Reading: 2000

Number items = 128

Temporary Kings — Anthony Powell (+)
Book 4 Volume 11. I’ll be taking the last volume into the next year. I’m starting to recommend Powell more and more.

Under the Roofs of Paris — Henry Miller
This novel was commission by an LA bookstore that made a little extra selling porno to the Hollywood crowd. Miller got a buck a page and delivered it over time in pieces. Originally titled Opus Pistorum the book is without any redeeming social value and is quite graphic, in a quaint, ville parisienne manner. So, four stars for smut value; three stars for fun prose; two stars for cohesion.

Prodigal Summer — Barbara Kingsolver
Although very well written and generally entertaining, I began to tire of the author’s heavy-handed sermons on nature and man’s responsibility to maintain the delicate balance. Still, an excellent author.

Maigret Has Scruples — Georges Simenon
A good demonstration of Maigret’s “methods”.

All the Names — José Saramago (+)
A wonderful treatment of loneliness and identity in an almost Kafkaesque world. This text goes right alongside The History of the Siege of Lisbon but is more tightly drawn and therefore more satisfying. You’ll be asking about the nature of life as you read this novel where life and death are often a matter of which side of the aisle your Registration card is filed. A great, thought provoking read; recommended.

Maigret’s Mistake — Georges Simenon
Sometimes I’m not sure how the title clearly relates to the story; this was a good one, though. Simenon gives us enough brain tickling entertainment and not too much so that we want to pick up the next title for more Maigret.

Pictures from Brueghel — William Carlos Williams
Another volume of exquisite poetry from Dr. Williams who practiced medicine right up the street from the Sports Complex in the Meadowlands, home of the New York Giants and the New York Jets.

Books Do Furnish a Room — Anthony Powell (+)
Book 4 Volume 10 and the post-war maneuvering gives us our characters matured and looking to serve in the government and the like. I really really want to go back and re-read each volume and take copious notes on the characters and their relationships. (might even be a decent hypertext application).

The Hatter’s Phantoms — Georges Simenon
This was a very nicely wrought psychological drama with a wonderfully imaginative development of an unlikely serial killer. Recommended (not Maigret).

The Last Temptation of Christ — Nikos Kazantzakis (+)
Wow! This is an amazing book and highly recommended. Oh, sure, you can see where the criticism of this work came from; after all, it does secularize and refuses to sanitize much of the story that has been “officially” documented in the Gospels. But look at the power of that story — It works on many levels and as a personal response by the author to the Passion, it is a glorious success. And don’t forget that you can also read it for the richness and power of the prose. This is a world class author.

Perish Twice — Robert B. Parker
The library came through with the latest from RBP — Sunny is back. Like many RBP titles, this one is more interesting in the build-up and falls flat in the solution.

The Military Philosophers — Anthony Powell (+)
Book 3 Volume 9 and WWII has ended; we’ve lost one of our original main characters; the others are getting older. Moving on to the fourth volume.

Maigret in Holland — Georges Simenon
Maigret goes to Holland where he doesn’t understand the language and his methods are unwelcome; but by deftly recreating the scene of the crime … voilà … neatly solved (they still don’t like him, though).

Journey To Love — William Carlos Williams
In New Jersey we recommend Doctor Williams.

Maigret and the Fortuneteller — Georges Simenon
A great story; classic.

The Onion Eaters — J. P. Donleavy (-)
I had a lot of fun with JP’s humorous prose but the story was too scattered. Reminded me of Kobo Abe without the other-worldliness, It was also pointed out to me that it has been 30 years since I read The Gingerman.

Maigret Hesitates — Georges Simenon
This one was good until the solution and it then went flat.

Miracle of the Rose — Jean Genet (+)
The Bad Boy of French literature and this guy can really write. Although I now must go back and read his first novels (Our Lady of the Flowers and Thief’s Journal) this title certainly gave me a insight into the author. Although highly recommended, Genet writes from prison and the subject is the beauty and dignity that is created, often artificially, in an austere, dangerous, cruel, fetid world of confinement and punishment; more specifically, you will know more about man-man prison sex than you might care to know.

The Desert Music — William Carlos Williams
A local and influencial poet, those who have not read Doctor Williams should do so.

The Consolation of Philosophy — Boethius
A little foray into philosophy and spirituality. Brought up some interesting questions for discussion.

