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Fisher's Face

von Jan Morris

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912240,094 (3.75)1
"Upon seeing a photograph of Lord Admiral Jack Fisher's face for the first time in 1950, Jan Morris was taken by a countenance of "extraordinary arrogance, superciliousness, humor, kindness and effrontery." If one were to guess the profession of the sitter, she suggests it might perhaps be "a character actor, a cardinal, an entrepreneur of the old velvet-collared kind, a tycoon or possibly an overhyped chef." But this was the Victorian Age commander of the Queen's Navy, at once a ribald seaman, dance lover and voracious Bible reader, and he made an indelible impression upon Morris's heart." "Fisher's Face is a love affair forty-five years in the making, a brilliant biography that serves as a cultural and historical link between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and gives us a fascinating glimpse into as enigmatic a figure as England ever produced - a devout churchgoer and man of both mercurial humor and great violence." "Jan Morris animates history by painting a captivating, novelistic portrait of one of the best-known sailors of his day, a man who single-handedly brought the sluggish British Navy into the twentieth century."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (mehr)
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Admiral Sir John Fisher – "Jacky" to his friends, and to the sailors who idolized him – dragged the Royal Navy, kicking and screaming, into the twentieth century. The battleships that fought the Germans to a standstill at Jutland in 1916, sank the Bismarck in 1941, and bombarded the Normandy beaches in 1944 were the children of his tireless mind. His innovations, however, went far beyond his enthusiasm for big guns. He championed the submarine at a time when most senior admirals wanted nothing to do with them, and the destroyer fleet that would (ironically) help to save Britain from German submarines twice in a generation. He gleefully trampled on centuries of naval tradition, valuing technical excellence over superficial spit-and-polish, and professional merit over class-based privilege. He treated engineering officers, whether they served afloat in engine rooms or ashore in dockyard and gunnery schools, as professional and social equals: unconscionable radicalism in the late 1800s, when they were regarded as the naval equivalent of plumbers, but essential to winning the technology-driven "next war" that arrived in 1914, as well as those that came after.

Jan Morris is interested in Fisher the innovator and Fisher the naval professional, but she is captivated by Fisher the man. She is a "Fisher enthusiast" in both the transatlantic sense of the word (she genuinely likes, and deeply admires him), and in the uniquely British sense that conveys the boundless enthusiasm of "geek" but not the social awkwardness (she's fascinated by the details of him, and eager to share what she knows ). Fisher's Face reflects both aspects of her enthusiasm. Its organization is an odd mixture of the chronological and the thematic—a guided tour rather than a structured narrative—and its tone an odd mixture of the authoritative and the chatty. Morris started as a travel writer and later (with her Pax Britannia trilogy) did for the British Empire what Shelby Foote did for the American Civil War: created a narrative of it compounded of equal parts history and literature. She is a superlative writer, and her prose unspools like satin on a polished tabletop, shimmering and flowing.

If you're more interested in what Fisher did than who he was, you'll likely find Morris's approach baffling after three chapters, and maddening after six. If you, however, you like compact, unorthodox biographies of fascinating, idiosyncratic individuals, you'll likely be fascinated – and delighted – by Fisher's Face, regardless of your level of interest in naval history. It may be only a minor classic of biography, but it's a classic nonetheless. ( )
1 abstimmen ABVR | Dec 3, 2014 |
If my teachers at school had thought to liven up the Causes of the First World War by recounting the remarkable career of Jacky Fisher, founder of the modern Royal Navy, I might have paid more attention. Written in Morris' usual engaging style, this is an excellent introduction to one of British history's more interesting characters. ( )
  sloopjonb | Nov 6, 2006 |
Jan Morris, having hero-worshiped Fisher for decades and visited almost every building where he spent a night, has at last fulfilled her ambition to write his life. As three biographies of Fisher had been previously published, she has adopted an original and highly attractive method. "Fisher's Face" is a book about his remarkable character, illustrated by incidents in his career -- more than a chronological narrative of what he achieved. The reader will not be fed technical details of warships or naval strategy, and will be spared footnotes, appendixes and lengthy bibliographies. The book is so human a portrait of the man that Ms. Morris can elaborate actual events by inventing the detail, and at one point imagines herself bending over the admiral, wounded in an imaginary battle, "pressing the water to his lips, and kissing his forehead with a tear." This is the only scene where she transgresses too far the bounds of biography. The rest of the book is convincing and enormously entertaining.
hinzugefügt von John_Vaughan | bearbeitenNY Times, Nigel Nicolson (Jul 13, 1995)
 
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"Upon seeing a photograph of Lord Admiral Jack Fisher's face for the first time in 1950, Jan Morris was taken by a countenance of "extraordinary arrogance, superciliousness, humor, kindness and effrontery." If one were to guess the profession of the sitter, she suggests it might perhaps be "a character actor, a cardinal, an entrepreneur of the old velvet-collared kind, a tycoon or possibly an overhyped chef." But this was the Victorian Age commander of the Queen's Navy, at once a ribald seaman, dance lover and voracious Bible reader, and he made an indelible impression upon Morris's heart." "Fisher's Face is a love affair forty-five years in the making, a brilliant biography that serves as a cultural and historical link between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and gives us a fascinating glimpse into as enigmatic a figure as England ever produced - a devout churchgoer and man of both mercurial humor and great violence." "Jan Morris animates history by painting a captivating, novelistic portrait of one of the best-known sailors of his day, a man who single-handedly brought the sluggish British Navy into the twentieth century."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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