What Are You Reading

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

  1. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Montauk by Nicola Harrison published in 2019

    This was my second attempt at a "beach read" this summer (however, read not at the beach, but in a NYC apartment during the pandemic).

    Highly touted (as all books seem to be today, hmm), it's an adequate effort, but nothing more. Set in the late '30s, the story follows the life of a young New York City society woman, Beatrice Bordeaux, who decamps with her husband, Harold, for the summer to an oceanfront hotel, the Manor House - a new hotel "palace" for society - in the fishing village of Montauk. He comes for the weekends, while she stays out there all summer.

    Their marriage is stressed as five years has produced no heir for hubby Harold and the Bordeaux dynasty. While alone during the week and bored with the society women and their endless luncheons and charity committee meetings, Beatrice befriends a local woman who takes in some of the hotel's laundry. From there, she meets outdoorsy handsome and stoically gentlemanly-in-a-not-society-way lighthouse keeper Thomas.

    Yup, this is an author who has no shame in living out her fantasy life in cliches in her book, but hey, I wanted a beach read, so all's fair so far. The rest of the novel is Beatrice realizing that she doesn't really love her husband and being "in society," and wants to live a "truer" life with Thomas and the Montauk locals.

    Okay, that too is fair enough and has happened. But of course, being a modern novel, the author can't help virtue signalling all her politically correct views stuffed anachronistically into her 1930s' heroine and plot. So, we have a MeToo moment as Beatrice's husband rapes her one night after they've stopped having sex, but Thomas, the lighthouse keeper, of course, only touches her after getting positive consent.

    Also, most of the men are two-dimensional cliches that range from mansplainers to misogynists, except for the few women-fantasy-perfect men like the lighthouse keeper. However, the women are sensitive, smart and, usually, abused or dismissed by men - except for a few wealthy white women who seem fair game for condemnation by this author.

    And perhaps the favorite cliche of all time of progressive movies and books going back many decades - that wealthy people do not enjoy their parties as they are all posturing and backstabbing, but poor people only have genuine fun and good will at theirs - is trotted out. Anyone who's been to both kinds of parties knows the cliche is nonsense, not worthy of any serious writer. It's not that the reverse is true; it's just simply that each group has its good and bad parties, its good and bad people, its good and bad intentions.

    There are a lot of twists and turns and secrets revealed as Beatrice plans her escape from her rich husband and society to join the "real" people of the fishing village and her hunky but, of course, sensitive and supportive lighthouse keeper. At times, it's a fun page turner, but the too-easy-to-guess plot and completely not-of-the-period politics weighs down the effort. I'm done with "beach reads" for this summer.
     
  2. crawlinkingsnake

    crawlinkingsnake A-List Customer

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    Location:
    West Virginia
    [​IMG]

    Written in 1992 by James Cobb, History Professor University of Tennessee. It had been recommended to me and I'm glad I took the advise. I've visited the Delta many times over the years, and can truly say the Mississippi Delta is a special place. Mr Cobb's book discusses it's history, going back to the actual creation of the Delta, to near present time. For those who may not be aware, THIS delta is NOT the delta located at the mouth of the Mississippi River. This delta was created by centuries of floods, like the Nile, that left behind the richest soil on earth. Generally stretching from Memphis, TN to Vicksburg and the Yazoo River to the east. Some say it begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, stretching all the way to Catfish Row in Vicksburg, MS a distance of nearly 250 miles
    Much of the history of the Delta is grim. The antebellum period, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the postbellum period and more. All the while dealing with annual spring flooding, summer drought and infestation of boll weevils. Huge cotton plantations that depended on a large labor force of African-American slaves, sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and wage workers. The near total dependency on cotton. The struggles of a large Black population, the plantation owners, small farmers, politicians and the politics of living in the Delta.
    Indeed a great read. And even more so as it can be so easily connected and compared to the time which we are living right now. Many times today we think we are seeing or hearing things for the first time. Even though we've come a long way over the years, reading "Most Southern Place..." makes it clear many of these things are merely being repeated, and we still have a long way to go.
     
