What Are You Reading

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

  1. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    It's hard to imagine a time when John Steinbeck and Klaus Barbie could be on the same payroll, but if there was such a time, it would have been (gak) The Fifties.
     
  2. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,567
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2019
  3. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    13,217
    Location:
    New York City
    bettehat.jpg Bette_Davis_in_All_About_Eve_trailer.jpg
    The Lonely Life by Bette Davis, published in 1962

    One of the hallmarks of an Ayn Rand character is his/her singular drive and ability to pave his/her own path. In Rand's books, her heroes are individualists who passionately but unemotionally pursue their goals - calm in the face of adversity and, even, brutal mendacity. As she chose for the title of her magnum opus, they are Atlases holding the world aloft despite the world's best effort to break them.

    In real life, stringent individualists in singular pursuit of a goal can be a handful for the rest of us - emotional, screamers, breakers of glass, egotists - basically, pains in the arses, but they do move the world forward through their ardent will, egotism, effort, almost-miniacial commitment and relentless drive. They might work with others, but their success is only a collective effort in the broadest sense of the word; many of the world's achievements - its accomplishments - belong to, let's just say it, the arrogant individuals.

    Bette Davis is one such arrogant individual and she wouldn't and doesn't deny it one bit. While a liberal in her political views - a huge fan of FDR - Davis is a Randian libertarian at heart. She believes that those with outsized talent and drive have a right to break the rules, push others out of the way and do whatever it takes to, in her case, make the play or movie better. If feelings get hurt, people get fired - so be it; the goal of making the best movie, with the best acting is what matters / those who can't keep up and contribute should find another line of work. Howard Roark would be proud.

    While all the other elements of a normal biography are here - family (emotionally cold father, insanely devoted mother, overshadowed sister), early life, career ups and downs, one failed marriage after another (she really was married to her career first and her husbands' egos couldn't stand that or her out earning them), her work is her life and the heart and soul of the biography.

    And it doesn't disappoint. She gives credit aplenty to others - and names names - and assigns blame and failure - (mainly) without naming names - but not holding back otherwise. And this inside Hollywood stuff is the real fun of the book - she drops in plenty of anecdotes about her movies, her costars, her directors and the Brothers Warner, Jack in particular.

    Published in '62, it seems to have just predated her '62 career-boosting comeback "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane," but it probably doesn't matter as Bette Davis was born Bette Davis, lived her entire life as Bette Davis and, from other things I've read, died as Bette Davis - one of the world's best actresses who pushed whatever she had to out of the way to let her talent shine through.

    I'm sure its varnished - whoever wrote a an autobiography that didn't blend in a little hagiography? - but it's short, fast and unvarnished enough to make it one of Hollywood's better reads. Plus this, the great "ridding crop habit flip" maneuver ⇩ from Jezebel was self taught in a marathon overnight session followed by forty-five takes: something an actress - and Ayn Rand hero - not a star, would do. Bette Davis was, above all else, an actress.

    tumblr_nh3tx47c7E1qiwrzoo1_500.gif
     
    MissMittens likes this.
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    "Cant Anybody Here Play This Game? The Improbable Saga of the New York Mets' First Year," by Jimmy Breslin.

    This is one of the classic baseball books of the 1960s, and one of the most entertaining sports books, of any genre, ever written -- the goofy 42-120 story of the hapless expansion Mets in their first storied season. But it's also more than that -- it's an unexpectedly profound rumination on what it actually means to be a fan of a bad team.

    The "New Breed" of fans who flocked to the Polo Grounds to the tune of nearly a million people in the summer of 1962 were puzzling to many writers at the time -- why go to such absurd lengths to support what was, by any standard, a terrible ball club. But Breslin, with his man-of-the-street working-class point of view firmly in grasp, was the first writer to really understand a deep truth. It's not the *players* who are the "lovable losers." *We* are:

    "You see, the Mets are losers, just like nearly everybody else in life. This is a team for the cab driver who gets held up and the guy who loses out on a promotion because he didn't maneuver himself to lunch with the boss enough. It is the team for every guy who has to get out of bed in the morning and go to work for short money on a job he does not like. And it is the team for every woman who looks up ten years later and sees her husband eating dinner in a t-shirt and wonders how the hell she ever let this guy talk her into getting married."

