What Are You Reading

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

  1. Bushman

    Bushman My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,912
    Location:
    Chicago
    Finally finished up "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and have now moved on to "Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You." Only a couple chapters in so far, but it's *leagues* shorter than the last book I read, so it shouldn't take nearly as long.
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  2. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    I recall you are now in college? Ever read IF Stone's The Trial of Socrates?
    Allan Bloom's The Closing of The American Mind?

    If I remember correctly you are studying journalism? IF Stone's The War Years; and anything, everything, he ever
    scribbled would be both enjoyable and instructive reading. Stone was a journalist of the first rank and whatever faults
    or foibles or flirtation with Marx, Engels, et al will never diminish his professional cutthroat approach to reporting.

    I envy you your student state, wish I could turn back time and return to campus. :)
     
    Touchofevil and Bushman like this.
  3. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,185
    Location:
    New York City
    WFSR SSize.jpg
    What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg originally published in 1941

    Sammy Glick is the ultimate corporate political animal who gets ahead by any means possible. People, relationships, deals, projects, ideas, friendships and his personal life are all just transactions to be leveraged or discarded to advance his career.

    What makes Budd Schulberg's fictional Sammy Glick particularly exhausting and successful is he's also smart and hard working. Many Glicks are lazy and, basically, stupid, but have enough craftiness to achieve some initial success. Eventually, though, their lack of effort, brains and knowledge stop their advance and, when the gods are smiling, can even end their careers.

    But if a Glick does the work and has the brains, combined with his do-say-and-screw-anyone ethics, we're faced with the makings of a truly successful sociopath. Sammy Glick, in Schulberg's page-turner, over-the-top novel about a young Hollywood executive phenom, is a sociopath.

    Glick's amoral singular focus on success was forged in the early twentieth century's Lower East Side Jewish ghetto of his youth. He saw "weak" and honest men like his father made into suckers by crooks and politicians, while Glick himself was bullied in school by the stronger boys who succeeded by ignoring the rules.

    By the time teenager Glick, now a newspaper office boy, meets the smug conscience of the book (and, probably, author Schulberg's fictional doppelganger), columnist Al Manhein, he's already thinking three steps ahead as he sees the senior newspaper men as "suckers" for working for years to make $50 a week.

    Manhein is, at first, amused and bemused by this boy tornado, but when Glick somehow pushes his way into writing a column that cuts into Manhein's column's space, he realizes this kid is something malevolently unusual.

    Glick, using friends and colleagues, spinning yarns and, pretty much, stealing a buddy's manuscript, jumps from New York columnist to Hollywood screenwriter in a giant leap, despite having limited story-writing talent. It's a move that also jumps his pay by about five-hundred percent, meaning five times what a newspaper man makes - score one for Glick.

    Manhein, shortly afterwards, follows Sammy to Hollywood where the boy genius is learning the "picture" game of self promotion while leveraging other writers' work. Along the way, Glick has also left a few broken hearts as his promises to women are just more empty Glick sophistry.

    Anyone who has worked in a corporation will recognize Hollywood Sammy Glick. He learns the lingo and the key players while managing up with energy and precision. He also befriends a few lower-level, talented employees who have no people or self-promotional skills - people whose work he can take credit for. He leverages that mix into a quick ascent of the corporate ladder. His only belief and care is himself, but one of his talents is manipulating others to believe he cares about them.

    While Manhein sanctimoniously huffs and puffs his displeasure, Glick shoots to the top. From writer, to producer of B movies, to assistant to the studio head - whom Glick stabs in the back in only months - to studio head himself, it's a dizzyingly quick ride fueled by lies, deceptions, self promotion, cunning and plenty of hard work and some talent.

    It is enjoyably frightening to see Glick gain confidence, prestige, money, possessions (cars, houses, a manservant, etc.) and women, while honest and reasonably talented Manhein struggles to produce quality work inside the studio "system."

    Along the way, we get a pretty good peek inside that system, which is, basically, Hollywood companies backed by New York money that are trying to spit out movies with widget-like regularity by pushing writers to produce screenplays, not literature, on demand.

    To be sure, that's a writer's (author Schulberg's) view, as the other angle is if the "machine" didn't spit out profitable movies regularly, there would be no out-sized paycheck for writers like Manheim (Schulberg).

    While Manheim is confident that all evil springs forth from the Glicks of the world, a less self-righteous author might see them as just another challenge in a world full of struggles. Sometimes a Sammy Glick succeeds; sometimes one doesn't - so what?