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  3. martinsantos

    martinsantos Practically Family

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    582
    Location:
    São Paulo, Brazil
    An interesting book about a then (1930s) imensely popular photographer, Dr Paul Wolff. An amateur that became professional by circunstances (he was unable to find a job on medical field) he made a wonderful work. If 35mm movie stock turned popular is due in part for his brilliant photos. Today he is almost forgotten so a new book about him (Dr Paul Wolff & Tritschler - light and shadow: photographs from 1920 to 1950) is great!

    I knew about him because almost every book on 35mm photoraphy from 1930s and 1940s had at least one image by him. But it's the very first time I find something compreensive about his life and work.

    A few photos by him:

    dr-paul-wolff-tritschler-light-and-shadow-exibart-street-photography-00-1320x880.jpg 1999_NYR_09150_0304_000().jpg bildarchiv-offenburg-courtesy-kicken-berlin-1000x1371-q50.jpg
     
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  4. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Location:
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    Re: The Most Southern Place on Earth. Sounds like I would enjoy it. Although I’m not a Southerner, the place has held a strange fascination for me ever since I was briefly stationed there while in the army. Anything that I Might try to say about why it’s somehow haunting sounds trite. I’ll just quote Faulkner: the past is not dead, it’s not even past.

    Re: the photos of Dr Paul Wolff. Wow. Each example that you provided is indeed a masterpiece. I regret that I had never heard of him until now. Can’t help but wonder what happened to him in the war.
     
  5. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    There is a deep, almost piercing sensual aspect to the South, which stirs with everything else inside this particular cauldron to a blister boil. The women there are the most entrancing ladies; whom to a northern lad in the Army
    were the spice of Southern life-and everywhere else.
     
  6. martinsantos

    martinsantos Practically Family

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    Location:
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    Well, I didn't find ever a mention about him here in Fedora Lounge! A clear sign he is quite forgotten today.

    He stood in Germany during the war. Became quite sick and a bomb destructed his home/studio in Frankfurt (and a large amount of his negatives) in 1944. He tried a comeback after the war, got a few assigments but his health was bad. Died in 1951. The studio went well on following years because his parter, Afred Tritschler but soon it was out of business.
     
  7. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    vancouver, canada
    Bro, thank you....I have just found my next summer read.
     
  8. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Appointing Extremists, Mark A Bailey and Matthew Spitzer Journal of American Law & Economics, Spr 2018

    A cute cut complete with statistic mumbo jumbo equations no less.
     
  9. Touchofevil

    Touchofevil

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    Location:
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    Another Ross MacDonald read, The Barbarous Coast (1956). As always, entertaining. Hammett, Chandler, and MacDonald never disappoint me. Something by David Goodis next.
    :D
     
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  10. crawlinkingsnake

    crawlinkingsnake A-List Customer

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    Location:
    West Virginia
    You're welcome belfastboy, glad to be of service. You might consider getting a copy for a small business owner in Clarksdale, MS who like many small business owners are struggling to stay obove water. Roger Stolle is a friend of mine and owner, operator, and chief cook & bottle washer at Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art (www.cathead.biz) . A good place that needs all the support it can get.
     
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  11. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Location:
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    Shadowofthewind.jpg
    I just finished “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The complete story arc takes in most of the early 20th century and finishes in 1955. The action is almost exclusively in Barcelona, with a little bit in Paris. The book was heartily recommended to me by a female friend who knows my taste in books. It’s an explosive virtuoso performance of a book with sub-plots and sub-sub-plots and parallel stories, all masterfully tying together in the end. It’s a literary game of shoots-and-ladders, full of trap doors and surprising plot twists that are actually surprising. It’s got one of the most evil villains that I can recall. It’s beautifully written (once or twice a tad over-written) and the dialogue is wonderful… as in laugh out loud wonderful. Most impressively, the book has some characters that I actually came to care about. It’s quick paced and lavish; alternately sweet and terrifying. What is the book about? Good question. In a medieval passageway a father takes his son to “the cemetery of forgotten books”, a vast secret maze of bookshelves. There the boy falls in love with a book and takes it away with him. But it seems that shadowy, sinister forces want to destroy every book ever written by that author. While protecting and hiding the book, the boy seeks to learn about the mysterious author and his background. So begins a slippery slope of love and betrayal, friendship and loss, good vs evil, hope vs despair, very dark secrets, redemption, blood & sex, right and wrong, heroes and cowards… at every level of society; a real rollercoaster. It also has layers of meaning; for example “the cemetery of lost books” is a metaphor for Spanish society in the years after the civil war. The book is a garish, melodramatic, gothic, colourful explosion of brilliance. At over 500 pages it is also an emotional investment. It wore me out. But if you want to recapture the adventure of reading as you experienced it when you were a young teenager, then this book MIGHT be worth looking into. Reviewers have heaped praise on the Shadow of the Wind and called it an instant classic. I am unqualified to go that far; but I certainly bought into the mystery and the characters and completely lost myself in its pages for a week or so. Enjoyable and memorable, but exhausting.
     
