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1. February House: The Story of W.
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2. The Jack Ryan Agenda : Policy
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3. Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted
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4. Particular Voices: Portraits of
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5. Vamps & Tramps : New Essays
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6. Making the List: A Cultural History
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7. Partisans : Marriage, Politics,
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8. The Life You Save May Be Your
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9. The Great Game : The Myth and
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14. John Updike and Religion: The
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18. Postcolonial Theory and the United
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19. Unnatural Selections: Eugenics
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20. "Saddling La Gringa": Gatekeeping

1. February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America
by Sherill Tippins
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
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Asin: 061841911X
Catlog: Book (2005-02-01)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 37994
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

February House is the uncovered story of an extraordinary experiment in communal living, one involving young but already iconic writers -- and the country's best-known burlesque performer -- in a house at 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn during 1940 and 1941. It was a fevered yearlong party fueled by the appetites of youth and by the shared sense of urgency to take action as artists in the months before America entered the war.
In spite of the sheer intensity of life at 7 Middagh, the house was for its residents a creative crucible. Carson McCullers's two masterpieces, The Member of the Wedding and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, were born, bibulously, in Brooklyn. Gypsy Rose Lee, workmanlike by day, party girl by night, wrote her book The G-String Murders in her Middagh Street bedroom. Auden -- who along with Britten was being excoriated at home in England for absenting himself from the war -- presided over the house like a peevish auntie, collecting rent money and dispensing romantic advice. And yet all the while he was composing some of the most important work of his career.
Sherill Tippins's February House, enlivened by primary sources and an unforgettable story, masterfully recreates daily life at the most fertile and improbable live-in salon of the twentieth century.
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Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars An American Bloomsbury Group
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to place many of your favorite artistic heroes in the same room and be a fly on the wall to hear the foment?FEBRUARY HOUSE is that wish granted.At least for this reader.

The potent time is 1940 and 1941 when WW II was chewing up Europe and Asia and daily threatening to gorge the globe.But at 7 Middagh Street in the somewhat seamy part of Brooklyn, a house owned by former Harper's Bazaar literary editor George Davis, several artists many of whose birthdays happened to be in the month of February set up an artist commune, eager for interplay with each other and all joined in the role of pacifists.The housefolk included Carson McCullers, WH Auden and his 18 year old lover Chester Kallman, Thomas Mann's children Erika and Klaus Mann,Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, Gypsy Rose Lee (!)(as well as the occasional guests George Balanchine, Salvador Dali, Paul Cadmus, Diana Vreeland, Paul Bowles, Leonard Bernstein, Lincoln Kirsten among others.

Uniting in both financial need and in political and artistic agendas, these greats interacted in ways both creative and destructive with the results ranging from famous collaborative efforts to drunken orgies to various intimate couplings and exchanges. Gypsy Rose Lee was the titular 'mother' and Auden the 'father' figure.

'Biographies' such as this could easily become racy sensationalism were it not for the fact the writer Sherill Tippins relates this amazing household of geniuses with such skill and obvious love that we are able to simply enjoy the inner spins on the creative minds in February House.For devotees of any or many of these creative minds' works, this little book is indispensable.Warm, humorous, and very enlightening it illuminates a group of folk who for a period of time gave America its own Bloomsbury.Highly Recommended.Grady Harp, May 05

5-0 out of 5 stars "The We of Me"
Sherrill Tippins' book is an enjoyable, true story illuminating a very human group of creative souls whose works are not only well known, but important, and still resonating beyond the World War II era in which they came to being.

7 Middagh St. or February House, so named because of all the February birthdays in the group (Aquarians and Pisceans dominated,) was the place to truly explore the "we of me." Most communal experiences have awkward moments, to put it politely, and there were very awkward moments here, butmore importantly this place gave a group of precocious and talented friends a home in which to develop the very themes that would make them known, respected, and even loved well beyond their circle.

The fabulous George Davis, fiction editor, partier, racconteur, and people finder extraordinaire, was responsible with his new friend, Carson McCullers, for the idea.He found the house in Brooklyn and invited the artists who became the main tenants.The first tenants included Davis, McCullers, Wystan Auden,and Gypsy Rose Lee. George helped Carson, editing her novella, - Reflections in a Golden Eye - Davis also offered his editing skills, encouraging Gypsy to finally achieve her dream of writing. Her - G String Murders - was incubated at 7 Middagh.Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, Klaus Mann, Paul and Jane Bowles, Paul's cousin, the future set designer,Oliver Smith, and Richard Wright were also part of the household as time passed and early residents moved on.

I am a devoted fan of the writings of Carson McCullers. She truly understood the "we of me," the influence of our beloved or not so beloved family, friends and casual acquaintances on our definition of self; how as an artist one's "we" can definitely benefit the "me." She began - Member of the Wedding - while living at 7 Middagh. This lovely story resonates with the theme of wanting to belong.Here, at 7 Middagh St., Carson belonged.She and her housemates engaged in ongoing conversations on everything from house keeping, to spiritualissues, to the role of an artist in war time, and each figured out how best to proceed with his work.

Interestingly, it was the often rumpled, messy Wystan Auden who managed to make an initially chaotic experience function efficiently for the most part.He was a born nurturer and demanded a certain level of order in the disorder natural to some creative types.This allowed repairs to be completed, bills to be paid, and regular meal times; allowing the residents time to concentrate on their art.I appreciated learning about Auden's early struggles with patriotism and faith, the concept of home and duty, and the role of the poet in any age.Juxtaposed with Auden's spiritual and philosophical searchings is his real open relation with his beloved, the terminally unfaithful Chester Kallman.I find Auden all the more admirable for his choice to honor his love, however saddened that love sometimes made him.Like McCullers, Auden understood that it is the one who loves who is the most blessed.When love is not returned in kind, the artist can only turn it into art or go mad with remorse.Again, the "we of me" allows for full being.

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears also lived in an openly homosexual relationship.Theirs was a loving match. It is interesting to know that though they did in time return to England, where they were honored by the British and the world, at this time they were still struggling for positive recognition.Theyand Auden were instead criticized by their peers in England for being in America when Great Britian was in peril of being destroyed by Germany.The turmoil caused by this time inspired these British artists to focus, to formulate their personal philosophies even while collaborating, and to create works that through time have been given more credit.

Tippens' descriptions of the February House house mates makes me wish I could have been one of their frequent guests.Her warm, compassionate telling of this time honors her subjects.The humanity of this group, even when they are at odds with each other, will be recognizable to anyone who has ever been part of a family, lived in a commune, or been part of a team or creative process, in other words, all of us.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Tapestry
Ican only imagine the research that must have gone into writing this account of the collective lives of Auden, McCullers, Britten, and Lee -- personal diaries, letters, documents, newspapers, biographies -- and yet it reads seamlessly, as if the author had actually been an omniscient witness to the events.

You couldn't ask for better characters. (Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, after all!) Entertaining eccentricities abound, certainly, but the book goes into enough depth to fully explain motivation, even allowing us to glimpse their souls through the moral and ethical struggles each artist faced during this crucial time in history. Perhaps the highest accomplishment of the author is her ability to compassionately describe the varying mix of vulnerability and ambition in each of the artists.

February House was a place where one could open to the soul of creativity simply by walking down to the kitchen for breakfast. The run-down Brooklyn Heights walk-up served as a refuge for artists fleeing from Europe as WWII heated up. The primary residents enjoyed stimulation and encouragement beyond their wildest dreams. They were able to find new parts of themselves in this alchemical cauldron and put those discoveries into their work. Many of Auden's poems, McCullers' novels, Britten's compositions were seeded here and the fruits are still enjoyed today.

But really, this book is not about the brilliance of their works or the artistic contributions they made to society. It's all about the people -- the STORY. And that's what makes a great book.

Read it because you "should," keep it because you've fallen in love.

5-0 out of 5 stars A crucible of genius
There is a theory that scientific geniuses have to be alone, (Einstein, Newton, Archimedes needed peace and quiet to distill their thoughts) but literary masters need company. Shakespeare and Marlowe thrived in the boiling pot of Elizabethan London; Dickens, Thackeray and Trollope all went to the same clubs; and in this wonderful book we find some of the most innovative and arresting intellects of the twentieth century living in the same house. This is a story that most of us don't know about, but anyone interested in books will love. Funny, entertaining, superbly researched and compassionate, it even made me feel sympathy for Auden, Isherwood, Britten who famously went the wrong way across the Atlantic when war was declared. The test of a great book is, does it leave you wanting more, and this one does. Burroughs house in Tangier? Gertrude Stein's salon? I dont know if Ms. Tippins is interested in a sequel, but I sure am.

