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Jim

Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse.

Holland, TX, United States | Member Since 2014

95
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 34 reviews
  • 65 ratings
  • 310 titles in library
  • 10 purchased in 2015
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FOLLOWERS
8

  • Johnny Carson

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Henry Bushkin
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (500)
    Performance
    (446)
    Story
    (445)

    From 1962 until 1992, Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show and permeated the American consciousness. In the ’70s and ’80s he was the country’s highest-paid entertainer and its most enigmatic. He was notoriously inscrutable, as mercurial (and sometimes cruel) off-camera as he was charming and hilarious onstage. During the apex of his reign, Carson’s longtime lawyer and best friend was Henry Bushkin, who now shows us Johnny Carson with a breathtaking clarity and depth that nobody else could.

    JW717 says: "Nails on a chalkboard"
    "The Clown at Midnight"
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    Man! Talk about the clown at midnight after the mask drops . . . sheesh! Carson was Mephistopheles to the author’s Dr. Faustus. For those old enough to remember Johnny Carson’s preeminence on television, his veneer of Mid-western values, Bushkin’s book turns things inside-out. Johnny was a misanthropic reprobate who generated millions for NBC by doing the impossible: entertaining night-after-night for decades, watched by unflagging millions. He was the network’s golden cash cow. Lawyer and friend, Henry Bushkin, was his minion, his “Swiss army knife,” always on call even in the wee hours, enamored by the glitz in orbit around his boss, catching dollars that filtered down. He served a man of quick mood swings. There was “good Johnny” and “bad Johnny,” writes Bushkin. “Good Johnny was charming, ultra-generous, and hilarious. “Bad Johnny” brooded, threw tantrums, held grudges, was thrown down stairs for putting the moves on a mob girl, was invited to fight by Wayne Newton (Carson chickened out), all the while demanding absolute loyalty from his (few) intimates. He sometimes carried a licensed 38 pistol on his hip. He detested crowds and lived in luxury. Carson quotes are sprinkled with the “F” word used as noun, verb, and expletive. Women came and went on a conveyor belt during all his marriages. “A stiff ***** has no morality,” Johnny tells Bushkin. After a while the author gives in and becomes a sort of Carson Mini-me, albeit an increasingly rich one. For those of an age to remember Johnny this is a thoroughly intriguing read worth the dough. I loved it.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • First World War: 1914: Voices from the BBC Archive

    • ORIGINAL (2 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Mark Jones
    • Narrated By Jonathan Keeble
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    At midnight on 4 August, Britain had declared war on Germany. The pacifist Bertrand Russell was shocked by the pro-war euphoria on the streets, yet young men enlisted willingly because "it would all be over by Christmas". It was not. Instead the opposing armies had become entrenched. It was the beginning of a long and bitter stalemate.

    Jim says: "The Summer of War"
    "The Summer of War"
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    This is the first of the BBC's archive of WW1 interviews: Audible offers the next one (1915) as well, but at the time of this writing offers no other years. 1914's first third is a little slow due to exposition but after a while gains momentum. Many speakers were recorded during the 50th anniversary of the war in the 1960s. You can hear a crowd of chatterers in the background in some of them, as if at a reunion. Interviewees are not shaky-voiced, senile centenarians but 60 or 70 years old. Speakers include "Old Contemptibles" from the Mons retreat, British and Germans who participated in the Christmas fraternization, and veterans from the First Battle of Ypres (there were three battles). Although the next audiobook of 1915 is better, this one is nonetheless worth the money and time to hear voices of persons who were actual participants to history. Just give it a little time to get started.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • First World War: 1915: Voices from the BBC Archives

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Mark Jones
    • Narrated By Jonathan Keeble
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    A unique collection of historic recordings covering the events of 1915, from the first Zeppelin raids to the ultimate failure at Gallipoli. In this selection of authentic eyewitness accounts, survivors describe the sinking of the Lusitania; the author Compton McKenzie remembers the Gallipoli disaster; and Violet Bonham Carter pays tribute to Rupert Brooke, who died en route to that campaign.

