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The White Cities

This is a non-fiction book by Joseph Roth, a Jewish Journalist who moved to France with the rise of Nazism. It's mostly a travelogue of Roth's trip to various towns in South Eastern France: Lyons, Vienne, Avignon, down to Arles and Nimes and Marseilles. Roth has a journalist's way but a poet's eye. I think he says somewhere that a journalist's job is not report the truth so much as what he sees. For him, objectivity is not possible. So whilst Roth is enchanted with France, the difference in the light, the difference in the way history affects these white cities, he is always haunted by Germany, what it was and what it is becoming. Roth was actually an Austrian, a friend of Stefan Zweig who's very much coming back into vogue but Berlin was where he made his name as a journalist. 'What I saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933", which immediately precedes this book, covers this period and is also well worth reading.

I also read Poe, editor Ellen Datlow's collection of stories inspired by Baltimore/Philadelphia/Boston/London's very own Edgar Allan Poe. Some of the stories are obviously and directly Poe inspired, several from the Masque of the Red Death but some only seem Poe in afterthought (or not until you read the explanatory notes). There are also some of genre short story shortcomings, an end that comes too quickly, an end that changes everything but would have been better without it, a style so arch that it's difficult to understand anything of the story but on the whole it's a worthwhile anthology as are any of Datlow's.

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