    The Manheims/Schulbergs of the world are so confident in their moral superiority, they never stop to see their own hypocrisy. Yes, they want Hollywood's better pay (than newspaper work), but then pompously denounce the hand that feeds them for wanting scripts that put bodies in movie-theater seats instead of art for art's sake.

    Schulberg is a talented writer who understands the sinews of Hollywood and human nature. In What Makes Sammy Run?, he limns a frighteningly wonderful portrait of a man on a mission to advance himself at all costs. He also reveals a bit more about his own jealousies and elitism than he probably intended.


    N.B. What Makes Sammy Run? also provides a brief insider's look at the newspaper business in the forties when it was a good solid career where one didn't need a college degree. Many reporters, even those with their own bylines, had worked themselves up from office boy. Today, you probably need a degree in journalism just to get a foot in the door to a field I'd advise any sane person to run away from.
     
    Touchofevil and Harp like this.
  4. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    ^^^ I F Stone's The Trial of Socrates comes to mind, along with a collected edition of his columns
    dating from 1930's-50s newspaper work. Excellent hard-hitting fact driven old school gumshoe journalism.
    He left the U of Penn w/o a degree and started as a cub reporter, retiring, taught himself the ancient Greek left
    behind decades earlier and researched Socrates' trial and death. Whether agree with him or not, the guy did all
    required spade work himself and went after what hidden truth he could find.
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  5. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    National Law Journal today notices that the University of Virginia School of Law will offer a course
    on the Mueller Investigation taught by Robert Mueller himself.

    The explicate effort is comic. Mueller had nothing, not even a lousy pair of deuces, and played out that asinine
    farce as if he held a royal flush. In shirtfront legal poker his play was known, wide-open and clearly seen.
    He had nothing and tried for a presidential interview to establish obstruction; failing to secure said interview,
    his report threw in everything and the kitchen sink, a New York yellow pages telephone book of nothing,
    absolutely nada, zip, zero, nothin'. All that should have produced was a six-seven page double space excuse
    for an absolute lack of probable cause. And his appearance before the Sanhedrin to explain it all put the period
    at the sentence tail end. When his hand was finally called he had nothing to show.
    As all poker playing lawyers knew he had nothing.

    And now he will teach this explicate at UVA. o_O
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  6. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Deutsche Bank issues dire economic warning for America; Chris Talgo The Hill, 06/10

    Dovetailing the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index hover at 5% after an annual 4.2% rise,
    Deutsche Bank has written a report against profligate US federal spending and consequent inflationary
    macroeconomic spiral. Considered deliberate monetary stimulus coupled to an $8trn US Govt balance sheet,
    Deutsche Bank's economic prognostication is grim; which politely understates the problem.
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  7. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Consider the $34 Lobster Roll; The pandemic has exacerbated a price spike in the iconic New England summer sandwich,
    New York Times 06/11, Steven Kurutz

    Fresh off the grill inside a Wiscasset diner is a revised post-Covid house specialty. Piled high and served with melted
    butter. I am more the Vienna Beef dog-type but this lobster roll looks good if a bit pricey.
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  8. Touchofevil

    Touchofevil

    Messages:
    12,520
    Location:
    Northern California
    After reading a few of Walter Moseley’s Easy Rawlins, I am now reading James Crumley’s Bordersnakes.
    :D
     
  9. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,185
    Location:
    New York City
    51DIrDY0BlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
    February Hill by Victoria Lincoln originally published in 1934

    What does a family look like from the worst part of the wrong side of the tracks? Victoria Lincoln pens a tale about an odd family - mother, father, grandmother, three daughters and a son - who live in a glorified shack supported by the mother's slightly upscaled prostitution, one daughter's job at the nearby cannery and the small-time larceny of another daughter.

    The father is a completely non-functioning alcoholic while the son reads classic plays and books to escape his crazy world. The youngest, a grammar-school-aged daughter, somehow rarely goes to school, but instead spends her days learning how to curse and eat chocolate (seemingly just about the only food this family buys) from her "retired" prostitute grandmother.

    After setting up these bowling pins, Lincoln then knocks down or scatters each one to see how the family will survive. One daughter, Dorothy, the cannery worker, can't stand her family, views her mother and, really, all of them with disgust and moves out of the house without warning when she gets married. She hopes they'll suffer without her income and even plots acts of revenge after she's left. Yes, she's a joy.