    Jim says: "The First Full Year of War"
    "The First Full Year of War"
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    A must-have for world war aficionados. The audiobook is made up of authentic interviews supported by narration that details war events in sequence during 1915. The BBC recorded Great War eye witnesses and participants before they died or went senile. Speaking to interviewers are nurses, flyers, sailors and soldiers. These are NOT individuals interviewed at 100-plus years of age just before they died. These recordings date from some decades before. Included is an ex-flyer who describes how his group's instructor took off in an aircraft to illustrate how piloting was done, then crashed and died in front of them. A student nurse of Edith Cavell's in Brussels recounts her teacher's last night before the Germans shot her. There are several ANZAC soldiers reminiscing on Gallipoli and a number of Tommy's doing the same on the Battle of Loos. For those into Great War history this little audiobook is great.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By William J. Mann
    • Narrated By Christopher Lane
    Overall
    (396)
    Performance
    (349)
    Story
    (352)

    By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America's new favorite pastime and one of the nation's largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such power to influence; yet Hollywood's glittering ascendancy was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies - including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now.

    Steven says: "Everybody's a dreamer..."
    "A Nasty Place . . . But Keep That Fact Quiet"
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    I thoroughly enjoyed this book while being wary of its total accuracy. Some events—in the very first chapter, notching up Robert Herron's death as suicide for instance—have alternate explanations with evidence backing them up; Mr. Mann never acknowledges alternatives. In addition, the author "speaks" what his characters are thinking, and forefronts his own take on their personalities (albeit with historical justification). Truthfully, I didn't find such quirks a problem as long as I was aware of them. They made for a smooth, flowing narrative with few historical gaps or breaks, and a fun read. The book's originality is its in-depth description of William Desmond Taylor's murder as a blackmail shakedown gone wrong. As the narrative unwinds, Mann biographizes the presumed perpetrators recently come to light. I bought this book cheap for some reason but it deserves better than to lay on the bargain table. If not already acquainted with dog-eat-dog early Hollywood this serves as a good eye-opener. Mr. Mann catches the atmosphere of wide-spread vice and personal desperation masterfully. I say, buy it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Normans: From Raiders to Kings

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Lars Brownworth
    • Narrated By James C. Lewis
    Overall
    (35)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (34)

    In The Normans, Lars Brownworth follows their story, from the first shock of a Viking raid on an Irish monastery to the exile of the last Norman Prince of Antioch. In the process, he brings to vivid life the Norman tapestry's rich cast of characters: figures like Rollo the Walker, William Iron-Arm, Tancred the Monkey King, and Robert Guiscard. The Normans presents a fascinating glimpse of a time when a group of restless adventurers had the world at their fingertips.

    Lynn says: "Far From Hastings (aka the OTHER Normans)"
    "Norsemen in Palermo"
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    In the nutshell: Normans were Vikings invited to settle in Northern France by a French king, who thought giving them land was preferable to battling them or bribing them. Once settled in Normandy they perfected new military techniques, particularly use of heavy cavalry. Innovation, military success, discipline, love of combat, and thirst for wealth drove them to invade Britain in 1066. Nearly everyone knows about that. The book pays but passing attention to William the Conqueror. Its focus is the de Hauteville family, composed of brothers from a minor Norman clan who had great ambition and shrewdness. The de Hautevilles boys had "it" the way some families do for a time. Since William the Bastard owned England the brothers looked for other opportunities. They sailed to Sicily and Southern Italy. Authority there was in turmoil and possession of wealth was unstable. The area set at a juncture of grand political spheres: Byzantium, Muslim Arabia, the Vatican (which raised soldiers), and Germany (whose armies repeatedly invaded it by coming over the Alps). Sicily in particular was a gem. It had fertile soil and buzzed with trade going to and from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The Crusades made Sicily a fortune. The de Hautevilles conquered the island along with the heel of southern Italy; for two hundred years they stayed its dominant regents. They ducked going on Crusade but sold supplies to Crusaders, worked trade lines between Europe and the Mediterranean, and rented their ships to men sallying forth to Jerusalem. They captured the Pope a couple of times, defeated invaders, put down multiple rebellions, married into European aristocracy, and gave Sicily the most prosperous decades it had had for centuries—albeit ruling with an iron hand. The text details southern Normans fending off foreign hosts while waging internecine fights; interestingly, family winners were most often talented individuals. Two centuries later, however, whatever was bold and compelling in the personality of de Hautevilles leaked out and evaporated, so their regime fell. The Normans is worth listening to. It fills a knowledge gap for most of us history buffs with stories about remarkable personalities.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Joel Greenberg
    • Narrated By Andy Caploe
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    In the early 19th century passenger pigeons accounted for 25 to 40 percent of North America’s birds, traveling in flocks so massive as to block out the sun for hours. Although adults weighed only twelve ounces, they nested and roosted in the millions, destroying large oaks as if hit by hurricanes. Their favorite foods were the seeds and nuts of beech, chestnuts, and other forest trees, but they also raided farmers’ buckwheat, wheat, corn, and rye crops.

