Reading: 2005

Total Items = 128

Finnegans Wake — James Joyce (+)
I insisted on getting through this novel from beginning to end before the year was out and although I was successful, I was also glassy-eyed by the time I finished. I know it’s the fault of my own lack of knowledge and familiarity with all that Joyce knew and experienced but I knew I was missing far more than I was understanding. So, I intend to read a few secondary sources and then re-read FW later in the year. I may have to make it a yearly resolution!

You Bright & Risen Angels — William T. Vollmann (+)
The story is that Vollmann wrote this novel under his desk while employed as a programmer in California. I must say, the author’s prose charges ahead like a run-away roller-coaster but at the same time it is very coherent and readable. I like this guy and hope to read everything he writes but he is so very prolific I may never catch up. He’s more imaginative and approachable than most authors of his ilk — an understandable combination of William S. Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon.

Ghostwritten — David Mitchell 
Having just completed a discussion of the author’s more recent Cloud Atlas I was actually startled to see that a similar technique was used in this, his first novel. Although it read easily and kept me reading I felt the author was too manipulative and checking some of the phrasing I began to suspect some sort of computer software was being used to assist with the writing. I’m sure I’m wrong but will withhold judgment until I read his next two books.

Will Warburton — George Gissing
This lesser known Gissing is less complex in its plot and characterizations but covers a less desperate aspect of poverty and relationships in London. Pretty good.

Veniss Underground — Jeff Vandermeer
Although Vandermeer touches on many of the themes of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, he has a much more raw tinge to his prose and isn’t afraid to be frightening. You may have to twist your imagination a bit in this one but it’s healthy and rewarding.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep — Phillip K. Dick
An interesting, fast read. albeit terribly flawed, and a classic of science fiction. Dick has a simple style and isn’t too challenging and I didn’t really notice too much innovation (not knowing the relative dates of the various science fiction novels I have read.) The question then is whether an early treatment of the various themes makes it better than the other stories that treat the same themes much better and are better written?

Eva Trout — Elizabeth Bowen (+)
This was the author’s last novel and it is probably the richest when it comes to interpreting the characteristics and actions of the characters. I have heard wildly different opinions and suspect that is why the novel is so rich. Bowen is a must read!

The Cannibal — John Hawkes (+)
This is the author’s first novel published right after WWII. It deals in no uncertain terms with the death and degradation of a conquered Germany that was forced to crawl through the carnage of their destroyed cities to hope for survival. Hawkes is rather progressive in his structuring of this novel (the introduction actually calls it avant-guard) but there have been far more confusing texts published since then so it reads fairly easily (anyone familiar with Robbe-Grillet will think Hawkes is easy.)

ReJoyce — Anthony Burgess
My advice to everyone wanting to read Ulysses or Finnegans Wake is to read Burgess and then the primary text, staying away from Guides and Keys and the like.

Blown Away — Ronald Sukenick
If Hollywood was to make a soft-core porno version of The Tempest, what would they title it? Well, that’s what this book is about, at least as far as the plot goes. But the author, an esteemed postmodern critic, is writing what is sometimes called experimental fiction. Isn’t it all experimental? After all, so many current writers are experimenting with whether they can still pass the same old crap off as quality writing and make a lot of money doing it. Right? Even so, I prefer Bloom’s phrase — imaginative fiction. This outrageous and funny send-up of Hollywood isn’t the author’s best but it’s fun to read and never boring.

Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis — Jimmy Carter
This man is so pious and so honest it’s almost a shame that he had to sully his extensive bibliography with a book about the corruption, lack of morals and twisted American values that inhabit the government nowadays. I don’t share his deep religious beliefs but I do share his disgust and dismay. But it’s not all about Bush and his cronies; it’s also about the teachings of Jesus and the Bible and the environment and healthcare and the death penalty and gay marriages and abortion and Christian fundamentalism and a lot of pertinent stuff that Carter handles with very clear prose and understanding. Oh, sometimes he talks a lot about his achievements but he also talks about the achievements of the other former Presidents, most of which are being overturned and polluted by the current occupant of the White House. It’s a quick, enlightening read that I would recommend to all my Republican friends. The bottom line is, of course, that the Bush administration, for all it’s Bible thumping, is still vilifying this most Christian Evangelical Sunday School teacher. Something wrong there … he never mentions it but I wonder if Carter believes that God talks to George W. Bush?