    This is a very short book -- more of an extended magazine article, really -- and if you're looking for a meticulous game-to-game account of the Mets' miraculous futility, this isn't it. What it is is an impression of what it was like to be a New York National League baseball fan, still in mourning for what you'd lost in 1957, and now suddenly confronted with a team studded with familiar faces -- Roger Craig, Gil Hodges, Don Zimmer, Charlie Neal -- doing absurdly unfamiliar things. You either had to turn away in disgust at the cynicism of it all, or Step Right Up And Meet The Mets -- and embrace them in all their absurdity.

    Dozens of radio broadcasts of 1962 Mets games survive, and I've listened to all of them -- so in a way, I can relate to this team as more than just a historical oddity. Most of the events Breslin describes are events I've heard unfold in real time. There really was something appealing in their desperate ineptness, and although Breslin does occasionally embroider the facts to heighten the humor, you can't make up the essence of what this team was, or what it meant to its fans.

    At the end of the book, Breslin lets the smirking mask slip for a moment, and what you get is a real sense of the deep betrayal he felt when the Dodgers and Giants left town.

    "Take a cab ride through Brooklyn and turn off the Eastern Parkway at Bedford Avenue and go down four blocks. Then you see what time and money-hungry people did to a way of life...

    This is why the New York Mets come out as something more than a baseball team as far as an awful lot of people are concerned. The Mets are a part of life. You can start keeping track of time with them. They are not going to move for money...

    The Mets lose an awful lot?

    Listen, mister, think a little bit.

    When was the last time you won anything out of life?"
     
    BKM and Tiki Tom like this.
  5. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,255
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    Those last Breslin excerpts are brilliant.
     
    BKM likes this.
  6. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,567
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Recently read another New York Times baseball feature, Latest Casualty of MLB, a focus piece on ole apple
    in the Big Apple--- Yankees Tanaka conundrum over his favorite splitter come undone. His opponent batting average
    against him is .292 now with a cumulative 4.93 ERA rack but the apple is rotten, needs a new grip; across the seams, which are incrementally lower, thus aerodynamically altered juice squeezed fresh in Costa Rica.
    The big kahunas say its just a little drag, that's all folks.
    __________

    Speaking of drag, Cubs ace J Lester got mauled last night against
    the As; however, Woodie and Dutch proved themselves quite capable
    in relief and Woodie can close if needed. Cubs close by committee now
    with K out IL.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019
    Fading Fast likes this.
  7. MJCR

    MJCR One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    169
    Location:
    Lancashire, UK.
    Currently re-reading The Three Musketeers for a work related project, then The Crying of Lot 49 for a blog post.
     
  8. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,567
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Where We Stand; Jewish Consciousness on Campus by Allan L Smith

    Found a good ecumenical college scene read to supplement my evening sports page train commute.
     
  9. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,255
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    Book number 12 (I think) in Martin Walker’s “Bruno Chief of Police” series. The Body in the Castle Well is the title. It is very unlike me to be so invested in a detective series, but somehow the series has become a fixed part of each summer. On the surface, yes, it’s all about village life in rural France and has lots of good food and wine and history porn. But mostly, after all these books I know the likable main character very well and, equally importantly, I know his group of friends too. Throw in a touch of international intrigue & current issues and I’m very satisfied. The books are kind of slow moving and Bruno is a fool in the hands of the women who mistreat him (he wants a wife and kids, they don’t but are happy to have their fun with him.) The murder cases are almost beside the point. Anyway, these books are my summer vice.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  10. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,567
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Slider by Patrick Robinson. Baseball literature, college level, looks good.
     
