• Welcome to The Fedora Lounge!

What Are You Reading

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Lancealot, Aug 13, 2006.

  1. There are some in The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, which isn't too hard to come by. Those are the only ones I've ever read.
  2. One of the time-travel storylines from the mid-thirties appears in another one of those big coffee-table compendiums, called "100 Years of Comic Strips," but the reproduction of the individual strips is so small in that book that it's tough to get thru them. Tuthill is a cartoonist whose work needs to be seen at full original-publication size to be fully enjoyed, and the Library of American Comics series makes a point of doing that with its reprints.

    "100 Years" is a really ambitious volume, and it does include some great stuff -- along with the Bungles you also get a good sampling of "Moon Mullins," another of my favorite strips which is sadly underrated today, along with a long "Barney Google" storyline that's even wordier than Tuthill at his most verbose. A great book, but I had to wear a watchmaker's magnifying visor to read it.
  3. The latest historical novel from Bernard Cornwell, Fools and Mortals.

    Slow to start, getting better. On odd one this - one of William Shakespeare's actual brothers, Richard, is the protagonist. Virtually nothing is known of the real person, so Cornwell has him as a young player in Bill's growing stable of performers, involved in the recovery of stolen scripts (a common occurrence back then, no copyright you see). WS has just completed A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet, both taken by a young player seeking money from a competing theatre. R&J is the original copy, so perhaps lost for good.

  4. leepalmer

    leepalmer New in Town

    Pelevin - life of Insects
  5. Julian Shellhammer

    Julian Shellhammer A-List Customer

    Exactly right - in the film you cared about Jim and Muriel, but in the book they are presented sort of at arm's length. Nearly all the characters are predatory, Simms excepted.
    Fading Fast likes this.
  6. Before joining a new forum, I always look for "What are you reading?" threads. When I saw this one had >7,600 posts, I decided I could grow to like this place! It looks like I'm not alone in having two or three books going at any given time.

    I finished The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner earlier today, and started in on Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. Also working on Fox at the Wood's Edge by Christianson and Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle by Fox.
    DNO, Tiki Tom and AmateisGal like this.
  7. For years, I enjoyed a good Nelson Demille book - "Charm School," "Cathedral -" as outstanding Cold War spy drama, but thought he lost his way a bit after the Cold War ended so I moved on. Then on a whim, I bought his latest, "The Cuban Affair," hoping he had recaptured his magic, but alas, he has not. "The Cuban Affair" is boring, plodding and predictable.
  8. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    This sounds cool, but I don't think my university library has it yet. Off to the public library, then.

    Oh, and I'm reading Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, in which a toddler, orphaned when a serial killer murders his family, is adopted . . . by a community of ghosts in the local cemetery. There's humor, which Gaiman does very well, but there are also strong hints of something very savage and dark to come. (That serial killer got away, and resents the fact that he couldn't murder the entire family. . . .)
  9. tropicalbob

    tropicalbob My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Your comment reminded me of one of my favorite books of the past year: Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. It's based on the true story of the death of Abe's son, Todd, during the Civil War, and how, the night after the funeral, Lincoln went to the boy's mausoleum and held his body. Saunders imagines how the spirits in the cemetary react to the event, the "bardo" being the state (in the Tibetan Book of the Dead) through which all souls must pass on the way to the next world. Incredibly moving and beautiful book.
  10. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    Re: Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which I posted about at # 7648:


    Ahem. Pardon the all caps. But Graveyard Book is true dynamite. Inspired, Gaiman announces, by Kipling's Jungle Book, it's the sort of young-adult fiction that any grownup can enjoy, like the Kipling stories or Watership Down. There are surprises and twists, with a fantasy landscape and mythos larger than just that of ghosts continuing their existence in their cemetery. I closed it with an admiring "Damn," meaning both "Why didn't I think of that idea?" and "Son of a gun, what a story --!" And I immediately went back and reread many parts of it. That's something I haven't done with a book in a long long time.

