POSTWAR: A HISTORY OF EUROPE SINCE 1945 – TONY JUDT

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
by Tony Judt


Available in paperback, hardcover and as an audiobook


Reading PostWar was a project, an immersion experience during which I first unlearned, then relearned everything I knew of modern European history. It was worth the effort. This is a long book — 960 pages — crammed with so much information I had to read it twice before I felt I had a grip on the material.

Tony Judt was an historian with controversial opinions. He made no pretence of being a neutral observer. Not that any historian is really neutral. Every historian has an agenda. Whether or not he or she puts it out there for all to see is a matter of style, but there is no such thing as historical neutrality. If an historian is writing about an era, he or she has an opinion about it. All history is slanted, changed by the historians who write it.

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

Dr. Tony Judt believed the role of an historian is to set the record straight. He undertakes the debunking and de-mythologizing of post World War II European history. He lays bare lies that comprise the myth of French resistance, the “neutral” Swiss, the open-minded anti-Nazi Dutch — exposing an ugly legacy of entrenched anti-Semitism, xenophobia and ethnocentricity.

Although Judt follows a more or less chronological path from World War II to the present, he doesn’t do it as a strict “timeline.” Instead of a linear progression, he follows threads of ideas and philosophy. Tracing cultural and social development, he takes you from news events through their political ramifications. You follow parallel developments in cinema, literature, theater, television and arts, not just the typical political and economic occurrences on which most history focuses.

After two consecutive readings, I finally felt I’d gotten it. Postwar changed my view of  the world, not just what happened, but what is happening.

Tony Judt and I were born in 1947. We grew up during same years, but his Old World roots gave him an entirely different perspective. He forced me to question fundamental beliefs. What really happened? Was any of the stuff I believed true? Maybe not or at least, maybe only partially. It was hard to swallow, but he convinced me. I believe it.

If you are Jewish (I am and so was Judt), and lost family during the Holocaust, this will stir up painful issues. The depth and breadth of European anti-Semitism and collusion in the destruction of European Jewry is stomach churning. Pretty lies are easier to deal with than ugly reality. It’s easy to understand why so much of what we know is wrong.

Map of Nazi conquest of Europe as of 1940

Even though I knew history, I didn’t grasp the impact of these years until Postwar made it real. I assumed, having lived these decades and followed the news, I knew what happened.

I was wrong. What is reported by American media barely scratches the surface. The transformation of Europe from the wreckage of war to a modern European union is more extensive, complex and far-reaching than I had grasped. These changes affect all of us directly and personally. My understanding of current events is far better because of this book.

I read Postwar on paper, then listened to the audio version. Available from Audible.com, I recommend it to anyone with easily tired eyes. It has excellent narration and is a fine showcase for the author’s conversational writing style.

Postwar is analysis and criticism, not just “what happened.” The book is an eye-opener, totally worth your time and effort, an investment in understanding and historical perspective. It’s never dull. After reading it, you will never see Europe or World War II the same way.

SHARING MY WORLD – MID JANUARY 2018

Share Your World – January 15, 2018


Whoa! Mid January? 2018? Today is Martin Luther King Day, too … I remember when they decided to make it a holiday and eventually, it really did become a holiday. That was back when this country was actually committed to Civil Rights. Was it a million years ago?

Complete this sentence: I’m looking forward to….

No snow, please. Just … stop snowing. Warm up a little, world.

Also, really looking forward to the day we clear out the White House and install a real President and a functional administration. That will be a day for cheering.

What is your favorite comfort snack food?

That depends. Crystallized ginger is always one. Cookies. Chips and salsa. Toast with jam. And an occasional piece of chocolate.

I don’t snack much and I don’t keep much snack food in the house.

What was one of your first moneymaking jobs (other than babysitting or newspaper delivery)?

I worked at Bloomingdale’s putting price tickets on clothing. In the basement. I also counted incoming goods and marked the bills of lading. I was 14, which was the youngest you could be and still work in New York.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Trying to get through “Fire and Fury” and remarkably, I’m actually beginning to feel sorry for a lot of the people who have done the best they knew how to try and make it a functional place to work and a more “normal” administration. Everyone failed.

