Reading: 2001

Total items = 102

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood — Rebecca Wells
Better than the first book and good enough for a Hallmark special.

Cat and Mouse — Günter Grass (+)
Loved this little novel (Part 2 of the Danzig Trilogy) — the perfect narrative pause after Tin Drum and before Dog Years.

Maigret and the Killers — George Simenon
A good outing for the inspector.

The Blind Assassin — Margaret Atwood
Atwood and I are not a good match. This one just seemed stupid but I give the author the benefit of the doubt.

Maigret Loses His Temper — George Simenon
This was a very good Maigret; you’ll enjoy the detective work and the final solution.

Maigret’s Memoires — George Simenon
An interesting twist where Maigret is concerned that the fictionalization of his career by the journalist to be known as Simenon has not been as true to life as Maigret would like, so the Chief Inspector decides to take pen in hand …

The Makioka Sisters — Junichiro Tanizaki (+)
I was takin’ a bunch of trash downstairs the other day and picked up my copy of this book that I was reading with the Yahoo JLit group and then couldn’t find the book anyplace. I wonder? Well, I had to head over to B&N for a new copy and if I have to buy five more, it was worth it — an excellent novel. The story is revolves around the marriage prospects of four sisters but is underneath it all the story of the changes being forced on the Japanese by modernization just before the breakout of WWII. The author is very subtle but his themes are clear. Notice how the “conflict in China” effects something as mundane as the selection of a restaurant or how social visits to old friends might have to be put off by the situation in Europe. The sisters, like Japan, were “easily convinced, wholly unworldly, easy, trusting, foolish.”

The Tunnel — Ernesto Sábato
A novel of obsession and very powerful, if not very complex.

The Adventures of the Ingenious Alfanhuí — Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio
This picaresque tale was full of fun and folklore.

The Watch — Carlo Levi (+)
Levy’s novel Christ Stopped at Eboli is on my top 20 list of all time great works. The Watch is not as well crafted or as powerful but it is darn good. Here, a newspaper man tries to recover a newspaper after the war and in the process observes an entire country trying to recover. The trip to the south of Italy is wonderful but I wished the author had written more. Levi is highly recommended.

The White Horse Inn — Georges Simenon
Another of the author’s psychological texts (not Inspector Maigret). It’s always interesting to read Simenon because his various novels span the years before, during and after WWII in France.

Henderson the Rain King — Saul Bellow
he Bellow prose is wonderful but the elemental man portrayed in this text left a lot to be desired. The high ranking of this title on the ML Top 100 is questionable. I gave the book to my daughter with a small warning; maybe she will be better equipped to uncover it’s power and greatness. Maybe.

Loving — Henry Green
This is a Penguin edition containing three novels by this author (also Living and Party Going). Interestingly, it is a green cover paperback and is out of print, notwithstanding the inclusion of Loving on the Modern Library Top 100 list.

The Sheltering Sky — Paul Bowles (+)
An excellent novel which is highly recommended. It might remind you a bit of The English Patient but it is much better. This Modern Library Top 100 title more than deserves its standing. Oh, today’s feminists might get their hackles up for this one.

Madam Maigret’s Own Case — Georges Simenon
An OK Maigret with the interesting twist that the French version of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed is involved in the case.

Death In Paradise — Robert B. Parker
Not Spenser; not that great. But I can’t stand missing one.

Scoop — Evelyn Waugh
This is in the Modern Library Top 100 — why? Well, it was fun in that inimitable Waugh manner and I enjoyed it immensely. But not Top 100 I wouldn’t think.

The Thin Red Line — James Jones (+)
I read From Here to Eternity so long ago; this one I read with some maturity and found it less adventuresome and more mundane — but that made some scenes all the more horrific for the matter-of-fact treatment. Although I didn’t see the movie, I suspect that it didn’t emphasize some of the non-heroic elements of the assault on Guadalcanal. Recommended. Now I have to read Whistle.

Maiget’s War of Nerves — Georges Simenon
A nice Maigret; good application of his methods.

The Road Back — Erich Maria Remarque
This is follow-up to All’s Quiet on the Western Front. It takes a select group of German soldiers at the very end of the war and returns them to civilian life. Very interesting and highly recommended but not the impact of All’s Quiet.

The Postman Always Rings Twice — James M. Cain
An excellent story but so well known it lost it’s impact when I finally read it. Classic though; everyone should read Cain for his prose style.

