April missteps and milestones

Nonfiction works constituted both the good and the abandoned this month.


I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story, Ingrid Croce and Jimmy Rock — Perhaps I’m too much off a stickler when it comes to nonfiction. Recreating conversations between people is somewhat acceptable in my view but when the only participants are dead, it strikes me as invention. It makes me wonder how much else of what I’m reading is “recreated.” Certainly, a story can be told without trying to directly quote conversations or tell us what a deceased person was thinking at a particular time but more than a third of the way through this biography I reached my limit of these devices.

Something entirely different led me to abandon Georges Bataille’s The Trial of Gilles de Rais. The book purports to tell the story of this 13th century serial killer of children through the documents of the trial. Before we ever get to that source material, however, Bataille spends far too much time discussing and evaluating his subject in terms of his family and the “archaic” thought prevalent among the aristocracy of the time. The problem is significant parts talk about occurrences or actions we don’t know anything about yet. Throw in a timeline that seems frequently juggled and it was just too much.

Loved it:

man in despairI seriously considered reviewing Diary of a Man in Despair by Friedrich Reck, A back cover blurb, though, clearly identified my problem. “Very, very rarely one comes across a book so remarkable and so unexpectedly convincing that it deserves more to be quoted than to be reviewed,” Frederic Raphael wrote in his Sunday Times review of the book. Reck’s diary of what happens in Nazi Germany from May 1936 through October 1944 is revelatory and prescient. He condemns the European powers for not standing up to Hitler and warns as early as September 1937 of a “coming Second World War.” Although a conservative monarchist, His assessment of Germany’s political situation and where it is headed hit the mark. Equally impressive is Reck’s refusal to censor his thoughts, including his unbridled hatred of the Nazis, when putting them on paper in a totalitarian society. He hides his papers in “the forest” each night and fortunately they survive to this day. The diary takes us inside the thoughts, frustrations and perceptions of those who opposed Hitler but for whom a united and actual resistance was essentially unachievable.

What is unbearable is that this horde of Neanderthals demands of the few full human beings who are left that they also shall kindly turn into cavemen; and then threatens them with physical extinction if they refuse

Friedrich Reck, Diary of a Man in Despair

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