Bannon may be gone, but he left his hatred behind.

Everyone failed because the man they elected as President is not up to the task. Forget for the moment whether he’s nuts or demented or stupid or whatever else you call him. He is a man who never reads a book.  No education. No deep knowledge of any relevant subject. Can’t — won’t — read reports from the other people who supposedly work for him. He has zero knowledge of the critical material with the White House is supposed to deal. And, to top it off, he has no idea how to manage people. He works entirely on instinct and his instinct is based on the last person he talked to.

In short, you can’t “turn him” into a “real” president. He doesn’t have the qualifications and nothing will make it happen.

I was surprised by the book. There’s a lot more empathy and sympathy in it than I expected and I found myself feeling bad for people and how painful this experience has been for them. We elected a man as president who should never have been allowed into the office and we are paying a terrible price for such a shallow, stupid decision.

BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS

EVOKING IDEAS, EVOKING DREAMS – BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS


Seriously, I don’t understand how it happened. I don’t have a job. I am definitely, absolutely 100% retired. Yet — I’m always busy!

It’s probably all the reading. In recent months, there have been publications of great books by some of my favorite authors, many of whom hadn’t released a new one in quite a while.

You know I absolutely had to read them. Immediately!

There were two new books and a short story by Jodi Taylor, “The Something Girl,” and “The Rest is History.” book 8 of her St. Mary’s time travel series. Both were great. I’m crazy about the time travel books. Sometimes I need a “time travel fix” and listen to them again.

Then, “Mary Russell’s War: And Other Stories of Suspense” was released — a whole bunch of short stories about Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. “The Furthest Station: A PC Peter Grant Novella” by Ben Aaronovitch was released and while it wasn’t as long as the other books, it was a day of reading.

Somewhere in there I also read the last three Michael Connelly books, two about Harry Bosch and another new one for another L.A. cop. The new Bosch stories are narrated by Titus Welliver, who plays Harry Bosch on the Amazon series, so it’s not just any old book. You can watch the series — or the movie — in your head and the right guy is the star.

I stumbled across “Strange Practice” by Vivian Shaw which is the kind of book you sincerely hope is the start of a new series. It was way too good to be a onefer! It’s about Dr. Greta Helsing who specializes in a  medical practice for treating the undead. Great book and I hope it is followed by many more!

And then, Craig Johnson came out with a new Walt Longmire book — best one in quite a while — and there was Dan Brown’s “Origins” and Peter Clines’ “The Fold” and  Neal Shusterman’s “Scythe” … and finally, to finish me off, the long-awaited “Robicheaux” by James Lee Burke. It has been a few years since his last Dave Robicheaux story and this was a honey. Simultaneously, up came this new book about Trump, “Fire and Fury” and …

You know? I just realized why I’m so busy.

As you may have realized, I’m a listener rather than a text reader. I started listening to audiobooks when I was commuting long distances. I got so into the habit of listening … and very much out of the habit of focusing on text … that I pretty much always listen and very rarely read. I do read a few things because they aren’t available as audiobooks and I want to read them … or I’m committed to reading them. To be fair, though, I love listening. It’s like watching a long movie in your head. It’s better than movies, really.

It’s definitely the books. And that isn’t all of my list, either. There are at least a dozen more still waiting for me to get to them.

I’m in the middle of “Fire and Fury” right now. Curiosity won on this book … but really, I just can’t resist a good book!

DIDN’T WE ALREADY KNOW THIS? –  BY TOM CURLEY

Well, the new year is less than a week old and it seems like 2018 is turning into 2017 on steroids. There’s so much going on this week it seemed to be a “target rich” environment for a blog. The “You can’t make this shit up” and “If you wrote this, nobody would believe it” clichés got together and gave birth to a book called  “Fire And Fury” by a reporter named Michael Wolff. 

It’s an inside look at this train wreck called “a Presidency.” It confirms what has been common knowledge for a while already. SCROTUS is nuts. Senile, and dumb as a brick, too.  And much, much more.  The book is riveting. I downloaded the audio book. Ellin and I sat at the kitchen table and listened for over 3 hours before we realized two things.

One: This is totally engrossing. We can’t stop listening.
Two: Damn, my butt is sore. Don’t sit at a kitchen table for more than three hours.

