The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

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Henry Adams was born in Boston in 1838 a great-grandson of the Second President John Adams and grandson of the 6th President John Quincy Adams. He was a professor at Harvard and editor of the North American Review.

 The book ‘The Education of Henry Adams” is an autobiography that focuses on his own, and the countries, development from 1838 to 1905. It is a critic of the 19th century approach to education as well as well as many of the political and technological changes that took place between the civil war and the first world war.  

In Chapter 25 he says, “Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts” He then adds that “historians undertake to arrange sequences, called stories or histories, assuming in silence a relation of cause and effect.

 Of the year 1862 and the civil war Henry Adams “could never bear to think without a shudder.'' His father had been appointed as Minister to Great Britain and Henry went with him as a secretary and he experienced first-hand the English governmental feeling that strongly favored the Confederacy.

 ''Resistance to something was the law of New England nature; the boy looked out on the world with the instinct of resistance; for numberless generations his predecessors had viewed the world chiefly as a thing to be reformed, filled with evil forces to be abolished, and they saw no reason to suppose that they had wholly succeeded in the abolition; the duty was unchanged. That duty implied not only resistance to evil, but hatred of it. Boys naturally look on all force as an enemy, and generally find it so, but the New Englander, whether boy or man, in his long struggle with a stingy or hostile universe had learned also to love the pleasure of hating; his joys were few.”

Quotes

  • “Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.” ...

  • “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

  • “Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.” ...

  • “No man means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.”

Never Go Back, A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child

Book Photo Disclaimer: I refuse to post any picture with T. Cruise in it. How he got to play Jack Reacher in the movies is beyond logical understanding.

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“Never Go Back” refers to Reacher’s former Northeastern Virginia headquarters where he served as CO of an elite military police team, but the real reason for going back started out 4 books back, in “61 Hours”, with a flirtatious telephone call to the women who currently has Reacher’s old job, Maj. Susan Turner.  

This book starts out with his returning, but it turns out to be a trap. Someone knew he was coming, and he is forced back into the military, arrested, and charged with homicide and even a paternity suit. At first this seems to just be aimed at getting him to run and never go back. The message is delivered by a couple of tough guys who fail to intimidate Reacher: of course!

Major Turner is also arrested shortly after Reacher arrives. Her replacement seems unqualified and allows a solider in Afghanistan to be killed.

Both Turner and Reacher find themselves locked up in adjacent cells, then escape together, quickly learning that they are both attracted to much more than just their phone voices. Turner thoughts about Reacher seem to reveal a level of lust that is a not seen before in the prior books.

Their escape sends them with little money fleeing West Virginia going cross country to Los Angeles where they investigate the paternity charge. Reacher meets the child who has some striking similarities to him. She is very tall for a teenage girl. They meet in a diner and her backtalk and way of thinking is very much Reacher style.

The plot is spread from a planned meeting with an Afghan tribal leader to LA neighborhoods ,and points between.

see Literary Favorites Section for Lee Child for more on this author and also links to all his books reviewed on this site

Quotes

  • “if you can't acquaint an opponent with reason, you must acquaint his head with the sidewalk.” ...

  • “How much do you work out?" ...

  • “Like they were puppets, and the puppeteer had sneezed.” ...

  • “A person either runs or he fights. ...

The Innocent Man by John Grisham

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The Innocent Man, by John Grisham, is based on the true story of Ronald Williamson, an Oklahoma man who had narrowly escaped execution, only to die of liver disease. Williamson's was a star pitcher and catcher on his high school team, drafted by the Oakland A's only to have his career end 6 years later with an arm injury.  John Grisham found this of interest as he had aspired to be a baseball player before dropping out and going into law and then writing.   

