Archive for September, 2018

Review: Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was, by Sjón

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

I read this book during the same week that I saw a theatrical adaptation of Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague. Both works are concerned with epidemics, but there the similarity ends. While the Camus novel shows an epidemic of bubonic plague destroying a north African town, its focus is on the adults who are grappling with the disease. Moonstone is the story of a boy, and a rather unusual boy at that, who experiences the impact of Spanish flu in 1918 in Iceland. It is an extraordinary story, and he is an extraordinary boy, and the less I tell you about what happens, the more you may enjoy the book. This is powerful stuff, a story about tragedy and death, but also growth and hope. Highly recommended.

Review: Fear – Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward

Friday, September 21st, 2018

You know how you go to see a movie and all the best parts were already in the preview? That’s a bit like what happened to Bob Woodward’s 360 page book about the Trump White House. All the best revelations appeared in advance, and there are practically no surprises left in the book.

Woodward makes a tremendous effort to be balanced, and includes scenes that show a better side to Trump — he could be gracious, he could even listen sometimes. But the overall picture is one of loose cannon, a man who should not be around kitchen knives, let alone nuclear weapons.

Having previously read Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, and James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, I actually found this one to be the least engaging of three, despite Woodward’s obvious skills as a journalist and researcher.

Review: Hiroshima, by John Hersey

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

John Hersey’s account of the lives of six survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was first published just a year after the events. Despite the passage of more than seventy years, the work endures, as moving now as it was when first published in 1946.

The book was updated forty years later, so we now know what happened to all six people and their families.

Probably the most shocking moment in the whole book was this one: In May 1955, one of the survivors, Kiyoshi Tanimoto, who was visiting the US, was given an unexpected starring role in the NBC television series “This Is Your Life”. Tanimoto had no idea what was happening, and his shock is palpable when the studio brings out as a surprise guest Captain Robert Lewis, the copilot of the Enola Gay, which carried out the bombing.

This incredibly insensitive movement comes at the end of a short book which cries out for sensitivity, for understanding, for empathy.

Nuclear weapons must never be used again, ever.

Review: Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Roy Peter Clark has been teaching writing to journalists and others (including schoolchildren) for several decades — and now he has taught me.  I’ve read a number of writing books over the years and this is one of the better ones.  The book consists of 50 tips — with 5 more thrown in the for the latest (2016) edition.  My personal favourite is No. 41: “Turn procrastination into rehearsal.”  Here’s a sample of what he says: “One writer daydreams, another eats, another walks, another listens to music, another paces … Each act of procrastination can become a time of planning and preparation.”  As one who has a tendency to procrastinate myself, I love this idea.  A great book.