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Havana: A Subtropical Delirium by Mark…
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Havana: A Subtropical Delirium

by Mark Kurlansky

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A subtropical delirium
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
I have never been to Havana, the closest I have gotten is San Juan, Puerto Rico which I loved but which the author makes clear is a poor substitution for Havana. This was just enough of a biography of a city that has been remade several times over, though some things always stay the same the city has been through many upheavals. The Spanish, a pirate's paradise, the Americans and the mob, the storms that have ravaged the city, the fires set that have burned it down, but always it rises again.

The food, the culture, slavery, the mix of people, the mulattas, the music, the food, narrow streets, the architecture, and the dirt and grime. Hemingway is revered here, this was the place he made his longest home, drank in the bars, ate in the restaurants. The revolution, Castro and the things that changed. Interesting trivia, Hemingway hated sugar and Castro loved ice cream. Havana seems to be a city of its own, own vibes, its own atmosphere, its own smells. Beliefs, all the different beliefs combined, mix and match, Santeria from the African influence, so many blends of cultures here. Quite fascinating.

Loved the writing style but this is in no way a in depth study of the city but just enough for me, learned quite a bit and was entertained by this city I will probably never visit. Could quite literally not take the heat, and of course the sweat that permeates the air, covers the people, I do not find enticing. The city though I find extremely interesting, in thought only of course and I enjoyed the drawing, pictures and recipes that were included. ( )
1 vote Beamis12 | Mar 21, 2017 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Although I enjoyed Mark Kurlansky's newest nonfiction book Havana, I don't actually have a lot to say about it, simply because there's not much to it in the first place; not exactly a travel guide to this capital of Cuba, not exactly a history, and not exactly a memoir, it's instead a curious mix of them all, what you might call a "biographical sketch of a city" in the spirit of Peter Ackroyd's London. As such, then, it makes for pleasant surface-level reading, a book that has a general theme per chapter but then spits out random factoids within each of these chapters, full of interesting trivia (did you know that the Sloppy Joe sandwich was invented in Cuba?), but that never really digs down into a deeper or more meaningful look at this fascinating, complicated city. With the Obamian normalization of relations between the US and Cuba, now has never been a better time to read a light but engaging book like this, one that will give most Americans their first look at this most curious of Caribbean destinations; hopefully it will serve to whet your appetite for more.

Out of 10: 8.5 ( )
  jasonpettus | Mar 7, 2017 |
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Book description
Habaneros   "unshaven man in a tattere tux"  yellow  
harbor is good for a shelter in a hurricane, too narrow
OUR MAN IN HAVANNA  Arab architecture--from Andalusia to Cuba  huge wooden doors, inner patios
last place in the Americas to give up slavery  1886
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 163286391X, Hardcover)

A city of tropical heat, sweat, ramshackle beauty, and its very own cadence--a city that always surprises--Havana is brought to pulsing life by New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky.

Award-winning author Mark 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 extraordinary blend of cultures.

Like all great cities, Havana has a rich history that informs the vibrant place it is today--from the native Taino to Columbus's landing, from Cuba's status as a U.S. protectorate to Batista's dictatorship and Castro's revolution, from Soviet presence to the welcoming of capitalist tourism. Havana is a place of extremes: a beautifully restored colonial city whose cobblestone streets pass through areas that have not been painted or repaired since long before the revolution.

Kurlansky shows Havana through the eyes of Cuban writers, such as Alejo Carpentier and José Martí, and foreigners, including Graham Greene and Hemingway. He introduces us to Cuban baseball and its highly opinionated fans; the city's music scene, alive with the rhythm of Son; its culinary legacy. Through Mark Kurlansky's multilayered and electrifying portrait, the long-elusive city of Havana comes stirringly to life.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:20:43 -0500)

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