Blonde — Joyce Carol Oates (+)
A well developed fictionalization of the life of Marilyn Monroe. I found it compelling and could hardly break away to read The Tale of Genji. Oates, if anything, is a writer of great variety and clarity.

The Tale of Genji — Murasaki Shikibu (+)
This is a huge book and even though nothing terribly exciting happens, I found it held my interest for all 1100 pages. It’s amazing to think that this was written about a thousand years ago with brush and ink on a handmade paper scroll (remember, the moveable type printing press wasn’t invented until 1450 or so.)

Saturday — Ian McEwan (-)
I can think of a half-dozen authors that have done this “day in the life of” bit far far more successfully and with much more interest. Oh, we can give McEwan a pat on the arm for writing clear, if uninspired. prose, but this novel is worthless. It’s sort of like Bonfire of the Vanities in that a rich, successful professional man has a run-in with a down and out ne’re-do-well and despite his escaping, the thugs later infiltrate his home (the British version of old money overlooking Central Park) and threaten his happy, rich, successful life and family Now, add to this the backdrop of unthinking, unemployed hooligans in the hundreds of thousands marching to protest the upcoming invasion of Iraq (McEwan is tilting a little to the right) and the novel has it all — an unimaginative, uninteresting structure; international politics used with less passion than the squash match; class conflict; overly personal poetry that hits all the cliches; a rich kid who suffers so much he has to sing the blues (and study the guitar under Jack Bruce;) an unselfish emergency brain surgery worthy of Marcus Welby … the riches go on and on. The biggest question I got out of the book was why the author even bothered to write it?

Under the Greenwood Tree — Thomas Hardy
A simple tale of life and love; nice but no depth.

Temporary Kings — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 11 of A Dance to the Music of Time: Our characters are aging and it’s all nearing a conclusion.

The Truth with Jokes — Al Franken
Despite his extremely liberal bias, Franken documents his positions and revelations so well that it’s hard not to believe him (especially when his opposition is so obviously lying.)

School Days — Robert B. Parker
Not a bad Spenser and probably because there is no Hawk or Susan for most all of the book (Pearl helps out, though.)

The Heat of the Day — Elizabeth Bowen (+)
A very interesting novel of love and suspicion. Bowen is quite a writer; some say better than Virginia Woolf.

Memoria de mis tristes putas — Gabriel García Marquez
I was surprised at how quickly my Spanish picked back up as I read this book. I needed a dictionary but often found myself verifying my Spanish rather than expanding it. Oh, the story was very nice — a perfect gem but not very complex.

Of Experience — Michele de Montaigne
This essay by Montaigne …

Six Questions of Socrates — Christopher Phillips
Following up of The Socrates Café, the author drops the memoir format and uses the café discussions to approach the big questions — What is Virtue, Moderation, Justice, Good, Courage, Piety, Excellence.

The Gold Bug Variations — Richard Powers (-)
I guess I should have read this fifteen years ago but I’m not sure it would have mattered. Powers overloads a somewhat trite story with gobs of unnecessary science that leads nowhere and is at times embarrassing in it’s inaccuracy and forced importance. Also, Powers’s writing skills are very spotty and when he plays with the language the results are stupid and juvenile. This guy is no Joyce.

Apology for Raymond Sebond — Michele de Montaigne
This essay by Montaigne …

The Last September — Elizabeth Bowen
The author is exquisite; probably second only to Virginia Woolf and as far as writing skill is concerned, that might be debatable. This tale deals with the Anglo-Irish population and the ongoing conflict in Ireland. Bowen doesn’t really take a side and is often unsympathetic to both.

The Age of Iron — J. M. Coetzee
An earlier work by the author back in the bad old apartheid times.

Books Do Furnish a Room — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 10 of A Dance to the Music of Time: Our characters are aging and there’s some interesting politics going on.

Crito — Plato
Continuing the cycle surrounding the death of Socrates.

