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Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Lancealot, Aug 13, 2006.
Herman Wouk, The Hope
Haven't touched Wouk since The Winds of War and War and Remembrance
Caine nonwithstanding, I still say "Aurora Dawn" and "The City Boy" are the best things Wouk ever wrote. American literature lost a fine humorist/satirist when he decided to get serious.
As for me, I read the New York Times over lunch because they were all sold out of the Boston Globe at the drug store, and I remembered why I don't like to read the Times: they use that cheap ink that gets all over my fingers. I couldn't figure out at first why my hamburger bun started to turn grey.
The Times bleeds red ink, ouszes truth, and makes a distinctive crinkly sound when folded or page turned inside the Rock Island's designated "quiet car."
Finished Brave New World. Bernard was a jerk.
As a big Wouk fan (you knew I wouldn't let a Wouk conversation go by without jumping in, didn't you?), I respectfully disagree as I think "Caine," and "The Winds of War" are worth whatever shift in style he took. I'm pretty sure I read it (can't believe I haven't), but don't have any memory of "The City Boy," but greatly enjoyed "Aurora Dawn," but I wouldn't trade it for TWOW. And his "lessor" books - like "Youngblood Hawk -" are still impressive achievements, great reads and pretty darn good social commentary.
Growing up, I can still remember my father grumbling about the NYT's "cheap ink." When I started commuting into NYC in the '80s, I'd buy the NYT and WSJ in the morning, but had to be really careful with the NYT or my clothes would look like I'd rolled around in ink by the time I got to work. (It was a long time ago, but I think, at some point, I stopped buying the NYT for the commute and just read it at work as it was such a mess).
The WSJ - I'm assuming they spent more money on better quality ink or processing or something - gave off much less ink. "The Post" and "Daily News" were cheap-ink papers too (they were the commute home papers), but they were tabloids - so it fit; the fancy schmancy NYT should have paid up for better ink.
When I think of the Rock, I think of those old 1920's "Al Capone" cars that they ran into the late 1970's, particularly on the Blue Island branch. No AC in the summer and I am certain that few commuters lament their passing... but it was like climbing aboard a time machine for an unapologetic foamer / CFRN like yours truly.
I’ve just started a biography of the great Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, I’m looking forward to reading it, I’ve been a fan of Milosz’s work for over twenty years.
John le Carre’s last novel, ‘A Legacy of Spies’ was great, I’d recommend it but you have to be familiar with ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’, so see it as an excuse to watch the movie again, parts of which were shot in my home town of Dublin, Ireland. Funnily enough, they were the parts set in bleak east Berlin
Having been both places before the Wall came down, I have to admit I thought Dublin was far bleaker. Objectively, the DDR may have been worse but at least the people I saw on the street, and talked with, smiled at times. . . .
I read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows when it first came out ten or so years ago and remember enjoying it as a quick fun read that blended a good story, memorable characters and some decent (and seemingly well-researched) WWII niche history about the German occupation of Guernsey.
Now that they are about to release a movie of the book, I read it again so that I'd have my images and impressions in my head and not just the movie's. After a reread, I still like the book, but less so. On the second read, the story seemed a bit too obviously contrived and some of the characters were either too good or too "evil'.
I did enjoy noticing a parallel to a favorite light read of mine - "84 Charring Cross Road," which, like GL&PPPS uses a series of correspondence - back when that was the main form of communication between people separated by distance - to tell the story and develop the characters.
All in all, GL&PPPS is still a good, quick read, but I was surprised that I liked it less the second time around.
American Gods, which I wanted to like a lot more than I did. I found the story really slow, Shadow lacking, and I figured out a good chunk of the "mystery" about half way through. I have other extensive thoughts on the book, but over all aside from the lavish descriptions, I found it kinda boring.
I tried it several times and couldn't get past about three chapters. Gaiman is a magnificent writer, but I never like his stories, save for Coraline.
I'm halfway through Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman. A same sex relationship tucked into a super conservative Orthodox Jewish community in London. Not as good as the premise sounds. The movie comes out soon. I may bail and start on The Handmaid's Tale instead.
Try his The Graveyard Book. Not boring in the least. A top-notch fantasy adventure, inspired (as you'd guess from the title) by Kipling's Jungle Book, it stars a child who is orphaned and then raised in a cemetery -- by ghosts.
