Total Items = 137
Rushing To Paradise — J. G. Ballard
This Post Modern author is sometimes pretty traditional. This title starts out fine but begins to turn until it finally turns disintegrates into complete chaos. Seems to be a common theme — paradise that turns on you.
In Chancery — John Galsworthy
Second book of The Forsyte Saga.
Briar Rose — Robert Coover (+)
Great! Post Modern retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty. Pick this one up and tell me what you think.
Pricksongs & Descants — Robert Coover (+)
This amazing collection of short pieces was written just about the time I was finishing up college & grad school and it appears to be one of the earliest Post Modern works. Too bad I missed it until now. The story “The Babysitter” is a good example of what the pomos were all about.
This Is Not a Novel — David Markson (+)
Don’t let the author fool you; read between the lines. This seemingly random collection of snippets of fact (especially necrology) couple with the author’s clearly stated desire to write a not-novel without structure, without plot, without characters and give us a fascinating interlude that compels us to keep reading right up to the end. Loved this one!
The Man of Property — John Galsworthy
First book of The Forsyte Saga.
Structuralism and Post-Structuralism for Beginners — Donald D. Palmer
I’m so confused.
Women of the Silk — Gail Tsukiyama
A nice tale along the lines of Memoires of a Geisha but with far less detail and less limpact.
Twenty Years After — Alexandre Dumas
The rollicking adventures of the Three Musketeers and d’Artagnon are resumed, but 20 years later and some things have changed. This is the second volume of the d’Artagnon series which leads through The Vicomte Bragellone, Louise de la Vallière, and eventually to The Man in the Iron Mask. Big and fat with lots of misleading political history (Dumas was never very accurate) but still a lot of fun.
Enduring Love — Iain McEwen
Uh … well I’m not the world’s biggest McEwan fan but this one is just a little too stretched. It’s hard to accept a plot that is keyed off an implausible event. Three stars is generous.
Cronopios and Famas — Julio Cortázar (+)
Fabulous! I’ve purchase just about everything in print by this author and it’s all impressive. Four short booklets are collected in this one volume and some of the little stories or vignettes are truly limaginative and provocative. You must read this author.
Thirteen Uncollected Stories by John Cheever — John Cheever
I really enjoy Cheever and even though these were very early stories, they weren’t bad and they did give the reader an interesting insight into the growth of this author.
Amrita — Banana Yoshimoto
Banana gets a little away from her personal view and sounds like a half-dozen other post-modernists. I can’t say she was successful.
The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexandre Dumas (+)
An excellent and generally exciting read but just a little too long (it might be worth reading one of the abridgments to better judge whether to recommend the full version.
Adam Bede — George Eliot (+)
The author tells a good story and I appreciate the leisurely narrative style in the midst of today’s post-modern confusion. It struck me that Eliot’s novels are easily reduced to a few short sentences stating the plot and it is almost magical how the author effectively expands the story to over 500 pages. I personally like this text more than The Mill on the Floss which I read last month.
Real Time — Amit Chaudhuri
An uneven collection of stories by a new Indian author. Some good, some pedestrian, some tedious. Not up to the level of the fiction being written by other young Indian authors.
Hunger — Lan Samantha Chang
A wonderful collection of short fiction with the title novella being a standout in the tradition of Banana Yoshimoto.
The Bridegroom — Ha Jin
An excellent collection of short stories by an excellent author. Ha Jin, unlike many of the current batch of Chinese, Japanese and Indian authors, is free to explore other topics than just his home country.
A Clockwork Orange — Anthony Burgess (+)
Wonderful! The author complains that this title has overtaken all his other good work. I agree but it shouldn’t detract from the power of this novel. The author has created a truly unique world with unique characters and even a unique language. A must read.
On the Ceiling — Eric Chevillard (+)
This French author is decidedly unique. Au Plafond is the story of a man who moves into the apartment of his girl friend’s family and when things get too crowded, moves to the ceiling with his own small band of friends. A bit absurd but excellent. I’m requesting other titles by this author but not all have been translated into English.
Yin Fire — Alexandra Grilikhes
An unabashedly lesbian novel but thankfully not too graphic. The author is also a poet and sometimes the prose is just too lilting for the subject matter. Interesting though.
Gould — Stephen Dixon
A novel in two novels. The first tells the tale of a man who arranges to sleep with and impregnate several women, most ending in abortions (yes, he’s a real cad). The second focuses on a single relationship. Dixon is growing on me. On to Frog.
