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What Are You Reading

Tiki Tom

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Plenty of tongue in cheek humor in Elizabeth Bennet’s dialogue. Some subtle making fun of the upper crust class system. Still, the plot boils down to getting your daughters well married, as that was the only “career” open to them circa 1810.
Very amusing comedy of manners. And, oh, what exquisite manners! And I almost understand why women still swoon over Mr Darcy to this very day. The book is very well written and deserves to be ranked a classic. Very keen descriptions of very nuanced feelings and personalities. Reading this right after reading the witches of Eastwick was very fortuitous. I may be mistaken, but I think both mindsets are still fairly common today.
 
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FOXTROT LAMONT

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.
And, oh, what exquisite manners! And I almost understand why women still swoon over Mr Darcy to this very day. Very keen descriptions of very nuanced feelings and personalities. Reading this right after reading the witches of Eastwick was very fortuitous. I may be mistaken, but I think both mindsets are still fairly common today.
Jane is a blood relation distanced by time but as close as the Moon reflected inside a bowl of water.
A spinster and not quite as gay a personality as mistakenly assumed, Jane is a heirloom both complexing and embittered.
Most of her personal papers were tossed to family hearth immolate so she remains a cipher.
Poor Mr Darcy the audacious bachelor moves in the neighbourhood so is immediately considered fair game for
matrimonial abduction. ;)
 

Tiki Tom

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Jane is a blood relation distanced by time but as close as the Moon reflected inside a bowl of water.
A spinster and not quite as gay a personality as mistakenly assumed, Jane is a heirloom both complexing and embittered.
Most of her personal papers were tossed to family hearth immolate so she remains a cipher.
Poor Mr Darcy the audacious bachelor moves in the neighbourhood so is immediately considered fair game for
matrimonial abduction. ;)

Still a little surprised by the Mr Darcy phenomenon. Amazing how there is a full blown cult about him, and women still swoon when you mention his name. Latest funny news on that topic, which I saw today…

https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-68415018
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

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I remarked earlier in the MOVIES forum how young women desire realism over the tosh correctness shown today's
film, and, I suppose literature. Jane sinks the hook with her imagined bait a sure bet win. Her virginity is assumed
kept keepsake dower left unclaimed. Salacious script hinted or imagined not burned to sake agenda reaps gold.
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

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HL Mencken's The American Language came today. I cut away its postal envelope to dig right in while
attendance a cheeseburger piled high with everything next to a plateful of fries and a bottle of ketchup.
Ms Elizabeth told tale by prose magic and I concur with Mencken about America dragging English away from Britain.
Top shelf, absolutely what I wanted. :)
 

Tiki Tom

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Just finished The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Actually, it was pretty good. Did not think I’d like it, but after a couple of chapters, I got into the spirit of the thing. Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, and The Hobbit reads a little like a myth or legend from the dark ages. It is quite an adventure story and it is satisfying to watch Bilbo Baggins slowly transform from a reluctant, comfortable couch-potato into an adventurer/warrior/leader. It is well written and entertaining. At first I said “not my cup of tea, and I doubt I’ll ever read Lord of the Rings.” Now I am open to the possibility that, at some point in the future, I might pick up Lord of the Rings.
 
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The Lonely Girl by Edna O'Brien originally published in 1962


The Lonely Girl is the second book in Edna O'Brien's trilogy The Country Girls that sees the two rural Irish girls from the first book, now late teenagers, living in Dublin. You'll want to start, though, with that first book, The Country Girls (see comments here: #9,093 ).

The beauty of O'Brien's writing is its sincerity and ability to put you in a time and place very far from present day. Ireland of the late 1950s/early 1960s comes alive in O'Brien's skilled hands as do her real, flawed and honest characters.

After meeting Kate and Baba as rural girls in the first book, in The Lonely Girl, they are trying to adjust to living in a city, which has norms and social rules that are foreign to them. The more-cultured people, too, seem out of reach to these poorly educated girls.

