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Culminating in 1900, the technologically superior European powers (and Japan) essentially helped themselves to rotting Qing Dynasty China, so arrogantly that a groundswell peasant army (surreptitiously supported by the Empress) finally attacked their crypto-colonizers, resulting in several battles, sieges and international diplomatic shenanigans. A great narrative of a major puzzle piece of the Great Game of empire and hegemony.
Jordan's book lives in that ephemeral residual dreaminess left over from a just-seen movie, with unlikely mind-scenes, extrapolation and fantasy inspired by specific films and, in a wondrous central section, a poetic exploration of pioneer filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Movies and poetics: a perfect symmetry.
The Odyssey is full of tales and adventures; the Iliad is one vast combat narrative centering on the psychopathic super-warrior Achilles and warfare jacked up by direct intervention of the gods. Fagles' translation vividly captures the gore, insanity and stark beauty of that most intense of human experiences. 2700 years old and still one of the greats.
Highsmith goes deepest into her trademark amorality (the Tom Ripley books) and enters Graham Greene territory:exotic plot and locale and unusual moral questions. She also manages to catch that strange North African torpor familiar to readers of Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky. Like a weird fever dream.
A delicious sociopolitical examination/rumination of the Cold War US via popular culture. Though primarily a film critic, Hoberman has always put his reviews (even back when he was the Village Voice film critic) in a larger cultural context. It lives up to the cover art!
Huzzah! A new book by the Pulitzer-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom, my choice for the go-to one-volume history of the Civil War. Here he treats the naval aspect of the conflict with the same compelling narrative style as Battle Cry, including blockade runners, extraordinary battles for dominance of the crucial Mississippi River and the total game-changing introduction of ironclads.
A straight-out-of-the-gate crime masterpiece by first-time author Harris. Something about the UK produces knockout first novels by crime writers - The Ghosts of Belfast; The Guards. This is another one.