Weird_O (Bill)'s ADD Bookyard (cubical two)
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Books Read: First Quarter 2017
January (8 read)
1. Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard (1/3/17) ROOT®
2. Kindred by Octavia Butler (1/9/17) AAC4 ROOT
3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1/11/17) ROOT®
4. Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre (1/16/17) ROOT
5. The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (1/19/17) (borrowed)®
6. The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (1/22/17) NFC January ROOT®
7. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (1/30/17) ROOT
8. On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (1/31/17) ROOT®
February (5 read)
9. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (2/5/17) ROOT
10. A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz (2/10/17) NFC--February ROOT
11. Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan (2/15/17) AAC4--February ROOT
12. Hold Still by Sally Mann (2/20/17) (borrowed)
13. The Crucible by Arthur Miller (2/23/17) ROOT
March (9 read)
14. The Bear by William Faulkner (3/1/17) ROOT (re-read)®
15. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (3/2/17) ROOT
16. Sophie's Choice by William Styron (3/12/17) AAC4 ROOT®
17. The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh (3/18/17) NFC ROOT®
18. Spotted Horses by William Faulkner (3/19/17) ROOT®
19. The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander (3/21/17) NFC ROOT®
20. A Tidewater Morning by William Styron (3/23/17) AAC4®
21. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (3/24/17)®
22. The Counterlife by Philip Roth (3/29/17) ROOT
Books Read: Second Quarter 2017
April (6 read)
23. Dispatches by Michael Herr (4/2/17) ROOT
24. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (4/5/17) ROOT®
25. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (4/8/17) ROOT®
26. William Faulkner: The Man and the Artist by Stephen B. Oates (4/13/17)
27. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (4/24/17) ROOT®
28. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (4/26/17)
May (7 read)
29. Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (5/2/17)
30. Spain in Our Hearts by Adam Hochschild (5/7/17)®
31. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (5/8/17)®
32. White Butterfly by Walter Mosley (5/14/17)®
33. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (5/24/17)
34. L. A. Confidential by James Ellroy (5/28/17)®
35. White Jazz by James Ellroy (5/31/17)
June (8 read)
36. A Separate Peace by John Knowles (6/2/17)
37. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (6/4/17)
38. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (6/5/17)
39. Sleeping Beauty by Ross Macdonald (6/9/17)®
40. The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor (6/11/17)®
41. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (6/14/17)®
42. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (6/18/17)
43. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (6/26/17)
Books Read: Third Quarter 2017
July (11 read)
44. Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson (7/1/17)
45. The Color of Water by James McBride (7/6/17)
46. Ironweed by William Kennedy (7/8/17)
47. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (7/14/17)
48. Good Will Hunting: A Screenplay by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (7/14/17)®
49. The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick (7/16/17)®
50. Old Man by William Faulkner (7/18/17)
51. Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride (7/20/17)
52. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (7/26/17)
53. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (7/31/17)
54. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (7/31/17)
To launch March, and since I was there shopping in stores flanking Goodwill, I ducked in and selected some interesting books. Ninety-seven cents each (Goodwill's everyday low price!)
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (in nice hardcover edition)
The Round House by Louise Erdrich--a dupe; one of the two will go
Love Medicine (revised edition) by Louise Erdrich
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (hc)
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell (hc)
How to Read Literature Like a Professor (revised edition) by Thomas C. Foster
Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (hc)
Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf by Oliver Sacks
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
Note, Mark, that I snagged an Alexie for AAC in whatever month.
Happy Friday, Bill! And Happy New Thread! Hooray for The Things They Carried. One of my all time favorites.
Happy New Thread, Bill.
>5 weird_O: Watched it for a fair few seconds and still keep thinking he is going to fall off.
Was just catching up on your old thread and admiring the finch beak variations from one of your reads. And then Bury my Heart and Bowling Green by Kellyann Conway. Too funny, really, with the trump quote as well, what a gas.
edited for italics!
Excellent haul, Bill! I love Oliver Sacks. And Station Eleven is a great read.
Love the gif Bill. Whenever I go to a big house I want to have a go on the bannister.
Thanks all for the new-thread happiness. Barbara, Mark, Lynda, Jim, Paul, Joe, Kim.
>7 msf59: >13 jnwelch: Yes, boys, Mr. O'Brien's book is great. I liked how he toyed with us readers: Is this true? Or not true?
>10 PaulCranswick: >15 charl08: You are welcome to drop by and ride down the banister any time. I get a thrill with each slide.
>11 LovingLit: Hi, Megan. The engaging character of Darwin's finches took me somewhat by surprise. The book is good. The other one not so much.
>12 karenmarie: Thanks, Karen. I read articles by Sacks in The New Yorker, but I haven't read any of his books. The title of Station Eleven rang a bell. "I think some people at LT liked this," I said to myself. When I got home, my faint recollection turned out to be accurate. Yay! Of course, buying a second copy of The Round House was, well... So I bought a hardcover of it just four months ago. I'll find a taker for this paperback.
# 14 The Bear by William Faulkner Finished 3/1/17
The Weird ReportTM
The Bear is quintessential Faulkner, I think. Dense prose. Fragmented timeline. Astonishingly long sentences that rush you along with surprising power, crashing headlong like wild rapids, leaving you breathless and not entirely sure you got it all. Guys doing guy stuff. Family heritage, family destiny. Culturally suppressed racial tension.
A coming of age story, it has Isaac (Ike) McCaslin at its center, although man's relationship with the land and with his fellow men is the thematic core of the story. Initially, The Bear focuses on annual two-week-long November hunts at a vast wilderness tract. The narrator reports:
Isaac is ten when he first goes on the hunt; he is chaperoned--rather...taught, coached, mentored in woods and hunting lore--by Sam Fathers, son of a Negro slave and a Chickasaw chief. Isaac learns to navigate the wilderness using a compass, then without the compass. By the third year, he's rising before the others and striking out on his own. He's motivated by tales of Old Ben, a massive, wiley old bear, a legend--hind paw damaged by a trap, carrying in his hide dozens of slugs that didn't kill him, feared by all the hunting dogs, many of which he's killed over the years.
Isaac and Sam eventually do see Ben, up close too, but neither takes a shot at him. All too soon, the hunters focus on actually bagging this bear, instead of simply trading Old Ben tales. They've got to find a dog big enough and fearless enough to track and attack the bear.
And when the deed is done, the entire annual hunt ritual collapses. Another life lesson for Isaac.
But Faulkner kept this story going, with a section that works best, I think, in the context of Go Down, Moses. The Bear has appeared in several forms, first as a story/novella, then integrated into Go Down, Moses, a collection of interrelated stories that Faulkner viewed as a novel, both versions being published in 1942. In 1955, a third version was published in Faulkner's collection of hunting stories, Big Woods. In 1958, it was published yet again in Three Famous Short Novels (the other short novels being Spotted Horses and Old Man). This is the version I re-read. (And since I now feel compelled to re-read Go Down, Moses I'll be revisiting The Bear again soon.)
Now reading Styron's Sophie's Choice. About 40% into it, and running through some familiar stuff.
The narrator, Stingo, tells of a girl, a friend from his youth, who's committed suicide in NYC, and of her remains being shipped back to her home in Virginia. Then he explains how this info has morphed into an outline for his first novel. And, of course, Stingo's outline is exactly that of Lie Down in Darkness (Styron's first novel).
Stingo and Sophie's lover Nathan discuss the work of William Faulkner. Sophie is described as having a "monumental wrestle" with The Bear. "'I would like to meet this Mr. Weel-yam Faulkner,' she said,...'and tell him that he make it every difficult for Polish people when he don't know how to finish a sentence. But oh, Stingo, how that man can write!'" (I just finished a re-read of The Bear and Sophie is so right.)
Don't read the following; it is private and personal. Haha. Actually, it's got an html code I want to save. I'm saving it here. A meaningful explanation would take too much time, use too many words.
Book: *About to reveal the secret.*Me: Ohmygosh this is it!! Character: *Not yet. But about to reveal pretty soon.* Me: *Breathes quickly. Ohmymy* Book: *Finally reveals a clue of the secret.* Me: *dies* Book:
Happy Saturday, Bill. Good review of The Bear. I was not familiar with that Faulkner title. Hope you are enjoying Sophie!
>18 weird_O: Don't want to put you off at all, Bill, but as I remember I got myself deflated by Sophie's Choice which started so wonderfully but, I thought, tailed off a little. You are right though - he sure can write.
>22 PaulCranswick: Too late, Paul. I've finished it. I do think the book went on a bit too long.
>20 msf59: I am done with Sophie, Mark, and glad of it. I want to find out more about Styron. His daughter wrote a book about him, which I am interested in. Ohhhhh, there so much to learn about.
>21 mstrust: Hi back atcha, Jennifer.
“It was a relief to be back with the bird-loving weirdos, soaking up their stand-and-stare vibe, basking in the still night air that carried not even a breath of wind.”
^Birds Art Life
Of course I thought of you...
>19 weird_O: I read it. I thought it might be a funny review. It resonated with me as I hang on and hang on for a revelation from a page-turner. And then I resent the book for it. Sometimes I get angry, and a stiff neck from being tense. I need to steer clear of page-turners!!!
Hey!!! I snowed last night. In fact, it is still snowing. First flakes at 10 pm. Sixteen+ hours later, still coming down.
Me? I'm reading The Spirit of St. Louis. Lindy is just about ready to take off. Wonder if he'll make it to Paris?
We're in the 90s all this week. Yesterday matched the record at 92 and we've got the A/C running. This is way too early.
Saw on the telly last evening that we got 14.5 inches of snow. Seems about right. The plowman came about an hour ago and plowed our long driveway. I guess we now are free to drive...eh...well, anywhere we want to. But I think I'll stay here, warm, dry, and properly fed.
Lindy is almost there.
I was going to read The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition next, but maybe I'll wait for it to warm up and the snow to melt before venturing off to Antarctica.
Hi Bill. What crazy weather eh? Lehigh was closed the past two days. That is very rare! Around dinner time this evening it was snowing again. No cars came down our street today. It looks icy out there. Perhaps the university will be open tomorrow, and I'll need to venture out. It is nice to have this break, and it confirms that I hope to retire sooner than later.
# 16. Sophie's Choice by William Styron Finished 3/12/17
The Weird ReportTM William Styron at about Stingo's age
Sophie's Choice is a deservedly famous novel by William Styron. Most obviously it is an examination of the Holocaust, in which "undesirables" of all stripes--but most prominently Jews--were rounded up by the Nazis and exterminated. But it's also the author's own "coming-of-age" story. Not every reader has embraced Styron's novel; some are angry that its story centers on the suffering of a non-Jewish victim, others that Styron, a southerner, seems to be mitigating the sins of southern slavery through juxtaposition with Nazi slavery and genocide, and still others that the narrator's efforts to shed his virginity are so explicitly presented.
Stingo, the narrator, is Styron's alter-ego, a native of Virginia's tidewater region, recently graduated from Duke following a stint in the Marines. It is 1947. He wants to be a writer, and he's moved to New York City. Settling into a rented room in Brooklyn, he's greeted by seismic activity over his head; it can only be energetic sex. Thus he meets Sophie Zawistowska and Nathan Landau. Sophie is a Polish immigrant, beautiful and shy, while Nathan is an American Jew, handsome and charming and gracious and brilliant. They are in LOVE. But then Nathan explodes in a fury against Sophie, calling her vile, profane, despicable names, accusing her of unfaithfulness, swearing he's through with her, that he's moving out. As he rages from her room to his room to her room, he pours out his rage for all to hear. A few days later, he's back, contrite, apologetic, sorry.
