Books read: May 2008

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June 2, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg

Total read: 11. The most interesting:

A.J. Jacobs, The Know-It-All

I was going to compare Jacobs to Joe Queenan, but then found they loathe each other – or, at least, Queenan gave Jacobs a stunningly nasty review and Jacobs didn’t appreciate it. I guess that sainthood thing really didn’t last.

But if I were to mentally compare their two books, I’d have to say I enjoyed Jacobs’s more, if only for the index. Seriously, this is the most amusing index I’ve read in a long time, though I was disappointed that Jacobs didn’t emulate his dad by including ‘birds, for the’ and bewildered that there were no primary entries for cross-eyed women (a theme throughout the book).

This is a good book for Pretty Smart people. Not the super brainiacs, but those of us who had a fine general education, can name one Finnish composer (but not two), that sort of thing. Because then you can read the book and feel smug about the things you did know (Theodore Roosevelt –> teddy bear) and file away the things you didn’t (the Bastille was empty when stormed) and say ‘ha!’ at the errors you find (granted, I only caught apostrophe errors, and those most likely crept in after the final manuscript was submitted, but still, there are three of them).

Kevin Jackson, Invisible Forms

A great book for Pretty Smart People Who Like Books, because it’s a delightful cornucopia about the parts of books you don’t normally think much about – dedications, indexes, that sort of thing. (Again, no self-referential playfulness in the index. Why not???) Reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read Georges Perec’s A Void, written (and translated from the French) without using the letter ‘e’.

Bernd Freytag Von Loringhoven, In the Bunker with Hitler: The Last Witness Speaks

This book is a triumph of marketing.

First, the title (in the UK edition, anyway, which is the one I have). In the original French it’s Dans le Bunker de Hitler, and that part of it is, erm, metonymy? Zeugma? What’s the device for when you refer to a part to represent the whole? Because the bunker section is one chapter. ONE.

The book is 195 pages, including embedded pictures, and has incredibly wide margins and leading. Not a lot of substance.

The second part of the title is simply confusing. The last witness of what? The events of the final days in the bunker? As far as I am aware, Rochus Misch is still alive, so no, BFvL (not typing that all out again) isn’t the last. And given that he left the bunker on April 29 he certainly wasn’t the last witness of Hitler, who died on the 30th.

Quite a lot of the book consists of potted biographies of Nazi war guys and quick overviews of ways Hitler sabotaged his own military. I can get the latter from Speer and the former from Wikipedia.

The most interesting thing is the cover photograph. I’m guessing that’s a room in the bunker, but the credit goes to Getty Images and there’s no description. Yep, Getty Images says it’s the conference room. But it would have been nice not to have to do research myself.

Basically, the new stuff here is BFvL pointing out that he wasn’t a Nazi, knew nothing about the Jews, thought Hitler was evil, etc. And that’s not new, because there’s a variant in just about every post-war memoir going.


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Photo credit: Rahima Subhan

Tiny bio

I live, work, and write in Edinburgh. I travel to other places as much as I can. To contact me, email writingmostly at gmail dot com.


CURRENTLY READING: The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo.

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