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  12. zebedee

    zebedee One Too Many

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    I'm re-reading Cormac McCarthy's 'Suttree' and two histories of subcultures over the past 50 years.

    Also starting China Mieville's 'The Last Days of New Paris'. I liked his 'The City and the City' up until the end, which I anticipated for quite a while.
     
  13. martinsantos

    martinsantos Practically Family

    Messages:
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    Location:
    São Paulo, Brazil
    "The Crazy Years" by William Wiser. A fine description about Paris in 1920s.

    (and the perfect reading after Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. :D )
     
  14. Touchofevil

    Touchofevil

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    Location:
    Northern California
    I have those and plan to read them at some point.
    :D
     
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  15. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    51iULqe-VjL._SL350_.jpg
    Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra by George Jacobs and William Stadiem

    I periodically read books about Frank Sinatra, in part, because the sites I buy books from keep sending me Sinatra-book recommendations as, in truth, I'm not that fascinated with the guy. That said, the books usually engage because the man did have a, well, fascinating life.

    This one's written by George Jacobs, Sinatra's "valet" (basically, Sinatra's key personal servant) from 1953 - 1968, so a man who definitely had access to Frank. But, like all these "tell-all" books, it's just another view leaving you to decide how much of it you believe.

    There's a lot here in this breezy and fun account that focuses mainly on Frank's personal life - his emotions, drinking, gambling, smoking, whoring and dating (the last two were usually in motion at the same time as Frank's views on fidelity were fluid), all of which were done to an excess worthy of a superstar with all but no financial or moral constraints.

    Portrayed here, Frank is a man of many contradictions. He genuinely cared about family but divorced his devoted first wife and was erratically involved in raising his children whom he loved. He wanted to win an best-actor Oscar (he won a supporting-actor one for From Here to Eternity), but only took less than half of his acting roles seriously. He sincerely hated racism/antisemitism and showed it in his public support and private actions time and again, but constantly made horribly foul racist/anti-semitic comments in his personal life.

    He was capable of great warmth and charity, but could also be violently mean and vindictive, able to carry a grudge with Olympic-style skill and duration. He would ping from highly confident about his abilities to moments of great doubt time and again; although, he was consistently confident (rightfully so) in his voice and singing ability.

    And he was massively insecure socially and intellectually as it bothered him that he was only a high-school graduate. Thus, he was constantly looking for acceptance from society types and self-conscious around college-educated adults (doubly so if, like the Kennedys, they had social prominence and an Ivy-league degree). Even his 1960s' hunt for a wife - he bedded half of Hollywood in this quest - was driven by his desire to find "class." Meanwhile, the one seemingly great love of his life - ex-wife Ava Gardner - rejected his decade-plus-long effort to reconcile.

    Which leads us to all the big-name people who make an appearance in Frank's world. So, in no particular order, here are the Cliff Notes on each according to Mr. Jacobs (to emphasize, these are his opinions):
    • Dean Martin - genuinely nice guy, much more stable than Frank
    • Sammy Davis - Passionately driven to succeed / talents not fully appreciated
    • Peter Lawford - skinflint, mediocre talent
    • Yul Brynner - amazingly, cheaper than Lawford
    • Ava Gardner - As sexy IRL as on the screen, very confident in herself, very down to earth
    • Marylin Monroe - Hygienically filthy (kinda disgusting), massively insecure, very nice and kind, had sex with many men to, pathologically, prove her worth to herself
    • JFK - Good man, treated most people well, would bang almost any woman that moved
    • Joe Kennedy Senior - Certified baster, bigot, cheater, manipulative and vindictive
    • RFK - Prig
    • Mia Farrow - smart, but truly spacey, selfish with a mean streak, ambitious