The full story of Sophie and Nathan comes out bit by bit. Not simply an immigrant, Sophie is a survivor of Auschwitz. She conceals the twists and turns of her experience as much as she can, as long as she can. She fabricates, she minimizes, she dissembles, she withholds details large and small. In time, we learn that her father was a virulent anti-Semitic and believed the Nazis would embrace him for his views, but the Nazis rounded up all the academics (including Sophie's father and her husband) and summarily executed them. Sophie tries to keep a low profile but ultimately is swept up with members of the Polish underground. In Auschwitz she is spared immediate extermination because she's fluent in German as well as Polish, and administration of the camp requires typists and stenographers. Her proficiency wins her assignment to the camp commandant's staff. Her proximity to the commandant prompted her attempt at a barter of her body for her son's life through a program called Lebensborn. Her offer's scorned, and she never sees her son again, never finds out what happened to him.
All of these revelations are interspersed with episodes in Sophie and Nathan's relationship, and in Stingo's relationship with them, with his father, and with his sexual desires.
Sophie's Choice is NOT a book you love, it's a book you admire, one you recognize as important, one you think about and talk about. It's the marvelous accomplishment of an extraordinary and important American writer.
Bethlehem Public Library book sale. And only four of these are duplicates of books I already own.
>32 msf59: I haven't seen the movie, Mark, but I did look at stills from it. I also watched Sophie make her choice on YouTube. I have the impression that it's the final scene, which doesn't sit right with me.
The Whistling Season - there's a modern classic you don't often see!
It's should be required reading for all teachers-to-be and was the first one chosen for our book club.
Hope you enjoy it...
>30 weird_O: Bill, I did not read your report in depth because I am still intending to read that one this month, but I saw enough positive words to make me look forward to it even more. I'll come back once I've read it and give your report more attention.
And that is quite the book haul! The four duplicates — were they deliberate or the sort of thing that keeps happening to me?
>34 m.belljackson: The Whistling Season got a fair bit of favorable comment last year when Doig was one of Mark's (msf59) American Author challenge honorees. The copy in the photo is one of the dupes. Well, if I can't fob it off on one of the kids, I'll donate it to a library for a sale--keep it in circulation.
>35 Oberon: I think I'm afraid of both, Erik. Daunted, anyway. But I couldn't pass them up.
>36 rosalita: I don't think I gave away much, Julia. Read on, read on, my friend.
Re: duplicates. CRS, as in "A Senior Moment." I'll be honest. On the 18th, I dropped by Goodwill and saw a cherry copy of Our Souls at Night; bought it for 97 cents. Four days later, on the 22nd, at the library book sale, I see a cherry copy of Our Souls at Night and say to myself, "Ooooo, I've been looking for that one." Tossed it in the bag. $3. (That banging you hear is the sound my head makes when it hits the desktop. Repeatedly.)
The Essays of E. B. White I didn't recognize without its jacket. Bah! Intruder in the Dust was a guess: "I think I have this, but it's only a buck...."
>37 mstrust: Good books AND low prices. That there stack cost me 23-and-change, including 6% sales tax.
>38 weird_O: weird_O - Or, it could be dropped off in any Teacher's Lounge!
>31 weird_O: What is it about a pile of good books that gets me so excited?
Aren't you the one, Bill, that adopted the sobriquet Weird?
Have a great Sunday dear chap.
# 19. The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander, with photos by Frank Hurley Finished 3/21/17
The Weird ReportTM
The heroics of the expedition chronicled in The Endurance extended from the expedition leader, Sir Ernest Shackleton, to its lowest-ranking team member (who surely would be Perce Blackborow, a stowaway). Twenty-eight men sailed aboard a wooden-hulled, three-masted steamship, named the Endurance, from the southernmost outpost of civilization--a whaling station on South Georgia Island--toward Antarctica. The intention was to land members of an expeditionary team that would traverse the continent and be picked up by a second ship.
Ah, but the Endurance never made landfall. Two days after leaving port, 7 Dec 1914, near the southern hemisphere's summer solstice, the ship encountered the Antarctic ice pack. Of course, once the Endurance sailed it lost all contact with civilization: no radio communication, no homing pigeons, no semaphore, no smoke signals. No one would be looking for the Endurance, either. The expedition was on its own.
For a month, the ship struggled through the ice, working its way south, closer to its intended landfall. But on 18 Jan 1915 the ice seized the Endurance, never to let her go. For ten months, the Endurance drifted with the ice pack. On 27 Oct 1915, pressure of the ice crushed the ship's hull, forcing all aboard onto the ice. The team did have almost a month to unload and salvage whatever they could; 21 Nov 1915, the ship sank. The next four months were spent on the ice, still drifting. And drifting to an extent that the team, on Shackleton's order, destroyed all the sledge dogs, fit everything they could into the three lifeboats salvaged from the Endurance and sailed to tiny Elephant Island. For the first time in more than a year, the men set their feet on solid ground. But they were far from safe. It would be another four months until they were rescued and returned to civilization.
The remarkable thing was that all 28 men survived. Stuck in perpetual winter from January 1915 through August 1916, sheltering in tents in the open during blizzards with high winds and negative double-digit temps. Everything wet—sleeping bags, clothing, boots. Shackleton selected his team members astutely and kept all hands occupied every day. He earned the respect and admiration of every man. And just as important, the men trusted and respected each other, followed orders, worked to the best of their abilities. Yes, personalities clashed; some guys were difficult, irritable and Shackleton managed to single these fellows out and minimize their contact with their principal antagonists (a tough job in such a confined environment). Together, they survived.
A feature of the book I read was the collection of photos taken during the expedition by Frank Hurley, an Australian hired primarily to capture the voyage on film. A view camera taking glass plates was Hurley's primary camera, but he also used a Kodak box camera and a motion picture camera. While on the ship, he developed his photos and soldered them into tin containers to preserve them. See a few of them, with captions from the book, in the next post.
The Crew of the Endurance
Top row: Holness and Bakewell. Second row: McNish, James, Wild, Worsley, Stephenson (above Worsley), Hudson, How, Green. Third row: Cheetham, Crean, Hussey, Greenstreet, Shackleton, Sir Daniel Gooch (who sailed as far as South Georgia as a "dog minder"), Rickinson, Hurley. Front row: Clark, Wordie, Macklin, Marston, McIlroy.
Endurance beset, full sail On the night of January 24, a lead of open water appeared ahead of the ship. "Today at 9 a.m. we hoisted all sail & got up full steam and continued to drive the engines full speed ahead until noon in the hopes of reaching the open water but all to no avail." (Lees, diary)
Shackleton and Wild stand in the left foreground; Bakewell's Winchester .30-.30 carbine (a "saddle gun" purchased in Montana) is propped beside Wild. The wood-slatted rear of the storehouse is beyond to the right. Hurley's camera equipment is in cases to the left of Shackleton. The sailors are mostly to the right.
Hurley and Shackleton sit before the entrance to their tent. Hurley (left) is skinning a penguin for fuel for the blubber stove between, which he built.
"The Wreckage Lies Around in Dismal Confusion. Wild taking a last look at the ship before she sank." (Shackleton,South) Probably taken November 14, 1915, when Wild and Hurley walked from Ocean Camp to take a look at the wreck, only seven days before she sank for good.
Hauling the James Caird
"We all followed with the heavier boat on the composite sledge. It was terrific work to keep it going. We all did our best but were practically exhausted by the time we reached the new camp, No. 4, barely 1/4 miles away" (Lees, diary). Loaded, the boats weighed as much as a ton each.
The James Caird was one of the three lifeboats from the Endeavor. After some weeks on Elephant Island, Shackleton planned a daring voyage to South Georgia to rouse assistance. Shackleton and five other sailors sailed more than 900 miles in this small boat, accomplishing the trip in less than a month. They made landfall on the west side of the largely uncharted island, but to have to sail about 140 additional miles around to the east side to reach the whaling station. Shackleton and two others instead hiked across the island to the station. The three mates stranded on the west side were rescued quickly enough, but fetching those on Elephant Island took considerably longer.
Launching the Caird
As we were getting her of the beach a heavy surf came up & owing to us being unable to get her up of the beach she almost capsised as it was she emptyed Myself & Vincent overboard."
Skinning penguins. "With the little stock of seal meat and the provisions we already have one penguin per day between every two men would be quite sufficient. That is eleven penguins per day for the whole party or a total of about 1300 birds for the period May-August inclusive. At present we are merely living from hand to mouth and have as yet only a very small reserve." (Lees, diary)
Rescuing the crew from Elephant Island
"30 August—Wednesday—Day of Wonders." (Hurley, diary)
# 17 The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles A. Lindbergh Finished 3/18/17
The Weird ReportTM
Charles Lindbergh was a young man with ambition and a love of, above all else, flying. In September 1926, he was the chief pilot of a shaky, small business with a contract to fly mail from St. Louis to Chicago (and points in between), five round trips each week. Using rebuilt military biplanes, open cockpits, no landing lights, no radio communications, no ground crew, every flight is an adventure. And yet, Lindbergh writes, "We pilots of the mail have a tradition to establish. The commerce of the air depends on it."
Lindbergh begins this account of his historic flight nearly a year in advance of the flight, revealing the depth of his experience, the character of the flying he's done, and his notions of aviation's potential. It's in the fall of 1926 that he's seized by the idea of making that NY to Paris flight; a challenge is bandied about, with a $25,000 prize for the first successful flight. He can envision the plane that can make the flight, with him, alone, at the stick. He gathers the backing of St. Louis's aeronautic, business, and banking communities, then shops for The Plane. Ultimately, a tiny manufacturer in San Diego designs and builds the craft that's dubbed "Spirit of St. Louis." Lindbergh is present throughout construction and starts test flights even before the dope is dry.
The plane is a spare, small monoplane, a tail-dragger with fixed landing gear, a single nine-cylinder, 220-hp radial engine spinning a two-blade metal propeller. The cockpit will accommodate one person, only one, in its primitive seat. The instrumentation is minimal; Lindbergh ruthlessly eliminates anything he deems non-essential (eschewing a parachute, for example) in order to minimize weight and maximize fuel capacity. The main fuel tank is positioned between the engine and the cockpit; no accommodation for forward vision, only to the sides.
Lindbergh flies his plane from San Diego to Paris in three hops: a 14 1/2 hour night-flight from SD to St. Louis on May 10, 1927; a 7 1/2 hour flight from St. Louis to Long Island, NY, on May 12; then the historic 33 1/2 hour flight from NY to Paris, departing 7:52 am May 20, arriving 10:22 p.m. May 21.
Lindbergh in cockpit
Wow! Loving all the pictures of the ill-fated Endurance voyage. Sounds like a great telling.
Your review of the Shackleton book was nice, Bill, but all the photos were spectacular. Thanks for sharing those! Amazing to think they all survived that.
I enjoyed the book review of the Shackleton book, but that poor penguin!
I have been to an exhibition of the photos (two arctic photographers, including Shackleton's, donated copies of their collection to the Queen, so there was an exhibit put on by the royal palaces). They are pretty impressive things in person. How the tech survived those conditions...
While I have been reading books, I haven't reported on them. Maybe I can do some
# 20. A Tidewater Morning by William Styron
Three long short stories make up this roughly 150-page book. All feature Styron's alter ego Paul Whitehurst; in each, Paul is a different age. In the first story, he's a young Marine, trapped aboard a troopship that's headed to Okinawa; the thousands on board are destined for an amphibious assault. But there's a rumor circulating that the ship is part of a diversion force to mislead the Japanese about the exact location of the assault. As the men talk—what else is their to do?—they slowly sort out their feelings of disappointment and relief.
The second story, "Shadrack" tells of an ancient Negro who appears at the ramshackle house sheltering the family of 10-year-old Paul's best friend, Little Mole Dabney. The Dabneys are a family of nine—Vernon and Trixie and their boys Big Mole, Middle Mole, and Little Mole (ah, you have to read the story) and four girls. As the story plays out, we learn who this man is, why he's there, and a good deal more about the Dabney family. And some Tidewater Virginia history.
The third story, set only two years after the second, depicts the protracted, painful death of Paul's mother. Cancer.
