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


misswonderly3
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I read Gregory Maguire's Wicked, and I am in awe that the makers of the musical (book by Winnie Holzman) were able to shape a show out of so sprawling and disjointed a book, no matter how well-written it is. Yes, Elphaba is the main character, but the book spans more than thirty years, and characters drift in and out of the story. Those more familiar with the musical may be stunned that the Elphaba/Galinda rivalry/friendship, though important in the book, is not central to it. Galinda makes only one appearance in the last half of the novel.

Maguire does a good job of creating his own fantasy world, which has little to do with the Oz of L. Frank Baum and his successors, even as a mirror image. Maguire is much better at world creating than he is at plotting.

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Last week I read a commentary on the gnondro practice for vajrasattva buddhism called Illuminating the Path by two monks, Sherab and Dongyal.  

This week, something more fun.  I'm half-way through John Steinbeck's Cup of Gold which is his fictionalized take on the historical pirate Henry Morgan and his first novel.  It's a different style from what he is known for, but i'm liking it so far.

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9781598536171

The Peanut PapersWriters and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Gang and the Meaning of Life published in 2019

 
 
Yes, it's a fanbook. If you aren't familiar with the "Peanuts" comicstrip and don't, at least, have a modestly favorable opinion of it, the nearly unanimous huzzahs and hallelujahs in this collection of thirty-three essays won't be for you. 
 
That doesn't mean there isn't honest insight and analysis of Charles Schulz' iconic strip and characters, but it does mean these views are coming from writers and artists who love his work. 
 
For full disclosure, in my jumping-all-around read of the essays - I first sussed out any that focused on Snoopy (I'm a fan, too) - I might have missed one, but part of the joy is the ability to pick and choose which essay to read next.
 
The essays, all by writers or cartoonists, run the gamut from deep analysis of the significance of "Peanuts" to the culture through the psychological makeup of the characters (there seems to be nearly unanimous opinion that Lucy is all id) to, my favorite essays, very personal accounts.
 
The high-brow "Peanuts reflected and changed a post-war culture becoming disaffected" analysis is thought provoking and engaging. Heck, who hasn't felt like Charlie Brown at periods in his or her own life? But also, that deep thinking, sometimes, feels like a bit of a stretch.
 
It's the "how a character affected me" pieces where the book becomes intimate. One such touching account describes how the author, a lonely, awkward kid, discovered a tattered paperback copy of reprinted strips in a friend's basement. After having spent hours with his find and, then, becoming a regular reader, he felt less lonely and awkward, not only that day, but for the rest of his life.
 
In another personal account, novelist Ann Patchett reveals how she was better able to absorb rejection letters as a young author having grown up seeing Snoopy get more than his fair share of them. 
 
It's also Patchett who recount my favorite "strip" example amongst the many told in the book:
 
Charlie Brown to Linus: "I'm sorry...Snoopy can't go out to play right now...he's reading."
 
Linus: "Dogs can't read."
 
Charlie Brown: "Well, he's sitting in there holding a book."
 
Snoopy in his chair: "There's no way in the world that Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky could ever have been happy."
 
The Peanut Papers is a fun read for long-time devotees and even casual admirers of Schultz' comicstrip. It has just enough gravitas to kid yourself that it's not what it is, an adult fanbook. And it will probably do for you what it did for me: have you searching on-line for some old compilation books of the strips themselves to buy. 
 

 

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the-g-string-murders-by-gypsy-rose-lee.j

The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee published in 1941

 
 
Yes, it's "that" Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous stripteaser, and, yes, she did write a murder mystery. And while it's got a bit of a pulp-fiction style, Lee's observations of the people and the world of burlesque are insightful and engaging. 
 
The mystery at the heart of the book - two stripteasers in the show Ms. Lee is currently starring in are strangled with their own G-strings (today we're drench in salaciousness, in 1941 that had to be daring) - is, oddly, the less interesting part of the book. 
 
Where The G-String Murders shine is taking the reader to the backstage world of burlesque, a combination of vaudeville and stripping. With four shows a day - singing, dancing, comedy numbers and, of course, stripping - the performers, men and women, "live" in the theater and form an adhoc family with all the closeness, animosity and dysfunction of any large family.
 
Miss Lee has an eye for detail and captures the feel of this demimonde world. The girls spend much of their days either on stage or in the communal dressing room of their rundown theater building preparing for the next show, working on their costumes, discussing the nuances of G-strings and talking about their ambitions and love lives. They form friendships and frenemies, as well as making some outright enemies. 
 