Ivanhoe — Sir Walter Scott
This is a really good read .. fun and exciting. I’m going to pull out a few more Scott titles. It was interesting how the Robin Hood story was just underneath the Ivanhoe story.

Norwegian Wood — Haruki Murakami
Finally Murakami’s first novel is available in English translation. This piece is not as filled with strange images as the later works or the earlier stories but is a satisfying study of love and relationships somewhat akin to Banana Yosimoto. Enjoyable.

Maigret on the Riviera — Georges Simenon
It’s always interesting to take Maigret out of Paris and watch him work on his own.

Anil’s Ghost — Michael Ondaatje
As I read this title I began to realize how much I liked the author’s prose style — simple yet powerful. I recommend this author highly.

Maigret and the Yellow Dog — Georges Simenon
One of the best I’ve read; reminded me of Conan Doyle.

The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold — Evelyn Waugh
An interesting, quasi-autobiographical study of dementia. Good reviews but not that strong.

Maigret In Montmartre — Georges Simenon
So many Maigret titles.

The History of the Siege of Lisbon — José Saramago
The author explores truth — truth in history, truth in life. A modern editor changes the a Yes to a No in a new History Text and the ripples travel through his life and the imagined re-telling of the Siege of Lisbon. A good treatment of an interesting premise but it didn’t hold me.

This Side of Paradise — F. Scott Fitzgerald
Although overly literary, this first novel was fun (lots of New Jersey references to make it locally interesting) — just ignore the ending which sucks.

Identity — Milan Kundera
A study of identity; what is it that identifies us?

Unconditional Surrender — Evelyn Waugh
A very different slant on the British experience in WWII. Kinda fun.

First Snow on Fuji — Yasunari Kawabata
A favorite Japanese author.

Flag On the Island — V. S. Naipaul
The first half of this collection was very nice; the title piece I didn’t like.

Raj — Gita Mehta
There’s actually a lot of interesting stuff in here about India under the British Raj and how salt and a bald man in a loin cloth brought it all down. Unfortunately, the author tells the whole story through the eyes of a young girl who grows up to be a ruler in Royal India and the narrative is not very sophisticated. I think I might look up a historical commentary to read — I want to know more.

The Last of Chéri — Sidonie Gabrielle Colette
Some strong images here; much stronger and darker than the earlier piece.

Amsterdam — Ewan McEwan
Entertaining for as long as it took … definitely TV fare.

Intimacy — Hanif Kureishi
Inside the guilt and the pain and the loss of this guy who’s going to walk out on his woman and their two kids ’cause he’s got a new girl friend by the author of My Beautiful Laundrette. Seemed rather more thin than the reviews would have it.

The Sea of Grass — Conrad Richter (+)
Almost perfect. This is a truly beautiful and damn well written novel. Absolutely recommended.

Headbirths or The Germans Are Dying Out — Günter Grass (+)
I am amazed at how simple Grass makes a complex narrative seem. Here, I think, a writer who appears to be a version of the author is putting together a treatment for a movie and this couple are chosen to be in the movie which they are actively participating in as the writer is manipulating them in the yet unwritten script … and the underlying theme appears to be “Are we Germans to die out while the Indians and Chinese just go on multiplying” but the real theme is “What’s wrong with us is neither material nor social but an emergency of the spirit.” This is some fine author.

Passion — I. U. Tarchetti (-)
This love story can be compared with Goethe’s Werther or Dumas’ Fernande or Martin’s The Jerk.

The Soldier’s Art — Anthony Powell (+)
Book 3 Volume 8 and I’m actually beginning to keep all the character relationships straight and I am also appreciating the author’s work more and more. I’m now better about to delve into the skill of the author without fearing to lose track of the characters or the plot.

The Meeting at Telgte — Günter Grass
The author parallels a group of intellectuals in post-war Germany through the story of a similar group of authors and publishers that met at the end of the Thirty Years War. Actually very interesting and even caused me to laugh heartily at a few of the scenes. Not for everyone.

In the Here & There — Valeria Narbikova
The author is touted as the “voice of Russian female post-moderism” . Okay, I guess. This was an interesting text and I will look for other titles by the author (and perhaps read some Pushkin too).

