What Are You Reading

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

  1. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    I once wrote a novel set in 1944 Hollywood about a pilot shot down over Occupied France with his crew who worked with the French Resistance to escape, and of course, Hollywood wants to make a movie about it. I struggled to find books to tell me the inner workings of how the studio system worked to make a film, and this sounds like exactly what I should have been looking at!

    Maybe someday I'll pick that novel back up again...it was a fun story to write.
     
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  2. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    A mystery novel set in 1943 Sicily about a beat cop from Philadelphia who is now an MP and in charge of a murder investigation of a field surgeon. Pretty well written.

    Blame the Dead by Ed Ruggero
    71z14WVfm1L.jpg
     
  3. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Absolutely not.
    And the courage both Rick and Ilsa showed, primacy of cause over self, even love.
    Love, like Justice, blindfolded, armed with perceptive mind sight, can deliver a heart and soul searing truth.
     
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  4. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Late reading. JRR Tolkien's Jesuit Connection; Jesuits, Summer 2020
     
  5. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Time to hunt this tome down. It is in my apartment somewhere. My Bard /complete works missing.
     
  6. Warlord of The Weejuns

    Warlord of The Weejuns New in Town

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Cincinnati
    Reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The English prose from that period (1818) holds your attention. I am really enjoying it. I think it is well written and a good story. The movies that followed in the next century bear no resemblance at all to the book.
     
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  7. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Late night lawyer reading: Hamilton #65 Federalist Papers; Levinson's An Argument Open to All;
    Reading The Federalist in the 21st Century; US Constitution, Article I; II


    My Constitutional Law professor dragged me over the first thrice for correctly answering Marbury,
    an extremely enjoyable experience I could have done without, yet fondly recall while drinking the
    smoke from the scholar's lamp with some wine. Hamilton, ever sagacious Publius, admirably
    prognosticates Supreme Court deficiency in his essay #65; remarking doubt as to the Court possessing
    "endowment so eminent a particular fortitude" requisite presidential trial. Hamilton further opines a
    credibility lack; parochialism readily seized upon by scholars like Sanford Levinson; whom
    grasp esoteric inference out of thin air. Publius grants the Senate laurels sufficient unto moment,
    however, contemporary perspective might beg respectable difference. All the more so in present day
    non justiciable reliquit officium; whereas laconic constitutional articles are silent. It remains that
    the US Constitution does not explicitly authorize Senate trial of a private citizen. Hamilton also
    warns in The Federalist Papers of indigenous vindictive relative thereto said while holding fast
    to the Senate floor locus. Inside baseball theft and thievery.





     
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  8. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    119031.jpg
    The Asphalt Jungle by W.R. Burnett originally published in 1949

    I enjoyed the movie (comments here: #26609), so much so, that I bought the book. And the book did not disappoint.

    Noir, hard-boil, heist story, crime drama: The Asphalt Jungle fits in all of those categories as it walks you, step by step, through the planing, execution and denouement of a professional jewelry store robbery in a large, seedy and corrupt Midwest city in post-war America.

    But this is no regular "heist" story as the characters are so well developed that you feel as if you know them. And while you won't be proud to admit this, you are almost rooting for some, not all, of the bad guys to get away with it.

    The brains behind this caper is a short, bald, nondescript, German immigrant who was just released from jail: "professional" criminal Erin Riedenschneider. He's respectfully known in his "field" as "Herr Doktor" or "The Professor" as he is a mastermind of heists. He is a thinking man's criminal who, one believes, could easily have been a real doctor, a professor or some other highly educated or intellectual man had his life taken a different path.

    But he operates on the "other" side of the law and begins recruiting gang members and raising financing for a new heist immediately upon his release from prison. It's so thoughtfully done that his approach is like that of a start-up business looking to hire experienced employees while soliciting funds from established backers. But of course, it's all harder as it has to happen in the shadows and noir nooks of the city, especially with a new and driven police commissioner trying to crack down on crime.

