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Somewhat Off-Topic: What have you been reading lately?


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12 hours ago, skimpole said:

I earlier finished reading The Ghost Writer (the Philip Roth novel).

How did you like it?

I recently read about some kerfluffle concerning a new biography of Roth, apparently the biographer has been accused of "sexual misconduct".  So now the bio's been pulled from circulation.

However, sorry, that could open up a whole can of worms, and has nothing to do with the novel you mentioned.

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I'm reading books about Frank Sinatra recordings:

Ed O'Brien and Robert Wilson, Sinatra 101: The 101 Best Recordings and the Stories Behind Them--A slim paperback with brief comments on their favorite recordings.

Charles Granata, Sessions With Sinatra--A full account of the history of the advances in recording techniques and how Sinatra adapted to the changes, along with an overview of Sinatra's recording career and his development of the concept album, as well as a list of the 50 Sinatra recordings Granata considers the best.

Will Friedwald, Sinatra! The Song Is You--An extensive look at Sinatra's recording career, with much information about the arrangements. Friedwald is versed in jazz and brings a thorough understanding of music to his discussions. Friedwald dislikes most pop music from early rock & roll on and has many snarky remarks about various pop singers.

All three sources generally dislike the Duets and Duets II albums that Sinatra recorded toward the end of his life. However, only Friedwald describes Chrissie Hynde's performance as sounding like "William F. Buckley in drag." (I can see what he means.) "My Way" is not on anyone's list of favorites, nor is "Strangers in the Night," nor "Somethin' Stupid," nor most of Sinatra's pop hits of the 60s. Thanks to YouTube, it's an easy matter to check out the favored recordings, most of which are mind-blowingly good, and yes, incomparably better than the Rat Pack and 60s hits. The beauty of tone, the amazing technique, the depth of feeling, and the penetration into the meaning of the lyrics are really sublime. Smoking does some serious damage to the voice as he ages, but the concentration and understanding remain.

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13 hours ago, kingrat said:

I'm reading books about Frank Sinatra recordings:

Ed O'Brien and Robert Wilson, Sinatra 101: The 101 Best Recordings and the Stories Behind Them--A slim paperback with brief comments on their favorite recordings.

Charles Granata, Sessions With Sinatra--A full account of the history of the advances in recording techniques and how Sinatra adapted to the changes, along with an overview of Sinatra's recording career and his development of the concept album, as well as a list of the 50 Sinatra recordings Granata considers the best.

Will Friedwald, Sinatra! The Song Is You--An extensive look at Sinatra's recording career, with much information about the arrangements. Friedwald is versed in jazz and brings a thorough understanding of music to his discussions. Friedwald dislikes most pop music from early rock & roll on and has many snarky remarks about various pop singers.

All three sources generally dislike the Duets and Duets II albums that Sinatra recorded toward the end of his life. However, only Friedwald describes Chrissie Hynde's performance as sounding like "William F. Buckley in drag." (I can see what he means.) "My Way" is not on anyone's list of favorites, nor is "Strangers in the Night," nor "Somethin' Stupid," nor most of Sinatra's pop hits of the 60s. Thanks to YouTube, it's an easy matter to check out the favored recordings, most of which are mind-blowingly good, and yes, incomparably better than the Rat Pack and 60s hits. The beauty of tone, the amazing technique, the depth of feeling, and the penetration into the meaning of the lyrics are really sublime. Smoking does some serious damage to the voice as he ages, but the concentration and understanding remain.

These sound cool.  I haven't read a Sinatra book in over a decade and have never heard of these.

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21 minutes ago, Shank Asu said:

These sound cool.  I haven't read a Sinatra book in over a decade and have never heard of these.

Shank, these books are all about Sinatra as a singer and do not cover his personal life, screen career, etc. That's what appealed to me.

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  • 1 month later...

I made a big order of hard cover books for my collection and for the next 2 months-i guess-.I bought bios on Barbara Lamarr Mae Murray John Gilbert(i have Dark Star already),directors Thomas Ince, William Wyler a more recent one,Clarence Brown,the Vitagraph film studio and...George Brent  , hey Hibi do you have this one ?  I have read all the Agatha Christie's many years ago and everything by Conan Doyle,I do not have the time for fiction i prefer bios and movie books,in another life i will read McFarland's baseball books,they also publish  the best movie books in the world.

lamarr.jpg

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From this month:

Red Lights by Georges Simenon.  One of his Roman Durs set in the US.  Not my favorite by him but an entertaining and easy read.

The Continual Condition by Charles Bukowski.  Short collection of decent poems by Buk.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway.  Little over half-way through this.  Very little has happened so far in the story but guessing it's gearing up for a big fight.

