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


misswonderly3
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Another fave of mine is

PRIMER LESSON

Look out how you use proud words;

When you let proud words go, it is not easy to call them back.

They wear long boots, hard boots;  They walk off proud;  They can't hear you

Calling.

Look out how you use proud words.

Sepiatone

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Crime by Irvine Welsh

From the author of Trainspotting.  This novel is over 10 years old now, and a spin-off of Welsh's popular novel (and film) Filth, and currently a Scottish TV series available on the Brit Box app on Prime.  Pretty good book and series.

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So, I have gone on in this very thread before about what a meaningful reading experience A TALE OF TWO CITIES by DICKENS was for me.

ONE MONTH AGO, I was in RALEIGH, NC at my former favorite used bookstore when I came across (for $7!!!!) an ILLUSTRATED JUNIOR LIBRARY HARDBACK EDITION OF "A TALE OF TWO CITIES"

I MEAN, LOOK HOW GORGEOUS THIS THING IS:

See the source image

 

I considered it AN HONOR TO READ SUCH AN EDITION.

(the only thing to mar the whole experience was how incredibly rude the person working the counter was)

it has been such a thrill to read THIS MASTERFUL WORK, this TALE OF FIRE AND ICE- of duality and symmetry (the novel is a near perfect work of symmetry, every action has a reaction, (almost) every character has an "opposite" mirror image of themself as another (CARTON and DARNAY, MISS PROSS and MADAME DEFARGE, CRUNCHER THE GRAVE ROBBER AND MR LORRY THE BANK MANAGER, THE CITIES OF LONDON AND PARIS THEMSELVES)

THIS IS in many ways the least "DICKENSIAN" Dickens novel he ever wrote- I'm not sure if it was serialized or written in one fell swoop, but it seems to be the latter, as it comes in at a concise 300-400 pages (depending on the edition you read) it's also the one DICKENS NOVEL where one could make the complaint that the characters are "underdeveloped"- it seems truly that DICKENS put all of himself into MADAME DeFARGE and many other characters in the book- including SYDNEY CARTON, who is one his most fascinating creations)- are only in the book for maybe 40 pages overall.

this was a gorgeous edition, unabridged as well....although there are no footnotes and I kinda wonder just who thought this baroquely worded story of violence, rape, decapitation, venereal disease, kidnapping and murder would appeal to children....(I mean, they were right, i JUST WONDER WHO THEY WERE!)

This is just one masterful, powerful work- the sort of book you would have totally understood if the author never wrote another thing again because writing it must have been EXHAUSTING for all the EMOTION and RESEARCH he mustve  put into it.

DICKENS MAKES LOVE TO THE PAGE WITH THIS ONE, AND OVER A CENTURY LATER, THE POWER IS STILL THERE.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens Illustrated Junior Library 1980 Printing

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220px-LauraNovel.jpg
Laura by Vera Caspary originally published in 1943
 
 

Laura the book, like its famous movie of the same name, is an entertaining noir mystery with a romantic overlay. Set in Manhattan, its unsolved murder tosses together wealthy New Yorkers, loyal "domestics," a southern "gentleman" and a hard-boiled detective.

 
Titular Laura is a beautiful "selfmade" New Yorker. Like many who come to the big city when still young, poor nobody Laura reinvents herself into a sophisticated and elegant advertising executive. 
 
Helping her in this metamorphosis is nationally syndicated columnist Waldo Lydecker, a fat, condescending and pretentious man who "educates" Laura in the "finer" things in life.
 
Lydecker, carrying a torch for Laura, can't stand Laura's fiance, Shelby Carpenter, a strikingly handsome Southerner who has old-world charm and manners, but no money (which successful Laura can supply).
 
You can almost see the story starting to play out except Laura is killed right when the book opens leaving us to learn about her through flashbacks as New York City detective Mark McPherson begins his investigation. 
 
Author Caspary uses the investigation of Laura's murder to mix up the social classes as dandy Lydecker and from-the-streets McPherson become frenemies. 
 
The "domestics" such as Laura's maid Bessie and Lydecker's Filipino "houseboy" (if ever a man would have a Filipino houseboy, it would be Waldo Lydecker) come out of the shadows as their observations carry equal weight with McPherson. 
 
All charm and "breeding" Carpenter is forced to answer questions and other "indignities" as murder investigations make no exceptions for Southern breading.
 
Caspary makes the most of her stirred pot as neither sophisticated New Yorkers nor polished Southerners look all that smart or composed under the relentless analysis and interrogation of an experienced, street-smart detective.
 