    Joanne Manaster says: "A lovely natural history of the passenger pigeon"
    "Humans With the Sympathy of Weasels"
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    In this book the now-long-dead describe how horrid they were to passenger pigeons. It's author found a fund of their quotes in newspapers, regional diaries and journals, unpublished accounts, obscure books, etc. Dead ancestors describe how to kill pigeons in great numbers, how to cook the adults, and note how delicious the babies taste. Nineteenth century reporters give numerous mention to how many pigeons so-and-so killed the previous day with only a single shotgun blast. It seems our deceased kin valued wild pigeons only as a commodity, like grain, or as fun targets to plink as they flew past. Gleaning their attitude from their quotes, the birds weren't sympathized with nor acted kindly towards, only marketed, or shot as some boy's rite of passage. Perhaps vast numbers lost passenger pigeons individual their value? Descending in rolling clouds, each bird was part of a "thing" carrying three possibilities: food, profit, or sport. In one cited instance, rather than allow a few pigeons to escape a large net pinning them to the ground, a pigeon hunter yelled for his assistants to jump prone upon the birds and bite the heads that stuck out of the webbing. Another netter used blacksmith's iron tongs to crush the skull of each pigeon he caught, one by one. Only a handful of citations in Joel Greenberg's narrative describe humans acting humanely. There was an old pigeon trapper, for instance, who had a favorite female stool pigeon he gave a name to. After a while the bird suffered a decline in health. He removed the threads that tied her eyelids shut and let her go, giving her a chance to recover in the wild. The author writes that such gestures were rare until the bird was nearly gone.
    Do not blame professional hunters working for distant companies, netting pigeons in tens of thousands for dooming the bird, writes Greenberg. Although they did mighty damage, more was done by the perpetual massacre at roosts and nestings by citizen hunters, pressuring the birds without letup, month after month, year after year, during the last three decades of their free existence. When the huge flocks disappeared professional netters vanished also. Local "sportsmen," however, pressed on. Birds trying to nest in small groups were discovered and either harried enough to abandon their nests or shot. After they became truly rare local hunters shot them because they were disappearing. "Sportsmen" of the day wanted to bag a passenger pigeon before they were all gone. Meanwhile, the bird's protectors were thought busybodies or cranks, and game laws were not enforced, and were ignored anyway.
    Greenberg describes how, by the 1870s remote areas of the great American forest had been penetrated by roads and railroad tracks, and locations of the enormous descending flocks telegraphed to the public. People converged on the areas by wagon and train. Roosts and nests were surrounded and systematically obliterated. Even American Indians killed in huge numbers, with entire families camping out at nesting areas to slay the pigeons every day until the young fledged. Indians also prized eating the babies. They fired blunt-tipped arrows into the trees to knock squab out of their nests. A part-white Ottawa woman who later became an environmentalist wrote that her family made a slaughter at the spot where pigeons "builded their nests in an Eden." Greenburg writes that the carnage may have climaxed in 1878, at a giant nesting in Petrosky, Michigan; from that time onward pigeon numbers shrank as the birds never had a day's peace. Twenty-five years later their billions were gone except for caged remnants. Wow.
    I had to force myself to listen to this book from about its middle onward because the repetitious slaughter descriptions made me sick. You'll not want to merely chastise your ancestors for what they did—they'll want to work them over bloody with a two-by-four. For all the humorless gloom, the book is thorough, interesting, it's documentation impressive. At the same time it is macabre, angering, and the reader will feel frustrated not being able to stop the killing. Facts are, however, what they are. Andy Caploe speaks a fraction slower than most narrators, which really works well. My only complaint is he should not punctuate the end of sentences by drawing in loud breaths while smacking his lips slightly. That said, I'd gladly sign up for another book narrated by him because he has a fine voice and he doesn't buzz through sentences the way others do.
    Greenberg writes that he dreamed and breathed passenger pigeons for some time in order to put down their whole story. He created a nifty little list of the biggest nestings of passenger pigeons in the second half of the nineteenth century. Near the book's end he goes to a lot of trouble figuring out when the last wild pigeon was shot (he says 1902). I think he fumbles a bit at the very end by trying to pull a parallel moral out of things like tall buildings which kill migrating songbirds, and letting your housecat outside to kill small animals. Be that as it may, it is a truthful book and a worthwhile one. It ought be listened to for the description of an amazing animal now lost to us. More than that, Greenberg has set down a classic tale of how a piece of nature was once processed and consumed until there was nothing of it left, caused by commercial greed partnered with the wantonness and wastefulness of individual human beings.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Lydia V. Pyne, Stephen J. Pyne
    • Narrated By Walter Dixon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (17)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (14)