Good quote: “That most of the books he read were written not to be read but only to be written about they we so obscure, pedantic, longwinded and dull.”
Spanking the Maid — Robert Coover (+)
Yes, it’s good old S&M but very imaginatively related. My first Coover and he is now high on my list. You can see the influence of the nuevelle roman but without being too obscure. This is a short one and worth trying. Don’t worry; it’s not too naughty.
ABC of Reading — Ezra Pound (+)
The text that defined modernism. Now I’m just re-reading it to regain some sanity amidst all this post-modernism and deconstruction. I think Ezra was right.
The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing
A standard collection of short articles by established writers purporting to let you in on the well-worn secrets of authorship.
The Whore’s Child and Other Stories — Richard Russo
Just what you’d expect from the author; well written, interesting, but not exciting.
Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction — Jonathan Culler (+)
At first I bypassed this little text, not because it seemed pithy but because I hate to spend so much money for so few pages. Well, every page of this book is ten pages in any other and, although I’m still spinning with all the theory and all the seemingly abstruse vocabulary, I’m sure glad I sprung the nine bucks and read the 150 pages. Now I need to try to apply all this cryptic stuff to literature and see if I really understand it.
Goodbye Tsugumi — Banana Yoshimoto
Back in top form, this is vintage Yoshimoto with characters and situations that draw you in so that the story becomes a part of hour heart.. It seems simple, but only Banana is writing with this kind of immediacy and reality for her characters.
A High Wind In Jamaica — Richard Hughes (+)
Although this title is ostensibly a Juvenile, I like to think that being a Juvenile allowed the author to simplify the story right down to it’s essentials and the characterizations and emotions are right there on the surface, raw and powerful. This is a wonderful story that all should read.
The Mill On the Floss — George Eliot (+)
Excellent! I’m really getting into Eliot and will probably have all the titles read by the end of next year. This was a good story and I watched the characters closer that I have, perhaps, in other recent novels. I can see how Eliot’s writing is certainly reflective of the time she lived but you can also see that she is concerned that some of the social conventions are beginning to change.
Rapid Reading Made EZ — Paul R. Scheele
Recent emails at several reading groups asked about improving reading speed. The method presented in this book seem to involve having your mind take a picture of the two facing pages of a book and then, with some exercises to focus the mind, you pull the words into your sub-conscious and realize you have read the book. I guess, for some. But I am interested in this and other reading techniques that use some form of layering to build up understanding. This was actually an interesting book despite being a part of the EZ series.
Sleep — Stephen Dixon
I’ve been predisposed to dislike Dixon for years, ever since I read Interstate and voted it the worst read of the year. But I’m beginning to realize that hating Dixon and loving Robbe-Grillet is a mixture that doesn’t make any sense. Dixon it seems writes short stories at an alarming rate and even after finishing this collection I have about 400 to go. These stories are different but they aren’t weird or anything; they’re straightforward clumps of life objectively viewed without a lot of figurative language to interfere with the ciné roman style. I may not be pulling Frog off the lower shelf yet but I did pick up Gould at the library for further reading. More comments about Dixon soon.
Empire Falls — Richard Russo (+)
Gee, all the reading groups on Yahoo are tackling this one and I have been dutifully reading the discussions and the reviews for the last several months. Now it’s my time to comment. First, of all the writers that are being compared (McEwan, Ishiguro, Franzen, etc.) Russo has the best control of his story and resorts the least to tossing in unnecessary scenes just to spice up the narrative. Russo’s prose is the most pristine; his characterizations are the most complete and realistic; and his story is the most interesting. Although I hear complains about the sudden surprise at the end, everything in the story flowed logically and was preceeded with more than adequate hints and suggestions. In fact, this book is almost perfect. However, I think I’m going to relegate it and it’s ilk to the popular fiction pile. Empire Falls could have been written by a dozen authors at any time during the last 150 years of so; the same old tired formula for a novel and it’s beginning to bore me.
Video — Meera Nair
A very satisfying and recommended story collection akin to the recent Interpreter of Maladies by Lahiri. I’m enchanted by the Indian themes.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood — Charles Dickens
It’s too bad this was never completed. Even with the outline left by the author, it’s not easy to just stop, especially when the prose is sparklin’ and the story line in movin’ right along. This will make me want to take one of those nasty ol’ thick Dicken’s novels out of the back of the top shelf to be added to the Fat Book Club reading list.
