Friday, June 22, 2012

Handel by Christopher Hogwood

by Christopher Hogwood

This is a biography of the composer most famous for Messiah.  Hogwood a conductor and musician does a pretty good job of sifting through the various available sources to give us a picture of the man.  Unfortunately Handel didn't produce much material and what he did so often played fast and loose with what actually happened.  So there's a lot of third party information.

As far as the music much is made of Handel's operas.  I can't really speak to the musical assessments I actually found the discussion of infighting and politics between the various operatic companies to be one of the best parts of the book.  Overlaid as it was by the different factions of British royalty.  Messiah is glossed over as far as a piece of music instead it's considered within its religious context.  Could something with religious themes be shown as a secular entertainment?  Did that devalue its religious aspect?  Something that doesn't seem to come up that often these days if anything it's usually the other way around can something secular be used for religious instruction...

The book concludes with why Handel who after all was German has been embraced so much by the British.  Hogwood argues that it was because he portrayed the best of what the British thought of themselves.  That anyone with the requisite talent could be a success in their chosen field.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Leak:why Mark Felt became Deep Throat by Max Holland

Leak : why Mark Felt became Deep Throat
by Max Holland

This book takes a different perspective on the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon than most.  It deals with the motivations of Mark Felt the FBI official who became famous as Deep Throat for his leaking of sensitive information to Woodward and Bernstein.  Instead of the myth that grew up around "Deep Throat" Holland argues convincingly that instead of being worried about the legality of Nixon's actions Felt was instead trying to undermine the current FBI director. Nixon was in many respects collateral damage which is ironic because Nixon was one of the few people who believed that the FBI should be led by someone who was a member of the organization.  As opposed to finding someone new who would reform the behemoth J. Edgar Hoover left after his death.

The book also looks at the reporting and legal investigations. Holland goes to great pains to demonstrate that Felt's material although useful was not critical to the breaking of the story and that the secrecy surrounding the identity of Deep Throat only became a major issue after the scandal.  This section of the creation of a myth I found particularly well done.

Highly recommended for those interested in American politics and the media.

Note:This book was provided for review by the publisher.