Maigret In New York’s Underworld — Georges Simenon
Interesting; Maigret is retired in this one but somewhat unbelievably goes to NYC to help a young man. The little differences between Paris and NYC are amusing.

Appointment at Samarra — John O’Hara (+)
A very interesting story that should be assigned more in the earlier grades (maybe compare to Gatsby). I want to read more by this author even though I have originally considered him a popular author. I suspect I am the less for ignoring O’Hara this long.

Sentimental Education — Gustave Flaubert (+)
Idleness of the mind and inertia of the heart … Excellent story; excellent themes; wonderful prose; something to study and ponder. This and Madame Bovary affirm the greatness of this author. Both are highly recommended. However, if you are one of the weenies at the literary reading clubs that whine when there isn’t enough action in the novel or complains that there are no characters to admire or even to like, then maybe you had better stick with a hack like Delillo or head on over to Oprah.

How To Read and Why — Harold Bloom
The venerable Bloom gives us a quick view of the state of reading with some excellent suggestions for the revival of the art. Of course Bloom is not in such favor nowadays academically and he does harp a bit much over Shakespeare, but his insights and observations make you want to run out to the bookstore to cover some on those titles Bloom deems essential. I’m sharing this one around to all of my reading friends.

Intimate Notebook, 1840-1841 — Gustave Flaubert
Juvenile scribblings by the author; mostly academic interest only.

The Fourth Hand — John Irving (-)
A man loses his hand to a lion and gets a transplant … hmmm … compare this with the Abe. Actually, this is a love story of sorts that is only of minor interest. Maybe the author’s well known quirkiness has become mainstream and therefore dull.

The Face of Another — Kobo Abe
A man with a deformed face choses a life-like mask and things get interesting. I wish Abe would show more and have his characters talk less.

Maigret and the Saturday Caller — Georges Simenon
Maigret; what more to say.

Guignol’s Band — Louis-Ferdinand Céline
The chaos of the war and the insanity of the times — the second part is London Bridge. Céline is an interesting comparison to Kafka in prose style. I’d says Franz is tame in comparison.

The Trial — Franz Kafka (+)
Kafka is tough; do we admire his works based on the impact they had when they were written or do we reference them to current works? Kafka is just not so strange or difficult as his reputation might suggest.

Maigret In Vichy — Georges Simenon [collected in volume Murder]
This was a really good Maigret. Last one in the collected volume so I’m off to the library for more titles.

Kim — Rudyard Kipling
At first the large number of footnotes put me off but I figured I really didn’t need them all so I read the footnotes before each chapter and my general recollection got me though most of the tough terms and place names. I must confess that I had a misconception of what Kim was about; it ain’t the Jungle Book — it’s much more interesting.

Tropic of Cancer — Henry Miller (+)
This is a fantastic book that everyone interested in the direction of contemporary writing must read. Oh, it’s not as shocking as it was in the Sixties when I first read it and I have since read other decent titles since that rip open the language and rush forward balls-out … but Miller is the original. Highly recommended.

The Dying Animal — Philip Roth
Basic Roth; not too special.

Scaramouche — Raphael Sabatini
This was a fun, well crafted book but not much of a literary strain; even said, I recommend it highly.

Gunman’s Rhapsody — Robert B. Parker
Spenser in the old west? Maybe — that’s Wyatt Spenser. If you like the hard-boiled style and the Parker ethic, then this re-telling of the Tombstone legend (yeah, Ike Clanton and the OK Corral and all that stuff) then you’ll enjoy this work. Otherwise, it’s a light read for fun only.

The Fisher King — Anthony Powell
Although a single volume, Powell continues the charm and social fun that made Dance so wonderful. This might be a good title to read if you want to get a taste for Powell without making the commitment to Dance.

Maigret and the Toy Village — Georges Simenon [collected in volume Murder]
Maigret heads out to the suburbs.

Empress of the Splendid Season — Oscar Hijuelos
Although a bit cliched,, I actually enjoyed this title better than the more acclaimed Mambo Kings. My daughter used this book for a thesis in a Modern Novel course and got a top grade (and I got the benefit of her marginalia). The author is worth reading,

Bullet Park — John Cheever
Following on with the themes of the Wapshot series, this title is a little weak .