The Unvanquished — William Faulkner
A surprisingly straightforward tale of the Civil War. Faulkner originally published all but the last chapter as short stories in various magazines prior to the re-work and publication as a novel. Can you believe no one wanted to publish the last story? This is a great text to start a lifetime of reading Faulkner.
Bone — Fae Myenne Ng
In the Amy Tan tradition, a young Chinese woman struggles to understand her mother and her stepfather while making a life for herself in San Francisco. Not special; shorter than Tan; probably just as well written.
A Wrinkle In Time — Madeleine L’Engle
Although a Juvenile text, I’m was surprised at the many adult references (quotes, etc.). The story though seemed too uneven for being considered such a classic. A good read for the kid I suppose but The Chronicles of Narnia might be a better, albeit longer, choice.
Simple Passion — Annie Ernaux
A simple, short treatment of what a woman feels when she is in love without expecting more than the moment.
A Woman’s Story — Annie Ernaux (+)
A very intimate diary of a woman dealing with the death of her mother. Highly recommended. La femme is French.
Lady Windermere’s Fan — Oscar Wilde
As long as I bought the volume, I may want to read all the plays it contains. This play seems to be in the shadow of Ernest.
The Mimic Men — V. S. Naipaul
Although much of this text might been considered clichéd, I enjoyed it very much and am still thinking about it. I suppose that it was required that Naipaul give his version of the rise of political insurgency on a small island.
The Western Canon — Harold Bloom
This is a very full exploration of the stream of literature that in many ways defines what it means to be a thinking inhabitant of The West. I guess that’s important because Bloom leaves out so much that might also be discussed in the literature of The East. The complaint is a focus on “dead white guys” but then, to a great extent, whether we like it or not, it was those dead white guys that defined and created the literature for centuries and we shouldn’t be looking for variety of voices when there really wasn’t any. I do see Bloom becoming more involved in the fringes of literature and, although others might object, I appreciate his insistence on maintaining the decorum of literature (even though I personally read a lot of stuff that Harold would barf over).
Literary Theory: An Introduction — Terry Eagleton
Whoa! Literary criticism is passing me by. So much of the current acceptable directions for LitCrit has been formulated by individuals still in diapers if even born when I studied this stuff. I read through this text rather fast, almost for entertainment; I may need to go back and study a few parts if I want to pass the quiz.
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor — Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This is a true story of a sailor that was sweep out to sea when returning with his ship to Columbia and how her survived. The author posted the original in installments in the newspaper he worked for. Since the story makes some allegations about the way the government monitors a ship laden with goods and crew it appears to have been beneficial for something.
Sin Killer — Larry McMurtry
This title starts the four part series following a large British family on a hunting and exploring expedition across America right after the Louisiana Purchase. Ultimately, a little strained but simple fun. Larry is not writing any Blood Meridians here.
Beowulf — Seamus Heaney (+)
As many times as I have read Beowulf, it was wonderful to have this new translation to savor. At first I found myself back in the ’60s lost in the Old English (reading aloud with those wonderfully impressive sounds of Old English floating out over the bay) but I soon righted myself and concentrated on the Heaney translation of the text. Excellent. This title overall gets five stars but this translation is super and deserves the five stars too.
The Importance of Being Ernest — Oscar Wilde (+)
No matter how many re-reads, this is one funny and very witty play. I read a little article about all the homosexual references but I’m not that convinced this text is all about homosexuals.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice — Laurie R. King
Yet another Sherlock Holmes mystery, this time with a 14 year old girl acting 25 and helping Holmes solve his cases. Engaging writing but do we really need a Holmes and a Hotty. And I hear they’re gonna get hitched … say it ain’t so Watson.
Recollections of the Golden Triangle — Alin Robbe-Grillet
This text struck me as a cross between Le Voyeur and Les Gommes but not as good as either. The interesting twist of apparently clarifying the text with the timeline at the end left me with more questions than before. I read this in English and highly recommend the author.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — J. K. Rowling
About the same as the first, simple fun.
When We Were Orphans — Kazuo Ishiguro
The author is just a little off on this one but he should be given high marks for effort. The key to reading this title is to focus on the narrator; everything is filtered through the eyes of the narrator. Ishiguro is an excellent writer and I highly recommend all of his works.