5-0 out of 5 stars A life of lives
The intertwining of lives is usually a mixture of monotonous ups and downs. February House proved otherwise.The web of life spun by the individuals in this intriguing literary work was extraordinary.Though each resident was an icon in his/her own right; the sum was exalting.February House evidenced the insurmountable research and attention to detail by Sherill Tippins.She molded the reader into a silent partner; listening to and living the lives of the players in February House.She invited the reader's eyes into the heart and soul of each resident.Mon chapeau to an excellent literary work; one that will survive the test of time. ... Read more


2. The Jack Ryan Agenda : Policy & Politics in the Novels of Tom Clancy: An Unauthorized Analysis (Forge Book)
by William Terdoslavich
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.29
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Asin: 0765312476
Catlog: Book (2005-05-01)
Publisher: Forge Books
Sales Rank: 211359
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Book Description

Who is Jack Ryan?
Lowly analyst, James Bondian secret agent, President of the United States?
All of the above?
Or is he just Tom Clancy's mouthpiece for what is right and wrong with politics and policy today?

What impact did Red Storm Rising have on Ronald Reagan's policy for dealing with the Soviet Union?Was A Clear and Present Danger a trial balloon for the administration's international war on drugs?Did the climax of Debt of Honorforeshadow the actualterrorist plans for9/11?... And how did Jack Ryan, a lowly analyst, wind up becoming the President of the United States? Was it wishful thinking or a choreographed roadmap for the time when the defense of America was placed firmly in the hands of backroom strategists?
The Jack Ryan Agendaplaces each of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels ( from his bestselling debute of The Hunt for the Red October to his latest The Teeth of the Tiger) within the historical context of the U.S./International situation at the time each book was published.
The Clinton years are examined as well; during this time, Clancy occasionally embraced a "by any means necessary" modus operandi that included Special Forces assassins taking on rogue environmentalists.
Turning to film, The Jack Ryan Agenda explores how the movie versions differ from the Clancy's canon-and notes the author's displeasure with the way Hollywood liberals took liberties with his story lines.
In the bestselling tradition of The Magic of Harry Potter, The Biology of Star Trek, and The Science of Superman, The Jack Ryan Agenda explores this brand name dynamo's work in the context of the real world where patriot games are a clear and present danger and the sum of all fears are executive orders without remorse.
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3. Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South
by Ralph C. Wood
list price: $22.00
our price: $14.96
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Asin: 0802821170
Catlog: Book (2004-03-01)
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Sales Rank: 31826
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4. Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers
by Robert Giard
list price: $50.00
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Asin: 0262071800
Catlog: Book (1997-08-01)
Publisher: Mit Pr
Sales Rank: 1135096
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Book Description

foreword by Julia VanHaaften

"Particular Voices is an extraordinary achievement. These portraits and words of writers who so often have been silenced provide an exquisite visual and written record of courage." -- Barbara Smith, Writer and Activist

"Like August Sander who chronicled the citizens of Germany's modern world, Bob Giard has crafted an eloquent taxonomy of those gay and lesbian writers whose collective voice has proclaimed the joy, anguish, and determination of queer America. Giard has given gay history a memorable and poignant kaleidoscope of photographic portraiture." -- Thomas Sokolowski, Director, The Andy Warhol Museum

In 1985, photographer Robert Giard set out to create an archive of portraits of gay and lesbian writers from across the United States. His intention was to present visible evidence of their presence in our culture, to attest to their particular voices. The result is the most extensive photographic record of the gay and lesbian literary community ever undertaken. This book contains 182 of the more than 500 portraits Giard has made. The collection underscores the diversity of the gay population and encompasses a broad range of literary genres: fiction, poetry, drama, personal narrative, history, criticism, and political/activist statements.

Before approaching each subject, Giard immersed himself in the writer's work. Then, after a period of personal exchange and contact between Giard and the writer, Giard traveled to the personal setting, most often the writer's home, where the photograph was to be taken. Usually he worked with the existing light he found there. Each portrait in the book reflects the subtle transaction between the photographer and the writer, who both withholds and presents in varying degrees. For Giard, existing-light portraiture mirrors that exchange, as the subject simultaneously recedes into shadow and emerges into the light.

In the book, each portrait faces an excerpt of the writer's work, chosen by Giard in consultation with the writer. Taken as a whole, the portraits and excerpts encompass the many-faceted history of the the gay/lesbian experience in the United States over the past seventy-five years. The book also features a foreword by Julia VanHaaften, Curator of Photographs at the New York Public Library; an introduction by Giard, "Self-Portrait of a Gay Reader"; an essay by Christopher Bram on gay writing; and an essay by Joan Nestle on lesbian writing. ... Read more


5. Vamps & Tramps : New Essays
by CAMILLE PAGLIA
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
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Asin: 0679751203
Catlog: Book (1994-10-11)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 137546
Average Customer Review: 3.88 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The bestselling author of Sexual Personae and Sex, Art, and American Culture is back with a fiery new collection of essays on everything from art and celebrity to gay activism, Lorena Bobbitt to Bill and Hillary. These essays have never appeared in book form, and many will be appearing in print for the first time. ... Read more

Reviews (24)

5-0 out of 5 stars Stimulating reading
This book was my introduction to Paglia. I had heard some press about her when "Sexual Personae" came out, but ignored it as being the usual hype. "Vamps and Tramps" changed my mind. In short, "Wow!" What an intellectual roller-coaster ride through the current landscape of gender and sexual politics. Fresh and brash, she challenges entrenched views, which are strongly held on campuses and in public today with little substantive challenge. I find the connections she makes with almost the entire cultural history of the western world truly wonderful: like a James Burke of pop culture. However, her breadth of coverage does do her in a little: in this book she calls for more rigor in the teaching of humanities in universities, but in another book (or was it an interview?) she praised Rush Limbaugh as being an original thinker. Nobody's perfect. Read this book!

3-0 out of 5 stars This review is actually rated at 2 1/2 stars
In other words, below average but not a complete waste of time. When I read Camille Paglia's first book, I felt a sense of intellectual and sexual liberation and excitement, as if she were speaking to a part of myself that had lain undiscovered and unexpressed. This book is a huge disappointment: a lame collection of celebrity-worshipping essays, followed by an entire section dedicated to cartoons and media references to her name. I was embarrassed for her after reading this book. Camille Paglia is a woman of formidable intellect, but for all she decries white-tower academia, she is and will always be a product of its privilege and exclusivity. She obviously longs to be a Keith Richards-esque outsider and continuously points out how her various employers have censored and blacklisted her, and I think her books (except for the first, which is a minor masterpiece) are an effort to enforce that image. However, being pro-pornography and pro-abortion aren't exactly revolutionary stages to take, no matter how much our Puritan culture would like people to believe that; rather, they seem a relapse into a very solipsistic, male-oriented world that Paglia is very much a part of--a Testosterone Valhalla in which all that is non-corporeal can be visualized and fetishized (a futile undertaking, if ever there was one!) I am still hopeful that Camille Paglia's next work will put this one to shame.

1-0 out of 5 stars Stale essays from a has-been
Paglia seemed like a big deal back in the early 90s, and she herself kept *claiming* to be a big deal, but her third book was this sloppy collection of ephemera, and in the ten years since she has done nothing worth noting (except maybe some Salon columns).

There are a few substantive essays here (though I no longer find them very compelling), but it's padded out with all sorts of minor writings she produced during the year or two after her second book made her famous. There are transcripts from her Crossfire appearances, a few silly advice columns she wrote - and a collection of every single cartoon that used her image or mentioned her. Normally, writers wait until they have made a really substantial achievement before they publish such minor stuff.

5-0 out of 5 stars The world won't listen
Camille Paglia's image is a blessing and a curse. Like Chris Rock, she can get away with telling the truth about our repressed, hypersensitive culture. Unfortunately, her audience expects her to say shocking things, therefore her broadsides have lost some of their impact. Her enemies, the Mackinnons and Dworkins, won the culture wars long ago. Their beliefs are now written into law, taught in college and inscribed in police procedure manuals. Critics like Paglia are a recognized but ineffectual voice, easily dismissed by the establishment. For these reasons, Ms. Paglia's essays and journalistic pieces may be slightly disappointing. The interviews and transcripts, however, are the real pleasure; they recreate the "dissident feminist" at her fearless, truth-telling best.

