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Havana: A Subtropical Delirium Paperback – March 6, 2018
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"Kurlansky reaches back 500 years to track the city's evolving history, separating out the different strands--Spanish, African, American, Russian; political, social, musical, culinary--that slowly steeped to create Havana's piquant blend of static defiance." - New York Times, "Summer's Best Travel Books"
"A happy hybrid, Havana: A Subtropical Delirium invokes the Cuban capital as an occasion to discuss the country's history, politics, food, architecture, music, religion and passion for baseball . . . Kurlansky approaches Havana like an Impressionist painter, building the image of this metropolis of 2 million inhabitants with subtle brushstrokes." - The Washington Post
"During his decade-long tenure as the Chicago Tribune's Caribbean correspondent in the 1980s, Mark Kurlansky began traveling to Cuba. Since this introduction to the island nation, the journalist grew to know and love the beautiful, messy capital. Drawing on Havana's history, Kurlansky starts with Columbus' arrival in 1492 and examines the city's role in the slave trade and its lasting effects. But he also brings us into the contemporary culture, highlighting the city's lively music, dance and art scenes, and supplying us with recipes to tasty Cuban dishes." - Smithsonian Magazine, "Ten Best Travel Books of 2017"
"This little gem of a book by the prolific Kurlansky is a revelation . . . At a most auspicious moment in the history of Cuba and Havana, Kurlansky, who has spent much time in the country as a journalist, writes an eloquent love letter to one of the world’s great cities." - starred review, Booklist
"An affectionate, richly detailed, brief biography of a unique city." - Kirkus Reviews
"This extremely readable book is not preachy, not dogmatic, not shrill. As in life, there is a mixture of both good and evil, and Kurlansky, a frequent Cuba correspondent, covers it well." - starred review, Library Journal
"Warmly rendered and rich with the insights of an observer intimate with his subject, this paean to the city of Havana is as engaging as it is timely. The chapters read like a series of colorful picture postcards, each one a touchstone of Havana’s history and Cuban culture." - Publishers Weekly
"Few countries seem as alluring as this island nation, long cloistered from American travelers, which welcomed its first commercial U.S. flight--from Fort Lauderdale--this past August . . . Havana is Mark Kurlansky's cultural history of a city that he began visiting regularly in the 1980s, when he covered the Caribbean for the Chicago Tribune." - Publishers Weekly, "Spring Travel Books"
"We are in good hands to explore this diabolically alluring city with New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky in Havana: A Subtropical Delirium. His is an insider's view of the ramshackle charm and special cadence of Havana, its tattered and elegant surprises and pulsating fun-loving life." - New York Journal of Books
"Havana is sui generis and addictive, and Mark Kurlansky really gets it." - BookPage
"Biographical portraits of cities are in vogue. This lively addition to the genre is essentially a history . . . Kurlansky found international fame in 1997 with his piscatorial portrait, Cod. The lengthy list of other titles he has penned is enough to make most professional writers want to shoot themselves--not only more than a dozen non-fiction works but novels and children's books as well. The bugger is also an award-winning food writer. Narrative history is his forte, however. His vignettes of the figures who moulded Havana are excellent. The story unfurls through grisly post-independence dictatorships and ends, inevitably, with Castro. Kurlansky is even-handed." - Literary Review
"A highly readable and entertaining account of Cuban history and culture that I found hard to put down." - San Francisco Book Review
"HAVANA is as enjoyable as it is fair, and above all features the beauty and essence of the city that makes it unmistakable. It is a colorful, descriptive piece that any person should warmly enjoy." - Bookreporter.com
"Perfect for anyone headed there or simply wishing to learn more about a city and country cloaked in romance and mystery." - BookFilter
"Havana is an electrifying and multi-layered portrait of the long-elusive city." - BookBrowse
"Not quite a book on the history of Havana, but rather, the history of Havana-isms . . . The result is a book that strays from repeating what most already know about Havana, and instead tells the origins of the city's unique cultural characteristics . . . Kurlansky's guide to Havana is an entertaining collage of the attitudes that have existed throughout its five-century history." - Cuba Trade Magazine
About the Author
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Have you ever thought of a city as a person, as someone who is alive and waiting to make your acquaintance? This is a new idea for me. It came after I started reading "Havana" by Mark Kurlansky.
He begins by saying in the Prologue, “If I were ever to make an old-fashioned film noir…I would shoot it in Havana.” He goes on to talk about other writers and poets who have found Havana fascinating. It seems you have a very different impression of Havana if you first see it from the sea, rather than from land.
Mr. Kurlansky tells how Habana Vieja (Old Havana), the original city, developed. The streets in this section were, and still are, very narrow and dark. The sidewalks are narrower still, all because the sun is so hot. So, when people put awnings up, they tie them to the building across the street. That way everyone passing below gets the shade.
One of the more interesting things I learned is that the city was founded three times in three different places. And Mr. Kurlansky has lots of interesting anecdotes to tell about how each settlement was founded.
Havana was invaded many times, always from the sea. There were the French pirates in 1538 and 1555 and different ones came again many times after that. Each time the townspeople paid a ransom and those that were still alive rebuilt. They built one fortress and then another and, over time, they added to each. It didn’t seem to make much difference. There seemed to be no shortage of pirates coming from the sea, and so, there would be another raid.
Havana grew and became an important commercial port in the 1700s. African slaves were brought in around this time to do the work.
Mr. Kurlansky says, “It has at times been suggested that the impact of slavery on modern Cuba is exaggerated, but so profound and fundamental is slavery to the identity of both Havana and Cuba that it would be almost impossible to overstate it.
He goes on to say that there were people alive in 1980 who had known their grandparents who had been born in Africa. Imagine that!
I’m going to stop here because I don’t want to give too much away. I hope I’ve inspired you to read "Havana". It’s an exciting, fascinating book that reads like a novel and the city of Havana is the main character!
and typically on a subject most of the world takes for granted. It is amazing to read about these subjects.
Havana is so colorful and interesting. He paints a vivid picture with words of what Havana was, and now is.