But Laura is no straight-forward murder mystery as fans of the movie already know, because about a third of the way in, Caspray flips the plot upside down. 
 
From there, the story changes, but the mystery, investigation and buffeting of the social classes continues. An odd and intriguing romantic angle also develops, but to explain that would force a reveal of the aforementioned major plot twist.
 
Laura's charm and engagement, though, is less its very cleverly crafted murder mystery, which does drop a few too many clues along the way, than it's well drawn characters. This is accomplished in part by having the protagonists each narrate one or two sections of the novel, which fully brings out their personalities and weaknesses. 
 
Pompous and effete Lydecker pines for Laura, but is too proud to admit it; intelligent McPherson carries a chip on his shoulder for the wealthy and "smart" New Yorkers he's investigating and cool, kind and arrestingly pretty Laura can still feel like the insecure "hick" she was when she first arrived in the City.  
 
With a 2022 perspective, Laura is a very modern novel. Laura herself is a successful advertising executive who has chosen not to get married and give up her career. Even her pending marriage is really to a man who would be, in the traditional sense of the role, her wife. The past is never as black and white as our modern Cliff Notes version avers.
 
In another affront to our modern view, while Laura has no need for a man "to take care of her," she does begin to see that she wants a man to "be a man" in the traditional sense of the word. By implication, this means he is strong, honest, confident, decisive and kind. She wants neither a Neanderthal nor an overly sensitive man. It's an interesting 1940s take on our present-day debate about manhood.  
 
The movie Laura made some changes to Laura the book, but most of the story is still there on the screen. Yet the novel provides additional background and the opportunity to spend more time with the characters that many first met through the movie.
 
Whether you've seen the movie or not, though, for fans or noir mysteries, especially if they like it with a heavy shot of romance, Laura is a smartly constructed and witty page-turner that is well worth the read. 
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I am currently reading:

9781474611831.jpg?auto=compress,format&w

It's pretty interesting, but Shawn Levy's not that great of a writer. He pads out the hotel stories with the background history of the people involved. I've literally skimmed through pages of oft told stories of Jean Harlow's short life & naming well known homosexual's escapades as if it's salacious, shocking information.

It may be an interesting book for those just discovering Hollywood history, but not interesting enough of a subject for a classic film fan. It needs more PICTURES of the hotel interior and fewer of those who owned the hotel. The only notable photo is a Rebel Without A Cause script reading in Nick Ray's bungalow. Library read, not worth owning imho.

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Russians Among Us

Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories, and the Hunt for Putin's Spies

by Gordon Corera

Author specialises in  reporting on security issues for the BBC.

What makes the book so good is its details about the lives of individual players from bottom to top in the pecking orders of the Russian government's three espionage organisations. 

Corea focuses on illegal activities against Britain and the United States from the 70's through the near present.

Maybe most importantly of all, he tells a story about the evolution of a loyal citizen who in the end becomes only a seeker of violent personal revenge.

 


 


 

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The People Opposite by Georges Simenon

To my surprise last month, there was suddenly 4 Simenon book on Amazon that I'd never seen before so I've got my reading material for the next month all set out!  So far this is a typical Simenon romans durs (AKA hard novels) and set in an atypical locale of 1930's Batumi, a Black Sea port town in Russia (now Geogia) near the Turkish border- an area of the world i've always wanted to go see.

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5 hours ago, SansFin said:

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YES I have.....the "Inter-Library Loan".

My State Library System has loaned me some rare requested titles from Syracuse University's Library, for example Meredith Willson's books. I've also been loaned rare, narrow focused books all the way from NYC Public Library! 

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I just read ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by LM Montgomery for the first time ever.

I had always avoided it, thinking it was a "chick book"- and then I saw the WONDERFUL 1934 RKO film starring ANNE SHIRLEY and HELEN WESTLEY and was ENCHANTED.

i had no idea how fine a novel this is, expertly written, unique and moving, never once becoming soppy or twee or fey.

this book is magic and I am not ashamed to tell you that I- a 44 year old man with a wad of tar where his heart should be- CRIED LIKE A BABY READING THE LAST 30 PAGES.

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15 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

CRIED LIKE A BABY READING THE LAST 30 PAGES.

I find it amazing when reading makes me cry. It's easier to understand when a movie, but just words? That's powerful!

I just picked up KNOCK WOOD by Candice Bergen at my library and thought it was something I should read. I'm only 100 pages in and know I'll be buying a copy- her writing is clean, clear & insightful-I've already learned so much! Most quizzical to me is why her father succeeded as a VENTRILOQUIST on the RADIO! She very eloquently explains this, not just by one sentence, but by conveying the elegance of his performance and why he was so beloved.