Ron returned to his hometown and lived with his mother always believing he would someday return to the big leagues.  Debra Sue Carter was a cocktail waitress who was raped and killed after Ron’s return. The case went unsolved for over 3 years but Ron and a friend of his, Dennis Fritz, were finally arrested for the murder. The only evidence was a statement from Glen Gore who was the person who put Ron at the scene of the crime. Ron was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, while Fritz received a life sentence.

DNA placed Glen Gore at the crime scene, but it didn’t happen until 5 days before the planned execution. Five years later Ron died in a nursing home from cirrhosis of the liver.

Grisham said he bought rights to the story after reading it in the newspaper and it became his first nonfiction book. The story has many of the common themes of Grisham’s novels but the experience of reading it is very different. You miss the dialog of the characters and depend on the updates and reports of what has happened.

Doubleday’s president Stephen Rubin said of the book that it was a natural story for Grisham to write since it had many themes like those in his books, such as wrongful conviction, the death penalty and it was a legal thriller.

I didn’t think it qualified as a legal thriller because the plot wasn’t revealed in dialog through the characters but as news reports of what had happened. 

Quotes

“No star fades faster than that of a high school athlete.” 

“A hundred years earlier, in Hopt v. Utah, the Supreme Court ruled that a confession is not admissible if it is obtained by operating on the hopes or fears of the accused, and in doing so deprives him of the freedom of will or self-control necessary to make a voluntary statement. In 1897, the Court, in Bram v. United States, said that a statement must be free and voluntary, not extracted by any sorts of threats or violence or promises, however slight. A” 

“There’s an old adage in bad trial lawyering that when you don’t have the facts, do a lot of yelling.”

See Literary Favorites Section under John Grishman for more information on this author and links to all his reviews on this site

 

The Art of T.S. Eliot by Helen Gardner

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The Art of T.S. Eliot by Helen Gardner focuses on the poetic style and images of Eliot’s work. The author sees his earlier work only as preparing him for his masterpiece, “Four Quartets”, which she identifies as a turning point in his work.

The real world did not reflect all that Eliot believed about the spiritual world where he saw hope for redemption. His poems were about art, old age, regret and redemption. His hope, in a religious sense, was that the making of art was the highest justification of human life. These are poems of self-examination and regret where art helped fill the need for penance.

Gardner's says of Eliot’s earlier work that he often imitated the voices of other poets but then moves on to a more independent style. He wrote “The Waste Land,” in a way that underscored the musicality inherent in natural rhythms.  This thematic evolution did not overshadow his core ideas which seem best understood in the Quartets.

Eliot’s famous quote: “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring. Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time,”,

This leaves a question: Did Eliot move onto plays after his poetry because after the Quartets he had nothing left to say? Maybe he really did feel he arrived at where he started?

T.S. Eliot Quotes

 

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

 

The True Life of J.S. Bach, by Klaus Eidam

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Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician best known in his day as a virtuoso organist as well as a composer. Church music was very important in his day and his music had an enthusiasm and seeming freedom, despite its immense complexities. The music fit together in a way that left many amazed, but others seeing in it reinforce the idea that music is actually revealed.

Klaus Eidam wrote “The True Life of J.S. Bach” and challenges other writers’ thoughts about Bach presenting his image and music as a progressive consequence of the German Enlightenment.

Musicologist Jules Combarieu believed, much like Bach, that music is the “science of thinking in tones” and that harmony is derived from mathematics. Bach implied, and Eidam went further in his writings saying, that harmony comes from mathematics, even before it came into being in music and is defined as a hidden arithmetic movement.

Eidam was deeply moved by Bach’s organ piece, “Toccata and Fugue in D minor.” The piece opens with a toccata section, followed by a fugue that ends in a coda. It is one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire and does leave you wondering how anyone could have written it.

The book concludes discussing musical relationships and suggests that they parallel the rhythm of the cosmos within the deep structure of music.

Quotes

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.

It's easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.

Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.

 

As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen

Allen’s book, “As a Man Thinketh” starts out :

“Mind is the Master power that molds and makes,

And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes

The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,

Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:

He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:

Environment is but his looking-glass.”