    The Pleistocene is the epoch of geologic time closest to our own. It’s a time of ice ages, global migrations, and mass extinctions - of woolly rhinos, mammoths, giant ground sloths, and not least early species of Homo. It’s the world that created ours. But outside that environmental story there exists a parallel narrative that describes how our ideas about the Pleistocene have emerged.

    Gary says: "A history of the idea of the Ice Age"
    ""Pleistocene" as a Linguistic Construct"
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    Do not purchase this book thinking its about the doings of geology, climate, plants, animals, and archaic people during the era in its title. It's about the frailties of language. It's about the term "Pleistocene" being at the intersection of common narrative and scientific investigation. It's about etiologically probing the semantics of "Pleistocene" to reveal its constituent parts. If that's your idea of a good time . . . buy the book and laugh yourself hoarse.

    It's obvious the authors are academics. The female is into archaeology and how rhetoric of various kinds defines historical categories; the male just finished a separate book of fire photographs from around the world. Now, they are certainly nice people and both are obviously smart and highly educated. One or both of them is a gifted wordsmith. Nevertheless, let me ask: Unless already rich, how could they earn a living from this sort of stuff beyond the doorsteps of a university? It's the only place it's valued. It's certainly boring for the rest of us and not very informative. The book's pith could be reduced to an article in an academic journal—published by an English rather than a History or Paleontology panel of reviewers. I gave it a chance. I listened through the third chapter before turning it off. The narrator does his best with what he was given.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mein Kampf: The Ford Translation

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Adolf Hitler, Michael Ford (translator)
    • Narrated By James Smith
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (164)
    Performance
    (142)
    Story
    (141)

    For the first time in 65 years, a modern, easy to understand, truly complete and uncensored edition of Mein Kampf has been released which reveals more than any past translation. This is also the first translation available in an English language audio format. Older translations altered passages, omitted passages, mistranslated Hitler's words, and made some parts more sensational while concealing the true meaning in other parts of the book.

