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


misswonderly3
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On 11/5/2021 at 6:31 AM, TikiSoo said:

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Don't know how many of you "got" Bette's comment....but it is referring to those who just answer the OP question with simply stating a title.  It's nice to know what you just read, but what we really want to know is what you thought of it.

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The Brontë Sisters: The Complete Novels with Extensive Biography, by Esther Alice Chadwick

I'd previously read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but this also includes Anne's Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as well as Villette, Shirley, and The Professor from Charlotte.  I actually bought it more for the detailed biography of the Brontë family. 
 
What surprised me most was that even though the father Patrick Brontë was from Ireland and the family considered themselves Irish, they "hated" Catholics, to quote the author. The first time Charlotte saw Ireland was after her marriage in 1854. She makes but a single reference to it as "a land of shamrocks and potatoes", but none of their writing ever mentions the massive starvation and depopulation of their "ancestral homeland" next door.  

Another revelation was their dislike of children and complete lack of any maternal instincts.  Their poor performances as teachers or governesses back this up but it's understandable since their mother died when they were so young.  

Surprised also that it was written 100 years ago because it has none of the flowery language or other clues that can date writing and make it a slog to get through. The author was able to interview people who actually knew the family and added much to the knowledge base while dispelling some myths. Overall a balanced and scholarly book, not the hatchet job I may have made it sound like.  The 262 page bio came bundled with the complete Brontë library and was a Kindle bargain at just 99 cents.

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2 hours ago, Katie_G said:

The Brontë Sisters: The Complete Novels with Extensive Biography, by Esther Alice Chadwick

I'd previously read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but this also includes Anne's Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as well as Villette, Shirley, and The Professor from Charlotte.  I actually bought it more for the detailed biography of the Brontë family. 
 
What surprised me most was that even though the father Patrick Brontë was from Ireland and the family considered themselves Irish, they "hated" Catholics, to quote the author. The first time Charlotte saw Ireland was after her marriage in 1854. She makes but a single reference to it as "a land of shamrocks and potatoes", but none of their writing ever mentions the massive starvation and depopulation of their "ancestral homeland" next door.  

Another revelation was their dislike of children and complete lack of any maternal instincts.  Their poor performances as teachers or governesses back this up but it's understandable since their mother died when they were so young.  

Surprised also that it was written 100 years ago because it has none of the flowery language or other clues that can date writing and make it a slog to get through. The author was able to interview people who actually knew the family and added much to the knowledge base while dispelling some myths. Overall a balanced and scholarly book, not the hatchet job I may have made it sound like.  The 262 page bio came bundled with the complete Brontë library and was a Kindle bargain at just 99 cents.

Katie,  I imagine you've seen the biographical movie about the Brontes,  Devotion.  Made in 1946, it stars Ida Lupino  ( one of my faves) as Emily,   Olivia de Haviland as Charlotte,  and Arthur Kennedy as brother Branwell Bronte  ( depicted as weak and much less talented than his sisters.)  I've read Anne Bronte's  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which I actually found quite exciting,  and of course the two more famous novels by her two more famous sisters.   

But I've never read any biographies about any of the Brontes.  If you have seen Devotion, maybe you could full us in as to how accurate - or inaccurate - the biopic is.  Given it was made in the '40s, when adhering to facts was not always a feature of biopics,  I would not be at all surprised if the film was not a very factual depiction of the family.  

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Not  all Irish are Catholic, though most are. Old man Bronte was raised as  a Protestant and later  became a Protestant cleric.

Many years  ago I  read  a biography  of  the family. The cover was  the  painting of  the Bronte sisters  by their brother. I don't

recall many details, though one thing I do recall was  that though  the  Brontes lived  in a fairly remote  area, they were  not as

culturally isolated  as some people think.  

 

 

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21 hours ago, misswonderly3 said:

Katie,  I imagine you've seen the biographical movie about the Brontes,  Devotion.  Made in 1946, it stars Ida Lupino  ( one of my faves) as Emily,   Olivia de Haviland as Charlotte,  and Arthur Kennedy as brother Branwell Bronte  ( depicted as weak and much less talented than his sisters.)  I've read Anne Bronte's  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which I actually found quite exciting,  and of course the two more famous novels by her two more famous sisters.   

But I've never read any biographies about any of the Brontes.  If you have seen Devotion, maybe you could full us in as to how accurate - or inaccurate - the biopic is.  Given it was made in the '40s, when adhering to facts was not always a feature of biopics,  I would not be at all surprised if the film was not a very factual depiction of the family.  