The Captain and the Enemy — Graham Greene
An interesting tale of love and intrigue. My one complaint was that the author did not clearly define the time period in his prose — I often thought this was Dickensian England and the South American revolutionaries sort of clashed.

Maigret and the Pickpocket — Georges Simenon [collected in volume Murder]
Maigret gets all his pipes in order by size and solves the case.

Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man — Thomas Mann
Mann’s prose, even in translation, is rich and rewarding. The story and themes in this book were engaging and as a reader I had just settled in nicely when the author seemed to veer off into an entirely different novel which abandoned all the earlier promise and rushed to a trite and petty ending. I was disappointed and cannot really recommend this title (Mann has so many better works) but have given is an extra star for the quality of the prose and the subtitle “The Earlier Years” that suggests subsequent volumes might have revived the promise (actually, I just this Mann lost interest and cut it short).

Forest — Edward Rutherfurd
This big book relates a varied story of the life in and around the King’s New Forest. Although uneven, it held my interest and I hear his earlier similar works are much better. (read in hospital)

A Journal of the Plague Year — Daniel Defoe (+)
A fascinating narrative although not exactly full of action and adventure. Not everyone will love this title but I highly recommend it. Defoe is quite an author. (read in hospital)

Flying Finish — Dick Francis
An average Francis story but I needed something light and easy to read at the time. (read in hospital)

Timeline — Michael Chricton (-)
A fast moving adventure story that sometimes read like the author was more intent on including all of his 3×5 library research (or is he rich enough now that he pays others to do the research?)

The Diagnosis — Alan Lightman
A more traditional novel for the author and not as satisfying as his earlier works.

The Plato Papers — Peter Ackroyd
An interesting fantasy where a future philosopher looks back to the time before the second dark ages and gives us the his views on the world from his vantage point in 3800. A little too cutsey.

Waiting — Ha Jin
An excellent novel — a story of love and perseverance in Communist China. Pearl Buck brought up to date?

The Moon Is Down — John Steinbeck (+)
A fascinating allegory of conquest, subjugation and perseverance. The schlock author of Red Dawn must have read this one for sure.

Tar Baby — Toni Morrison (+)
A lusty tale; much better than the author’s more recent works. All of Morrison’s titles are highly recommended (except that last one).

The Tin Drum — Günter Grass (+)
Wow! A dwarf and a drum and the span of history told from the back-side of the stage. This is a tremendous novel and should be read by all.

Potshot — Robert B. Parker
That lovable thug Spenser is back with too many wise-cracks in a stupid plot, but I wouldn’t miss it.

The Trees — Conrad Richter (+)
A fascinating study of early settlers living solitary lives deep in the forests of Pennsylvania and Ohio. As the author concludes — “That’s how life was, death and birth, grup and harvest, rain and clearing, winter and summer. You had to take one with the other, for that’s the way it ran.” Highly recommended author.

Sense and Sensibility — Jane Austen
Although a re-read, I thoroughly enjoyed this classic novel. I have quite a few texts from this period on my shelves and intend to read them all. This was a May selection from the Book Bum Bunch.

The Song of the Lark — Willa Cather
I really enjoyed this text as it developed the characters and the story of a young girl developing her talents. Unfortunately, as the main character becomes successful, the text loses it’s appeal and ends up with a rather hurried and hackneyed ending. Still, an excellent author.

O, How the Wheel Becomes It! — Anthony Powell
Powell is an excellent author that does not seem to get the reading attention he deserves. This short novel reminded me of the short novels Bellow writes; both are excellent.

The Means of Escape — Penelope Fitzgerald (+)
A small and wonderful collection of short stories completed by the author just before her death. A highly recommended author.

The Tenth Circle — Mempo Giardinelli
Natural Born Killers meet Body Heat — dizzying fun with no redeeming social value. I like this author.

Claudius the God — Robert Graves (+)
This is the second volume of Graves’s treatment of the decadence of Rome. Super prose; excellent story; interesting and edifying. This was a February selection from the Book Bum Bunch.

The Mile High Club — Kinky Friedman
Entertaining but that’s about it.

City of God — E. L. Doctorow (-)

The Green Lantern and Other Stories — Ariel Smart
This small collection of short stories caught my eye because the Green Lantern is a motor court outside of El Centro California and I have a lot of history in that area. The stories were so so themselves.