    Jim says: "Adolf Thought He Had it Figured"
    "Adolf Thought He Had it Figured"
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    For years I've wondered what this book was like. I finally read the thing. I'm glad I waited because this is a down-to-earth, plebian translation with good footnoted explanations of obscure stuff. The narration, by an Englishman, is quite nice.
    There are some fancy-shmansy phrases to explain its methods of persuasion. What strikes me as foremost is "logical fallacies," which is when a person presents chains of logic that wander off into error. Adolph inked a lot of these, despite the book framing him as an exceptional thinker who studied, pondered, and experienced much of life. Hitler never declares himself a genius but hints at it several times.
    Here is one example of Hitler's questionable chain of thoughts—Germany has an exploding population; there is a ratio of how many persons a country's lands can support; German expansion inside of Europe is therefore necessary; but Germany is hemmed in by crowded Western countries wishing it ill; Germany's destiny lies to the east where open agricultural land may be populated with German blood; if Germans rid themselves of limiting philosophical shackles, and use their extraordinary blood-borne gifts of force and intelligence, they will take these lands and finally create Greater Germany. His thinking moves point-by-point towards (what we now know was) the cliff's edge. Here is another example—At the center of powerful countries has always been transplanted Arian/Nordic rulers; until Slavic Revolutionaries shot them, Russia had such a Germanic cadre who exercised some skill in governing the country; Russia is now ruled by inferior-blooded Slavs and Jews without the aptitude to govern; Russia's manufacturing base, under Jewish/Communist/Slavic hegemony, is not likely increase or modernize; making an ally of Russia is an idiot's action. Reason-following-reason, Adolf moves on to a mistaken conclusion.
    During his time as a Viennese drifter before WW1, Hitler obviously spent time in libraries. The book's pseudo-scholarly conceits echo this as well as the earlier pedantry of German public schools. He name-drops people and events in Hellenistic history. Still, there is no denying that he possessed a truly extraordinary gift for public speaking. Der Fuehrer rose to influence in Germany during a profound vacuum of leadership. Aristotle would call his appearance kairos: in the right place at the right time, saying the right things to the right audiences. Speaking (he writes) for hours, extemporizing brilliantly to the distressed citizens of the Weimar Republic who crowded in to hear him, it is understandable why his message of regained self-esteem and bright hope for the future struck sparks. Here is another fancy term important to the book—subjective validation. That's when a person gives legitimacy to ideas even as idiosyncratic as Hitler's National Socialism, because something inside needs them to be correct. No doubt a fair number of angry and miserable Germans internally legitimized the book's questionable reasoning out of collective emotional need.
    Of course, some in Germany were already captivated by the other great logical fallacy of the era that also promised Eden: Communism. Hitler writes a lot about physical confrontations with the Reds, their tactics, what their propaganda did right and what it did wrong. NSDAP members, he writes, were always ready to brawl with Communists and never backed up, even when out-numbered. By the 1920s, Hitler writes, he became a "master propagandist" who usurped the color red from his great adversary's camp for NSDAP ceremonies, and personally designed the swastika flag.
    One expects anti-Semitic harangues in Mein Kampf, and they are there, but not as much as expected. They increase in the later, added chapters from 1924. Lil' Adolph's line of anti-Jew argument goes something like—Jews are a nation without land, hence they favor multi-nationalism over patriotism; they stay in touch with one another and act in concert to subvert nations; they plot to bring Germany down and rule it, just as they did Russia, through Communism; Jews work to undermine a state's proper functioning to gain power; a reason for legislative bad decisions and sloth is Jewish influence in the Reichstag; the source of the bad reputations of German Racist parties (there were a number of them) is Jewish-controlled newspapers; Jews have inferior blood and wish to breed with Germans to assimilate blood-borne superiority, in time destroying the Arian through dilution; Jews cannot afford National Socialist success because it would wreck their centuries-old plan of infiltration and a hidden rise to power, to rule over the rubble they created. Judaism, Hitler writes, is the "enzyme of decomposition." It is ironic that the supposed Jewish plan to bring a country down and rule over its ruble is exactly what Hitler and his comrades did to Germany by 1945.
    Mein Kampf is worth the reading; I got a better idea of who Hitler actually was. While it's true assistants jotted down his dictation then re-worked it, you can still hear his "voice" in its paragraphs. He was not wrong in everything he complained about, by the way. He was certainly no coward but a genuine war hero. He was a dynamic speaker, adroit propagandist, a Machiavellian manipulator of subordinates, someone who correctly monitored the demeanor of crowds. He was at the same time an eccentric philosopher whose speculative, crackpot ideas were frightening. He was a bright man with strange ideas conceived while living in isolation. One day, low and behold, he actually ran the country and put his "insights" into practice. Within six years of gaining power his country began floundering. But, that's in later books.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs)
    • By Gretchen Morgenson, Joshua Rosner
    • Narrated By L. J. Ganser
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (117)
    Performance
    (100)
    Story
    (99)

    In Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson, the star business columnist of The New York Times, exposes how the watchdogs who were supposed to protect the country from financial harm were actually complicit in the actions that finally blew up the American economy.

    Rob says: "Captivating and enlightening story"
    "We Shudda Saw it Comin'"
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    This is a worthwhile read for those of us who brood over the meltdown of 2008. It’s written for people who are not stupid but not well informed about the dodges of high finance. Admittedly, a few bank/government machinations are difficult to follow in the text, so that a reader must back up a bit and re-read, but that does not happen often; the authors set most of it down in clear English. They explain “derivatives” formulas well, when they pop up, so even I can understand them. The text begins in the 1980s, works its way forward, dumb move by dumb move, enabler legislation by enabler legislation, to the day when seawater floods over the gunnels of gigantic economic ships and they plummet to the ocean’s bottom. The books contention is that business and government manufactured their own submerged mines—out of greed, power and influence, ideologies, and bureaucratic ineptitude—strewing them as they went because it gained them political advantage and (in the case of the finance boys) because they just didn’t give a damn in their rush to make millions. Sound familiar? Ecce Americanus. Financial “wizards” and Washingtonian “public servants” played paddy-cake and you-scratch-my-back for twenty years before the fleet sank. The mines didn’t go off until the original ships’ officers were safe, dry, retired, and very rich. The crew drown, of course. God bless you Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barney Frank, and James A. Johnson. May history give it to you up the wazzu, like the events you precipitated did to so many of us.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Richard Rubin
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (45)
    Performance
    (41)
    Story
    (43)

    They were the final survivors of the millions who made up the American Expeditionary Forces, nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century. Self-reliant, humble, and stoic, they kept their stories to themselves for a lifetime, then shared them at the last possible moment so that they, and the war they won - the trauma that created our modern world - might at last be remembered. You will never forget them.

