What Are You Reading

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

  1. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    I also read Schrum ditto Lizzie, and sated my innate curiosity as to the Boyz rather latent awakening to this
    demographic national cultural female force. Excellent review.
     
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  2. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens originally published in 1843


    I first read A Christmas Carol many, many years ago and have seen so many movie versions of the story since, it's hard to read the book in a fresh way, but a few things jumped out at me in this go through.

    While the Victorians were no strangers to Christmas ghost stories, they all but invented the genre, A Christmas Carol must have seemed incredibly fresh and daring when it came out.

    You can't swing a dead cat and not hit a ghost in A Christmas Carol. And these are not amorphous apparitions skulking around in the background; no, these are confident ghosts with purpose.

    Be it Scrooge's former partner, Marley, from the counting house, sentenced to an afterlife in purgatory dragging the chains of his greed around for eternity or the well-fed ghost of Christmas present, they are all clearly formed spirits delivering a Christian message to Scrooge, and all of us, in a four-team ghost relay race.

    After the ghost of Marley comes to show Scrooge what life will be like for him if he doesn't mend his ways, the ghost of Christmas past arrives to remind Scrooge of his earlier life when Scrooge had youthful hopes, aspirations, kindness and joy still in his heart.

    Next up is the aforementioned ghost of Christmas present whose purpose is to show Scrooge both the misery and joy around him that he ignores in his insular mental and physical world of obsessively counting money and economizing on everything to no logical end.

    Finally, we get the ghost of Christmas yet to come, who shows Scrooge how his own death will be a bleak and lonely one met with only derision and indifference as he made no real friends and had pushed all his family away.

    After the ghosts, it's the big transformation scene where Scrooge, with the bejesus now scared out of him, becomes generous of heart and pocketbook as he pledges to "keep Christmas" all year round. His infectious joy is the emotional, spiritual and Christian payoff Dickens has been building to from page one.

    A Christmas Carol is wonderful. It's also propaganda whose characters are cartoons rather than flesh and blood humans. Yet exaggeration has its place in making points as Dickens did to great effect in his classic tale of greed and charity.

    The other thing that struck me on this read is how incredibly faithful to the book many of the movie versions - especially, two of the classic earlier ones (from 1938 and 1951) - have been.

    A Christmas Carol has also been riffed on countless times (check out 1961's Cash on Demand for a wonderfully understated British take, comments on the movie here: #27268), but as a compliment to the strength of Dickens' story, many movie makers scrupulously adhere to the plot, descriptions and dialogue in the book.

    With "original source material" from Charles Dickens, why wouldn't a smart director just take what's there and put it on screen? It's the same reason reading it today is still rewarding. Despite having saturated our culture and being almost two-hundred-years old, A Christmas Carol is still a relatable, relevant, fun and fast Christmas-time read.
     
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  3. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Sim or Scott as Scrooge....:)
     
  4. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Both good, but it's Sim for me. I also really like Reginald Owen in the '38 version.
     
  5. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies originally published in 1947


    I found this book by way of its famous movie, which apparently, according to the author in the book's forward, is also how the story made it to a book. Author Davies explains that he first wrote the story for Hollywood; a story adapted by the movie's screenwriter and director, George Seaton. Only after its success, did Davis then write a novel version of his Christmas-time tale.

    With that birthing, it's no surprise the book hews closely to the movie, but there are still some enhanced scenes and nuanced differences that, along with all its core Christmas charm, make it a fun holiday read.

    The book also showcases the humor better than the movie as there are a surprising number of funny lines that almost get lost in the on-screen flow. Conversely, Edmund Gwenn's iconic portrayal of Santa in the movie creates a more empathetic and enjoyable Santa than the, still, very good one in the book.

    The basic story, as noted, is the same. An old man who looks and talks like Kris Kringle, which he claims is his real name, becomes Macy's Christmas store Santa, bringing a spirit of holiday charity, camaraderie, good will and faith that's often lost amidst the season's relentless commercialization.

