Monthly Archives: October 2014

Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic by Daniel Allen Butler

Unsinkable: The Full Story Of The RMS Titanic

I was eight or nine years old when Titanic barreled its way into theaters, so I wasn’t at the epicenter of the hysteria over the movie (my best friend in elementary school saw the movie in theaters and immediately became obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio – meanwhile, I was still spending recess pretending to be a horse, because I was super cool). I don’t think I actually saw the movie in its entirety until I was a teenager, so I was never as fascinated by the story as everyone else was, but I still understood the appeal. Even if you remove the hysterical star-crossed lovers plotline (You jump I jump, Jack!), the story of the sinking of the Titanic is almost too classically Hollywood to be believable. A ship that was billed as “unsinkable”, one of the most luxurious ocean liners of its time, strikes an iceberg and sinks, resulting in the highest casualties of its time (prior to the sinking of the Titanic, the grand total of deaths on an ocean liner in the past forty years was six people). Poor people trapped below as the ship sinks, families saying tearful goodbyes at the lifeboats, and musicians playing even as the ship goes under? You can’t make this shit up.

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A History of the Vikings by Gwyn Jones

A History of the Vikings

 

“…the temptation is strong to offer generalizations about the viking himself, produce a ‘typical’ figure, and prop him against the museum wall with his catalogue number and descriptive label. It is a temptation to be resisted because of its limiting and misleading consequences. Harald Hardradi, who waged war from Asia Minor to Stamford Bridge for thirty-five years, was a viking; so was his father Sigurd Sow, who stayed at home and counted haystacks. Hastein, who led the Great Army of the Danes into England in the early 890’s, was a viking; so too was Ottar, who came peaceably to his lord kind Alfred’s court with walrus tusks and lessons in northern geography. The men who destroyed churches in England, Ireland, and France were vikings; so too were the woodcarvers of Osberg and the metalworkers of Mammen. The men who said ‘With law shall the land be built up and with lawlessness wasted away’ were vikings; so were the practisers and curtailers of blood-feud, the profit-makers and those who robbed them of profit, the explorers and colonizers, the shaper’s of verse-forms and makers of legend. The kings and their counselors who brought the Scandanavian countries within the boundaries of Christian Europe were vikings. In short, the viking is the aggregate of this book and recalcitrant to summary.”

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My Venice and Other Essays by Donna Leon

My Venice and Other Essays

Donna Leon and I have a strange relationship. She’s nowhere near the top of my list of favorite detective writers, yet I’ve read six of her Commissario Brunetti mysteries (sort of how I really don’t like Rent all that much, yet through an odd combination of circumstances have seen the show three times). Her books always leave me feeling unfulfilled, even though at this point I should know better than to expect miracles from them. But I keep coming back to her books, hoping to find that really great one that I know is hidden in the series, and I do this for one reason: Venice. Much in the way that I would happily watch paint dry if the narrator from Bridezillas was providing commentary, I will read just about any book that takes place in Venice. It’s a killer setting, especially for a mystery, and despite all her weaknesses as a writer, Leon uses the setting to its full potential in every book.

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