Armbruster, Ann. The Life and Times of Miami Beach. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Reason read: Hurricane Irma blew into town on September 10th, 2017.
The Life and Times of Miami Beach would make a good coffee table book; one of those gorgeous to look at and flip through (even if you don’t have the time to read) books. The photography (in both black and white and color) is spectacular.
We begin in 1900. Miami Beach was nothing but spits of sand and swamp. By 1915 keen-eyed entrepreneur Carl Fisher looked at the bug and alligator infested mangroves and said resolutely why not? Why not create a vacation hot spot out of an uninhabited peninsula? In the beginning business was slow. Marjory Stoneman Douglas wasn’t impressed with a tourist season that was only two months long.
By the 1920s Miami Beach was a real estate developer’s dream. Hotel growth exploded with expensive, over-the-top, grandiose places to stay. Prohibition was a joke as rum runners smuggled alcohol in disguised as fish and shipped it inland marketed as grapefruits or tomatoes. Swim suits could be rented for twenty five cents.
In the 1930s the big names wanted to be seen in Miami Beach. Names like Firestone, Ford, Maytag, Honeywell, Florsheim, Hoover, and Hertz. Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh came to visit.
In the 1940s Miami became a haven for military men.
By the late ’50s and early ’60s Miami Beach’s identity was changing again with visits from tourists from all over. Over two million people were flocking to the Beach paradise. Jackie Gleason, the Beatles, Debbie Reynolds and Desi Arnaz (to name a few) added to the publicity.
Armbruster ends her coffee table book with the wrap up “1970s to present” present means the ’80s). The last chapter is a quick four pages dedicated to Miami Beach’s flagging economy and reputation and its rebirth and redevelopment.
As an aside, Phish had a New Year’s Eve run in Miami Beach a few years ago. I didn’t attend but I heard the show was epic.
Author fact: Armbruster has no outward connection to Miami. According to her bio she was born in Michigan, raised in Ohio, and studied in New York. My guess is that someone she is related to has the connection to Miami.
Book trivia: The Life and Times of Miami Beach can be called a gorgeous book with over 200 photographs and illustrations.
Nancy said: Nancy didn’t say anything specific about Armbruster’s book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the obvious chapter called “Miami and Environs” (p 145).
I don’t post a lot of personal stuff on this side of the writing. Not usually. Typically, I leave all that other blathering on JustCauseICan. I may write about the run or the island, a brief sentence here or there, but of little else…except for today. When you lose someone you adore it is hard to focus. That is precisely my problem today. I am shattered by grief and only put back together again by words. So, I must read. Here are the books planned for September. I hope they heal:
- Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden – to remember Hurricane Ivan as it wreaked havoc on my 2004 September wedding.
- The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life by Judith M. Heinmann – in honor of Harrisson’s birth month being in September.
- Life and Times of Miami Beach by Ann Armbruster – in honor of Hurricane Irma.
- Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories, Recollections, and Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth Century American Literature edited by Tom Grimes – in honor of Grimes’ birth month being in September.
- Fuzz by Ed McBain – to end the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.
- Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall – to end the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Ganghi, India’s youngest Prime Minister’s birth month.
- Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month (August).
- Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to end the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
Confessional: I am still reading Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford.
So. I’ve done a few short runs here and there. Nothing crazy, but at least I’m back in it somewhat. Spent more time with the books. Speaking of which, here they are:
- Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman (EB/print)
- The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
- The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (AB)
- Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli (EB)
- Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (EB)
- Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print)
- Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)
- A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China by Kirsty Needham
- A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird
- Eurydice Street by Sofka Zinovieff
- Arctic Chill by Arnuldur Indridason (EB/print) – which I forgot to mention when I was plotting the month. It’s the last book of the series -that I’m reading. (There are others.)
- Big Bad City by Ed McBain
LibraryThing Early Review:
- Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – which came after I plotted the month of reading so it wasn’t mentioned before.
Zinovieff, Sofka. Eurydice Street: a Place in Athens. London: Granta Books, 2005.
Reason read: Domition of the Holy Mother Virgin occurs on August 15th.
British-born Sofka Zinovieff travels back to Athens, Greece with her Greek husband and children. In Eurydice Street she recounts the first year of her efforts to “become” Greek. Embracing culture, politics and customs, Zinovieff vividly describes the swirling life around her. Because of her unbridled enthusiasm, friends comment she is more Greek than her husband. Eurydice Street is an interesting blend of history, travelogue, memoir, and political commentary on all things Athens.
Author fact: Eurydice Street is Zinovieff’s first book.
Book trivia: Eurydice Street includes two hand drawn maps.
Nancy said: Eurydice Street was an “excellent choice” for reading about Greece.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Just So Much Greek To Me” (p 120).
Needham, Kirsty. A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China. NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2006.
Reason read: the Double 7 Festival takes place in August.