The thread of the book is how unbelievable this administration is and how unbelievably incompetent this administration is. 

But I think the lead — which has been buried — is how this guy was able to write this book. I’m not making this up. How did he do it? He spent the last year hanging out in the White House. In the West Wing.  He talked to everybody, including the President.

He could go in anytime he wanted. They all talked to him. They all knew he was writing a book!

How did he pull this off?

He met with Trump and asked if he could be a “fly on the wall” and document his administration. Trump said “Sure, why not?” Now he denies it but somehow, he got access to the White House, even though nobody is sure who actually allowed it.

The utter chaos that the book describes is how he got in.

Just sitting here, watching all this shit happen.

So, think of it. A reporter is going to the White House for a year, wandering around and everybody tells him everything. And nobody notices he’s —

  1. A REPORTER!
  2. HE’S THERE!

And they all seemed to be completely  stunned and surprise that this guy

WROTE A BOOK!!!

The other thing about this book is that all the bombshells in the book are not bombshells. It’s all common knowledge. Hell, I’ve written a blog about most of them.

The book points out that they never expected to win. The book equates the campaign to the Mel Brooks movie “The Producers.

I wrote CAN MEL BROOKS SUE REALITY FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT? The President is stupid.

I wrote STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES. The White House staff treats SCROTUS like a child.

I wrote WE NEED A FIRST MOM.  They have to come up with ways to stop him from doing stupid stuff, or worse.

I wrote M.A.D. MADMEN AND THE FIVE MINUTE RULE.  The president is nuts.

I wrote NORMAL, NORMALIZING AND NORMALIZING NUTS. The president is getting nuttier.

I wrote NUTS, NUTJOBS AND NUTTERBUTTER. I could go on, but I’m getting tired of the cutting and pasting. And of course Marilyn, Ellin, and Garry have written even more on all of this. Basically, all the stuff we’ve known and been watching unravel during the last year is now in a book because a guy got to sit on a sofa in the West Wing for about a year — and just watched it all happen.

You just can’t make this shit up.  We all know one thing: It’s going to get even weirder.

NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY – JODI TAYLOR AND THE CHRONICLE OF ST. MARY’S

Yesterday, January 2, 2018, was NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY


It was another day too, including National Cream Puff day, but I’m much more interested in science fiction. So I’d like to talk about Jodi Taylor, author of a series called “The Chronicles of St Mary’s,” a school which isn’t a school where all the historians are time travelers. Never have I found time travel so much fun as I have found in all of Jodi Taylor’s books.

Just One Damned Thing After Another cover art
Book 1

There have been nine full length books and a bunch of short stories too, many of which are free. All of them also available as audiobooks. It’s actually less expensive to buy the Amazon Kindle version and get the audiobook for a couple of dollars than to buy the audiobook by itself, by the way. But I don’t care: I’d have bought them full price too.

The Long and the Short of It cover art
Book 9

The books are funny. Not in a slapstick, stupid way, but with intelligence and lots of historic detail. I’ve learned a lot of history from these books. Lots of cool details I never read in more “serious” history books. And oh how I have laughed!

It’s hard to find good science fiction that’s funny without being dumb, but this is it. There’s also drama and violence, a bit of sex and sometimes, death. But mostly, the books are a great deal of fun. Extremely British, witty, and smart. AND well researched. If you like time travel, you cannot go wrong with any of these. They are great.

They are all available from Amazon and pretty much on every continent and also on Audible.com. Super highly recommended!

LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND FINDING YOUR WAY HOME – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn wrote a blog about National Towel Day. That was May 25th, the day fans celebrate the works of the late great Douglas Adams.

I’m not a fan, I’m a zealot. I’ve read all his books. Listened to all the BBC radio series. And watched both movies of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.”  The first one done in the 80’s with the original BBC radio cast, was actually a TV series. It was done on a budget of … maybe 25 bucks, but it was great.

The Disney movie was okay. Mostly, because Douglas Adams was the producer. Unfortunately, he died before it was finished. Even if you didn’t like the movie, it was worth watching just for the opening musical number “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish”.