# 21. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
In the mold of early Hemingway stories about Man in Nature. Taciturn men huntin' 'n' fishin'. I don't really need to delve into themes and symbolism and hidden meanings. An old Cuban fisherman sails alone, though on land he's assisted by a young boy who'd like to fish with him. He's marked by his failure to catch anythingfor months. This day he sets out, hoping to end his seemingly endless string of catch-free days. The old man is appropriately taciturn, talking more to himself when he's out on the water than to other people when he's home. The prose is archetypal Hemingway. Read it in one sitting.
This book won the Pulitzer Prize that had eluded Hemingway since 1941, when For Whom the Bell Tolls was the unanimous selection of the Pulitzer judges. It failed to take the prize, however, because the Columbia University president talked the University trustees, who have the final say, out of the choice; no fiction prize was awarded that year. But in 1953, it was award to this novel. The following year, Hemingway won the Nobel.
# 18. Spotted Horses by William Faulkner
Spotted Horses is a short novel extracted from The Hamlet, the first book of Faulkner's Snopes trilogy. The story stands alone just fine. It reveals the shady, evasive yet controlling nature of Flem Snopes. He and a stranger ride into Frenchman's Bend in a freight wagon, to which a whole herd of horses is tethered with barbed wire. When the horses are turned into the corral, it's clear to all and sundry that these are wild horses. Wild horses. Yet the stranger intends to auction them from the corral, touting them as prime farm horses. Get one cheap. Nobody is bidding. Flem is notably absent.
Well, the horses do get sold, the stranger heads out of town, and Flem knows nothing.
You have to read it. Not as opaque as the typical Faulkner piece, the characters are memorable and the everyday activities before, during, and after the sale are sharply observed.
The year's first quarter has ended. Here's an update on my "Best Books" reading. In January, I posted a list of 24 TBRs that appear on an amalgamated table of "Best Books Lists" published by eight different (self-appointed) book-picking authorities. If I average two reads a month, I'll read them all by the end of the year. Three months in, I've completed six of the bests, and I am half-way through a seventh.
EDITED to update the books read as of the end of April 2017.
Here's my list of 24, alphabetized by author names.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (pub. 1868-9)
The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (pub. 1958)
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs (pub. 1959)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (pub. 1861)
The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy (pub. 1955)
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (pub. 1880)
I, Claudius by Robert Graves (pub. 1934)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (pub. 1850)
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (pub. 1929)
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (pub. 1940)
The Known World by Edward P. Jones (pub. 2003)
Ironweed by William Kennedy (pub. 1983)
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud (pub. 1957)
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (pub. 1915)
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (pub. 1759)
To a Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (pub. 1927)
There it is. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.
Great review of Endurance, Bill. Love the photos. That ended up being a 5 star read for me. I think I read it last year. I still can't believe it was written in the '50s. It is NNF at it's best.
With the completion of Kidnapped on Wednesday and The Sheltering Sky today, I've completed one-third of my BestBooks24 for 2017. Two adventure stories, but oh my, how different from one another. Liked them both.
I'll read another chapter or two of Francine on Reading like a Pro, then turn, perhaps, to a biography of Bill Faulkner that I just bought, used, of course.
>48 weird_O: Feeling pretty good! I have read 12 of those. So I am halfway and it is only April!! JK. I can't even think about starting another TBR list. But I will cheer you on!!
>47 weird_O: AH! Found you. Love your review of Spotted Horses. Some of the funniest stuff he ever wrote, all those horses boiling around and one running through the boarding house...."biggest drove of just one horse I ever saw". So what bio are you reading?
I just finished Stephen Oates' bio of Faulkner. 'Twas an easy read. For someone who learned most of what he knew about Faulkner from Wiki, it was complete without bloating to 800 pages. I don't know, Linda, if this is considered a reputable bio of the man or not.
I liked Oates's bio quite a lot, as I recall (I read it almost 30 years ago). My copy is full of page point markers, and I just looked at the passages I marked---none of them have my own scathing comments penciled in the margins! Blotner's 2 volume bio is for the Faulkner maniac, but I think Jay Parini's One Matchless Time might be the very best for anyone who's going to pick just one.
>31 weird_O: That is one beeauuutiful pile of books, there. I believe I have all but 3 or 4 of them, and have read about 9 of 'em. (Can't really see what's between the Styron and the Sayers.)
Great review of The Bear too, btw. (I'm working my way backward up this thread.) Go Down, Moses and The Hamlet are hardly novels, some say, since so much of what's in them was published separately first, and then stitched together to make a book. Don't care, I loved them both before I knew too much to appreciate them!
I admire your ability to read about William Faulkner and to read Faulkner. In my lifetime I managed to make it through 1 of his books. As I Lay Dying and that is enough.
I don't live very far from Oxford, Mississippi and I have visited his home there - twice. If you ever travel to this part of the country, Oxford is a great place to visit. Not only can you see Faulkner's home you can purchase more books at one of the South's Best Bookstores - Square Books. This bookstore and its owner is almost single-handedly responsible for the revival of downtown Oxford. It is lovely place to spend a weekend.
Okay, I was going through Borders (way back when it existed in Madison, Wisconsin) Faulkner section when my daughter told me that Faulkner, despite his often empathetic portrayals of African Americans, was actually a racist who stated something like "they" just were not as smart as "we...." Did Oats biography address this?
# 27. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff Finished 4/24/17
The Weird ReportTM
Fates and Furies, author Lauren Groff's third book, published in 2015, presents two views of a singular, successful, blessed 24-year marriage. The initial view is from the husband's perspective, he being Lancelot "Lotto" Satterwhite, the gifted—smart, tall, attractive, charming, theatrical—scion of a wealthy Florida family. The second half of the book (roughly) reveals how the wife, Mathilde, a strikingly tall, slim blonde perceives the marriage. She has the last word.
In the first half, the story seems lackluster. All the turmoil of family—and his own—dysfunction doesn't derail him; it sails past on a parallel track. The buffeting is all around him, but it barely musses his hair.
After his father, Gawain, dies unexpectedly, Lotto begins hanging with a few friends that his mother, Antoinette, reviles. She banishes him to an all-boy New England prep school, from which he moves on to Vassar. There he beds every willing female, and practically all of them are willing. Two weeks before graduation, he meets and surrenders unconditionally to Mathilde Yoder, committing to celibacy before marriage and absolute fidelity thereafter. A day or so before graduation, they marry; a day or two after graduation, Lotto's muvva, as he calls her, enraged, disinherits him.
In college, he was a star, but in NYC, he can't get past an audition. To forestall starvation, eviction, and other unpleasantnesses, Mathilde works. She also accepts generous cash gifts from Lotto's sister Rachel and his Aunt Sallie. Having flunked his acting test, Lotto turns to playwriting and scores success after success. His fans adore him, his wife indulges him. Lots of hot sex 'twixt husband and wife. A place in the city, a place in the country. Wine, champagne, hard liquor. But no children.
As Mathilde moves into the spotlight, we get a quite different picture of her. And of Lotto. The story begins to shine, the pages to turn effortlessly. We read of Mathilde's childhood in France, her banishment to the care of an unsavory, remote uncle in the U.S., and her seamy relationship with an older man that pays for her Vassar education. Yes, she indulges Lotto, but she's also determined to make him a success. She speaks no lies to him, but she's not above withholding truth from him. He is her one and only. And she's to be crossed only at peril.
It's my understanding that the story has many references to the classics, all of which are lost on me. Well, too bad; I don't know what I am missing.
Barack Obama spoke of Fates and Furies as his favorite novel of 2015. It is very good; it gets my thumbs standing tall. But not my favorite.
>64 weird_O: - Great review, Bill. Initially, it sounded like it was going to be a sappy, almost chick-let type of story. But you make it sound intriguing and more layered than meets the eye. And heck, if Barack endorses it, how bad can it be...? ;-)
The paperback edition of this novel is on the remainders table at my local Barnes & Noble and is priced at $5.00. For that price, and because of your review I think I will purchase it. Besides, it is close to the end of the month, and my checking account will be full, so why not blow some of it on a book?
# 24 Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson Finished 4/5/17.
The Weird ReportTM
In 1750s Scotland, young David Balfour is orphaned by the death of his father. His minister gives David a sealed envelope and instructs him to go to a particular town, where his Uncle Ebenezer ["Wha? I have an uncle? My father had a brother?"] is laird of the Shaws and give him the envelope. As he approaches his destination, he asks various passers-by for directions to the manor. Their replies foreshadow trouble.
When the manor is found, it appears abandoned, a ruin, manifestly unwelcoming. But Uncle Ebenezer does live there, and he's even less welcoming than the house. Failing at prompting David to leave or to kill himself whilst running a deliberately hazardous (and spurious) errand, Ebenezer invites him along to business at the harbor. And whoops! David is kidnapped aboard a ship headed to Virginia. Now skeptical of one and all, David has to vet each officer and crewman; who can he trust? When the Second Mate kills the cabin boy (probably inadvertently; the mate was drunk), David is put in his place, which exposes him routinely to the Captain and both mates and allows him to eavesdrop on their talk.
As the map below shows, the ship hugs the coast, sailing north, then west, then south, only to founder on rocks.
Fierce weather north of the Hebrides diverted the ship south, between Scotland and the Hebrides. Along that track, a small craft is struck and sunk, but one survivor boards the ship. He's clad in a French officer's uniform, but says he's Scots and named Alan Breck. Almost immediately, David and Breck become a pair. When the ship sinks, the two link up and begin a journey across the country to bring Ebenezer to justice and claim leadership over the House of Shaws. Off they march, dodging Redcoats and the Scots clan that's in league with the English and thus bent on suppressing all the other clans. Adventure upon adventure. Come on! You know they'll succeed.
Robert Louis Stevenson was a master of the genre. Kidnapped was originally published in 1886 (the cover shown is that of the first American edition, also released in 1886). Its appeal was directed to boys of all ages, but that appeal dragged down its popularity as the 19th century drew to an end. Its reputation was restored in the early 1900s, and it's regarded as a classic adventure tale. I had never read it before; it deserves its status. Thumbs up! For RLS once again.
Howdy, Bill. Good review of Fates and Furies. I ended up having mixed feelings about it, after having such high hopes. Many readers adored it, so maybe it was just me.
# 25 The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles Finished 4/8/17
The Weird ReportTM
American expatriate Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky skewers American culture and character in this tale of three "travelers" in North Africa after WWII. Porter Moresby, known as Port, and his wife Kit are accompanied by a bachelor friend named George Tunner. Burdened by ennui and purposelessness, they want to experience different cultures, see different lands. North Africa is their destination, for the simple reason that it is the only place they could get passage to. Upon arrival, Port dislikes the place, but he chose it; they'll experience North Africa with its Arabs, blacks, and other denizens, as well as the French authorities.
The trio remind each other that they are travelers, not tourists.
Their travels are aimless, with the next destination being wherever the next bus is going. "'When are you pulling out of this hellhole?'" Port is asked by a fellow wanderer he's just met.
The Moresbys are no longer intimate and engage separate rooms in whatever hotel they stay in. Tunner dreams of an opportunity to get intimate with Kit (the last thing on Kit's wishlist). Both Moresbys regret having invited Tunner along; he's annoying. Several times they cross paths with a shady mother-son duo driving from place to place in a large, old Mercedes. If this sounds pretty bad, be assured it is bad. It gets worse.
And yet. Yet. I found their journey curiously seductive; certainly, it is strange. Will there be redemption for them across the Sahara? Will they emerge from the desert freshed, inspired, renewed. Don't count on it.
In sum, it's a strange yet alluring story. It was selected by both Modern Library and Time magazine for their Top 100 Novels lists. Time's reviewer: "The last of this book’s three sections, when Kit is given over to her fate in the desert, is one of the damnedest things you will ever read." True. I'm glad I read it.
>65 jessibud2: >66 rosalita: >67 drneutron: >68 benitastrnad: Glad you got something out of the report. As I said, the first part—Lotto's perspective—seems a bit flat, amblin' rather than ramblin'. In her half of the story, Mathilde emerges as controlled and subtly controlling, ruthless, and yet surprisingly sympathetic. (Well, to me.)
Barack still owes us his review.