3-0 out of 5 stars Pseudoscience
Camille Paglia is certainly entertaining, but her some of essays border on hysteria. Outside of universities and the press, PC lingo and thought is not as prevelant as imagines. Perhaps she has been spending a little too much time in the ivory towers she so detests.

Paglia criticizes gay men whose "knowledge of science could fit in a thimble" who support the genetic theory of homosexuality. Paglia then offers her own theory of homosexuality, but did she test her theory? No! She simply presents her theory as fact with no supporting evidence, statistics, or experiments. It is clear to me that Paglia has very little understanding of science herself.

The fact is that no one really knows what causes homosexuality, but the only way we will find out is through real scientific experiments, not anecdotal evidence that humanities scholars are so fond of. ... Read more


6. Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1900-1999
by Michael Korda
list price: $20.00
our price: $20.00
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Asin: 0760725594
Catlog: Book (2001-10-01)
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Books-Imports
Sales Rank: 245991
Average Customer Review: 3.62 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful, Cultural Insight
Michael Korda, editor in chief of Simon and Schuster, has collected lists of the bestselling books (fiction and non-fiction) for the entire 20th Century. He writes an essay leading into each decade's lists. His primary observation is that Americans read the same basic books over and over. For example, historical fiction dealing with the Civil War appears on the list via Winston Churchill (a Southern author, not the great British leader) in "The Crisis" in 1901; Margaret Mitchell, of course, made the list in 1936 and 1937 with "Gone With the Wind"; and in 1997, Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain" rose to #2. Romantic novels, medical-themed novels, spiritually-themed novels, bodice-ripping novels (more and more explicit as the century advanced) all make continual reappearances. Books sell more and more despite the coming of the radio, then of movies, then of television, and then of the computer and the internet.

It is great fun for a reader to peruse the lists, remembering books read and books-meant-to-be-read. I was born in 1948 so the books and authors from the second half of the century are pretty familiar. For no good reason I've decided to read the nine bestsellers from my birthyear that I hadn't read. (Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead" is easily the most prominent and I read it several years ago.) It will take some looking to find them, much less read them; but, it seems a silly, provocative task to undertake.

Every reader will get something different from "Making the List" and therin lies the fun!

5-0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading
It was on May 22, 1946, that I finished reading and enjoying Fifty Years of Best Sellers 1895-1945, by Alice Payne Hackett. So when I saw this book I thought it would be fun to read, and it is. The author incivisvely comments on the best seller lists during the 20th century, and of course it is fun to see which books one read were best sellers. I was surprised to see that I had read 101 books which were number 1 best sellers in a year, either in fiction or non-fiction. This surprised me since I do not use, or at least I have not for many years, the best seller list to decide what to read. It is also interesting to see which great books never made the list. For instance, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, I have thought an outstanding book ever since I read it back in 1981, and it won a Pulitzer Prize, but never made a year best seller list! If nothing else, this book will open your eyes to how much poor choosing some people do when they decide to buy a book...

3-0 out of 5 stars Review of Recorded Books on Tape version
This is not a book that lends itself to a good audio recording. Listening to the "text" portions of the books was fine - very enjoyable and very informative - however, it is impossible to listen to the lists of published books without getting bored. I ended up fast forwarding through the book lists and probably missed some of the text as well.

Yes, I recommend this book - but read it - don't listen to it.

4-0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile for book-hounds
Although this "Cultural History of the American Bestseller" is somewhat light on actual text -- it's mostly full of the bestseller lists themselves, going back to 1900 -- it's an entertaining read if you're interested in books. There's a natural tendency to be sort of skeptical of popularity, and one of Korda's themes is that many books that have been popular have also been extremely good. (Literary fiction, etc, always has a place on the charts.) And actually what's most revealing is how the mix of what's on the big lists has really changed very little, or at least it comes and goes in regular cycles. Romances go out -- then they're back in. The sprawling historical epic rises, falls, rises again. There's always some Tom Clancy equivalent cranking out a book of year, and topping the sales rankings every time. It's too bad Korda's text sometimes veers toward the superficial, and a more careful edit would have removed some of his repetitions, but the book is still a fun way to fill a few hours -- and the list of lists alone is a thing worth having.

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting As Far As It Goes
"Making The List", is an interesting book that piques the reader's interest rather than satisfying it. This 10-chapter book contains 195 pages, and more than half, 100 pages, are just the lists of the best-selling books for a given year.

Michael Korda provides informative, witty, and at times sharp edged commentary for the 10 decades of books that he comments upon. The analysis he offers is uneven, although it greatly improves once his observations originate during his tenure as a publisher. I have always wondered just how many books need to be sold to make the annual list. He does provide numbers occasionally, but they are the exception not the rule. Some of his remarks are readily apparent to readers who pay attention to the names of authors that routinely appear year after year. Being told that a short roster of names have virtually locked up the annual lists for almost 20 is not news. ... Read more


7. Partisans : Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal among the New York Intellectuals
by David Laskin
list price: $26.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684815656
Catlog: Book (2000-01-06)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 865921
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

For the 25 years following its resurrection in 1937, PartisanReview reigned as New York's most influential intellectual journal, writes David Laskin in his group biography of its founders and core contributors. "The marriage of Marxism and modernism was not always a happy one ... but the magazine seemed to thrive on controversy, tension, upheaval, and dissent. High-toned, fiercely contentious, merciless, brilliant, rough, competitive and exclusive, PR was a world unto itself, both socially and intellectually." In Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals, Laskin focuses on an extraordinary quartet of women: Mary McCarthy, Jean Stafford, Elizabeth Hardwick, and Hannah Arendt. "They knew one another and they knew about one another; they read and reviewed one another; they measured with the exactness of peers and rivals one another's reputations, successes or failures in the marketplace, standing within the narrow yet tremendously significant world they shared." Drawing on their published works, letters, diaries, and recorded conversations to capture and convey the environment in which they lived and worked, the author presents a witty, racy, exhilarating world of passionate idealism, controversial politics, fiercely competitive writing, debate, art, and sex.

Key to understanding these tumultuous lives, Laskin believes, is recognizing that the women of the Partisan Review coterie were the last generation to come of age before the social and ideological revolution unleashed by feminism--and they never accepted the validity of "women's lib." Although they struggled desperately with their duty to protect the creative and thinking time of their Great Men husbands, and at the same time eke out time to work, it never occurred to them to question the justice or logic of the domestic arrangements they inhabited. And success often came at a terrible personal cost. Laskin quotes Delmore Schwartz: "All poets' wives have rotten lives." And, he adds, "when the poets' wives were themselves poets of some sort, their lives became 'rotten' in some truly strange and fascinating ways."

David Laskin writes about the New York intellectuals of the 1930s as if he'd known them--watched them found Partisan Review; drink themselves to blackout night after night; marry, support, divorce, criticize, and betray one another over three decades from a vantage point close enough for clarity but distant enough for fairness and thorough, well-disciplined research. He also definitively proves that gender need raise no barriers to insight and compassion for a writer with the requisite courage and imagination. His sympathy, respect, and admiration for his subjects shine through his book, and make the lives of these four women unforgettable. --Jan Bultmann ... Read more

Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars urban, upwardly mobile revolutionaries
It's not initially evident how Laskin chose these particular authors. Wilson, McCarthy, Tate, Stafford, Woodburn, Arendt. The common thread seems to have been their alliance to the Partisan Review, but politics was never the prime impetus in their lives. They might be best described as political arrivistes in a variety of left leaning shades. None of their work resorted, thankfully, to rigid polemics, and in later forms showed a decided skepticism of all dogma. They could not be described as a literary school, even with a vague commitment to a never fully articulated 'modernism'. These poets, novelists and social commentators had individual interests and styles, with no common overarching credo. Lowell's Catholicism somehow coexists with Wilson's avowed Marxism, with little tangible conflict. What you do find is a writer's clique, which at times seemed only an excuse to engage in an exuberant circus of multiple marriages, affairs, heavy drinking and bourgeois tastes. These are consummate social clubbers, actuated by a discriminating sense of membership. A club founded, no doubt, on prodigious writing talent, but seemingly searching more for the legitimacy of membership than an invigorating intellectual culture.