It's not all women, though, as this very much Off-Broadway effort also includes the male performers, the stage hands, theater building workers, directors and producers. Of course, when you put men and women together in the same place, you get all the usual hanky panky and relationship ups and downs you'd expect. 
 
Miss Lee also captures these male characters well, such as the show's reasonably decent producer, a very-of-the-1940s, uneducated, street-smart and weary man. He not only balances the show's finances and the temperaments of the cast and crew, but "navigates" the legal challenges of running an on-the-edge business.
 
Eventually, though, the book does get to the murders. We see, in quick succession, two strippers strangled, which puts the entire theater company on edge, while bringing the police into their insular world. 
 
The reasons and methods of the murders (no spoilers coming), even when explained at the end, require a careful read, not only because of their very complicated details, but because new information is brought in, which modestly undermines the integrity of the mystery story itself. 
 
That's a small quibble, though, as The G-String Murders is really less a mystery story than a backstage romp through the early 1940s world of burlesque with its picaresque characters and rundown-theater atmosphere. It's a quick, fun and light read that doesn't bring that much to the murder mystery genre, but is an insightful first-hand account of a now lost world. 
 
For us today, The G-String Murders is also a neat bit of time travel as the argot, cultural references - Sears and Roebuck, Walter Winchell and others - and atmosphere all drop you nicely into New York City, just off of Broadway, in 1940. Plus, who would have thought a famous striptease artist would prove to also be a talented writer?
 
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  • 2 weeks later...

See the source image

so, I finally finished BARNABY RUDGE, A TALE OF THE RIOTS OF '80  (it's 720 pages, so it took a bit)

note: the above edition pictured is not the one i read, i chose it for its charm and also because it kind of tickles me that once upon a time [apparently] someone decided this was a story for children, which- good as it is- it is not one I would recommend for the kids- it is a work of historical fiction based around the VERY REAL ANTI-CATHOLIC RIOTS of 1780 that occurred in Britain when a member of Parliament- hungry for power and looking to appeal to populist sentiments in order to achieve those means - introduced legislation to remove CATHOLICS living in England of pretty much their basic rights and right to own property. this lead to an insurrection and storming of Parliament and a deadly riot and uprising which was led by a bunch of bigoted extremist undereducated lower class f*ckwits who were aided by the inaction of many and the quiet condoning of those with sympathies to their cause who held positions of power with goverment and police. 

boy, thank God THAT KIND OF STUFF NEVER HAPPENS ANYMORE, HUH?

Also- again- not a story I personally would recommend to CHILDREN, but everyone else- sure.

I can't tell you how many times while reading it I AUDIBLY COMMENTED on how UNCANNILY PRESCIENT it was of the POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH WE LIVE TODAY. 

 

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On 4/21/2022 at 6:24 PM, Fading Fast said:

 

9781598536171

The Peanut PapersWriters and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Gang and the Meaning of Life published in 2019

 
 
Yes, it's a fanbook. If you aren't familiar with the "Peanuts" comicstrip and don't, at least, have a modestly favorable opinion of it, the nearly unanimous huzzahs and hallelujahs in this collection of thirty-three essays won't be for you. 
 
That doesn't mean there isn't honest insight and analysis of Charles Schulz' iconic strip and characters, but it does mean these views are coming from writers and artists who love his work. 
 
For full disclosure, in my jumping-all-around read of the essays - I first sussed out any that focused on Snoopy (I'm a fan, too) - I might have missed one, but part of the joy is the ability to pick and choose which essay to read next.
 
The essays, all by writers or cartoonists, run the gamut from deep analysis of the significance of "Peanuts" to the culture through the psychological makeup of the characters (there seems to be nearly unanimous opinion that Lucy is all id) to, my favorite essays, very personal accounts.
 
The high-brow "Peanuts reflected and changed a post-war culture becoming disaffected" analysis is thought provoking and engaging. Heck, who hasn't felt like Charlie Brown at periods in his or her own life? But also, that deep thinking, sometimes, feels like a bit of a stretch.
 
It's the "how a character affected me" pieces where the book becomes intimate. One such touching account describes how the author, a lonely, awkward kid, discovered a tattered paperback copy of reprinted strips in a friend's basement. After having spent hours with his find and, then, becoming a regular reader, he felt less lonely and awkward, not only that day, but for the rest of his life.
 
In another personal account, novelist Ann Patchett reveals how she was better able to absorb rejection letters as a young author having grown up seeing Snoopy get more than his fair share of them. 
 
It's also Patchett who recount my favorite "strip" example amongst the many told in the book:
 
Charlie Brown to Linus: "I'm sorry...Snoopy can't go out to play right now...he's reading."
 
