Monthly Archives: June 2013

I am an anarchist in politics and an impressionist in art as well as a symbolist in literature. Not that I understand what these terms mean, but I take them to be all merely synonyms of pessimist… Henry Adams

Zwerdling may have, without realizing it, hit the proverbial nail on the head. The four writers that he discusses we not American in terms of sensibility. The most American of the lot, Henry Adams, was a relic. Henry James and T. S. Eliot were to effete and too fragile to meet the needs of a new land and although the latter had some real genius it is was not sympathetic to his place or age. While James would fit in as a romance writer – a sort of  Barbara Cartland on steroids – it was Pound who was the most European of them all fitting into the new continental milieu that was one step short of nihilism and would take that step and plunge into that abyss during his lifetime.

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Improvised Europeans: American literary expatriates and the siege of London New York, NY, U.S.A.: Basic Books, 1998 Alex Zwerdling Americans England London Intellectual life Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 383 p.: ill.; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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At the turn of the century the United States seemed poised to overtake its European rivals on all fronts; its many strengths were finally being recognized—the wealth of resources, the profusion of ideas and innovation, and the artistic talent of its citizens. American power was expanding and American writers — including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Whitman — were acclaimed at home and abroad.

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The Hay-Adams Hotel, on Lafayette Square across from the White House, Washington, D.C. The hotel was built by Washington developer Henry Wardman. It is named for two residents who once lived on the site before the hotel was built: author Henry Adams and John Hay, assistant to Abraham Lincoln and later U.S. Secretary of State. Hosting the newly married FDR and his cousin Eleanor at lunch while their other cousin, Theodore, occupied the White House he reportedly told them that the occupant of the house “across the street” would never make any impression on the world…

England’s condescending air toward America had already become inappropriate. The United States had reached a new level of respectability in the world. In light of this favorable international climate, why then did some of America’s most talented young writers travel to London to become, as Henry Adams put it, “improvised Europeans”?

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Few writers have been studied and analyzed as much as the quartet at the heart of this book. But Alex Zwerdling was perplexed by this shared and often overlooked aspect of their background: Why, at the dawn of the American century, did these writers choose to go ”back” to what was called ”the Old World”? And why would these brilliant thinkers include in some of their most acclaimed work material that is today reviled as offensive — anti-Semitic, racist, anti-feminist? What was happening in the United States that repelled them?

T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot

In striving to answer these questions, Alex Zwerdling illuminates the lives and careers of Henry Adams, Henry James, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound as never before. These men chose to live their lives abroad at a crucial point in American history, both domestically and internationally. The massive influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe began to whittle away the Anglo-Saxon majority. The end of slavery created a renewal of efforts to destroy the last vestiges of Republicanism at the altar of the false god of universal equality. Women’s confidence and political power grew as they fought for independence and their own rights.

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound

These developments, Zwerdling argues, were large factors in why these four writers fled. He examines their works and their lives in the context of the American scene they left, and also in the context of the British scene they left for. His brilliant cultural history uses personal correspondence, unprinted articles, and other previously unknown sources to unravel the historical forces that shaped these literary lions. Depicting their careers as a roller-coaster ride through alien territory, the book shows that they produced extraordinary work in the midst of perpetual friction, indifference, and even active hostility.

Comments Off on I am an anarchist in politics and an impressionist in art as well as a symbolist in literature. Not that I understand what these terms mean, but I take them to be all merely synonyms of pessimist… Henry Adams

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Scientists dream about doing great things. Engineers do them… James A. Michener

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Vision or villainy: origins of the Owens Valley-Los Angeles water controversy College Station [Tex.]: Texas A&M University Press, c 1981 Abraham Hoffman Water-supply California Los Angeles History Hardcover. 1st. ed. xix, 308 p., [20] leaves of plates: ill.; 24 cm. Bibliography: p. [277]-297. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Photograph shows a bird's-eye view of a large reservoir with mountains in the background and highway in the foreground, in Los Angeles, California.

Photograph shows a bird’s-eye view of a large reservoir with mountains in the background and highway in the foreground, in Los Angeles, California.