The style of the book is gossipy but energetic. Its aspirations are more to the interplay of personalities than the literary output. Laskin still manages a coherent critique of the major works, but his intent does not provide for much depth to the analysis. The times form an interesting period in American letters, still very much in the thrall of the late 19th Century romantic idealism, but in a society on the verge of massive social change, for better or worse. All aspired to stable marriage, but systematically destroyed relationships through petty cruelties and mutual infidelity. Laskin focuses primarily on the women and their relationships with their husbands or lovers. They desperately sought independent identities yet were inculcated with traditional ideas of roles. Their revolutionary zeal muted by conventional expectations. Simon De Beavoir's ground breaking treatise on feminism, The Second Sex, could still bring howls of derision and charges of flagrant denial of a natural order from them. They lamented shrillness and superficial icons of the bourgeoning women's movement. Unsurprisingly, this all produced a cynical edge in their writing. Laskin paints a vivid picture of the New York Literary scene of the 30's and 40's, arrogantly dismissive of American customs, and yet forever defined by the mores of the society against which they rebelled. It is not always a pretty picture, as a dimly perceived hypocrisy tinges their lives, along with the attendant profligacy, alcoholism, spousal abuse, and manic depression so seemingly entrenched in literary lifestyles. The book, though, is an insightful social looking glass, a page turner, and a good companion to his subject's writings.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Juicy Tabloid Read for The Few Intellectuals Who Care
It's hard now to imagine a world in which anyone paid this kind of attention to celebrities who weren't in the movies and couldn't dribble. But I found this book a delightful, if not particularly self-improving romp through the gossip of a vanished age.

The drinking! The seriousness about ideas especially politics! The promiscuity! The casualness with which poets and "poor" writers acquire antique homes in Connecticut and Maine, to say nothing of duplex apartments in mid-town New York!

The author, who writes with a female sensibility under a male name, does a very good job of portraying the frightening way in which physical and emotional abuse were accepted as just part of a normal marriage in the period before the emergence of true Feminism in the 1970s. His book reminds me of why I can never share Generation X's nostalgia for the 1950s. It was a terrible time to be female. Partisans makes it clear that even the female intellectual superstars portrayed in its pages had to put up with far more suffereing in terms of abuse, sexual infidelity, and having to do all the housework even when you were a world famous (woman) writer than any one of us would tolerate today.

Definitely worth reading!

2-0 out of 5 stars Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink: David Laskin Among the Intellos
David Laskin's journalistic and scatter-shot approach to this group of significant American intellectuals is disappointing. The emphasis is on anecdotes rather than motives, psychology, ideas, or works created. The book is lightly documented, and if you already know anything about the individual writers or the movements they were part of, you'll look in vain for new insights. It's certainly readable, but because it treats the subjects with so little context, the reader wonders after a bit why one should care about these folk, who sound more like a bunch of dysfunctional celebrities of the nineties than the defining minds of a complex and fascinating historical era.

5-0 out of 5 stars Delicious! Literary gossip with spirit, wit and insight
I just loved this book. The miracle that David Laskin has performed is managing so much biographical information on so many diverse and original characters, and making them live so vividly as individuals.How could it be that these women -- Hardwick, McCarthy, Arndt, Jean Stafford --- could have such first rate minds yet be so dismissive of feminism? What a wonderful, complex intellectual-historical question and what a good job Laskin does of answering it. They were all, of course, male identified, to use the modern parlance and it was this that liberated them to act as men and to write in the muscular way of men, and this was probably necessary to free them of the chains of their cultural "femininity." Thanks for this wonderful book, which feels perfectly necessary to the understanding of how we've got where we are today.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Page Turner
This is a startling and fascinating group biography. Partisans describes how many of the leading women writers from the 1930s to 60s -- people like Mary McCarthy and Elizabeth Hardwick -- argued, slept, partied, married and divorced their ways through the literary, political and gender battles of the times. Laskin describes the intersecting lives of these witty, rebellious people, both women and men, with respect but makes it clear how weirdly human and fouled up many of them were. One of his most interesting points is how these women were sort of proto-feminists, though most of them would deny it until their dying days. A great read! A great reading group book! ... Read more


8. The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage
by Paul Elie
list price: $27.00
our price: $17.01
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Asin: 0374256802
Catlog: Book (2003-04-05)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 10271
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The story of four modern American Catholics who made literature out of their search for God

In the mid–twentieth century four American Catholics came to believe that the best way to explore the questions of religious faith was to write about them—in works that readers of all kinds could admire. The Life You Save May Be Your Own is their story—a vivid and enthralling account of great writers and their power over us.

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk in Kentucky; Dorothy Day the founder of the Catholic Worker in New York; Flannery O’Connor a “Christ-haunted” literary prodigy in Georgia; Walker Percy a doctor in New Orleans who quit medicine to write fiction and philosophy. A friend came up with a name for them—the School of the Holy Ghost—and for three decades they exchanged letters, ardently read one another’s books, and grappled with what one of them called a “predicament shared in common.”

A pilgrimage is a journey taken in light of a story; and in The Life You Save May Be Your Own Paul Elie tells these writers’ story as a pilgrimage from the God-obsessed literary past of Dante and Dostoevsky out into the thrilling chaos of postwar American life. It is a story of how the Catholic faith, in their vision of things, took on forms the faithful could not have anticipated. And it is a story about the ways we look to great books and writers to help us make sense of our experience, about the power of literature to change—to save—our lives.
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Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars Literature as Spiritual Direction
I had read a lot of Flannery O'Connor, but didn't know as much about Merton, Dorothy Day, or Walker Percy. Elie's assessment of O'Connor's writing is not only accurate, but insightful. He is a very gifted theologian, literary critic, and biographer.

In reading him, I gained several new insights into O'Connor's stories and how her life and Catholicism influenced them. Some of his images (for instance, describing Mrs. Turpin in "Revelation" as a "hillbilly Thomist") were absolutely delightful and right on target. Through Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor, he also paints a wonderful picture of the strange and wonderful world of Southern Catholics.

What is most impressive about this book, however, is how he weaves the lives, writing and faith journeys of four very different persons together, showing that indeed, grace perfects nature, even when the "nature" is quite different from one personality to another. They were all clearly influenced by the same threads of Catholic theology and spirituality, but reflected it back to us in very different ways.

This book was interesting to me because of its literary and theological themes. But even more, it was spiritual reading. Again and again I stoped reading and compared their spiritual journeys to my own. Reading Elie's book has deepened my faith and given me hope that despite my own doubts and the "bumps in the road" on my spiritual journey, I might still one day hope to achieve some measure of holiness. What's more, I highlighted many passages which will surely be fodder for some future preaching!

Fr. Charles Bouchard, OP

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Gem in Catholic Literary Scholarship
The title of Paul Elie's book THE LIFE YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN is borrowed from a short story title of Flannery O'Connor, one of the four writers discussed in his book. The other three are Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Walker Percy. The focus of Elie's work is not as much biographical as it is literary. He looks at the two things that connect these four great people: faith and writing, and shows how both work together to produce the great literary output of each author. Elie sees these four people as being part of an informal "Catholic" school of writers. Elie looks at an analyzes many of the writings of each author, and presents it in a manner that will appeal to the scholar and lay reader as well. Though the book has biographical information, and is arranged in a chronological manner, biographical and historical details are only provided where absolutely necessary to discuss the literary works of Day, Merton, O'Connor, and Percy.

There has been a temptation to see Merton and Day as larger than life, almost saintly figures, Percy and O'Connor as eccentric southerners who happen to be Catholic, and in the case of O'Connor, a Catholic writer trying to impose blatant symbols of faith in all of her writings. Elie certainly admires all four, but shows them from a human point of view. In doing so, he debunks many of the myths surrounding these four figures. From a spiritual point of view, they are just as human as we are, and it is because of their very human struggles that their literary output is possible.

Elie breaks important ground by looking at these four great Catholic figures as writers, and his work will undoubtedly set the stage for further study of the literary connections of Merton, Day, O'Connor, and Percy. His book includes copious endnotes that will enable a person to easily find works by and about these four authors. In most chapters Elie discusses each of the four, but he uses breaks after sections about each author which makes reading easier. Elie himself is a book editor and he uses his skills as an editor to write a concise work. The length of the book demonstrates this alone. The text without endnotes is approximately 475 pages. There are certainly individual works about Merton, O'Connor, and Day equal or greater in length than Elie's work, but hardly say as much. I cannot say for certain about Percy since I am not familiar with scholarly or biographical works about him.