Linus: "Dogs can't read."
 
Charlie Brown: "Well, he's sitting in there holding a book."
 
Snoopy in his chair: "There's no way in the world that Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky could ever have been happy."
 
The Peanut Papers is a fun read for long-time devotees and even casual admirers of Schultz' comicstrip. It has just enough gravitas to kid yourself that it's not what it is, an adult fanbook. And it will probably do for you what it did for me: have you searching on-line for some old compilation books of the strips themselves to buy. 
 

 

Very cool.  I am a huge Peanuts fan and have read andown the entire 50 year span of the comic strip.  I might have to check this book out.

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Octopussy and The Living Daylights by Ian Fleming

The last of the original 14 James Bond novels and one of the weakest.  This is comprised of four short stories, and although it was published last, it was written earlier in the series so has nothing to do with the overall story arcs that Fleming created for the Bond character.  These feel out of place and two stories have no action in them at all- but instead offer a story over auctioning over a a priceless Fabergé egg and Bond musing over life while following a recipe for scrambled eggs.

I'm a bit sad that to finally be done with the series, and overall it contains some great novels and some very weak ones, but i do have to give Fleming credit for trying to mix things up and straying from the formulaic spy novels, even if those are the stronger ones he wrote.

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12 minutes ago, Shank Asu said:

Octopussy and The Living Daylights by Ian Fleming

The last of the original 14 James Bond novels and one of the weakest.  This is comprised of four short stories, and although it was published last, it was written earlier in the series so has nothing to do with the overall story arcs that Fleming created for the Bond character.  These feel out of place and two stories have no action in them at all- but instead offer a story over auctioning over a a priceless Fabergé egg and Bond musing over life while following a recipe for scrambled eggs.

I'm a bit sad that to finally be done with the series, and overall it contains some great novels and some very weak ones, but i do have to give Fleming credit for trying to mix things up and straying from the formulaic spy novels, even if those are the stronger ones he wrote.

I've read several (not all, like you) of the Fleming Bond novels and enjoy them as fun reads, but also for the insights they provide into the Bond character as envisioned by Fleming. 

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On 4/29/2022 at 9:07 PM, Fading Fast said:

 

the-g-string-murders-by-gypsy-rose-lee.j

The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee published in 1941

 
 
Yes, it's "that" Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous stripteaser, and, yes, she did write a murder mystery. And while it's got a bit of a pulp-fiction style, Lee's observations of the people and the world of burlesque are insightful and engaging. 
 
The mystery at the heart of the book - two stripteasers in the show Ms. Lee is currently starring in are strangled with their own G-strings (today we're drench in salaciousness, in 1941 that had to be daring) - is, oddly, the less interesting part of the book. 
 
Where The G-String Murders shine is taking the reader to the backstage world of burlesque, a combination of vaudeville and stripping. With four shows a day - singing, dancing, comedy numbers and, of course, stripping - the performers, men and women, "live" in the theater and form an adhoc family with all the closeness, animosity and dysfunction of any large family.
 
Miss Lee has an eye for detail and captures the feel of this demimonde world. The girls spend much of their days either on stage or in the communal dressing room of their rundown theater building preparing for the next show, working on their costumes, discussing the nuances of G-strings and talking about their ambitions and love lives. They form friendships and frenemies, as well as making some outright enemies. 
 
It's not all women, though, as this very much Off-Broadway effort also includes the male performers, the stage hands, theater building workers, directors and producers. Of course, when you put men and women together in the same place, you get all the usual hanky panky and relationship ups and downs you'd expect. 
 
Miss Lee also captures these male characters well, such as the show's reasonably decent producer, a very-of-the-1940s, uneducated, street-smart and weary man. He not only balances the show's finances and the temperaments of the cast and crew, but "navigates" the legal challenges of running an on-the-edge business.
 
Eventually, though, the book does get to the murders. We see, in quick succession, two strippers strangled, which puts the entire theater company on edge, while bringing the police into their insular world. 
 
The reasons and methods of the murders (no spoilers coming), even when explained at the end, require a careful read, not only because of their very complicated details, but because new information is brought in, which modestly undermines the integrity of the mystery story itself. 
 
That's a small quibble, though, as The G-String Murders is really less a mystery story than a backstage romp through the early 1940s world of burlesque with its picaresque characters and rundown-theater atmosphere. It's a quick, fun and light read that doesn't bring that much to the murder mystery genre, but is an insightful first-hand account of a now lost world. 
 