Flashman — George MacDonald Fraser
I have had this series recommended to me on several occasions and when I spotted the first volume at the library, I grabbed it. Although the adventures of the not-so-honorable Flashman were sometimes entertaining, they were as often not. I think one was enough.

Chéri — Sidonie Gabrielle Colette
A very interesting study revolving around aging courtesans. I must read the follow-up piece. Although in translation, the prose is light and conversational — perfect for this story.

Djinn — Alain Robbe-Grillet
This text by my favorite author is actually understandable, albeit a little strange. Unlike most R-G works I didn’t have to go back and re-read so many times to keep things straight. You can get it in a volume with La Maison de Rendez-Vous which is excellent. I’ve started collecting the various volumes of R-G in French and in translation (so many are out-of-print or unavailable in the States).

Maigret and the Lazy Burglar — Georges Simenon
I like this guy; try him.

The Return of the Native — Thomas Hardy
I originally read this as a senior in highschool and I remember the old Collins edition I had seeming to be an insurmountable task. However, I also remember when I got into the story, it was a grabber even for a 17 year old surfer. Recently I picked up a copy at the library, started to read and was hooked all over again. Sometimes a little flowery, I still enjoy reading Hardy and expect to follow up with a couple of lesser known titles I bought recently.

Maigret in Society — Georges Simenon
I actually figured this one out (2 or 3 pages before the author related the solution).

Maigret’s Failure — Georges Simenon
I checked out a collection of three reissued Maigret novels aptly titled A Maigret Trio and have been very pleased. These are archetypical detective stories and at the same time you are enjoying the nicely defined characters, the ambiance of Paris and the no-nonsense police-work of the title character you are also presented with a tidy little puzzle to solve alongside the famous police superintendent. Delightful fun.

War and Peace — Leo Tolstoy (+)
What? You didn’t read War and Peace last week? I did — it was long, easy to read and excruciatingly good. A most excellent book with few peers. I found it fascinating how Tolstoy could tell such an interesting story at the same time he was throwing out hundreds of pages expounding his personal philosophies and at the same time paint a pretty vivid picture of warfare in the early 19th century.

The House on Quai Notre Dame — Georges Simenon
Another one of Simenon’s psychological novels. Here the author explores a few days and hours in the life of a family faced with the death of a rich relative. I enjoyed this more than Striptease.

Van Gogh’s Bad Café: A Love Story — Frederic Tuten (-)
Many years ago I read an interesting early novel by the author (The Adventures of Mao on the Long March) and I was equally intrigued by the title of this recent work. Unfortunately, the best I can say about it is that I enjoyed the poetic quality of the author’s prose — but that is faint praise. Maybe I should read Lust for Life?

Striptease — Georges Simenon
A quick entertainment from the author’s “psychological” novels (no Maigret). I grabbed a couple of Simenon titles from the library shelf because Hemingway speaks of reading GS in his Africa stories (he also admits that they aren’t all very good … but there sure are a lot of them).

The River Sutra — Gita Mehta
This was pretty good stuff and I’ll be looking for the author’s earlier work Raj. It seems to be a common practice to whip together a novel out of barely related stories. Few are successful (Naguib Mahfouz being an exception) but Mehta pulls it off with the ever present structure of the eternal holy river Narmada where “too many lives converge on these banks.”

True At First Light — Ernest Hemingway
Despite all the controversy, I found this text no better and hardly any worse than other titles by the author. Green Hills of Africa of course comes to mind. Pappa shoulda stuck to the short stories. No rating; it’s just a curiosity.

The Valley of Bones — Anthony Powell (+)
Book 3 Volume 7 and I’m actually beginning to keep all the character relationships straight and I am also appreciating the author’s work more and more. After a six month hiatus I’m back to Powell and lovin’ it.

The Shutter of Snow — Emily Holmes Coleman
I’m always interested when the kid tells me to read a particular text. This one is The Yellow Wallpaper in The Snake Pit. The author is an interesting figure in the literary world of expatriate Paris and I couldn’t help thinking back to the recently read Archivist.

Honk If You Love Aphrodite — Daniel Evan Weiss
I loved this fascinating book by the “Evil Knievel of novelists”. Told entirely in heroic free verse in the form of a Homeric epic, Honk relates the events in the life of Aphrodite’s son who comes down from Catskill (the neighborhood had changed around Olympus and the gods had found better digs in the new world) to discover the secret of mortal love. Not as dark and definitely more fun that the author’s other novels.