This book will more than likely be of interest to Catholic readers, but anyone who wishes to study the role of faith in Day, Merton, O'Connor, and Percy, will find this book a great read an a valuable resource.

2-0 out of 5 stars Why was this book written?
I don't believe I have ever read a book in which the author worked so hard to distance himself from his subject matter. Based on his writing, I picture Mr. Elie as exactly the sort of secularized "Big Intellectual" that all four of the people he writes about would have regarded with pity. Why would someone so convinced that Catholic orthodoxy is dead, and that no modern person takes the teachings of the Baltimore Catechism seriously, write about these four people, of ALL the people in the world to write about? I never cease to marvel at how crabbed and parochial the world of the east coast writer really is. Was there no one involved in the editorial process who might have pointed out to Mr. Elie that the Baltimore Catechism is alive and well, and that the Catholic faith remains as credible for millions today as it was to Merton, O'Connor et al.? All I can figure is that Elie is trying to exorcize the ghost of a parochial school education. In that case, methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Flawed but Good Read
Paul Elie's combined biographies of Merton, Day, Percy, and O'Connor has many virtues, which other reviewers have mentioned and elaborated upon. No doubt the convergence of the lives of these four gifted writers is a fascinating story, and Elie's footnotes in the back are very detailed and helpful. The main problem I have with this book is that Elie's Catholicism is so attenuated that it can hardly grasp much of what these writers were trying to do with their lives and with their work. On the last page of his book, Elie states plainly his position that "there is no one true faith", true for all people, all times. That's a proposition that I think his four subjects would take issue with, and sharply. As O'Connor famously said of the Blessed Sacrament, "If it's a symbol, well the hell with it." Elie also has a fairly superficial understanding of what a pilgrimage is in traditional Catholic culture and theology. He reduces it to a journey undertaken to see something with one's own eyes, something akin to a story lived out. Well, sure, but of the deeper sense of that word--one central certainly to Percy--Elie has no idea. The "homo viator" is essentially a pilgrim, a wayfarer, and is central to Percy's idea of the self, and thus to all his work. Alas, Elie's faith--at least as expressed in this book--is nothing like the faith of the writers he finds so fascinating. Merton, Day, Percy, and O'Connor knew their faith allowed them to assent to something that transcended their reason, that allowed them to partake of mysteries that are not "projected" by their desires, but are the source and goal of all natural human desires in the first place. Elie's interesting but flawed work shows that heterodox Catholicism is hardly up to the task of really appreciating these gifted writers. Unfortunately, that is the least of its problems.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mind Moving
In The Life You Save May Be Your Own : An American Pilgrimage, Paul Elie skillfully integrates the lives and works of Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, and Percy Walker. The spiritual and artistic struggles of each author are unforgetable. A read that can alter one's life. ... Read more


9. The Great Game : The Myth and Reality of Espionage
by FREDERICK P. HITZ
list price: $22.00
our price: $15.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375412107
Catlog: Book (2004-04-20)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 25707
Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Fun Read
The Great Game is a great starting point, or ending point, for any reader interested in spy fiction. It's not a tell all account of Professor Hitz's years in the CIA, it's a topical approach to espionage writ large. Read that way it's both informative and fun. I enjoyed reading the different chapters as distinct units when I had the time. I recommend the book, just don't make the mistake of some other reviewers and assume it is something it doesn't purport to be. I found it informative and quick.

4-0 out of 5 stars A pretty good book
I enjoyed this book, though it has several frustrations. It is a relatively small book, and a relatively quick read. Overall, the text is very approachable and the subject matter broad but not deep. Each chapter is for a particular aspect of spying such as: sex, tradecraft, gadgets, recruitment, betrayal, retirement, etc. Each chapter is presented in an artificially independent manner; rarely does one chapter refer back to a reference in another chapter. I suppose this can help keep things straight, but it makes it more difficult to create a continuous thread of understanding through the whole book.

Throughout the book, Hitz compares his experiences (rarely explicitely said or rarely a specific incident cited) to about 10 fictional accounts and about 5 true-life books previously written. There are many extended quotes followed by a short interpertation by Hitz. Most of the book focuses on what the author deems an accurate (versus inaccurate) portrayal. If you are not familiar with most of the sources he uses then you may have a difficult time keeping keeping the references straight throughout the book (as I did).

I had a difficult time deciding whether to give three or four stars. The book is a nice read, but not to deep. I felt myself constantly looking for more; wondering what Hitz was leaving out, what he couldn't say and what is still classified "secret" by the government. In the end, I am not a spook so I have to give Hitz the benefit of the doubt and assume he is relatively thorough and honest.

2-0 out of 5 stars Hitz may understand spying-he doesn't understand fiction.
The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage by Frederick P. Hitz is, essentially, a comparative analysis. Hitz, a longtime actual spook at the CIA compares and contrasts various actual spies (Aldrich Ames, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, etc.) life and professional histories with the writings and characters of highly regarded and well known fictional stories and spies-( John Le Carre, Tom Clancy).

Overall, the book is a great disappointment. While there is the occasional nugget of info that piques ones interest, on the whole the exercise generates conclusions that dash between the obvious to the trite.

That in itself would be disappointing enough. The real problem here is that Hitz demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the nature of spy fiction. None of the books he analyzes are written to be a primer of the spy profession. These are not procedurals, they bare novels. As such, they are written to be, more than anything else, morality plays. The issues at hand may vary between the morality of grand policies of nations or movement, the morality of spying itself, the interplay between good and evil-whatever. They are written to tell a story and express a viewpoint, not to provide ideal textbook descriptions of the art of spying. That's the role of non-fiction.

Hitz marvels that the "real world" is so much more complex, untidy, clear cut and, indeed, in some ways, far more chaotic than is portrayed in spy novels. He would have done well to remember Tom Clancy's famous quote about the difference between fiction and real life: "Fiction has to make sense."

His lack of understanding of that premise sinks this effort from the beginning.

1-0 out of 5 stars Don't belive the hype
It is truly a shame. I approached the Frederick Hitz book "The Great Game" with great enthusiasm and anticipation. As a reader of a wide number of fiction authors from the espionage genre I found the idea that an author with solid credentials in the intelligence community reviewing and commenting on these fictional exercises positively exciting. Thus, my disappointment at finding Mr. Hitz had little to nothing to say of interest.

The chapters, treating with Betrayal, Tradecraft, Assassination and similar topics, certainly address the proper subject matter. However, the chapters contents, on occasion numbering as few as four pages in length, were uniformly superficial and, worse still, occasionally repetitive. In the attempt to contrast fictional works with real life Hitz makes reference frequently to cases such as those of Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and the British intelligence officer Kim Philby and his contemporaries. In not a single case, however, is an operation conducted by these men discussed, analyzed or even referenced in any depth that would illustrate the espionage activities of the actors. Discussion of these agents is limited primarily to establishing the personal and historical context in which their actions take place.

Likewise, and seemingly much worse, is the treatment given those fiction authors whose works Hitz comments upon. Lengthy quotes from the works of Le Carre, William Hood, Erskine Childers, Graham Greene, and others well known to readers of the espionage genre receive only the most cursory comments, seemingly devoid of more than "Introductory Psychology" levels of insight.

In sum, this book proves disappointing on numerous levels conceivably of obvious interest to the more than casual reader of espionage fiction to which audience the book must necessarily be intended for. The jacket blurb from Zbigniew Brzezinski promises "an illuminating perspective, based on personal experience and sharp intellect." It instead is a limited discourse, in both depth and scope, and devoid of evidence of experience. The reader must decide for themself whether the intellect is sharp or, as would be my opinion, dumbed down.

For interested readers, I would recommend instead Robert Baer's SEE NO EVIL. The reader can then use their own insight and by reading somewhat between the lines appreciate a chronicle of the strengths and weaknesses to be found in espionage, and by extension, in the fictionalized accounts of espionage to be found in English language literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars Spy Fact, Spy Fiction
If you are a fan of spy films and fiction, you will appreciate the countless times double agents are integral to their plots, and how often the Americans, say, would dangle rewards to recruit Soviet spies to come over to the other side. It worked in fiction; it never worked, not once, in any significant way, in actual spying. Frederick P. Hitz, who has a long history of service with the CIA, knows this and says it is confirmed by former CIA director Robert M. Gates and case officer Dwight Clarridge. In _The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage_ (Knopf), Hitz gives an overview of 20th century spying, comparing fiction to the real thing. It will be a book best appreciated by those who are familiar with the work of such authors as le Carré and Graham Greene, but it can be appreciated not just for the comparisons between fact and fiction, but for the many observations of fact about the spying game.

