Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Lancealot, Aug 13, 2006.
City of Thieves by David Benioff, a novel set during the Siege of Leningrad.
So how is it? I have it but haven't tried reading it yet.
In a group that insulated from the world and desperately celebrating their tottering on top of a giant crumbling pedestal of power and power relationships, it seems to me that "boyfriend" behavior doesn't have to be conventionally sexual. There were LOTS of needs to be met in that group that needed no physical component. Can you imagine the stress of juggling all the narratives needed to keep that wacky ship afloat?
I'm not much of a Star Wars guy but I keep my ear to the ground in the publishing biz. For a vision of the future check out the Star Wars "Rebels" cartoon series. I think the Disney direction is going to evolve in relationship to that. For all the titles in one place see ( https://rebelalliancetradingpost.com/ )
I liked it a lot too (and realize it's a lonely place) and I do TON of work in relation to the Western genre. Not surprisingly, there are a number of really good movies that explore the similarities between, and intimately dark side of, star power/hero worship/celebrity stalking/tormented asexual or unrequited love. Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley is another ode to this disease ... interesting if this relates to the Hitler comment from Mr. Fading above!
Already there, my friend. I'm looking forward to the rest of Season 3 coming back on the 18th.
Smart thought, well worded.
Our latest entry in the "read contemporary literature to find out the nuances of a time and place's culture" category comes from, once again, "Youngblood Hawk," or as I think it should have been titled, "I Smoke, therefor, I am."
After Youngblood has all but recovered from walking Pneumonia, his editor has the final say on it with this:
...you've been yelling at me for years about abusing my lungs [Youngblood smokes a lot - a real lot - but less than his editor] and who gets pneumonia? For the future, my friend, the way to fend it off is three packs of cigarettes a day. Be sure to inhale...
That's not revisionist history, that's not tongue-in-cheek (maybe a bit, but not as we think about it), it's just a reasonable thing to have a character say in a novel written in '61 .
It's interesting to try and figure out what entire eras of publishing or film were either unconsciously or just through fadish mimicry trying to sell. I don't mean products but ideas or ways of life or justifications. Every once in a while I think I'm beginning to clue in on something, some trend or pattern. I know I understand it slightly but I find it hard to explain.
There's a range of post war "New York Novels" that all have the same flavor, or possibly several interconnected flavors, to them. We all know it when we see it, clear style and subject matter, but I keep wondering about the greater meaning ... if there is one ... aside from a bunch of writers all sharing a slightly similar experience and the willingness of publishers to dive in and exploit it because they were sharing it too.
If I remember correctly, Youngblood fits in that world. I'm nowhere near old enough to remember those days but I worked with a bunch of NYC publishing types who were and you could still catch a ghostly whiff of whatever it was that made those days what they were. Not my favorite writing or era by far but definitely ... a thing
I think you pretty much answered your own question with this line: "...a bunch of writers all sharing a slightly similar experience and the willingness of publishers to dive in and exploit it because they were sharing it too."
I'd add that there are defining social / cultural / economic movements that contribute to this. For example, there were a ton of '50s books on family mining, banking, steel, etc., businesses that were undergoing the hand off form the founder or the founder's son (who had been close to his dad) to the next - more removed form the business - generation as that was going on a lot in the '50s.
But the key - and you nailed it - is what sells. If one book sells, more will come. If more books sell, even more will come. Publishing, like every business, pushes an idea, a trend, a fad to exhaustion. I wasn't into the teenage vampire thing of a few years back, but as someone who never read the books or watched the TV shows or movies, I could "feel," it start, build, peak and fade - they had milked it for all it was worth.
I don't have a problem with this as, like me with Vampires, I can choose to ignore it. Also, the marketplace for books, TV shows, movies, etc., while far from perfect, has enough niche segments that even my (and everybody's) not-popular or not-popular-right-now interests will still have books (always) written and TV shows and movies (usually) being made about them pretty regularly.
I agree, good God I live in that world, but I'm struggling with something a bit closer to the point of origin; the initial impulse prior to the fad. I don't want to derail things here because my own mind hasn't yet formulated the right question or observation. I think I need to mull it over a bit longer!
It's really intriguing. I'm liking it so far. Such a simple premise, too. Two Russians get caught for petty theft and they'll live if they can find 12 eggs for the colonel's wife so she can bake a wedding cake for their daughter. And in Leningrad during the siege, this will be no easy task.