MissWonderly, funny you should mention Devotion because I was thinking of that film and trying to remember just how much it fictionalized their lives.  I'll watch it again for more details,  but  can definitely say that any "rivalry" between Charlotte and Emily for the attentions of Mr. Nicholls was totally bogus, for starters.  He didn't start courting Charlotte until well after Emily had died, and it's not clear that Emily even met him formally.

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I have began re-reading The Christmas Train by David Baldaccia.  Do it every few years.  A very good book and not overly long like most of his.  Do not judge the book by the ridiculous Hallmark movie supposedly based on the book.

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Just started The Man with the Golden Gun.  Interesting that the Bond book i read two months back, You Only Live Twice was the biggest inspiration of No Time to Die which i finally watched last week (three times).  In that book Bond was assumed to die and disappeared for over a year before coming back in this book, brainwashed by the KGB and attempts to kill M.

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On 12/6/2021 at 12:39 PM, misswonderly3 said:

Katie,  I imagine you've seen the biographical movie about the Brontes,  Devotion.  Made in 1946, it stars Ida Lupino  ( one of my faves) as Emily,   Olivia de Haviland as Charlotte,  and Arthur Kennedy as brother Branwell Bronte  ( depicted as weak and much less talented than his sisters.)  I've read Anne Bronte's  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which I actually found quite exciting,  and of course the two more famous novels by her two more famous sisters.   

But I've never read any biographies about any of the Brontes.  If you have seen Devotion, maybe you could full us in as to how accurate - or inaccurate - the biopic is.  Given it was made in the '40s, when adhering to facts was not always a feature of biopics,  I would not be at all surprised if the film was not a very factual depiction of the family.  

Devotion had little relationship to reality. Emily and Charlotte never competed for a man. Charlotte was described by the Victorian writer Harriet Martineau as the shortest woman she had ever seen outside of a circus. Malnutrition probably played a large part. Too bad Linda Hunt never got a chance to play Charlotte. Patrick Bronte strenuously objected to Charlotte's marrying, fearing that pregnancy might prove fatal to his daughter, as indeed it did.

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I should add that Villette is one of my favorite novels. Charlotte, under the pseudonym Currer Bell, dedicated Jane Eyre to her favorite novelist, Thackeray. This proved embarrassing for him. People who knew Thackeray thought the book had been written by a former governess to the Thackeray daughters, because Thackeray, like Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, had a mad wife.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/3/2021 at 5:55 AM, TikiSoo said:

Don't know how many of you "got" Bette's comment....but it is referring to those who just answer the OP question with simply stating a title.  It's nice to know what you just read, but what we really want to know is what you thought of it.

Guilty as charged. I posted this on DEC. 1:

"Have a long time habit of alternating between fiction and non-fiction.
So last fiction was The Changeling by Victor La Valle. Non-fiction was The Broken Heart of America by Walter Johnson."

Now to make amends:

 The Changeling was at first a NICE little story about a couple falling in love, marrying, and having a child. Then the ..... hit the fan. Murder, torture, and a dark fairytale. I didn't care for the ending. But when Lavelle writes about the deep love felt by a parent for their child, it makes it all worthwhile.

The Broken Heart of America. For me, it's a sad and tragic history of my midwestern hometown. Probably of little interest unless you live or grew up there. The author and I share a common viewpoint. But this book would probably **** off most of my fellow citizens. 

 

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I just finished up Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, published in 1954. It's a satire on higher education in England after the end of WWII. 


All is told through the experiences of a  young man at the school who is quite frankly a mess of a human being.

I've read that this novel had great reviews when it came out, and still today is appreciated by critics.

For me it was a good book, not a great one. Funny at times, but nowhere near the funniest I've ever read. Maybe not being English or an academic deadens my appreciation-who knows?

In general, I enjoyed the character of the young man. He did have one bad habit(among many) that I dreaded reading    about every time though. I think the book would have been better without it.

There were two main female characters also. I found one interesting, and one not.

I'd say give this book a shot if you haven't read it yet. I can see its worth, just not for me.

Here is the cover of the one I read:

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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220px-Appointment_in_Samarra.jpg.9822e70d50c0f4e9f40bd769db8accb7.jpg
Appointment in Samarraby John O'Hara published in 1930


Appointment in Samarra is the story of a man born on third base who spends three days running toward home, the wrong way. 