East of Eden — John Steinbeck (+)
A must read for all. Steinbeck’s prose and his story telling skills are excellent. I very much enjoy this type of broad generational novel with richly developed characters. Of course, having spent some time in the Salinas Valley through the years, there is a special involvement that made this story that much more effective for me. So even though my father’s family left Oklahoma for California during the depression, I didn’t connect with Grapes of Wrath with the same feeling as East of Eden. This Steinbeck guy is great! This is an April selection from the Book Bum Bunch.

McTeague — Frank Norris (+)
This is a fantastic novel and must be read by all. How did I miss all this good stuff in college? Appealing to all ages, the story of the not-too-bright dentist in San Francisco is a beautiful example of the Naturalistic novel and stands proud alongside Dreiser and Zola. I can’t wait to read The Pit and The Octopus.

The Idiot — Fyodor Dostoyevsky (+)
Novels such as this are caught between being better than almost anything on the market, but not as good as some of the author’s other works. I had a major false start with this title several years ago and had to re-read the first 200 odd pages because I was hopelessly confused by all the variations of the Russian names; but this time a kept a 3×5 card ready and made notes. The story of Prince Myshkin is quite different that, say, C&P and I recommend it highly, but only after having read the more well known Dostoyevsky titles..

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft — Stephen King
A very interesting and very entertaining discussion of the craft of writing with a lot of insight into the author and his works (which I do not read).

Shopgirl — Steve Martin
Like his earlier “essays”, Mr. Martin is in control of his prose and fun to read. This is very pleasant fluff.

The Last Samurai — Helen DeWitt (+)
This is one of those fascinating texts that comes along and captivates your imagination. Don’t look for a swashbuckler here; the reference to the Samurai is directed at a recurring theme of the Kurasawa movie, The Seven Samuai. The actual story is the search of the son for the father, but this son has so many interesting quirks, it takes a whole collection of fathers to begin to satisfy him. Makes Telemachus look like a punk.

The Glass Key — Dashiell Hammett
I have to admit that I didn’t get in to this Hammett story. Perhaps it was all the politics. Even so, I highly recommend the author (try The Maltese Falcon or The Thin Man first).

The Road to San Giovanni — Italo Calvino (+)
A wonderful collection of five memory exercises reflecting on key events in the authors life (would this be fiction or non-fiction). As suggested, this is a good introduction to the author.

Girl with a Pearl Earring– Tracy Chevalier
This is an April selection from the Book Bum Bunch and is definitely worth a read. Oh, it’s not strong literature but it is imaginative in a “Ben & Me” sort of way. My biggest complaint is the current cost of titles such as this and then a couple of hours later and it’s over … try the library.

The Haunting of Hill House — Shirley Jackson
I can’t for the life of me remember the movie made from this novel but it’s a classic scary story. Unfortunately, I have never found scary novels effective and this one was no exception. No matter how well written, I don’t get scared. Authors such as Stephen King leave me cold. At least this author told a good story.

Mr. Palomar — Italo Calvino
An early work of the author, I guess you would call this a collection of observations, very neatly organized around the character of Mr. Palomar. Great.

The Light in the Forest — Conrad Richter
A very nicely done little book that is usually found under Juvenile but has a lot to say to adults too.

Ivanhoe — Sir Walter Scott
Another fun novel. Everyone knows the story of Ivanhoe from the movies but I’m not sure that Scott is in vogue nowadays. I know I’ve picked up a couple of the Scottish novels and struggled with the heavy dialect. Luckily Ivanhoe is an easier read. For those that have not experienced the adventure that our grandfathers enjoyed, give this one a try.

The Poisonwood Bible — Barbara Kingsolver
I’m thinking that the author is getting a little too loose in her prose construction. This story is full of interesting folks, exotic landscapes and situations, but it’s kinda dull. There is some really good stuff in here, just not enough. I think the author was torn between creating a broad, generational novel or focusing on a specific event with some interesting characters. A tighter view and crisper editing would have made for a better novel.

The Scarlet Pimpernel — Baroness Orczy
Great fun! The Sir Percy of the book puts the Leslie Howard Sir Percy from the movies to shame. Very well done entertainment.

The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan — James T. Farrell
The second volume of the trilogy. Although the writing is strong and often imaginative in form, the story is not ultimately engaging enough to overcome the constant prejudicial argot.

