Monday, June 30, 2008

Loving Frank
(Nancy Horan, 13:40 -- stopped after 10 hours)
I wanted to listen to this since it first came out in 2007. The story of Frank Lloyd Wright's love affair with one of his clients Mamah Borthwick Cheney cannot fully evoke his genius, but it does capture the conflict and duress that a woman faced in breaking conventions. Mamah was by Wright considered his intellectual equal -- she left her husband and children to travel to Europe. In Europe, she chose her vocation, to translate the work of a prominent feminist, Ellen Key. There is a similarity between her chosen career, translator, and her role in Wright's life. As the book began to flag, I read the wikipedia entry on Wright, teased as I was by the recollection from the Oak Park tour of his studio that he'd once been prosecuted under the Mann Act (for transporting an under age woman across state lines). SPOILER HERE: This was in fact something that occurred much later in his life. But his biography recorded that his beloved Mamah, as well as 6 other people, were all murdered by a man servant in a fire that burned down Taliesin. Once I knew how the story turned out, I didn't have the mojo to continue with the tale.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Peel: The Art of the Sticker
(Dave Combs & Holly Combs, 160pp)
I hadn't been aware of the magazine PEEL, but this book collects the best from the first 8 issues, and includes 4 sheets of sample stickers. Will I ever have the inclination to use the stickers? Some are really interesting, but one of the things I value about stickers is their link to the terroir of the adhesive glue I sniff whenever I find new designs.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Good Rat
(Jimmy Breslin, 6:54)
An interesting mafia story, about the two bad cops who performed hits for the mob. The book exposes the pettiness of their work (usually, they charged between $20 and $40K for a murder) and their lying ways. Breslin argues clearly that the mafia's unraveled, and the families have spun out into informers turning on one another.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited
(Elyse Schein & Paula Bernstein, punted after 2 CDs)
An interesting topic (two women, adopted into families with an older brother, turn out to be identical twins separated at birth). In spite of the topical interest, their collective strength is not analytical, and it's far too long to deserve being read in full.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

H.L. Mencken: Disturber of the Peace
(William Manchester, 15 hours, pause after 10)
Mencken was such a firehose of words and clarity. I stopped reading because I knew how it was going to turn out, but it was still a pleasure to follow his life. Not quite as good as Mencken's own memoirs of his own childhood, but Manchester's prose stands as a fine guide to HLM.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Mothers and Sons
(Colm Toibin)
Fine, diverse collection of stories, wandering around (or at least touching upon) the complex theme of sons' relationships with their mothers. Most are set in Ireland, although the final, longest tale occurs in the mountains of Italy.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
(Michael Pollan, 6:23)
A manifesto that should more appropriately be titled "a North Berkeley eater's approach to food issues." Pollan's shorter followup to the Omnivore's Dilemma analyzes how poorly served Americans have been by nutritionists. Dietary science techniques and analytical tools are no stronger than sociology or econometrics, which is just to say, that they frequently collect a basket of fuzzy correlations that get reported as causation. He cogently argues that whenever a foodlike item makes nutrient claims on its packaging, you are more than likely to be eating a bunch of chemicals pushed by the food industry. Our family has attempted to hew to his pithy maxim: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants, and more leaves than seeds." The glaring exceptions are diet Pepsi and Nestle's skinny cows, which are true vices.