I’ll Be Damned (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

I’ll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America’s #1 Daytime Drama, by Eric Braeden (2017).  If you’ve ever watched The Young and the Restless, you know that Victor Newman makes Montgomery Burns look like a boy scout.  Victor, played by the 77-year-old Eric Braeden, is a cutthroat cosmetics tycoon who doesn’t think twice about, say, having his business archrival kidnapped and replaced by a lookalike (who also happens to be a South American drug kingpin).  But Braeden’s real life story, told in this memoir, is almost as unlikely.  Born in Germany during WWII, Braeden (actual name Hans Gudegast) emigrated to America as a young man, bounced around for a few years, became a successful actor playing German heavies in shows like Rat Patrol, did a few movies (including a key role in Escape from the Planet of the Apes), and then found his niche on The Young and the Restless.  He’s a little defensive about being a soap star, and the book occasionally feels like an exercise in name-dropping, but I thought it was an interesting read nonetheless.


The Diary of a Young Girl (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank.  I had never read this famous book before, but when I signed up for a vacation trip to Amsterdam I figured I should read it first.  I got about halfway through before my trip rolled around, but that was enough to help give me some context when I visited the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam.  I finished the book over the course of the trip.  Anyway, it is an interesting book, and Anne comes across as a lively, spirited, and strong-willed teenager.  It does get a little repetitive, perhaps, but how could it not, given that Anne lived in hiding in a tiny space with the same group of people for two years?

Churchill (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Churchill, by Paul Johnson (2009).  This is a biography of Winston Churchill, and it is only 168 pages long.  If you think that sounds like an impossible feat of compression, you are correct.  It is just too short to give any sort of real flavor of perhaps the greatest man of the twentieth century.  I have enjoyed some of Paul Johnson’s other books, especially Modern Times, but this one just didn’t do it for me.  On the plus side, though, it is a very quick read….

Caesar: Life of a Colossus

Book review from The Movie Snob

Caesar: Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy (2006). This is biography at its finest. Goldsworthy truly brings Julius Caesar and all of ancient Rome to life in this roughly 500-page treatment of the great general’s life and career. It is exceptionally well-written, contains a sprinkling of helpful maps and diagrams illustrating some of the most important battles, and has some nice black-and-white photos in the middle of Roman artwork depicting Caesar and the other main players in the saga—Crassus, Pompey, Cicero, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and of course Caesar himself. If you have any interest at all in ancient Rome, you will love this book.

The Life of Samuel Johnson (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

The Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell. Okay, so I’m only a third of the way through this behemoth, but after all the thing is 1243 pages long. Johnson was a towering figure in British letters during the 18th century. He published hundreds of essyas, more than fifty biographies, a complete annotated edition of Shakespeare’s works, and almost singlehandedly wrote the best and most complete English dictionary of its time. He also hobnobbed with Edmund Burke and Adam Smith, and he crossed (literary) swords with David Hume. And his friend James Boswell wrote this tremendous biography of his life, including numerous reports of the great man’s conversations. He comes across as a bit of a contrarian, more interested in getting off a good one-liner than in making a consistent argument. Just a third of the way in I have already come across these gems:

“Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

After an unknown gentleman left Johnson’s company, he remarked that “he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney.”

He was not an admirer of Americans. Once he remarked that failing to work for the spread of Christianity “is a crime of which I know not that the world has yet had an example, except in the practice of the planters of America, a race of mortals whom, I suppose, no other man wishes to resemble.”

And his famous response when a woman asked him how he had come to make a certain mistake in his Dictionary: “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.”

Heloise & Abelard (book review)

Book review by The Movie Snob

Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography, by James Burge (Harper San Francisco 2003). In the immortal words of 70’s rock band Nazareth, love hurts, and nobody knew it better than the star-crossed couple of Peter Abelard and Heloise. I was familiar with the only bare outline of their story, which has survived through the centuries thanks to their preserved love letters, and I enjoyed learning more of the details in this well-written book. Abelard was the leading philosopher, professor, and rhetorician in early 12th century France, which apparently made him quite a celebrity in medieval terms. He became the tutor to the intelligent and attractive Heloise when he was about 36 and she about 20. The two fell madly in love, and she became pregnant. Despite their efforts to save her family’s honor, her uncle and guardian Fulbert eventually took action. He sent his henchman to attack Abelard in the middle of the night, and . . . well, if you want to know the rest, you’ll have to buy this book, or come ask me, or look it up on Wikipedia, or something.

My Fundamentalist Education (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir of a Divine Girlhood, by Christine Rosen (2005). Another memoir from somebody who is right around my own age. Rosen’s parents divorced when she was very young, and her father and his new wife (a very sweet person, not a wicked stepmother type) raised her and her older sister in St. Petersburg, Florida. Fatefully, and apparently without full knowledge, they sent Rosen and her sister (and their new little sister) to Keswick Christian School, a private school run by a fundamentalist Christian denomination. Keswick was a distinctly odd place by secular standards, although its routines are not entirely unfamiliar to a graduate of Catholic schools like me. The students wore uniforms, went to chapel, sang songs about Jesus, were entertained by visiting Christian musicians and missionaries, and learned their King James Bibles backwards and forwards. Although Rosen is no longer a fundamentalist and pokes plenty of gentle fun at Keswick, her memories of the place (and the youthful anxieties it instilled in her, like worrying about the Rapture) are nonetheless genuinely fond ones. If you want to learn more about what fundamentalists really believe, or just want an enjoyable read about growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, this is the book for you.