A Subtropical Delirium

Book - 2017
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"Kurlansky presents an insider's view of Havana: the elegant, tattered city he has come to know over more than thirty years. Part cultural history, part travelogue, with recipes, historic engravings, photographs, and Kurlansky's own pen-and-ink drawings throughout, Havana celebrates the city's singular music, literature, baseball, and food; its five centuries of outstanding, neglected architecture; and its ... blend of cultures"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury USA, 2017.
ISBN: 9781632863911
Branch Call Number: 972.912 KURLANSKY
Characteristics: xii, 259 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm


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FPL_ThomasF Dec 06, 2019

Read it for the history, stay for the humor, and enjoy a window unto a world that is only - physically - 90 miles away from the U.S. but in reality, light years away.

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FPL_ThomasF Dec 06, 2019

Read it for the history, stay for the humor, and enjoy a window unto a world that is only - physically - 90 miles away from the U.S. but in reality, light years away.

Jul 16, 2018

San Mateo Public Library Book Discussion Group selection for September 6, 2018 meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Cedar Room.

May 07, 2018

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Cuba. A week on the beach at Veradero: beautiful sand; agreeable weather; pleasant company. I'm glad we also built into our holiday two nights in Havana. I have never visited a place quite like it: a tribute to deferred maintenance and the vagaries of the climate. Building fronts with no building behind them, brought to mind the streets of post-war Munich or Wuerzburg. Most of this the result of the US embargoes going back to the sixties: there is no paint in Cuba. And yet in spite of all of this, people who are friendly and curious; the streets are safe if potholed; the natives do not tote guns --- no NRA here.
The is the book I would have liked to have read before going there. This is the history of the city; of the buildings; of the customs; of the people. The authors; the polticians; the propagandists; Ernest Hemingway; daiquiris; la Floridita; the pirates and the slaves.
It's a small book suitable for toting along. Kurlansky writes quickly without belabouring any one point in an ironic numerous style. Does that sometimes verge on cynicism?
For sure an eye-opener.

Nov 07, 2017

An excellent read! Very easy to follow throughout the twist and turns of the history and culture of Cuba. Definitely would recommend.

Jun 14, 2017

This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to get a really good sense of what Havana is about- from its history to current trends, from the personal to the political. Kurlansky has a very good understanding of the mindset of ordinary Cubans and their mentality regarding all sorts of issues, from the political and their future to their sense of humour and social attitudes. The book is eminently readable, not at all heavy. I plan to recommend it to my university students of Spanish.

Mar 15, 2017

The American perspective on Cuba.


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Oct 02, 2017

I’ve read this book twice within six weeks. First I read it before leaving for my trip to Cuba. Then I borrowed it again a couple of days ago, to refresh my memory before writing this review and I was immediately drawn into a second reading, recognizing things and places that I’d seen and kicking myself for the things I’d missed.

Mark Kurlansky is an American writer who has spent over thirty years visiting Cuba, and so he writes from an American, rather than Cuban perspective. He is a prolific author, with many of his non-fiction works centring on an object like Cod, Salt or Oysters, as well as the histories of the Basques, European Jewry or the effect of baseball on San Pedro de Macoris. In this book, he writes the history of Havana with affection, but you’re always aware that it’s an outsider’s perspective. It’s a very literary history, with many allusions to Hemingway, Marti and other more contemporary Cuban authors. The author is aware that these works might not be familiar to his readers, and so he translates his quotations and gives sufficient context to make them meaningful. The book meanders its way through a cornucopia of themes in a basically chronological fashion, although the revolution itself is not described in much detail. It is illustrated with 19th century woodcuts from magazines, and Kurlansky lets his words rather than images do the describing.

I was a little disappointed in the ending, which trailed off into a discussion of baseball, but having now seen the crowded baseball bleachers at a local small-town match, I have a better understanding of the Cuban love for the game.

That criticism aside, I really enjoyed this book, both before visiting Cuba and even more afterwards. In fact, I think that I inadvertently stumbled on the very best way to read it.


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