For us today, The G-String Murders is also a neat bit of time travel as the argot, cultural references - Sears and Roebuck, Walter Winchell and others - and atmosphere all drop you nicely into New York City, just off of Broadway, in 1940. Plus, who would have thought a famous striptease artist would prove to also be a talented writer?
 

And of course it is the basis for the Barbara Stanwyck movie Lady of Burlesque.

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On 4/29/2022 at 6:07 PM, Fading Fast said:

 

the-g-string-murders-by-gypsy-rose-lee.j

The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee published in 1941

 
 
Yes, it's "that" Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous stripteaser, and, yes, she did write a murder mystery. And while it's got a bit of a pulp-fiction style, Lee's observations of the people and the world of burlesque are insightful and engaging. 
 
The mystery at the heart of the book - two stripteasers in the show Ms. Lee is currently starring in are strangled with their own G-strings (today we're drench in salaciousness, in 1941 that had to be daring) - is, oddly, the less interesting part of the book. 
 
Where The G-String Murders shine is taking the reader to the backstage world of burlesque, a combination of vaudeville and stripping. With four shows a day - singing, dancing, comedy numbers and, of course, stripping - the performers, men and women, "live" in the theater and form an adhoc family with all the closeness, animosity and dysfunction of any large family.
 
Miss Lee has an eye for detail and captures the feel of this demimonde world. The girls spend much of their days either on stage or in the communal dressing room of their rundown theater building preparing for the next show, working on their costumes, discussing the nuances of G-strings and talking about their ambitions and love lives. They form friendships and frenemies, as well as making some outright enemies. 
 
It's not all women, though, as this very much Off-Broadway effort also includes the male performers, the stage hands, theater building workers, directors and producers. Of course, when you put men and women together in the same place, you get all the usual hanky panky and relationship ups and downs you'd expect. 
 
Miss Lee also captures these male characters well, such as the show's reasonably decent producer, a very-of-the-1940s, uneducated, street-smart and weary man. He not only balances the show's finances and the temperaments of the cast and crew, but "navigates" the legal challenges of running an on-the-edge business.
 
Eventually, though, the book does get to the murders. We see, in quick succession, two strippers strangled, which puts the entire theater company on edge, while bringing the police into their insular world. 
 
The reasons and methods of the murders (no spoilers coming), even when explained at the end, require a careful read, not only because of their very complicated details, but because new information is brought in, which modestly undermines the integrity of the mystery story itself. 
 
That's a small quibble, though, as The G-String Murders is really less a mystery story than a backstage romp through the early 1940s world of burlesque with its picaresque characters and rundown-theater atmosphere. It's a quick, fun and light read that doesn't bring that much to the murder mystery genre, but is an insightful first-hand account of a now lost world. 
 
For us today, The G-String Murders is also a neat bit of time travel as the argot, cultural references - Sears and Roebuck, Walter Winchell and others - and atmosphere all drop you nicely into New York City, just off of Broadway, in 1940. Plus, who would have thought a famous striptease artist would prove to also be a talented writer?
 

I believe that this was mostly written by Craig Rice (Home Sweet Homicide, Having Wonderful Crime, etc.), a very popular and often quite funny mystery writer.

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10 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

See the source image

so, I finally finished BARNABY RUDGE, A TALE OF THE RIOTS OF '80  (it's 720 pages, so it took a bit)

note: the above edition pictured is not the one i read, i chose it for its charm and also because it kind of tickles me that once upon a time [apparently] someone decided this was a story for children, which- good as it is- it is not one I would recommend for the kids- it is a work of historical fiction based around the VERY REAL ANTI-CATHOLIC RIOTS of 1780 that occurred in Britain when a member of Parliament- hungry for power and looking to appeal to populist sentiments in order to achieve those means - introduced legislation to remove CATHOLICS living in England of pretty much their basic rights and right to own property. this lead to an insurrection and storming of Parliament and a deadly riot and uprising which was led by a bunch of bigoted extremist undereducated lower class f*ckwits who were aided by the inaction of many and the quiet condoning of those with sympathies to their cause who held positions of power with goverment and police. 

boy, thank God THAT KIND OF STUFF NEVER HAPPENS ANYMORE, HUH?

Also- again- not a story I personally would recommend to CHILDREN, but everyone else- sure.

I can't tell you how many times while reading it I AUDIBLY COMMENTED on how UNCANNILY PRESCIENT it was of the POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH WE LIVE TODAY. 

 

Congratulations! This isn't one of Dickens' best-known books, but it has some wonderful and scary things in it.

