Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Nevermore: Dead Wake, Human Comedy,Ishi, Wodehouse, Friends Divided

Reported by Ambrea

Nevermore kicked off their meeting with Dead Wake:  The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.  On May 7, 1915, as World War I entered another month, the luxury ocean liner Lusitania was torpedoed and sank in only twenty minutes—killing nearly 1,200 passengers.  In his book, Dead Wake, Larson carefully chronicles the events that led up to the sinking of the Lusitania and, as the cover states, “an array of forces both grand and achingly small…[that] all converged to produce one of the greatest disasters of history.”  Our reader thought the book was unbelievable, in a very good way.  Well-written and reached, Dead Wake was a riveting story that kept her glued to the pages.  Although it didn’t have any pictures, which she found disappointing, she still said it was a very good read and highly recommended it to other readers, even if they aren’t fans of history.

Next, Nevermore continued with The Human Comedy by William Saroyan.  In Saroyan’s classic novel, Homer Macauley—fourteen-years-old and full of determination to become the fastest telegraph messenger in the West—lives in California’s San Joaquin Valley with his mother, his brothers, and sisters.  It’s a peaceful life, despite the ongoing threat of World War II, but, as Homer continues to deliver messages throughout the town, he comes face-to-face with the best and worst of human emotion.  Our reader absolutely loved reading The Human Comedy.  He said Saroyan’s novel is “one of the greatest books you’ll ever read,” noting that it’s full of emotion and heart, grief and beauty.  He admitted he had read it at least three times, but he still loved it—and he highly recommended it to his fellow Nevermore readers.

One of our Nevermore members looked at two books about Ishi, a man considered the last surviving member of the Yahi Indians.  She started with Ishi:  A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America by Theodora Kroeber, which details the recovery of Ishi in 1911 and his subsequent care under Alfred Kroeber and the University of California’s Museum of Anthropology.  She also checked out Ishi’s Brain:  In Search of America’s Last “Wild” Indian by Orin Starn, which offers an alternative view of Ishi as the last of the Yahi and the tragic events that led to his discovery and beyond.  Our reader said she was fascinated by both books, because they offered equally compelling but conflicting ideas about Ishi and the Yahi Indians.  She found them both to be enlightening of Ishi’s history, as well as what happened to him after his death.

Next, Nevermore checked out Friends Divided:  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood.  According to the book jacket:
“Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament.  […]  They worked closely in the crucible of revolution, crafting the Declaration of Independence and leading, with Franklin, the diplomatic effort that brought France into the fight.  But ultimately, their profound differences would lead to a fundamental crisis, in their friendship and in the nation writ large, as they became figureheads of two entirely new forces, the first American political parties.”
Our reader said Friends Divided was an interesting look at the friendship and rivalries of two very different men who were critical in shaping the American republic.  He noted he learned a substantial amount about the American Revolution without actually having to follow the battles, and he thoroughly enjoyed the writing.  He called it a superb book, commending Wood for being such an excellent writer and thoughtful historian.

Nevermore concluded with a visit from P.G. Wodehouse and Mulliner Nights.  Mr. Mulliner is a storyteller.  Each night while sipping his Scotch and lemon, lounging in his favorite pub at Anglers’ Rest, Mr. Mulliner recounts tales of adventure and other, whimsical shenanigans to all who will listen.  Our reader said she returned to Mulliner Nights, because she needed “an old savior.”  P.G. Wodehouse is one of her favorite authors and, listening to Mr. Mulliner, was just what she needed to lift her mood and give her a shot of “Buck-U-Uppo.”  She highly recommended it to her fellow readers, noting that if they needed a laugh or just a change of pace from some dark grisly mystery, Mr. Mulliner would be the perfect cure.

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