Rather than recruitments, there were walk-ins by Soviets; a spy (or potential spy) literally walked in to an embassy and offered his services. Changing sides comes from diverse motivations. Some Soviet walk-ins disliked the repression of the Soviet state. Others needed money. Aldrich Ames walked into the Washington Soviet embassy in 1985 with what he estimated was $150,000 in CIA and FBI secrets, ready to sell because he had a lot of bills for his extravagant way of living. Frequently spies have resentment towards their own bureaucracies and failures to rise in them. Sometimes people are tricked into spying. Even the James Bond novels describe a specific sort of "honey pot" entrapment, whereby the sexual liaison would be filmed and the victim forced to spy if he wanted to avoid exposure. The Soviets could apparently insist to attractive female workers that their bodies belonged to the state and had duties as lures, not the sort of order that western countries could make to their female employees. It is interesting that honey pots did not work in the opposite direction for another reason. Entrapped westerners would fret about exposure, but when such entrapment was tried on Soviets, they "...would invariably laugh off the threat of exposure as not very compelling in their country." Gadgets so beloved by the movies are downplayed here. There have been, for example, extraordinary advances in miniaturization of microphones and transmitters, but a cat equipped with a microphone makes too many sounds of its own; thus the "Acoustic Kitty" of the Technical Support Division "died a deserved death as technically infeasible."

Spy reality has affected spy fiction. Where the heroes used to be unsung good guys doing their patriotic duties, after Vietnam and Watergate, novelists like le Carré and Clancy wrote about obsessives, misfits, and power freaks who were interested in playing the spy game for itself rather than for national interest. The end of the Cold War and the effect of terrorism have potential for bringing back the hero spy. Perhaps we have hero spies now and Hitz simply is not able to sing their praises because they are still spying. His book is good at giving details of such things as the treasons of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, and also the contributions of Soviet double agents to the information Kennedy needed to decide on the Cuban blockade. It is in giving these inside stories that Hitz succeeds in conveying his thesis: leaving aside the more fantastic Bondian conceits, "...real espionage cases are often more bizarre, more deserving of a place in Ripley's than the fictional accounts." ... Read more


10. Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance
by Cary D. Wintz, Texas A&m University Press
list price: $21.95
our price: $21.95
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Asin: 089096761X
Catlog: Book (1997-02-01)
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Sales Rank: 877373
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars AN EXCEPTIONAL PORTRAYAL OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE
From the close of the 19th century, when the first pre-Renaissance writers began to be published for the dominating white readers, to the Depression era that marked the demise of the movement, Cary D. Wintz analyzes the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance as the attempt of black writers to come to terms with the social issues of the 1920s-1930s through their writing.

Being his approach both literary and social, he does not neglect the different positions of politics and philosophers, highlighting the non-unanimity of views on the goals the participants should aim at and the ensuing strains arising from within the movement.

Wintz sublty depicts an intertwining net of relationships: black community and its literature, black artists and their target, black protégés and white patrons, black authors and white publishing houses, emphasising that it was this sheer interplay between the black intelligentsia and the white community that kept alive the vitality of the movement, despite the inevitable disagreements among the participants. Notwithstanding the fact that the Harlem Renaissance was led by a "loose coalition" of intellectuals, Wintz detects its "uniqueness" and bound in the "shared undertaking" of those same intellectuals who became aware of creating a "revolution in American literature".

Wintz's particular ability is of investigating the Harlem Renaissance in all its nuances, including in his portrayal both the remote rise of the movement, with the analysis of the impact on the white-dominated scene of major black writers such as Chestnutt and Dunbar, the reasons of its fall and its effects on the following generations of writers, besides the accurate report of the hey-day of the movement.

Special attention must be drawn on the sources consulted by the critic. As a matter of fact, most of the correspondence exchanged among the participants is scattered all over the United States, kept in several Libraries, Centers and Collections. Therefore, the consultations of such sources underline a work of precision and refinement and an attempt of restoring the live voices of the Renaissance makers.

As a student and researcher on the topic of the Harlem Renaissance, I found this book exceptionally useful, detailed and clear. The author's style is straight-to-the-point and pragmatic. He wisely avoids any overlapping digression to the main subject matter and makes the reader understand his outlooks with clear images. I warmly recommend this text to any reader who feels like enriching his / her knowledge about this enlighting phase of American literature! ... Read more


11. The Black Arts Movement : Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture)
by James Edward Smethurst
list price: $59.95
our price: $59.95
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Asin: 080782934X
Catlog: Book (2005-04-18)
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Sales Rank: 380356
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Book Description

Emerging from a matrix of Old Left, black nationalist, and bohemian ideologies and institutions, African American artists and intellectuals in the 1960s coalesced to form the Black Arts Movement, the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement. In this comprehensive analysis, James Smethurst examines the formation of the Black Arts Movement and demonstrates how it deeply influenced the production and reception of literature and art in the United States through its negotiations of the ideological climate of the Cold War, decolonization, and the civil rights movement.

Taking a regional approach, Smethurst examines variations in the character of the local expressions of the nascent Black Arts Movement, a movement distinctive in its geographical reach and diversity, while always keeping the frame of the larger movement in view. The Black Arts Movement, he argues, fundamentally changed American attitudes about the relationship between popular culture and "high" art and dramatically transformed the landscape of public funding for the arts. ... Read more


12. The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
by Janet Sternberg
list price: $13.95
our price: $13.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393320553
Catlog: Book (2000-06)
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 359833
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Published to high praise--"groundbreaking . . . a landmark" (Poets and Writers)--this was the first anthology to celebrate the diversity of women who write. Seventeen novelists, poets, and writers of nonfiction explore how they have become writers, why they write, and what it means to be a woman and a writer. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Collection
As a young writer, Janet Sternburg searched for a book about woman writers: how they came to be, how they viewed their lives, how they treated their work. It was the seventies and none existed, so she put together The Writer on Her Work and it was published in 1981 - a book featuring women writing about writing. This year marks its anniversary (thus, the new edition) with a touching preface by Julia Alvarez, plus an updated introduction and bios of the 17 women who contributed to the landmark collection. Established, unknown and up-and-coming writers of the time - including Maxine Hong Kingston, Joan Didion and Alice Walker - reflect on writing and lives as writers, through heartfelt and sometimes hilarious commentary. The value of this book is reading how these women, writing in different genres, pursued their passion in the face of opposition. Whether that opposition took on the form of household responsibilities, writer's block, dissenting peers or a male-dominated marketplace, it's interesting tackling the dilemma through their eyes and in that time; making a place for themselves, and their work, discovering in that world, she dominates. This speaks to the heart of the book, a community of women's voices, whether alive or deceased, writing because they had to, sharing profound experiences and reflections on being a woman creating. The Writer on Her Work offers diverse personalities expressing their romance with words, also acknowledging the ups and downs that come with that relationship. Each essay is an inspiring testament to the continuing struggle and undeniable beauty of the female spirit in print.

5-0 out of 5 stars Important Essays, Important Themes
I've loved this book since 1980, when I bought a copy and read it and lent it and recommended it many times over since then. This new edition is even better. The pieces, personal and trenchant, ingeniously selected by Sternburg over twenty years ago, have withstood the test of time.

There is deep feeling, variety, astonishing articulation of complex things, and warmth and humor in these essays. Many of the writers fight to write, and show us their battle plans. It's inspiring and encouraging, and sometimes it's sad. Some - I am thinking of young writer Michele Murray, who struggled against terrible odds - are heartbreaking. Anne Tyler's darkly humorous recitation of her typical working day, "Still Just Writing," is a classic. Alice Walker's essay, "One Child of One's Own" speaks to motherhood, and its fragile but undeniable relationship to a writing life.

The new Preface, by Dominican-born Vermonter Julia Alvarez, is touching and insightful and very personal - in keeping with the rest of the book - and speaks to the concerns of the essays. Sternberg has also edited her orignal Introduction, and updated the contributors' notes at the book's end.