Kate is the book's focus as the girl from a dysfunctional home, who received erratic schooling, but much Catholic doctrine. Working in a grocery and pulled into Dublin's nightlife by the gregarious, too-confident and scheming Baba, Kate is trying to get her city sea legs.

Kate is a smart, shy girl who lacks the education that would have opened up her world. Baba opens up Baba's world on her own through trial and error where she learns about life at the street level, but Kate doesn't function that way.

So Kate quickly gets involved with a sophisticated older man, Eugene. Yes, there are some "daddy issues" at work here. He also, though, has the things Kate intuitively wants - culture and education - but that she doesn't know how to get.

Most of the novel is following the arc of Kate's relationship with Eugene. It begins with the early and fun start of their love affair as their sexual relationship - Kate's first - develops very slowly.

The problems of a cultured, middle-aged man from the upper-class living with a much younger, poorly educated girl from the rural lower class, of course, follow in time, especially in a Catholic country that views their unmarried status as sinful.

The climax, no spoilers coming, sees the relationship at a crisis. Will they overcome the challenges of their age and social-status differences or will their affair become just a chapter in each one's life?

This straightforward tale works because O'Brien brings Kate to life. As the narrator, Kate is unreliable, not because she's deceptive, but because she's an emotional teenager telling her story in real time, without any distance to provide perspective.

That is what makes it feel raw, but real. Few of us were ever a teenage girl in Ireland in the late 1950s, but we all were teenagers once and we understand the emotional swings and narrow view one has of life at that young age.

We know Kate loves Eugene, but she can hate him briefly and bitterly when he shows attention to the cultured girlfriend of one of his pals. Later, she rifles through his desk trying to learn something that will let her keep him. It's raw teenage emotion on display.

Your teenage years were probably very different from Kate's, but you'll recognize yourself or your friends in her emotional swings from bratty child to reflective adult as life rushes at her too fast for her to absorb. O'Brien's talent is capturing the universal teenage experience.

The novel also works because it time travels us to an Ireland from the past. Church doctrine looms large as does a bitterness toward the English. Still, many of the young have had their fill of both of those ideas and just want to live life. It's specific, yet timeless.

The Lonely Girl is a quick page-turner that, for fans of the trilogy's first book, lets you visit with old friends as they take the next step in life's journey. After that, it's on to the intriguingly titled final installment of the adventures of Kate and Baba, Girls in Their Married Bliss.


N.B. The Lonely Girl was turned into the excellent 1964 movie Girl with Green Eyes, with Rita Tushingham, Peter Finch and Linda Redgrave. Comments on the movie here: #31,356 .
 
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Love Like The Falling Petals by Keisuke Uyama published in Japan in 2017 and released with an English translation in 2024


Love Like The Falling Petals is a contemporary romantic novel written by the popular Japanese author Keisuke Uyama that takes the reader on a heartbreaking but inspiring journey of love, loss, sickness and hope.

For American and European readers, it is also a wonderful window into modern Japanese culture, which has throwback characteristics that will be familiar to readers of classic early twentieth century Japanese literature like the noted Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki.

For a young man, Haruto, it is love at first sight when he sees Misaki, the also young and just-starting-out hairstylist who slices his earlobe the first time she cuts his hair. From this inauspicious start, these two shy people hesitantly and awkwardly begin dating.

Unfortunately, Haruto, ashamed of his job as a clerk in a video rental store (who knew they still had those in Japan in 2017?), tells Misaki he's an up-and-coming photographer. Photography is his passion, but the job part is a lie he'll eventually and embarrassingly have to admit.

Misaki, who was orphaned at a young age and raised by her kind older brother, is realizing her dream to be a hairdresser. To her, it's a form of art that she can use to make people feel better about themselves.

Author Uyama beautifully captures the charming haltingness of Haruto and Misaki's aborning love. A trip to see the Cherry Blossom trees has logistical challenges, but they don't matter because just being together, as all young lovers know, is the point.