>70 msf59: I don't think it is you, Mark. I scanned a half-dozen of the most recent reviews on the book page, and a number of them expressed the dismay or disappointment of the review's writer. Maybe I'm just...well...weird.
Good review of The Sheltering Sky. I have never read it and I own a nice copy too. I am glad you had a positive reaction. I may have to move it up the stack.
I want to read F&F, I have read Kidnapped, and I think The SS is perhaps not for me, but I appreciated your excellent reviews on all of them! Happy Friday!!
May Day! May Day!
Cinco de Mayo lurks at the week's end.
Oh my, oh my.
Seem to be in a reading slump, having read only six books in April. No poetry. First time I missed an AAC pick since 2015, my first year on LT. I'm a day or two from completing Reading Like a Writer, which is for April's NFC. I am a few pages into Dark Matter, and I'll definitely be reading Spain in Our Hearts for May's NFC.
Highlight of the day, so far: an oriole sighting on the feeder. Gorgeous!
Bugger! I failed to note the birthday, yesterday, of Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, an all-time favorite. Happy Birthday, Joe, wherever you are.
I still think about Catch 22 from time-to-time. It is a great book. What surprises me as that when I reference it at work most of the college students don't know what I am talking about. Even one of the graduate students who is majoring in library science didn't know who Yosarian was or the origin of the phrase Catch 22. What are they teaching these students if they aren't teaching the classics?
>79 PaulCranswick: Nice to have you drop by, Paul. I shan't forget you when I get to those two books.
>80 jnwelch: I know that feeling, Joe. "I know I've read this, but non of it is familiar at all." *Shaking head woefully*
>81 benitastrnad: It IS a wonderful book, isn't it, Benita. Did know know Heller originally titled it "Catch-18"? (Ha! And I can't remember why he changed it. Why did I even bring it up?)
From time to time, I've found myself composing a book report in which I say something like "there wasn't anyone in the story I could like." I'm not alone in this; I've read quite a few reviews posted by others here that express the same sentiment. Abandonment notes abound that cite a lack of likable characters. It was interesting to me, then, to read Francine Prose's opinion in her book Reading Like a Writer. "It's one of the things that writers are most commonly being told these days: their characters should be likable and sympathetic so the reader can care about them," she writes.
A day late...but not to be forgotten. Yesterday marked the 59th year since Keith Haring's birth. May 4, 1958 - February 16, 1990. Photo above is Haring's iconic Barking Dog, a part of a sculpture he donated for the community park in his home town, Kutztown, PA. Full piece below.
Sunday, May 7
I finished reading Spain in Our Hearts by Adam Hochschild this afternoon. A disturbing period in history. For Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, a practice run for the Big One. And Big Oil. Oh, how oil has been at the center of horrible clashes for more than a century.
On to Dark Matter.
ETA that For Whom the Bell Tolls is abruptly atop the TBR. I know Hemingway is the AAC author later this year and not this month, but I've got other stuff he wrote for then. Hemingway is a sporadic presence in Hochschild's history and it seems very right to take up his Spanish Civil War story right now, whilst the history is fresh in my mind. (And For Whom the Bell Tolls is on my Top Two Dozen list.)
>30 weird_O: Your review of Sophie's Choice is the best I've read! Kudos for such an excellently written capture of such a complex and sad book. I read it years ago after seeing the movie and it haunts me still.
Thanks Bill for bringing back all I felt about this incredible book.
I hope to see you on the 20th at the Bethlehem Library book sale. Diane will be there as well.
I am wishing you a gentle Sunday evening.
>83 weird_O: Good points. Thanks for sharing. I tend to want more "like-me" characters when I want an easy read. But books that make me think more have to have engaging characters. They need not be people like me or even ones that I would want for best friends; I just have to be able to understand where they are coming from, what motivates them. Sometimes, I am not even granted that, but must simply follow their actions as the story unfolds. I just finished A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami, and the main character, who has a back story, if no name, and I am pretty sure I would not want to be his friend, but I was swept away by the story none-the-less.
Finished me book; Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Iiiieeeeee! Page turner, ripping good yarn.
Turning now to Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. It's on my "Best Books" list for this year (see >48 weird_O:). Hemingway's dashes back and forth in Spain and France during the Spanish Civil War, as recounted in Spain in Our Hearts, which I finished reading only yesterday, served as a bit of a goad to read it now.
I've got A Farewell to Arms to read in December.
>91 Berly: I agree, Kim. Just scanning the novels I've read so far this year, I say the majority of them have
ETC: What I posted just above is quite contrary to my intent.
>89 rosalita: >90 jnwelch: I'd vote him, of course. In fact, I think I have. Twice. He looks damn familiar.
>88 Whisper1: I do believe I'll be at the library on the 20th, Linda. Wednesdays are out for me this month. I ran into Gig's husband Tom today; they are going to Spain in another week, he told me. Well!
I don't think I need likable characters, and I also don't think I need relatable characters except in the sense that I can recognize that they are possible permutations of human beings.
I think I also need some sort of counterpoint to a badly-behaving main character - if everyone seems to be the same type of awful, I tend to lose interest. There doesn't have to be someone who is all sweetness and light to do it, even shades of dark gray will do. But something.
# 31. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch Finished 5/8/17
The Weird ReportTM
Jason Dessen is a physics professor at a small college in Chicago. His wife dispatches him to a reception for his grad-school roommate, Ryan, who has won a prestigious physics award, the Pavia.* Pulled aside by the honoree, Jason is reminded that he—Jason—was universally seen as destined to earn this award, not Ryan. But Jason set aside his research aspirations to marry Daniela and share in raising their son, Charlie.
That taunt rattles Jason, stirring up his insecurities, making him question—yet again—his self-worth, his contentment, his career-path choice. And it serves as the linchpin of this bizarre (ok, not bizarre for science-fiction) tale.
As he leaves the party, Jason is abducted at gunpoint and taken to an abandoned industrial site, relieved of his clothes, wallet, keys, and cell phone. Injected with drugs, he passes out. Coming to, he finds himself in a spotless, brightly lighted room, where a man named Leighton Vance welcomes him as an admired, long-lost colleague. While Vance is solicitous about Jason's well-being, he's displeased that Jason does NOT know him or anyone else in the place. Neither does he know anything about this brilliant work he's expected to continue. Worse, Vance is keeping him prisoner, preventing him from returning to his wife and son. He's terrified about what they are thinking of his failure to return, about what his abductor might have done to them. Given a bathroom break, Jason squeezes through a tiny window and takes off, Vance and posse of armed guards in hot pursuit. Eluding them at last, he makes his way home. Daniela and Charlie aren't there, and the house is different. As if it's occupied by just one guy, not a family. Next stop, a hospital ER. There he gets food and a good night's sleep. He learns that whatever chemicals are still in his system can't be identified and that efforts to contact Daniela Dessen have failed. She apparently doesn't exist. Neither does Charlie.
Jason again takes flight. Settled in a seedy hotel, he analyzes his predicament. The key, he tells himself, is to start small.
I'll leave you hanging there, but move on to the scientific jumping off point underlying Jason Dessen's enterprise. Accept, if you will, that he's recaptured by a Vance thug, returned to the lab, and there shown a twelve-foot cube the color of gunmetal.
So now you can clearly see where this story is going, right? I couldn't either. But it was great fun following along to the resolution. This is a rip-snorter that author Blake Crouch has created, a compelling page-turner. Both thumbs up for this'n.
*Fun Fact: in Dark Matter, the prestigious physics award is named the Pavia Prize. In the Acknowledgements, Crouch thanks his "genius editor, Julian Pavia, who pushed me as hard as I've ever been pushed and made this book better on every page."
Oh, I enjoyed revisiting Dark Matter through your review, Bill. Great quotes. And I'd forgotten about the Pavia award's origin. :-)
P.S. I was going to thumb it. If you want to post it on the book page, I will.
>102 msf59: Aw that's nice. Always good to have someone to panda to.
Have a great weekend, Bill.
# 32 White Butterfly by Walter Mosley Finished 5/14/17
The Weird ReportTM
The third book of Walter Mosley's "Easy Rawlins" series, this one set in 1956, features Easy as a married man and father, ostensibly employed as a handyman by a real estate rental agent known as Mofass. The LAPD virtually shanghais him to lead them to the killer of four girls. (Marks on the bodies suggest the same person killed all four.) The police aren't happy to be asking for some black guy's assistance. But three white men in suits, accompanied by a white and a black in uniform, show up unannounced and demand his cooperation. The black officer, Quinten Naylor, begins an explanation, but he's cut off by his superior, Anthony Violette.
Police information is sketchy at best, so Easy starts by compiling what he can from newspaper accounts. Where Willa Scott and Juliette LeRoi's were on the nights they were killed? Not known. Bonita Edwards reportedly was in a bar, had quite a few drinks, and was seen with quite a few men. But a witness said she left alone.
Not all is well at home either. He's telling Regina, his wife of two years, that he loves her, but his actions belie that sentiment. He's curt, withdrawn; he's holding her at arm's length, refusing to share the facts of his life (such as the fact that he owns the real estate and Mofass works for him), telling her precious little about what he's doing at all hours of the day or night. His anger is too near the surface. She's getting leery of him. She's pulling away. Easy's plan (fantasy) is to mollify her 'til the case is cracked and he can give her his full attention.
It's a lot of the tried and true motifs, visiting bars and chatting with friends and acquaintances who stagger along the murky, twisting path between good and bad, usually finding their safety lies in expediency. Yes, Mouse shows up; no, he doesn't kill anyone. Ya gotta read it. Goes fast.
The Easy Rawlins series is easily one of my top three favorite mystery series ever. The mysteries themselves are interesting, but the mileu of Rawlins is what always reels me in. That, and Mouse. ;) Actually, Rawlins as well as all the secondary and tertiary characters are well drawn.
I have not read Mosley in a few years. I should get back to him. He sure is prolific.
Were you reading a Zora Neale Hurston this month?
>111 msf59: Got to go to the fallback for Hurston and also Highsmith, Mark. Went to the Bethlehem Public Library's bi-monthly book sale this morning, and while I did acquire a few carefully selected books for me and for my wife (she hates bookstores and book sales, maybe even libraries, though she's an avid reader), I came up empty handed on Hurston, Highsmith and even Mosley. When I reached the checkout, I found these books in my little bag:
You have some goodies in that book haul with lots of good reading ahead of you. I also acquired Into the Wild this month. My real-life book discussion group will be reading it in August.
>112 weird_O: That is a more than respectable book haul, Bill, both in quantity and quality. I've read a few and have more on the endless TBR. Well done!
Wow, what a great haul, Bill.
I'll put in plugs for Lila (I think I liked it better than some other readers - loved getting her perspective/story in that beautiful prose), Our Souls at Night, The Nine Tailors, and Year of Wonders. All great.
When my wife said she'd never read a mystery, and would like to try one, The Nine Tailors is the one I successfully recommended. She reads mysteries all the time now.
Great book haul, Bill. Big, big fan of the Robinson, Haruf, Brooks, Krakauer and Egan. Excellent finds.
Jeepers. Poor guy just wanted a smoke break. What they put him through before they'd give 'im his 5 minutes to sit down.
Finished the third volume in James Ellroy's L. A. Quartet, L. A. Confidential, just this evening. Solid sterling Murder and Mayhem read. While not in the two dozen titles I selected to read as Best Books for 2017, it nonetheless is among the 75+ titles on my All-Time Amalgamated, Aggregated, and Homogenized Best Books that I own but have not yet read. So there's that.
Now back to my regularly scheduled read of Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston. (The first 10 pages haven't swept me off my feet)
Moses. Man of the Mountain is a DNF. Barely made it off the starting line and croaked (for me, anyway) before the first turn. I see that a number of youse LT readers have said nice things about Hurston's memoir, Dust Tracks on the Road. If I find a copy, I'll give it a try. Otherwise, Hurston is an AAC pick I won't get read. Sorry.