    He even begins to win over one of the store's managers, a pragmatic single mom raising her daughter to think "rationally" and not believe in silliness like Christmas. This view is rebuked by her handsome, single, lawyer neighbor who has been unsuccessfully trying to woo her.

    When the store's jealous, petty and narrow-minded therapist gets Kris committed to a mental hospital, a very public trial is held to determine if Kris is crazy. All the good-hearted people want Kris judged sane. Even the trial judge, owing to his upcoming election, is trying to find a way to rule accordingly. Only the store's therapist, the State's attorney general and few mean-spirited people are hoping otherwise.

    (Spoiler alert, if you somehow don't know this story) The judge requires the defense to produce some sort of imprimatur stating that Kris is really Santa, which seems to doom Kris. But in a wonderful moment, Kris' attorney - the store manager's single neighbor - has the Post Office deliver mailbag upon mailbag of letters addressed to Santa to Kris Kringle at the courthouse. This is an official-enough recognition for the judge to rule that Kris is, in fact, Santa.

    All rejoice; Kris is happy and the "pragmatic" store manager and her daughter become true believers in Christmas. Completing the joy, the store manager and the lawyer get engaged and buy the dream house the store manager's daughter had asked Kris to get her for Christmas.

    Miracle on 34th Street is full of charm and whimsy, but has enough humor and adult perspective to make it a fun read for kids of any age. It's a nice compliment to one of the all-time-classic Christmas movies.
     
  6. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Prowlin n' gonna pounce. ;) Absolutely adore this but never read the book. Did catch the remake
    on the fly and recall the manager's pursuer propose and get shot down. Flaming put down. Without mercy.
    Upon impact, explosion, no survivors. Man her lawyer suitor got his head handed him and his ass raked
    over the first three articles in the Constitution. And the liberals had to spin a happy ending...now I think
    the legalities could have been settled in court like an adversarial possession file over a vacation Wisconsin
    A frame and still retain some semblance of reality betwixt man and woman methinks.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2021
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  7. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    A Fitzfan, Budd Schulberg's semi-auto spiel The Disenchanted has long been bucket listed.
    Hardly simple enigma, more celebrity wolfhound, Scott remains hidden, a fallen angel with hellish demons
    drowned in Scotch and plagued by memories. Schulberg captures contemporary 1930s Hollywood
    and its studio life fenced with exclamation marks. A classic snapshot.
     
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  8. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    Finally found a good novel to read! It's The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne, set in 1930s Germany and France.

    Also reading the Pulitzer Prize winning The American People in the Great Depression by David M. Kennedy.
     
  9. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan published 2021


    Bill Furlong is a just-getting-by coal merchant in a small, struggling town in Ireland in 1985. He, his wife and five daughters, all good mass-attending Catholics, have a modest home, enough to eat and enough money to send the girls to the town's one decent school, St Margaret's. But with no margin of safety and the town and economy hurting, it could all disappear in a flash.

    Bill is (using a term from the time) a ba***rd child of a servant girl, but fortunately, the girl's employer was a kind widow who let his mother raise him in her house, even providing some extra comforts and opportunities for Bill. Adult Bill realizes that most employers would have let his mother go, which would have meant him probably having been sent to an institution to be raised.

    Bill's wife, Eileen, is a hard-working housewife whose non-stop efforts and relentless thrift keeps the family budget balanced despite their modest income and the demands of raising five girls. She's a kind but no-nonsense mother and wife who believes you have to take care of your family first.

    On one of Bill's regular deliveries of coal to the local convent, he discovers a scared and cold child who was, apparently, locked in the coal bin overnight. The young girl begs him to take her away, help her find her baby or drop her off at the river so she can drown herself. Bill, stunned and confused, turns the child over to the nuns.