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Currently reading:

1) The Last Juror (John Grisham) - almost through

2) I am Anna by Paul Bluestein (know the author) - really interesting sci-fi novel

3) The Book of Lamentations (read online from JPS - could see both Hebrew and English)  This is supposed to have been written by the prophet Jeremiah and I read it in observance of Tisha B'Av.

4) Antiquities by Cynthia Ozick

5) Jeeves and the King of Clubs (can't remember author - I think it is Dan Schott - but not as good as Wodehouse)

6) The Ventriloquists (Remzipoor?)

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I'm currently reading The Winds of War by Herman Wouk (who's best known for The Caine Mutiny).   The Winds of War is a long book -- almost 900 pages -- covering the late 30s and the very early 40s, the time leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. 

The story focuses on a Navy family and their involvement in the developing war.  The father is a senior naval officer who becomes involved with significant historical figures and events; the mother is primarily a hostess and charity fundraiser who has her own, more personal experiences; their two sons have differing views on a naval career but both join up nonetheless; and their younger sister works in the NYC radio broadcasting world.  There are also major characters among the family's acquaintances, such as a best-selling Jewish historian who lives in Italy with his brilliant niece, both of whom come to know the family's younger son quite well while the European situation explodes around them.   Wouk involves each family member in interesting, sometimes gripping, adventures, all connected in some way to the war.  

I can see why The Winds of War was a big best-seller in the 1970s and was made into a mini-series in the early 80s, with Robert Mitchum heading a well-known cast.  I haven't seen the mini-series, but I'm enjoying the book so much that I may have to watch it later.  I plan to read the equally-long sequel, War and Remembrance, next.   (As I understand it, Wouk originally intended the two books to be published as one volume, but the combined text was just too long for a single book.)

Besides being a great story, this book also provides a fairly detailed history of World War II.  Although I know a bit about WW II, I feel like reading this novel is increasing my historical knowledge, about parts of the war, at least.

I rarely read best-sellers, and to tell the truth, I don't read novels as often as I used to, mainly preferring non-fiction.  But The Winds of War reminds me how wonderful it is to get caught up in a well-told story.  Wouk is a very good writer.

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20 hours ago, nakano said:

I made a big order of hard cover books for my collection and for the next 2 months-i guess-.I bought bios on Barbara Lamarr Mae Murray John Gilbert(i have Dark Star already),directors Thomas Ince, William Wyler a more recent one,Clarence Brown,the Vitagraph film studio and...George Brent  , hey Hibi do you have this one ?  I have read all the Agatha Christie's many years ago and everything by Conan Doyle,I do not have the time for fiction i prefer bios and movie books,in another life i will read McFarland's baseball books,they also publish  the best movie books in the world.

lamarr.jpg

Barbara La Marr? Yes, I've read it. It was good, a bit too exhaustive in detail for a minor star. I thought it could have benefited from some editing, particularly her early years, but it's worth reading.

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I'm reading: Carrie Fisher:  A Life On the Edge by Sheila Weller. Pretty good, a bit too much name dropping. And All the Young Men by Ruth Coker Burks, a woman who wound up caring for dying gay men during the Aids crisis in Arkanasas (become no one else would at the time) A tough read, but worthwhile. Had not heard of the book before, but CNN did a write up last month with the author on its .com site.

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Hibi i just received the books in the last week i was inquiring about  the George Brent one if you have read it let me know what you think of it?

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39 minutes ago, nakano said:

Hibi i just received the books in the last week i was inquiring about  the George Brent one if you have read it let me know what you think of it?

Yes, I read that a few years back when it came out. It's good. Well researched, but the author, like in his other bios, never provides insight about his subject. Just the facts. He led an interesting life.

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Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. I believe this was Amis' first novel, published in the mid 1950s, and was quite

a success. Jim Dixon is a rather indifferent chap who just started his first term as a History lecturer at a

English university. If it was set in America, the university would be a second-rate backwater school with 

scant academic reputation. Dixon has to navigate both the absurdities of the academic world and the

world at large. He also likes to drink, which gets him into trouble on one notable occasion. For most of

the book it seems as if Jim is not very lucky. Toward the end he finds out he will not be hired for the next

school year, but he happens to get a job in London with one of the many eccentric characters he has met

at the school and will be joined by his new girlfriend. So things work out for him after all. A comic novel

with mostly a understated sense of humor, though there are some LOL moments too. A very enjoyable read

and easy to get through at only 250 pages.

 

 

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Southern Reconstruction - Philip Leigh. Almost done, and holy crap!

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend - Glen Frankel

The Searchers: Essays and Reflections on John Ford's Classic Western - Arthur M. Eckstein and Peter Lehman

Just started these two, I don't plan on reading these cover to cover, but we'll see.

 

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5 hours ago, BingFan said:

I'm currently reading The Winds of War by Herman Wouk (who's best known for The Caine Mutiny).   The Winds of War is a long book -- almost 900 pages -- covering the late 30s and the very early 40s, the time leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. 