Emma — Jane Austen (+)
An enjoyable classic with enough depth to also be intellectually stimulating. As usual, I had trouble keeping the characters straight (especially since one name served two characters). That Emma is the bomb.

Where the Heart Is — Bellie Letts
Unadulterated fluff … but a pleasant read without a lot of pretension. Buy a copy at the Super Wal-mart.

The Archivist — Martha Cooley (-)
At first an intriguing story of literary investigation into T. S. Eliot but turned into a depiction of mental illness with links to the Holocaust; I’m not sure the parallel with TSE’s wife was sufficient to hold this all together and I found it ultimately lacking.

Young Lonigan — James T. Farrell
An interesting story of growing up on the streets. This is the first volume of the Studs Lonigan trilogy and it’s openly vicious intolerance for “minorities” doubly emphasizes the difficulty with some literature — both reflecting the time it was written and also the period it represents.

Hugger Mugger — Robert B. Parker
RBP seems to have eased a little on the overly cutesy patter and given us another solid Spenser.

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha — Roddy Doyle
This title follows the so-called Barrytown trilogy and is full of entertaining snippets from the life of Patrick Clarke on the streets of Barrytown. I kinda missed having a nice plot in there but it was still fun.

My Century — Günter Grass
Pretty interesting. Grass gives us the century in a series of short-short stories which, rather than presenting history, develop a kaleidoscope image of the German heart and soul and how it reacts to the events of the last 100 years — big events and small events.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men — David Foster Wallace
Even though I found a couple of his pieces exquisite, this text came awfully close to a high-arching trip to the dust bin … but I persevered. Let’s just say that I think DFW is a bit full of himself and he should learn that just because he has an insight to share he’s not so special that we should have to sit through his sometimes interminably cutesy prose. Meta-hooey.

Little Altars Everywhere — Rebecca Wells
Entertaining enough with a few bright spots. I understand the next title (Divine Secrets …) is much better.

Geek Love — Katherine Dunn
A very unusual book with out of the ordinary events and richly developed characters — geeks, freaks, mutilations, flagellants, telepathic insemination, infanticide, siamese-twin-icide. Not for everyone but not too too weird, possibly because the author is effective in drawing the reader into this unusual world to the extent that “normals” become the outsiders. Unfortunately, I completely lost the author’s direction toward the end of this story and 3 stars might be shaky.

The Human Stain — Philip Roth (+)
This text is just chockablock with goodies and pushes the author a couple of notches up the pantheon of contemporary authors. I hesitate to give it the full 5 stars but I’m still wavering (I gave Bellow 4 stars, but a weak 4 stars). Roth builds his metaphor throughout the text to show that we all go through life inescapably leaving a trail — a stinky dribble from a slipping diaper to a burst of semen on a blue dress in the Oval Office.

Ravelstein — Saul Bellow (+)
I have to admit that I read most of this novel before I learned of all the controversy and realized (although the suspicion was always there) that the story was a bit close to real life. Ravelstein is a wonderful character and Bellow is still the best writer of prose in America today.

Difficulties of a Bridegroom — Ted Hughes
For a lot of reasons, I have never had much use for Ted Hughes but this collection of short stories intrigued me and, for the most part, they were enjoyable and first rate. Several reminded me of F. Scott’s more imaginative tales.

Quicksand — Junichiro Tanizaki
Originally serialized starting in the ’20s and finally published in 1947, Tanizaki gives us an amazing, dark twisting story of sexual obsession and mind games. Elegantly and often chillingly told without lurid details. Recommended.

Bech At Bay — John Updike
This was the best of Bech — nobel, witty, erudite, deadly. Ya gotta like this guy.

The Mistress — Philippe Tapon (-)
I really liked this text at times but it was too uneven so I knocked off a star. The story is of a French doctor, his mistress and the last days of the German occupation of Paris.

Eating Pavlova — D. M. Thomas (-)
The author gives us a dying Freud, his mind awash with drugs and inconsistent memories flowing into a quasi-fictional Freud drawn from the admitted lies of his journals and finally a strangely clairvoyant Freud who sees snippets of the future and completely misinterprets the message each time — a bumbling mortal that seems to only remember the naughty bits with any clarity. And the point is?

