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FREQUENT FLYER'S SUMMER READING LIST
By Martin B. Deutsch
June 21, 2013 -- The summer has finally arrived, so I once again offer you a reading list that has nothing to do with current best-sellers, the year a book was published or any of the other criteria employed by traditional book reviewers. Nor are these books the usual light and disposable summer literary fare.
But I assure you that all of my choices are suitable for a comfortable read on the beach or in an aircraft seat or while you're waiting out a delay in an airport club or cocooned in an air-conditioned hotel room.
AFTER THE WAR IN JEWISH NEW YORK
Issac Bashevis Singer, who was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize for literature, left a huge literary legacy. Interestingly enough, however, Shadows on the Hudson, a novel now considered among his best, was not published in the English language until 1998. It became a posthumous best-seller seven years after his death.
Originally written in Yiddish in the late 1950s, and serialized in what was then called The Jewish Daily Forward, the novel is set in the late 1940s and centers around Boris Makaver, a wealthy Jewish real estate mogul. He and his circle of friends and acquaintances, just about all of whom are Holocaust survivors, live in New York City, mostly on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Almost all of them have suffered family losses as a result of the Nazi persecution.
Makaver's daughter, Anna, currently on a second disastrous marriage, is about to embark on an affair and that's the novel's central storyline. Her first husband, who was also victimized by the Nazis, is a renowned comic actor back in Europe. Her current husband is a luckless attorney from Poland who believes that sťances can revive his connection with his dead first wife. The man with whom Anna will dally is married with a mistress in Brooklyn. He is a father with two children, one of whom is about to marry out of the religion and another who is having an affair with a young man who is not only not Jewish, but a Communist, too. Oy vey and more. We also meet a professor with deep religious convictions who seems to believe that God has reserved a special place for those who died in the Holocaust, and a doctor who carries a secret that could endanger his relationship with Boris Makaver. There are other players as well.
I thought a central theme of Shadows of the Hudson was somewhat difficult to discern, but the overall impression is one of pessimism. Even the last line of this dark and fascinating novel is a cry of anger and despair. Yet there is an occasional element of humor and that enlivens all of the proceedings and even provokes an occasional smile. There are brilliant conversations, often heated and emotional and intellectual discussions, almost all of them about God, religion and what life and death are all about.
Shadows on the Hudson is a dark tale, told by a master storyteller, and it's just about impossible to put down. A warning: Don't let the first 50 or so pages prevent you from reading on ...
THE MAN BEHIND THE KING'S SPEECH
The hit 2010 movie, The King's Speech, made a celebrity of Lionel Logue, an Australian who would devote decades to controlling a future king of England's lifelong stammer and his deep-seated fear of public speaking. Lionel's grandson, Mark Logue, had complete access to Lionel's archives and from that sprang The King's Speech: Based on the Recently Discovered Diaries of Lionel Logue.
First published in 2010 and written with Peter Conradi, Mark Logue's book is an unsentimental biography of the speech and elocution specialist. When Lionel Logue first meets Albert, the Duke of York, in the late 1920s, the young royal is second in line to succeed his father, George V. When the older brother succeeds to the throne in 1936 as Edward VIII, the Duke is given duties that require him to speak publicly. Known as Bertie to his family, the shy duke continues to work with Logue to overcome his impairment. He and Logue develop a close friendship that will survive for both of their lives. Meanwhile, Edward VIII rules for less than a year and then abdicates in order to marry a American divorcee. In May of 1937, the Duke of York is crowned King George VI, with major speeches looming at the Coronation, to Parliament, to the Empire and to the world. George VI's addresses all come off remarkably well and Logue also helps him overcome his deep-seated fear of the microphone.
Honest and low-key without bravado, this slim volume provides a pleasant insight into the lives of these two men. Even if you did see the movie, which won the both the British and American Academy Awards for best picture, I think you will enjoy this warm and engaging biography.
THE FINAL CHAPTER ABOUT A WAR'S FINAL CHAPTER
I recently wrote about the military books of Michael Shaara and his son, Jeff. The Final Storm by Jeff Shaara provides another striking example of his ability to transpose real-life events into highly readable military fiction. Published in 2011, this is the fourth and final entry into Jeff's World War II series. The previous novels focused on the greater European Theater, but The Final Storm concludes with the final months in the Pacific as the Allies and the Atom bomb bring the conflict against Japan to a successful conclusion. At least as far as I've read, what Jeff Shaara does best, not only for World War II, but also for World War I and the Civil War, is adhere with unabashed persistence to actual events and dates as well as real-life characters. His recreated dialogue seems extremely credible. Like his previous works, this one is well worth reading--although we all know how the story is going to end.
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ABOUT MARTIN B. DEUTSCH Martin B. Deutsch created Frequent Flyer magazine in 1980 and was editor-in-chief and publisher for 15 years. He also wrote a column called "Up Front" for Frequent Flyer during those years. In a 50-year career, he created, published and edited dozens of other travel publications. Deutsch is based in New York.
THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Martin B. Deutsch in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Mr. Deutsch. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of Mr. Deutsch.
This column is Copyright © 2013 by Martin B. Deutsch. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.