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Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Lancealot, Aug 13, 2006.
Interesting. I'm surprised I never heard of it.
I have the 1937 Farrar and Rinehart edition, which was moderately popular in the US, but which omits the photos Ilf and Petrov took during the trip. Those were published in "Ogonek" magazine in the USSR, which was sort of a Soviet equivalent of Time and Life combined, and some appear in subsequent editions of the book. A separate book containing all the photos and the Ogonek essays that accompanied them, under the title "Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip," was published a few years ago by University of Pennsylvania Press.
(Traveling companions "Mr and Mrs Adams" show Petrov how to change a tire.)
The opinions of the authors aside, the most wonderful aspect of the book is the real, concrete sense you get of what it was like to drive across the country in 1935 -- the condition of the roads, the frowsy roadside restaurants and tourist camps, the random hitchhikers. On one occasion they stop to pick up a couple of Marines who are hitchhiking at the side of the road, which is the only way said Marines have of reaching their next posting, since they are not issued any kind of travel pay or travel vouchers.
The Russian sense of humor tends to be very very dry, and I suspect some of the wit suffers in translation. But it's hard not to chuckle when Ilf and Petrov describe a grapefruit in case you don't know what one is, or decide with great satisfaction that peppered tomato juice is the best drink for a Russian, or try to describe a nickel-in-the-slot fortune-telling machine. And their visit to a burlesque show in New York is laugh out loud funny, as they encounter a series of three identically-untalented strippers, each of whom dances like a kangaroo.
Dellinger amicus/Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
Pulled this off the internet yesterday afternoon from The American Prospect website, an Occam Razor approach
to skim across the temporal epithelial surface chaos wrought by Obergefell while avoiding intrinsic constitutional rights.
A Christmas story from Agatha Christie. What an amazing writer.
About half-way through Merry Christmas, Mr. Baxter, our annual read for Christmas.
Just started, on my own, A Christmas Carol, a copy of the 1966 edition that duplicates the 1940 edition illustrated by Philip Reed.
...aaaaannnd, because I couldn't find it until just the other day stacked in the books for the grandkids, Christmas! by Peter Spier will be enjoyed later rather than the kick-off for the Christmas Reading Season.
Santa Calls, by William Joyce, has been admitted to the lists because it's so fun and epic and colorful and delivers the message that the best gifts come from the heart, not Gimbel's.
and the name of the book? Is it recommended reading this Yuletide?
Murder for Christmas. Not sure I can recommend it yet as I'm only a few pages in. I'll let you know!
My sentiments exactly!
I wish I knew what all that means
I am "listening" the the audio-book of Andy Weir's The Martian, all 11 hours of it. Much more in-depth than the movie.
The reason I'm listening to it instead of reading it is, One, I don't own a copy of the book (which was originally FREE on the internet), but downloaded the audio book for free. And Two, I can listen to it while I work.
Yes, I am both a vintage nerd and a space nerd.
Finishing Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment, one of his Discworld stories, which appears to be a version of a Shakespearean comedy (with sex roles swapped at will). Funny and charming. Due to start on a collection of short stories by Ruth Rendell, the British mystery/crime writer.
Obergefell is precursor to Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd and the Dellinger amicus is a philosophic pare across the broad spectrum
wrought by a poorly reasoned opinion (leaving aside here the underlying issue of gay marriage).
Anti discrimination law amidst societal evolve set against the Constitution's First Amendment has undoubtedly benefited the nation.
Recent toppling of powerful men from prestigious pedestals for illicit behavior toward women underscore correctness and the need for law
to ensure equality. However, the Court in Obergefell overturned historical and Judeo-Christian marriage tradition; though citing cognizance
of legitimately held contrary beliefs, which the Dellinger brief deliberately attempted to nullify; namely, deeply held religious belief.
Such might be classed as nihilism or a bald legal pitch but it remains a trial tactic that several Justices seized upon. A chess duel that can
only achieve a check but never checkmate because ultimately a theft of such inner belief imperils the foundation of morality itself.
The Roberts Court is a decidedly divided bench but the extent of its philosophical division remains to be seen.