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17 minutes ago, King Rat said:

I believe that this was mostly written by Craig Rice (Home Sweet Homicide, Having Wonderful Crime, etc.), a very popular and often quite funny mystery writer.

I have no special knowledge on the book's authorship and am happy to defer to someone, like you, who does. This is the Wikipedia take, but it could very well be wrong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_G-String_Murders

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13 hours ago, King Rat said:

Congratulations! [BARNABY RUDGE, A TALE OF THE RIOTS OF '80] isn't one of Dickens' best-known books, but it has some wonderful and scary things in it.

YOU KNOW,

It's the oddest thing with me. I struggle with manic depression and with that comes an erratic and very taxed ATTENTION SPAN. It's gotten so bad, that I have barely been able to finish a handful of movies since DECEMBER (maybe longer?) BUT for some reason, I just love love LOVE CLASSIC BRITISH LITRA-TOOR in a very genuine and unpretentious way [i feel the need to point that out, since years ago a "professional" writer I was involved with berated me every time I brought the subject up for trying to "sound smart and impress people."]

but it's just a REAL thing for me...and in a way, I'm kinda bummed that I have made my way through all of AUSTEN and just about all of THOMAS HARDY and all the GEORGE ELIOT i can take (maybe some day I'll be in prison and provided with a copy of MIDDLEMARCH and NOTHING ELSE TO DO and finally, I shall conquer the mount...)

but DICKENS is really special to me.

to be honest with you, CHARLES DICKENS saved my life.

in college, I read OLIVER TWIST and thought it was ok, and then (in four seperate classes) was assigned GREAT EXPECTATIONS and- for the life of me I don't know why, that's his one book that leaves me cold, i don't get it. and i cannot finish it)

fast forward to 2003 and I was in a DEEP DEEP DEPRESSION and I had not read a book in a couple years (which was not characteristic of me) and I came across a [slightly abridged!] copy of A TALE OF TWO CITIES [note: it was all I had access to, I would normally read the full version] and DAMN, it reminded me of what a WONDERFUL THING READING IS. That book is ELECTRIC. it is transcendent, it is ONE HELL OF A STORY, IT IS EVERYTHING A NOVEL SHOULD ASPIRE TO BE

...it brought me back to life.

and from there i tackled HARD TIMES (which is ok) and DAVID COPPERFIELD (which is BRILLIANT) and BLEAK HOUSE and OUR MUTUAL FRIEND and THE OLD CURIOSITY CHOP (which I actually LOVED, I think it is really one of his most underrated and unfairly maligned books) and LITTLE DORRIT and even EDWIN DROOD...and even with the books I didn't love- there was still something so COZY AND UNIQUE AND INVOLVING about each reading experience (for several winters in a row, I chose a very thick DICKENS to tackle.)

[those of you who have made it this far, i know that last sentence comes very close to being deliciously dirty]

 

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8 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

YOU KNOW,

It's the oddest thing with me. I struggle with manic depression and with that comes an erratic and very taxed ATTENTION SPAN. It's gotten so bad, that I have barely been able to finish a handful of movies since DECEMBER (maybe longer?) BUT for some reason, I just love love LOVE CLASSIC BRITISH LITRA-TOOR in a very genuine and unpretentious way [i feel the need to point that out, since years ago a "professional" writer I was involved with berated me every time I brought the subject up for trying to "sound smart and impress people."]

but it's just a REAL thing for me...and in a way, I'm kinda bummed that I have made my way through all of AUSTEN and just about all of THOMAS HARDY and all the GEORGE ELIOT i can take (maybe some day I'll be in prison and provided with a copy of MIDDLEMARCH and NOTHING ELSE TO DO and finally, I shall conquer the mount...)

but DICKENS is really special to me.

to be honest with you, CHARLES DICKENS saved my life.

in college, I read OLIVER TWIST and thought it was ok, and then (in four seperate classes) was assigned GREAT EXPECTATIONS and- for the life of me I don't know why, that's his one book that leaves me cold, i don't get it. and i cannot finish it)

fast forward to 2003 and I was in a DEEP DEEP DEPRESSION and I had not read a book in a couple years (which was not characteristic of me) and I came across a [slightly abridged!] copy of A TALE OF TWO CITIES [note: it was all I had access to, I would normally read the full version] and DAMN, it reminded me of what a WONDERFUL THING READING IS. That book is ELECTRIC. it is transcendent, it is ONE HELL OF A STORY, IT IS EVERYTHING A NOVEL SHOULD ASPIRE TO BE

...it brought me back to life.

and from there i tackled HARD TIMES (which is ok) and DAVID COPPERFIELD (which is BRILLIANT) and BLEAK HOUSE and OUR MUTUAL FRIEND and THE OLD CURIOSITY CHOP (which I actually LOVED, I think it is really one of his most underrated and unfairly maligned books) and LITTLE DORRIT and even EDWIN DROOD...and even with the books I didn't love- there was still something so COZY AND UNIQUE AND INVOLVING about each reading experience (for several winters in a row, I chose a very thick DICKENS to tackle.)