    (I gotta find the graphic novel adaptations and see if they come even close to my internal vision.)
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  11. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    de Grazia's Machiavelli in Hell is a bit of a slog. Surprising, since the subject is a heavily defined character whose pragmatism is cold poker percentage
    drawn against human nature and devoid of irrelevant embellish, dodge, or weave. And, of course, too much turkey, beer, and football; other topics intrude,
    and the post holiday return to business has been half-hearted at best. Definitely, baseball withdrawl. So I spent the better part of this afternoon
    at the office trolling the internet for Aqueduct's December 2nd entries, profiles, odds, and analysis.
    The Cigar Mile is the last Grade 1 scheduled on the New York circuit this year. And The Pegasus runs in deep January, inaugurating another season.
    And the Cubs need two starters and a closer. Wade Davis I fear is lost. Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy is an obvious choice beyond de Grazia;
    however, Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed is even better, an uncompromising look at low-wage America. I'll catch up with Niccolo later.
  12. plain old dave

    plain old dave A-List Customer

    The Impossible Mencken, a collection of his work compiled by a Ms. Marion Elizabeth Rogers. I had completely forgotten how much I enjoy his work.
  13. "Reading The Funnies: Essays on Comic Strips," by Donald Phelps.

    It's hard for a Literary Critic to write about comic strips due to the fact that most literary critics of the last sixty years or so seem to lack a particularly well-developed sense of humor. But Phelps gives it the old college try in this collection of pieces dealing with some of the strips he enjoyed most growing up in the 1930s, from the perspective of revisiting them as an adult. Some of the strips bear up under this re-examination -- he finds "Dick Tracy" as violent and shadowy as he remembers it, and "Gasoline Alley" as sunny and optimistic and honest. And proving that he does have a sense of humor after all, he shares my own appreciation for the snappish delights of "The Bungle Family," and the outre storytelling of Elzie Segar's "Popeye."

    But he finds "Little Orphan Annie" far darker than he remembered it -- with the perspective of adulthood revealing just how grim and relentlessly cold Harold Gray's vision really was. Unlike most commentators, Phelps isn't as concerned by the strip's reactionary politics as he is its uncompromisingly bleak vision of humanity itself. Those who think of Annie only in terms of the perky stage musical and movie don't know Annie at all.

    The surprise of the book is his examination of one of the more obscure strips of the time, Harrison Cady's "Peter Rabbit." I only had a passing acquaintance with this comic, given that its home base, the New York Tribune/Herald Tribune, is not a paper I generally turn to when I want to dive into the Era's funny pages, but I had seen it from time to time and passed it over, thinking it to be just cutesy kiddie stuff. But Phelps points out that Peter's adventures had a rather subversively corrosive edge, with their clever, slangy wordplay contrasting with the stiff picture-book drawing, and the samples in the book have caused me to dig out the volumes of the Herald Tribune I have stored away to see what else I've been missing.

    The book includes a good sampling of the strips discussed, including a rousing Dick Tracy continuity from the late thirties, a sequence from one of Walt and Skeezix's cross country road trips from Gasoline Alley, a short sequence from Castor and Olive Oyl's first adventure with Popeye, and best of all, a long stretch of "The Bungle Family" from 1927, which hasn't been reprinted anywhere else.

    This is not a "fun" book. Phelps writes like a ninety year old New York intellectual who fell asleep reading a volume of Andrew Sarris's film reviews and had disturbing dreams, and you need a stepladder to climb over some of his paragraph-long sentences. But if you've got the patience, and you love the funny papers, it's worth wading into, if only for the strip reprints at the end of each essay.
  14. rocketeer

    rocketeer Call Me a Cab

    Taking a break from Novels, I can read classics and enjoy them immensely such as Ian Fleming's James Bond series, Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row and get bored with others such as Harper Lee's To kill a Mocking Bird, or Jonathan Swifts Gullivers Travels.
    I have just finished two war volumes, Reach for the sky and Enemy Coast ahead so thought I would take a break and read my favourite travel writer, Paul Theroux, and his Old Patagonian Express. Just started this so no spoilers please, enjoyed Riding the Iron Rooster and Great Railway Bazaar but disappointed with The Pillars of Hercules.
    So, onto the train I get to start an adventure to South America :)
  15. I don't know if I'd call Harrison Cady stiff. Cutesy, yes, but he had a style that was more rooted in the heavily tacked-down, formal, nouveau outlines of the early 20th century, like Windsor McCay, or W.W. Denslow. More picture-book illustration, as you say, and it looks odd next to the rough-and-tumble style of Dirks or Segar (McKay and McManus were sort of in between). And the weeble-ish physique of Peter Rabbit doesn't lend itself to a lot of dynamic poses.

    By the bye, there's a place in Waterville that's selling individual Sunday comic pages. I'm not certain, but the last time I was in, I think I may have seen a Bungle Family page. Would you like me to check for you next time I'm there (not sure when that will be)?
    LizzieMaine likes this.
  16. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Finished The Women in the Castle - it's quite good. I recommend it.

    I'm in the mood for something light and cheerful that takes place during Christmas. I think I'll go to the library tomorrow!
  17. Wicked nifty -- feel free to PM and let me know!