"Angel Pavement" a 1930 novel by J. B Priestley
Set mainly in London, it uses the backdrop of a struggling furniture middleman firm re-energized by a mysterious foreigner with connections to inexpensive wood in "The Baltics" to show the different lives of Londoners as seen through the firm's employees
It's a well-written book of its time - think Herman-Wouk-talented writing but not timeless literature - that is a great example of why reading novels from the period not modern ones about the period are very important to increasing one's understanding of those times
In the book, some women were discussing and very frustrated by the limited opportunities they had in the work place (many were not) - and they were advocating for more options - so it was not, as some suggest today, an issue that only came to light in the '60s. (In a modern novel of the period - of which I've read too many - this theme would dominate where the protagonist woman would be a superhero of work, brains, sex and bravado and the men either backward Neanderthals or neutered "enlighten" men awed by the superwoman - it's an obnoxious and simplistic grafting of today's progressive-political view into another time period for the author's ego
A quick hit of other of-the-period views versus today's "historical" novels:
Homosexuality was seen by many as something wrong and to be pitied or "looked over" if possible, but there wasn't (by all, yes, some) the angry prejudice and vicious desire to hurt them that today's books aver was ubiquitous (there was more "don't ask, don't tell" going on then than modern books show). Again, there was plenty of ugliness - it just wasn't universal as can be presented by some authors today
Women asked men out on dates - not their first choice, but they did it if the man didn't ask and society accepted that (many novels today make it seem like a woman was a glass-shattering hero if she asked a man out)
There was plenty of casual sex / extra-marital sex / out-of-wedlock kids being born and, while it had a taint to it, it was more accepted than we think today, but definitely was accepted in a don't-talk-openly about it way
A fun period read - page turner in spots - that gives you a window into the period in a way no "period" novel written today can
Edit add: My apologies, in trying to edit a few typos and spacing issues, I lost control of the bullet / indentation fuctions (they just started doing what they wanted to do regardless of my attempts), so the above "outline" is a bit of a muddle
I disagree a little about Herman Wouk; I think Caine Mutiny and Youngblood Hawke will stand the test of time. About the progressive-political element for today's authors, you're quite right. It's why I am wary of reading many modern novels, especially if by page 2 I can hear the author (and it is usually a woman) busily grinding that axe, making the female characters Superwomen and the men utter losers. Exceptions, yes, Anne Rivers Siddons and Anne Tyler are fair to both male and female characters in their work, and show both as villains and heroes. But they are from a slightly earlier time, the '70s to the '90s, when the axe-grinding wasn't so loud.
Is Priestley's style a bit of a slog, or is it readable by somebody who loves his Chandler and Hammett?
Going back to the source in this day and age of conservatism (classical liberalism) slipping into nativism so am reading;
The Meaning of Conservatism - Roger Scruton
Keeping the Tablets - edited W F Buckley.
It is a bit of a slog and will take a while....may have to slip in a John LeCarre for some respite.
Buckley's classic undergrad memoir, God and Man at Yale is a pleasant read.
It's funny, when I wrote that line about Wouk, I felt I was being harder than I felt. I love his writing and greatly enjoyed reading "Hudson Hawk" just this year for the first time.
That said, his writing is a level below writers like Wharton, Hawthorne or Fitzgerald as examples. The difference is their works seems less of their period and more timeless - even though I don't know their world, I feel the issues, struggles and challenges their characters face as being universal and timeless. When I read Wouk, I feel it's a bit more of its period. The difference is one of degrees.
I'll have to think more about it to explain it better. But he is, for me, a wonderful writer but his work isn't great literature, it's great writing.
I'm so glad you have the same feeling that many modern writers are grinding an ax - loudly and obviously. It's turning me off to a lot of writers and books I'd otherwise be excited to read.
I have just finished this one.
And I have just started this one.
Why are my pics coming out sideways?
Wouk's "little novels" are the ones I enjoy the most -- "Aurora Dawn" and "City Boy" are wonderful slices of their own particular worlds, without any pretense at being Littahrahchoor. He can be a bit ponderous when he wants you to take him seriously, but when he's writing with a light touch, he's wonderful. And I enjoy writing about him in the present tense because the old boy is still alive and well at 102.
As to axes and their grinding, there was certainly plenty of that in the Era, even aside from the acknowledged agitprop novels of Steinbeck, Dos Passos, Wolfe, etc. When you look at the "women's novels" of the period, you'll find plenty of impossibly perfect heroines, who are flawlessly beautiful, epically skilled and brilliant in everything they do, surrounded by square-jawed bumblers struggling for a chance to bask in their flickering fluorescent glow. (And if you think the books are bad, listen to "The Romance of Helen Trent" sometime. Ooooweee.)
Meanwhile, I've just begun "The Gallery," a best-seller of 1947 written by John Horne Burns. Set in Naples after the Italian surrender, this is a wartime novel that doesn't deal with combat as much as it deals with the rear-echelon types making up the American occupation force. Those who like their GI's noble, clean-cut, and heroic would dislike this book intensely -- these men are venal, dirty-minded, disease-ridden, and filled with contempt for just about everyone who isn't an American. Burns himself was a member of the Italian occupation force, and much of the book is drawn from his own experiences -- including a rather frank and unflinching look at what it was like to be a homosexual soldier in the WWII US Army. The book received very favorable reviews at the time as one of the "most honest books yet published" about the war -- including high praise from no less than Ernest Hemingway -- but despite occasional reissues it doesn't seem to be discussed much today. Burns died young in 1953, and this was his only successful book.
My copy, a 1947 first edition, has an interesting inscription on the flyleaf -- "In memory of Naples, 1943. From Coley, with love." One suspects there might be an interesting story there, too.