Spring Clean #7 Five More Books

This is my next group of books to be donated to the library. Reading these over for writing these posts brings back a lot of memories. It’s nice and nostalgic to go through these books one last time before they go on to their new (I hope) homes.

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A Peace to End All Peace: The End of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (1989) by David Fromkin recounts the emergence of the modern Middle East from the remains of the Ottoman Empire after WW I. The powers of Europe talked about Arab independence (in Fromkin’s words), “a cause in which they did not in fact believe,” but used as a pretext “to hide their meddling in Moslem (sic) religious affairs.” The present-day boundaries are artificial, he argues, not in the best interest of the people of the region and will not hold.

A Peace to End All Peace was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Bio: David Fromkin (1932-2017) was an American historian and Professor Emeritus of History and International Relations, and Law at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. His books include The Question of Government: An Inquiry Into the Breakdown of Modern Political Systems, (1975), In the Time of the Americans: F.D.R., Truman, Eisenhower, Marshall, MacArthur — the Generation That Changed America’s Role in the World, (1995), and Kosovo Crossing: The Reality of American Intervention in the Balkans (1999).

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The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife: A Perry Mason Mystery (1945) by Erle Stanley Gardner is #27 of some eighty Perry Mason novels. Widow Jane Keller is trying to sell an island (a common enough problem) to millionaire Parker Benton. In the meantime, greedy philandering Scott Shelby is trying to enforce an expired drilling lease on the island through some obscure clause on the lease. Mrs. Keller’s brother-in-law, Lawton, is an attorney, but her sister advises her to see Perry Mason.

While all interested parties are traveling on a yacht to work out a deal during a foggy night, a shot rings out, Shelby disappears overboard, and Mrs. Shelby runs into Perry. She’s wearing her nightgown and holding a gun. Looks like her goose is cooked. She’s Perry’s new client.

This was, as is every Perry Mason book I’ve read, a lot of fun, although it got bogged down in—say it ain’t so—contract law.

Bio: Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) was an attorney and a prolific author. He began his legal career defending the disadvantaged and founding what he called The Court of Last Resort. He turned to writing for the pulps, under several pseudonyms, to supplement his income.

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Seven Complete Novels (1979) by Erle Stanley Gardner includes the following Perry Mason mysteries:
The Case of the Glamorous Ghost: A young woman is found wandering around in a park wearing only her nightgown. A body is also found in the same park. She claims to have amnesia. No one believes her.
The Case of Terrified Typist: A temporary typist (or is she?) hired to replace Della when she’s out sick mysteriously takes off and never returns. Then news comes an office down the hall specializing in gems has been robbed. And, of course, someone is murdered.
The Case of the Lucky Loser: Perry receives a call to attend a trial of a hit-and-run accident. He doesn’t have to do anything but attend. Yeah, like it’s that simple.
The Screaming Woman: Perry’s initial job is to cross-examine a woman’s husband to see if his story holds water. He really should have known better.
The Case of the Long-Legged Models: A young lady hires Mason to help her in a property dispute with mobsters who she believes killed her father. And there are three identical guns involved.
The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll: A young woman is dumped by her fiancé, who stole money from his boss and disappeared. She’s driving around one day and picks up a female hitchhiker who deliberately crashes the car and dies—though one assumes her death came as a surprise to both parties. The young woman then steals the identity of the dead hitchhiker. Not asking for a bit of trouble there, is she?
and The Case of the Waylaid Wolf: The spoiled son of a wealthy family tries to sexually assault one of the secretaries who works for daddy after her car breaks down. The secretary files charges. Things look bad for her when the bastard goes on to his reward.

It’s hard to pick a favorite. Certainly, the set-up of The Screaming Woman was cute. The Footloose Doll was odd enough that it kept my attention. They were all entertaining. If there’s a reason why these seven were chosen, I haven’t figured it out.

Bio: Please see the note above.

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Full House: The Spread of Excellence From Plato to Darwin (1996) by Stephen Jay Gould deals with a way of seeing evolutionary complexity not as a single road as so often depicted in textbooks but as many paths, a bush perhaps instead of a tree. In his introduction, Gould points to three disparate sources of inspiration: “(1) an insight about the nature of evolutionary trends that popped into my head one day, revised my personal thinking about the history of life, and emerged in technical form as a presidential address for the Paleontological Society in 1988; (2) a statistical eureka that brought me much hope and comfort during a life-threatening illness…; and (3) … the disappearance of 0.400 hitting in baseball.”

Gould wanders far afield at times and is given to literary allusions. I liked this book.

Bio: Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and Harvard professor. His technical work was with West Indian snails. With Niles Eldredge, he developed the idea of punctuated equilibrium, that is, that populations generally enjoy long periods of evolutionary stability and undergo change rapidly. Gould was a prolific writer. According to Wikipedia, between 1965 and 2000, he published 479 peer-reviewed papers, 22 books, 300 essays, and 101 “major” reviews. Among his books are The Panda’s Thumb (1980), Wonderful Life (1989), and Dinosaur in a Haystack (1995).

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Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (1999) by Stephen Jay Gould describes how one should, in Gould’s view, regard science and religion, that is, not as competing ways of seeing the world but as two different disciplines equipped to answer different questions. He borrows from classical languages for terms to denote this: science and religion are non-overlapping magisteria—NOMA. (The word “magisterium”—pl. “magisteria”— he borrows a word used in Roman Catholicism meaning “teaching,” which was in turn derived from Latin meaning “teacher.”)

This was probably the most disappointing of all Gould’s books for me personally. It is well-written and full of literary allusion, as is all his writing. It just struck me as too idealistic.

Bio: See above

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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