    Middle daughter Jenny, the casual grifter (she does it occasionally when the family is short or she wants some small thing), loves her family and seems to only marginally realize how strange their existence is. But that reality is forced on her when she falls in love with a young man who, despite making his living as a rum runner during Prohibition, makes it clear he wants no part of, what is to him, her embarrassing and immoral family.

    The son, Joel, is offered the "opportunity" to live with his paternal grandmother who has both money and position. While this seems auspicious on the surface, the alcoholic father believes his mother's meddling and moralizing drove him to alcoholism. Despite this fear, and despite some real problems with the grandmother, the family sends Joel, who is clearly a book-smart kid, to her as they realize it is his one shot at a real education.

    Finally, we have the glue of the family, the prostitute mother, Minna, who is worried about aging out of her "profession," but somehow is the cheeriest of the lot. In her own way, she is a super mom and wife who keeps the house going financially and ties everyone together emotionally as one crisis after another rocks their fragile existence.

    Minna, though, is also proffered an "out" when one of her clients, a nice wealthy man, offers to marry her and support her family. While Minna considers this after her husband dies, even going so far as to visit him in Texas with her youngest daughter, she decides against it.

    In part, she didn't like that her daughter was becoming greedy for things. Okay, most people would see no longer living in poverty, supported by illegal activities, as a plus, while considering the need to put limits on a young child's avarice as part of parenting. But Minna, instead, returns to February Hill.

    Yet it's Jenny's story that provides the central conflict of the book as she tries to reconcile the demand of her, again, rum-runner husband to distance herself from a family she loves. It highlights the, perhaps, hypocrisy of society that looks down on this family while ignoring its own limitations and failings.

    That's fair, but this is also fair: stealing, as the daughter does, is not the same as prostitution or rum running, both crimes that many believed simply skirted bad laws in the first place. It's one thing to steal in a moment of abject desperation (a la Jean Valjean) and another as a casual way of life (a la daughter Jenny). Despite her cuteness and general decency, Jenny is still taking someone else's work - their money for food, shelter, clothing and medicine - for her own selfish needs.

    (Spoiler alert) After Jenny's husband is killed by the authorities, she returns home to the smaller remaining brood of mother, grandmother and youngest daughter. Author Lincoln presents this as filial love winning out in the end, but one wonders how long a family held together by prostitution and thievery - a family that doesn't educate its children - will survive.

    I found my way to this quirky book after seeing the movie Primrose Path (comments here: #28871) which is very loosely based on February Hill. Not surprisingly, much of the book was censored for the movie, leaving a lighter and happier tale for the big screen.
     
  10. The Mad Hatter

    The Mad Hatter A-List Customer

    Messages:
    321
    Fading Fast likes this.
  11. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Defoe's classic, A Journal of the Plague Year and Simon Ley's The Hall of Uselessness await claim
    inside my UPS box. Mister Cairo's post convinced me to order A Journal, and, Hall is a replacement.
    One of many I will purchase since my sister decided upon her own volition to rob my library when I was away,:eek:
    donating two hundred books to the local library; including Foster's magnum Ossa Latinitatis Sola,
    temporary insanity I attribute to little sister knows best syndrome. An incurable malady. :mad:
     
  12. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,185
    Location:
    New York City
    I'd be very frustrated were someone to give some of our books away. All but a few of them have all but no monetary value, but they mean so much to us. We do cull a bit each year and bring those books over to a Goodwill type place, but that's different than what happened to you.
     
  13. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    She is a lot like our mother and becoming more so.;) But in the aggregate I do not deserve her. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2021
    Fading Fast likes this.
  14. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,185
    Location:
    New York City
    51GZnqw53UL._SR600,315_PIWhiteStrip,BottomLeft,0,35_SCLZZZZZZZ_FMpng_BG255,255,255.jpg.png
    Children of the Ritz by Cornell Woolrich originally published in 1927

    Cornell Woolrich was a popular Jazz Age novelist and, later, successful pulp fiction writer. His 1927 novel Children of the Ritz is about as Jazz Age and 1920s as it gets.

    While the story is serviceable, a big part of the fun today of reading Children of the Ritz are all the period details that were current at the time: transoms, railroad flats, new "movie palaces," race-track bookies, dumb waiters, radios, ocean cruises and on and on. Everything has its filters and bias, even contemporaneous writing, but a 1920s novel is going to get you closer to the period than a modern period novel.

    Beyond that, Children of the Ritz is a reasonably good page-turner where we meet Angela Pennington, of "The Pennington," an eighteen-year-old girl with too much money and time on her hands and way too little sense.

