Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This Week at the Library (10-24 November)

Week before last I fell ill with a sinus infection the day after going to the library, and I didn't read a thing for nearly a week. Last week's reading was all carryover. Frank by James Kaplan and The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell made for lively reading, which I needed given that I was and still am working through Augustine's Confessions.  He's a very somber fellow. I also read most of Mapping Human History, which I'll finish shortly, and the first Titan novel which was good fun. Selected passages from the week's reading will follow...

Next week's potentials:

  • Mapping Human History by Steve Olson, which I'm almost done with. Interesting mix of anthropological history and genetics.
  • The Confessions, Augustine of Hippo. He's been a very bad boy.
  • The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head, Gary Small. (I'm almost tempted to leave you with that, but it has more in common with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat than Playboy: The Calisthenics Issue.
  • The Pale Horseman, Bernard Cornwell. Sequel to the Last Kingdom. Looking forward to more Norse heartiness.
  • The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan. A couple of friends recommended this to me. One of them even begged.
  • The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America, James Wilson I wanted to read some history this week, and badly, but I couldn't find anything compelling. This one did attract my attention three times while browsing, though.

Selected Passages & Quotations:
Henry dispensed his famous, breezy charm rather like the English weather, in sunny intervals alternating with long, cloudy spells and sudden bursts of thunder. The charm was of the rib-poking ,back-slapping, arm-around-the-shoulder, punch-in-the-belly kind, which, depending on the mood of the week, could betoken either rapid promotion or imminent arrest. Henry wallowed in the praise droolingly lavished on him by his courtiers and foreign ambassadors: Henry the gallant, Henry the clever, Henry the nimble, Henry the superstar, He was the only king with his personal band, hired to go touring with him and featuring the eighteen-year-old as lead singer-songwriters. 
(History of Britain, Simon Schama)

Afterward Bacon congratulated Harry James on his new boy singer. "Not so loud," James replied. "The kid's name is Sinatra. He considers himself the greatest vocalist in the business. Get that! No one ever heard of him. He's never had a hit record. He looks like a wet rag. But he says he is the greatest. If he hears you compliment him, he'll demand a raise tonight."
 (p. 78, Frank: the Voice, James Kaplan)

"Just call out the tunes," [Dorsey] told Sinatra, "and Joey will play `em for you."
This went fine for three or four numbers, Bushkin said -- until Sinatra turned around and said, 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". The lovely Kern-Harbach tune has a notoriously tricky middle section, a chord modulation that looks great on paper but can be hell to pull from memory. Under pressure, Bushkin simply blanked. "Next thing I know, Frank was out there singing it all by himself...a capella. I was so embarrassed. I mean, Jesus, all the guys were looking at me, so I just turned around and walked away from the piano!"
The cream of New York society -- gents in dinner jackets, dames in gowns; a few hundred fancy prom kids, all dressed to the nines -- stood hushed, craning their necks to see, while the skinny boy with the greasy hair filled the big room with song, all by himself.
"And that is the night," Joe Bushkin said, "that Frank Sinatra happened."

(p. 111, Frank)

And Frank Sinatra had one more astounding thing at twenty-three: a plan. He was going to knock over Crosby. He knew it in the pit of his gut. Not even Nancy knew the true height of his hubris. 


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