Set in the small fictional town of Gainesville Pennsylvania in 1930, Julian English is a successful thirty-year-old businessman with a beautiful and smart wife. They are the unofficial leaders of the "young set" of the "Lantenengo Street crowd."

Born to a socially prominent family, Julian's father, with ancestors dating back to the American Revolution, is the respected doctor English, chief of staff of the Gainesville Hospital and member or head of every "proper" club, organization and charity in town. 

Julian had every advantage from the beginning, yet had, perhaps, a rebellious streak or, more likely, just an obstinacy resulting in childhood scrapes with the law. It's less that Julian has some philosophical opposition to his father's life and world, than that he's simply angry or ungrateful by nature.  

Fictional Gainesville is author O'Hara look at small-town America at the start of the Depression. In that world, the Irish, Italians and Jews have made great progress in business and the professions, but are still often kept at arm's length or further from the "proper" social clubs, organizations, neighborhoods (like Lantenengo Street) and cliques (like Julian's). 

Since the old-line Protestant leaders need these groups' business and, sometimes, capital, you can feel the walls coming down, but of course, not to everyone's liking. At a Christmas party at the club, Julian's anger toward Harry Reilly, a successful Irish businessman who has been "pushing" into the "old" clubs and organizations, bubbles over prompting him to throw a drink in Reilly's face. 

Later we learn Julian borrowed a significant amount of money from Reilly to keep his Cadillac dealership afloat at the start of the Depression. Julian's tossing of the drink was the unofficial start of his downward spiral. 

Like the petulant child he basically is, Julian's relationship with his wife is immature as everything descends into a fight, even just trying to have sex, since he doesn't understand, or like, compromise. Worse, Julian, a handsome man who's had his way with women his entire life, cheats on his wife, but is viciously jealous of any man who shows his wife even just friendship.

A day after Christmas, at a nightclub, Julian, in front of his wife and their friends, takes a singer out to his car for what everyone assumes was to have sex. Julian not only blew up his marriage that evening, but alienated the local mob boss as the singer is the mob boss' girlfriend. 

As opposed to the movies, the mob boss isn't going to "rub Julian out," but his influence in the Italian community will cost Julian business, something Julian can't afford to lose. 

To complete his destruction, the next day, Julian, at his club, has a fist fight with a handicapped WWI vet. Whatever was left of Julian's goodwill with his own clique, let alone the larger community, has ended.

In only a few days, Julian English, perhaps Gainesville's most-prominent young citizen, has ruined his business by angering his major investor, alienating his friends and customers and destroyed his marriage. All of it was fueled by alcohol and anger, but anger at what?

It's hard to find any way to respect or justify Julian's anger as he had so much handed to him and has, what most would consider, a very good life. Maybe some people are just wired to be mad at the world. 

Or maybe O'Hara sees Julian as a representative of a class, the old-line WASPs, losing its grip and position as the growing wealth and power of other groups, combined with the flattening of everyone by the Depression, erodes its status and influence. 

Julian could be Tom Buchanan from The Great Gatsby if the Depression had forced Buchanan to have to earn a living. Buchanan's arrant racism and superiority complex would be enraged by having to "deign" to work with, and even ask favors from, those he considers his racial and social inferiors. 

While most races and religions are denigrated at some point in Appointment in Samarra, there is a soft, but constant anti-semitism running throughout in the background. It might only be a comment here or there about the "Jews" or about "a Jew pushing his way in," but it's relentless and spiteful. It's another, in this case ugly, thread that touches back to Fitzgerald's Jazz Age stories. 

(Spoiler alert) Julian's and the novel's denouement is a long lonely night of drinking, including rejection from a female reporter he made a pass at, followed by a trip to the garage - motor on, doors and windows sealed - with the coroner declaring it a suicide. It was Julian's only out.

O'Hara has a talent for exposing the nuances, sinews and shades of small-town life and society. Writing in 1930, O'Hara could not have known the Depression would last for a long, enervating decade, but he saw its start, in real time, as a turning point in America. Julian English is O'Hara's unflattering look at the old guard being forced to cede space to others and not liking it one bit.

For us today, Appointment in Samarra is a contemporaneous look at America on the brink of a major social and cultural pivot. It's also a short insightful novel that sits right next to Fitzgerald's work on the literary continuum of the American story.

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The Torrents of Spring by Hemmingway.  Very short novella at 90 pages and meta- Hemm speaks to the reader directly at the end of each chapter as himself about what's to come and under the circumstances he's written the most recent pages.  Would only recommend to big fans of Hemmingway who've already read his other works.  I'm mostly upset I paid $16 for a 90 page book!