Without question I'd recommend this wonderful book to anyone interested in reading women on the process of writing, the art of memoir, and the considered and considerably interesting opinions of a group of very wonderful writers. ... Read more


13. A Chance Meeting : Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, 1854-1967
by RACHEL COHEN
list price: $25.95
our price: $16.35
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400061644
Catlog: Book (2004-03-09)
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 46801
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book About Artists in America
This is a collection of essays about the private lives of important American authors and artists. Cohen's essays are based almost entirely on secondary works and begin with 19th Century authors and artists and then continue on through the 20th Century.
These essays are written in such a way that you get a feel for the kind of folks that these artistic types actually were. The reader learns all sorts of interesting things about these people such as their vices, lusts and secret desires.

This is an excellent book about the history of artistic endeavor in America.

5-0 out of 5 stars Relax and Set Sail on Artistic Adventures with a Noble Cast
Rachel Cohen has created a diversion in A CHANCE MEETING: INTERTWINED LIVES OF AMERICAN ARTISTS, 1854 - 1967 that is more a series of illuminated daydreams than it is a sourcebook for biographical data on the important artists in American over a century spanning 1860s through 1960s. No, this is not a code of secretive encounters between unlikely and disparate writers, photograpahers, and artists, nor is it a professed series of inside stories meant to reveal the truths about those we deem as gifted. Cohen writes splendidly, and though she documents with copious bibliography and chapter notes the instances she encountered in her survey of 'chance meetings ' by a diversity of disparate artists, she seems more intent on using fact as springboard to create cadenzas of intricately woven possibilities to stimulate the reader to enter the wonderful world of 'what if?' than in declaring new-found discoveries of data/gossip.

Here in short and terse chapters we meet Matthew Brady, Walt Whitman, Henry James, Marcel Duchamp, Langston Hughes, Hart Crane, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Alfred Steiglitz with and without Georgia O'Keefe, Charlie Chaplin, Richard Avedon, Gertrude Stein with and without Alice B. Toklas, etc., etc. - you get the picture. The joy of Cohen's writing is the possibilities created by perseverating on the conversations that might have occurred among these people, whether in duet or in orchestrated outcome. My bet is that if the casts of characters here discussed were to read these informative and provocative pages, they doubtless would smile, swoon, curse, or laugh, but in some way react to the vision and imagination of Rachel Cohen. This is a delightful book for devout readers and lovers of artistic history. There is so much to learn about artists who even today are on the periphery as well as the giants we all 'think' we know! This wonderful book is for relaxation and diversion and the rewards are many.

2-0 out of 5 stars William Dean Howells liked blueberry cake
A CHANCE MEETING, divided into into 36 short chapters, contains stories of the relationships between noted writers and artists from just before the Civil War to the late 1960s. Most of the chapters are framed around a single meeting, but contain digressions which sometimes encompass other famous figures.
What are we to make of this unique, celebratory, and quite often infuriating work? Each chapter is backed up by Rachel Cohen's source notes, detailing the basis for the events and behavior described. Yet, throughout the book there's a curiously speculative tone, Cohen describes many of her beloved figures as "maybe" doing or thinking this or that. In the opening chapter, Henry James (then a young boy) is described as feeling a "persistent uneasiness" while eating ice cream after having his portrait taken by Matthew Brady. Cohen notes this episode is invented, but then one must ask, "Why is this important?" Surely a book very much like this could have been written without such flights of fancy?

Indeed, several chapters fail to coalesce at all. In a chapter on Willa Cather and Sarah Orne Jewett, Cohen asserts that the fact Cather did NOT meet Henry James changed the artistic direction of her career. How can this be proven? In most of these vignettes, no direct suggestion is made of how the characters influenced each other. Cohen is edging away from history and criticism and dangerously close to short fiction here. The book picks up in the last third, with some gossipy stuff about Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop and a funny scene of Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali together, but the whole thing is much too ephemeral. The photographer Richard Avedon provided several photos - he's thanked in the acknowledgements - but did he deserve to be included in the title of several chapters? It's not as if the people he photographed (Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, for example) hadn't met before.
A suggestion: read some of the books Cohen sites in her bibliography instead of A CHANCE MEETING.

5-0 out of 5 stars Comfort Reading
What an exhilierating experience! I savored these 36 essays over a few weeks, reading only a handful a night before I went to bed. The book is just beautiful; there is no other word to describe the writing, tone, and voice of Rachel Cohen's book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Chance Meeting : Intertwined Lives of American Writers and
Cohen, who teaches in the Sarah Lawrence nonfiction M.F.A. program, won the 2003 PEN/Jerard Fund Award for emerging women nonfiction writers for the manuscript of this book. Entertaining and accessible, A Chance Meeting shows how the lives of various prominent figures (e.g., Alfred Stieglitz and Hart Crane, Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore and Norman Mailer) have intertwined to produce some distinctly American forms of expression. Considering the years between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, Cohen evokes the relationships of some 30 writers and artists, focusing on those moments in their lives when they became aware of what it meant to be American (as when a young Henry James posed for Civil War photographer Mathew Brady in his studio). Cohen begins and ends each chapter with fictionalized re-creations of the meetings and then fills in the accounts with facts gleaned from her extensive research and quotes from correspondence and other sources. The fictionalization of these encounters will put off some academics, as will the lack of detailed references. There is an impressive bibliography, but the chapter notes at the end of the book refer to the sources only generally. In the end, alas, the book seems too popular for the academic market and too academic for the popular market. An optional purchase for academic libraries or public libraries with strong literature collections. ... Read more


14. John Updike and Religion: The Sense of the Sacred and the Motions of Grace
by James Yerkes
list price: $24.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802838731
Catlog: Book (1999-12-01)
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Sales Rank: 607183
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Critic's Comments on Dust Jacket
"John Updike has said that 'religion created Greek literature and died within its embrace.' Another religion may or may not have created Updike's works, but this volume of essays shows that the embrace is long-standing, seductive, many-sided, and by no means moribund. With obvious affection and clarity of vision, these crtics have hugged the Updikean shore very well indeed." Anthony C. Yu, University of Chicago Divinity School.

4-0 out of 5 stars Critic's Comments on Dust Jacket
"From an abundant but contradictiory world as it is, John Updike has in fifty books recorded in prodigious detail 'an intense radiance we do not see.' That underglow is explored in these fifteen thought-provoking essays about the religious dimension of his work. Some essayists protray his themes as Lutheran, Barthian, or Kierkegaardian, but all see this work as a lifelong Pilgrim's Progress, with Updike a pilgrim who is sometimes in motion upwards, but at other times only watches while God moves inexorably toward him." Doris Betts, author of "Souls Raised from the Dead" and "The Sharp Teeth of Love."

4-0 out of 5 stars Updike's Confrontation
James Yerkes is the editor of a wonderful collection of essays dealing with the topic of faith in a delightfully down-to-earth manner. John Updike and Religion: The Sense of the Sacred and the Motions of Grace (Eerdmans, $24). That longwinded title may scare away Updike admirers who fear wading in the dark waters of academic posturing. They need not worry, for the book is a relatively breezy read, with only a semi-occasional wandering into verbosity. For instance, Yerkes (who teaches religion at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa.) writes about Updike in the light of having watched and enjoyed the Jack Nicholson film, As Good As It Gets. Nothing stuffy here.

James A. Schiff writes that for Updike, "God permeates every aspect of human life so that his presence is felt in and around households. Updike doesn't state his beliefs in so many words, preferring--as most artists--to "suggest that the possibility of there being something greater beneath the physical surface." As Updike wrote in Assorted Prose, "Blankness is not emptiness; we may skate upon an intense radiance we do not see because we see nothing else."

Schiff sees God presence in Updike's writing, although "beneath the surface, pushing through, as well as above the world, providing light and hope."

If you share an enthusiasm for Updike, be sure to check out editor Yerkes' excellent Web page called "The Centaurian" devoted to Updike.