    Rick says: "Great Story!"
    "Flawed But Worthwhile: History Buffs Should Get It"
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    This book is good most of the time but bad in spots. So are most books I read or listen to—so little offense, Mr. Rubin. If aged WWI veterans don’t say much Rubin mortars history between his blocks of interviews, and the format works pretty well. Or, he inserts interesting observations from personal tours of battlefields in France, in places specific to interviewees. Rubin became friends with the oldsters, going back to visit them every so often, an endearing thing. Grover Gardner narrates the reminiscences well, as always. The book is enjoyable until Rubin quotes lyrics from his WWI sheet music collection. Tin Pan Alley cranked out terrible stuff. Hear a few verses and you won’t want to hear more. And so, if you buy the book, listen to some of the lyrics then skip ahead because it doesn’t get any better until the chapter ends. Rubin writes that he has hundreds of examples in his collection and I guess he wanted to make use of a fair number of them—but yeeeech. Another quick criticism to an otherwise decent book: Being from the East Coast with its philosophical predilections, Rubin defines racism contemporaneously and then condemns it like it happened yesterday, rather than placing it in its particular historical context. For example, he takes a century-old comic novelty song from Vaudeville—“Indianola”—and, with the narrator reading it dead-pan, makes it sound like the KKK wrote it last week. (For an enjoyable couple of minutes listen to the old Billy Murray rendition of “Indianola” on the Internet. It’s fun.) Context? Picture a guy on stage in a loud plaid suit, carrying a cane, “selling” the song on the yokel circuit somewhere in the sticks, in 1918, at eight o’clock in the evening, on a Tuesday, and you have but one historical context for “Indianola.” Ethnic humor was everywhere at the time. That guy on the stage could have been just about any color or extraction, by the way, including Native American if one of them wanted to troop the boards. Using contemporary rules of measure, “K-K-K-Katie” might be condemned as offensive to both stutters and hillbillies. Oops! I mean vocally challenged folk and chronically under-employed rural laborers. I wonder what Rubin would say about Bill Mauldin’s WWII cartoon of an Indian on guard duty stopping a freight train because he was told not to let anything pass? Rubin needed an editor to put his or her foot down in a few spots.
    Taken all-in-all, the book is worth the money if you skip the gas-bag parts. Most of it is well-written and interesting. The diversity of centenarian doughboys (and one doughgirl office worker) is unexpected. And God bless these old guys’ hearts—which have all now ceased beating.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Frederick Lewis Allen
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    Overall
    (71)
    Performance
    (37)
    Story
    (36)

    In this span between armistice and depression, Americans were kicking up their heels, but they were also bringing about major changes in the social and political structure of their country. Only Yesterday is a fond, witty, penetrating biography of this restless decade, a delightful reminiscence for those who can remember and a fascinating firsthand look for those who've only heard.

    Matthew M. Kayes says: "Loved this book"
    "Twenty-three-skidoo, small change"
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    This is simply the best social history of the Roaring Twenties in the United States I’ve ever read, better than the recently published One Summer by Bill Bryson. Written in effortless, flowing prose, published in the early 30s with the decade still fresh in the author’s memory (writing as an anti-depressant after his wife and daughter died), re-published for decades, reading it this time was better than my first time as a boy in the 1960s. It is striking how perceptive and prescient Allen is about events. He sorts through them, giving their why and wherefore as an authentic voice from out of the decade. Although a fine writer, Bryson cannot compete with such finely-tuned descriptions set down just after the era passed. Allen has a wonderful eye for detail: dress, hairstyles, morals, slang. Topics range from inventions, books, the League of Nations, crime, tent evangelism, to the American public’s emotional flip-flops of support and rejection, which at publication were recent phases and fads. The book’s phraseology isn’t antiquated and its objectivity doesn’t creak. Only Yesterday is fresh and entertaining nearly a century after it was written, and the best popular social history of America in the 1920s that I know of.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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