Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rockin’ the Kremlin

Last Thursday, the Scorpions played a concert at the Kremlin that celebrated the founding of the FSB, the successor security service to the KGB, NKVD, and the Cheka, which Dzerzhinsky, “Iron Feliks,” founded ninety years before on December 20, 1917. Lead singer Klaus Meine later said that he had no clue about the occasion of the show, which, it turned out, was packed by FSB agents and guests (who politely applauded the band’s perestroika-inspired “Wind of Change.”) Among the former KGB men present was the previous FSB director, and now Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Audio Book on the Way

Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna, which will be published in March 2008, will now also be an audio book, an eleven cd-set released this spring. More details to come.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Black Postcards

A promising new memoir is on the way from Dean Wareham, guitarist and singer of Galaxie 500, and then Luna, which Rolling Stone famously called “the greatest band you’ve never heard of.” The publisher bills the memoir as “a wickedly honest and unsparing account of a journey through the music world, the artistry, and the hustle . . .” (Wareham’s Black Postcards: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Romance). Also, the Galaxie 500 Peel Sessions (September 1989 and October 1990) have just been released, apparently for the first time, that is, besides the bootleg versions that circulated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

London Calling Again

There’s a new book, just sold this week, about the North Kensington punk band The Clash, and the authors will be Paul Simonon, Mick Jones, and Topper Headon, that is, The Clash themselves (Joe Strummer died in late 2002). The band will tell their own story, from the early days of punk to releasing what Rolling Stone magazine called the best album of the eighties, London Calling (released in late ’79) and beyond. The Clash will reportedly feature “hundreds of photos, many never-before-seen and unique memorabilia from the band’s own collection.” (Publishers Lunch) Look for it in October 2008 on Atlantic UK.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Iron Curtain Odyssey

Dominique Lapierre’s memoir of a 1956 road trip through the USSR has just been published in India. Lapierre was then a 25 year-old reporter for Paris Match, and Nikita Khrushchev had authorized the visit. Lapierre, the photographer Jean-Pierre Pedrazzini, their wives and a couple of Soviet reporters then set out on an almost three and a half month, 13,000 km trip behind the Iron Curtain. Given his previous books, such as his (and Larry Collins) Is Paris Burning and Freedom at Midnight, this should be a fascinating read. It has already been a bestseller in France. Lapierre's Once Upon A Time in the Soviet Union is not currently available in the States, but here's the website of the Indian publisher, Full Circle.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Chess, Tai Chi, and the Art of Learning

Josh Waitzkin – the young chess prodigy featured in the memoir Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess and the later Paramount film - discusses chess, martial arts, and the nature of learning in his book, The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence. After tying Kasparov in an exhibition game at age 11, Waitzin went on to win several national chess championships and five national championships in Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands (middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight divisions). He is also a spokesman for the fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Carol Jarecki has a two-part review of Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning at ChessBase.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

No Longer Dreaming in Latin

I was asked the other day about the differences between researching Finding Atlantis and Vienna 1814. The first thing to come to mind was the nature of the source material. For Finding Atlantis, I used primary sources in a half dozen languages, including old Swedish, which Rudbeck wrote virtually all of his surviving correspondence and his 2,500 tome detailing his discoveries, the Atlantica. There were also a few (one hundred or so) letters in bombastic seventeenth century Latin that I translated, mainly “fan mail” to Rudbeck congratulating him on his work.

The Congress of Vienna also has a wealth of source material in a variety of languages – I used a half dozen on this book too, though not Latin or old Swedish. There were also more memoirs, diaries, correspondence, minutes of meetings, and many other valuable primary sources for recreating the daily life of the conference. More later, as we get closer to the book launch.

Monday, December 3, 2007

To Seize a President

According to Czech resistance fighter and historian Radomir Luza in today’s Lidove noviny (h/t ceskenoviny), Czech exiles had plotted to spirit away President Edvard Beneš after the communist coup of February 1948. The president, one of the founders of Czechoslovakia, was to be seized from the secret police StB, and recruited to lead anti-communist resistance. The plot was never attempted because of the president’s poor health. Luza has written, co-written, and edited several books about Czech history, including A History of the Czechoslovak Republic, 1918-1948, The Transfer of the Sudeten Germans: A Study ofCzech- German Relations, 1933-1962, and, with Christina Vella, The Hitler Kiss: A Memoir of the Czech Resistance.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I, Napoleon

A handwritten page from the final draft of Napoleon’s novella Clisson and Eugenie – a love story about a Corsican rebel who ultimately gets betrayed – was sold today by Osenat for $35,400. Napoleon wrote the story most likely in 1795 when he was a 26-year old general; the following year, he would marry Josephine and launch his first Italian campaign. Clisson and Eugenie was not published in his lifetime. See items at auction here (French) and one account of the sale in English here.