While Hitchhiker is my favorite Adams work, I also loved the Dirk Gently series.

One of the things in the book always stuck with me. Whenever Dirk was lost he would simply follow someone who looked like they knew where they were going. He found that he never got to where he was going but he always ended up where he needed to be.

I used that concept once. I was driving home from work one night and I was on the local road that leads to my house. I came upon a police barricade. The road was closed.

There were no detour signs. I only knew that one road. So, I did what Dirk did. I saw a car in front of me turn off the road. He/she seemed to know where he/she was going. So I followed him/her. For the next 20 minutes to a half hour we wound our way through twisty back roads in the bowels of Southern Connecticut. I had no idea where I was.

Suddenly, the car in front of me turns on to the main road again. Past the barricade. I couldn’t believe it! It actually worked! But here’s where it got weird. The car in front of me turned off the main road and on to the road I live on. OK, I thought. Makes sense. There are a lot of houses on my street. This person was obviously going home too. But then the car turned into my driveway! That’s when I realized it was my daughter. I should have recognized the car, but I didn’t put two and two together.

The really funny part was that my daughter had just spent the last 20 minutes or so completely freaking out because this mysterious black car had been following her, turn for turn and then followed her to her house! True story.

I know Douglas Adams was smiling.

LEGEND OF A BLOGGER

Legendarily speaking, I’m a nonstop blogger who always has something to say. This is a great idea and flattering, too … but this is one of those days when it isn’t working out. And this is going to be just one of a whole bunch of such days coming right up to a theater near you.

Today we are taking Gibbs for a full winter cleanup. We also need to hit CVS for prescriptions and I need wrapping paper. And then, there are a few groceries. Owen is bringing over the new replacement vacuum cleaner because the lightweight one seems to have bitten the big one. Yes, I know, cheap is cheap and when you spend a little, you don’t get much, but the lightweight machines tend to be inexpensive and they don’t last a really long time. Like a year or two and then they pack it in. This one bit it.

Our bigger machine is too heavy for me, but I need something light that will move dirt. It’s a hard combo to get. We used to have an expensive machine to do that, but it was forever breaking down and mostly, it was more broken than not. Now, it is now abandoned, somewhere in the basement. Bye bye Oreck.

This January, it’s (again) my time to be a judge for the Audie awards. I do this every year. I no longer do the first round where I have hundreds of hours of reading. I do only the finals where I have a manageable number of books. But it is coming beginning of January and it will eat the month. This is not something I can dodge and to be honest, I don’t want to dodge it. I enjoy it. It’s fun. Reading a lot of new books is nothing to scoff at.

It does mean I won’t be doing a lot of writing. I won’t do nothing, but daily? Probably not.

In other news, many people I have enjoyed and with whom I’ve become friends are sliding out of blogging. Some are just tired. Others are angry and frustrated with the political mess and can’t find the energy keep going. I understand, but it hurts. People I lose from blogging aren’t just virtual contacts.

They are friends and I care. I hope they feel the same way. All I ask is if you are leaving, please don’t go without at least a good-bye — and maybe your email address?Also, I think this is exactly when our voices are most important.

I’m not dropping out, but I have stuff to do. Right now, with the awfulness of our political system in a tailspin, this is when those of us who have a voice and a platform — and have something worth saying — should be saying it. We need to speak up and keep speaking up. Maybe we aren’t going to change a lot of minds, but who knows? The internet is a funny place. You never know how much of an impact you are having on your world. Every once in a while I discover I’ve made someone think about something differently, see an old concept in a new light and I feel proud. Maybe it’s a small thing, but it feels good.

Meanwhile, for at least the next month, until I’m done reading for the Audies, I’m a bit busy. In case you don’t know what the Audies are, they’re the awards for Audiobooks. This means that unlike words-on-pages books, you can’t “read faster.” Audio unfolds at its own speed, so if a book is 32 hours long, that’s it. In theory, you can speed it up, but listening to an audiobook at 1.5 times normal speaking rate is downright weird. Makes your brain do flip-flops.

I really love blogging but this legend has be less legendary because I can’t fit 34 hours of work into a 24 hour day and it isn’t because I have not tried. It simply doesn’t work.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!