Author Archives: Rob

“Preparing to Make the Most of Your Free Time After Retirement”

by Bob Lowry

This is a very short book on the non-financial aspects of retirement. It’s thought-provoking, but not as useful as Lowry’s excellent blog (happily active again after a hiatus) and its equally valuable comments section. I’d recommend reading the blog and Lowry’s previous book before reading this one.

“The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation”

Bill Morgan

I’ve read a lot about the Beat Generation. To some extent this book repeats what I’ve read elsewhere. The valuable thing about it is that it tracks all of the Beats through decades so the reader gets a good sense of who was where when and doing what with who. The “doing what with who” isn’t limited to literary efforts, thus the subtitles’s “uncensored”. It’s less salacious that it sounds; mostly the account proves that the Beats behaved pretty horribly towards the women in their lives.

Though the author (an archivist for Ginsberg and other Beats) doesn’t explicitly state it, he makes a good case for an argument that the Beat Generation is best defined as “friends of Allen Ginsberg”. It’s also clear from Morgan’s account that Ginsberg was a better friend to his friends than they often were to him.

“The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump”

Andrew G. McCabe

I think it was David Frum who said “there is no bottom” to the misdeeds of the Trump administration. If anyone needed more proof of that statement, this book would provide it. McCabe writes about his entire career focusing on the way the FBI works and the essential nature of its tasks. The professionalism and dedication to the rule of law that he portrays is in sharp contrast to what the president wants: unquestioning loyalty.

The book would probably be better if McCabe weren’t constrained by security restrictions, but it’s a memoir, not a journalistic account. It’s chilling enough as it stands.

“The Spy and the Traitor”

Ben Macintyre

From 1982 to 1985 the KGB’s top man in London, Oleg Gordievsky, was working for Britain’s MI6. “The Spy and the Traitor” is the story of Gordievsky’s life, his career working for the KGB and MI6, and his dramatic 1985 exfiltration from the USSR as a result of CIA agent Aldrich Ames’ betrayal. Ames, the “traitor” of the title — though from the Soviet perspectivve Gordievsky was also a traitor — had sold information to the KGB.

Macintyre is a good story teller and this story, told with Gordievsky’s cooperation, is a good one.

Deck

I’m not sure if I saw the first transatlantic TV broadcast, which took place a few days after my eighth birthday, but I do remember watching a TV segment (from Rome, I think) prefaced by a network anchor saying, “we’re waiting for the satellite”.

I took this yesterday morning on my deck, edited it on the phone, and a few hours later somebody in Poland “favorited” it on Flickr.

The difference in technology, then vs. now, is enough to make a person feel old.

I too

“The Strangled Queen”

Maurice Druon

This, the second book in the “Accursed Kings” series has the virtues of the first. It starts in 1314. Philip the Fair is dead and his son, Louis X (“the Headstrong”) is on the throne. The novel focuses on the power stuggle between the king’s uncle and his father’s treasurer and on Philip’s desire to rid himself of his queen so he can remarry.

“Spain: The Centre of the World 1519-1682”

Robert Goodwin

The story of Spain from the reign of Charles V to that of Phillip IV is a big subject. Goodwin does a good job of telling that story by using the lives of several famous figures to frame his tale.

I enjoyed reading this book on my recent trip to Spain. Thanks to Goodwin I knew more about Velázquez and El Greco than I otherwise would have while enjoying their paintings. And I appreciated my visit to the University of Salamanca more because of what I read in the book about Francisco de Vitoria and his defense of the sovreignity of native peoples.