A century ago William Mulholland oversaw the creation of one of the greatest engineering projects of the 20th century – the building of the 200 mile long Los Angeles Aqueduct – and the growing city of Los Angeles, amid considerable conflict, appropriated water from a rural area 250 miles away. Still unresolved, the controversy surrounding the Owens Valley-Los Angeles Aqueduct has long since moved from the personal, even violent level fictionalized in the movie Chinatown to the dry realm of court proceedings, injunctions, and environmental impact reports.  But water remains a problem in California, and the questions raised by these events — the rights of a rural area versus a growing metropolitan area, environmental issues, and levels of government responsibility — are of recognized national importance today.

Stereograph showing view from elevated vantage point of the Kerckoff Dam and spillway.

Stereograph showing view from elevated vantage point of the Kerckoff Dam and spillway.

Much of the history of the controversy has been incompletely or imperfectly reported. Conventional accounts have focused on city versus valley, overlooking the role of the federal government. Others espouse the “conspiracy” theory popularized in Chinatown, dealing in plots and personalities.

Illustration showing bird's-eye view of mountainside, tunnel opening, canal forming Owensmouth Cascase, and crowd celebrating the opening of the gates releasing water from the Owens River into San Fernando Valley via canal.

Illustration showing bird’s-eye view of mountainside, tunnel opening, canal forming Owensmouth Cascase, and crowd celebrating the opening of the gates releasing water from the Owens River into San Fernando Valley via canal.

Relying on primary sources, many unused until now, Dr. Hoffman demonstrates how the utilitarian views of Theodore Roosevelt and his agents in the Geological Survey, the Reclamation Service, and the Bureau of Forestry helped determine the future of Los Angeles and the fate of Owens Valley. A model of historical reporting, this book redresses the balance in a record that too often has been oversimplified, usually at the expense of the city and often in terms of heroes and villains.

GRANT LAKE DAM LOOKING SOUTH - Los Angeles Aqueduct, From Lee Vining Intake (Mammoth Lakes) to Van Norman Reservoir Complex (San Fernando Valley), Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, CA

GRANT LAKE DAM LOOKING SOUTH – Los Angeles Aqueduct, From Lee Vining Intake (Mammoth Lakes) to Van Norman Reservoir Complex (San Fernando Valley), Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, CA

Comments Off on Scientists dream about doing great things. Engineers do them… James A. Michener

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God has given such brave soldiers to this Crown that, if they do not frighten our neighbours, at least they prevent us from being frightened by them… Elizabeth I

To end all wars: a story of loyalty and rebellion, 1914-1918 Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011 Adam Hochschild World War, 1914-1918 Great Britain Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xx, 448 p., [16] p. of plates: maps; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [411]-426) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG


In this  new work Adam Hochschild follows a group of characters connected by blood ties, close friendships or personal enmities and shows how the war exposed the divisions between them.

They include the brother and sister whose views on the war could not have been more diametrically opposed – he a career soldier, she a committed pacifist; the politician whose job was to send young men who refused conscription to prison, yet whose godson was one of those young men and the suffragette sisters, one of whom passionately supported the war and one of whom was equally passionately opposed to it.

 Through these divided families, Hochschild paints a vivid picture of Britain poised between the optimism of the Victorian era and the era of Auschwitz and the Gulag – a divided country, fractured by the seismic upheaval of the Great War and its aftermath.

Comments Off on God has given such brave soldiers to this Crown that, if they do not frighten our neighbours, at least they prevent us from being frightened by them… Elizabeth I

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And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

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The fruit hunters: a story of nature, adventure, commerce, and obsession New York: Scribner, c 2008 Adam Leith Gollner Fruit trade Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. viii, 279 p.: ill.; 24 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In lustrous prose, Adam Leith Gollner draws readers into a Willy Wonka-like world with mangoes that taste like piña coladas, orange cloudberries, peanut butter fruits and the miracle fruit that turns everything sour to sweet, making lemons taste like lemonade. Peopled with a cast of characters as varied and bizarre as the fruit – smugglers, inventors, explorers and epicures – this extraordinary book unveils the mysterious universe of fruit, from the jungles of Borneo to the prized orchards of Florida’s fruit hunters to American supermarkets.