    Pretty and self absorbed to the point of never passing a mirror without luxuriating in her own reflection, Angela develops a crush on the Pennington's new chauffeur, Dewey, right at the time her father's financial fortunes take a hard downturn.

    Not coincidentally, when Dewey wins $50,000 in a crazy bit of luck at the racetrack, Angela agrees to marry him, who, at twenty six and from a humble background, seems to be the more mature one in the relationship.

    Maybe he is, but neither of these "kids" really thought through what marriage would be like. Angela seems to view it as a transition from her father's bank account to Dewey's; whereas, Dewey seems to have married pretty Angela because she's, well, pretty and he found her cluelessness to the real world cute.

    If you're thinking those are unstable reasons for a marriage, you'd be right as clueless Angela quickly spends more than Dewey can afford, so money arguments dominate their marriage from the start and never recede.

    That's pretty much the story as, for the next year or so of their lives, we watch Angela buy all the expensive accoutrements of her old lifestyle as Dewey sees his windfall-filled bank account plummet, while his new wife makes no effort to be a real day-to-day wife.

    Woolrich captures the clash of the two worlds - Angela's upper class one and Dewey's blue collar one - but he never really develops either character deeply enough for us to understand the why of it all.

    Both float through the story almost as cliches: she's the spoiled rich girl and he's the put-upon former chauffeur who doesn't understand her spendthrift ways. But why do they stay together, especially after Angela's family recovers most of its money? Why does he fight so hard to keep her despite his anger at, well, pretty much everything she does? Why does selfish Angela, despite mocking his "common" manners and outlook, still want to be with this man?

    The climax revolves around Angela's potential affair with a handsome older man "of her class," which could provide an easy out for her from her troubled marriage. But neither she nor Dewey seem to really want to end the marriage as we are supposed to believe, deep down, they are still in love. It's hard to even know what that word means in the context of their always-combative marriage, since we never really understand what motivates either of them.

    It's an uneven novel with several loose ends never tied up, but it's still a fun quick read. For us today, and probably even back then, the real joy of Children of the Ritz is its trip through Jazz Age New York City. From nightclubs with live goldfish in water-filled glass tables to bootleg gin to late-edition newspapers to Jazz in Harlem, reading Woolrich puts you right in the middle of the glitzy part of the 1920s.
     
  15. Al 916

    Al 916 One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    228
    Location:
    GB
    40 (rather odd) years on, revisiting Mr Pirsig
     
  16. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Woolrich-a blast from the past, almost forgotten him. Believe he went out to Los Angeles to write
    at least for a time. Along with Fitzgerald, a proven product but I thought him somewhat below the
    varsity letters pecking order as compared to F-Scott.

    Off-topic, bye-the-bye trapsing around YouTube and came across a few snippets of Ingrid Bergman
    in Casablanca. Her beauty always overwhelms. What an exquisite woman, and my admiration for Rick
    being able to do the right noble thing, all the more so. Films, like books that make a man think are priceless,
    simply beyond mere mortal measure.:)
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  17. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,185
    Location:
    New York City
    Woolrich, at least in this one book, covers the same territory of F. Scott, but as you note, Woolrich is not in F. Scott's literary class.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2021
  18. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Recent water cooler talk about F Scott and Gatsby, comparing Redford to Leo what's-his-name?
    Haven't seen the newer flick but Redford seemed to have caught the character well enough for my money
    anyway. Haven't seen flick or read book in ages, long time no see Woolrich or any lost generation hacks.
    Intriguing time in history but amazed the other day how Jay Gatsby is still alive and well despite his date
    with a .38, or was it a .45? ;)

    Picked up this afternoon: Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year and ashamed to say eagerly looking
    forward to it, will relish reading this classic.
     
  19. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,185
    Location:
    New York City
    I've seen both versions of the movie and, for me, it was the style differences more than the actors that defined the two efforts.

    The '13 version was a super-amped-up mashup of a movie and a music video that, IMO, was style over substance. It was so loud, glitzy and frenetic, I'm not sure I'd have even followed the story in this version if I hadn't known it going in.

    Conversely, the '74 version was so faithful to the book, it moved too slowly for a movie, but was impressive in its devotion to its source material.

    There's also a '49 version out there, but I've never seen it. Hopefully, it will pop up on TCM or somewhere one day.
     
  20. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    A '49 version? Spill the beans about it....waita sec...was Alan Ladd in 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.