    And this is where the book shines as you see a smart man assemble a team and source funds with the focus and planning of any honest business, except he moves through the city's gambling parlors, back rooms, seedy corners and, occasionally, into the somewhat respectable houses of men who keep one foot in the legitimate world and one in the criminal one.

    Along the way, he brings together a team comprised of an experienced safecracker who approaches his job as any legitimate technician would, a hump-backed getaway driver with an incredible knowledge of the illegal networks operating in the city and a big, strong, but maybe unstable, "thug" about to age-out of his "profession," who just wants to make enough money to "get home."

    Eventually, "Herr Doktor" obtains financing from a slick, quasi-respectable lawyer with all the shiny accoutrements of a successful life - proper wife, big house, expensive cars, fancy clothes, imported cigars, flashy jewelry and a young girlfriend tucked away in a second big house - but unbeknownst to all, he's drowning in debt and looking for his take (or perhaps more than his take) of the heist to bail him out. He also offers to fence the stolen goods.

    And each man in the team has his concerns and weaknesses. The safecracker has a wife and child he loves and worries deeply about (think of any good family man whose job happens to be safe cracking, not insurance sale); the financing lawyer has his mountain of debt; the "Doktor" has a weakness for young women (he's got a pimp on speed dial); the getaway driver has a blinding hatred of the police and the "thug" is dragging around "Doll," his stupid but fanatically loyal girlfriend that he wants to dump but he just can't bring himself to do it.

    Building this team of well-regarded-in-their-field criminals is more than half the book and it's worth it as, by the time you get to the heist itself, you are vested in these men and, sadly, rooting for, at least, a few of them to get away with it. The honest business and insurance company that will pay for the crime are amorphous to us at this point, but we, against our better natures, now identify with several of the men. When an author can warp your morality like that, you know you are in the hands of a talented writer.

    After that, it's the heist with the professionals proving their mettle as they overcome several unplanned obstacles, but as always, fate plays a hand as well. Then, it's on to the dual challenge of escaping the city and monetizing their "work" by selling the jewels through a fence. Neither is easy as the aforementioned police commissioner sets up an all-encompassing dragnet, while the fence, the "respectable" lawyer, tries a double-cross. At this point, you are patting yourself on the back for having chosen the apparently much-easy path in life of making an honest living.

    The Asphalt Jungle deserves more attention in its genre than it seems to get. W.R. Burnett has penned a hard-boiled noir fiction that can stand up proudly next to the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain. You would think it would be better known today as it birthed, possibly, the best noir crime-drama movie of the post-war era. But despite its lack of present-day popularity, the book's trip through mid-century noirland is still a gripping and eye-opening read.


    N.B. @Touchofevil, this one, I think, would be right up your alley.
     
  9. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Snowstorm enroute Chicago. Meacham's The Soul of America; The Dream of Enlightenment by Gottlieb;
    and Levinson's pedestrian Argument. Titan may wait, but Chernow also authored Alexander Hamilton,
    which I would love reading with Rossiter's edited Federalist Papers. Hamilton is an interesting enigma
    and always a pleasure to read.
     
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  10. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
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    Profligate errancy this dawn finds return to Hamilton's Federalist Papers.
    A brief touch of Jane Austen to sense pride and prejudice, hither and yon, inside barrister brief
    advocatus diabelli fallacy of the patrician constitutional caste. Fools, knaves, vermin all.
    Hamilton ironically presents a foundling's plebeian wisdom to counter these ruffians highly born;
    possessing a tacit wisdom only found across the other side of the proverbial blanket, unfortunate
    indeed his counsel falls upon deaf vindictive. A vengeful nature of which he warned posterity.
    And if posterity would only listen. The Volakh Conspiracy; Law & Crime; Washington Post
    sit magister respondetur, let the master speak. Listen to Hamilton, the book not the play.
     
