Confederates in the Attic- Tony Horwitz (1998)
This book has been around my mother's house in Italy for a couple of years. The cover features a photograph, aged and sepia-toned, of the most fierce looking man you have ever seen, seated and posing for the camera. It turns out that the man is a modern day Civil War re-enactor. He is "hard core", meaning that he goes to incredible lengths to be as authentic to the experiences that true Civil War soldiers endured. He carries (and eats) rancid bacon with him, sleeps in the pouring rain, marches barefoot for miles in search of true authenticity...The book is ultimately about the connection that the South feels to the Confederacy today, a connection that seems to be getting stronger. I have never been south of Cincinatti. This was all new to me.
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1963)
Matt's donation again. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. died recently (a man in Arusha keeping you all up to date on cultural current events!), so I pulled this crumbling and yellowed paperback off my shelf. By chapter 2 (of 127!) the cover had fallen off. Soon I resorted to reading it like one peels a banana, discarding pages as I went. This is a book that left me wondering how beautiful it must be to have no filters, to write (or draw or whatever) with no concern about how ridiculous your creation might seem. So I won't write about the story, because it sounds ridiculous. In this book Vonnegut makes ridiculous images, events and characters into something beautiful. Rather Bokononist, perhaps.
The Conversation (1973) - starring Gene Hackman
Another of Matt's blind selections (blind to us). Matt is feeding us these great movies that we would NEVER have watched otherwise, and is giving us great cocktail party conversation. No more chatting inanely about the stunning flat note hit by the guy on Idol last night. Now I wax on for hours over a Tusker about about the terribly sad, desperate and lonesome men that are featured in Matt's films. Well, that is what I plan to do when I finally get to a cocktail party in my life. In this film Gene Hackman plays the above mentioned variety of man, a private detective/wiretapper by trade, who captures a conversation on tape that begins to affect him more and more as he listens to it, until it tips him over the edge. The usual Marello-sponsored descent into madness.
The Pawnbroker - Directed by Sydney Lumet, starring Rod Steiger
This came out of my collection without my knowing what the film was about at all. You see, I took Matt's 100 best films of all time and brought them all with me, not knowing what most of them are. It might have been a slapstick comedy with Jerry Lewis as the bungling pawnbroker. It isn't. This is an incredibly sad, powerful film of a Jewish pawnbroker in East Harlem slowly unraveling as his memories of losing his family in the holocaust begin to take over his mind. Rod Steiger is amazing, the music is beautiful (Quincy Jones), and the black and white photography of New York is great.
The Dragon Scroll - I.J Parker
Before leaving New York I bought a couple mystery novels. I have never really read mystery, so this intrigued me. The book features Sugawara Akitada, a young Japanese nobleman who has fallen on hard times. He spends the book trudging through 11th century Japan's muddy streets, defending honor (his own as well as other people's) and trying to solve a crime.
The Shape of Water - Andrea Camilleri
This is the other crime novel that I bought. Set in Sicily, it is the account of Ispettore Montalbano's efforts to understand and go after the local malefattori. The police and the criminals all work, of course, Sicilian style. My highlight of the book is that each time the Inspector comes home, he describes the meal that his maid has prepared for him. Managgia la miseria, they don't cook in Arusha like they do in Sicily.
Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
Bradley gave me this, a fine old hardcover version, that I shipped across at book rate. I have never read sci-fi, but this was beautiful and sad. It is a great novel, set in a dark, Jetsonsy world.
A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
This came in my bags. I find that when I leave the United States I immediately suffer a strange nostalgia. Not for reality TV, nor for the re4st of the bullshit. Maybe for what might have been? I guess you have to get out of all of the crap to be able to see the beauty. Anyway, I read this compulsively.
Network (film, 1976) Faye Dunaway,William Holden,Robert Duvall
I think that this movie had a similar effect on me as Zinn's book. I now look at the United States from afar, and so the shocking relevance of Network's message (who does the media serve?) to today's western societies is even more glaring. Beyond that though, the movie is almost perfect in many ways, with really great writing and acting.