The Eyre Affair — Jasper Fforde
A great, fun flight of fancy that reminded me of the early Larry Niven. The reading clubs refuse to brand this title Science Fiction so we’ll give it the euphemistic category of Speculative Fiction (Kinky Friedman meets Charlotte Bronte). Also, the reading clubs are having trouble rating this book because it is so different. Although I chose to rate this one, this is why I seldom rate Genre Fiction (a really good scary story that is read by a soccer mom looking for a steamy romance is gonna get a low score for sure; after all, would you kiss the Wolf Man?).
Dreaming of Water — Gail Tsukiyama
The author’s newest title is the story of a young mother that has a child with Werner’s Syndrome and she must watch her daughter age rapidly knowing she will die too soon. The author is pretty much in control of this emotionally packed story and I enjoyed the experience.
Atonement — Ian McEwan
A good, straightforward story that the author ascribes to on other the characters hoping for some cheap irony. It’s nothing new but it’s pretty well written even if it seems to desperately need an editor. It’s better than Franzen but not nearly as good as Updike.
Gertrude and Claudius — John Updike (+)
Updike tells the story of Gertrude and Claudius and how she married King Hamlet and had a son but strayed for love into the arms of the King’s brother … Take it away Shakespeare! But wait, that’s just a story; look at how the author tells the story, how the prose starts out like a Viking song and works it’s way up through the ages until it’s fairly modern sounding. The author is in perfect control of his prose and he allows the history of this Danish tragedy to flow by means of scene descriptions, prose rhythms, shifting character names, and so much more. This is a wonderfully erudite and fun novel which is a treat for all to enjoy.
The Wailing Wind — Tony Hillerman
Jim Chee and Officer Bernadette Manuelito solve a new murder with the help of retired Lt. Joe Leaphorn who takes the opportunity to solve an old mystery. Good story with an O’Henry or Edgar Alan Poe ending.
For a New Novel — Alain Robbe-Grillet (+)
This re-reading of R-Gs main non-fiction work discussing the demise of the novel as we know it is still tremendous and highly recommended as are all the authors mentioned.
The Samurai’s Garden — Gail Tsukiyama
A nicely written novel but fairly predictable.
Seventeen — Booth Tarkington
A simple novel about a simpler time, unless you were 17 and had a huge crush on the cute girl that is visiting in town for the summer.
The Corrections — Jonathan Franzen
I had to read this title is two or three parts due to library snafus. About half-way through I wasn’t sure if it was worth worrying about checking out again to finish it but I’m glad I did. This was not the greatest novel I have read by a long shot and I felt Franzen probably could have used a good editor since he seemed to be tossing in plot twists and other stuff just to keep the text interesting. Some of this was humorous, some was not, but it was all crap thrown in that really wasn’t integral to the novel. My final evaluation — if it was 200 pages less, I’d recommend it more.
Bel Canto — Ann Patchett
This one was a yawner too. I didn’t find much in it I disliked, nor much that I really liked. It was a pale entertainment that started with an interesting premise, developed a few minor surprises and ended somewhat predictably.
The Death of Vishnu — Manil Suri
One of the few titles I have been noticing and wanted to read and what a disappointment. If the locale had been Detroit, the book would have been ignored (although it might make a good sitcom on Fox). The story was functional and it was interesting to try and pick out the for-the-most-part unexplained Hindu references, strange food, etc. and relate them to the architecture the author uses to hold the novel together — the apartment building with many floors [They’re movin’ on up …] but otherwise it was a yawner.
Steppin’ On a Rainbow — Kinky Friedman
The usually kinkster fare; mildly entertaining.
Asleep — Banana Yoshimoto
A collection of three short novels — Night and Night’s Travelers, Love Songs and Asleep. Two on these were much in the vein of the earlier Banana but the third was a dud in my opinion.
The Undiscovered Chekhov: Thirty-Eight New Stories — Anton Chekhov
This collection includes many early or juvenile works by the master of the short story and is pretty interesting. Nothing too deep here.
The Chosen — Chaim Potok (+)
An excellent story of struggle and triumph, from friendships to religious ideologies, from world war to the Jewish state. Highly recommended for it’s simple strength and not a bad overview of Hasidim and Jewish life in general in 1940’s Queens. Also, in this case I have seen the movie and it is also excellent.
Interpreter of Maladies — Jhumpa Lahiri (+)
An excellent collection of short stories giving us a memorable insight into the way Indian life is translated into the Western world. I was reminded of Banana Yoshimoto in a couple of the stories. Highly recommended.