Slow Man — J. M. Coetzee (+)
This is possibly my favorite Coetzee. Very subtly he plays with the idea of fiction and reality without being heavy-handed. Somewhat along the lines of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

The Bad Beginning — Lemony Snicket
I at first baulked at the author’s pausing to explain words and the like but then I realized that the audience is a child and the explanations were just right. I have a keen interest in children’s literature (the first “A” I received in college) and these dark stories are certainly an interesting comparison to the dreaded Harry Potter novels.

Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth — Joe Conason
I started reading this book before the election and just decided to get through it now. Unfortunately, Conason was right and it still didn’t effect the election. However, I heard a very astute political analyst announce that Bush may have been elected for a second term but the chances were good that he wouldn’t complete it. Nowadays with all the indictments, etc. the Bush administration is coming apart at the seams and rumors are ripe,

Vernon God Little — DBC Pierre (-)
I heard that this was the Catcher In the Rye of the new century. The closest point of comparison I could see was lack of quality — they both sucked. Another comparison that I do agree with was with A Confederacy of Dunces — in this case both books were self-indulgent and disgusting. People tell me that they read this dreck, despite all the “F-Bombs” because it was so funny — where? I don’t think I noticed a funny line in the entire book — all I saw was Vernon Dunce Little. I must admit that I was probably watching the overly smug author over-writing this story and didn’t pay too much attention to the mass of clichés that tried to pass as a text, but that is what I tend to do.

Apology — Plato
This is where Socrates buys the hemlock orchard. Note that “apology” here means a defense and not some form of attrition; Sophocles didn’t apologize for anything!.

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed — Carl Honoré
This book is exactly what I have been theorizing for some time now and it is great to see that there are major international movements challenging the benefits of intense speed or collapsing of time. The author is a bit less philosophical than I might have liked but I still recommend this book to everyone and suggest that they take a hot cup of tea, warm slippers and this book to their best easy chair and just spend some time reading and thinking about Slowness.

Plus — Joseph McElroy (+)
I have to read this text again., It’s basically the story of an amorphous “robot” pilot that is constituted from human and vegetable parts that begins to break away from its prescribed mission in orbit around the earth and take on a life-form of its own. Or something like that.

The Military Philosophers — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 9 of A Dance to the Music of Time: The war years conclude.

Euthyphro — Plato
This was great! Socrates is a way cool dude and I couldn’t help giggling at the way he manipulated Euthyphro into destroying his own argument.

The Socrates Café: A Fresh Tale of Philosophy — Christopher Phillips
Part memoir and part philosophical discussion, read this book and you’ll have a good understanding of the Socratic Method without opening Plato once.

Chicot the Jester — Alexandre Dumas
This is the second volume of the Valois Romances that started with Marguerite Valois (AKA Queen Margot). Our heros from the first volume are gone but not the intrigue, unflinching courage or the undying love. Yes. their swords are sharp and often soaked in blood. Dumas is easily faulted but his works are still fun and exhilarating.

B Is for Burglar — Sue Grafton
Well written fluff (that backlight is great for when you can’t sleep.)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams
Despite having read this before and had other exposure to the story, I found this re-reading vivid and fun and can only complain that the one novel seems a bit thin (luckily I have the volume with all five related novels.)

Snow White — Donald Barthelme (+)
Ouch! Those of you that have read Donald Barthelme know from whence I wince. It doesn’t take too long to read Snow White, even when you’re concentrating on the postmodern text, but I think I may have to read this one several times to put it all together. Yes, it typical postmodern fashion, DB gives us a retelling of the Snow White story but this Snow White is a woman ready to break out of her gender-prison and maybe kick some dwarf ass. But despite her attempts at liberation, she doesn’t make it. DB doesn’t stoop to the obvious but you just know that somewhere in Snow White’s sub-conscience she is still whistling “some day my prince will come” and never seeing that she alone can break the fetters of the cultural mythology that hold her down, making her a “horsewife.” This seems to me to be more approachable than most of DBs short stories so I recommend everyone give it a try; after all, a postmodern novel under 200 pages?