  11. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,437
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    A Snow Owl is seen inside Central Park, last known appearance in the Big Apple: 1890.
    Augurs the Short Squeeze of recent note, Wall Street locus, not yet conversant factual evidence case...
    Dow drop yesterday, rise but no shine necessarily this dawn. A memorable scalp deserves further quest.
     
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  12. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    6,437
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Traverse skim SEC, AOC, and all the hubbub, a little too much hubba hubba.
    Really get a kick out of Game Stop crap shoot shock. Capitalism cutthroat risk and reward.
    This will make a fantastic tracker flick, cannot wait for the inevitable book deal book.
    A real "Book em Danno" educable congressional inquiry. Little rascals went for the hedgehog jugular
    with a Sykes Fairbairn. The naïve-et-y of unctuous liberals (politik verboten, klar) makes for a
    laugh-your-gluteus maxim off read.:D
     
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  13. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    New York City
    9781335251008_p0_v2_s550x406.jpg
    Tomorrow by Damien Dibben published in 2018

    Stripped to its core, this is a good story, but it is undone by its desire to be a great one because its endless flourishes and overreach for literary brilliance has the reader slogging through too much turgid prose and too many overwritten pages. Had the author simply told the story of a dog and two brothers who, by quirk of medieval medicine and chemistry, live for several hundred years, he'd have written a wonderful tale of love, betrayal, history, camaraderie, devotion, faith and failings - a tale of the human condition.

    Instead, Dibben attempts to write an epic - to cover hundreds of years of history from King Charles' beheading through the Thirty Years' War and to Napoleon at Waterloo all while weaving in the meaning of existence, the political science of nations, the philosophy of leaders and the boundaries and exaltations of love. And he attempts to do all this, primarily, through the eyes of an anthropomorphized dog. Despite much good in the book, it all but collapses under its own weight.

    The good core story here is the one about a dog, Tomorrow, his master, Valentyne, and Valentyne's brother, Vilder, all who, owing to the aforementioned medical quirk, have a long or eternal life. But instead of bringing some sort of everlasting happiness or, at least, release from the fear of dying, this "gift" sets the three on overlapping but separate journeys of agony, exhilaration and discovery.

    All is good at first as Tomorrow and Valentyne have that rare man-dog bond where they communicate and connect on a level that few humans achieve. But after years of happiness where the two live in several royal courts, admitted because of Valentyne's medical talents, a rift between the brothers turns into a multi-century Cain-and-Abel-like struggle that separates all three for almost a hundred years until a final climatic reunion dramatically puts the past behind them.

    And when the story focuses on the three characters and their interactions and feelings, it's on firm ground. However, Dibbens was not content writing "that" book so, instead, he takes them on one Homeric-like odyssey after another with long asides about, well, everything from history, to medicine, to politics, to theology, to descriptions of war that are only tangential to the story.

    Even when the brother's century-long battle is explained at the end, an end that bizarrely includes a castle restored as an act of penitence, neither the extreme evil done nor outsized contrition offered is consistent with any sense of proportion. As with everything in this book, the good is overwhelmed by a story trying to exceed its reach.

    And that is a shame as Dibben is at his best taking you inside Tomorrow's thought process such as how this contemplative and observant dog marvels at the creativity of the human species, but also appreciates the more reliable loyalty of his own. It is those insights of Tomorrow that almost make this unpruned shrub of a story worth it.

    But of course, to enjoy even that, you have to slog through the compulsion of most modern writers to pay strict obeisance to present-day political pieties. So, in this tale set hundreds of years ago, the dog and human heroes are (in most cases) pacifists, vegetarians, fully accepting of homosexuality, self sacrificing, arrantly charitabe and, naturally, they have a distaste for making money.

    However, even that isn't enough groveling to today's elitist talismans, as there is a forced scene showing our hero driving the movement to end slavery in the British Empire. And, for good measure, no man or dog hero in Tomorrow - a novel set in a time whose cultural standards and views on sex and race were oceans apart from ours - has even a taint of racism, classism or sexism. You are surprised the author deigned to even use traditional pronouns.

