Tag Archives: The Shock Doctrine

Three summer must-reads

I thought I’d avoid contentious issues this time and share some book recommendations. 

I thoroughly enjoyed “Home,” the heartfelt, engaging memoir by Julie Andrews that focuses on her childhood and early career. Andrews is a wonderful writer and a splendid reader. The audiobook makes you feel she’s sitting nearby sharing her thoughts directly with you. She discusses her troubled family life and her transformation from itinerant vaudeville performer to the star of “Cinderella,” “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot” in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

Andrews shares what she learned along the way, and her sincerity is winning. To a greater extent than other “star” memoirs, she writes seriously about the continuous work involved in developing her vocal skill and performing talent. She is gracious in her assessments of the many artists she worked with. There are delightful anecdotes about Rex Harrison, Richard Burton, Moss Hart, composers Richard Rodgers and Frederick Loewe, Noel Coward, her dear friend Carol Burnett and many others.

In one of my favorite passages, Andrews expresses what it’s like on those evenings during live performances when you totally connect with the audience and they with you. It gave me goose-bumps. Alas, “Home” stops just as Walt Disney has given Andrews the lead role in “Mary Poppins.” I can’t wait for the second volume.

In “Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife,” Francine Prose reveals Anne Frank to be more than just a girl who, under extraordinary circumstances, wrote a diary. She takes Anne seriously as a writer, a conscious literary artist who was editing and rewriting her work in the weeks before her arrest by the Nazis. Prose analyzes key scenes in the diary. She reminds us of the full, more sobering context of Anne’s oft-quoted remark that despite everything, “people are really good at heart.”

Prose explains how Anne’s work was de-Judaized and “universalized” for the stage and film versions. She discusses the writers involved, the lawsuits, the directors’ points of view and the critical reception of the play and movie. Like Prose, I’ve always disliked the movie but felt guilty saying so. Prose articulates the many ways the movie failed Anne and misrepresented the real story and characters. She faults the writing and the acting by Millie Perkins for making Anne come off as a “nitwit” rather than as the intense and thoughtful girl she was.

The ultimate value of this book is that it sent me back to the source material to appreciate once more the power of Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.”

“The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” by Naomi Klein is a depressing catalog of the dastardly deeds the U.S. military-industrial-capitalist complex commits worldwide. I thought I was hardened to the reality of our nefarious influence around the world but this book offered many new things to be appalled about. 

Klein cites an impressive number and variety of sources. They include government cables, military orders, U.S. torture manuals and corporate correspondence, all of which provide vivid evidence of American collusion in brutality, deceit and injustice. 

Reading again about the malicious steps our government took to overthrow Chile’s democratically elected president in 1973, ushering in decades of dictatorship, renewed my fury and shame. Chile’s tragedy is just one tale in this long, sordid history. Read it and weep. Better yet, make a commitment to resist.