Walking a Literary Labyrinth: A Spirituality of Reading — Nancy M. Malone
I was worried reading a book on the spirituality of reading by a cloistered nun but it was delightful. I don’t think it fair to say she made too many recommendations (she does have a list in the appendix) but I just enjoyed the simple telling of her life and her relationship with books and with spirituality. This is a good one to pass around.

The True Believer — Eric Hoffer
I first read this in the ’60s when the author was still alive and snarling. I remember him showing a preference for LBJ over JFK because, as he said, you just need to count the number of times they crossed the Atlantic vs. the Mississippi to tell who was good for the country. In today’s world I suspect that Eric’s thoughts are just as relevant, if not more so.

Just a Theory: Exploring the Nature of Science — Moti Ben-Ari
This excellent book on the surface is explaining why Creationism, Astrology, etc. are not and should not be compared to science but along the line it comes up with some pretty good definitions for one of those hard questions — What is Science? Informative and easy to read.

Never Let Me Go — Kaszuo Ishiguro
Katzuo, despite the last semi-disaster, is one of the best writers working today. To think that he’s a Japanese national converted to one of the most British writers I know is remarkable. In this novel Katzuo gives us his version of an alternate world (not necessarily a futuristic view) somewhat combining Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale with Cook’s Coma. I think Ishiguro has trouble making eight year old kids sound like kids instead of young adults but otherwise, well written and interesting.

O Play That Thing — Roddy Doyle
Remember Henry Smart? Remember him running around Dublin with his father’s wooden leg smashing and killing and all those other fun things they did in the Irish rebellion? Well, for some reason Roddy Doyle has seen fit to write a sequel to A Star Called Henry and in this one Henry escapes to America, teams up with Mr. Louis Armstrong and after another wild ride of smashing and stealing ends up accidentally being rescued by Henry Fonda who wanders off in Monument Valley to pee during the filming of My Daughter Clementine. I’m not overly impressed with O Play That Thing but it was a wild, entertaining ride.

Miss Wyoming — Douglas Coupland (-)
Okay, I hated this one. The story wasn’t so bad but the seemingly arbitrary cutting up of the narrative and shuffling the time sequences struck me as a weak attempt to make the novel seem more interesting and therefore important than it was. And from such a good author too.

The Town — Conrad Richter (+)
I have to write the publisher and demand that they reprint Richter other than the somewhat insipid Light in the Forest. Here is your Great American Novel — The Awakening Land: The Trees, The Fields, and The Town. Add The Sea of Grass and The Grandfathers and it’s almost perfect.

The Soldier’s Art — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 8 of A Dance to the Music of Time: The war years continue.

The Valley of Bones — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 7 of A Dance to the Music of Time: The war years and several readers in the group are really getting into Dance.

Slammerkin — Emma Donoghue
This is a sturdy period piece that only occasionally reads like a string of research cards tied together by leaden prose. I’m not nominating it for any awards but I know several of my friends will enjoy it.

Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land — John Crowley
I’m not sure why I picked this up since I’m rather vocal about second-rate authors trying to gain fame off of their betters who are now dead and can’t sue anymore — but I did. The story was like Possession except Lord Byron was real and trying to pawn that pig snot of a novel off as his work is criminal. Yet, I continued reading and there are no new holes in my wall. I gave the Crowley work an average score (and as the time goes by I’m thinking I was too generous) but the Byron parts are too crappy to even grant a score. So I guess it’s up to the individual reader; if you know and love Byron, you may very well end up with a new hole in your wall.

Slaughterhouse-Five — Kurt Vonnegut (+)
Many years ago I read everything by this author and wasn’t overwhelmed. I remember being a little confused with this one. Now I re-read it and it seems to make such sense. Am I going to have to go back and re-read them all?

A Personal Matter — Kenzaburo Oe (+)
I have my problems with Oe but this was nicely done.

The Almond — Nedjma
Touted as an exposé into the deep sexuality of women living under the Arab tyranny this was mostly a tepid excuse for some old fashioned pornography, sans fotos. I’ve read lots that are more risqué and effective.

Half a Life — V. S. Naipaul
Despite living under a strict caste system, our hero finds himself sent away to school and realizes that no one knows his caste nor does anyone care. Interesting and well written.