Kirsty Needham traveled to Beijing, China in 2004 to immerse herself in the the culture. She wanted to see how China was modernizing at that time. As a journalist she arrived with a suitcase full of preconceived notions of how her time will be spent. She soon learns nothing is as it seems in a world full of constantly changing communist propaganda and government bureaucracy. As she says, “But there is a difference between knowing what you are letting yourself in for, and how you actually react when you find yourself there” (p 94). SARS, Saint Bernard dogs, controversial bicycles, progressive fashion and techno-night clubs are all the rage.
While I didn’t find any lines I wanted to quote, I did find some pop culture I wanted to look up after reading A Season in Red: the Taiwanese mandopop all girl-band, SHE and the kind-of-sexy singer, Jay Chou.
Author fact: Needham was able to work in Beijing thanks to an Australia-China Council exchange program.
Book trivia: there are no maps, photographs or significant illustrations in A Season in Red.
Nancy said: Nancy said she needed to be “very picky” about the books she included about the Middle Kingdom. A Season in Red made the cut. (Book Lust To Go p 60).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “China: the Middle Kingdom” (p 60).
Bird, Isabella. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.
Bird, Isabella. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. London: John Murray, 1881.
Reason read: Colorado became a state on August 1st, 1876.
In what started as letters to her sister Isabella Bird paints vivid pictures of a very young Colorado as she travels from the Sandwich Islands to Estes Park, Colorado. Because the trip to the Hawaiian islands is so fresh in Bird’s mind, she can’t help but make interesting comparisons between the tropical island and the wild western plains. She even wears the same clothes in both climates. As with Bird’s other adventures, her courage and tenacity shine through her prose. Most memorable for me was the fact Bird would don a long skirt and ride polite side saddle in the company of men but alone she would wear pants and ride western style. Comfort, not propriety, was her ultimate goal.
As an aside, it is encouraging to think there is a wilderness in Colorado that still exists to this day; one that Isabella Bird would say looks exactly the same. How can one not think of Natalie Merchant’s Cowboy Romance?
Lines I liked, “Is common humanity lacking, I wonder, in this region of hard greed?” (p 27), “I longed to speak to someone who loved the mountains” (p 90) and “At this account of the ascent of Long Peak could not be written at the time, I am disinclined to write it, especially as no sort of description within my powers could enable another to realise the glorious sublimity, the majestic solitude and the unspeakable awfulness and fascination of the scenes in which I spent Monday and Tuesday (p 91).
Author fact: Bird was only 72 when she passed away. I like to think about the places she would have explored had she had more time. She was the first woman elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Book trivia: A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains was originally published in 1879. Colorado was only three years old at the time. The maps and illustrations are wonderful.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains but she mentioned that Bird was “one of the more dashing and irresistible travelers” (Book Lust p 143).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the simple chapter called “Lady Travelers” (p 142).
Niven, Jennifer. Ada Blackjack: a True Story of Survival in the Arctic. New York: Hyperion, 2003.
Reason read: Ear-marking the reindeer is an Arctic tradition that takes place in the summer.
Jennifer Niven calls Ada Blackjack a hero. I don’t think I would go that far. She didn’t save anyone’s life and her heroic deeds were limited to having the courage and resourcefulness to survive her unlikely predicament physically unscathed. I say unlikely because what would a impoverished and divorced 23 year old Inuit woman (a rumored prostitute) be doing on a potentially illegal expedition in the wilds of an Arctic island with four young white men and a cat? Desperate to find a husband and to make enough money to care for her oft-ill son, Ada signs on a seamstress with explorer Vilhjamur Stefansson’s mission to colonize barren Wrangel Island off the coast of Siberia. Using the theory of squatters’ rights, Stafansson sent four young men and six months worth of supplies to plant the British flag on what he thought was unclaimed land. He only sent them with six months of supplies because he was sure they could survive off the land once they had exhausted their stores. What could possibly go wrong in the “friendly” Arctic?
It’s not a plot spoiler to say that Ada was the only human to make it out alive (and yes, the cat survives, too). But, here’s where the story gets interesting. Stefansson vacillates between wanting to take all the credit for Ada’s survival and pretending he’s never heard of the woman. It’s what happens after the rescue that becomes the bigger story.
As an aside, I love the process of discovery. While Niven was researching her first book, The Ice Master she discovered Nome, Alaska native Ada Blackjack. Ada’s adventure intrigued Niven enough to prompt her to dig into Blackjack’s life story and ultimately, write a memoir about her expedition with four white men (and a cat) to Wrangel Island. To carry that idea of discovery a step further, after reading Ada Blackjack I found a documentary on her. I got caught up in her mystique, too.
Author fact: Niven also wrote The Ice Master which is on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Ada Blackjack includes two wonderful sections of photographs. A handful of comments about the photos: the expedition cat, Vic, is fantastic. Milton Galle is a man’s man and my favorite photo is of Vic and Milton. They were all good looking people.
Nancy said: If you like Krakauer or Junger, you will like Niven.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South” (p 231).