4-0 out of 5 stars Impressive resource on Updike's religious views
The editor and contributors do a fine job documenting and interpreting Updike's religious insights using his own words from a wide range of his writings and interviews. It's one of the best resources for literary scholars as well as Christian-minded readers. All will have their spiritual values reinforced and their faith deepened and challenged, enriched, and inspired by this instructive introduction to this gifted Protestant writer and observer of American culture. It also has a comprehesive bibliography. ... Read more


15. The Holocaust of Texts : Genocide, Literature, and Personification
by Amy Hungerford
list price: $35.00
our price: $30.10
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Asin: 0226360768
Catlog: Book (2003-01-15)
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 679677
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Book Description

Why do we so often speak of books as living, flourishing, and dying? And what is at stake when we do so? This habit of treating books as people, or personifying texts, is rampant in postwar American culture. In this bracing study, Amy Hungerford argues that such personification has become pivotal to our contemporary understanding of both literature and genocide. Personified texts, she contends, play a particularly powerful role in works where the systematic destruction of entire ethnic groups is at issue.

Hungerford examines the implications of conflating texts with people in a broad range of texts: Art Spiegelman's Maus; Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451; the poetry of Sylvia Plath; Binjamin Wilkomirski's fake Holocaust memoir Fragments; and the fiction of Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Don DeLillo. She considers the ethical consequences of this trend in the work of recent and contemporary theorists and literary critics as well, including Cathy Caruth, Jacqueline Rose, Jacques Derrida, and Paul de Man. What she uncovers are fundamentally flawed ideas about representation that underwrite and thus undermine powerful and commonly accepted claims about literature and identity. According to Hungerford, the personification of texts is ethically corrosive and theoretically unsound. When we exalt the literary as personal and construe genocide as less a destruction of human life than of culture, we esteem memory over learning, short-circuit debates about cultural change, lend credence to the illusion or metaphysics of presence, and limit our conception of literature and its purpose.

Ultimately, The Holocaust of Texts asks us to think more deeply about the relationship between reading, experience, and memorialization. Why, for instance, is it more important to remember acts of genocide than simply to learn about them? If literary works are truly the bearers of ontology, then what must be our conduct toward them? Considering difficult questions such as these with fresh logic, Hungerford offers us an invigorating work, one that will not only interest scholars of American and postwar literature, but students of the Holocaust and critical theory as well.


... Read more

16. The Reactionary Imperative: Essays Literary and Political
by M.E. Bradford
list price: $12.95
our price: $12.95
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Asin: 0893850314
Catlog: Book (1989-06-01)
Publisher: Sherwood Sugden & Company
Sales Rank: 572950
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17. The Birth of the Beat Generation : Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters, 1944-1960 (Repr of 1995 ed) (Circles of the Twentieth Century)
by STEVEN WATSON
list price: $18.95
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Asin: 0375701532
Catlog: Book (1998-02-03)
Publisher: Pantheon
Sales Rank: 187242
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The second volume in the acclaimed series that brings to life the groups of avant-garde writers, artists, and patrons who were keystones of what has come to be called Modernism, this book sheds new light on the hard-living, maverick poets and novelists--William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others--who coalesced into the Beats. Illustrations. ... Read more

Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars By Far the Best
This is by far the best book about the Beats that I have read to date. I really enjoyed the entire book. Its a quick read, has fun anecdotes, quotes and definitions printed in the margins of every page, and delivers a tremendous amount of information about the Beat Generation. I was impressed by the amount of history covered for the main Beat characters, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Carr, and Burroughs. I especially enjoyed the in depth looks at their first meetings with one another and the focus on what each one was reading during the early years. The aforementioned writers are definitely the focus of this book, but there is also a decent amount of time dedicated to minor characters involved in the generation.
You really can't go wrong with this book, rather this will be your first introduction to the Beats or your a veteran of Beat lore, you will definitely gain something from reading this text. This book also includes an awesome year to year run down of important events in the Beat movement shown in correlation with important social and political events of the time. If you enjoy this book you may want to check out 'Rolling Stone's Book of the Beats' also, another great addition to the Beat fan's bookshelf.

4-0 out of 5 stars A good book for so many reasons....
This is a great book for a numer of reasons. I'm going to list a number of them and then write a bit in conclusion.

1. It deals with many of the 'Beats' rather than focusing, as is typical, on Kerouac and Ginsberg and forgetting the rest of them. It provides an illuminating portrait of Burroughs (who is definately a key figure), Neal Cassidy (who is also), and alot of the girls, etc. who were around them. 2. It provides reading lists, etc. of what they were reading. This is HUGE if you want to understand the bitterness/despair that is found in Burroughs and Ginsberg... as well as insight into how they interpretted their life and times (i.e. because they read these books, they in a dialogic sense would interpret things along such-and-such lines.... as a psychologist would interpret a 'vision of God' one way and a believer a second.... 3. Lots of minutia/trivia that is just fun.

It's a really good book and more stimulating than one would expect from a book that is in the shape of a square. It would not suffice as a literary biography of any of the authors contained in the 'movement' nor could it supplant any social history book. But, it suppliments them and is fun to read: sort of an academic version of 'Seventeen' at points. I really love this book. I'd definately recommend this book to anyone who wants to become first among their band of friends if all their friends want to do is read a little bit of 'On the Road' and 'Howl' (and then think they know about this time period....

3-0 out of 5 stars For the New Beat Reader
Steven Watson does an admirable job of bringing together the various strands of Beat history through an engaging, storyteller-like style. Though he doesn't cover much new ground, his treatment of the Beat Women, Black Mountain Poets and the San Francisco Renaissance will be particularly helpful for those who are just beginning to explore the ancillary figures of the Beat movement. However, anyone already familiar with the lives of Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Kerouac will find nothing revelatory here.

One point of concern is Watson's often overzealous descriptions of Beat sexuality. While sexual liberalism was certainly a significant tenet of Beat existence, it was not, in my estimation, the raison d'etre for Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, etc. It could be argued that Neil Cassady illuminated the sexual experience for core Beats, but his contribution as an iconic figure should not be devalued by presenting him as merely the sexual driving force of the Beats. Moreover, Watons implies that Ginsberg's homosexuality was the primary facet of his literary development. This is more than debatable. Certainly, Ginsberg's supernatural visions of Blake and his relationship with his mother served a much more profound purpose.

Though Watson should be commended for his thoroughness, the result at times is an overemphasis on the sexual side of the Beats. In Watson's book, this serves to lessen the importance of the Beats' dramatic contributions to literature and poetry.

5-0 out of 5 stars From Birth to Death the Beats...
The most unbiased and honest writing on the beats I've read to date. Steven Watson stears clear of glorification and awe, and brings you inside the little worlds of these real life characters. Swings you around to the outside looking in observing these dark lost drug induced literary masters. I especially appreciate the in depth look at Joan Vollmer Burroughs, an often overlooked main character of the Beats.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great pictures, great quotes
This was one of the better written books I've seen on the Beat Generation. This book will help out those who are new to the Beats, and those who would like some background. It isn't just about the birth, it spans the whole genration, and the aftermath. ... Read more


18. Postcolonial Theory and the United States: Race, Ethnicity, and Literature
by Amritjit Singh, Peter Schmidt, Lawrence Buell, Rhonda Cobham Sander, Juan Flores, Mae G. Henderson, Anne Fleischmann, Amy Kaplan, Maureen Konkle, Arnold Krupat, Jana Sequoya Magdaleno, Lisa Suhair Majaj, Kenneth Mostern
list price: $26.00
our price: $26.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1578062527
Catlog: Book (2000-08-01)
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
Sales Rank: 606893
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19. Unnatural Selections: Eugenics in American Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance
by Daylanne K. English
list price: $19.95
our price: $19.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0807855316
Catlog: Book (2004-05-01)
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Sales Rank: 239311
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20. "Saddling La Gringa": Gatekeeping in Literature by Contemporary Latina Writers (Contributions in Women's Studies)
by Phillipa Kafka
list price: $85.00
our price: $85.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0313311226
Catlog: Book (2000-09-30)
Publisher: Greenwood Press
Sales Rank: 1720781
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Book Description

Latina writers are often sensitive to the discrimination faced by Latinos and Latinas in the United States. Latinas are additionally oppressed because of their gender--because they are women, they hold a subordinate position in Latino culture. This book gives special attention to the role of female cultural "gatekeepers" in novels by contemporary Latina writers. These gatekeepers enforce and perpetuate patriarchal cultural constraints onto future generations of Latinas. The book begins by examining Judith Ortiz Cofer's Silent Dancing, a work which clearly illustrates the role of gatekeepers in perpetuating gendered power relations. It then turns to the works of Christina Garcia, Julia Alvarez, Rosario Ferre, and Magali Garcia Ramis. ... Read more


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