So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Father's Story

A Father's Story by Lionel Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer was a serial killer and sex offender, who raped, murdered, and dismembered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. This book is written by Jeff's father as he goes back over the life of his son and tries to understand what drove him to commit such ghastly actions.
Lionel Dahmer is a PhD chemist whose 1966 dissertation at Iowa State University, written in Jeffrey's childhood years, was titled: Chromatographic separations of niobium, tantalum, molybdenum, and tungsten. In this book both father and son seem emotionally detached, and Lionel even equates his son's bizarre desires to his own unrealized childhood fascination with explosives and murder.
While I found this book interesting to read, the parents' and grandmother's total unawareness of Jeffrey's crimes and pathological thinking limit the value of the book to helping the readers understand what happened to this young man.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fifteenth century books and the twentieth century: an address ... and a catalogue of an exhibition of fifteenth century books held at the Grolier Club, April 15 - June 1, 1952

Fifteenth century books and the twentieth century: an address ... and a catalogue of an exhibition of fifteenth century books held at the Grolier Club, April 15 - June 1, 1952 by Curt F. Buhler
Curt Ferdinand Bühler (11 July 1905–2 August 1985) was the rare book curator at the Pierpont Morgan Library and an expert on the art and history of books printed during the fifteenth century. In this book he gives a talk on the first half century of printed books which is followed by a catalog of 77 15th century books from the 1952 exhibition at the Grolier Club, and four full page pictures from these books. It is an amazingly good introduction to incunabula, the printed books of the 15th century.

One of the four illustrations is an illustration from an Italian 15th century book Vita et Aesopus Moralisatus edited by Francesco del Tuppo and published in Naples, February 13, 1485 that appears on page 55 of the book.

I found a link to the illustration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

which explains the story behind the picture as follows:

"The fable of the ant and the fly is not unlike that of the country mouse and the city mouse. The fly boasted that he partook of the finest wines and the choicest delicacies and drank and ate from vessels of precious metal. But the wise ant, who ate simply and lived by his honest labor, pointed out that the fly was always unwanted and scorned and could never take a bite without being in fear for his life."

Here is a version of the story online:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lost Horizon

Lost Horizon by James Hilton
I have wanted to read this book since I was a child watching the movie version starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt on TV.
It is the story of a chance for healing given to a World War I veteran who has been psychologically damaged by the war and living out his life as consular staff in remote outposts of the British Empire. Escaping from an Afghan city in turmoil in an air rescue mission, Hugh Conway and three others discover that their pilot has hijacked the plane. Instead of taking them to safety in India, they are flown to the most remote region of Tibet and saved from freezing to death by the lamas of a remote Buddhist monastery called Shangri-La.
Written during the Great Depression, the book is a Utopian novel that describes Shangri-La as a haven in a world set on self-destruction that promotes a philosophy mixing Buddhist and Christian values and holding a secret to extremely long life. Conway and his three companions each react differently to the environment, but the story is about the healing nature of the place on Conway's damaged soul.
The book suffers from undeveloped and stereotyped female characters, but James Hilton's prose is still a delight to read. It has instilled a desire in me to see the 1937 Frank Capra film again that was restored in 1986 and released on DVD in 1999.