Pericles — William Shakespeare (-)
Thank goodness I had Venerable Bloom to tell me WS didn’t even write most of this yucky play.

Generation X — Douglas Coupland
This is the author’s breakthrough first novel and it might have been more impressive if I had read it when it was first released. The cute sidebar Gen-X definitions began to get tiring and his characters were not as defined and interesting as his later efforts in Microserfs. Only Ok.

Bombay Ice — Leslie Forbes (-)
China Town in Bombay but not as good. The author gave me lots of information about the India culture (and sub-culture) but never convinced me I was in India. For the record, this is a mystery involving poverty, rain, sexual mutilation and the Indian cinema.

The Pillow Boy of the Lady Onogoro — Alison Fell
Finally some good old fashioned Oriental erotica (by a Scottish author). It’s amazing how some of the stories are both explicit and at the same time quaint and beautiful (something Western pornographers find impossible to conceive).

The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft — George Gissing
Not really a novel, although interesting. Since I have read no other Gissing I cannot tell whether Ryecroft’s journal reflected Gissing’s views and opinions (as evidenced in his other novels) or whether there was some irony snuck in. Mostly it seemed like the author was just putting it out there without any pretense of a story line to possibly hide his subtext.

The Memoirs of Bambi Goldbloom (or, Growing Up in New Jersey) — Linda Sunshine (-)
Too trite and full of clichés to be seriously funny or humorously insightful. Fluff.

Diary — Samuel Pepys (+)
This radical abridgment only gives a quick taste of the wonderful world of Pepys’ London — the plague, the fire, the loose hands with the serving wenches. About 12 years back I spotted a complete edition in a quaint used bookstore but didn’t have the $300 they wanted. Oh well.

Microserfs — Douglas Coupland
I had a lot of fun with this irreverent text and would give it an extra star if I wasn’t also aware that many readers will find this micro-kids stuff very foreign and probably quite unfunny (I thought it was a hoot most of the time). For you older computer types that cut their teeth at Cal Tech in the late ’60s, this is the X-Generation version of The Soul of a New Machine.

Bech Is Back — John Updike
The famous unprolific author returns. My question is — how well does Bech know Zuckerman?

New Year’s Eve — Edith Wharton
An excellent companion piece to The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. There’s a lot of complexity inside this seemingly simple little story.

The House of Mirth — Edith Wharton
I suppose some of Wharton’s work begins to blend together but I truly enjoy her prose.

The Spark — Edith Wharton
The weakest in this collection of short novels dealing with the typical (for Wharton) New York swells.

Mary — Vladimir Nabokov
Nobokav’s first novel. We give him an extra star for promise.

The Long March — William Styron
An amazing story of a forced march over 36 miles in the Carolinas and deep into the souls of the two young Marine reserve officers.

Junky — William S. Burroughs
A horrifying yet actually understated confession of a queer junky. Much more of a straight narrative than Naked Lunch — more physical, less psychological.

The Old Maid — Edith Wharton
An interesting study. Recommended.

The Black Swans — Thomas Mann
This is the female companion piece to Death In Venice, albeit heterosexual. Heavy on the female anatomy discussion but still a good text.

The Roaches Have No King — Daniel Evan Weiss
Originally published in England as Unnatural Selection (a better title) the venerable card catalog lists this text as 1) Man-woman relationships; 2) Apartment Houses; 3) Cockroaches. Told entirely by the cockroach narrator, you’ll learn a lot about the less obvious places to visit in an apartment and you’ll get an entirely different perpective of man-woman sex. I have Joe’s Apartment on tape around here somewhere, left over from the free Showtime weekend last year — I should compare the two. Original and entertaining, if occasionally disgusting.

Sporting with Amaryllis — Paul West (-)
I’m not sure if this was sublime or a complete failure. So John Milton (yes, the John Milton) is playing duck-duck-goose and stinky pinky with as many unaccompanied skirts as he can down in London when he falls into the lair of the Muse, loses his virginity, gains deep poetic insight and is left to go blind and write great works. In a rare moment of control the author, who has Milton rub sand in his eyes, get squirted in the eyes with noxious chemicals, and even worse abuse like reading under a single candle until all hours of the night, does not suggest that the blindness is a result of a fondness for hand-galloping. Where did that space-ship stuff come from?

