Total Pageviews

Friday, September 9, 2016

Irv's Book Reviews: 3 Great Reads

Posted by patron and guest blogger, Irv S.

Ward Just has combined his considerable knowledge of political maneuvering and his exceptional story telling ability to produce an outstanding novel, ECHO HOUSE.  He follows the careers of three D.C. power brokers, Senator Adolph Behl, his son Axel, and grandson Alec through most of the 20th century. He describes their abilities, strategies, and shortcomings, as well as those of some of their colleagues.  He alludes to the well-known politicos of the day and includes a cameo appearance by Adlai Stevenson on election night of 1952. The Behl’s personal lives receive some attention, but probably no more than they themselves allotted .  The book is about government and politics and is a very good one.
Anthony Doerr received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for his troubling novel All the Light We Cannot See. The two, perhaps three, story lines take place immediately before and during World War II. They are  nonlinear and are separate and independent for most of the novel. Eventually they converge.
Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind French girl whose devoted father builds a city model which she memorizes in order to achieve a measure of independence. Werner Pfennig is a German orphan who has a talent for working on radios which he uses in the service of the German army. Their lives are difficult and depressing. Their meeting is poignant, beautiful and perhaps the weakest element of an otherwise well-written novel.
There is also a plot concerning a Nazi officer whose task is to acquire art and artifacts for the museum which Hitler projects to build after the war.
The book compares the chaos created by ambition with the beauty of nature and innocence of youth.
Doerr's writing is rich with symbolism, strong on characterization, and powerful of description. He conveys the tragedy which befalls the victims of Hitler's ruthless and maniacal plan to rule the world.  

 Jeff Smith, Washington U in St. Louis PhD in political science, has written an interesting and thought-provoking book about his year as a prisoner in the Manchester, KY, Federal Correctional Institution. He intersperses his eye-opening personal experiences with statistics concerning recidivism, its causes and possible (partial) remedies. Smith, while a candidate in the 2004 congressional primary,  had sponsored a piece which was mailed to potential voters. The piece did not contain the identification of its source. Smith told the Federal Election Commission and the FBI that he know nothing about it. He did. He paid dearly for his misrepresentations but used his year as a convict to write his book, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, published in 2015.
He asserts that dollars spent on education of prisoners give a return of 6:1 by reducing the rate of recidivism and producing tax-paying citizens. He advocates for replacing useless training, e.g., hydroponics, with useful courses, especially entrepreneurship, which he demonstrates are aptly suited to the needs, talents, and skills of the inmates. He acknowledges the need for incarceration but suggests ways and methods to make the experience productive for the inmates and for society. Smith is not naive about the prisons, the prisoners, or the correctional officers; he discusses frankly the shortcomings of each, backing up his assertions with generally reliable sources to which the interested or skeptical reader may refer. His end notes are helpful,  but may be referred to at the reader's leisure as they do not contain substantive statements, only source references. This is a very readable and important book.


No comments:

Post a Comment