On the other hand, I jumped into Ellroy's White Jazz, to conclude his L.A. Quartet. Past the halfway point. Lordy, what manner of mayhem will the next page reveal. Drugs, gambling, extortion, prostitution, politics, coverups, exposés, thuggery and murder in the name of law enforcement, toss in possible incest. Yeeeww!!!! Certainly not for every reader.
Since I've finished L.A. Confidential, we going to screen the film tonight
>123 benitastrnad: If you've gotten this far, Benita, you've discovered this series is four books, not three. The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, concluding with White Jazz. Presents a deeply noir view of the LAPD from the 1930s to 1960.
As May ends, I'm abandoning the few group reading challenges I placed on my plate and focusing mostly on what I want to read. If something in my book pipeline fits a challenge, Good. Not sure today what I'll dive into tomorrow.
"If something in my book pipeline fits a challenge, Good." That's mostly how I'm doing the challenges this year. I am keeping my eye on the selections so that when there's a featured author I've "been meaning to get to", I try to fit that one in. But a completist I cannot be.
So what did you think of the movie of L.A. Confidential. Saw it long ago, and remember thinking it was pretty well done. That's the only one of Ellroy's quartet I've read.
>125 laytonwoman3rd: I thought the film was excellent; good script, fine casting and acting. The novel is awfully complicated, with a long list of characters, some unbelievable twists to the plot, and lots of gore (Sid Hudgens, for example, is dismembered in the book, merely beaten to death in the film). A considerable number of the book's characters were eliminated, and several plot threads (which complicated the overall story) were dropped. Nevertheless, the film conveys the corruption and the brutality that are at the core of the book. And note that in the novel, Dudley Smith lives on, to be permanently sidelined in White Jazz. Very stylish design, music, costuming.
That is exactly how I handle the various reading challenges. I fit in what I can, when I can. I don't feel bad if I don't get to something in the month in which it is featured, or if it takes me more than a month to finish something. Years ago, Mark and I read David Copperfield I never did finish that book. He finished it within the month. Same think happened when we both read Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner. It took me most of two months to read it and Mark had long finished it. I am glad I gave both of them a try, but I don't feel bad when I don't get them done, or can't get them done in the specified time period.
No, I didn't know there were four books in the series. I have only read two Black Dahlia and L. A. Confidential. I will need to see if the library has the others and get them read.
# 30. Spain In Our Hearts by Adam Hochschild Finished 5/7/17
The Weird ReportTM
Best known today as that war Hemingway wrote about in For Whom the Bell Tolls, the Spanish Civil War was conscientiously ignored by much of the world. For many who do know of it, it's seen as a minor prelude to World War II. It was more than that, as Adam Hochschild explains in Spain in Our Hearts. For Germany and Italy, and to a lesser extent the USSR, it was a testing and training exercise for war to come. For Britain, France, and the US, it was a blown opportunity. For the Spanish, it was a catastrophe, of course; by 1939, the war was over and 36 years of vicious totalitarian rule was beginning.
As 1936 began, Spain was effectively a feudal society. Wealthy industrialists, landowners with holdings sometimes exceeding 75,000 acres, and the Catholic Church were the country's powers. But elections in February unexpectedly turned the government over to the Popular Front, a coalition of liberal, socialist, and communist parties. Less than 6 months later, martial law was declared in Melilla, a city of Spanish Morocco, by the Spanish Foreign Legion. According to Hochschild, the "key plotter" was General Francisco Franco. "Ambitious and puritanical, an architect of the elite Spanish Foreign Legion, he was driven by a fierce belief that he was destined to save Spain from a deadly conspiracy of Bolsheviks, Freemasons, and Jews (no matter that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had expelled the latter from their realm in 1492, during the Inquisition, and that few had ever returned)."
The leftist government fought to defend the election results, to defend its reforms, to hold on to power. While it had a military, its military leaders well, former leaders were leading the revolt. Thus the Republican defense was conducted by Spanish loyalists (anarchists, socialists, and communists of various stripes) and by a hodge-podge of volunteers from the US, Britain, France, the USSR, and other countries, all of whom had leftist sympathies. Hochschild reports that some Americans were true believers who'd moved to the Soviet, became disillusioned, and left to share in the defense of Spain. Most found disorganization, persistent bickering over ideologies, and unqualified officers. Guns and ammo were in very short supply, and this because, as the author writes, "the embattled Republican government faced an extraordinary paradox. The only major nation willing to sell it arms and ammunition was not another democracy. It was Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union." He continues:
Citing an overriding focus on the Great Depression, FDR kept the US government from getting involved. As the war continued, and as he was besieged by anti-Franco partisans, FDR hid behind the threat that the Catholic vote would turn him out of office. Hochschild notes that "[w]hen running for reelection in 1936, FDR was believed to have quietly promised the American Catholic leadership that he would not take sides in Spain." Blaming the Catholics was convenient, he adds, "because the liberals pressing the president to sell arms to the Republic were willing to believe anything ill of the Catholic Church, as were Roosevelt's fellow upper-class WASPs. 'Dammit... if I lift the embargo,' FDR said to one person who came to lobby him for the Republic, 'the Catholics will crucify me!' "
The shocking aspect, to me, was that quite a number of America's big international businesses sided with Franco. Texaco in particular supplied all of Franco petroleum needs ON CREDIT. "By US law," Hochschild writes, "the export of 'arms, ammunition, and implements of war' to other countries at war was prohibited. Early in 1937, a congressional resolution made clear that any weapons destined for 'the unfortunate civil strife in Spain' were included in the ban." Texaco skirted the ban by double-manifesting oil shipments on its tankers. They'd leave port in the US with a shipment ostensibly going to some non-warring destination, then unseal the manifest for the true destination once the tanker was in international waters.
In addition, Texaco, through its European sales apparatus, collected information on shipping by rivals and forwarded details to the Nationalists (Franco's forces). Ford and GM, with manufacturing plants in Europe, supplied vehicles to Franco, but not to the legitimate government. Firestone supplied tires. Repercussions for these businesses were nil.
As the war spread across Spain, the ultimate defeat of the legitimate government was foretold by the Fascist forces behind Franco: Germany and Italy. Hochschild:
Hitler especially reaped great rewards for his assistance.
In the end, the Nationalists crushed the Republicans. Texaco, GM, Ford, and other American companies got paid. The German Luftwaffe used its experience in crushing Poland, in overwhelming the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and in besieging Britain. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards were killed in the aftermath, and the nation was plunged back into feudalism until Franco's death in the 1970s.
Spain in Our Hearts is an excellent history, thorough and footnoted. We learn about the Internationals in the trenches, the horrible conditions under which medical treatment was provided, the efforts of news correspondents to get the story run in their newspapers. Hemingway turns up, of course, and not always in complimentary terms. George Orwell's experiences and his reports of them are covered. A vexing, frustrating story. I give it both thumbs up!
"For Germany and Italy, and to a lesser extent the USSR, it was a testing and training exercise for war to come. For Britain, France, and the US, it was a blown opportunity." This is made clear in the book I just finished, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy. I felt like I finally understood what the Spanish Civil War was about. I've added Spain in our Hearts to the wishlist now.
>112 weird_O: Nice book haul. ; ) All caught up here. Phew! Bill, you write the most complete reviews ever. They are so thoughtful and engaging, filled with great quotes and insights. Thanks, man! I am going to have to remember Ellroy's L. A. Quartet.
Funny about the monthly reads, I just thinned my commitments a little. I really want to get to some of my TBR pile and they are just not fitting in the Group Read topics. Although I do like to have a few common reads, because it is fun to share comments here. Just trying to find the right balance!
Hi Bill. The last Bethlehem library book sale was a whirlwind visit. I do hope that you , Gig and Diane can have lunch when we attend the next sale (July 22nd).
If we coordinate our time then perhaps we can have a long lunch to catch up on happenings.
All good wishes for a wonderful summer
Ahright, ahright. Been off blundering around, doin' this, doin' that. But not here on LT (that's obvious).
I wrapped up May's reading with the third and fourth novels in James Ellroy's grim and grisly, but altogether great L.A. Quartet. Began June's reading with three short novels: A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Monday I started The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor.
The Big Event, however, was Saturday night's birthday celebration for my oldest two granddaughters (twins), Helen and Claire. Sixteen they are. First thing Saturday morning, they hit the DMV, took the written test, and got their Learner's Permits. Each got some behind-the-wheel time, driving around a large, empty parking lot. No mishaps.
Behind the wheel. Helen on the left, Claire on the right.
>129 laytonwoman3rd: Hemingway got prominent mention several places in Spain in Our Hearts, Linda. Some volunteer fighters thought him a self-aggrandizer, a showboat. But Hochschild reports that he did accompany sappers on a night-mission to blow up a bridge. That, of course, is the central mission in For Whom the Bell Tolls. And he was genuinely crushed when the Republic fell. I'll have to keep an eye out for Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy. I'm not that big a fan of Hemingway, but...
>130 Berly: Why thank you, Kim. I always think I'm getting carried away, but heck, no one has to read them. Haha. You may be the only one who does. LA Confidential report follows. Like post 133.
>131 Whisper1: I will make an effort to hold open the afternoon of the 22nd for noshing and blabbing, Linda. It has been a while.
# 34. L. A. Confidential by James Ellroy Finished 5/28/17
The Weird ReportTM
L. A. Confidential is the third of a quartet of novels written by James Ellroy that depict the Los Angeles Police Department at war with itself, with the justice system, and with the community it is supposed to be protecting from thugs, murderers, mobsters, drug pushers, porno merchants and the likes. Variations on corruption and mayhem populate page after page.
Here's a sample: A prologue presents Buzz Meeks, a former policeman, hauling almost $100 grand and a suitcase of heroin he stole from mobsters Mickey Cohen and Jack Dragna. Holed up in an abandoned motel in the San Berdoo foothills, he's warily eying a group of Hispanics in the open courtyard. Then...
The motel room he's in is burning now, and shooters keep coming.
LAPD Lt. Dudley Smith is the principal antagonist in the novel. He's a veteran officer, well-regarded, oft-honored, well-connected on the force, in the community, and in the criminal world. He's calm, thorough, careful, ruthless, cruel, and murderous. Sure, just about every character is antagonistic to at least one other. Dudley's antagonisms, though, are special. Antagonisms do come and go as the story unfolds and as more and more links and secrets are uncovered. And cautiously shared. More antagonists:
• Edmund Exley infuriates most cops because a.) he's the son of legendary former detective Preston Exley, b.) he's a war hero, c.) he's openly ambitious, d.) he's a snitch, e.) he's a self-righteous prig. The Top Brass use him as a clean and polished front for the force.
• Wendell "Bud" White is a thug, a rookie cop whose seminal moment was watching his drunken father beat his mother to death. To him, the ends justify the means. After executing a bad guy, Bud fires a shot into the door through which he came and presses the gun into the corpse's hand. Why, he shot first! Such enterprise wins him the admiration of Dudley Smith.
• Jack Vincennes is a colorful, tacky narco squad detective who accepts payoffs to occasionally stage flashy, trumped up drug busts of Hollywood notables for the invasive camera of the publisher of a sleazy exposé mag. Nicknamed "Trashcan Jack," Vincennes is advisor on a popular TV cop show, thus is well-known among performers and behind-the-scenes techies.
• Sid Hudgens, the smarmy publisher of Hush-Hush (as in: "Hush-Hush, off the record, on the QT") seems to have a secret file on everyone. Ellroy scatters Sid's articles in the novel to summarize events and suggest directions the story might take. Vincennes is at pains to find and destroy the file Sid has on him.
• Ellis Loew is the Assistant D.A. Ambitious, he runs for D.A. and wins the election only after the incumbent is busted in a shabby motel room, passed out naked in bed with an underaged black girl. Hmmm...
• Pierce Patchett is an enigmatic, icy calm, self-assured, under-the-radar entrepreneur whose many ventures include investments, financing the occasion shady B-movie, drugs, pornography, and a bevy of high-priced
• Raymond Dieterling is a stand-in for Walt Disney: a gifted impresario, creator of animated characters Moochie Mouse and Danny Duck, developer of Dream-a-Dreamland amusement park.