(Has there ever been a romantic novel in Japan written that doesn't include a date to see the Cherry Blossom trees in bloom?)

Haruto, when he finally confesses his lie, promises Misaki he will become the man - a successful photographer - that he said he was so that she'll be proud of him. They are two young lovers on their way to happiness until, bam!, Misaki is diagnosed with Werner Syndrome.

Colloquially known as "fast-forward disease" Misake learns she will age exceedingly rapidly and possibly die within the year. This sets up what becomes a story of separated lovers as Misaki, not wanting Haruto to see her age, breaks up with him without disclosing her illness.

The rest of the novel is Misaki coming to terms with a brutal disease that has her facing her fear of getting old and "ugly" in months not decades as Haruto tries to restart his life after his heart is broken by the breakup.

It's a sad story of love ennobling two people in very different ways especially as their lives take divergent paths. It's not always an easy book to read, but you become engaged with the characters and, often, can see the beauty amidst the heartbreak.

For non-Japanese readers, one also gets a sense of Eastern culture. Business, for instance, in Japan is much more hierarchical than in the West as Japanese bosses are almost always approached with respect while junior employees do not expect to have a voice.

The Eastern concept of "face saving" is also on display as a lot of effort will be expended to not be embarrassed publicly even over small things. "Being called out" on something is a much bigger deal in Japan than in the West.

Another different concept is that a business has a responsibility to or a relationship with a customer that goes much deeper than in countries like America. In Japan, a customer, even in a small retail transaction, is, at least on the surface, treated as more valuable than in the West.

Keisuke Uyama isn't yet a fully mature writer. His novel has some wonderful parts, but the story lacks some cohesion, as threads and characters are introduced, but then never fully developed or integrated.

Uyama is at his best capturing the inner feelings of his lead characters. You'll come to know and understand Haruto and Misaki as if they were your close friends or siblings. It's this intimacy that keeps you engaged despite the novel's shortcomings

Love Like the Falling Petals shows so much promise that Uyama will be worth watching as there might just be a great not simply good novel coming from him one day. He could, possibly, pen the next Makioka Sisters.


N.B. Of course not having read the Japanese version (and not being able to read Japanese), it's just an opinion, but the translation here feels a notch down from top-quality translations as some euphemisms and observations seem "off" to an American ear.
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

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A tough slog of a work week, what with all stuffed inside the world basket.

Keeneland opens today while the Derby preps scattered but sure-handles, so I looked in on the Ashland Stakes.
Absolutely packed taut parity like sardines. Couldn't draw a bead for the keyes. Settled a superfects buckshot like some gameskeeper hunting rabbits but my noggins gone numb. 1, 6, 7, 8 on the Four lowballed a trey.
Fish&Chips.:(
 
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Re: Love like falling petals, I will definitely show that to my wife, who is enamored with all things Japanese. Thanks.

I enjoy the Japanese culture, too, but I'm sure she's way ahead of me. I'm also sure she's read a lot of Junichiro Tanizaki's books, like "The Makioka Sisters." On the movie side, I'd recommend hunting out almost anything by writer/director Yasujiro Ozu, but I'd bet she knows that too. Please tell her to keep her expectations low if she reads "...Falling petals," as it's nowhere near the class of Tanizaki. Netflix turned "...Falling Petals" into a movie, but I couldn't make it past twenty minutes.
 
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If Winter Comes by A.S.M Hutchinson originally published in 1921


The benefit of old novels today is both their entertainment value - novels are written to be enjoyed - and their window into a past era free of modern biases and agendas. Yes, they have their own era's biases and agendas, but that, too, provides a window into the past.

If Winter Comes is an engaging tale about a man of his time, but one who doesn't quite fit into his time. Mark Sabre is an Englishman when that meant something very specific, but he's too introspective and unwilling to just "go along" to truly fit the mold.

