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Book Reviews

Memoirs Of A Geisha – Arthur Golden (1998)

I remember the first time I watched Memoirs of a Gheisha close to 14 years ago. And the second time. And the third time. And the fascination I’ve developed for anything Japanese. Kimonos, tea ceremony, hair styles, even those silly flip flops.

So you’re probably wondering – if I liked it this much, how come I didn’t read the book? Isn’t the book supposed to be way better than the movie adaptation? That’s why. I liked the movies so much that I thought by reading the book, somehow, the experience I’ve had would be diminished, tarnished. But then I thought – what if it glows even better now that I have the full story?

So I’ve read the Memoirs.

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Book Reviews

Black Klansman – Memoir by Ron Stallworth

I’ve seen the movie at the cinema at the start of last year and I was absolutely enthralled with the concept. A black man joining one of the most bigoted and uncultured and ignorant cult there is? The KKK? That must be a good read!

I was thoroughly disappointed in the book! Read in a dull voice with dry facts and “I did this and I did that” type of sentences, I was soon looking to get some dialogue, a bit of action, something! Anything!

The Story

The story is pretty much the same as the movie:

black-klansman-2As the department’s first black detective, Ron Stallworth thought it might be interesting to see what would come from answering that ad. Figuring on a few pamphlets, maybe a brochure or leaflet, he wrote a note to the P.O. Box, using his real name and asking for promised information. To this day, he’s still not sure why he used his name, and not one of his undercover aliases.

On November 1, 1978, he received a call on the department’s undercover line.

The caller identified himself as a “local organizer” of the Ku Klux Klan who was trying to raise membership there in Colorado Springs. He asked Stallworth several questions, then invited him to meet in person; they agreed upon a time and, once they hung up, Stallworth swung into action.

BlacKkKlansman-trailer-700x300.jpgHe asked for permission to proceed and for a colleague’s help, but was denied; sure that this could be a major matter, he went to higher authorities. He already had in mind a sharp colleague who was white and could “be” Stallworth when Stallworth needed to attend Klan events… because the real Ron Stallworth, remember, is a black man.

For the next ten weeks or so, Stallworth and his co-detective, Chuck, worked their way into and through the Klan. They attended rallies and meetings, thwarted cross-burnings, and Stallworth spoke many times with Grand Wizard David Duke. There was certainly danger in what he’d done but mostly, because of the amateurishness of the organization he’d infiltrated and the mistaken tenants its leaders held, it was a lesson in absurdity.

“It was,” says Stallworth, “as if Dennis the Menace were running a hate group.”

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The Good Bits:

The story was good and the description of how he was initially treated by his policemen peers was pretty accurate for the time period and was pretty funny at points. The idiocy of the KKK members was pretty funny too. Where this book excels is in exposing what a hack many of these hate groups are/were in the 1970s. Advertising their meetings in the newspaper? David Duke answering the national headquarters phone line?

Instead of painting the KKK as pure evil, Stallworth looks at the complexity of the group and what drives its members towards heinous acts and an irrational aversion to non-whites and multiculturalism. As he gets closer to Grand Wizard David Duke, his position becomes even more endangered of being discovered.

The Bad Bits:

There were so many abbreviated groups that after a while I stopped caring which group was on what side. I also hated how every so often the author had to remind the reader how he was the one in charge of the investigation by parenthesizing that he was the one the KKK members were talking to, even when some of the conversations were with his partner playing him undercover. He didn’t need to keep reminding me that it was him running the show.

Stallworth’s lengthy charade amounted amounted to little more than a funny story and speculation regarding crimes that may have been prevented. He himself admits that the tangible effects of this operation were tenuous at best.

It’s a dry read and I found myself meandering over course of the book. The whole book comprised of the Colorado chapter and he didn’t give the insight of the KKK

2/5

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Book Reviews

Pinball, 1973 – Haruki Murakami

What the hell did I read? This is one of those books that you stop at page 10, read the back of the book again, look at the author and resume reading in hopes something will make sense eventually. Written as a collection of short stories or memories, the Author describes his young life (1967-1973) and the Japanese student movement and pinball. Loads of pinball.

This is a novel about pinball. (p19)

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Book Reviews

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami Book Review

Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy. I couldn’t agree more. No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.

