any decent editor's fine hand. The narrator does not know what he is talking about sometimes, continually pronouncing the Astors' Cliveden House as Clyve-den (it's 'Clivdin'); he also repeatedly mispronounces the name Cadogan (as in the Irish surname, the peer and the multiple placenames in London) as Ca-dough-gin when it is of course Ca-duggin. He turns Noroton, Connecticut into Norritin (rather than 'Nor-O-tin'). And so on. These are not minor quibbles. If one is going to speak of the 'Cliveden Set' many times, one should at least know how to pronounce it.
Lawrence here is a young scholar, not at all flaky, cowering, or emotionally crippled, who puts on a uniform and plays the Great Game. His story is told in parallel with those of some others, an upper-class but impoverished scion from America named William Yale, and some Zionist settler/spies in Palestine.
Someone should have reined her in. Donna Tartt put everything she wanted to write for the past ten years into this magnum opus, and it shows. She creates a believable world, but I'm not sure it's done justice by the length. The whole story would have been improved greatly by cutting it down to half its length.
My favorite of all the Churchill bios. Jenkins admirably steers clear of the high-perspective generalizations we are usually exposed to. He has a keen knowledge of Parliamentary minutiae, and sticks to his knitting. This is the Churchill biography for the political junkie and those who have read everything else in the field.
There are many things wrong with this book. It appears that Michael Ford did not do a real translation at all, he merely rewrote a new paraphrase based on the earlier, faulty, editions, and self-published it through a print-on-demand scheme. Nothing wrong with that if his intention was to create a readable, rationalized edition with the Murphy and Manheim errors corrected. Alas Ford doesn't even write or proofread English very well, and makes a bad situation worse. He has some bizarre and novel 'translations' of phrases that do not require translation, for example the newspaper 'Volkischer Beobächter', which he turns into 'The Race Watcher.' If you must translate a title like that, something like 'People's Observer' or 'Populist Observer' or even 'Folkish Observer' might be acceptable, but there's no excuse for 'Race Watcher.' (Prof. Randall Bytwerk has written extensively on this and other translation problems, and you should Google that name if you wish to know more.)
What is annoying about the Audible edition is that the translator's footnotes and interlineations pop up frequently and annoyingly, often giving bad information. There should be some way of turning these off, as you turn off pop-ads in a web browser.
This book is a very enjoyable listening experience. There are a number of books that hypothesize an LBJ involvement in the Kennedy Assassination, and some of them marshall the evidence quite well. Some recent books focus mostly on LBJ's political connections. Mark North concentrates mostly on the underworld of Dallas and New Orleans.
Judt was such a big name in his last years, I expected this book to be a marvel of insight and sparkling narrative. It is not, especially not in the Audible version. This vast survey-history is better enjoyed and referred to in its original text format, since it is essentially a reference book and not very useful without index and biblio apparatus.
I suspect this is a book better read than listened to. In the Audible version the choppy, repetitive, disorganized aspects are very evident. This is partly because McClellan is more concerned with emphasizing central points than with providing a smooth-flowing narrative. The choppiness may also be due to a lawyer's cautiousness. If hazarding a guess, he tells you he's offering a possible theory; if constructing a persuasive brief, he reiterates the key events and background details to refresh our memory and keep us focused.
McClellan ties his themes together with dressy literary elements (epigraphs that open and close each chapter) but these are designed to work on the printed page, not in audio, where they trip up the listener like bollards in the pavement.
The latter part of the book is pure autobiographical narrative and flows smoothly. No plausible guesswork here; it's a true recollection and the best part of the book. McClellan worked for LBJ crony Edward Aubrey Clark in the Austin law firm that bought politicians, engaged hit men, and looked to profit enormously once they had Johnson in the White House.
This memoir is not nearly as good as Vidal's 'Palimpsest,' which was a masterpiece of autobiography as well as witty social history. There were bits of exaggeration and maybe outright lies in the earlier book, but the ego is allowed poetic license.
In this volume the memories are running thin and they threaten to get maudlin. The lingering illness and death of Vidal's life-partner Howard Auster is a poignant tale, told with excellent reserve and no soppiness, but it does leave a big black cloud over the whole book.
On the other hand, we've got Gore Vidal himself reading the thing in his Mandarin drawl, and that blots out a multitude of sins. Gore revisits some of the favorites from the earlier memoir--Jack and Jackie, Tennessee Williams, his parents, Amelia Earhart--and brings them to life like Dickens giving a final-tour reading.
We've had a number of books covering this territory. Their various analyses and theories intersect like a Venn Diagram, as there is usually a decided emphasis in favor of blaming the CIA, the Cubans working with the CIA, the Mafia, the Mossad, or LBJ and his Texas cronies. Philip Nelson comes very close to giving us a Grand Unifying Superset of them all. In his version, LBJ might have been a "mastermind" of the assassination, but he he didn't plan every jot and tittle. Basically an opportunist, LBJ took advantage of grudges and political debts, and used them to his advantage.
The performance was annoying, read at half-speed. It put me in mind of Al Gore.
McPherson has many hobby-horses. He is anti-Catholic, anti-Confederate, determinedly leftist. He spouts utter tripe: the Fort Pillow massacre was a slaughter of innocent negroes, for example. The "massacre" was an invention of armchair journalists who weren't there. You won't find any serious historian endorsing this "massacre" story these days. And it's not as though the facts have changed since the 1980s.
The one saving grace of this book is that McPherson gives a good overview of the two or three decades preceding the War. It is a very biased, School of Abolition Dogma overview, but it is coherent all the same.
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