Friday 4 May 2007

One fiction and one nonfiction

Finished May 4
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, read by Stanley Tucci
This is the first fiction that I've read by Vonnegut (having previously read his Man Without a Country and loved it). I'm not sure that I would have wanted to read more of him if this had been my first. It is very surreal. I liked some of the themes, like the environmental one with the pollution of Sugar Creek. Others, like the stating of every male's penis size and every female's measurements didn't help the book to make sense for me. The "and so on" which the narrator explains the use of was an interesting effect once you caught on to it. I think it is his sense of the absurd which is so startling. I found the book grew on my a bit after I finished it, the more I thought about it.

Finished May 3
Tell the Court I Love My Wife: Race, Marriage, and Law--An American History by Peter Wallenstein
Using the case of Richard and Mildred Loving who lived in Virginia (which had a miscegenation law) but married in Washington, D.C. (which had no such law) and who were arrested in their own bedroom in Virginia in 1958 a few weeks after they got married, Wallenstein takes a close look at the history of race and marriage in the United States.
He goes back to the 17th century to the first miscegenation laws of the country, through the addition of more as blacks became more numerous in the country. He continues through the Civil War and Reconstruction and shows how the laws disappeared and then reappeared. He also shows how more states added miscegenation laws and included other races besides black in the restrictions, how the definitions changed from 1/4 black to a single drop.
Even thought the Lovings won their case at the US Supreme Court in 1967 and due to the various briefs submitted by friends of the court, like the Japanese American Citizens League, the decision made all miscegenation laws across the states unconstitutional, it was not until 2000 that the last miscegenation law (in Alabama) came off the books. Others still fought battles, but they didn't last long and they always won.
I found it fascinating, and especially liked the cases stated here that made the reader see how it affected people in real ways.

Tuesday 1 May 2007

One to read and one to listen to

Finished May 1st
April in Paris by Michael Wallner
Roth is twenty-one, a German soldier in occupied Paris doing translations in the back offices. He is suddenly transferred to the SS office, translating for interrogations. Roth finds himself drawn more and more to the French whose language he speaks so well. He takes a chance and finds an empty building where he can change into civilian clothes, and wander the streets as a Frenchman instead of an occupying soldier. He calls himself Antoine, stops at cafes and buys items in shops. One day he sees a young French woman outside a bookstore and becomes drawn to her. When he finds that due to his work in the interrogation room he knows that Chantal's friends are in danger he warns them, but not all escape. When a bomb goes off in a nightclub used by the Germans, he comes under suspicion and is interrogated himself. All that keeps him going are thoughts of Chantal. The drama is high and the writing well done. I really enjoyed this one.

Every Mother's Son by Lyn Andrews, read by Julie Maisey
This story takes place in Liverpool, where Molly Keegan and Bernie O'Sullivan, originally from Ireland, now live. The story takes us through Molly's wedding to Joe, a policeman, for which she has to give up her business of making soft furnishings. Bernie is courted by their landlady's son Bertie, a seaman. As the Second World War begins and the young people find themselves caught up in the bombings of Liverpool and the effect this has on their families, they take comfort in their lifelong friendship and find the strength to keep going. The story contains tragedy and happiness and great detail of the daily life in Liverpool during this time as well as life in Irish countryside where the girl's parents still live. I found it quite true to the time and enjoyable.