The Fields — Conrad Richter (+)
Part 2 of The Awakening Land trilogy. Now the trees are being cleared and the fields are growing, providing food for more people and even room for a school. Towards the end two things are about to happen — with the next clearing of the forest they expect to see as far as the next farm so as to know when their neighbors are up and around and a town is being planned.

Me Talk Pretty One Day — David Sedaris
Another collection of short stories by a pretty insightful author with a touch of welcome humor. Some of the stories might more rightly be called personal essays but I’m never too sure if Sedaris is making it all up or telling it like it is.

The Loop Group — Larry McMurtry
Although the author writes good, straightforward prose, this story is a little light but entertaining.

All Families are Psychotic — Douglas Coupland
The author takes on the dysfunctional family … again? It’s interesting that physical disabilities are used to echo the mental or social disabilities. This is a wild ride but not a great ride.

Humanism as the Next Step — Lloyd and Mary Morain
This little AHA book, originally published in 1954, gives a good and fair introduction into Humanism. Other than not relying on any sort of mysticism or supernatural intervention, Humanism certainly sound like a religion (but the author’s suggest it’s up to the individual to view it as a religion or as a philosophy.)

The Kindly Ones — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 6 of A Dance to the Music of Time: It’s really ashamed that more people do not read this book.

American Appetites — Joyce Carol Oates
JCO takes a situation and wraps a novel around it better than anyone I know writing today. True, her novels are not sublime literature but they consist of excellent prose and provocative themes. This one seeks to answer the question “What if you accidentally caused your wife to crash through a plate glass window and eventually die of brain injury?” Wanna know? Read the book!

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim — David Sedaris
This collection of stories, some of which read like personal essays, is my first introduction to the author and he’s pretty good in the short forms. I’ll probably read some more.

The Inn at Lake Devine — Elinor Lipman (-)
Adequate prose and a horribly clichéd story. Watch for this one as a made for TV movie.

Moby Dick — Herman Melville (+)
This one gets better every times you read it. I had a ball with Melville’s wry humor this time; I guess I missed it from earlier reads. I can see why some scholars concentrate on this one book for their entire careers. I also see how all the extraneous information, especially about whales and whaling, really contributes to the structure and to the experience.

How to Be Good — Nick Hornby (-)
Awful. No insight; no humor; too many coincidences.

Love — Toni Morrison (-)
Totally unbelievable. This one read like a batch of notes thrown together rather than a novel.

Girlfriend in a Coma — Douglas Coupland (-)
Again this author is a joy to read just to see the originality and energy of his prose. This is a strange one too — what would happen if your girlfriend and mother of your daughter woke from a twenty year coma? The author, unfortunately, then hoakeys up and interesting premise with all sorts of strange implausible stuff and ruins the novel.

Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 5 of A Dance to the Music of Time: Better and better.
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Romeo and Juliet — William Shakespeare
This would be a pretty sappy play if it wasn’t for Mercutio. In fact, Mercutio may be Shakespeare’s greatest character. I admit, though, that I can no longer read R&J without seeing the Zeferelli movie in my mind (or at least hearing the music.)

The Cunning Man — Robertson Davies
After Murther, I thought I would never read another title by Davies but this one came up on the book club and it wasn’t as bad. In some ways the author certainly can write good prose but I’m thinking he needs to better outline his novels since the structure tends to suffer and it just seems that he runs on and on. I describe Davies’s writing as the literary equivalent of a Senate Filibuster.

The Master and Margarita — Mikhail Bulgakov (+)
I was way behind in reading this classic. I am reminded of Haruki Murakami.

A House For Mr. Biswas — V.S. Naipaul (+)
This book answers the time honored question — can an inveterate schlemiel build a house and bring his family together if only for a short time? I considered an afternoon ponder on the use of fate in this novel but I came to the conclusion that the author wasn’t being as sophisticated in this early novel. I do like Naipaul though and am ready for more (even his somewhat arguable non-fiction.)

Old Friends — Stephen Dixon
I like this author the more I read him. His direct prose is amazing. I recently recommended Dixon to anyone that was interested in relationships and common events from a distinctly male point of view.

At Lady Molly’s — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 4 of A Dance to the Music of Time: It is definitely better the second time around.