Ceremony — Leslie Marmon Silko (+)
This Native American writer is very very good. Ceremony tells the story of a soldier that was held prisoner by the enemy during WWII and after returning to the pueblo sought out a healing ceremony that would return to the old gods of the earth and sky and not the new gods of booze and despair. Highly recommended.
Widow’s Walk — Robert B. Parker
Spenser feels guilty; Susan feels guilty; bodies keep showing up wherever our lovable thug goes; Hawk brings excellent raspberry danish. A good Spenser. Note: someone said they never heard of Robert B. Parker and I guess that means they never heard of Spenser. Sad. For all new to this hard-boiled detective I still recommend reading the titles in order, especially the first half-dozen. Parker writes his stories in order and you might miss a reference or be confused about a character if you haven’t read the earlier works.
Electric Light — Seamus Heaney
Another volume of excellent poetry by this Irish poet. I do, however, dislike the comparisons with Yeats. WB is better.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover — D. H. Lawrence
Not as good as Sons and Lovers but a very influential book. The sex is actually handled fairly well for an author writing at this time. Lawrence actually has about as much to say about industrialization and the dehumanizing caused by the machine as he does about the subversion of sexual pleasure. Kids today see far more shocking stories on TV.
The Fan-Maker’s Inquisition: A Novel of the Marquies de Sade — Rikki Ducornet
There’s not much sexual gross-out in this novel but it does make you think about pushing the limits of life and of literature. I was impressed with how the author controlled the format of the novel (the inquisition scenes are wonderful).
Depraved Indifference — Gary Indiana (+)
The title tells it all. Indiana follows a small family of grifters over the years and just casually reports in the most matter-of-fact tone what he sees — stealing, lying, killing, all to keep the grift going. A very scary book that will lull you to sleep if you’re not careful until suddenly it’s too late and they have your wallet, your car and your identity as your sink into the mud of Barnegate Bay. This is one great author.
The Vintner’s Luck — Elizabeth Knox (+)
A very original and thought provoking novel. In Heaven God only allows originals; the copies (of everything) are kept in Hell. So along comes this Christ-Angel-Incubus called Xas (pronounced Christas no matter what anyone else says) who is an imperfect copy for sure, but the vintner falls under his spell. Excellent; highly recommended. [Note: this novel should not be considered blasphemous … GOD].
Wonder Boys — Michael Chabon (-)
The author gives us another running around doing supposedly crazy things novel just like his last one. They made a movie out of this one. Crap I say.
The Spirit Level — Seamus Heaney
It’s very comforting to read poetry — so much more refined than those crude fictions called novels.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh — Michael Chabon
The author’s first novel and it shows; pretty juvenile and not as much fun as it should have been.
Field Work — Seamus Heaney
The Novel Prize winner and I haven’t read all his works (hardly any, in fact). Pretty good stuff so far.
Disgrace — J. M. Coetzee
There’s a unity of tone throughout this text but the story drags the protagonist from one bad scene to the next. I’m somewhat reminded of Nathaniel West (why?). I’m not sure this worked for the author.
The Bernini Bust — Iain Pears
Jonathan Argyll is in LA dealing in Art and Flavia has to come to his rescue.
Buffalo Girls — Larry McMurtry
A story of the Wild West as told by Calamity Jane; entertaining for the most part. McMurtry has created a few new and wonderful characters and his fictionalized treatments of those well known fictionalized real people (Bill Elliot, Bill Cody, MS. Oakley, SittingBull, etc.) come off pretty good too.
Kingsblood Royal — Sinclair Lewis (+)
A blockbuster in 1947 this title has somehow slipped out of the mainstream. Okay, it uses the “N” word a lot but that’s what it’s all about — stupid racism. So what would you do if when investigating for royal blood in your ancestry you discovered that you were a direct decendant of a black mountain man? Find out what happens and remember, this was just after the war (WW2, the big one as Mr. Gillis was wont to say), not that long ago; and how much of this stuff still goes on? Highly recommended for many reasons.
The Titian Committee — Iain Pears
This is the second “di Stefano” mystery (it’s interesting to see the author later on changing the series to be Johnathan Argyll mysteries (same cast of characters)) following the initial Raphael Affair. The underlying art history lessons make these titles a bit more interesting that others although the mystery parts themselves are fairly pedestrian.