  11. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    "The Dutch Shoe Mystery," a 1931 specimen of the "puzzle mystery" genre by Ellery Queen.

    I've been a fan of the Ellery Queen books since high school -- originally for their value as brain-teasers, and subsequently for what they say about the times in which they were written, and I first read this book maybe forty years ago. It's been long enough that I can't remember Who Dun It, although some of the clues do seem familiar.

    Each of these early Queen novels has a specific microcosm-of-society type of setting, with each character acting out a very specific role within that microcosm -- a theatre, a department store, or, in this particular case, a large "modern hospital," where everything is glistening white, everything smells like carbolic acid, and everyone is hiding a secret. When the wealthy patroness of the hospital is brought in for emergency gall bladder surgery, the proceedings come up short when she's found dead on the operating table, with strangulation marks around her neck. Our hero Ellery Queen just happens to be on the premises, and takes immediate charge of the investigation.

    For many, the thought of Ellery Queen brings to mind the good-natured shambling goof with the brilliant analytical mind as played by Jim Hutton on the too-short-lived 1970s TV series -- but this Ellery is not yet that Ellery. This is the Ellery of the pince-nez glasses and the walking stick and the conversation filled with gratuitous quotes from classical literature -- in short, this is the pompous-ass Ellery who leaves you wondering why Sgt. Velie doesn't take him out back and work him over with a rubber hose. But even thus disguised as Philo Vance, Ellery still has the brilliant analytical mind, and the precision with which he unravels the case is, as always, something to behold.

    But that precision leads to a certain weakness in the storytelling -- for Ellery's deductions to work, one must assume that all characters will follow straight-line motivations thru their various courses of action. There is no place for chaos or the unpredictable in this early books, which makes them seem a lot more mechanical than Queen's looser later novels. And some of the clues tend to stretch credulity -- a crucial clue here is a broken shoelace repaired with adhesive tape. Try doing this yourself sometime and see how well it doesn't work. You'll be too busy fiddling with your footwear to get around to strangling any rich hospital benefactresses. But in the world of Early Ellery Queen, the adhesive is foolproof, because, hey, it makes a neat clue, and the clues make the puzzle, and the puzzle is the point.

    Despite the shortcomings, I do enjoy these early Queen books, perhaps even more than the more critically-acclaimed later novels where Ellery puts aside the pince-nez and tries to be hard-boiled. The Ellery of 1929-31 is someone who I could see fitting in just fine here at the Lounge, no doubt with a choice quotation from Aeschylus in his signature.
     
  12. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,255
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    Hey! What's that supposed to mean!?

    I, too, went through an Ellery Queen phase in high school. I seem to recall something about a locked room mystery where someone was stabbed but there was no murder weapon. It turned out he was stabbed with a icycle that later melted!!! I hope I am remembering this correctly and am not conflating authors/stories. The fact that that made an impression on me says much about the type of teenager I was. (hint: geeky) I think I eventually gave up on Ellery because sometimes the clues and solutions were too complex for me to keep track of. (geeky and with a short attention span.) Re: the television series: I loved his tweed bucket hat and wanted one. Did I mention geeky? Hey, wasn't there also an Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine out there at one point? I think I subscribed to it for one year but stopped when they wouldn't publish any story written by a snot-nosed 14 year old boy. (Geeky, short attention span, and delusions of literary talent. I can assure you I was not captain of the football team.)

    upload_2019-8-27_12-2-10.jpeg
     
    LizzieMaine likes this.
  13. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The magazine is still being published after 75 years or so, if you can find a place where magazines are still sold. At the peak of his popularity, in the mid-1940s, EQ was the foundation of a major multimedia franchise -- there were the novels, there were short stories, there was the magazine, there were movies, there was a comic book, there was a long-running radio show, and eventually television.

