Reading List October 2014

Even with my reservations, I think every one of these is worth the price of admission - and should you use one of my links to buy a ticket, I get a piece of the action. Happy reading.

Written by a great-granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West about a summer a couple of years before the Great War, it is a reminder that the days of our innocence were not only not quite as innocent as we might have imagined, but far more innocent than we knew in light of the horror that is to come. A cautionary tale.

A biography that makes you wonder if it's always such a bad thing to be married to a bad husband who locks you in a room and makes you write - so long as you eventually escape and keep writing, that is. To tell the truth, Willy doesn't come off as being quite so bad nor Colette quite so imprisoned as I had been led to believe.

Written by the sister of Candace Brightman, the Grateful Dead's lighting director, this fails for me on several levels. Carol never quite gets it, and she has an irritating air of superiority when comparing the rockers to her own roots in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. But if you are interested in cultural history, this one paints a picture of both, but from only one side of the line.

I'm almost done with this one - hope to have a review out next month. It reads better if you have been to Rome more than once and recognize more of the spaces than I can, after one short stay. It is full of good anecdotes about artists and writers and emperors and their successors, the politicians. I'll write more soon.

I get the feeling that Jacques Barzun didn't think we've made much progress - indeed, given the title of the book, it's possible to think that he believed we have slipped more than a bit. I'll let you know what he finally decides in the final paragraphs that I'll get to by the first of the year. I think.