Who Got Rich During The California Gold Rush? Wells and Fargo

The first gold rush in American history actually occurred in the early nineteenth century in North Carolina.  It’s overshadowed by the much larger California Gold Rush that attracted 300,000 people to California and fast-tracked California to statehood in 1850, just two years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill. Merchants more than miners profited […]

It’s A Gas: My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad (1973).

I’ve never been drawn to comic literature, and the number of Middle Eastern novels that I’ve read I can just barely count on a hand and a couple of fingers.  But when a friend suggested My Uncle Napoleon, a novel that has become  a classic of contemporary Iranian literature, I jumped at the suggestion.   My Uncle Napoleon […]

Introduction To Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture

Do-dah, Do-dah, Do-dah, dum, dum, dum.  Along with snippets from the Marseillaise, that nine note refrain sticks.  The overture, written by Tchaikovsky in 1880,  memorializes Russia’s defeat of Napoleon’s invasion.  It famously incorporates actual cannon shots and ringing of bells along with melodies from Russian hymns, folk music, and God Save the Tsar. Tchaikovsky famously […]

Cycle of Violence: Sankya by Zahkar Prilepin (2006).

If Svetlana Alexievich hadn’t already drummed in the lesson that for a heck of a lot of people life in post-Soviet Russia sucks, Zahkar Prilepin would have. The protagonist of Zahkar Prilepin’s award-winning novel Sankya, twenty-two-year old Sasha Tishin (Sankya to his family), is a member of a radical group in post-Soviet Russia known as […]