What We Are Reading Today: Eurovision! by Chris West

Updated 10 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Eurovision! by Chris West

  • Eurovision started in 1956 with just seven competitors performing before 200 people in Switzerland
  • Today the contest is watched by an audience of billions

For those who think the Eurovision Song Contest is just an evening of questionable tunes, dubious dancing and general over-the-top cheesiness, think again.

From its beginnings in 1956 with just seven competitors performing before 200 polite, but not terribly enthusiastic, people in Switzerland, the contest has been a mirror for cultural, social and political developments in Europe.

For the countries once imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain, it has been a voice of rebellion.

For regional minorities it has been a voice of liberation. It even triggered a national revolution.

And the notorious bloc voting by regional neighbors is so blatant that nobody is surprised any more.

Nowadays the contest is watched by an audience of billions. People throw Eurovision-themed parties.

The singers have not always come from the country they represent. Canadian Celine Dion competed for Switzerland in 1988, while Greek singer Nana Mouskouri sang for Luxembourg in 1963.

Even the “Euro” element of the contest is now very loosely interpreted, with Israel and Australia competing.

Eurovision! charts both the history of Europe and the history of the song contest over the past six decades and shows how seamlessly they interlink. Something to ponder while watching this Saturday’s cheese-fest from Lisbon.


What We Are Reading Today: A Good American Family

Updated 16 July 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: A Good American Family

Author: DAVID MARANISS

A Good American Family is biographer David Maraniss’s look at a subject very close to his heart: His father.
“This is an eye-opening book about an American family that was affected by the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s,” said a review in goodreads.com.
The author’s father was accused of being a communist. The book traces the effects of this on the Maraniss family and sets the larger context of the Red Scare, according to the review.
The author “does a great job of bringing the impact on people and families labeled as ‘unamerican’ home to the reader,” the review added.
In a review for The New York Times, critic Kevin Baker said: “For all of Maraniss’s research, a mystery remains at the heart of A Good American Family: Just what were his parents, and especially his father, doing in the Communist Party in the first place? This is a question Maraniss cannot answer, because his parents, for one reason or another — shame? embarrassment? an effort to spare their children? — rarely spoke of it.”