False Dawn — Edith Wharton
From a collection of short novels. A young man disappoints his domineering Father but finally the right man comes along to assess his value. Nothing subtle but a nice turn to the story at the end.

The Tale of an Old Geisha and Other Stories — Kanoko Okamoto (+)
Excellent! This short collection is translated from the Japanese by the person that is translating Anais Nin into Japanese (thus the tie in with the title below). I am always pleased when a small, unassuming text is as effective as is this one … magical.

The White Blackbird and Other Writings — Anais Nin
A very interesting a provocative little introduction to the author through short stories, essays and speeches. I want more.

Madness In the Family — William Saroyan
A pleasant collection of short stories centered around the Armenian settlements in Central California. A couple of minor gems but nothing outstanding.

The Seville Communion — Arturo Pèrez-Reverte
I want this author to be better; his stories are generally good attempts at originality that just slip up a little. This text was the first to interject a little humor into the mystery but it didn’t really deliver on the intrigue as well as Club Dumas and Flanders Panel (as flawed as they were). A weak 3 stars.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner — Alan Sillitoe
A strong collection of short stories from the darker side of Nottingham, England full of the depression and the humor of working class blokes and their birds … do you remember Teddy Boys?

The Guilty River — Wilkie Collins (-)
This short novel was all over the place and probably not worth the effort.

Bech: A Book — John Updike
Number 2 on my list of contemporary American authors. His characters and situations are always imaginative but I just love to read his prose. I’m putting the two other Bech titles on hold at the library right now!

The Haunted Hotel — Wilkie Collins
Great fun and a pretty nifty tale of suspense and horror (sorta). Recommended.

Marianne — George Sand
An enjoyable little book. I would expect my daughter would see this as a transitional FemLib text. Uh, perhaps.

A Tidewater Morning: Three Tales from Youth — William Styron
Three short novels from an excellent author. I read Sophie’s Choice a long time ago and I’ll have to pick up a few more titles by Styron. I like his prose.

Miss or Mrs? — Wilkie Collins
A fun little melodrama.

Droll Stories — Honoré de Balzac (+)
I was amazed to discover that this collection of over-sexed bathroom humor was both still on the list of Banned-Books and also completely out of print .. but they are so much fun (and clearly the origin of so many dirty stories we swapped when we were kids, staunchly believing that the events had just occurred to the family right around the block .. compare the Louis XI escapades to any Halloween Ex-Lax story you ever heard!). This large collection of old-time titillation and debauchery often had me laughing out loud. The author’s prose is delightful. I did notice one interesting social trait that arguably has changed dramatically — it seems that a loyal, chaste, honorable woman if confronted in a closed room by an authority figure, like a Duke or Earl, is immediately “lost” and the only recourse to the debauching is to fall on their dainty blade and die. It is different now, right?

Trilby — George Du Maurier
Did you ever wonder where Svengali came from? Read this book. Actually it’s a very nice story and quite well written. However, it has prompted me to add a new category to my “Recommendations” page which I call Books That Hurt. The Oxford edition of this text includes a ton of footnotes in the back of the book which break your reading stride and too often lead you to a useless explanation of something you already knew anyway. Now, a lot of these footnotes are translations of the French that the author scatters about each and every page and, even if your French is decent, the French in this book is often the French of the streets or written out as it would be spoken in dialect (not textbook French) or written out as if spoken by a foreigner who would butcher the pronunciation, mix-up the consonant sounds and sometimes even slip in German words to really confuse the issue. Ok, this was a simple little tale and I struggled with it for over two weeks — truly a book that hurts.

On Love — Alain de Botton
I thought I might as well read this author’s other book (his first novel) but it was pretty much like the earlier two novels — a frivolous love story designed to make you think .. maybe too much.

East of the Mountains — David Guterson
The author’s next title after Snow Falling On Cedars. Mildly entertaining at best (as far as dying of cancer stories go, that is).

Last Year at Mariendbad — Alain Robbe-Grillet
This ciné-novel makes for interesting, slow reading A smattering of stills from the movie which was made from this treatment helped to envision some of the scenes. Excellent if R-G is your man.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle — Haruki Murakami (-)
What was this all about ? I’m afraid Murakami got sloppy on this one and, despite it’s having received a great deal of accolade, I’m not recommending it.

