From Fire by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

From Fire by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith, by Sohrab Ahmari (2019).  The subtitle tells you most of what you need to know about this book.  It’s an autobiographical conversion story.  That may not be your cup of tea.  But if you give it a chance, I think you’ll find it interesting, because Ahmari is a good writer and has an interesting background.  He was born in Iran, and his childhood years there coincided with the early years of the Khomeini regime.  Then his mother moved to America (Utah!) and took young Sohrab with her.  His stories about growing up in America and trying out various left-wing ideologies are interesting.  At 207 pages, it’s a quick read.  I would have liked to learn more about Ahmari’s wife and what she thought of his becoming Catholic less than three years after they got hitched.

The Landmark Julius Caesar (book review)

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

The Landmark Julius Caesar: The Complete Works, translated and edited by Kurt A. Raaflaub (2017).  The complete works and then some – this volume contains not only the ten “books” Caesar wrote about the Gallic Wars and the civil war he fought with Pompey, but also four other books about Caesar’s campaigns that were written by other authors.  The translation is very readable (I’m in no position to judge its accuracy), and the stories are generally quite interesting.  Sure, I occasionally got lost among the many proper names for places, tribes, and people I’d never heard of before, but I didn’t sweat that.  One thing was a hoot – Caesar mentions the two soldiers at the center of the HBO miniseries Rome, by name, for their courage during a particular battle in the Gallic Wars!  They were real people!  Anyway, this edition is a massive chunk of a book because it contains lots of introductions, footnotes, maps, pictures, and appendices.  I read the introductions and lots of the footnotes, and they added a lot to the stories.  If you’re into the swords-and-sandals genre of history, this is a must-have.

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.”