An American Melodrama

(by Chester, Hodgson & Page) Definitive account of the 1968 Presidential campaign, written by three accomplished British journalists, manages to avoid the faux pomp of much American political writing; brilliantly covers the most critical election since 1932 with telling vignettes of key players, Democratic, Republican and independent. Pithy chapters on RFK‘s death in Los Angeles and Nixon working southern delegates at the Miami Hilton are classic. At page 355, this passage appears, describing the aftermath of RFK’s wounding in the kitchen area of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles: “It was very claustrophobic , like an alleyway deep in a…

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Alexander Hamilton

(by Ron Chernow) Definitive biography deals comprehensively with the life and work of the highly contentious Treasurer of the early republic.  (It largely bears out Gore Vidal’s fictional portrait of him in Burr). Hamilton was fundamentally a pessimist in an optimist’s land, who wrote that its inhabitants were fit for chains, hoping only for gold ones. [Update: In Vidal’s novel Burr, Hamilton, a powerful figure in the highly-charged early political days of the American Republic, is referred to as “that Creole bastard.”  The record is redressed, better late than never, by Chernow’s fine work and a new musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in…

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Shadows & Influence

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Joan Lindsay was born (1896) when Romanticism still cast its attractively unwholesome shadow and wrote her unique novel (1967) at the height of the Summer of Love.

In this chapter we attempt, briefly, to rope and steer the stubborn and amorphous beast that is influence, with respect to Picnic, both in the writing and its subsequent appreciation. Time and space were not frames of reference for Joan Lindsay. Unlike most of us, who use them to gauge, respectively, succession and mass and, together, motion, she regarded them as metaphysical states of mind.

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