• Preston Exley owns a construction company that's building Dream-a-Dreamland and the Los Angeles area freeway system. In the 1930s, he was the LAPD detective who cracked the infamous Atherton case, a grisly series of child kidnappings and dismemberments. His son Ed is now on the force.
If you've seen the movie, you still should read the book. The novel had to be boiled down—distilled, if you will, the storyline truncated, characters eliminated, much of the shock and gore tidied up, the ending changed. Ellroy doesn't hold back: Theft. Kickbacks and payoffs. Beatings. Torture. Mutilation. Murder. Prostitution. Deviant sex. Pornography. Gambling. Heroin and other illegal drugs. Extortion. Perjury. Blackmail. You name it, Ellroy's got it in there. It's not your Agatha Christie.
Two thumbs up!
>134 weird_O: And another thumb up for me, for your review. Great work, Bill! I have seen the movie but not read the book and I wondered how they compared. It sounds like I need to read the book to get the full flavor. In your opinion, does the quartet of novels need to be read in order, or can this one be read as a standalone?
>135 rosalita: Thanks for the thumb, Julia. I think you can easily read the quartet as single books, in any order. While some characters carry over from one book into the next, each book has a different main protagonist. The main character in The Big Nowhere is Buzz Meeks. In L. A. Confidential, Buzz meets the Reaper on page 2. I do think you'd do well to read L. A. Confidential before White Jazz; the tension between Exley and Smith begins in the former and carries through the latter.
>136 weird_O: Good to know! I will plan my reading schedule accordingly.
About three days ago, on the WWW, I ran across a portfolio of photos of American mystery writers—Hammett, Chandler, Spillane, Mosley. The photo of Ross Macdonald boosted me out of my seat and pushed me to the bookcase holding the mysteries I read avidly in the 1970s and '80s. Hammett and Chandler, of course, but also Leonard, Cain, Parker, MacDonald, and Macdonald. Huh. I've got a half-dozen by John D. MacDonald, only two by Ross Macdonald.
Since only one of the Macdonald's featured his sleuth, Lew Archer, I read that one. Sleeping Beauty. As expected, it was a quick read.
I'll say more shortly. Gonna go brew the afternoon espresso!
>134 weird_O: Great review of L.A. Confidential, Bill. One of my all time favorite crime novels and an exceptional film version too.
Happy Friday, Bill. I plan to finish 2 books before starting Tree of Smoke. So, maybe next weekend, give or take? I am looking forward to your thoughts on The Underground Railroad. I loved that book.
I LOVE Ross Macdonald, one of my top crime writers from that era. Love to do a revisit. The Ivory Grin is one of my top crime favorites.
# 39. Sleeping Beauty by Ross Macdonald Finished 6/9/17
The Weird ReportTM
Ross Macdonald's Sleeping Beauty, published in 1973, is one in a series of novels featuring private investigator Lew Archer. Though re-read for me, it unfolded as an all-new story; CRS, I blame. It was pretty good, with a convoluted plot and many seemingly unrelated characters, all wrapped up by page 245, the final page.
Archer is walking along a beach south of L.A., looking at the damage being done by oil flowing from an off-shore drilling platform. The well casing blew out, and efforts to stop the flow aren't succeeding. He sees a young woman clutching an oil-soaked grebe walk by and, after a brief conversation with her, he observes to her that most such victims don't survive. She storms off. Short time later, he sees her grieving over the now-dead bird. At her request, he drives her to his apartment so she can call her husband to ask him to pick her up. Post-call, Laurel (for that's her name) tell Archer he husband won't come for it. She uses the bathroom, and storms out of the apartment. Then Archer realizes the medicine cabinet is open and a bottle of prescription sleeping pills are gone. Unsettled by what she might do with the pills, he begins a search for her.
'Til all is said and done, Archer has coaxed buried secrets from the families of both Laurel and her husband. The relations between husbands and wives, between parents and children: all toxic. Of course, they all tie together. Neatly. Even with a surprise culprit. As do all good crime novels, it's got a motor that won't be shut down, that keeps the pages turning. Yes. I liked it.
You know, I don't think I've ever read any of the Lew Archer books. The last thing I need right now is a new series, though.
Before letting Ross Macdonald rest in peace, I just want to point the light on the two Paul Newman films based on Lew Archer stories. Macdonald was unwilling to share his character's name—Archer (a name he took from Sam Spade's partner Miles Archer in Hammett's The Maltese Falcon)—with filmmakers. So Archer became Harper for the films.
At amazon, the featured review of "Harper" laments the trendy (for the time) characterization of Lew Harper, pointing out that Archer is serious, almost melancholy. I'm not likely to pursue a comparison on my own.
My weekend centered around mowing, until the mower inhaled something that's choking it. I assuaged my damaged dream of a mowed property by finishing The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor.
Starting The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead in five...four...three...two...
# 40. The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor Finished 6/11/17
The Weird ReportTM
A book about a remarkable painter and the lives and persistence of his works. About Austria and, more particularly, about Vienna. About Nazis and about Anschluss. About government seizures, theft, appropriations, reparations, guilt, justice, even family conflicts. Denial. Anti-semitism. About shuffling around unpleasant facts, events, realities.
Gustav Klimt was an artist with an eye for beauty and the skill to capture a unique impression of it on canvas. He lived in Vienna, Austria from the late 1800s until his death in 1918. Some of his work was regarded as pornographic, yet (or, perhaps, thus) he attracted many lady admirers, among them wealthy art lovers. One of these, Adele Bloch-Bauer, was the subject of the pivotal Klimt painting in this tale. When completed in 1907, it was hung in the Bloch-Bauer mansion. Adele died in 1925, leaving an expression of her wish that her husband, Ferdinand, would donate the portrait and five other Klimt paintings, which he owned, to the Austrian State Gallery upon his death.
Anschluss derailed the Bloch-Bauers and every other Jewish family in Vienna; almost overnight, they had everything taken from them—cars, homes, country estates, jewelry and artworks, businesses, their houses of worship, their standing and respect in the community. SS men spirited away all the artworks. The railroad took over the Bloch-Bauer house, converting it into office space. Adele's niece, Maria, had just returned from her honeymoon with Fritz Altmann, her husband of ten days, who was arrested. Fritz's elder brother Bernhard, Europe's largest knitwear manufacturer, was maneuvering to keep company stock out of German hands; dangling his assets before the Nazis, he negotiated Fritz's release and helped Fritz and Maria escape to Britain. Other family members confronted worse ordeals.
When the war ended, survivors tried to get their property back, but the Austrian government was loathe to part with it. Ultimately, Maria survived when few other family members did and she became principal heir to Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer's estate. Represented by Randol Schoenberg, grandson of exiled Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, Maria pressed her case. Seemingly thwarted by Austrian stalling—Maria was in her late 80s, after all, and her death might leave the Klimts in Austria's National Gallery—Schoenberg took the case to U.S. courts, where the case was decided—by the U. S. Supreme Court—in the heirs' favor. You have to read it to believe it.
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is the painting that all the fuss was about. Estee Lauder cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder paid $135 million for it, and it is on public display in the Neue Galerie in NYC. (An aside: the choker necklace Adele wears in this portrait passed to Maria; the Nazis grabbed it; Herman Goring gave it to his wife.)
Four Klimt paintings were awarded to Maria Altmann. Auctioned by Christie's, all were purchased by private (and unnamed) collectors. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II was painted in 1912; it sold for $78.5 million. Apple Tree sold for $29.5 million. Birch Forest was bought for $36 million. And Houses in Unterach on Lake Attersee brought $28 million.
>145 weird_O: - It was quite a story! The film version of it, from a couple of years ago, was very well done, I thought. Starred Helen Mirren.
>145 weird_O: The story of that painting is fascinating. The Austrian government did not exactly cover itself in glory with having that fight.
>146 jessibud2: I've been meaning to watch that movie! Thanks for reminding me of it.
The book sounds well worth reading, Bill. Isn't it peculiar how the Nazis considered Jews to be sub-human, and yet Goring's wife could bring herself to wear that necklace...
Sounds like an amazing book! I love the paintings. And Helen Mirren...might have to watch the movie.
Also, about the Scrabble anagrams...you were right. She mentions two or three in her book. I wrote one and then started on another! We are playing Anagram. Although I had to challenge your "nana" because there is only 1 "n"!
Happy Father's Day, Bill. Hope you are having a great day.
A 100 pages into Tree of Smoke. Hasn't completely ensnared me yet but it is definitely readable.
# 41. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead Finished 6/14/17
The Weird ReportTM
The Underground Railroad begins as a fairly commonplace slavery tale, of Africans kidnapped, dragged in chains to a seaport, forced onto a ship, transported across the Atlantic, and sold into slavery. The slaves are worked long hours in harsh conditions and routinely abused. All the typical slave thinks about is escape. In this telling, Ajarry is snatched from Africa, ending up on a Georgia plantation. She has a daughter, Mabel, who screws up her courage and simply runs away, leaving behind her own daughter, Cora. On her own, a runaway, Mabel vanishes.
A decade later, perhaps, Cora agrees to accompany a slave new to the plantation, Caesar, in escaping. She's become an outcast from the other slaves, as well as a special target of the psychopathic plantation owner and his foreman. She hates her mother for abandoning her, yet she opts at last to follow her. Caesar has an open-ended ticket on the underground railroad. And here the story departs from the commonplace.
In this story, the underground railroad is not a network of sympathetic, brave souls who lead escapees through woodlands and open fields, skirting settlements, hiding them in attics or basements, along the road to the North and freedom. Here Whitehead adopts a steampunk motif; his underground railroad is an actual subway: miles and miles and miles of a single track extending more or less northward, bedded in a dark tunnel. Stationmasters guide runaways through concealed trapdoors into subterranean stations, where a dilapidated locomotive, towing a single freight car, stops for them. The routes aren't interconnected; most tunnels are isolated from each other, so a fugitive rides out of sight to wherever the tunnel leads.
Having thus departed from the literal world of 1850 (or thereabouts), Whitehead found himself free to introduce alternate takes on southern societies. In his imagining, several states adopt different ways of coping with the fact that blacks vastly outnumber whites (and a black uprising is a bedrock fear). That first rail trip takes Cora and Caesar to South Carolina, where they are welcomed and given shelter, meals, health care, training, and work in state-run facilities. There's a dark side to this arrangement, which puts Cora on the run once again.
The Underground Railroad is well-constructed, obviously imaginative, with parallels in contemporary America. The novel won both the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Award. I give it both upraised thumbs.
Wow, was Sunday a nice day in our neighbor. We spent the afternoon at a county park around a lake created 40+ years ago by the state Fish Commission. Sitting beneath mature oak trees a few feet from water's edge, a steady breeze cooled us, despite an ambient temp of 90 degrees. A big plus is that power boats are verboten. My son rented a couple of paddle boards, and everyone but my wife and I paddled around the lake.
Did you start Tree of Smoke? I am 170 pages in. It is a faster read, than I expected. The writing is fine but I am waiting for it to really soar.
I have started Tree of Smoke, but only just. Bunch of distractions today.
We did have an unexpectedly fine day. No bugs. It was stinkin' hot at the house, just 4 miles or so away. But wonderful beside the lake. It's manmade, but it took several tries to get it right. The first dam was about 10 years old when it started to leak. They allowed the water level to fall and made repairs. But after a few years, the leaking resumed. So several years of work were invested to build a new dam, and that work has--so far--paid off.
It sure is nice having a lake like that nearby. We have to go quite a ways.
I am trying to read 60-70 pages a day of Tree of Smoke. So far, so good.
>145 weird_O: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on The lady in gold, Bill.
I have seen some of Klimt works and they are amazing.
The story told in this book is sadly only one of many... Last week we visited the Documenta in Kassel (Germany), where one of the works of art contained books, looted by the Germans and are still held in German libraries....