Oh, that's a shame, because the premise is so interesting!
I've read The Handmaid's Tale multiple times, and I HATE first person narratives. I will say this, the tv show didn't push as hard as the book did, and the show did two things that I found laughable, it made the women more an enemy to each other than the system, and it ended racism, which I thought was the real science fiction of the show.
I hope you haven't watched the show yet before you read the book.
Absolutely loved this book, ashamed to admit weakness for chick lit but cannot deny it. Ditto 84 Charing Cross. Also made a fine flick.
I've been riding the Rock into Dodge and always enjoy the trip, since college days, miss the old LaSalle Street Station.
I have a Milosz bio missing in action back at the apartment. His evolution in thought and perspective fascinates as does his poetry.
le Carre is a long-delayed author, I saw the flick TSWCFC, didn't make much impression; however his recent appearance
on CBS' Sixty Minutes did, and wrote him on the bucket reading list.
Singled Out; How Two Million British Women Survived Without Men after the First World War, Virginia Nicholson
Stoicism, gallantry, and valor. Charlotte Bronte's comment echoes this generation:
"The heart has hidden treasures; in secret kept, in silence sealed."
Agreed on all and yes, said without pride, I read way too much chick lit. Also, Anthony Hopkins starred in two of my favorite movie adaptations of books I love - "84 Charing Cross Street" and "Remains of the Day."
"Mad Money" 1931 by Rex Beach
This is my second Rex Beach book - a reasonably popular author of his day who writes page-turner fiction that is a great example of how reading books from a period gives you insight into that time that no modern period fiction can.
This book - apropos of its title - follows the fortunes a successful small-town banking family who rode the '20s land boom of Florida up and, then, down...hard. Amidst the family's wreckage, the daughter (something we have wrong today is the view that women weren't doing "men's" things back then) tries to resurrect the family's fortune on Wall Street at the tail end of its historic '20s boom.
The plot is a good page turner - money, sex (including heavily hinted-at lesbianism), greed, love - (but not as good as the first Rex Beach book I read - "Son of the Gods -" I'd recommend that one first) - but what stands out is (1) how much of history repeats and (2) how women were doing a heck of a lot more than some think today.
From the book's description of women on Wall Street in the '20s:
Nor was she by any means the only customer's woman [salesperson] on the Street. There were scores of other, old ones and young ones, plain and fancy, all of whom she suspected of knowing far more than she did. There were several women who had actually made themselves partners in bond houses and brokerage offices. This was not wholly a men's game.
Of course it wasn't equality of the sexes, but the view of all women "shackled" to a home and kids or stuck in only "women's" jobs wasn't accurate either.
The other thing that jumps out is the aforementioned loud echo of history. The land rush of Florida and the well-known Wall Street crash of '29 sound embarrassingly familiar to the dot-com bust of 2000 and the housing and market breaks of 2008. It's incredible to hear an of-the-period description of those crashes that - with only a few words altered - could also be used to describe our recent market crashes.
And if that wasn't enough history echoing, the book has a few "me-too" moments where, for example, the female protagonist uses the threat of the Mann Act (it's illegal to transport a woman interstate for sexually immoral purposes) to prevent a senior executive from taking advantage of her.
But it's also interesting to see her leverage her sexual allure in a smart (not talking about the morality of it) way to get ahead. We know it's all wrong and we should fight it tooth and nail - and some real progress might come out of our current efforts - but sexual power plays in life (I was going to write "business and politics," but "life" seems more accurate) have been and will always be with us. No words of wisdom, but impactful to see how little things have change in this area of human nature.
On a lighter side, there's plenty of Fedora Lounge fun - clubs, cars, planes, boats, social norms, manners, shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch (when it was a high-end sporting goods purveyor and outfitter) and other period details (not seen through a modern author's biases) - to make the read a fun time-travel trip to the 1920s (my personal date for the start of the GE).
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Certiorari Process and State Court Decisions; Jeffrey Sutton & Brittany Jones; Harvard Law Review, May 2018
Many are called but few chosen-a study of the dispiriting merits docket gauntlet.
Oops. Yes. Yes I did.