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Gollner examines the fruits we eat and explains why we eat them (the scientific, economic and aesthetic reasons); traces the life of mass-produced fruits (how they are created, grown and marketed) and explores the underworld of fruits that are inaccessible, ignored and even forbidden in the Western world.

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Comments Off on And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

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Millions for defense but not one penny for tribute… Robert Goodloe Harper

A perspective View of the loss of the U.S. Frigate Philadelphia in which is represented her relative position to the Tripolitan Gun-boats when during their furious attack upon her she was unable to get a single gun to bear upon them. Contemporary engraving after a drawing by Charles Denoon.

A perspective View of the loss of the U.S. Frigate Philadelphia in which is represented her relative position to the Tripolitan Gun-boats when during their furious attack upon her she was unable to get a single gun to bear upon them. Contemporary engraving after a drawing by Charles Denoon.

Muslim pirates had prowled Mediterranean since the 9th century but it was not until the expansion of the Ottoman Empire and the arrival of the pirate Kemal Reis in 1487 that the Barbary corsairs became a true menace to Christian shipping. For the next four centuries Barbary pirates looted the cargo of ships they captured but their primary goal was to capture and enslave people – white gold.  Between 1530 and 1780 more than a million Europeans were captured and taken as slaves to Muslim principalities.

Decatur Boarding the Tripolitan Gunboat during the bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804

Decatur Boarding the Tripolitan Gunboat during the bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804

It finally took the nascent United States and the young Commodore Stephen Decatur to dictate terms to the ruler of Algiers, “dictated at the mouths of our cannons”, to put an end to this early form of hijacking. It is worthwhile noting that in the absence of Western booty the Barbary states withered to an insignificance that only Tripoli would be rescued from by oil – the rest are just so much sand with arabs sitting under trees eating their dates. Maybe if we had another James Madison as president the current scourge of attempted muslim domination could be lifted?

Stephen Decatur's Conflict with the Algerine at Tripoli during the boarding of a Tripolitan gunboat on 3 August 1804.

Stephen Decatur’s Conflict with the Algerine at Tripoli during the boarding of a Tripolitan gunboat on 3 August 1804.

Pirates of Barbary: corsairs, conquests, and captivity in the seventeenth-century Mediterranean New York: Riverhead Books, 2010 Adrian Tinniswood Pirates Mediterranean Region History 17th century Hardcover. 1st American ed. and printing. xx, 343 p.: ill., map; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [325]-333) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Stephen Decatur (1779-1820)

Stephen Decatur (1779-1820)

It’s easy to think of piracy as a romantic way of life long gone – if not for today’s frightening headlines of robbery and kidnapping on the high seas. Pirates have existed since the invention of commerce itself, but they reached the zenith of their power during the 1600s, when the Mediterranean was the crossroads of the world and pirates were the scourge of Europe and the glory of Islam. They attacked ships, enslaved crews, plundered cargoes, enraged governments, and swayed empires, wreaking havoc from Gibraltar to the Holy Land and beyond.

Commodore William Bainbridge, USN (1774-1833)

Commodore William Bainbridge, USN (1774-1833)

Historian and author Adrian Tinniswood brings alive this dynamic chapter in history, where clashes between pirates of the East – Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli – and governments of the West – England, France, Spain, and Venice -grew increasingly intense and dangerous. In vivid detail, Tinniswood recounts the brutal struggles, inglorious triumphs, and enduring personalities of the pirates of the Barbary Coast, and how their maneuverings between the Muslim empires and Christian Europe shed light on the religious and moral battles that still rage today.

Campaign against the Barbary Powers, 1815  Engraving depicting Commodore William Bainbridge's squadron sailing from Gibraltar on 6 October 1815.

Campaign against the Barbary Powers, 1815 Engraving depicting Commodore William Bainbridge’s squadron sailing from Gibraltar on 6 October 1815.

Comments Off on Millions for defense but not one penny for tribute… Robert Goodloe Harper

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