    Troubled by the event, on Bill's next delivery to the convent, he checks the bin only to find a different child in there. The Mother Superior, with a chilling professional smoothness, takes the child from Bill and presents a picture of a caring institution. She even invites Bill in for tea. Bill is polite but asks enough questions to put the Mother on her guard. Bill has seen through the facade, but what can he do?

    The convent, we learn, only by hint as the town is scared to face the reality, is one of the notorious Magdalen "laundries." These Catholic institutions took in young, single mothers and sold their babies to wealthy families looking to adopt. They, also, kept the young, and usually disowned by their families, mothers themselves in abusive servitude.

    As Christmas approaches, Bill's family focuses on decorating the tree, buying a few modest gifts, making cake for the holiday and attending Christmas Mass, but Bill is troubled by what he's discovered about the convent.

    Revealing the power of the convent, even Bill's seemingly innocuous encounter with the Mother Superior has made it to the town's rumor mill where a well-intentioned shop owner warns Bill not to cross the convent for the good of Bill's family.

    On Christmas Eve, Bill is struggling to balance the true meaning of his faith, his family's fragile security, his wife's and the town's urging to "mind his own business," how an act of kindness allowed him to have a good upbringing and how possibly "doing something" for the girl at the convent could bring his family's world crashing down.

    (Spoiler alert) Late on Christmas Eve, Bill goes to the convent and takes the girl away. As the book closes, he is walking her into his home knowing he and his family might pay a great price for this act of Christian kindness.

    In Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan has penned a short, poignant tale contrasting the warped and evil Christianity inside the Magdalen laundries with how that same Christianity prompted a man to risk his and his entire family's security to save the life of one young girl. It's not a traditional one, but there's a powerful Christmas message in Keegan's story.
     
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  10. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    ^I've heard of this apostasy and followed review with a quickly thrown net.
    Absolutely disgusting. Criminal charges should have been leveled, excommunication.
    Seems several documentaries and films resulted. May check out. :(:mad::eek::oops:o_O:confused::mad::(
     
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  11. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    The Hustler by Walter Tevis first published in 1959


    "To play pool you had to want to win and to want this without excuses and without self-deception. Only then did you have a right to love the game itself. And this reached down further. It seemed to Eddie now, sitting in Bert's car, his body sore and his mind tremendously aware that the need to win was everywhere in life, in every act, in every conversation, in every encounter between people. And the idea had become for him a kind of touchstone - or a key to the meaning of experience in the world." - From The Hustler by Walter Tevis

    "Life's a gamble" - Muhammad Ali


    Almost every decision in life, whether one chooses to acknowledge it or not, is a gamble. Even the "safest" ones are a gamble. Going to college is a gamble that the cost of tuition, loss of income and the knowledge gained will reward you with higher pay and/or a more-fulfilling life.

    Start a business and you'll learn about the gamble of capitalism. Join a union and you forgo certain freedoms in your career for the "safety" of the union contract, but you're gambling the union won't fail and/or its contract won't be abrogated (both have happened many times). Marriage, kids, smoking, drugs, spending-versus-savings, what you eat, where you live and most every other decision are all gambles.

    In The Hustler, this reality is forced on pool hustler Eddie Felson. Unable to hide in the fictions most people tell themselves, he lives by gambling on his own skills in the very shady world of "professional" pool where failure is clear when you lose the game and the bet. But Eddie still tries very hard to lie to himself.

    After we see Eddie and his manager hustle some money in a pool hall on their way to Chicago, Eddie gets into the game of his career against the de facto reigning pool champion Minnesota Fats.

    Eddie takes a huge lead in this forty-hour marathon match, fueled by cigarettes and alcohol. But then Eddie cracks in some way. His game slips, but his ego or something won't let him stop playing, so he ends up losing, not only what he had won initially, but his entire bankroll.

    The next morning, shattered and unable to face the reality of what he did, Eddie takes his few possessions, leaves his manager for good and heads over to the bus station to stash all his worldly possessions in a locker. There he picks up a sad, lonely, slightly crippled (using the term of that time), slightly pretty, more-than-slightly alcoholic young woman, Sarah. He immediately moves into her apartment.