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The book was published in 1903. It was described by Allen and was the early leader of the many self-help books that followed.  Drawing insight from Proverbs 23:6-8 in the King James version of the Bible the book focuses on the power of thought.

The book shows how application of the principle is a choice made by each individual and that it leads to both good and bad conditions being the results of those thoughts.

Allen said is was "A book that will help you to help yourself", "A pocket companion for thoughtful people", and "A book on the power and right application of thought.

Quotes

  • "Men do not attract what they want, but what they are."

  • "A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts."

  • "Cherish your visions. Cherish your ideals. Cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment, of these, if you but remain true to them your world will at last be built."

  • "The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors, that which it loves, and also that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations. It falls to the level of its unchastened desires,– and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own." [4]

  • "Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound."

  • "Every action and feeling is preceded by a thought."

  • "Right thinking begins with the words we say to ourselves."

  • "Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him to himself."

  • "You cannot travel within and stand still without.

Past Tense, A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child

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Past Tense, A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child does indeed deliver insight into the Reacher family’s history, going back to the place of birth for his father. The trip leaves him on foot in the middle of rural New Hampshire walking where he has to choose at a fork in the road between  going to Portsmouth or Lacona.

30 miles away from the town a young Canadian couple has car trouble and stop at a small motel buried on a small road in the forest where they are only guests. They find the motel unsettling and Child leaves us just as uncertain about their fate for much of the book. This is a noticeable change in the past plots that works well.

Reacher finds questionable evidence of his father’s existence but a 75-year-old assault case in which Stan Reacher is named has surprising similarity with some trouble Reacher finds in town. He wakes up out of a sound sleep from a noise below the threshold of consciousness prompted to find and help a woman under attack and gives her assailant a beating. The assailant has a similar profile to the assault cases victim found on his father’s police records.

More connections are found, and they take him, just in time, to the strange motel where the Canadian couple desperately need him.

This Reacher story has some new plot twists and holds our interest completely.

Interesting Items

Someone, somewhere, buys one of Child’s Jack Reacher crime thrillers every 13 seconds. 

Past Tense, published in November, is the 23rd Reacher novel.

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

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C.S. Lewis said that we will be transformed in eternity, wherever we eventually go.  “The Weight of Glory” discusses the transformation processes and was presented in 1941 when Lewis delivered a sermon at the pulpit of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford.

“It’s a serious thing,” Lewis says, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw them now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.” We’re all immortal and all continue in eternity. Being with God will make us Godlike.  Understanding the “weight of glory” will direct us to be different in how we serve others, but even with that change, getting over the feeling of our selfishness is an important challenge.

Lewis tells us that men today tend to think the highest virtue is unselfishness but explains that the Christians of old would have said it was Love. Replacing Love with the term “unselfish” carries with it the suggestion that the goal is not primarily securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.”

Obtaining this view of glory means that we except that there are no ordinary people, which means we have neve talked to a mere mortal, and that directs us to conduct all our dealings with each other with love. This means that your neighbor is the holiest object you will encounter and an important part of why you’re here.

Lewis says that “almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth, but our real goal is elsewhere.”

Finding the path to glory in how we serve, and love others is much of Lewis’s core message. By following that we take on the weight of a more compassionate vision of Christianity and a different understanding of what true faith and forgiveness is.

Memorable Quotes

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, because by it I see everything else.”

See Literary Favorites Section for more on C.S. Lewis Click Here

 
 

One Shot, A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child

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Lee Child’s book, “One Shot, a Jack Reacher novel”, is a book you won’t want to put down and is a great read, but it is time to ask why this formula has worked so well over 20++ books? How does this big tough guy, who wanders the country, deals with bad guys and beautiful women, continue to resonate with what seems to be the same old plot?

