Tag Archives: 1920s

Review: Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

When I stumbled across a review on Daniel Okrent’s book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, this past summer I knew I had to read it. A book featuring the 1920s, politics, speakeasies, and gangsters? It hit upon several of my interest points.

This book is an incredible narrative of the history of the 18th Amendment. This book is dense and reads like a text book. Its full of rich details. But it was missing something. Maybe its because I’ve been reading biographies lately that I wished that the author had chosen to focus on a couple characters and told the story through their perspectives. I found it difficult at times to keep everyone straight which I probably why I finally finished reading this only after several false starts during the past six months.

No book about prohibition could be written without mentioning the usual suspects, Al Capone and Joe Kennedy. They were included but I was surprised to find that Okrent believes that Joe Kennedy wasn’t a bootlegger. He believes that particular image/rumor started in the 1960s. While it was true that he made some of his vast fortune because of the alcohol trade, it wasn’t due to illegal activity. His argument is compelling, but I’m not quite sure I can give up that image just yet.

One final thought Okrent passes along is that while Prohibition is considered to be a huge failure it did achieve one thing: it caused Americans to drink less. The trend which continued for decades until the 1970s.

Okrent’s book is to be featured in an upcoming Ken Burns documentary on PBS. I look forward to that production. With all the details Okrent culled and Burn’s gift for storytelling, that proves to be a must see production.




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Literary Sweet Spots and My Growing Wishlist

Someone needs to remind me not to read emails from Flavorwire.  Today’s newsletter had a spot on “Booze-addled books” “Page-turning portraits of Prohibition-era decadence”. Of course, I was hooked.

There’s something about that time period that just reels me in. It’s the images. Flappers  – beautiful women with bobbed hair wearing short skirts dancing to the Charleston ignoring the Victorian values.

So on the wishlist goes:

I’m going to hold off on Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City until I watch the show which is sitting on my DVR. I’m going to guess that it will be in the wishlist by the end of the week.

The real question is how long until I crack and buy some of them?

(And we are going to ignore for now that I have yet to finish reading this or this and they are sitting on my shelf mocking me.)

What are your literary sweet spots? Is there a time period or topic that automatically peaks your interest? Do you have a wishlist problem too?

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Paris Wife

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

Came across another book today that is an immediate add to the Wishlist.

The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain

No twentieth-century American writer has captured the popular imagination as much as Ernest Heminway. This novel tells his story from a unique point of view — that of his first wife, Hadley. Through her eyes and voice, we experience Paris of the Lost Generation and meet fascinating characters such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. The city and its inhabitants provide a vivid backdrop to this engrossing and wrenching story of love and betrayal that is made all the more poignant knowing that, in the end, Hemingway would write of his first wife, “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.”

I have a feeling I’ll be pre-ordering this from Amazon. I’m not a fan of Hemingway, but that time period and the people involved captivate me. The section from Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties devoted to Fitzgerald and Hemingway in Paris was fascinating. What an odd friendship. Fitzgerald thought Hemingway to be his best friend and Hemingway had a low opinion of Fitzgerald. Most of the problems seem to stem from Fitzgerald’s alcohol addiction. The Fitzgerald’s both thought Hadley to be a bit frumpy.

It looks to be in the same vein of Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank, which I absolutely adored. I look forward to reading this book. But why I wait until next February? That’s just cruel.

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