The last three summers (2011-2013), I indulged in a genre of books, which my Catholic friends found to be curious. As longtime Chronicles reader and fellow New York attorney Fred Kelly said: “You have an interesting reading list for a traditionalist Jew”. What they were referring to was my interest in the topic of exorcism, sparked by the late Fr. Malachi Martin’s magnificent and utterly terrifying Hostage to the Devil. I mentioned my interest in the topic in a three-part blog earlier this year (here, here, and here).
In addition to every summer, I remember the books that kept me company on every recent trip. During my one-week trip to Paris in February of 2012, which is described in the August 2012 issue of our magazine (“Muslims and the Sacred Heart of Paris“), I read two books by the recently departed Elmore Leonard: City Primeval and Killshot. The first novel, best described as a Wild Mid West novel, depicts Detroit in the late 1970s, and is centered around a life-and-death duel between a lawman and an outlaw. Interestingly, City Primeval, is the first and probably the only famous American novel, which mentions and quiet accurately describes the Albanian mafia. It is also one of the few of Leonard’s works, which was never made into a movie. My law school professor, a Lebanese Maronite from Detroit recommended the novel as the best depiction of his native city. Killshot, is a very fast-paced drama about an American Indian hitman (played brilliantly on the screen by Mickey Rourke) who squares off against a tough, White, Midwestern, salt-of-the-earth family man. The movie is just as great as the book, but both are unfortunately underrated and did not get the acclaim they surely deserve.
On my trip to the Pacific coast of Mexico later that year, I decided to read a book, which was present throughout my late Soviet-early post-Soviet childhood: Colleen McCullough’s Thorn Birds. I could never understand what my mother and grandmothers found in that book, that they read it cover-to-cover and discussed it so many times. Well, I got my answer while sitting near a pool with a strong Margarita cocktail in my hand. Truth be told, the descriptions of everyday life on a farm in New Zealand and Australia, were very well-written and fascinating. But the love story between the main heroine and a much older aristocratic priest (who eventually becomes a cardinal) was a rather ugly soap opera, made even uglier by its anti-Catholic overtones.
The August 2013 trip to Aruba (“Reflections from Aruba“) was spent reading three books. I started with Ralph Sarchie’s Beware the Night about his experiences as a demonologist and exorcism-assistant in New York, made into a movie called “Deliver Us from Evil”, which came out this year. There is nothing like a scary book to get you through a four hour plane ride, even if you are the victim of an extended nightmare later. Switching to lighter fare, I re-read one of my childhood favorites, Robinson Crusoe, especially appropriate, since the fictional island of Daniel Defoe’s book was right near Aruba, off the coast of Venezuela. And I ended the vacation with Elena Chudinova’s December Without Christmas, a traditionalist novelization of the events of the Decembrist uprising against Czar Nicholas I.
Finally, there was my latest trip to Italy a few weeks ago. Instead of the usual fictional vacation books, I opted for more serious fare and spent countless hours on planes and trains reading Ed Moloney’s well-written, yet overtly detailed History of the IRA and Piers Paul Read’s magnificent and most importantly, balanced, The Dreyfus Affair. The latter was responsible for keeping my mental equilibrium intact when our luggage was lost (the current Doublespeak term is “delayed”) on our way from Rome back to the States – “What’s one suitcase, in the general scheme of things. At least I’m not on Devil’s Island”.
[Click here and here to read the first and second part of Summer Reading]
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