His time, the decades just before and then during World War I, challenged England to look hard at itself and its Empire. We know now that it would take another world war to end that Empire, but WWI was an early domino falling.

Sabre works for a publisher of textbooks, but he's not truly liked at work because he challenges the conventional views too much. After his relationship with his one true love stumbles, he marries a traditional English woman on the rebound.

Most of the book is a look at upper-middle-class England - the merchants and the well-paid salary men - that existed a level below the peerage. They were the vanguard of the “new“ England as the industrial revolution shifted wealth from land to commerce.

Sabre, though, fits neatly into no world. If there is an argument on any big issue - suffragettes, defense spending - or small ones - local zoning rules - he sees both sides of the argument so well that he rarely can decide himself.

It's honorable that he genuinely looks for the truth, but man would still be debating if this new thing called "fire" should be used to cook food or keep us warm if only the Sabres of the world existed.

It's this absolute belief in looking at every angle of an argument and a belief that there is one true justice that eventually gets Sabre into trouble as compromise and even some hypocrisy is the oil that keeps society moving forward.

Most of the book is seeing this good, kind man slowly start to lose his standing at work and at home. His wife is angered by what she sees as his obstinacy to conform to social conventions, especially in England that, at that time, will only bend so far.

Then the war hits and everything eventually snaps for Sabre. The country is stressed as a war it thought it would win in months drags on for years, with a horrific body count of young men.

When the war is nearly all over is when Sabre has to endure a personal war as those who tolerated him at work and at home before the war, now use his integrity against him to try to destroy him.

It's excruciating to see his enemies attempt to crush him as they use the construct of the law and the equally powerful construct of social norms against his forgiving nature. It's the butterfly on the wheel and it's awful to see, but maybe not final.

What is author A. S. M Hutchinson saying? Is Sabre a surrogate for England - an honorable England being undone by arrogance and comfort; an England that traded its values for wealth and security? Hutchinson puts a lot out there for the reader to consider.

Hutchinson is at his best in playing small ball. He sees and understands the intricacies of how people think to themselves as well as the minute gestures and nuances that drive relationships. He has a talent for making his characters come alive.

His writing style, though, is inconsistent. One assumes it's intentional, but he jarringly changes the narrator a few times, while sometimes wandering away from the story's plot to discuss nature or some philosophical issue.

These meanderings are mainly interesting and, for the most part, the story is a good yarn that has you turning the pages, but it does sometimes drive into an odd cul de sac. It's a fast read, but could still have benefitted from some smart pruning.

If Winter Comes was a hugely popular novel that was turned into a play and, then, into a movie twice, once in 1923 and again in 1947. Largely forgotten today, it still provides an insightful look into the past. Plus, it's still a pretty darn good read.


N.B. Comments on MGM's 1947 movie version here: #31,402
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

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Busted flush yesterday. I did avail value win/place bets at #3 & #4; with a #3 header superfecta, close but nicht cigar. After a full night's sleep I handicapped the Blue Grass; Wood; Santa Anita Oaks and Derby for today.
Percentage play and track bias shirtfront poker.:cool:
A lousy dart session. Aside some bad price win/place bob, Aqueduct and Keeneland scratches and a usually favourable Santa Anita turned rough, nothing thrown hit the cork. Newman, Paul not the dear late cardinal eminence, said it best, ''the balls roll funny for everyone.'' The Colour of Money-a fine film of billiards.
Methinks this East Ender does the lunar eclipse queered the pitch some.:mad:
 
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Ex-Wife by Ursula Parrott originally published in 1929


It is striking how late twentieth century Ex-Wife feels. Adjusted for some cultural norms, Ms. Parrott's tale of a young divorcee living in New York City in the 1920s, could have been written in the 1980s or 1990s.

Those latter two decades saw young women, with well-paying jobs, explore sexual freedom in New York City with a joie de vivre that was captured well, albeit with camp, in the TV show Sex and the City. After that, our modern culture wars turned the wheel away from fun.

