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Review review: The queen mother, a Nobel laureate and Robert Altman

October 23, 2009 |  3:13 pm


This week our daily reviewed were royal, revolutionary, copyright-y, post-Nobel-laureate-y and about a revolutionary Oscar-winner. Here's a taste.

Of William Shawcross’ "The Queen Mother: The Official Biography," Patt Morrison writes:

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother lived to be 101. On her public and private timeline were two world wars, an empire lost, half a century of widowhood -- and a British throne that looked a lot more wobbly when she died in 2002 than it did when she was born during the reign of Queen Victoria, in 1900. It's a throne that might have toppled but for the steely resolve and unrelenting smile that made Hitler consider her "the most dangerous woman in Europe."

The QM was a remarkable woman, but what is most remarkable about this official biography is that the QM had invited author William Shawcross to make her private material public.

David Davis set the stage for Richard Hoffer’s "Something in the Air," which tells the story of the 1968 Olympics:

In the summer of 1968, events were roiling America and the world: the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy; the escalation of the Vietnam War; the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia; the radicalization of the civil rights movement.

The tenor of the times consumed and overshadowed the competition at the Mexico City Olympics. Indeed, the '68 Games will forever be defined not by Bob Beamon's gravity-defying long jump, but by the black-gloved demonstration of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos and the killing of protesting students by the Mexican police and army 10 days before the opening ceremonies.

Orhan Pamuk’s "The Museum of Innocence" is his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. It was reviewed by Tim Rutten:

"The Museum of Innocence" is essentially a novel of erotic obsession and of love and loves lost, remembered, recovered and, then, lost (again) to all but recollection.... [the novel] deeply and compellingly explores the interplay between erotic obsession and sentimentality -- and never once slips into the sentimental. There is a master at work in this book.

On Mitchell Zuckoff's "Robert Altman: The Oral Biography," Richard Schickel writes,

The portrait of Altman that emerges in this book is of a permissive man -- especially with himself. Addled by his addictions, a habitual gambler, disastrously careless with money and with intimate relations, he left us feeling we were trapped in someone else's not-very-interesting drug haze. ... His films do not transcend their times; even the best of them remain trapped within those times.

This book provides massive evidence that people had lots of fun making them, but none whatsoever that they will survive as anything more than historical curiosities.

Jonathan Handel reviews William Paltry's "Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars," finding it an interesting if not entirely spot-on evaluation:

Extraordinarily well-credentialed, Patry has been a copyright lawyer for 27 years as a professor, practitioner and government attorney. Currently, he's Google's senior copyright counsel. Though Patry says he's in favor of "effective" copyright protection, he writes that "bad business models, failed economic ideologies, and acceptance of inapposite metaphors have led to an unjustified expansion" of those laws.

Patry's stature makes "Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars" an "important" book. Unfortunately, what the book delivers is a choppy and directionless narrative, sometimes illuminating but too often scattershot, unoriginal and strident. ... For better and worse, technology has unleashed new norms, and some accommodation must be found. Unfortunately, this book sheds little light on how that should happen.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Queen Elizabeth and son Prince Charles reading "The Queen Mother." Credit: John Stillwell / WPA Pool / Getty Images