Good review of Underground Railroad, Bill. Having thus departed from the literal world of 1850 (or thereabouts), Whitehead found himself free to introduce alternate takes on southern societies. Yes! I think that's why he did it. I saw somewhere that, as a kid, he assumed that the Underground Railroad was a real railroad, so that's part of it, too. But I also think that the choice freed him to explore those alternate takes on southern societies.
>158 FAMeulstee: I'd love to see a Klimt. Not a photo of a Klimt, but the actual painting. It's quite devastating to learn that the trove of Klimt's early artworks hidden in Schloss Immendorf were deliberately destroyed, following Hitler's "blow every thing up" decree, issued minutes before he blew up his own brain.
>159 jnwelch: You caught me out, Joe. Terry Gross of NPR interviewed Whitehead, and he told her:
You know, I think when you're a kid and you first hear about it in school or whatever, you imagine a literal subway beneath the earth. And then you find out that it's not a literal subway, and you get a bit upset. And so the book took off from that childhood notion. And that's a premise, not that much of a story. So I kept thinking about it. And I thought, well, what if every state our hero went through—as he or she ran North—was a different state of American possibility?
Sometime this October our wonderful Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco is supposed to open a special exhibition featuring the works of Klimt. I am really looking forward to it.
No great shakes to you high bookage readers, but I bought the books listed above at a sale on May 20, thinking they might appeal to my wife. She's reading the last one right now (the Tana French).
Of the entire stack I got (see >112 weird_O:), I've read two (Our Souls at Night and A Separate Peace).
" She's reading the last one right now " So, in other words, you done good? I've read both P. D. James titles, the Tana French, and probably the Christie, although so long ago I can't be certain. I tore through an awful lot of her stuff in the 60's and 70's.
>163 weird_O: Well done on the book haul for Mrs weird_O. The only ones I've not read are the Penny and the Nesbit. The rest are all top-notch.
Hi, Bill! Returning your visit. Sounds like you did very well with the book purchase in >163 weird_O:.
>164 jessibud2: >165 laytonwoman3rd: >166 rosalita: Thanks for the book-picking compliments. It's a way of mollifying my Love through my love (of shopping for bargain books). I've got one on deck for her, bought last week when we went to the groomer's. And she's interested in A Moveable Feast, which I finished a couple of days ago.
>163 weird_O: Year of Wonders is fantastic! You have to read this one, Bill. And I am also a big fan of Tana French. I may be starting one of hers soon...her latest.
I have 65 pages left in Tree of Smoke, so I will wrap this up tomorrow. Not disappointed but I was expecting more from Mr. Johnson. And a National Book Award winner? Sorry, I don't see it.
Hi Bill--I had to skip most of the recent comments, because they are all about the Underground Railroad and I just started it. I put a sticky note in the book to come back and read them later. : ) Love the lake photo!!!
>167 harrygbutler: Aw, thanks for signing the guest register, Harry. The books I found for my wife were a hit, and it seems that my sinister plan is working. As Judi re-shelved Faithful Place this morning, she asked when the next book sale will be. At last!!! She wants me to go.
The next sale at the Bethlehem Library is July 19 (a Wednesday) and 22 (Saturday). Linda (Whisper1) and Diane (DianeKeenoy) usual shop Saturday, and we occasionally have a meet-up at the Hotel B. afterwards. Somethin' you might consider.
On the late author's birthday, I have finished Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, his epic novel of the Vietnam War. It won the National Book Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Like the war itself, it does go on. But I did like it, because it is food for thought.
The books I've read so far in 2017. Minus just one—The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey, which I borrowed and returned. Forty-two plus inches of books (3 1/2 feet). I'm going to have to make a longer shelf 'til the year is done.
Cool Beans! love the book shelf. I never keep books once I have read them and entered them in my book diary. I send them off to other happy homes where I hope they will reside on a bookshelf like yours, and then go to another happy home.
>171 weird_O: Hi, Bill. Thanks for letting me know about the next sale! We have plans for that Saturday (the Burlington County Farm Fair over in New Jersey), so I probably can't make it up there then (barring rain), but those library sales happen every few months, right?
>173 weird_O: I like the idea of putting all the year's read books on a single shelf like that — makes for a real visual statement.
Enjoy your weekend!
>173 weird_O: Excellent! It's like the year at a glance. Sometimes I look at a book on my shelf and I remember what else was going on in my life while I read that particular book.
>170 Berly: Activity is minimal here, Kim, so how is it I missed your post? Have you finished The Underground Railroad? Wadja think?
>174 benitastrnad: >175 harrygbutler: >176 mstrust: Thanks, folks. I like having my reading progress on display. I haven't reached the point where I want to unload books. In fact, once in a while, I think of books I once had but tossed or donated. "Why did I get rid of that?" I ask myself. I guess it makes me a hoarder. Jeff (Mahsdad) recently linked to a clickbait site with a list of notables who, in the site's tag, were "book hoarders." I mentioned that about half of the ten "hoarders" had fewer books can many of us who've cataloged our collections on LT.
I am one of the hoarders, and I am unrepentant.
>175 harrygbutler: The Bethlehem library holds a sale about every two months, always on a Wednesday and Saturday. The dates remaining: July 19 & 22; Sept. 13 & 16; Nov. 29 & Dec. 2.
Happy Sunday, Bill. I did not dislike Tree of Smoke but it fell short of expectations. I kept waiting for it to really take off and it never did.
I am glad you found it more worthy. The guy is a terrific writer, no question.
>173 weird_O: Love the idea of a display shelf for the books you've read this year Bill.
Pity the likes of Suz and Anita who have read 200 books already and would struggle to show us them all in one post!
>178 msf59: But we both got through the sucker, didn't we. Hope your day goes well; look forward to tomorrow.
>179 PaulCranswick: Paul, I can't pity those high-volume readers. They just have a showier display, something like a 3 1/2 foot wide, 8 foot tall bookcase. Well, I guess that would only accommodate 280 books or thereabouts, and they need shelving for 400 books. Hey. It's not MY problem; they're the ones who read all those books in one year.
Not sure if I'm jealous or not.
>180 LovingLit: :-)
You got me with a book bullet when you wrote about Lady in Gold. Last night I went to Barnes & Noble and purchased it. I probably won't read it for awhile, but at least I own it. And the author will get a royalty out of it. Darn thing was full price in paperback. $18.00!
>182 benitastrnad: Oh great, Benita. Hope you get something out of it. I do the same gasping when making a full-ticket book buy. I got Lady in Gold together with the Helen Mirren film (which apparently did not derive from the book but from something Maria Altmann wrote) for my wife for Christmas. I haven't watched the film.
ETA Hope you get something out of it doesn't sound right to me, almost like a put-down. What I mean is, I hope you get the same satisfaction, enjoyment, enlightenment, whatever, from it. (Thinking too much; lacking articulation. Sorry)
Cogitating about my reading so far in 2017. Stats-like.
Books read: 43
By Male Authors: 33
By Female Authors: 10
By Dead Authors: 20
By Still-Living Authors: 23
18th Century Book: 1
19th Century Books: 2
20th Century Books: 25
21st Century Books: 15
Shortest Book: On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt; 67 pages
Longest Book: The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer; 626 pages
Authors of Multiple Books Read:
The Old Man and the Sea
For Whom the Bell Tolls
A Moveable Feast
A Tidewater Morning
Hi, Bill! I hope you had a great Fourth!
>177 weird_O: I now prune from our library only those books I dislike, or out-of-date reference books, and such. I've too often regretted getting rid of books I later wanted to reread.
Thanks for the schedule of the other sales! September and November are both more likely than this month.
Hi Bill - I love the visual of the books you've read >173 weird_O: - some good ones.
I hope you had a great Fourth.
The year's half gone. Here's an update on my "Best Books" reading. In January, I posted a list of 24 TBRs that appear on an amalgamated table of "Best Books Lists" published by eight different (self-appointed) book-picking authorities. If I average two reads a month, I'll read them all by the end of the year.
Here's my list of 24, alphabetized by author names. NOTE: Although it IS on my overall (10-year plan, maybe) Best Books TBR chart, I didn't plan to read L.A. Confidential in 2017. But since I did read it, I'm taking the credit against my 24 for 2017.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (pub. 1868-9)
The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (pub. 1958)
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs (pub. 1959)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (pub. 1861)
The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy (pub. 1955)
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (pub. 1880)
I, Claudius by Robert Graves (pub. 1934)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (pub. 1850)
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (pub. 1929)
The Known World by Edward P. Jones (pub. 2003)
Ironweed by William Kennedy (pub. 1983)
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud (pub. 1957)
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (pub. 1915)
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (pub. 1759)
To a Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (pub. 1927)
There it is. I've fallen a month behind. Read 10, still have 14 to read.
Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.
Great job on your Best Books list, Bill. This is a good way to get caught up on some classics.
Hi Bill! Excellent goal and you're steaming along nicely, even if a month behind. I tend to fall apart once I commit to a challenge, so admire folks who set big goal like this and work it.
Which book is next?
>190 msf59: >191 karenmarie: Mark! Karen! Nice to see you both.
I'm unresolved about my Best Books lineup. Yeah, I picked titles in January, but I am feeling several of the titles just don't excite me right now. I'm just going to coast, cherry-picking the things I DO want to read, and letting others just sit in the array behind my computer (pan my eyes to the right, and there they all are).
BREAKING: We just got back from berry-buying with just-picked cherries for pie! Ah, ADD; I mentioned cherry-picking of books to read just above, and cherries for desserting just popped in there. Sorry for the interruption.
Finished The Color of Water yesterday and started right in on The Scarlet Letter. The introductory piece, "The Custom-House," was so, so, so...@&%*!!$#. I set that aside in favor of Ironweed by William Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and already I'm half through. I'll get back to Hester in a few days.
Ooh summer fruit. I'm enjoying the blackcurrants and raspberries here (neat, with cream).
Also admire the bookshelf.
I plan on picking blueberries this evening even though it has not been a good year for blueberries down here in Alabama. I may have to work hard to get a gallon of them.
Fresh cherry pie sounds heavenly. I'm lazy and had my friend Michelle buy fresh-picked blueberries for me at the coast. I made some of them into a compote for buttermilk pound cake, and the rest need to be eaten and/or put in the freezer.
>196 weird_O: Literally, right now, my first cup of the day!
Don't want to allow this day to expire without calling out the birthday of photographer, art critic, and influential art exhibitor, dealer, and mentor Alfred Steiglitz (1864-1946).
Photo of Stieglitz by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Winter – Fifth Avenue (1893). left; The Steerage, right.
Several Stieglitz photos of his wife Georgia O'Keeffe.
>203 Berly: Oh, you are a good mom, Kim. What's the book? You are going to put it on your books-read list, aren't you?
>202 weird_O: How cool to celebrate Stieglitz. Since this is my first visit to your thread, I won't be so bold to post a photo, but if I were it would be Gertrude Kasebier's portrait. Do you know it? (https://uploads3.wikiart.org/images/gertrude-kasebier/portrait-of-alfred-stieglitz-1902.jpg) By the way, hello. I'm Michael.
>206 majleavy: I am familiar with Kasebier's portrait of Stieglitz. You didn't post it, so I will.
# 48. Good Will Hunting: A Screenplay by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Finished 7/14/17
The Weird ReportTM
I'll grant that reading a screenplay is quite a change-up from novels, but I liked this movie, and the book caught my eye at Goodwill (which by itself is an interesting coincidence).
The story is that of a young math wizard who is hiding his talent under a mop in a bucket full of dirty water. Working as a janitor at M.I.T., Will Hunting, not yet 21, comes upon a blackboard on which a professor has written a math challenge for his students to try to solve for extra credit. Will picks up the chalk and quickly writes the solution. Everyone is gobsmacked. Who did this? Who solved it? No one knows, but the professor wants to find out.
The guy who solved it, as well as subsequently posted challenges, is an orphan, physically and mentally abused by foster parents, with a public-school education (if that), living in a rented room in South Boston, and hangin' out with three unskilled, directionless friends. Much beer is consumed in corner taverns; occasionally there's a fight. Will has a police record, and his most recent fight is going to land him in the pokey. Until the professor intercedes with a plan to keep Will working his math genius while getting behavioral/psychological counseling. And so it goes.