    The Bungles are available online in long runs if you've got the patience to go day by day thru the Brooklyn Eagle archives -- they appeared in that paper from November 1925 to October 1930, and again from April 1938 thru the end of the strip's run in 1945. The difference between these two periods is extreme -- the early run is "classic Bungles," with the late run including a lot of the weird surreal fantasy stories featuring malicious gnomes from the fourth dimension, etc. You wouldn't know it was the same strip if it wasn't for Colonel Bungle constantly exclaiming "Such crust!"
  18. plain old dave

    plain old dave A-List Customer

    Various essays by H. L. Mencken and his "My Life As Author and Editor." What Chet Atkins was to guitars, the Sage of Baltimore was to Golden Age American prose; the American language through Mencken's one typewriter was an instrument in the hands of a master.
  19. "Little Golden America: Two Soviet Humorists Survey These United States," by Ilya Ilf and Eugene Petrov.

    This is one of the most extraordinary documents of everyday America in the 1930s ever published. Ilf and Petrov were the most popular humorists in the USSR -- their novels dealing with the expansive Kingfish-like con man Ostap Bender remain beloved in Russia down to the present day, and their most popular book, "The Twelve Chairs," is known around the world, having been adapted for the screen in the US by such disparate talents as Fred Allen and Mel Brooks. But this isn't a novel.

    In 1935, Ilf and Petrov decided to do a travel book about the United States, to be serialized in Pravda, and published in the US by Farrar and Reinhart. They traveled to New York on board the Normandie -- third class -- and once there they bought a cheap "mouse colored" Ford sedan, and accompanied by a rather comical former engineer from General Electric and his wife, set out to drive all the way to California and back, exploring the whole breadth of the country along the way. The idea was not to do a political or economic critique -- but rather, to simply see what ordinary Americans were really like.

    Ilf and Petrov had a photographic eye for what they saw, and they didn't miss a detail, with rich descriptions of everyday life: the cigarette packs tightly stacked in rows at the hotel concession stand, the way newspapers were piled on the sidewalk under a brick, and the way purchasers would just take a paper and drop their pennies on the pavement next to the stack, the ornate, swirling braid on the uniforms of the elevator operators. But they also were mystified by much of what they saw -- the idea of multiple brands of cigarettes, which seemed to be identical in every way but for their packaging, the odd tastelessness of the nicely-presented but utterly bland processed foods Americans ate in great quantities, and the all-engulfing waves of advertising which pummeled the motorist at every turn -- when they finally break down and try a Coca-Cola, they sardonically declare that the advertising is absolutely right, and that Coca-Cola will refresh you, invigorate you, and make you a genius like Tolstoy. They saw American consumer society, but they weren't impressed by it. They were fascinated by New York, but thought Chicago was the ugliest city on Earth, a "great spreading fungus" on the shores of Lake Michigan. Hollywood dazzled them, and their negotiations to try and sell the story of their trip to the movies provided a rather hilarious experience in how Americans do business. And the racism they observed in the South made no sense to them at all.

    What impressed them most was the open friendliness of the American people -- everywhere they went people welcomed them, treated them with kindness, invited them to their homes, served them drinks. But it mystified them that very rarely did these people ever actually ask them about themselves or really show an interest in getting to know more about them. They couldn't understand what seemed to be an inherent lack of curiosity in Americans about the rest of the world.

    Thru the connections of their traveling companions, Ilf and Petrov met quite a few celebrities along the way. They shared drinks with Ernest Hemingway and were invited to visit him in Florida for a fishing trip. They received an audience with Henry Ford, who came across to them as a raw-boned rural grandfather. They sat in awe as Sister Aimee Semple MacPherson delivered a thunderous sermon. And they stood by on a Warner Brothers soundstage to watch the filming of Marc Connelly's "Green Pastures." They set out to see America, and they certainly saw it. Their conclusion after all their adventures? Americans are a lovely people, living in a lovely country, but they wouldn't especially want to live there.

    They brought a lot of souvenirs home from the trip -- but they also brought tuberculosis. Ilf died from it shortly before the book was published in 1937. Petrov went on to become a straight journalist, and was killed in action as a war correspondent in 1942. The book is still in print to this day, and someone really does need to make a movie of it. I'll volunteer to write the screenplay.
  20. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    James Panero, Andrew Wyeth forever; The New Criterion, Vol 36, No. 4/December 2017

    The career of Andrew Wyeth and the traveling exhibition, "Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect."

Share This Page