Titus Andronicus — William Shakespeare
I just read this not too long ago on my own but this time it was sCheduled by the Shakespeare & CO. reading group. My opinion stands — the gore exceeds the poetry.

The Good Apprentice — Iris Murdoch
Read as part of the Murdoch study at LSG but also recently covered in other groups. I felt I had to read this one since most everybody was declaring it a bust. My opinion? Well, not the best but I would say rather unfairly maligned by readers that didn’t offer the extra effort to assure understanding.

The Kite Runner — Khaled Hosseini
Despite one or two too many efficacious coincidences, this was a pretty solid, well structured first novel. Although I might not have normally enjoyed this type of story, perhaps it was the lack of pretension that made it enjoyable.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum — Kate Atkinson
A captivating story showing quite a bit of sophisticated prose for a first time author. Again, this is a story that interweaves multiple generations so pay attention.

The True History of the Kelly Gang — Peter Carey
A well written saga of the old west in Australia. Good entertainment.

The Dream of Scipio – Iain Pears  (+)
I enjoyed this text quite a lot and it certainly made me want to get back to my desk and do something intellectual. You do need to pay attention to keep the three interwoven stories separate and to notice when they overlap, despite the passing of time.

Hard Times — Charles Dickens
Dickens does a good job at representing the evils of industrial England but I can’t help thinking he comes up short when compared to Gissing.

The Dante Club — Matthew Pearl
Pretty standard fare but the setting and characters made it interesting. Not a bad mystery but I wonder if the historical characters were integral?

Cold Service — Robert B. Parker
Spencer is back but this time it is Hawk that is shot. Some interesting twists in this one.

My Name Is Red — Orhan Pamuk
I couldn’t decide if this text was just an overblown mystery or something more. I found a lot of the exposition about art terribly repetitious but the author was able to turn a good phrase here and there. I think I’ll try a few more titles.

The Acceptance World — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 3 of A Dance to the Music of Time: It is definitely better the second time around.

The Wild Geese — Ogai Mori (+)
Masterful. There is so much in Japanese literature.

Salt Dancers — Ursula Hegi
I need to catch up with a few Hegi titles. Although she writes stories in a style that I try to avoid, I do like this author.

Zeeland or Elective Concurences (+)
The author tells the story of two related but separated by time men who are struggling to escape from tyranny in Europe and how their stories crossover. Very interesting; very well written.

The Beetle Leg — John Hawkes
Hawkes writes a rather strange novel of the old west. Although he jumps around in time, it’s not too hard to follow and as my introduction to the author, I am impressed.

Life After God — Douglas Coupland
A collection of short stories by an interesting author.

Eleanor Rigby — Douglas Coupland
You can always expect this author to avoid the cliche and give his writing a new twist. This story was for entertainment and I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to other readers.

Kafka On the Shore — Harui Murakami
Murakami has become too good a writer and his strange characters have lost the innocence of his earlier works. Without innocence, they need to be well integrated into the structure of the novel. Unfortunately I found the characters like Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders somewhat jarring and seemingly pasted on. Otherwise, a pretty good Murakami.

Botchan — Natsume Soseki (+)
The one Soseki that you should read — short but very good.

Hollywood Noctures — James Elroy
An excellent collection of short stories and short novels. I am fascinated by the tales of early Los Angeles.

The Problems of Philosophy — Bertram Russell (+)
If you can only read one book on Philosophy, read this one!

Don Quixote — Kathy Acker
Here Acker writes her view of the DQ story (using a technique called plagerism) only there are a few sex changes and the quest is rather different. A good Acker text in that I only got completely lost once.

The Zig-Zag Kid — David Grossman
Pretty standard fare and the Zig-Zag was not that important.

Rape: A Love Story — Joyce Carol Oates
JCO uses a sparse prose style here to tell what is a rather horrific story. It is this author’s strength that she can dip into the grotesque and horrible and shift into the commonplace in the next paragraph. I can’t give JCO too many literary stars but her control of the prose and of the story in excellent.

Venus in Furs — Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Every wonder where the word “masochism” came from? Well, if you’re in the “beat me whip me” crowd you might like to try this one.