    Why are these obvious anachronisms forced into the story? Is it virtue signalling? Do they help attract a publisher and/or garner good reviews? Or, perhaps, they spring from such a sincere passion in these ideas that Dibben was willing to sacrifice the integrity of his promising novel on the altar of political correctness.

    There is an enjoyable two-hundred page man-and-his-special-dog story here tucked inside too much aureate other "stuff" that stretched the book to three-hundred-plus pages. Is the good here worth the slog? I'm still not sure, but darn it, I really did like the insightful, observant and loyal dog at its center.
     
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  14. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    6,437
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    ^^^After Charles' head rolled in the sawdust it was subsequently sewn onto his corpse.
    Cromwell exhumed, beheaded, skull staved on a iron fence spike.
    Later, skull purchased by his alma Cambridge.
    I found The Tudors in Vegas, and that luscious little cupcake Natalie Dormer playing Anne Boleyn
    got cut from the team too. Really rolled the dice back in them there days.
    Still drinking java trying to wake.
    ________________

    Caught recent Bangor Daily News editorial about Politik verboten, klar stuff so only will
    say that The Federalist Papers admirably-Hamilton, natch-should be requisite reading for round
    table editorial staff sages. Burke's Reflections accurately sum situation so very, very well.
    ____________

    Another admirably reviewed book. ^^^^
     
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  15. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,437
    Location:
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    Scotus slip opinion 2/3/21 cert Federal Republic of Germany v Phillip

    Jewish heirs sued German Federal Republic for remedy medieval relics forced sale to Prussia,
    purchase by consortium Weimar close era, under violation Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
    Germany asserted heir claim did not fall within FSIA cite for property as taken violation international law.
    SCOTUS held 9-0 respondents invalid as forced sale fell within domestic takings rule.

    SCOTUS correct, however, past astigmatism all the more remarkable for demonstrated clarity.
     
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  16. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,437
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    The Accumulation of Freedom; Writings on Anarchist Economics
    Edited by Deric Shannon, Anthony J Nocella II, & John Asimakopoulos


    Pulled from a nephew's bookcase, autographed by Shannon no less. A socialist traverse over capitalism,
    chock full of piety and sanctimonious analyses, but woefully short back alley hard boiled noir reality.
    Economics is like boxing, a sweet science.
     
  17. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,437
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Kurt Andersen's Evil Geniuses; The Unmaking of America

    Andersen chronicles the past half century with dead reckon focus upon a course of social
    and moral catastrophic inequality wrought by rapacious capitalism and those denizens indigenous
    to systemic status quo whom with unabashed greed deliberately reengineered the economy.

    A beautifully writ juxtaposition of fact and fiction, Anderson, a former Harvard Lampoon editor
    succinctly sums all the usual suspects and hits the right key off southpaw pitch while conveniently
    spooling yet another conspiracy theory. The Enlightenment and in particular, Rousseau is ignored
    by all the bombast strewn as is Emerson whose social perspective akin might have added a much
    needed light match amidst all the darkness cast. I suspect if Diogenes rose and shone his lamp glow
    across Andersen's epistle a flame would extinguish fact but not fiction. Engels and Marx but no
    Lenin, a tad touch nada nod to Smith. Economics is neither pick & choose nor easily dismissed
    for convenience sake.
     
  18. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    "Invisible Ink: My Mother's Sixteen Year Affair with a World Famous Cartoonist," a graphic memoir by Bill Griffith.

