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Teresa Carpenter "cafe reader" RSS Feed (New York,NY USA)
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Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir
Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir
by Katie Hafner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.40
62 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Painting with Pain, July 10, 2013
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The Chinese have a saying: No family can hang a sign reading `no problems here.' Sorrow is no respecter of culture or class. Katie Hafner's memoir of growing up with a flamboyantly charming, musically gifted, and sadly alcoholic mother is powerful testament to that fact. Instead of re-investing those gifts in her two small daughters, "Helen" disappeared for days in an alcoholic haze leaving her children to care for themselves. The older, Sarah, had to take over the job of mothering, Katie, only a little younger than herself. Not fair, but life isn't.

Some children are made stronger by adversity, others are destroyed by it. Sarah was too blighted to live up to her full potential as an artist; Katie did. She went on to become a remarkably prolific writer of non-fiction (A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano, The House at the Bride: A Story of Modern Germany, and others credits.) Mother, Daughter, Me tells the painful story of her past and of a quixotic effort to unite three generations - her aging mother, her adolescent daughter, and herself - under a single roof. No rosy endings here, but the author brings her impressive powers of discernment to bear upon her relations to the generation before and after. This beautiful, lyrical account leads her to a détente with the mother and increased intimacy with her daughter. By the end, we're cheering for that child to outrun the sorrow. And we know she will. She's got a mom in her corner.


Home Design Brushed Nickel Table Lamp with Fabric Shade (Grey)
Home Design Brushed Nickel Table Lamp with Fabric Shade (Grey)
Offered by Lightaccents
Price: $14.95
3 used & new from $12.80

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nickel Brushed lamp wobbly, May 3, 2013
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It is badly constructed and the lamp sits uneasily upon the circulet beneath. I believe that this is a fire hazard and would like to return it.

Thank you,

Teresa


Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory
Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory
by Stacy Horn
Edition: Hardcover
71 used & new from $0.01

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe it..., March 11, 2009
I don't believe in ghosts, but I wouldn't want to offend one. If you suffer from a similar ambivalence, you should check out Unbelievable by Stacy Horn. An indefatigable reporter, Horn, takes a hard-nosed look at the research done over five decades by scientists at Duke University into the paranormal. The team, headed by Dr. J. B. Rhine, seemed to conclude that telepathy, at least, is quantifiable, leaving it it open to strafing from colleagues in more conservative disciplines. Along the way, Horn produces a trove of fascinating anecdotes, the jewel in the crown being the case of Eliza Jumel, prostitute turned heiress, who was accused, unjustly Horn feels, of having killed her wealthy French husband in order to marry Aaron Burr. Her unquiet soul purportedly haunts their former New York domicile, the Morris-Jumel mansion. Well, I won't give away the story and spoil a jucy read. Beyond entertaining, Unbelievable, poses thoughtful questions about the soul and the form it might take in an afterlife, one of the most trenchant observations on the subject being rasied the British Anthropologist Ashley Montague. In an editorial published by Time Magazine he castigated the hubris of humans clinging to the idea of reincarnation."Not knowing what to do with themselves on a rainy afternoon...[they] nevertheless, want to live forever." (Good point. I for one, will settle for oblivion.) If you enjoy Unbelievable, you should also check out Horn's Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad and her darkly hilarious memoir, Waiting for My Cats to Die.


A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano
A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano
by Katie Hafner
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $1.20

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Gem, June 17, 2008
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An engrossing account of concert pianist Glenn Gould's search for the perfect instrument. He had already passed out of his teen prodigy stage when, in l960, he found a battered Steinway grand in the back of an auditorium in Toronto. The CD 318, as it was known, was old and out of tune, but one touch of the keyboard and the artist apparently recognized his inanimate soul-mate. For almost a decade, Gould and a nearly-blind technician would toil over the piano in the pursuit of "perpetual refinement." The pair were searching for, what the author describes as, a "dry, clean, light" tone, something akin to a harpsichord's. And they were still inching toward perfection, when the CD 318 met its tragic demise.

Hafner's keen eye and ear illuminate a world where tones take on the characteristics of colors-- and the qualities of fine wines. There's never a false step, and her style is so hypnotic and personal that even the laymen among us come to love this ugly duckling of grands.


A Little Original Sin: The Life and Work of Jane Bowles
A Little Original Sin: The Life and Work of Jane Bowles
by Millicent Dillon
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.35
72 used & new from $2.70

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and deeply engrossing, November 4, 2007
A little Original Sin is a superb biography of Jane Bowles, the child-woman whose outre lifestyle both energized and sometimes overshadowed her fiction. She and husband, composer Paul Bowles, manned an outpost of American bohemia in Morocco where they played host to such luminaries as Tennessee Williams, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote.

