If you want the story, there is a good movie. Russian novels are difficult at best and the only reason I even understand this is because I took a course on Dostoevsky in college. One of the main problems for non-Russians is the variety of names for a single person: there are formal names, semi-formal names, diminutives and short diminutives. The person who reads this book solves that problem because somehow he makes it clear who he is talking about. Overall, the reader is excellent.
This is the third time I've "read" the novel. Each time you notice something different, like with the appreciation of any timeless artwork. This time I noticed Kolya's interaction with the doctor at Ilusha's fbedside. Who cares about Fyodor? This is the real tragedy. Also, I noticed how boring the lawyer's speeches were at the end of the book and I wondered if Dostoevsky had noticed a market for courtroom dramas and was trying to drive up sales . . . ever the cynic.
It's a powerful genre, wanting to read gossip about how the rich are, deep down inside, just like us. I listened to this book thinking "good, I get to see rich people having trouble due to having so much money" but ended it feeling sad and sorry for all of them. None of them deserved what they got. I guess it's more of a curse than a gift.
The central figure of this immensely complicated tale is so cute and puppy-dog like ("Hey! Guys!") no wonder he gets away with everything! I wonder how much government dollars he cost . . . .
This book was really good - it does have a murder, drugs and a few low-life criminals - but really it's a history of Hollywood at its early stages (so you can feel justified spending time listening to it). I like the way histories are now being written - from multiple viewpoints with many different characters. The social changes taking place at that time I now understand better - an old "political correctness" had to be overcome before kids could watch movies. Hollywood had to battle cultural prudishness to make room for creativity - and now it's the icon of the past against which new media must fight. The cycle of life.
I bought this book for what I thought would be light and entertaining reading. However, it sucked me down into a whirlpool of sadism, abuse, lying, tyranny, and mind control. L. Ron Hubbard and his successor rank with Hitler and Stalin, lacking only opportunity to take a whole country. The first courageous journalist who tried to stand up to them nearly lost her life. It's terrifying how easily this can happen - all you need to do is gain access to some key public figures who will do your recruiting for you, suggest an air of mystery and superiority, then corner and brainwash your converts. At the same time I'm reading "Crowds and Power" by Elias Canetti, and this same thing has been done countless times before and will be done again. Thank god some converts were able to leave, live and tell their tales and for the journalists who put their lives on the line.
I reviewed "Empty Mansions" as well, since I read both. This book achieved something that the other did not - it brought us into Huguette's world. She takes the reader into her early unfulfilled romances and shows the connection between the dolls, dollhouses, painting lessons, photography, frame-by-frame cartoons and how, put together, they became art. Whereas the "Empty Mansions" authors see the glaring oddity of buying houses with no intention of even visiting them, Gordon sees the creative inner life of Huguette within her own walls.
There should be a Huguette Clark art show, at the Corcoran maybe. It could finish the work Meryl Gordon started - showing the results of a lifetime of creative collecting, modifying and documenting aspects of the material world (i.e., dolls and dollhouses, Japanese design and architecture). I would love to see the photographs she took of the staged settings in the dollhouses. Architecture played a major role in her life - houses huge, empty and forbidding, houses under construction, houses built for pride, bought as buffer zones and manned like gatekeepers to a distant castle, houses that Huguette tried to keep frozen in time, her world growing smaller and smaller around her . . . and the placement of the dolls in the photographs she staged may say something about her role within this world. Huguette documented her own life via photography - that may be her real "voice."
I'm embarrassed to admit I bought and listened to both Huguette Clark books. They are different. Meryl Gordon understands things Bill and Paul do not, such as that the dolls and dollhouses, when mixed with photography, became art. But then Bill and Paul had viewpoints that Meryl missed. Also, in this audio-recording, we hear Huguette 's voice, which was wonderful.
One reviewer says "I still don't understand Huguette Clark." I feel I DO understand her (I have relatives like her). Part of it is that's she's an ordinary fallible human being just like everyone else, only her excesses are magnified because she was so rich. Every community has Huguette Clarks, but they live behind piles of newspapers and Chinese food containers instead of Monets and Manets. There are also many, many Hadassah Peris, so this is a cautionary tale. As the bloggers Grossman and Friedman write "Big money and advanced age can be a dangerous, poisonous, explosive combination. Beware."
I'm still in the midst of listening to this, but I want to comment on the reader. I don't know how he does it, but he infuses every sentence with excitement. This book could be slow-going for a non-programmer such as myself, with very very complex structures underlying the story that ARE the story, so they must be understood. This reader never lets your attention flag by the repressed excitement and drama in his voice. It makes understanding the complex structures easier. It's well-written too (although I could do without the minibios - but I guess that's the payoff for being in the book).
I read, somewhere, this book called the "best ever written." The performance by Guidall is also of that caliber - his character voices, of Don Quixote, Sanco Panza and all the others, are so individual that you soon forget this is a book. You can forget you are at home, washing dishes, believing instead that you are on a dusty plain in the burning sun, thirsty, with empty saddlebags, listening to the story of an enchanted shepherd. The voices are SO good that sometimes the dramatic pauses, sighs and perils-of-pauline-type purple-prose start in one register and fall down the scale, "Oh-h (high) - oh - oh-h oh-h (low) h-oh," in D-sharp minor. This book can't be rushed.
At first I was slightly bored by it, thinking OK, it's a classic, it's got to be good, and if it isn't, at least I can say I read it. Then, gradually, the humor started showing through. Now I don't want it to be over (I'm not done yet), I want to enjoy every moment, and I may even listen to it again.
Moreover (literati), this book is about books from a time when books were television, movies, YouTube, twitter, vines and all social media combined. It's also a history, capturing not only what was going on in Spain in the 16th century but referencing what had been going on in Europe from the 13th to 15th - it could be read side-by-side with Barbara Tuchman's In a Distant Mirror (the two versions of Knight Errantry fit rather well). It's the ideology of heroism about the ideology of heroism, knights saving widows and orphans (Tuchman points out that the reality was more like knights raping, then killing, widows and orphans) and the funny thing is, that same ideology is here with us today in Hollywood movies and other heroic shows. That's the mark of a classic, that it's timeless, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Cervantes managed to poke fun of the 21st century from the distant mirror of the 16th.
I'm glad Kaplan's out there doing all the traveling for me. I also appreciate the historical research and analysis. It's very hard to understand what is going on in the world today, but this book helps.
What a life Mary had! It was an insane whirl and makes you glad you aren't a queen. This well-balanced treatment puts her life into the context of Elizabeth's life and makes inevitable the battle between them. It's good, but not as good as Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles.
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