The Unnamable — Samuel Beckett (+)
This is the final title of the trilogy started with Molloy and Malone Dies. It’s not an easy read and I admit to being totally lost much of the time in the last two volumes. However, when I did get in the grove, the author is amazing. This is the kind of book that must be read critically over and over to really appreciate it. No plot, no scene, no character, no dialogue, no conflict, no resolution. What do we do with books like this — books that challenge us to think and give us no clear direction? Although not directly related, it might be best to read Murphy first. A quote: “… it has not yet been our good fortune to establish with any degree of accuracy what I am, where I am, whether I am words among words, or silence in the midst of silence …”; and you wanted a plot too?
Uncle Vanya — Anton Chekhov (+)
Excellent; I believe I’ll read a few more plays and stories by the author.
Foreign Bodies — Hwee Hwee Tan
Although hyped as a Gen-X romp through Singapore I found this new author’s work pretty tame, clichéd and disjointed, however entertaining.
Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates — Michael Bond
I thought I had done all the Monsieur Pomplemousse titles when I discovered this unfamiliar story. I have since investigated further and there are several new titles out and one new one coming soon. For those of you that enjoy the gentle humor of Monsieur Pamplemousse and his dog Pomme-Frites, this is another gem. For those of you unfamiliar with Pamplemousse I recommend starting with Monsieur Pamplemousse (yes, the author also writes the Paddington Bear series for younger readers).
The Immaculate Deception — Iain Pears
The latest Argyl/di Stefano mystery draws together several elements from earlier stories and makes a big break with the familiar story-line. No indication that the author intends to abandon the series though.
The Last Picture Show — Larry McMurtry
The author certainly does tell an interesting and often engaging story but this is mostly just an entertainment. Still it’s a nice read (there’s a sequel and a movie, right? … luckily I didn’t see it).
Wide Sargasso Sea — Jean Rhys
The author tells the story of the courtship and marriage that precedes the story of Jane Eyre (remember the madwoman in the tower?). Certainly worth reading but the selection of this title on the ML Top 100 is questionable at best.
A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal — Anthony Bourdain (+)
You may have seen Tony Bourdain on the Food Channel; you may have read one of his hip detective novels; you may even have supped at Les Halles in NYC; Tony is everywhere nowadays and worth every minute you spend with him. See the gonzo side of the world’s cuisine from this one of a kind guy — let go and have fun. It’s Fear and Loathing and Fois Gras and you can’t beat it.
Sputnik Sweetheart — Haruki Murakami
Although an improvement over Windup Bird I didn’t find this title as satisfying as I thought it should be; in fact, I got the distinct impression that Banana Yosimoto was somehow being emulated but without the sincerity of feeling.
Maigret and the Spinster — Georges Simenon
Quaint and vintage Maigret (he has just gotten his first telephone).
Coin Locker Babies — Ryu Murakami
Japanese sub-culture at it’s strangest — rock and roll Kobo Abe … makes Haruki seem dull but not as wild as Ryu’s earlier title. I was mildly disappointed.
An Owner’s Guide To a Happy Healthy Pet: Housebreaking — September Morn
See the title below for an explanation.
Maigret Sets a Trap — Georges Simenon
A jack-the-ripper type story; very good. Hooray for Maigret!
Clicking with Your Dog — Peggy Tillman
Okay, this is not a novel but I spent a goodly amount of time studying it and there are several other titles to go and yes, it means I got a new puppy with pictures available at this web site.
Love In the Days of Rage — Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The author’s prose is curiously not as “poetic” as one might imagine but this little item brought back some interesting remembrances from the wilder times in my life; otherwise not a big deal.
The Town — William Faulkner (+)
The second title in the Snopes’ Trilogy continues where The Hamlet left off. A little dull in places without the spark of the first volume (The Hamlet). There should be more to say when the trilogy is complete.
Passing — Nella Larsen (+)
Another text from the Harlem Renaissance from an author one might never have heard of outside of Black Studies. Interestingly, the topic here is passing for white and it shows a lot of insight into the characters being presented even though it clashes with the current or preferred view of the relation between white and black. Well, I guess it is historical and it does make you think, but what is wonderful is the quality of the author’s prose — simple, direct, excellent.
The Desert Rose — Larry McMurtry
A mild entertainment at best. The characterizations are central to the story but the author misses on the daughter who seems to start in one direction and suddenly shift without justification.