    And a few other "fun" things that spill out of the book:
    • Ava Gardner might have delivered two of the best raunchy quotes ever in the recorded history of time. Neither can be written here, but if you want to see them (you've been warned, they are rude) Google:
      • "ava gardner frank sinatra manhood quote"
      • "ava gardner frank sinatra mia farrow spectator" (click on The Spectator's article "Franks World," you have to read a few paragraphs, but you'll get to Ava's quote about Mia Farrow that starts "Frank always wanted...")
    • Dean Martin, when he and Frank were nearly fifty and years after Dean had stopped carousing with Frank, came over to Frank's house one morning around 11am for a scheduled meeting about an upcoming movie project. When the front door is opened, Dean sees the living room chockablock with empty booze bottles and filled ashtrays, while six disheveled whores were splayed out sleeping here and there only to be told by author Jacobs that "Frank and the boys" were still asleep. Dean's response to Jacobs: "You'd think they'd be sick of the same old sh*t by now, wouldn't you George?" Can't you just hear Dean's voice, half smirking, saying those words? And as a reader, exhausted at this point from just hearing about all the partying and whoring, you'll all but agree.
    • Frank did some business with the mob and did "run" with mob bosses socially, but was never in the mob. Contrary to the mob in movies, some people, like Frank, were able to partner at times with the mob without becoming one of them - but of course, being Frank Sinatra probably made this possible.

    There are a bunch more tidbits and anecdotes in this fun and tawdry view into Frank's life. Definitely not the biography if you are either a serious scholar or someone looking for a comprehensive overview, but if mid-century-Hollywood-and-society gossip plus star-ego-driven partying is your thing now and then, Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra is a darn good choice.
     
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  16. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    As is commonly known, Frank featured prominently in Mario Puzo's The Godfather and once had a luncheon
    date with Puzo, demanded to know who put the author up to the literary hit.
    Sinatra truly seemed his own worst enemy.
     
  17. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Frank's got a non-mob explanation for how he got the role, but without documented evidence, we all just have to listen to all sides of that story and make up our own minds knowing we don't have a definitive answer.

    And, yes, Frank was very self destructive at times. As with other mega stars - Elvis and Michael Jackson come to mind - these men never really grew up because they could get away with not growing up.
     
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  18. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Reflections On Whiteness As Property, Cheryl I Harris; Harvard Law Review November 2020

    Academe empiricism subjective without, dismissive arrogance within; yet Truth is not so easily banished.
    As Dante wrote in Hell time is set by the Moon, reflective of the Sun and whose luminous quality drowns
    all lesser insignificant stars.
    _______
     
  19. Turnip

    Turnip Practically Family

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  20. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Fading Fast: Thanks for that Sinatra book review. Yes, the man is never-endingly fascinating. I went through a Frank Sinatra phase. Like you, I cut him a lot of slack because he always had Sammy's back at a time when racism was the almost unquestioned norm. Reading about Frank is like reading about Hemingway in that the contradictions and complexities and huge appetites for life are stunning to, us, mere mortals.

    Turnip: Sind sie Deutsch? I almost made the faux pas of ASSUMING you are a Yank or Rosbif. Normally, I confess that I read books in German when they are relatively thin. :) Right now I am reading (in English) "Evening in the Palace of Reason" by James Gaines. It's subtitle is: "Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment". In part I am enjoying it because it is a book about Germany that has no Nazis and no talk about Nazis. I'm especially interested in how Bach saw mathematics as God's divine code defining Creation, and how music could be approached from a purely mathematical perspective, thus speaking God's language. As the author says "It is only the extent to which Bach's music contains meanings coded in numbers that is hotly debated." The fact that he uses such codes is not debated. Fascinating! Before I picked up the book, I was warned that it would be more enjoyable if I had a background in music theory (I don't). But so far, I'm not finding that to be a stumbling block.
     
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