Timothy Garton Ash - The Magic Lantern

Rating 6.5

Despite of my high expectations, this one turned out to be the less interesting book by Timothy Garton Ash I read so far.

Clever title and well researched accounts all right, but dry journalism/essayism with very little captivating insight on Poland and Hungary. Garton Ash does know much about the rise of Solidarnosc (Solidarity) and yet he didn't manage to engage me about that in The Magic Lantern.

On a side note, I've found it odd and cheeky that the author emphasizes the role he himself had in the '89 process either addressing miners in Poland or coining a slogan for the Velvet Revolution in Prague.
Now, is that true? Is that necessary to know? Is that the kind of political involvement a historian might look for? And did TGA speak such flawless Polish, Czech, German and Hungarian to become an opinion leader?
I would be surprised if he did.

 The chapters about East Germany and the former Czechoslovakia are the shortest ones here, but I liked them more than the rest of the book. Garton Ash and Vaclav Havel were drinking buddies and it shows.


A Buzzard Flew

It flew too low that morning
hunting, perhaps, a bunny or a field mouse
circles and circles, it drew in the sky
carefully choosing its prey from atop
Wings spread wide open to welcome windgusts
then spiralling downwards to seize its catch

And yet, it fell.
Dragged down by a sudden crash
colliding at full speed with a commuters bus,
but no passenger on board witnessed its death
Some barely noticed a vague thud or a thump
while a cold blooded driver mumbled 'oh crap!'
And drove past.

It hit right in the windscreen
slipping off beyond glass as if swallowed
once mighty raptor of meat, blood and feathers
now knocked unconscious, smashed on the tar
Along a causeway where no buzzard would land
forever removed from life by a coach on delay

Alas! Cry the clouds.


George Grossmith - The Diary of a Nobody

Rating 7.5

It is with the uttermost pleasure that I read through the diary of Mr Charles Pooter of Holloway, London.
Mark my words, this gentleman was certainly not a Nobody.

I am aware that the excellent Mrs Pooter and the author's own son, Mr Lupin Pooter, didn't value the diary much. Nonetheless, it is my strong belief that they are both mistaken in this respect.

By Jove! This distinguished gentleman - which is to say Mr Charles Pooter - not only mastered his business in the City but knew very well how to draw the most exquisite portrait of a suburban life. A life that you might think of as quintessentially dull, but it shines as actually quite amusing, refreshing and dignified in this most valued diary.

It will suffice to say that I am utterly delighted to discover that a man of such moral stature and of supremely noble behaviour such as Mr Pooter left his mark in the history of British literature.

To tell you the truth, I value Mr Charles Pooter over the whole lot of the most accomplished humourists that England has had the privilege to breed.
You might object that Jerome and Wodehouse did rather well in the same literary department and that this Nobody does not deserve to share their fame.To which objection I shall reply in this way; true, good old John Klapka Jerome and P.G. Wodehouse might have been particularly good when it came to depict funny vignettes and unforgettable characters, but what Charles Pooter gave to the Anglo-Saxon readers is much more: and it is style.
In fact, I am proud to state that all of its undeniable mastery the work of both authors pale by comparison to the one of Mr Pooter of Holloway.

By the by, shall we forget to mention Mr Pooter's uproarius word jokes?
No, we shall better not.
For Mr Charles Pooter was first and foremost a diarist and a chronicler of his times (in this respect quite capable to look at a master like Samuel Pepys eye to eye), but also one of the wittiest men around.

How regretful to think that a gentleman of such intellectual stature didn't have the chance to meet with his peers!
For even though this diary covers a span of only a few months in the life and opinions of Charles Pooter, it is quite clear that his sharp wit was not recognized by his family, friends and acquaintances.
And this Pooterish knowledge is excruciatingly painful to bear.

Hail, then, to the brilliant Mr George Grossmith for making Mr Charles Pooter's literary legacy known to the readers of today!