The Cider House Rules — John Irving
Typical Irving but beginning to deal more specifically with issues (even if submerged in the lives of interesting, if quirky, characters). Thinking about the earlier novels, I would say this was the author’s best at the time (although HNH is still my favorite).

45 Mercy Street — Anne Sexton
This collection was nearing completion which the poet took her life. The section of animal poems is delightful but much of the rest is rather disturbing. Sexton is a fantastic poet.

The Awful Rowing Toward God — Anne Sexton
This collection of Sexton’s poems are deeply involved in the poet’s search for religious understanding — her Seeking God poems.

Pure Drivel — Steve Martin
Not always side splitting funny but full of humorous insights and gentle crazies. A little, fun book.

Confessions of an English Opium Eater — Thomas DeQuincy
Interesting reading with that fascinating late 18th century prose style; is it true that DeQuincy and Carlyle were the X-Gen of their time?

1934: A Novel — Alberto Moravia (+)
A fascinating story of love (obsession?) in pre-war Italy. Alberto is a masterful story teller and this one is always intriguing. I could see this as one of those very European art-house movies. Give the author a try; he’s quite good and not often included on best books lists outside of Italy.

Lust For Life — Irving Stone (+)
I decided to drop back and read this one before A&E. I thought the casual “name-dropping” style (Oh look, there’s that exciting new painter Degas eating out of that dumpster; I think I’ll introduce him to my friend the ballet dancer) began to sound overly cute but all in all this was an interesting and engaging text.

In the Pond — Ha Jin
This wonderful story of Communist China is both interesting in it’s exposing the effect of the Communist culture in China on the lives of ordinary people and also for making the struggle of a loyal individual against the corruption of the local bosses such a universal theme. I want to get more titles by this author.

Carmen — Propero Merimee
It’s always interesting to read the original stories that inspired other great works; in this case it is the popular opera Carmen.

The Call of the Toad — Günter Grass
An interesting story of the shifting borders caused by war and nationalism focusing on the idea of repatriation after death.

Hooking Up — Tom Wolfe
The man in the white suit tackles youthful exuberance of the sexual variety, John Updike, Intel and a bunch of other topics in the entertaining collection of essays (did much care for the novella). I thought it most interesting that TW seemed to equate the sales figures of his last novel to his quality as a writer; does he hang around Howard Stern?

Break In — Dick Francis
It’s Kit Fielding, the tall jockey and a great story revolving around the race track. Francis is a consistently good author that shouldn’t be missed.

Maigret Goes to School — Georges Simenon
Always good.

The Means of Escape — Penelope Fitzgerald
An interesting collection of short stories; I especially enjoyed the last one.

The Hundred Secret Senses — Amy Tan
This was a January selection from the Book Bum Bunch. For me, the author’s first work is still her best. This was enjoyable and I recommend it to anyone seeking to expand their cultural knowledge and also to meet some new and wonderful characters.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason — Helen Fielding
Ok. I read the first book so how could I pass up the second. Insipid entertainment; getting in touch with my feminine side.

The Body Artist — Don DeLillo
A small, interior story that, unlike most works by this author, held my interest.

Strange News From Another Star — Herman Hesse
An interesting collection of short stories. I have a few gaps in my Hesse and Grass that I want to work on.

Crazy Cock — Henry Miller (-)
A very early work by the author with little to suggest the styling of his later works. Read it only to fill out your understanding of this argueably great American author. I’d give you a sample of some of the prose but it’s too painful.

A Star Called Henry — Roddy Doyle (+)
A very effective and engrossing view of the Irish rebellion (the first volume of a new Doyle series called Last Roundup) . Very different for the author’s other works (The Barrytown Trilogy) but nicely done and highly recommended.

Hearing Secret Harmonies — Anthony Powell (+)
Although it took much longer than I expected, and the time lags often dulled my involvement in this twelve title series, it was all very much worth it. I recommend reading Dance two titles a month minimally, three if you prefer. This way you will get a more intimate understanding of all the intricacies of time and place that are so carefully interwoven throughout the twelve novels. My only complaint is that I often felt the author must be writing from a flowchart or perhaps a Gantt Chart, meticulously keeping all the little pieces of his project in order and filling in some decent prose in between. A word of warning — everything you read from Page 1 of the first title on will become the little building blocks that the author combines and recombines to make up the whole of the work (about 3000 pages). The Dance is a good metaphor (all change partners). Read this one, but remember to start with the first book.

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