Colonel Chabert — Honoré de Balzac
An excellent short novel from Balzac’s scenes from life. This guy is pretty good and I can’t wait to read the next text.

Beyond the Curve — Kobo Abe (+)
One of the best story collections you will ever read, although you might find Kobo a tad unusual .. but that’s good .. it’s called imagination. Too often we miss the early work of an author which often comes in the form of short stories. Don’t miss these!

The Lady of the Camellias — Alexandre Dumas fils
A good old fashioned love story [cough], probably more famous for the dramatizations throughout the years than for the actual text (my favorite being Traviata, of course.

The Name of the Rose — Umberto Eco
A wonderful mystery story (I love these period pieces). Unfortunately I had seen the film a few years back (liked that too) so there wasn’t the same sense of wonder that there might have been. Did everyone take the time to translate the Latin?

Kiss & Tell — Alain de Botton
Okay, the author is a little more controlled in this next text than Romantic Movement. Here the author is contemplating the high-art of biography with selected bits of erudition from Boswell and the like and at the same time living in a relationship with the rather ordinary woman who is the selected subject for his biographical pursuits. Pretty tame but I found some of the discussion of the genre interesting.

The Bureaucrats — Honoré de Balzac
This is one of those texts that is well written, fascinating and even educational … but not so very important in the history of literature. First, this would make a wonderful play and in many parts is written precisely for the stage; second, although it may have some assistance from the translator, you never feel you are in the midst of 1820s French bureaucracy — it’s not quite Dilbert, but it sounds like most of the big business concerns or government bureaucracies I hear about today. Read this gem and see how the Bourbons right-sized in 1820. Who out there fits this description .. “a bureaucrat is .. a man who needs his salary to live, is not free to quit his post, and cannot do anything except push papers” ?

The Romantic Movement — Alain de Botton (-)
A simple “looking for love story”, not half as interesting as Briget Jones but adequate for the Sunday afternoon Romance Channel, loosely sprinkled around an overdose of undergraduate erudition from an author that never learned to K.I.S.S.

The Black Tulip — Alexandre Dumas
A great story that I remember from the Classics Illustrated circa 1958. I read somewhere in some meager history that tulips were in fact the Pokemon of their day. For those of you that don’t have the time or perseverance to read The Count of Monte Cristo, read this.

Cross-Functional Teams: Working with Allies, Enemies & Other Strangers — Glenn M. Parker
Teamwork is one of my favorite subjects, even when I’m forced to read about it.

Marguerite de Valois or Queen Margot — Alexandre Dumas (+)
Like many others, I am only aware of the major Dumas works (The Three Musketeers, The Man In the Iron Mask, The Count of Monte Cristo) so I was extremely pleased with this text. These are wonderful books to read and enjoy and even learn a little French History. They’re more than just entertainments. I understand that, like 3M, this title is the first in a series with two titles following but I also understand that, like so many of the works of this famous author, they are not available in English editions. Perhaps I should start an internet search (might get them in etext versions).

The Swindler — Francisco de Quevedo
The second, longer, more coherent picaresque in the Penguin book with Lazarillo de Tormes. These are such a contrast to, let’s say, The Age of Innocence. And such fun!

The Kindly Ones — Anthony Powell
Last Book of the Second Movement (#6 of 12). There’s a lot of really good dialogue in these texts. I’m enjoying the experience more as the characters are becoming more familiar. Although there is a large cast of characters in this work, the author uses them well and often.

Castle Eppstein — Alexandre Dumas
A novel of romance and horror with all the trimmings — spooky castle, ghosts, oaths of undying love, deaths, banishment, sombre forests, hidden grottos. Not bad.

Fernande — Alexandre Dumas (-)
A young man dying of melacholy is revived when his wife brings his favorite courtesan to his bedside. An interesting story in the Werther vein.

The Old Curiosity Shop — Charles Dickens
Ah, poor Little Nell. This is about as Dickensian as they come, full of stereo-typical characters that are either pure goodness or super evil (although there was one character in there that I wasn’t sure about). Not my favorite Dickens but an entertaining, not too demanding, read.

Hunting Badger — Tony Hillerman
Navajo policemen Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn .. good company to start a new millennium. This entry is less Navajo and more policeman than most of the earlier works but still an entertaining read.

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