Reacher now seems so familiar to us that he is like a family member we know very well. We look forward to finding out what our friend is up to now but is the same old plot? Yes and no. It is the same old Reacher but what is surprising is that the plots continue to surprise us in the twists and turns they take, and they continue to be exciting fast paced. You don’t see what is coming.

By comparison I have put down a Steven King novel because I could see exactly what was coming and just wasn’t ready to deal with it. One time it was a couple of months before I wanted to go back, but I did go back. King is still a favorite, but Child’s plots are indeed canny.

Reacher sees the news on TV and learns of the Friday Night Massacre sniper attack and he decides to go to Indiana where James Barr, a former Army Infantry sniper has been arrested for killing 5 people insisting he’s the wrong man: His only request is to “Get Jack Reacher for me.” Barr knew of Reacher when he was in the army year ago.

Barr may want to have Reacher found but that is odd since Barr had been involved in an identical crime back years ago in the military and Reacher wants to make sure that he is convicted of the murders this time. The facts of the crime are solid, and the only real question is how was it possible that Barr didn’t commit the crime as he claimed?

Innocent people are killed, Reacher is framed, and as the police turn against him  he goes underground vowing revenge.  

O yes, by the way, a beautiful woman from his military past shows up, of course.

You really don’t know for sure who the puppet master, #1 bad guy really is until the end. Another good read. Can Lee Child keep this series going?

Top Quotes

“Never forgive, never forget. ...

  • “No, I'm a man with a rule. ...

  • “I'm not afraid of death. ...

  • “I'm not a vagrant. ...

  • “He had fallen out of the ugly tree, and hit every branch.” ...

  • “I don't care about the little guy. ...

  • “I was in the machine. ...

  • “A handgun at two hundred feet is the same thing as crossing your fingers and making a wish.”

 

The Archivist by Martha Cooley

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Matthias Lane is 65 years old and, in every way, seems the very definition of what an archivist would be. He has organized, preserved and maintained control over the very important documents of a prestigious university and loves his work.

T.S. Eliot was well known as a poet and author of the day, his wife Vivienne was committed to an asylum, he converted to Catholicism, and his many letters to Emily Hale, a woman he loved, are part of the sealed correspondence that Matthias has control over. The letters were not to be unsealed until 2020 but their subject of love and emotion are known.

Matthias wife Judith has been committed to an asylum and struggles deeply with the atrocities against the Jews in world war two and with Christianity. Judith’s parents died as a result of the war and she was raised by and Aunt and Uncle who have their own struggles with religion and the persecution of the Jews.

Grad student and poet Roberta Spire comes to Matthias and requests permission to look at the sealed correspondence between Eliot and Hale. Roberta is a poet but her interest in the letters is not just academic. She feels that Eliot’s conversion to Catholicism may help her understand why her parents, when they fled Germany during the war, converted from Judaism to Christianity.  

These stories seem to fold into each other but, in some ways, they are controlled by the hold Matthias has in each of them.  It is Roberta who gets Matthias to open up and feel his own pain and guilt.

The poetry of Eliot is a constant throughout the stories and helps tie the stories together even more. In the end it is letting go of the controls and allowing the truth to not be hidden away that creates an act of trust and connection.

The writing is graceful, and the reader connects with the emotions of the several stories as if it was one story.

Quotes

“In a few minutes I heard the books' voices: a low, steady, unsupressible hum. I'd heard it many times before. I've always had a finely tuned ear for a library's accumulations of echo and desire. Libraries are anything but hushed.” 

“With a little effort, anything can be shown to connect with anything else: existence is infinitely cross-referenced. And everything has more than one definition. ” 

“With a little effort, anything can be shown to connect with anything else: existence is infinitely cross-referenced.”

(People come to the archival profession for many reasons—to tell the story of a community, preserve a piece of history, hold people and institutions accountable, improve access through technology, connect researchers with the documents they need, and more. In this book the history that was preserved was repeated in layers and like situations)