In this pretty short (126 pages) memoir, Haruki Murakami explores the relation between running and writing and how much alike they are. He compares the pacing and the determination that it takes to run a marathon to the similar process required to write a novel.

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Book Reviews

On the Move: A Life – Oliver Sacks Book Review

Oliver Wolf Sacks,  (9 July 1933 – 30 August 2015) was a British neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and author. Born in Britain, and mostly educated there, he spent his career in the United States. He believed that the brain is the “most incredible thing in the universe.” He became widely known for writing best-selling case histories about both his patients’ and his own disorders and unusual experiences, with some of his books adapted for plays by major playwrights, feature films, animated short films, opera, dance, fine art, and musical works in the classical genre

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Oliver Sacks packed a lot of life into his 82 years (he died in August). And this incredible volume, the second part of his memoirs (the first is 2001’s Uncle Tungsten), chronicles his busy, fascinating adult life.

My mother, a surgeon and anatomist, while accepting that I was too clumsy to follow in her footsteps as a surgeon, expected me at least to excel in anatomy at Oxford.

Sacks went to Oxford, navigated his way through research and clinical studies (a trip to an Israeli kibbutz helped him focus on his career), moved to the U.S.,  documented his travels (“On The Move” indeed), and discovered his passion for writing.

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Book Reviews

Spoken from the Heart – Laura Bush

In this brave, beautiful, and deeply personal memoir, Laura Bush, one of our most beloved and private first ladies, tells her own extraordinary story.

Born in the boom-and-bust oil town of Midland, Texas, Laura Welch grew up as an only child in a family that lost three babies to miscarriage or infant death. She vividly evokes Midland’s brash, rugged culture, her close relationship with her father, and the bonds of early friendships that sustain her to this day.

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Book Reviews

Prison Diary * Jeffrey Archer (2003)

A Prison Diary is a series of three books of diaries written by Jeffrey Archer during his time in prisons following his convictions for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Each volume is named after the parts of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. The volumes become progressively longer due to his stay being longer and longer at each prison he went to. The UK prison system is highlighted as very petty, poor with pathetic conditions. In my view Jeffrey Archer and the likes of him should have been fined and given useful community service not banged up with murderers and rapists in rubbishy prisons. Prisons and the Police need thorough overhauls to make them fit for UK purpose.

Contents
1 Volume 1: Belmarsh: Hell
2 Volume 2: Wayland: Purgatory
3 Volume 3: North Sea Camp: Heaven

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Marcus Aurelius most mis-quoted advice on how to live a good life

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

― Marcus Aurelius

It seems to me like the quote above was fabricated based loosely on another.
Marcus Aurelius was NOT an atheist, the actual quote should show this quite clearly, though much of his philosophy was very practical, and for the most part disinterested in the supernatural.

“Now departure from the world of men is nothing to fear, if gods exist: because they would not involve you in any harm. If they do not exist, or if they have no care for humankind, then what is life to me in a world devoid of gods, or devoid of providence? But they do exist, and they do care for humankind: and they have put it absolutely in man’s power to avoid falling into the true kinds of harm.”
—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.11

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Book Reviews

Bluebeard’s Egg * Margaret Atwood

This was my first time reading a short story collection by Margaret Atwood and after the phenomenal 20’th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, I was surprised by the very natural – almost memoir-type of writing some of the stories.

“When my mother was very small, someone gave her a basket of baby chicks for Easter. They all died.”

You know you will have a good read when a story starts like this. But it got a bit boring and then a bit exciting, and then a bit boring again, and then boom – in the middle of the book, this gem of a story called “Bluebeard’s egg” which left almost a visceral reaction show on my face as I was reading it. I loved it. And then a bit of boredom again. All in all, the book is a 5/10, more stories about relationships, growing up and growing apart.

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Book Reviews

The Wicked Mr Hall – The Memoirs of the Butler Who Loved to Kill

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OK, I must confess I picked up the book based on the cover. I barely had a look at the author, my eyes were drawn on the very Dexter-like blood splatters, the picture of a mansion in an old-timey frame and seeing the word Butler… made me think of all the crime novels I read where the conclusion was easy:

The butler did it.

Now, this book is not a confession of a butler talking about his life in service in the same way that Kazuo Ishiguro talked in The remains of the day. This is more of a memoir from prison, very much similar to Jeffrey Archer’s Cat O’Nine Tales.