I just finished this wonderful book by Kati Marton. Marton was an NPR and ABC news correspondent, who was widowed twice. Her first marriage was to ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, with whom she had two children. Her second was to Richard Holbrooke, who at the time of his death was the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. I was turned on to this book when I read her newest one entitled Paris: A Love Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012).
This book centers upon Budapest, Hungary, which is her native country. She dedicates it to her parents, who were both journalists in the World Wars and beyond.
The nine Jews the book features are:
four scientists – Edward Teller, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner
two motion picture directors and producers – Michael Curtiz, Alexandra Korda
two photographers – Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz
one writer – Arthur Koestler
The stories of all nine are brought to life as I have previously never experienced it. The book is non-fiction, of course, but it is almost novel-like in its appearance and presentation. For example, Capa was known as the greatest war photographer of all time. He was the first photographer to go ashore at D-Day in Normandy. Curtiz directed Casablanca, which Marton says “is still the most popular, the most familiar,. the most discused, and the most dissected romantic film in history” (p. 145). Koestler wrote Darkness at Noon, which “is the story of the first half of the century, in which the old institutions – social, economic, and spiritual – have broken down” (p. 135), and was the most important anticommunist novel ever written. All four scientists discussed in the book were heavily involved in either advances toward the computer age or the nuclear age, where progress in both were deeply entrenched in politics and personal and professional jealousies.
We can’t do this one at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. It is too old, and it is not an exclusive business book. So, it does not fit our current context. But that shouldn’t stop you from reading it.
First, however, you have to find it. Unfortunately, the book is out of print. To obtain it, you must visit secondary sellers. But, if you look hard enough, you will find it and be rewarded with an amazingly readable and exciting work.
NOTE: I am aware that I have done a very poor job with these posts, especially concerning my views about advances in technology. Those posts were highly misaligned with the books we have presented about technology, so I will not write about that subject anymore. However, I will share some thoughts about some of the books that I have read recently in order to inspire some of you to consider reading them.
Kati Marton is a veteran ABC and NPR news correspondent. She has written seven books, and I have two of them. In this post, I will call your attention to her newest best-seller that I read over the holidays entitled Paris: A Love Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012). Before all of you guys reading this think that book must be too “mushy,” it is actually less about loving people, and more about loving her experiences in the wonderful Parisian context.
You may remember the feelings that I expressed about David McCullough’s work in the same setting. In 2011, he published The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), in which he shared experiences from politicians, artists, and other entrepreneurial Americans who visited, lived, and worked in Paris at the turn of the century. The experiences were spellbinding, and he wrote the book so well that you wanted to jump out of your chair, get on an airplane, and wind back the clock to join them.
There is something magical about Paris. I was there once, but only for 36 hours, and as a member of a whirlwind tour party. That is not how to see Paris. In fact, that is not how to see anything.
But, Marton’s Paris is special, because it documents experiences with her two famous late husbands. The first was Peter Jennings, ABC’s news anchor, who divorced her in 1993, and died in 2005. The second was Richard Holbrooke, a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s, and who at the time of his death, still married to Marton, was the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Holbrooke died in 2010.
Paris was an important place for both of these relationships, and in her book, you see it as both foreground and background to important events in her life, the lives of both men, and the troubles of America and the world. While she loved both her husbands, the book also includes brutal honesty about her extramarital affairs while in both relationships.
Paris became Marton’s refuge. After settling all the affairs of the estate, she writes, “I need to get away. Paris seems the right place. It is where Richard and I started our lives together and lived our happiest times. But, well before that, it is where I became who I am. In a life of multiple uprootings, Paris has been my one fixed point. Once before I found happiness and beauty in Paris. I was a young girl then, the child of political refugees who settled in America….Paris is the place where good things seem to happen to me. In a way, every story with Paris at its heart is a love story. So is mine. It is where I fell in love, first with the city, then with the man who became the father of my children. Then, in middle age, I found lasting love in Paris with Richard. So, in Paris, I will relearn how to live” (pp. 32-33).
And, thus, the story ends with Marton celebrating Christmas with her family in Paris. The final photo caption in the book reads, “the start of a new life, alone, in Paris.”
This book was so well done that I ordered a book she wrote in 2006, entitled The Great Escape: Nine Jews who Fled Hitler and Changed the World (New York: Simon & Schuster). The book is out of print, so I had to order a copy from a used book service. The context is Budapest, Hungary. The story has deep familial roots for Marton, as both her parents were Hungarian journalists for AP and UPI, and who were imprisoned during the war. I have not yet finished this one. I am reading it slowly to fully absorb the context and bravery that jumps off every page. When I finish, I want to share some insights that I am gaining from that book.