    There's one more step down in Eddie's professional fall. Playing in a run-down pool hall, his anger and ego have him aggressively beat a man he hustled into a game. The strategy in hustling is, initially, to play just mediocre enough to get someone to want to play for money against you and, then, you play just good enough to win, but not to show how truly talented you are as, if you did, your opponent would know he'd been hustled.

    Stupidly allowing himself to be exposed as a hustler, the friends of the man he beat break Eddie's thumbs leaving him, for the time being, without a way to make a living and wondering if he'll ever regain the skill that makes him special. Now Eddie has hit rock bottom - mentally and physically. But still, Eddie either doesn't or can't see why he lost to Minnesota Fats, so he continues to make excuses to himself.

    His comeback is also both physical - retraining his hands to play - and mental - he has to learn, emotionally and strategically, how to play the game against the best. Enter Burt, a card shark and manager of pool players who offers his services to Eddie (for a huge cut).

    It's from taciturn, gnomic and shady Burt that Eddie begins to understand that he lost to Minnesota Fats because of what Burt calls "character." In the world of professional gambling, character, for Burt and, eventually, Eddie is all about winning.

    You have to want to win - and fight the urge to make excuses for your losing - so badly that it becomes the only thing you know. Deep in a game, when you are mentally and physically exhausted, you push all that pain away because you want to win. At the highest level of play, where everyone has incredible physical skills, it is character - the desire to win - that makes a champion.

    With this new understanding of the game, (spoiler alert) Eddie challenges Minnesota Fats once more. This time, at that crucial moment in the match, when losing is mentally and physically easier - all you have to do is make some excuse to yourself - Eddie pulls it all together and wins.

    But this is no happy redemption story wrapped around a comeback sports story. What does a "win at everything" philosophy do to someone? Eddie realizes or convinces himself that Sarah, whom he loves, is "a loser," so he breaks up with her. Sarah, who had polio as a kid and was left with a limp, is struggling as a writer and needs love and kindness, but to this new Eddie, she's not "a winner," so he leaves her. He doesn't want her stink of loser to rub off on him.

    All absolutist philosophies have costs and flaws. A philosophy for winning at all costs at pool, brought into your personal life, leaves no room for love and kindness. Maybe Eddie needs an absolutist view to be the best pool player - he can't turn his singular focus on in the pool hall and off in his personal life - but it will make for a sad existence.

    Burt, an odd foil to Eddie, is also singularly and successfully focused on winning at cards and pool, but he, somehow, is able to turn it off with his wife and two kids - some can and some can't. Muhammad Ali was right; life is a gamble; how you handle it - with a singular focus on winning or with balance - determines the type of life you'll have.

    The Hustler packs a lot of street-level philosophy into a tight, short novel that brings the seediness, yet intensity and competition, of professional pool in the 1950s to life. From the chalk dust in the facial crevices of the players to the sounds the balls make smacking off each other, author Walter Tevis drops you right in the middle of the pool hall. It's a tough world that, in The Hustler, Tevis turns into a microcosm of life itself.


    N.B. #1 The outstanding movie, The Hustler (comments here: #29458) departs from the book in several key ways, which maybe, was necessary for the dramatic demands of telling a story on film, but of the two, the novel rings truer and more consistent to its own story.

    N.B #2 It was after reading The Hustler, I discovered that author Walter Tevis also wrote The Queen's Gambit, which was only recently turned into an outstanding TV mini-series.
     
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  12. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Caught The Hustler; inside of all places, senior theology class taught by a portly
    Christian Brothers of Ireland whom often showed films to prove demonstrable temporal
    application of abstract theological concepts. Since I love movies this was absolutely fine
    with me but reading the above review I wish the book had been assigned instead.