Apparently, back in Jazz Age/flapper/Prohibition New York City, young women also worked, drank, partied and slept around with little shame according to Ms. Parrott's semi-autobiographical account of "Pat," an early-twenties divorcee.

We first see Pat and Peter's marriage fall apart: he cheated, she revenge cheated and he did not see that as evening the score at all. Pat then carves out a life as a separated and then divorced young woman.

This is where Ex-Wife kicks into modern gear. Pat, now alone, focusess, by day, on her job as a senior advertising copywriter at a department store. She finds she can do quite well, especially with some freelance work on the side.

But at night, Pat and her new female roommate - who live in a quite-nice two-bedroom, two-bath apartment - party like it's the 1980s or, well, the 1920s. They go out to dinner, shows, clubs and "speaks" most nights, often with different men.

Pat isn't sleeping with all of them, but enough that she admits, five years later, she can't really keep track (which was the plot of a Sex and the City episode six decades later). Pat understands that some will see her as "promiscuous," but she knows she's not atypical for her group.

Was she typical for the average American girl in the 1920s? Probably not, as having a high-paying job, being a young divorcee (you can only save yourself once for marriage) and living in a sexually amped up city wasn't the average American girl experience.

Parrott's writing style has a casual moderness to it, note the blunt title. Also, her characters speak with very little of the fussiness one often reads in other books from the era. Again, one wonders how much of that was specific to New York City and not the entire country.

The story gets a bit far-fetched toward the end leaving one to wonder if Parrott took liberties with her own doppelganger story or if there really was a pretty unbelievable twist. It doesn't really matter, though, as the plot is the least important part of Ex-Wife.

What matters is its reveal of a surprisingly modern way of thinking - and talking - in the 1920s. Here, a young woman works hard at a demanding job so she can, yes, pay her rent, but also buy a lot - a whole lot - of clothes and go out partying nearly every night.

Many women out of college in the 1980s and 1990s in New York City did the same thing. After a few years, the successful ones, like Parrott/Pat, started earning good money and spent it on wardrobes and having fun. Again, think Carrie from Sex and the City and all of her shoes.

The women in Parrott's circle also talked frankly about sex. While it's not quite the graphic crudeness of Sex and the City, it's closer to that than the "we don't even use the word 'sex'" reserve seen in movies made under the Motion Picture Production Code.

Even the "my marriage failed, do I need a man to complete myself" theme of Ex-Wife echoes the 1980s/90s. Many young girls, then, had cohabitation relationships that failed. They, like our heroine Pat, were also rethinking their life goals and expectations.

Ex-Wife is incredible time travel to the 1920s. From "girls lunch" at the Waldorf, to the ubiquitous bootleg alcohol, to everyone trying to escape the heat of the summer in pre-air conditioned New York, you experience the city in a Jazz Age way.

Parrott is no Faulkner or Fitzgerald, but she has a writer's eye for detail and, in Ex-Wife, she's following the first rule of writing - write what you know. The result is a page-turner that argues 1920s New York City was surprisingly like its 1980s/90s version.


N.B. #1 One other similarity between women in the 1920s and the 1980s/90s is that Pat works out regularly to maintain her figure. She does calisthenics every morning and uses the running track on the roof of her office building. Who knew they had those in the 1920s? She also hits a commercial gym after work sometimes. It's stunningly modern.

N.B. #2 Ex-Wife was turned into the very good 1930 precode movie The Divorcee starring Norma Shearer. As is Hollywood's wont, though, a lot of the story was changed, but some of the core is still there. Plus Hollywood's version is powerful in its own way. Comments on the movie here: #31,299

N.B. #3 For fans of Fedora's fantastic thread "The Era - Day by Day" (a hat tip to @LizzieMaine), you'll recognize author Parrott as she makes the occasional appearance in the society page of The Daily News, which covers scandalous behavior of famous people. Ms. Parrott, we'll just note, was a proto-cougar.
 

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