Tag: Books

Wars both hot and cold

| September 26, 2014 | 0 Comments
Wars both hot and cold

As soon as the Second World War was over, the French began fighting a decade-long hit-and-run guerrilla conflict against left-wing nationalists in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the three pieces of the map that made up French Indochina. Eventually they lost their patience, deciding to wipe out the enemy by luring them into one big killing […]

Continue Reading

The logo of a civilisation

| June 22, 2014 | 0 Comments
The logo of a civilisation

As I write this, Greece remains the poor boy of the European Union and democracy teeters drunkenly in various places around the world. These facts draw me to remember the Parthenon in Athens — these plus Joan Breton Connelly’s new book, The Parthenon Enigma: A New Understanding of the World’s Most Iconic Building and the […]

Continue Reading

Slaying the Dragon Lady

| April 20, 2014 | 0 Comments
Slaying the Dragon Lady

The “Dragon Lady” was the name of a sexy Asian “villainess” in Terry and the Pirates, a popular newspaper comic strip of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s, however, people in the U.S. often applied the decidedly unflattering nickname to Tran Le Xuan, better known as Madame Nhu. She was a 98-pound Vietnamese […]

Continue Reading

Nitty-gritty cities

| January 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
Nitty-gritty cities

Odd how certain dead film stars are often the subject of popular cults. Among those with the most enduring posthumous lives is the Hollywood femme fatale Hedy Lamarr, whom many enthusiasts practically fetishize. Little surprise then that last year, on the centenary of her birth, at least two new biographies of her appeared. For the […]

Continue Reading

Some diplomatic intrigues

| September 30, 2013 | 0 Comments
Some diplomatic intrigues

An error in Steven Spielberg’s film, Lincoln stirred up a little controversy last year. The movie, as most everyone now knows, depicts Abraham Lincoln’s manoeuvring to get the 13th amendment to the Constitution, the one abolishing slavery, passed by the House of Representatives. Tension builds to the scene where there is a roll-call vote. Two […]

Continue Reading

Summer reading: From Beverley Baxter to Joseph Kennedy

| July 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
Summer reading: From Beverley Baxter to Joseph Kennedy

I’m not sure whether this was a joke or an urban legend, but there was supposedly a period in the 1950s when some members of the Canadian reading public were said to confuse Beverley Nichols with Beverley Baxter. Mr. Nichols was a prolific English author best known for his too-numerous books about gardening and cats. […]

Continue Reading

Opium as product and policy

| January 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
Opium as product and policy

Thomas Dormandy, a retired British pathologist who knows whereof he speaks, has a great deal to tell us about opium as well as morphine and heroin, the two even more powerful painkilling drugs derived from it. His exhaustive, but not exhausting, new book, Opium: Reality’s Dark Dream (Yale University Press, US$40), is a splendidly informative […]

Continue Reading

Islands at the end of the civilized world

| October 4, 2012 | 0 Comments
Islands at the end of the civilized world

  The idea of a prison located on an almost inaccessible island is supposed to strike special fear in people being kept there against their will. If the dot of land housing the facility is within sight of the mainland — in sight, that is, of freedom and civilization — then the cruelty of imprisonment […]

Continue Reading

I, spy

| June 28, 2012 | 0 Comments
I, spy

A remarkable true story of enterprise and espionage, of mystery and mayhem, in the Far East Jim Thompson was the best-known western businessman in Thailand, arguably the best known in all of Southeast Asia. Then one day, during a brief holiday in the highlands of Malaysia, he simply vanished — and became famous round the […]

Continue Reading

Four famous fully-engaged French writers

| April 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
Four famous fully-engaged French writers

  Writer/activists are coming back into fashion. It’s time to revisit their French ancestors. When I was about 15, I stumbled on a book no one else seemed to have checked out of the public library in decades: Emile Zola, Novelist and Reformer: An Account of his Life and Work. It was published in 1904, […]

Continue Reading