    I have read The Queen's Gambit and Tevis scratched out a paycheck, penning a passable
    novel which in the hands of a truly inspired soul could have been crafted much better.
    He recalls Richard Jessup's The Cincinnati Kid, catchy title but really more bark than bite
    with not much meat on the bone. A studio script doctor surgically adapted Kid for the
    screen and the resultant product was damned good. Haven't seen Gambit so that's that.

    Tevis probably knew more billiards than chess and applied himself more to the actual
    writing of The Hustler, delving deeply and thoughtfully through his characters in manner
    seemingly forgotten with The Queen's Gambit.
     
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  13. clementishutin

    clementishutin New in Town

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    Reading the lord of the rings again.
     
  14. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Call Me a Cab

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    “Cruise of the Lanikai” by Kemp Tolley. In December 1941, in the Philippines, Tolley was awarded command of his first vessel: a 76 foot two masted schooner named Lanikai. His mission would have been to cruise southeast Asian waters and report back on Japanese presence in various locations. However that mission never materialized because the Japanese attacked the Philippines just as he was taking command. Instead, he made a run for it, navigating 4,000 miles through enemy infested waters to escape to Australia, with many adventures along the way. Unfortunately, the author spends the first 115 pages analyzing why the Philippines were lost. Also, the writing style is a little laborious. I’m just now getting to the part where the schooner makes a dash for it, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to stick with it to the end. Pity. The tale had the potential to be a good WWII South Seas yarn.
     
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  15. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    The late historian Gordon Prange author of At Dawn We Slept believed Tolley a suicide skipper,
    Lanikai and crew expendable by order of FDR. Or at least such hypothesis recognized.

    But cruel are the times when we are traitors
    And do not know ourselves; when we hold rumor
    From what we fear, yet know not what we fear,
    But float upon a wild and violent sea.

    Macbeth IV; ii
     
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  16. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Call Me a Cab

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    Perhaps I was a little premature. Now that they are finally under sail, it has gotten much better (just skip the first 115 pages or so). Some of the depictions of life in that part of the world, during the last gasps of the premodern age, are very evocative. And you can picture the water rushing past the lee rail with every stitch of canvas up. Fishing lines out. Unknown aircraft buzzing them. Unknown warships on the horizon. Is that village friend or foe? Reefs, malaria, and fresh water always a concern. I also appreciate that the author is speaking with a 1940s voice and worldview.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2022
  17. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Mark R Levin, American Marxism

    A studious work focused upon prevailing philosophical views within American society.
    At root cause for much animus concurrent thereof is a lack of appreciation for constitutional
    rights and concomitant responsibility implicit with democracy.
     
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  18. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    8,102
    Location:
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    The 2022 Pegasus runs at Gulfstream Park later this month, added card underneath, and the
    main event purse is listed at 3M; howsoever, recent track tragedies according to backstretch mill
    grist has a certain lady CEO holding the reins for cruelling ordering all mounts rode unmercifully,
    and when tragedy struck, the track itself was blamed. A trainer was banned for drug abuse for
    good measure as well, but all collective cover public relations gloss. The Saudis rescinded open
    invite Pegasus trifecta, owners pulled their prime from the race entirely, and the richest purse
    worldwide cut down $16,000,000. A mere shadow of its former self, Pegasus still qualifies as a
    winning ticket but with the Saudi Cup running in February the spotlight is shared now.

    Time to read and catch upward this game I love. :)
     
  19. Julian Shellhammer

    Julian Shellhammer Practically Family

    Messages:
    688
    Mr. Hobb's Vacation, Edward Streeter, pub. 1954. A Christmas gift from my Missus. Very similar in style and tone to Merry Christmas, Mr. Baxter. To a degree, the two "Mr."'s could be interchangeable. Personally, I came away with a bad taste in my mouth after reading of the stress and strain and unhappiness permeating the Hobb's family vacation on an east coast vacation island. Plus, the language here was a bit rougher than 1956's MCMB, and grandchildren, in both books, are not enjoyable.
    NB: I have not seen the movie based upon the book.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2022 at 3:03 AM

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