    Some of the later EQ novels were ghost-written -- which explains how Ellery's in-book persona shifted even further away from his established parameters depending on who the ghostwriter was. At least one of these books was written by Theodore Sturgeon, and I was very disappointed to look it up and find that it did not place Ellery and his dad aboard an interstellar space cruiser, solving the murder of the Tau Cetian ambassador.
     
  14. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,567
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Thoughts on the Impending Prosecution of Andrew McCabe, Benjamin Wittes; Lawfare 082719

    Amusing slick brief. I would have advised Mr McCabe to observe silence.
    The Inspector General, and Barr Investigation reports will prove interesting reading.
     
  15. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The New England Telephone and Telegraph Company's Directory for the Belfast-Rockland District, Summer-Fall 1927.

    Not much of a plot, but oh what a cast...

    Seriously, I've always been fascinated by old phone books -- not simply as a research tool, but for what they can tell you about the time and the places they cover. Consider -- 1927 was fifty-one years after the invention of the telephone, and the perception we tend to have of the period is that the telephone was a widespread, common, everyday thing. Well, up to a point, it was -- but here on the mid-coast of Maine in 1927, very few people had a phone or used a phone.

    There were just shy of 48,000 people living in the district covered by this directory in 1927, over a total of 44 distinct towns and cities spread over two counties.

    The entire subscriber list for this district, covering both Bell System and independent phone companies, fit into a 7" X 9" 64 page booklet.

    The town where I grew up, which had a population of about 1700 people in 1927, has its entire subscriber list covered in one and a half pages. My family was living in that town then, but no member of the family has a phone.

    The city where I live now, which had a population over 9,000 in 1927, covers 15 pages, and is by far the largest concentration of phones in the district. About half the residences on the street where I now live had phones -- but there was no phone at the house where I now live.

    The majority of residential subscribers thruout the district were on party lines.

    No dial service was available anywhere in this district. Every exchange was "number please."

    "Long Distance" really meant something. If you wanted, for whatever reason, to call somebody in Los Angeles from Belfast, Maine in 1927, that call would cost you $11.75 for three minutes at the day rate. That's over $116 in today's money. That call better be important.

    There were no "Yellow Pages." Some businesses took out small boxed ads spotted thruout the book -- "Have You Tried The Pastry at Trainer's Lunch?" -- but there aren't enough business subscribers to support a full display-ad classified directory.

    Of all the names listed in this directory from 92 years ago, there is precisely one person listed who I knew personally: my childhood optometrist, who was practicing in 1927 at the same address where I'd go to get my eyes checked by him half a century later. I see the parents of a lot of people I've known listed here, but good old Dr. M. W. Bird of the Odd Fellows Building in Belfast is the only one whose life directly intersected with mine. There's something about that, about the way an entire generation of people can just fade away in a very short period of time, that makes me not want to go to sleep tonight.
     
    Tiki Tom and Fading Fast like this.
  16. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    13,217
    Location:
    New York City
    ⇧ My girlfriend and I were, just last week, talking about how cellphone plans completely changed long-distance calling. Growing up in the '70s, the rule in my house was I couldn't make a long-distance call without asking permission and permission was denied 100% of the time (their strategy worked, as I almost never asked). Long distance wasn't cheap (cheaper than calling Ireland in 1927, but still not cheap) - I can remember my parents timing the minutes when they made long-distance calls - which wasn't often.

    It's a good thing - cheaper communication - but it definitely has changed the way we think about communicating. It used to be "special" to talk to someone long distance and, as noted, you kept track of the time, but now most kids/young adults don't even want to talk on the phone and prefer texting, etc. (as do I - I've always found phone calls invasive and burdensome; whereas, texting allows you to respond when you want).
     