Maigret and the Madwoman — Georges Simenon
Another one of the Maigret’s where he is guilty that he didn’t take adequate action in time to avoid a murder.
Giotto’s Hand — Iain Pears
Another Jonathan Argyll art mystery.
The Last Judgement — Iain Pears
An art mystery involving a painting and the French underground.
Maigret and the Black Sheep — Georges Simenon
Maigret and the Loner — Georges Simenon
Ah Maigret; what can I say.
Malone Dies — Samuel Beckett (+)
This middle novel of the trilogy was excellent. The author is dealing with his own death through some imaginative and intense prose.
The End of the Road — John Barth
The author had me interested and then blew me off towards the end with a strange redirection of the protagonist. But Barth writes beautifully.
Maigret’s Revolver — Georges Simenon
Too many loose ends were unnaturally tied together; otherwise, a fine Maigret.
Rise Up of Young Men of the New Age — Kenzaburo Oe
I couple of years back I wrote a letter to my local library system complaining that the had no titles in their catalog by Oe who had recently received the Noble Prize in Literature. The response was that not enough people cared so when I see that the library has in fact purchased this newest novel by the author I immediately had to read it (even though I’ve since discovered that Oe isn’t my favorite Japanese author). Well, this title was very interesting and very pleasurable (perhaps it was the Blake references that the author used to hold his narrative together). This is one of those “where is the real author” stories since it reflects some of the problems Oe was having in his real life … but it is fiction!
Tristram Shandy — Laurence Sterne
The glue finally went on my 75 cent Signet edition from the 60’s so I had to fetch a substitute from the library. Well, I finally read it but it’s such a strange book I can see why it is generally only read in academic circles — I was perpetually confused (which is part of the author’s design, I believe). I have to give it a middling grade but do recommend that you give it a try (sometimes it’s pretty funny).
Horseman, Pass By — Larry McMurtry
I was watching Hud on AMC, fondly remembering the two visits to the Midway Drive-In to see the fantastic double-feature of Hud and Lilies of the Field (too much smoochin’ during the first visit so we went back in case anyone asked us about the movies we were supposed to be watching). Hud is still one of my all time favorites and I actually didn’t realize that it was an adaptation of this early McMurtry novel. The novel is quite good but it is really interesting to see the changes that were made in the movie — characters collapsed or eliminated, dialogue rearranged, difficult or controversial scenes modified or eliminated. The book is more daring but the screenplay focuses the story better. I might not say the movie is better (oh that Melvin Douglas) but this comes the closest since Jaws.
Pitcairn Island — Charles Nordoff & James Norman Hall
This final title in the Bounty Trilogy deals with what happens to the mutineers after the mutiney. Do not just settle for the movies; read the entire trilogy to experience a grand adventure.
Cain — Jean Toomer
This short title is a collection of short stories and vignettes that keenly shows the life of Black people (mostly in the south) earlier in the century. A couple of these stories stop you in your tracks but others are only interesting because of the finely crafted prose. Part of a series concentrating on Black authors (Toomer is a part of the Harlem Renaissance) which I intend to look into for new experiences.
A Room of One’s Own — Virginia Woolf (+)
This essay (originally the content of a speaking engagement) is wonderfully written and makes you really stop and think. Should be required reading (even outside of the Women’s Studies department).
The Complete Short Stories of Marcel Proust — Marchel Proust
This title is mostly made up from the early Proust publication Pleasures and Days and a small collection of unrelated short stories. In general, Proust writes vignettes and prose set pieces, not short stories, and since most of the work is rather juvenile it is mostly only of interest to Proust scholars.
Maigret and the Man on the Bench — Georges Simenon
These not-too-long hardbound larger print titles from the library are not only fun to read but they work well on the treadmill … nice soft fat pages that turn easily and lay down nicely. Have to lose weight for the summer cruise.
Maigret and the Calame Report — Georges Simenon
Another interesting case; this one almost does Maigret in … politically.
The Paris Pilrims — Clancy Carlile (-)
Do not bother reading this piece of crap book. This fictionalized account of the fecund period after the great war in Paris, populated by the likes of Sylvia Beech, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, George M. Cohen, and the central character Ernest Hemingway, seems to be interesting until you realize it’s taking over 300 pages to suggest that everyone visiting the Continent during this period spent all of their time chasing sex … and homosexual sex at that. I am no fan of Hemingway but this junky novel makes you loath him and most of the people around him. I have nothing against pointing out the homosexual (especially lesbian) slant of this group of artists but it’s one boring point that is made over and over again. Notice that Scott Fitzgerald is only mentioned briefly … he wasn’t gay so I guess he wasn’t significant.