[those of you who have made it this far, i know that last sentence comes very close to being deliciously dirty]

 

I'm sorry you have health issues, but am glad reading has helped you deal with them. I have off-and-on insomnia and no longer think much about it as I just grab a book and treat the lack of sleep as extra reading time and am thankful it isn't something worse.

I've read some of the books by all the authors you note and, I believe, everything Jane Austen wrote, but was curious if you have read any of the non-science-fiction novels of H.G. Wells as I think he kinda sorta fits into that group. I really enjoyed "Kipps" (my comments on it here https://www.thefedoralounge.com/threads/what-are-you-reading.10557/post-2692239) and "Ann Veronica" (https://www.thefedoralounge.com/threads/what-are-you-reading.10557/post-2795296). (Of course, please feel completely free not to read the links, they're just there if the books interest you at all). 

 

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14 hours ago, King Rat said:

I believe that this was mostly written by Craig Rice (Home Sweet Homicide, Having Wonderful Crime, etc.), a very popular and often quite funny mystery writer.

Having A Wonderful Crime (1945) is an excellent and very funny movie staring Carole Landis.

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3 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

YOU KNOW,

It's the oddest thing with me. I struggle with manic depression and with that comes an erratic and very taxed ATTENTION SPAN. It's gotten so bad, that I have barely been able to finish a handful of movies since DECEMBER (maybe longer?) BUT for some reason, I just love love LOVE CLASSIC BRITISH LITRA-TOOR in a very genuine and unpretentious way [i feel the need to point that out, since years ago a "professional" writer I was involved with berated me every time I brought the subject up for trying to "sound smart and impress people."]

but it's just a REAL thing for me...and in a way, I'm kinda bummed that I have made my way through all of AUSTEN and just about all of THOMAS HARDY and all the GEORGE ELIOT i can take (maybe some day I'll be in prison and provided with a copy of MIDDLEMARCH and NOTHING ELSE TO DO and finally, I shall conquer the mount...)

but DICKENS is really special to me.

to be honest with you, CHARLES DICKENS saved my life.

in college, I read OLIVER TWIST and thought it was ok, and then (in four seperate classes) was assigned GREAT EXPECTATIONS and- for the life of me I don't know why, that's his one book that leaves me cold, i don't get it. and i cannot finish it)

fast forward to 2003 and I was in a DEEP DEEP DEPRESSION and I had not read a book in a couple years (which was not characteristic of me) and I came across a [slightly abridged!] copy of A TALE OF TWO CITIES [note: it was all I had access to, I would normally read the full version] and DAMN, it reminded me of what a WONDERFUL THING READING IS. That book is ELECTRIC. it is transcendent, it is ONE HELL OF A STORY, IT IS EVERYTHING A NOVEL SHOULD ASPIRE TO BE

...it brought me back to life.

and from there i tackled HARD TIMES (which is ok) and DAVID COPPERFIELD (which is BRILLIANT) and BLEAK HOUSE and OUR MUTUAL FRIEND and THE OLD CURIOSITY CHOP (which I actually LOVED, I think it is really one of his most underrated and unfairly maligned books) and LITTLE DORRIT and even EDWIN DROOD...and even with the books I didn't love- there was still something so COZY AND UNIQUE AND INVOLVING about each reading experience (for several winters in a row, I chose a very thick DICKENS to tackle.)

 

I'm so glad that Dickens has been and is still important for you. He was a genuinely popular author. All of his novels were serialized, most monthly but some weekly, and people couldn't wait to read the next installment. Everything I've read about Dickens suggests that he also suffered from manic depression, with manic bouts of energy at times. I also like The Old Curiosity Shop. Quilp would have been a great role for Michael Dunn and Peter Dinklage.

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3 hours ago, Fading Fast said:

I'm sorry you have health issues, but am glad reading has helped you deal with them.

 

actually, i am in excellent health physically- just got some minor mental problems- so it's kind of a fair cop.

i appreciate the kind words.

reading has a very therapeutic quality- i always remember the line from THE PHILADELPHIA STORY where CARY GRANT's character  admits to reading compulsively to try and treat his alcoholism.