When she met Bowles in 1937, Jane was as-yet unpublished. She had been crippled in one knee by polio; he from the psychological abuse of a tyrannical father. It's possible that their marriage -- arranged to shock their families -- was never consummated. They do seem to have enjoyed a tender and childlike camaraderie. According to biographer Dillon, the two relished role-playing games. (A favorite plotline included a parrot whose single utterance, "bupple," became their pet name for one another.)

Although Jane's literary reputation rests upon a slender body of work -- a novel, a play, and a collection of short stories -- her "originality" dazzled the likes of Gertrude Stein. Fragile, kittenish and indecisive, JB could also be a headstrong explorer and beguiling conversationlist. Ironically, it was the publication of her first novel, Two Serious Ladies, that encouraged her husband to write fiction. His own first novel, The Sheltering Sky, was a literary and commercial success. As Paul grew more productive, Jane became distracted by drink, drugs and an obsessive desire for an Arabic lesbian who milked her for cash and possibly poisoned her. Her decline is harrowing, but A Little Original Sin offers a tantalizing glimpse of ex-patriot life in the International Zone of Tangier in the 1950s as well as a trip into Jane's truly extraordinary mind.

(If you enjoyed this book, check out JB's collected works in, My Sister's Hand in Mind. Farrar, Straus and Giroux Classics.)


A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.30
454 used & new from $0.01

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Formidable Foremom, December 26, 2006
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We've heard stories of how our great-great-great-grandmothers rose before dawn, plowed the lower forty, baked biscuits and then raised a barn, all before noon. A Midwife's Tale seems to confirm this. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich draws upon a remarkable document, the diary of a New England midwife, Martha Ballard of Hallowell, Maine, who recorded the details of her daily life between 1785 to 1812. Ulrich deconstructs Ballard's laconic entries to reveal the complex routine of a woman who kept a household for seven people, ran a cottage textile workshop, and served as midwife at the birth 816 infants during her 27 years of practice. (There were male physicians in the community, but they rarely intervened in this woman-dominated ritual unless there was a breech or still-birth to be dismembered.) Ballard's ministrations, in fact, went far beyond birthing to the practice of general medicine. She could apply poultices, lance abscesses, expel worms, induce vomiting, stop hemorrhages, bring down a fever, and - all else failing -- gently close the eyes of the dead. In this way, writes Ulrich, the midwife "mediated the mysteries of birth, procreation, illness, and death."

With the help of collateral documents, Ulrich fills out Ballard's entries to give a more complete view of society in a milling village of the early 1800's. She also tracks Ballard's personal fortunes from the height of her prestige into eventual decline. The author takes pains to point out how much of this misfortune was inevitable (the elderly of any era are of necessity pushed from the center to the circumference of society) and how much was due to the hand dealt by fate: Martha had her daughters before her sons; the girls married and moved out, leaving their mother the care of three rather loutish males. The episode underscores how necessary a reliable pool of labor was to the running of any rural household; southern families had their slaves; northern families had their daughters. Historian John Lewis Gaddis calls this book "an exercise in historical paleontology [that] succeeds brilliantly." Winner of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for history.
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Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Stael
Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Stael
by J. Christopher Herold
Edition: Paperback
46 used & new from $5.18

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Front Row Seats on the French Revolution, September 13, 2006
Mistress to an Age is the lively and engrossing biography of Germaine de Stael, the French novelist and philosopher whose name is unfamiliar to most Americans. She was born, 1766, the only child of Jacque Necker, finance minister to Louis XVI. Author Christopher Herold gives a detailed a description of the Family Necker, whose ceaseless self-adulation made them their own best publicists. Necker and his wife were so obsessed with their own immortality that they arranged to be preserved in alcohol and laid to rest in a black marble basin in the family mausoleum. Germaine reputedly hated her mother and openly longed marry her widowed father. No morbid tension in this household.

Precociously intellectual and emotionally famished, the young Germaine agreed to marry a dull Swedish diplomat, Eric Magnus Stael von Holstein, and then proceeded to have affairs -- and periodically children -- with the intellectual elite of Europe. Her amours included Talleyrand and Benjamin Constant. In the process, she wrote Delphine and Corinne whose heroines revolted against the strictures of society. Above all, she exalted the "faculty of enthusiasm" in an age characterized by cynicism. Her most enduring work is De L'Allemagne which presaged the rise of modern Germany. Through Madame de Stael, Mistress to an Age tells the story of the The French Revolution (which she supported), the Great Terror (which she abhorred) and the rise of Napoleon, who was to become the chief antagonist of her later years. A National Book Award winner.


Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45
Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45
by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman
Edition: Paperback
41 used & new from $7.97

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, and frustrating..., August 28, 2006
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Stillwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, may not deliver that feel-good, "how we won the war" bump, but it does offer a thoughtful and highly readable account of America's attempts to come to terms with an emerging superpower.

Pulitzer laureate Barbara Tuchman follows the career of Joseph Stilwell, a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee and West Point graduate, who was posted as a military attaché to the Legation in Peking in l920 - only nine years after the Chinese threw off imperial rule. During World War II, he was named Allied Chief of Staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek. The contest of wills between these two men occupies much of the book: Stilwell wanting to take over and train Chinese into crack units to resist the Japanese; Chiang insisting that the Americans handle Japan while he and his lackluster troops occupied themselves hunting down Communists. Their story reveals a larger clash of cultures, pitting Stilwell, the pragmatic, tactless Westerner, against Chiang, a would-be emperor trapped by inertia and the need to save face.

Tuchman revels in detail but keeps her story moving briskly. (It tends to get bogged down in Burma, but so did the Allies.) Generally favorable to Stilwell, she points out the folly of trying to impose top-down a set of Western values upon a non-Western culture. As for training a listless army to prop up a tinpot dictator? It was not a good idea then, and it's not a good idea now.


The Private Life of Chairman Mao
The Private Life of Chairman Mao
by Tai Hung-Chao
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.99
112 used & new from $0.26

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating socio-medical memoir, May 26, 2006
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Dr. Li Zhisui was Mao Zedong's personal physician for the last twenty-two years of the Chairman's life. The subject of his recollection is not the vigorous, charismatic visionary of The Long March, but an unappetizing codger who refuses to bathe, except in the vaginal fluids of females. Mao apparently subscribed to a Daoist belief that having sex with a succession of young women would increase his longevity. And he did, nightly, in apartments blocked from public view by the walls of the Forbidden City. His conquests gave him a sense of immortality; he, in turn, gave them venereal disease. The Great Helmsman, Dr. Li concludes, "lived an appalling private life."

Mao, Li asserts, did not have the intellectual equipment to lead China into the modern world. While cunning, he possessed the mind of a peasant rooted in the Nineteenth Century. When his naïve economic theories caused mass starvation, his response was periodic depression during which he would take to bed, rethink his position and come back refreshed -- though not necessarily with better ideas. Mao seems to have ruled with a Yoda-like vagueness. Like FDR, whom he admired, he never worried about contradicting himself. While publicly reviling capitalist roaders, he was nonetheless charmed by President Richard Nixon whose right-wing bluntness he preferred to Leftist waffling.

Li saves some of his most scathing criticism for Madame Mao, Jiang Qing, whose behavior he describes as "nearly psychotic." A woman of ravenous ambition with no constructive outlet, she exerted her will through hypochondria and hysteria, alternatively manipulating and terrorizing Mao's domestic staff. (She demanded her husband's bodyguards iron her silk underwear.) Li's name was linked with hers romantically for a time, but he managed to persuade the Chairman that the rumor was baseless. During her destructive political ascent, Li attests, Jiang made arrangements to extend her own longevity with transfusions of blood from healthy young males. She tried, without success, to have the doctor purged; he finally succeeded, plotting with others, to have her arrested.

On balance, Li presents himself as a patriot disillusioned by the Communist revolution and bitter since catering to Mao ultimately thwarted his dreams of practicing neurosurgery. (He expatriated to the U.S. in 1988.) The reader has to accept this at face value since, it seems, all traces of Li's name and service have been wiped out of the official record in Beijing. (He restores it in part with photos of his own taken with Mao and his inner circle.) I also found myself wondering about the passages of dialogue that would seem impossible to recreate without benefit of a tape recorder. Dr. Li kept detailed notes, forty volumes of them, which he burned in 1966 for fear of discovery. Ten years later, he proceeded to reconstruct them. But is anyone's memory that reliable? And what of medical confidentiality? Is that a concept unknown in China, or are all bets off if your patient was a head of state? The fact is, we all love tell-alls and in this instance, the teller sheds light on this convulsive chapter in Chinese history. The cast of characters is so large that only a Sinologist could fully appreciate their significance, but for the rest of us, The Private Life of Chairman Mao is a lively and engrossing read.


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