Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame is a whisker thin novel but one of the most important books I've ever read.LOL. Maybe by Halloween.
I was dumbstruck to see that it is almost 1,500 pages long. I thought I had conquered Everest when I finished War and Peace (1,200 pages). Alas, No.
On the other hand, if you go by the Amazon reviews, the book is a stunningly moving revelation and positively one of the top five ever written. At page 20. So far, so good.
Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame is a whisker thin novel but one of the most important books I've ever read.
I feel the same way. It's one of the "classics" I've read that I still think about regularly. The "sanctuary" scene is one of the most-powerful scenes I've ever read.
"The movie and book are both good, but the movie gets the nod." Well-put.View attachment 524360
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, originally published in 1933
The 1934 movie version of the mystery/detective novel The Thin Man is so famous that there is all but no way to read the book itself with a tabula rasa; instead, you read it almost as a view into how Hollywood transforms a novel into a screenplay and then a movie.
Trying though, as one must, to take the book The Thin Man on its own, it holds up well, but it is still in total, a bit of a lesser effort than its movie version.
Hammett's writing has an almost Hemingwayesque sparceness that keeps the story moving along. Plus the charmingly playful relationship between the lead character Nick Charles and his wife Nora makes the novel equal parts detective story and light comedy.
The detective story, however, is the ostensible plot of the book and, just like in the movie, it's confusing as heck with a lot of players, feints, clues and tangles. Good for you if you figure it out, but even if you don't (like I didn't) the ride is the real fun here.
Nick Charles, a handsome and suave former private detective, is married to Nora, a wealthy, pretty and young socialite. They live in San Francisco where Nick looks after Nora's extensive inherited business interests.
In this one, Hammett's first entry in the series, his fun-loving married couple, along with their spirited wire-haired fox terrier, Asta, is currently visiting Nick's former stomping ground, New York City.
Here, some of Nick's old and not-social-register friends - a collection of cops, gangsters, general scammers, a dicey lawyer and some nouveau riche - try to rope Nick into helping solve the murder of the estranged wife of one of Nick's prior acquaintances.
You can try and follow the complex murder mystery, which includes a cat's cradle of lovers, angry offspring, former spouses, a bigamist, swindlers, the mob, an oddball inventor and a few other picaresque characters, or just enjoy the fun personalities.
If you do the latter, front and center will be Nick and Nora. This is a married couple that likes each other, but they also have fun ribbing each other. Nora also loves Nick's Runyonesque circle, a far cry from the social registry world, we assume, she grew up in.
Gangsters, gamblers, gunmols, "speaks," gold diggers, "joints," bounders, "flatfoots," police interrogations and more are all a new circus that Nora looks at with amazement, but without condescension.
Nick equally appreciates that his well-bred wife has a taste for the "colorful" side of life. When the ribbing gets going, she gives as good as she gets. This is a couple in love who doesn't make you want to puke; instead, you want to hang out with them.
It helps that, with Nora's money, they live a very comfortable lifestyle of doormen, Pullman coaches, taxicabs, penthouses, fine attire and, of course, cocktails at all hours, especially since their regular schedule has them waking at midday and going to bed at dawn.
The narrative itself is an equal mix of mystery and fun. Nick and Nora become part of the investigation, but it has a lighthearted romp feel as, with their odd assortment of friends and hanger-oners, they get into harmless and not-harmless scrapes along the way.
The movie and book are both good, but the movie gets the nod. The book doesn't have enough descriptions of the settings, milieu and New York itself to make it come as alive as it does on screen. In the book, it sometimes feels like the story is just "floating" somewhere.
Hammett describes something once in his novel and then is done describing that place or person forever. It asks a lot of the reader to carry all that in his/her head throughout the story, especially as the reader is busy trying to untangle a complex mystery.
Throughout the movie, though, you see Nick and Nora, dressed to the nines, going to atmosphere-rich nightclubs, dives, murder scenes and elsewhere as they interact with Nick's motley collection of "associates."
With on-screen Nick and Nora shooting each other telling looks, while Nora, played wonderfully by Myrna Loy, occasionally wrinkles her cute nose, the movie provides a visual engagement that Hammett's terse descriptions can't match.
The Thin Man story is fun as both a book and movie because Hammett created an irresistible pair of "detectives" who also have one of the best ever fictional marriages. It's just a quirk of media that his literary creation found its fullest expression on the screen and not the page.
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"The movie and book are both good, but the movie gets the nod." Well-put.
As avid fans of the Powell-Loy film series, the Missus and I decided to read the book. I read it aloud of an evening, and we both found it talky, with a grip-load of people, places, and things to keep track of. My mantra, "the book was better," was deflated by an otherwise fun read.