    Bill Griffith is the last great cartoonist working today -- a craftsman of the old school whose "Zippy The Pinhead" strip is one of the few reasons left to read the comic page. (Every time the Boston Globe tries to cancel it, I write an angry letter demanding they reverse the decision, and so far they've backed off four times in the past decade.) I've been reading "Zippy" for over thirty-five years now, and Griffith never ceases to amaze me with the quality of his writing and his draftsmanship, as well as the bits of his own personal history he manages to work into what's basically a strip based on pop-culture non-sequitirs. So I was very enthusiastic when I picked a copy of this provocatively-titled work.

    And for good reason. This is an absolutely fascinating look at the secret corners of one family's life -- capped by Griffith's discovery that his mother had carried on a sixteen-year affair with a second-rate hustler of a cartoonist named Lawrence Lariar, as her way of escaping the tedium of 1950s Levittown, and a joyless marriage to a closed-off, depressive career Army man. Lariar is Griffith's polar opposite in many ways -- an enterprising hack who tried every possible kind of cartooning in an attempt to latch onto the next big trend -- and yet he finds himself wondering if perhaps Lariar's influence on his mother might have subtly influenced his own choice of career as well. All of this comes to light thru bits and pieces of information unearthed from old letters, journals, scrapbooks and other papers unearthed after Mrs. Griffith's death -- and it's fascinating to see a grownup son coming to terms with the fact that he really didn't know his family at all.

    It would be easy for Griffith to paint his dad as the villian of the story -- he freely admits that one of the characters in his strip, the sociopathic Mr. Toad, is a manifestation of how he viewed his father growing up. But there's a real sadness in the way he tells his father's story here -- a WWII officer who stayed in the Army for want of anything better to do, only to be purged from the officer rolls by military budget cuts in the late 1950s, and, humiliated and angry, reduced to the rank of sergeant. Did he know what was going on? The whole situation reads like one of those suburban-hell novels popular in that era, except that this one was real.

    Griffith tells this story in the same careful hand-drawn pen and ink art style he uses in the "Zippy" strip, full of detailed 1930s-style crosshatching and expressive use of black and white, and he draws himself much as he appears in the strip as "Griffy." But there's none of "Griffy's" cynicism here -- you sense that the story being told is as much a personal catharsis for him as it is a chance to know things that were kept from him as a child. None of us ever really *know* our parents, and some of us never will -- and that realization is what makes this book a fascinating, thoughtful piece of work.
     
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  19. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Esquire lauds British novelist Ian McEwan as psychologically astute, akin to Jane Austen.
    His novel, Atonement was cited by the late John Updike as majestic in scope, a beautiful fictional
    panorama. No doubt true. McEwan has rightfully earned admiration; but, I never warmed to Updike,
    too smug, too self assured. Jane Austen, splendid enigma, riddle within and without pretense delights
    and intrigues, lures wreckage and invites capture with her imaginative perception and majestic cast.
    McEwan has the Austen touch, a certain magic surrounds a story wrought from his mind. Fired inside
    a furnace and gripped by iron tongs hammered steel becomes an ornate piece of literature with ample
    heart and soul. Charlotte Bronte summed the writer's craft quite succinctly when she indelibly etched
    her view that "The heart has hidden treasures; in secret kept, in silence sealed." McEwan gently whispers
    unveiled secrets for the reader to hear and keep secure within.
     
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  20. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,955
    Location:
    The Great Pacific Northwest
    Ordered my copy based on your review, and it'll be here Friday.

    Zippy was a big favorite of mine and a friend with whom I rode to work early in my career. It appeared in the free weekly, the Chicago Reader. My friend's little daughter was about three at the time, and after hearing our discussions of the strip would run through the house yelling, "Yow!! I am having FOOON !!!" (Clearly had no clue as to the context- but it was cute.)

    She developed a crush on me and told her Mom a while later that she wanted to marry me. I let her down easy: she ended up being the ring bearer at my wedding (once it was clear to her that she wouldn't have to put on a bear costume). I remember showing her the cover of a Zippy book and telling her that was who used to say, "Yow! I am having fun!!" She'd sincerely protest, "But that isn't ME !!" Ah, the memories.
     
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