I have just begun to sink my teeth into The Count of Monte Cristo as translated by Robert Buss. It is engaging and I am so glad to finally have a copy of this legendary tale that is unabridged.
I always found Dumas to be a very modern writer but I haven read him this century so I might reappraise my opinion. I always believe that the energy a writer puts into his work the reader will get back out. If I remember correctly Dumas was the sort of writer to finish one story, draw a line across the page and start another ... no screwing around.
His father was a character beyond anything his son ever wrote. Mixed race; part noble part slave, a general in the French army and quite the bad ass. There's a story that, astride a horse, he once grasped a beam in a barn and lifted the horse off the ground with the strength of his arms and legs. Seems impossible (and requires a calm horse) but that's the sort of legend he carried with him.
Interesting stuff indeed. I have not read that much about Dumas himself, but just 100 or so pages in I can tell you that this book certainly resonates today. I find is interesting that while Dumas was criticized for not sticking to romantic tradition he was still writing about eternal truths, or at least truths that have remained relevant. And, what I find most interesting about that is that it provides us insight as to what life may have been like during those tumultuous times while providing these truths of the human experience. It is interesting to me because this is not like the Crucible which dealt with contemporary issues masked by historical fiction, this is historical fiction, steeped with the details of life and politics that are still something we can relate to today.
Absolutely, I've always thought he was SERIOUSLY under rated ... it's also nice to know that people back in the day responded to the same things we do.
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen. Classic Hiaasen...always amusing.
Just passed the half way point in "Youngblood Hawk" by Herman Wouk and, so far, despite the best efforts of the author, have not developed a nicotine habit.
Smoking comments aside, the book is incredibly detailed on the financial ins and outs of the publishing industry - and its tax structure - of the period. It's neat as you can feel that Wouk was venting his frustration at the lousy early rights, residual and movie deals he had signed and the crazy high taxes he paid (I think individual tax brackets went into the the low 90% back then).
It feels very inside-baseball for publishing.
It was nuts. One of the reasons my father specifically stuck with paperback companies was that the hard cover publishers made you virtually pay to publish your own book ... they took just about everything they could get their hands on. I've never been sure how anyone without a passive (like investments) income could afford to pay 90% or even 70% ... especially in the arts where what you make can be so erratic from one year to the next. You'd end up giving it all to the accountants who have to somehow average it all out.
I remember stories from the 1960s of artists moving to Ireland where they could legally avoid many taxes.
By the time I started working on Wall Street and understanding taxes, Reagan had just cut all the rates - literally, my first year was '82 - but those who were older (pretty much everyone) had stories of all the crazy legal machinations they had engaged in or helped clients engage in to avoid having 70 -90 cents of every dollar they earned taken by the government.
Since then, top rates have bounced around between 28% - 40% (add in about 11% more for state income tax if you live in NYC) - but, so far, they have never gotten close to the levels of the pre-Reagan era. Half of this book, "Youngblood Hawk," is - without exaggeration - a story of taxes. Of course, it isn't stated that way, but effectively, that's what it is.
And to your point, Hawk - the heavily taxed author in the book - spent much time abroad like the artists who fled to Ireland. I always remember, as a kid, that the Rolling Stones left England for the same reason in the late '60s / '70s. They were called "tax exiles" if memory serves.
Okay. Got to read it again. It's been way too long! I know lots of people who worked hard through that period. You'd have to hope that the brackets were giggered so that you didn't actually make LESS money if you were paid more!
Judith Rossner's novel of Hollywood (though I doubt it will be a soap opera kind of tale), His LIttle Women. Odd, but when I started it I had the feeling I'd read it, or started it, once before. Now that I'm deeper in, the notion has faded.
Wouk's Youngblood Hawke is a tale about a serious ficiton writer, but for a change we're not treated to endless tales of self-destructive behavior with alcohol or drugs. Hawke is a worker -- he does his (longhand) pages nearly every single day, no matter what happens to him. The portrait of Hawke himself, his family, the people he meets/likes/dislikes/falls in love with in New York and elsewhere, are all fascinating. I've never seen the film with James Franciscus, and though I like his work, I doubt he was right for the role as Wouk wrote it. Perhaps it's time for a new mini-series adaptation . . .?
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