Bread and Wine — Ignazio Silone (+)
Excellent! Volume two of the Abruzzo Trilogy deals with the period when Italy is about to attack Ethiopia but from the view of the poor peasants in the mountains of Abruzzo. If you like Carlo Levi, you’ll love Ignazio Silone. Buy the book; read the novels.
The Floating Opera — John Barth
This author is wonderful! The bad news is I haven’t read hardly anything by him; the good news is I have at least four titles on the shelf just waiting.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress — Dai Sijie
A delightful story. I really enjoy the low-key narrative that seems to be prevalent in a great deal of the literature coming from Chinese authors.
Maigret at the Coroner’s — Georges Simenon
Heaven’s … I’ll soon be in danger of reading all of the Maigret titles! Naw, there’s just too many. Here Maigret is in Arizona.
Great Books — David Denby
A fascinating insight into the core curriculum required at Columbia and also the teachers and students at this great university. Of minor interest, this was my daughter’s early enrollment college choice and I was enthusiastic about it to a great degree by the core curriculum. Oh well, she ended up attending a small private liberal arts college in upstate New York and is now roaming the county interviewing for Graduate Student positions. I’ll send this one on to her for later reading. By the way, the author does an excellent job of blending his real life in with the great books of the core curriculum and making it all the more richer for it.
The Hamlet — William Faulkner
An excellent introduction to the Faulkner gang. Also an interesting study on how a great author goes to Hollywood and writes screenplays. Past one of the Snopes Trilogy.
Maigret and the Wine Merchant — Georges Simenon
Maigret is there to give me one constant in my life (and with over 100 titles, I should be very pleased).
Molloy — Samuel Becket
Is Becket a French author or an Irish author? This is the first book of a trilogy and I will be following up with the next two titles shortly. Becket is a tough read; a definite candidate for re-reading.
40 Stories — John Barthelme (+)
With my renewed interest in Sort Stories I went back to this volume and tried to read the entries more carefully. Unfortunately, as before, only about half of the stories were accessible and I thought I knew what the author was saying. The other half, I am happy to say, seemed less obtuse than before.
Men Against the Sea — Charles Nordoff & James Norman Hall
Fall in love with Captain Blye all over again. This is the story of how the non-mutineers sailed to safety and it is a fitting interlude to the better known story of Fletcher Christian and the Mutiny. The trilogy is highly recommended and just great fun.
The Moonstone — Wilkie Collins
A gentle, slowly opening mystery that takes you back. No hard-boiled detectives here but it is interesting to see the seeds of the genre being developed. Collins has not been on my reading list much so I have some catching up to do.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter — Amy Tan
This, the fourth novel by the author that explores what it means to be Chinese by exposing the Americanized youth to the stories from the old country, is typical, albeit enjoyable, Tan.
A Sicilian Romance — Ann Radcliffe (+)
Not as “Gothic” as Udolpho but a little gem of the genre. These early forms of the novel are truly worth reading (ie., they’re better than most of the crap being written today).
Lost In the Funhouse — John Barth (+)
I freely admit to being lost in the funhouse most of the time; I’m expecting to read a couple of other Barth titles this year and I expect a re-read of this collection of short fictions will be called for.
Carpenter’s Gothic — William Gaddis (+)
Wow! This author slams you down a fast path of intense dialogue and character and you better hold on tight. I immediately added a few Gaddis titles to my reading list and can’t wait … I guess that makes him pretty good.
Mutiny On the Bounty — Charles Nordoff and James Norman Hall
When I was growing up there were several Wyeth editions of the classics on the shelves — Treasure Island, I remember, and Pitcairn Island. Well, I finally have gone back to read the entire Bounty Trilogy and found a lovely edition at the library that included all the original Wyth illustrations (which reminds me that a visit to Chadsford is an excellent weekend getaway). Not high literature, this novel is very entertaining and the entire trilogy is recommended.
Fontamara — Ignazio Silone (+)
Excellent! Fontamara is the first volume of the Abruzzo Trilogy and I am enchanted by the picture it paints of southern Italy and the plight of the local peasants. One is reminded of Carlo Levi’s works and I don’t think we have to worry about the politics of the author.