    Tiki Tom likes this.
  17. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,255
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    One hundred years from now, any one of us will probably be very lucky if we are so much as remembered as an entry in a genealogy. If an anecdote about us is told, we will have won the lottery. And yet... I want to write about what heroes we are. Anyone who makes it through a lifetime without going into debtors prison, who has faithfully paid taxes, held down a job, successfully raised kids (and threaded that mine field), has managed to hold a marriage together, without going to jail or becoming a drug addict or alcoholic or simply crumbling under the pressure of it all, is a hero. An unsung hero, but a hero nonetheless. Something like seven billion struggling people on earth. And now I’m told that there are more galaxies in the cosmos than people on earth. It’s a true lesson in humility. Today I learned of a colleague who couldn’t take the pressure. A very sad story. While wanting to do what I can to help with that situation, I am again reminded of all the people who do in fact hold it together —-without receiving parades or accolades—- and quietly carry on in the face of it all. So I tip my hat to all the quiet humble heroes out there.
     
    ChiTownScion and Fading Fast like this.
  18. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I think too many people go thru their lives ignoring the reality of the fact that not only are they mortal, but so also is everyone and everything around them. The more time you spend poking into history the more you realize that a whole world once existed on the exact point where you're sitting at that moment, and just about every bit of it is gone now -- and the same was true of the world before that one and the one before it and on and on and on. Occasionally some relic turns up -- like an old phone book -- and you realize that world wasn't just an abstraction, it was made up of ordinary human beings who really liked the pastry at Trainer's Lunch.
     
    Tiki Tom likes this.
  19. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,255
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    Right now I am reading "The Churchill Factor" by none other than the notorious PM BORIS JOHNSON. Yikes. I Didn't know when I picked it up that, in a matter of days, the Right Honourable Mr Johnson would attempt to kamikaze his own party, parliament, and other targets that are beyond me. Anyway. As a book about Winston Churchill, "The Churchill Factor" is a darned good read... It emphasizes the notorious, flamboyant, brave, funny, visionary, and history making deeds of the subject. Although Boris gives a nod to WC's errors and faults (before quickly explaining them away), the book is mostly an exercise in hero worship. Taken in that light, watching PM Johnson in the current Brexit convulsion is fascinating, indeed. Perhaps I'm reading too much into things if I start to wonder if BJ is trying to emulate WC's penchant for taking high risk gambles. Anyway, "The Churchill Factor" is a good read. The style is light, airy, and journalistic. I confess that I'm impressed by Mr Johnson's high-end vocabulary. (Something he hides during his daily performances, I think, but may be mistaken.) I've picked up some new knowledge about Churchill and ---just maybe--- an insight into what makes the current Prime Minister tick. Thumbs up. It's fun in more ways than one.
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  20. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,567
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    The Vagrants by Yiyun Li, a chronicle of moral complexity surrounding Chinese dissidents during Tiananman Square,
    dovetailing present day Hong Kong. A gift from my friend Ruth, after her gals-only Hyde Park reading coven
    voraciously devoured said then picked the bones clean, before tossing it over to me at lunch recently, when I promised
    to read it and reciprocate a literary gift. Ruth is a Sabra, a native born Israeli and former physicist who later
    studied medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Fascinating lady, and someone who thinks things through;
    but at lunch she confessed that she intuitively believed the accusation against Justice Kavanaugh during his
    Senate confirmation hearing. This somewhat surprised me as the accuser was uncertain as to the facts pertaining
    to an alleged assault but Ruth held firm. I came across a book review of Mollie Hemingway's Justice on Trial;
    The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court
    and decided to pass it on to Ruth for her
    studied analysis. I confess my motive was to prove my point concerning the facts of the case-stubborn cuss
    that I am. But in the same batch of culled internet stuff from The New Criterion archives, I zeroxed an essay
    that explored the intellect and its limits on comprehending the mysteries of life and by extension the heart's
    intuitive capacity to absorb abstract truth often hid within concrete objectivity. This certainly does not obviate
    factual legal analysis but seemingly adds a measure to same. But I am a Scrooge for the what's what of a case.
    I eagerly anticipate Ruth's opinion of Hemingway's study and her further voice to her intuition.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
    Fading Fast likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.