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1 hour ago, King Rat said:

I'm so glad that Dickens has been and is still important for you. He was a genuinely popular author. All of his novels were serialized, most monthly but some weekly, and people couldn't wait to read the next installment. Everything I've read about Dickens suggests that he also suffered from manic depression, with manic bouts of energy at times. I also like The Old Curiosity Shop. Quilp would have been a great role for Michael Dunn and Peter Dinklage.

to further expound on BARNABY RUDGE (which i meant to do before i got sidetracked in re: CHUCK D), it is very much a kindred spirit of A TALE OF TWO CITIES, but also with facets of A DETECTIVE NOVEL (DICKENS was often, I think, A FRUSTRATED MYSTERY WRITER, and I hate that he died before he ended EDWIN DROOD- his one chance to go "all out" in the as yet unformed genre.)

See the source image

not only does BARNABY RUDGE deal with the ANTI-CATHOLIC RIOTS and GOVERNMENT INSURRECTION of 20...er, 1780, DICKENS weaves a pretty brilliant tale of blackmail and murder and political intrigues into it- this book has some of his BOLDEST VILLAINS, and is also (insofar as I can think) the one and only time that DICKENS made a HISTORICAL FIGURE WHO LIVED a character in a book he wrote(he renders LORD GORDON [no relation of Byron's]- the actual member of Parliament who encouraged the riots- into a very believable- and thoroughly awful- character (and in the process captures, i think, who the man truly was.)

there are also some shocking twists and some BRILLIANT PARALLEL storylines- this book is really all about the intertwining lives of FATHERS AND SONS.

 

 

WARNING: SPOILERS to both THE OLDE CURIOSITY SHOP and BARNABY RUDGE are below.

 

 

as you know, in its third act BARNABY RUDGE becomes to tragic story of a young autistic** man [** i know its bold on my part to diagnose, but SERIOUSLY, I think DICKENS based the character on someone he knew, and I really think that person had what we today know as autism) who is caught up in the 1780 riots (not understanding what he is doing) and is then sentenced to hang for his "crime."

in reading up on RUDGE, I saw that it was published IMMEDIATELY after THE OLDE CURIOSITY SHOP and I just knew that there was no way DICKENS would kill the protagonists of TWO STORIES in a row (as you know, LITTLE NELL rather shockingly passes in CURIOSITY SHOP, which is most unexpected. the death of little NELL was so controversial that I just KNEW there was NO WAY BARNABY was gonna swing, and I was right, and don't get me wrong: I'm glad....

but...

had BARNABY RUDGE in fact been hanged at the and of his eponymous novel, I really think it would've made the story a classic. i kinda think it's how it should have ended. and so many things about the end seem so rushed, I kinda get the sense DICKENS at least thought of killing him.

anyhow, PLEASE DO NOT REVEAL THE SECRET ENDING OF "BARNABY RUDGE, A TALE OF THE RIOTS OF 80"

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

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Naomi By Junichiro Tanizaki originally published in 1924

 
 
In the novel Naomi, we see that many of the younger cosmopolitan Japanese of the 1920s had a fascination with everything Western. This caused twenty-eight-year-old, well-educated salaryman (good job as an electrical engineer) Jōji to take on the upbringing of poor but pretty fifteen-year-old Japanese, but "Eurasian-looking," Naomi.
 
Jōji, the narrator, comes from a wealthy family, but owing to his short stature and unattractive looks, is shy around women, so in Japanese Naomi, he sees a chance to create a Westernized version of his ideal woman.
 
His plan is to educate her in Western ways. He hires an English language teacher for her, while having her take Western music and dance lessons. He also encourages and funds her Western activities - American movies, cafes, magazines, etc.
 
This fascination with Westerners leads to much discussion on how Naomi's skin is "white" like a Westerner's and how many Japanese women try to "whiten" their skin. Jōji even encourages an independent "Western" attitude in Naomi versus the subservient way traditional Japanese women were raised. The seed of destruction is planted.
 
While all this sounds creepy to us today, even after Naomi moves in, Jōji does not pursue a sexual relationship with her for years and, of course, the time, place and cultural norms were very different. 
 
For the first several years, all goes well as Naomi embraces her new life, even developing a genuine affection for Jōji that doesn't turn sexual until she is eighteen. 
 
When it does, and for a time, Jōji and Naomi seem very happy as he has his "ideal" Westernized woman and Naomi seems to be developing into a happy, if a bit spoiled and stubborn, young woman.
 
But with Jōji away at work all day and Naomi socializing with other young Japanese of her own age, who also embrace "Western" ways, she begins to see the limits of her relationship with Jōji and the power her beauty and sexuality has over men.
 