The story focuses on a Navy family and their involvement in the developing war.  The father is a senior naval officer who becomes involved with significant historical figures and events; the mother is primarily a hostess and charity fundraiser who has her own, more personal experiences; their two sons have differing views on a naval career but both join up nonetheless; and their younger sister works in the NYC radio broadcasting world.  There are also major characters among the family's acquaintances, such as a best-selling Jewish historian who lives in Italy with his brilliant niece, both of whom come to know the family's younger son quite well while the European situation explodes around them.   Wouk involves each family member in interesting, sometimes gripping, adventures, all connected in some way to the war.  

I can see why The Winds of War was a big best-seller in the 1970s and was made into a mini-series in the early 80s, with Robert Mitchum heading a well-known cast.  I haven't seen the mini-series, but I'm enjoying the book so much that I may have to watch it later.  I plan to read the equally-long sequel, War and Remembrance, next.   (As I understand it, Wouk originally intended the two books to be published as one volume, but the combined text was just too long for a single book.)

Besides being a great story, this book also provides a fairly detailed history of World War II.  Although I know a bit about WW II, I feel like reading this novel is increasing my historical knowledge, about parts of the war, at least.

I rarely read best-sellers, and to tell the truth, I don't read novels as often as I used to, mainly preferring non-fiction.  But The Winds of War reminds me how wonderful it is to get caught up in a well-told story.  Wouk is a very good writer.

The mini-series was pretty good, as I recall. Mitchum is not the most energetic actor by this time, but stoicism works for his character. Polly Bergen considered this her best performance. Even Ali McGraw and Hart Bochner aren't bad.

Have you read Gary Giddins' first two installments of his Bing Crosby biography? They are overly detailed, in the manner of Robert Caro's work on LBJ, but solidly researched, without an ax to grind. Unfortunately, the first two volumes only take us through the end of WWII. Giddins has done all the research, but who knows when or if the next installment will reach us.

 

 

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (novel) by Quentin Tarantino

If you liked the movie you'll enjoy the novel. It is not 100% a novelization of the film but rather a prequel, sequel and companion piece. For example the climax of the film occupies only about a half a page in the novel. What you get in the book is more background on the characters, particularly Cliff Booth ( Brad Pitt). Cliff's war hero and wife-killing background are explained. Certain relationships are explored in greater depth, particularly Rick Dalton's with Trudi Fraser (DeCaprio and Julia Butters' characters). There is also more involvement with and explanation of actual Hollywood actors, directors and incidents of the 50's and 60's, which I liked.

Brandy, the dog gets a half a chapter. Big plus.

As an author Tarantino is more of a storyteller than auteur, but he writes well enough and the book is an easy page turner.

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I just finished reading Jerry Stiller's MARRIED TO LAUGHTER picked up at an estate sale. (after Covid, LOTS of those happening) It was a quick easy read, written well with lots of fun stuff included. (never mean, no dirt/barbs) He covers his childhood growing up a toughie in NYC and constantly refers to his college days in Syracuse and how much his profs influenced & supported him throughout his career: his early days struggling as an actor, doing Shakespeare and how he discovered comedy....and Anne Meara. 

I had always watched their Ed Sullivan performances but never realized how pivotal they were in his career. 

Just a wonderful glimpse into a fabulous life of entertainment with the insecurity, struggles & successes. I had no idea Meara wrote plays too. Was amazed they lived their entire lives in NYC, bringing up both their famous children there while performing in movies, theater & television. 

content?id=RqJcJB9HJ0EC&printsec=frontco

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Great topic!  I'm finding some great book ideas.  I belong to a classic literature book club and recently read "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" by Agatha Christie.  Really surprising mystery with many twists and turns.

Some books that I've read recently that I really enjoyed and have movie versions are:

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I'm starting to read "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess and plan to read "The Thin Man" by Dasiell Hammett for a book discussion and "Thin Man" cocktail party/film screening which I am hosting.

A very good nonfiction book is Truffaut on Hitchcock.

 

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20 hours ago, Hibi said:

I'm reading: Carrie Fisher:  A Life On the Edge by Sheila Weller. Pretty good, a bit too much name dropping. And All the Young Men by Ruth Coker Burks, a woman who wound up caring for dying gay men during the Aids crisis in Arkanasas (become no one else would at the time) A tough read, but worthwhile. Had not heard of the book before, but CNN did a write up last month with the author on its .com site.

I'm a big fan of Sheila Weller's Girls Like Us, a joint biography of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. Who would believe that a nice Jewish girl from New York (Carole King, which wasn't her name then) would end up marrying two Idaho mountain men? A vivid and extremely readable guide to a moment in American cultural history. Well researched, too.