Damon and Affleck created the script for themselves and shopped it around filmland. Optioned and produced, it was not only a box office success, it garnered Oscars for the writers and an Oscar for Robin Williams' performance as a psychologist, left adrift by the death of his wife, who helps Will (and himself).
It appears to be a monsoon season here in the South part of the U.S. It rains every afternoon, so like you I am doing bookish things late this afternoon.
# 49. The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick Finished 7/16/17
The Weird ReportTM
William Lederer (left) and Eugene Burdick
Denis Johnson's novel of the Vietnam War era, Tree of Smoke, prompted me to pull this nearly 60-year-old novel off the shelf and actually read it. The book was just about what I thought it was, but the title, The Ugly American, didn't refer at all to what I thought it did. On a few occasions in ToS, the protagonist, Skip Sanders, asks himself if he is "The Quiet American" or "The Ugly American." And each time, I thought to myself, I've read The Quiet American, I should read The Ugly American.
The Ugly American is not a book you read for the writing. It's serviceable, but no more than that. The dialogue isn't natural, but its intent is to advance the message. The message, of course, is that in foreign relations, Americans are among their worst enemies. They don't master the language of the host country, they don't mix with the people (only the country's rulers and moguls), their decisions are formed to ingratiate them with politicians at home, inflate egos, but seldom to advance local economies. The book is a collection of object lessons. The book's title is taken from the appearance of a volunteer aid worker named Homer Atkins, an engineer who heads up-country to work with villagers to invent, build, and deploy a simple pump to move irrigation water uphill to where the rice paddies are. Declining to employ an interpreter, he spends weeks learning the rudiments of the native language, then personally schmoozes the village elder. With the elder's support and the assistance of a local mechanic, Homer builds a pump from stuff available to the average village. He and the mechanic hire local workers to build and sell the pumps. Big success.
But Homer is physically unattractive. Many would say he's ugly. All those years I thought "ugly" referred to some American's behavior or conduct, arrogance, bigotry, to some aggressively unsuitable representative for the U.S. Turns out that Lederer and Burdick's "ugly" American is the good guy, Graham Greene's "quiet" American is the bad guy.
In light of current events, I think the view the authors present of Russia is telling. Russian agents in Southeast Asia, according to The Ugly American, had to speak and read the native language, and avoid ostentatious appearances and activities. Money and effort was focused on bringing the peasants into the Communist fold. A lot smarter than the Americans.
>202 weird_O: I love Stieglitz's black and white photography (my FIL was a talented photographer, and did some pretty fine work in the darkroom as well), but if I were Georgia I'd have burned the negative to that one on the left. It's part of a series of photos he took of her all at once, I think, and some of the others are stunning. I think if there's ever a dramatization of her life, Bebe Neuwirth must be cast...I see her in this one:
>216 rosalita: Both books have a lot to say about ongoing American hubris.
Everyone else: Karen, Mark, Kim, Linda: I find myself incapable of crafting scintillating replies to your comments. Just thanks for stopping by. Come again soon. Bring something cold, pls.
I finished Old Man by William Faulkner (a re-read) and I'm halfway through McBride's Miracle at St. Anna. Diane Arbus is on deck. Another photographer.
Happy Birthday, Hem. One hundred eighteen years old today. Let's have a party, just like the old days in Havana.
>218 weird_O: If you can get your hands on it, Bill, a recent New Yorker has an excellent article on Hemingway by Adam Gopnik, who's quite a good writer himself. (I loved his Paris to the Moon, and any of his articles). He comes out quite positively on Hemingway's writing, particularly his short stories (which I like best, too).
>219 jnwelch: - Adam Gopnik is great, I agree. I have listened to him read a few of his books in audiobook format. I especially enjoyed The Table Comes First and Through the Children's Gate. He also did a series of 5 lectures here in Canada, called the Massey Lectures, and those lectures are later published as a book. His topic was Winter: Five Windows on the Season
I read Paris to the Moon years ago and liked it very much. At the time I read it I didn't know that Gopnik did lots of writing for the New Yorker.
#220 I am happy to know about the Winter book and the lectures. I will add that book to my wishlist. I already have Table Comes First on that list.
How did the book sale go, Bill? Any interesting finds?
I did finish The Color of Water today. Easily, one of the best memoirs I have read. Go McBride!
So I went shopping for used books, just dropping stuff at random into me book bag. Spent less than $30.
*Read a borrowed copy; now I have my own!
**Upgrade over what's on a shelf.
Great haul! I have read 3 of them (the ones by Robertson Davies, Simon Winchester and James Joyce)
I went to the Used Book Store yesterday and for $8.00 got three books. I also went to the library and got 3 book for $0.00. Now I just have to find time to read them.
>225 weird_O: Great deals! And even a Judy Blume I've never heard of.
What a stupendous book haul, Bill! You are a champion book-shopper, my friend.
>226 jessibud2: I've read that Joyce myself, Shelly, but not Davies or that particular Winchester. The latter is a sizable volume, but I am pretty sure I'll enjoy it.
>227 karenmarie: Thanks, Karen. I'm thinking now that I should have dropped a trade paper copy of A Bell for Adano to replace my old original mass-market paperback. My wife read it recently and the pages were falling out. So yeah, sometimes you've got to upgrade.
>228 harrygbutler: You were going to a sale, weren't you, Harry? How did it go? I'll check your thread.
>229 BLBera: The low cost feeds some of the selections, Beth. "Cripes, it's only a buck. No great loss if I already have it or I don't like it."
>230 benitastrnad: We have several good used book stores in the area, and I seek them out if I want a particular title or author. But serendipity reigns when the prices are rock-bottom. No time limits on when you read a book when you own it. It's weird to got to a library simply to buy cheap books. If the name fits, wear it, I guess.
>231 mstrust: A fairly recent Blume, and not YA.
>232 rosalita: It's nice to be good at something, Julia.
I'm reading Diane Arbus, a biography of the photographer. It's 600 pages, and perhaps more than I really want to know about her. A vexing feature of most photographer bios I've read is the failure to incorporate images with the text. This book has a list, "Photographs Discussed in the Text," that runs to four pages and not a one of them is in the book. I have books that include a few of Arbus' images, but not a comprehensive collection in one volume.
I guess I have to shop.
HA! Big surprise yesterday. An orange-bagged New York Times resting at the mailbox. The Sunday edition for July 23, 2017! Pleasant surprise.
>233 weird_O: - I listened to Winchester himself read it to me last year and he is a very good narrator. Yes, it is vast and meandering but he has a real knack of always circling back to the main story and never losing his focus. I always try to find his books on audio when he is the reader - I think I've listened to at least 3 or 4 that way
>225 weird_O: Great book haul, Bill. Great price. You are building quite the library, my friend.
>236 jessibud2: Glad to hear a recommendation, Shelly. I've read a number of Winchester books, and have twonow threeon the shelf. Haven't gotten into audio books, not that I have really made the effort.
>237 msf59: I guess a library IS what's growing here, Mark
>238 msf59: I have NOT done a single strange thing in my life. Hahaha. Ahh hahaha...
Saw this summer reading list.
As it works out, I have read 10 of these classics, including one read earlier this year. The two I haven't read are Great Expectations and A Wrinkle in Time. The former has been on my must-read in 2017 list. The latter is in my hands because we bought it for a granddaughter's birthday. Since it's here, I'm taking a day off from Diane Arbus to read Ms. L'Engle. (We also got Olivia Charlotte's Web, which I've never read, so I may take this fleeting opportunity to read it as well.)
>241 weird_O: Hope you like 'em both, Bill. Great Expectations is my favorite Dickens. I loved A Wrinkle in Time when I read it in grade school, but was less enthusiastic when I re-read it a few years after college. So however well you like the l'Engle I hope your granddaughter likes it even better!
My score is lower than yours: I've not read Lord of the Flies, The Sound and the Fury, or The Sun Also Rises. Also not On the Road, but in that case only because I lost interest and stopped.
Well..................according to a recent PEARLS BEFORE SWINE,
you just did DO something weird: five/six "hahaha's"
means you are WWD, Writing While Drunk.
Hope it is fun!
>244 m.belljackson: Not much of a drinker, Marianne. I think it has been decades since my last drunk. Hahaha.
So weird as it might be, it is not writing while drunk. How about WWW? Hahaha.
>24 msf59: I love the chart. Maybe 'cuz I'm an English teacher, I've read 'em all except for On the Road.
>247 laytonwoman3rd: Well, why would I be guided in my writing by some comic strip? That WOULD be weird.
Another Pastis Classic to print out - it reminds me of when he wrote that his Mother had
sent him another "500 Ways Your Pants Can Kill You" forward.
That made my Daughter (finally) laugh about all the ones I send to her.
Hi Bill! Wishing you a happy Friday and all good things for the weekend.
>233 weird_O: I frequently bought duplicates over the years, especially at Friends of the Library Sales and especially on $5/bag day.
However, I recently installed the LibraryThing smartphone app for Android (the iPhone app has been out for quite a while, apparently) and it’s perfect to identify whether you already have a book. I’ve already avoided re-buying quite a few.
>234 weird_O: Or just look on-line as you’re reading?
>241 weird_O: I like the pics. I’ve read 6 of them, abandoned Things Fall Apart. I read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time in 4th or 5th grade, I think. That would be .. er.. 54 or 55 years ago. Gulp. Charlotte’s Web was in 3rd grade. I’ve re-read both, and for me both have stood the test of time.
>251 karenmarie: Some would call me a Luddite, Karen (though that's not applying the canard accurately). We just haven't gotten cell phones.
I read A Wrinkle in Time, and it was fine. My daughter loved it (and Madeleine l'Engle's other books) when she was in school. There's a book on our shelves (I can't remember which one) that has the last page of AWiT stuck in it. You know, FWIW. L'Engle's book was published in 1962, I believe, which was the year I finished high school.
I'm reading Charlotte's Web, alternating amongst it, The Scarlet Letter and Diane Arbus.
Happy Sunday, Bill. I hope you had a fantastic weekend. It looks like the McBride AAC month, was a success. Hoping for the same with Highsmith.
from the AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 Birds and Blooms:
When author E.B. White recorded the audio book for Charlotte's Web,
it took him 17 takes to get through the titular spider's death scene without crying.
>256 m.belljackson: Oh, oh! Spoiler. I'm only in the fourth chapter...barely started. And now the surprise is...well...blown, shot, sunk, spoiled, torpedoed, scuttled, ________ (your favorite synonym here). I'm sharing Andy's tears...
>254 weird_O: We had a group read of Great Expectations last year. We had a group read of Bleak House this year, and there are rumblings about a group read in 2018. A Tale of Two Cities or Nicholas Nickelby have been mentioned.
>257 weird_O: It's still an excellent read. Our entire class cried in 3rd grade when Mrs. Shigeta was reading about Charlotte. I love that storm gif!
I am another who loved Charlotte's web. I loved it when I read it myself and later, as a student teacher, I read it to the third grade class I was a student teacher in. Then many of the kids actually ordered it from the Scholastic book club! Made me look good!
>255 msf59: It was a weekend, Mark. Yes, a weekend. Finished The Scarlet Letter at 12:44 a.m. today, putting the wrap on July's reading. Ten books. Pretty darn good for me.
I did read two McBride books, and both were good. We shall see about Highsmith. I posted the following link on your thread, but I'll add it here. I'll be looking for something off this list.
Wow, so sorry - I thought every adult knew that ending!
It was the reason I could never read the book to my 4th grade classes...
and another reason why my daughter and I carry spiders found in the house to a safe spot outside...
>261 weird_O: I know you addressed it to Mark, but I stole your link to the Highsmith list. Sorry, Bill!
>263 rosalita: I really posted it for everyone, Julia. I thought perhaps Mark would post it in the Read Highsmith in August for the AAC when he gets that round tuit. I read Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Beyond that, zippo! I got nothing. So finding a short list with brief descriptions of the books is a godsend.
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