Saturday, July 5, 2003

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A wrap-up of my working vacation

For those who care:

Q: So how much work did you do?

A: Not a whole lot. The most interesting work experience was having to be a discussant for three erudite papers the afternoon that I landed in Budapest. Since I don't sleep on planes -- and since Lufthansa misplaced our bags for a few hours -- this meant showing up to this particular panel having slept only one hour in the past twenty-four and wearing the same clothes I'd flown in. Scarily enough, it was one of my better performances as a discussant.

I spent the next day doing more conference stuff, and then it was vacation time?

Q: So did you actually read all of the books you blogged about?

A: No, I didn't make it to the Harry Potter book. Got through the rest of them, however.

Q: And what did you think of them?

A: Well, I liked the Zakaria book more than Robert Kagan did (subscription required) -- but that's not saying much. I'll be commenting more on this book in the future -- but I will say that I thought Kagan's TNR review was a bit over the top. I found Kavalier & Clayabsorbing. Devil in the White City has a good story to tell, but the author seemed to care more about dinner menus than the larger significance of the 1893 Colombian Expedition, which I found disappointing. Prague was an odd book, in that the author devoted more and more time to less interesting characters. It was a hoot to read a book about Budapest in Budapest, but without that novelty I'm not sure I would have finished it. My favorite book set in Budapest remains Tibor Fischer's Under the Frog. Actually, that's not fair -- Under the Frog is one of my favorite novels, period.

Q: And how was Budapest?

What a delightful city!! The cafés! (Click here for a panoramic look at one of the best cafés in the city, the Gerbaud.) The architecture! The desserts! The other desserts! The goulash! The blood sausage! The parks! The amazing tranformation of the place since the fall of communism!

Q: OK, I believe that's a wrap.

posted by Dan on 07.05.03 at 02:12 PM