David Yaffe's Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, which I just read, is worth reading, though there is scant mention of Mitchell's father or Tom Rush. Perhaps that's why Yaffe calls his book a "portrait" rather than a biography. Yaffe was able to interview Mitchell (Weller was not), and there is much information from Larry Klein, Mitchell's second husband. Still, it's surprising how much information about Mitchell is in Weller but not in Yaffe, especially considering that only a third of Weller's book is about Mitchell. Yaffe includes a lot of impressionistic descriptions of Mitchell's albums. As a progressive-minded academic a number of years younger than Mitchell, Yaffe tends to view the political issues of the 60s and 70s backwards through the lens of today's sober-minded progressivism, completely missing the Renaissance Faire-like absurdity of the late 60s and early 70s, something Sheila Weller completely understands and portrays very well. Perhaps you had to be there to comprehend the specific late 60s mixture of idealism, narcissism, danger, and foolishness.

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Yes, I'd like to read that one also (Girls Like Us). I read her memoir (Dancing at Ciro's) and Hansel and Gretel in Beverly Hills some years ago.

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I forgot to include one amusing anecdote from David Yaffe's book on Joni Mitchell. When Mitchell joined Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, there was already one diva in residence, Joan Baez. After one particular show, Joan Baez stopped by Joni's dressing room to say, "You got the biggest applause tonight." This may have been intended in a pleasant, friendly way. Mitchell did not take it that way, however. She told David Yaffe when he interviewed her that actually Baez got the biggest applause that night because she went up for a high note, she raised her arm in triumph, milking the audience for applause. Mitchell had no use for such tactics.

One has to feel a certain amount of sympathy for Baez, however, for she was apparently the only person on the Rolling Thunder Revue not doing drugs.

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17 hours ago, kingrat said:

The mini-series was pretty good, as I recall. Mitchum is not the most energetic actor by this time, but stoicism works for his character. Polly Bergen considered this her best performance. Even Ali McGraw and Hart Bochner aren't bad.

Have you read Gary Giddins' first two installments of his Bing Crosby biography? They are overly detailed, in the manner of Robert Caro's work on LBJ, but solidly researched, without an ax to grind. Unfortunately, the first two volumes only take us through the end of WWII. Giddins has done all the research, but who knows when or if the next installment will reach us.

I've read both of Giddins' volumes on Bing and agree with your assessment.  Giddins' thorough research is presented in a very reliable and interesting way. 

According to Bing magazine (the publication of the International Club Crosby), Giddins said in an interview with Will Friedwald late last year that his work on the third and final volume of the Crosby biography is currently on hiatus (unfortunately).  Gary said that his research is complete but that he's currently at work on a Gershwin biography, rather than the Crosby book.  He's mentioned elsewhere that his Crosby work has been slow because he sometimes has to focus on other projects that provide his income as a writer.  I'd love to read his upcoming Gershwin book, too, but really hope that he can find time to finish the Crosby biography.

Thanks, too, for the recommendation re the Winds of War mini-series.  I'll check it out when I finish the books.  (Unfortunately, the mini-series of War and Remembrance seems to be out of print and  available only at very inflated prices, compared to the first film, which is much more readily available on DVD.)

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12 hours ago, Herman Bricks said:

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (novel) by Quentin Tarantino

If you liked the movie you'll enjoy the novel. It is not 100% a novelization of the film but rather a prequel, sequel and companion piece. For example the climax of the film occupies only about a half a page in the novel. What you get in the book is more background on the characters, particularly Cliff Booth ( Brad Pitt). Cliff's war hero and wife-killing background are explained. Certain relationships are explored in greater depth, particularly Rick Dalton's with Trudi Fraser (DeCaprio and Julia Butters' characters). There is also more involvement with and explanation of actual Hollywood actors, directors and incidents of the 50's and 60's, which I liked.

Brandy, the dog gets a half a chapter. Big plus.

As an author Tarantino is more of a storyteller than auteur, but he writes well enough and the book is an easy page turner.

Thanks for this.  I got my copy yesterday but i've got a long queue and was wondering if i should bother with reading it at all.

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I just finished Paper Doll,  a Robert B. Parker novel with Spenser the P.I.      My small local community park installed a book-box where so community members can trade books to read.      I had read a lot of the Parker Spenser novels so it was nice to find Paper Doll in the book box.       Now I have to remember to put some books into the box!    

I wish one of the T.V. stations know for showing older T.V. shows (e.g. ME-TV),  would show Spenser: For Hire.      I liked the show:

An American crime drama series based on Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels. The series, developed for TV by John Wilder and starring Robert Urich, was broadcast on ABC from September 20, 1985 until May 7, 1988.

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I am a serial polygamist when it comes to books, so a few that I am currently reading: 

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers 

Play as it Lays- Joan Didion 

Room to Dream- David Lynch 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest- Ken Kesey 

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