The Road by Vasily Grossman

Best known for his novel Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman also wrote short stories and worked as a war correspondent in the Second World War.  A Ukrainian Jew with parents who worked as urban professionals, Grossman did not represent the common stereotype of the Eastern European Jew living in a “Litvak shtetl.”  The Road, a collection of short stories, journalism, and letters published by New York Review Books, provides a useful jumping off point for anyone interested in the life and work of Vasily Grossman.  It includes his earliest stories and his last short story he wrote.  “The Hell of … Continue reading The Road by Vasily Grossman

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The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: a history of Nazi Germany (Thirtieth Anniversary Edition) by William Shirer

Nazi Germany.  Hitler.  The SS.  The names bring up connotations ranging from the cinema of Steven Spielberg and Mel Brooks to tasteless political posters at town hall meetings and anti-war protests.  In the eternal words of stand-up comic Bill Hicks: “We’re going in for God and country and democracy and here’s a fetus and he’s a Hitler.”  In our modern age, we have called whatever enemy of convenience a Hitler.  The same phenomenon throughout history with different groups of people thinking the Antichrist was Nero, the Pope, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, FDR, Ronald Wilson Reagan, Ayatollah Khomeini, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton, … Continue reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: a history of Nazi Germany (Thirtieth Anniversary Edition) by William Shirer

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Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon

“unreadable, turgid, overwritten and obscene.” — Pulitzer Prize board. Scenario: Imagine you’re a peasant, wallowing about the mud, occasionally getting hassled by men in armor alleging they are kings because some lass threw a scimitar at him, and you’re late for the biweekly meeting of your anarcho-sydiclist commune. Perhaps you’re name is Dennis. Life is a constant struggle involving mud, plague, and rampaging Crusaders lopping the heads off random farmers. Your daily routine of mud farming is disrupted. Out of nowhere, an day-glo painted SR-71 Blackbird, piloted by a figure reminiscent of Donald Sutherland’s character from Kelley’s Heroes and co-piloted … Continue reading Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon

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