Review of Charles King's Midnight at the Pera Palace

Friday, July 19, 2019

Charles King’s Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul is an excellent book that is highly enjoyable to read. Especially for readers with little or no familiarity with Turkey’s early republican history, Midnight at the Pera Palace provides a fascinating look into aspects of Istanbul in the 1920s and 1930s. Using examples that draw mainly from the lives of individuals from the country’s Jewish and Christian minorities, as well as the experiences of foreigners living in Turkey, King tells the story of what he calls the“hidden origins of modern Istanbul” (377). The book has seventeen chapters in all, as well as a prologue and epilogue, but no introduction or conclusion. The organization of the book is narrative-based and loosely chronological, using the lives of both the famous and relatively unknown to introduce the reader to the interwar history of Turkey’s biggest and most important city.

Decompressing in the Bozone

Friday, July 12, 2019


I got back to Bozeman earlier this week after ten weeks on the road. It's good to be back, of course. Sleeping in my own bed, being surrounded by my books and things in my own place--it's a great feeling. I've been unwinding, too. I had a massage on Wednesday, and I'll probably schedule another one next week. I've also been spending a lot of time lying around with my feet up. 

The Winding Road Back to Michigan

Friday, July 5, 2019

An ordinary middle-aged man was on his way from the archives of Moscow to Amsterdam, in the province of North Holland. It was the height of summer, and he planned to stay for ninety minutes. 

(Apologies to Thomas Mann). 

Mountains in Central Mongolia
I've been reading Magic Mountain for much of this trip, so these were the words that came to mind when, just five minutes before we were to begin boarding, an announcement came on over the loudspeakers at the airport in Munich, telling us that the 7 pm flight to Amsterdam had been canceled. It was the latest unexpected development in a week of travel that has had its fair share of them. Not the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly a disappointment. After a month in Moscow, two weeks in Mongolia, and a week in Istanbul, I had been looking forward to a couple of nights in Amsterdam--where I research at the International Institute of Social History by day and prowl the Spui at night. Instead, I was headed for an evening at the Munich Airport Hilton. 

My wooden shoes would have to remain in their bag for one more night.