Her spending is also starting to break Jōji as Naomi indulges all her material desires for Western and even traditional Japanese clothes, records, jewelry and entertainment. If Jōji balks, she withholds sex, which drives him mad. 
 
Then it all gets much worse. At first it appears Naomi has had one affair, but as time goes by, Jōji discovers that Naomi is quite loose with her sexuality, trading it for luxury and attention with a significant number of men. 
 
After much fighting, this causes a break in their relationship as Naomi moves out. Jōji is at first crushed, but then begins to see what she had been doing to him. Just when he seems free, she comes back to taunt and entice him again with her sexuality. 
 
Ultimately, Jōji either has to give the now obdurate Naomi, who willingly swaps her body for material goods, what she wants or he will lose her forever. Even when he clearly sees this, Jōji is often powerless to say no to her offers of sex. 
 
(Spoiler alert) As the book closes, Jōji takes Naomi back on her terms - she has no restrictions and can even "see" other men. They'll continue to live together as long as he supports her in a luxurious Western style.
 
What is author Tanizaki saying with this short, powerful novel? While he clearly sees the attraction of Western culture, if Naomi is the result of that cultural influence, it is hard to see Tanizaki as a supporter. It seems, the Western culture he initially believed added needed spice to the hidebound Japanese culture, he found less appealing when fully embraced.
 
He is also commenting on the power a young and beautiful woman can have over a young man. Jōji goes from being a shy but reasonably rational and confident young man, to a weak and broken one under the spell of a beautiful and manipulative woman.
 
Naomi created a stir when first released in Japan as, not surprisingly, the older generation saw it as a rebuke of the young generation's embrace of Western ways and easy sexuality. Those Western ways, though, were the exact things that appealed to Tanizaki's younger readers. 
 
From a 2022 American view, Naomi can be seen as a Japanese version of the generational strife that was going on in America in the 1920s. Back then, America's "flappers -" young, free-spirited women who "bobbed" their hair, dressed revealingly, danced, smoked, drank, wore makeup and had casual sexual affairs with men - were denounced by older Americans. 
 
In Naomi, we see that, despite the limited and slower global communications of that era, the same cultural battle, albeit with Japanese characteristics, was being waged in a country all the way on the other side of the Pacific. Even being a hundred years in the past and in a different culture, Tanizaki's Naomi still speaks to us today because, beneath the surface differences, these struggles - generational stress and sexual relations - are timeless. 
 

 

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Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway: Nolan, Frederick: 8601416925585: Books -  Amazon

Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway.

I picked this up at Larry Edmund's bookstore in Hollywood when I went to this year's festival.  Hart is somewhat forgotten today, even though many of his songs are now standards of the "American songbook" and still popular.  He was the lyricist half of the Rodgers and Hart team that created musicals such as Pal Joey and A Connecticut Yankee .  The Rodgers & Hart shows are rarely revived these days and are not nearly as popular as Rodgers later collaborations with Oscar Hammerstein II.

Larry was a born and bred New Yorker and never cared much for Hollywood, though he and Rodgers were drafted to write songs for several Hollywood musicals.  Many of their songs would be discarded as production moved along, for various reasons.  

Hart's life was a sad one.  He died early, at age 48, from pneumonia, due to exposure to the NYC weather in November, when he was on another bender.  Hart had an alcohol problem, and it eventually broke up the partnership with Rodgers.  Just a few months after ending the partnership, Rodgers teamed with Hammerstein to adapt Green Grow the Lilacs  as a musical, resulting in a musical that changed the industry forever: Oklahoma!

Hart's personal life was a lonely one.  He felt he was too short (5' by most accounts) and too homely to be attractive to the opposite sex.  He consequently sought the serial company of mostly anonymous male partners.  Though he lived with his mother until she died, he lived a partier's lifestyle; he was characterized as not coming to life until late in the evening.  He'd frequent bars and restaurants, and, supposedly in a need to feel wanted, would buy everybody rounds or pay restaurant tabs for complete strangers.  He apparently had quite a few "hangers-on" as acquaintances, happy to stick around as long as he was buying.

All in all a sad tale.  If you've ever seen the biopic Words and Music, with Mickey Rooney playing Hart, you should know that the film is really complete fiction.  There's no way a Production Code era film could tell his story truthfully.

As far as the book goes, it's rather choppily written, and takes a few side trips to fill out the story from Richard Rodgers' point of view.   One of the pluses of the book is that it has a complete list of shows and movies he worked on, going back to his college days, along with the songs he wrote.

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