Birds without Wings — Louis de Bernieres
I’m going to be wishy-washy on this assessment — I really can’t decide whether the inclusion of all the historical information transformed an interesting character study into an important novel or whether all that historical stuff was just interesting filler to make a weak book seem strong (if not long) Bottom line, though, is that I like this author and in this text he doesn’t make the mistake he made in Corelli by tossing in a trite ending. Might be four stars — you read it and decide.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves — Lynne Truss
The first time I read this little book on punctuation I thought it was useful; the second time I just thought it was okay, a little quirky, and not always correct. The one thing I agree on is that people should pay better attention to their punctuation (and keep commas to a minimum.)

A Buyer’s Market — Anthony Powell
Re-read Book 2 of A Dance to the Music of Time: It is definitely better the second time around.

Richard III — William Shakespeare
It was in Shakespeare’s interest to show Richard in a rather bad light since Richard was on the losing side and the playwright’s benefactors were on the winning side.

Regeneration — Pat Barker
A fictionalization of the story of Sigfried Sasson and Rupert Brooke and the horror and destruction of war. The first of a trilogy that I intend to read.

The Black Dahlia — James Ellroy
A good, fast moving police story based on the Black Dahlia murder in early 1940s Los Angeles. Great entertainment.

The Severed Head — Iris Murdoch
A very twisted tale of love and infidelity. Might make an interesting pairing with Cohen’s Belle de Seignuer. Murdoch is a very interesting author.

Omensetter’s Luck — William H. Gass
To be direct, Omensetter’s Luck is confusing and probably demands a second read. There’s a lot of broken, subconscious head-talk in this one and although the writing is often excellent, it still took a lot of work to follow what was going on. I give it an average score here even though I think it was better than average, but I can’t be sure until I do that re-read.

Henry VI Part 3 — William Shakespeare
This three part history was not my favorite.

Story of the Eye — George Bataille
Let’s see. What would you call a novel about a woman that starts out sitting on a bowl of milk, graduates to eggs (hard and soft), tries bulls testicles and finishes up sitting on eye-balls? A quote: “I did not care for what is known as “pleasures of the flesh” because they really are insipid; I cared only for what is classified as “dirty.” I found the section on the sexual aspects of bullfighting interesting and wonder how it compares with another novel written around the same time — The Sun Also Rises.

The Plot Against America — Philip Roth (+)
Imagine that the isolationists, led by that American hero Charles Lindburgh, became just a little stronger and surprised Roosevelt in his run for a third term. Seen through the eyes of a Jewish family in Newark, NJ and more specifically focusing on a young Philip Roth (hey, it’s an alternate universe; why not?) Roth believably portrays the slide of America into Fascism and the insidiousness of ethnic maneuvering. Roth is smooth in this one; controls his often overbearing Jewish angst and relates a highly plausible and educational story. Recommended.

To the Lighthouse — Virginia Woolf (+)
This was a re-read for a book group on Yahoo and this time, rather than reveling in the quality of Woolf’s prose I began to question the structure of narration. Common wisdom states that TTL is a collection of independent narrators, each disclosing their conscious and unconscious thoughts. But all of the narratives sound the same; is it a flaw that Woolf writes inner dialogue that does nothing much to differentiate the various characters? or are we looking at a single narrator? This text is the best by the best and must be read and re-read.

Under the Net — Iris Murdoch
Although entertaining, this early Murdoch just didn’t seem to be a Murdoch text. Although it has been included in the ML Top 100 list I didn’t think it held up to the later works.

A Short History of Nearly Everything — Bill Bryson
Although at times a little too pop for a science book, this one was filled with interesting information about the world we live in without becoming unnecessarily detailed and boring.

My Name Is Red — Orhan Pamuk
This one is either bad or great; right now I have to consider it a poorly executed attempt to write the Turkish equivalent of The Name of the Rose. However, there is way way too much irony in the text to accept it at face value and I’m wondering if this tedious, repetitious tome is worth re-reading to study it a bit more deeply?

A Question of Upbringing — Anthony Powell (+)
Re-read Book 1 of A Dance to the Music of Time: A true pleasure to read this second time; I’m looking forward to revisiting all the characters and places with the other members of the Literature Study Group.

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