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On 12/6/2021 at 12:26 AM, skimpole said:

This:  41UnJHWkbEL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_

My English mother in law has been visiting for 10 weeks now and after forcing me to sit through Downton Abbey, we're now onto the first season of The Crown and I've been curious to read some historical books that Churchill wrote himself.  Not a big fan of his, but definitely a fan (i say not a big fan because i know there are HUGE fans).  I know he didn't write this one but is this any good?

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The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans

 

A sudden enemy attack cuts an army scout off from his unit. His flight to evade capture leads him to the isolated hut of a demented wizard. The wizard enchants the scout's sword to improve his chances of returning safely to his army. All is fine and well.

Except .... the wizard did not have all of the proper ingredients at hand for the spell and was forced to improvise. The results were imperfect, skewed, a misenchantment. The invulnerability guarantees the sword will kill a warrior every time he draws it but it will not aid him against a second warrior until it is sheathed and drawn again. It makes him immortal but only in the sense that he can not die and offers no protection from illness, having limbs chopped off or aging. The misenchantment means also that he can use the sword a certain number of times before it turns on him. An interesting point of this is that no one is quite sure exactly what that number is.

The early works of Lawrence Watt Evans are comfort food. He is in the realm between Terry Pratchett and J. R. R. Tolkien. He did not cram his stories with humour simply for the sake of chuckles and he did not paint intricate and convoluted landscapes. You can cuddle up with his words and simply feel good. This book is one of his best in that regard.

 

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14 hours ago, Shank Asu said:

My English mother in law has been visiting for 10 weeks now and after forcing me to sit through Downton Abbey, we're now onto the first season of The Crown and I've been curious to read some historical books that Churchill wrote himself.  Not a big fan of his, but definitely a fan (i say not a big fan because i know there are HUGE fans).  I know he didn't write this one but is this any good?

Short answer, if you have never taken any university level British history courses, you will find the book both readable and informative. 

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3 hours ago, CinemaInternational said:

So far this year, I read Fathers and Sons by Turgenev, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Moviegoer by Walker Percy and Damage  by Josephine Hart. I'm currently reading Caroline's Daughters by Alice Adams

HA!  I finally read Shelly's FRANKENSTEIN 'bout 40 years ago and thought of a good drinking game----

Give everyone a copy of the book, and have each reader take a drink every time they read the word "Despair" in it!  ;) 

Sepiatone

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10 hours ago, skimpole said:

Short answer, if you have never taken any university level British history courses, you will find the book both readable and informative. 

Hmm, now i'm curious.  i can't say that i have taken any courses but i've had a subscription to three UK History magazines that i read front to back each month,

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On 12/11/2021 at 9:52 AM, ElCid said:

I have began re-reading The Christmas Train by David Baldaccia.  Do it every few years.  A very good book and not overly long like most of his.  Do not judge the book by the ridiculous Hallmark movie supposedly based on the book.

A late reply to say that I also read The Christmas Train during this past holiday season.  Each year, I try to find something Christmas-oriented to read during the season.  (In past years I’ve read Rumpole Christmas stories by John Mortimer; The Homecoming by Earl Hamner, on which The Waltons television show was partially based; and, among others, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler.)

Anyway, I thought The Christmas Train was quite enjoyable, although I thought a few aspects of the plot were a little far-fetched.  (I’ll omit the details to avoid disclosing spoilers.) But even with its few minor flaws, I liked the book and will probably re-read it in the future.  You’re right that it was better than the Hallmark movie.

Right now, I’m re-reading Moss Hart’s outstanding autobiography of his early years, Act One, which covers his poverty-stricken childhood and his eventual partnership with George S. Kaufman, as they collaborate on their first Broadway hit, Once In A Lifetime.  It’s a fascinating, deeply felt story.  I’m planning to follow this with one of the Kaufman biographies waiting on my shelf, probably the one by Howard Teichman.

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I'm sorry to say I abandoned Norman Lear's EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE more than 3/4 of the way through because THE BOYS by Clint & Ron Howard came from the library & have to return it in 3 weeks!

Not difficult - Lear's book was drifting away from his productive TV years and wallowing in his political views & actions. 

But THE BOYS is incredibly entertaining. Instead of reading about great stars living way before my time, Ron & Clint are about my age.  I experienced many of what's described the same time they did, giving a wholly different perspective to my enjoyment of the book.

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