57e18d99ceb0915d20647673eb9206e0--candic

Similarly to Angelica Huston's autobiography, Bergen takes us through her privileged childhood allowing us to see all sides of how it effects a girl's development in a way most of us can relate. Because her father's business was "the spoken word" she was expected to learn proper, exacting language skills which obviously she mastered. Some of the passages are simply astounding, clever writing.

I never saw one episode of Murphy Brown & believe this book predates it. I'll post more impressions after completion, if there's anyone else who is catching up with the 80's too.

Looking forward to reading about her marriage to Louis Malle, "A Fine Romance". 

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Just finished Alice Munro's  "Dear Life",   a late collection (2012, I think)  of her very potent short stories.    Canadian Munro,  Nobel Prize winner for literature,  brilliant in a subversively quiet way.   Cynthia Ozick said she is "our Kafka".   She's constantly compared to Kafka.

The ordinariness of her Ontario protagonists, and then the explosive things that happen to them.   Every story is a gem, but I loved "Corrie"--   the richest girl in town, wry, crippled, embarks on long, clandestine affair, and you never see the twists coming.  

I like the way Munro confronts the dilemmas, epiphanies, and hardships of aging.   "In Sight of the Lake"  has a woman worried that she won't find her way to her new specialist's office in another town, when really there are other matters for concern.   In "Dolly",   a madly-in-love writer couple in their 70's and 80's have their life disrupted by the appearance of a woman from the man's distant past, stirring memories and distrust....

Many people's sole brush with Canadian writing is Margaret Atwood.   Although talented, her reflexive anti-Americanism, going back many decades, brings a tiresome taint at times.   Munro flies very high, her work is of the highest order, and her insights are revelatory.    

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On 10/16/2022 at 3:50 PM, LornaHansonForbes said:

I just read ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by LM Montgomery for the first time ever.

I had always avoided it, thinking it was a "chick book"- and then I saw the WONDERFUL 1934 RKO film starring ANNE SHIRLEY and HELEN WESTLEY and was ENCHANTED.i

I've never read the book, but I love the movie.  I think I first saw ANNE OF GREEN GABLES when I was  13 years old, and I thought Tom Brown was so cute as Gilbert.

"Carrots ."

2234-750-0.jpg 

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On 10/17/2022 at 7:58 AM, Tikisoo said:

I find it amazing when reading makes me cry. It's easier to understand when a movie, but just words? That's powerful!

 

 

13 hours ago, HoldenIsHere said:

I've never read the book, but I love the movie.  I think I first saw ANNE OF GREEN GABLES when I was  13 years old, and I thought Tom Brown was so cute as Gilbert.

"Carrots ."

2234-750-0.jpg 

one of the things that sets NOVELS apart from other forms of artistic expression (film, radio, TV, theater, music) is that they ARE THE MOST DEMANDING MEDIUM- they require EFFORT from their audience because you can let a movie or a show wash over you (even a challenging one), but READING requires COMMITMENT FROM THE READER.

I wasn't entirely sure I had it in me to finish ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, because I was terrified the end would have the death of a beloved character- which it does- but, something about the execution of the author and her STYLE just made it such a powerful experience- not a BAD kind of  CRYING (ie BATHOS), but a GOOD kind of crying.

The CARROTS scene is in the book and, lemme tell you, I don't know that I have ever "rooted for" a couple to wake up and realize they love each other like ANNE SHIRLEY and GILBERT BLYTHE-

(I will note here that ANNE SHIRLEY'S name becomes ANNE BLYTHE, I wonder if the actress ANN (with no E, I think) BLYTHE also took her name from the novel.

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I heard a discussion of Willa Cather's 1925 novel The Professor's House on The Great Books podcast and ordered a copy. It came  today. It is a story about dealing with the approaching age of modernity while being unable to let go of the past.  I have only read the first page,  but her writing is smooth and accessible, and the story sounds intriguing. 

AkrEMyt.jpg

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On 10/17/2022 at 4:58 AM, Tikisoo said:

I find it amazing when reading makes me cry. It's easier to understand when a movie, but just words? That's powerful!

I wept (should I admit that, it is not my wont to do that, haha). It was The Flame Trees of Thicka, probably better known as the BBC Series that aired in the early 80s, based on the book.  I became hopelessly attached to a character who was so brilliantly and poignantly realized on the page that i lost it. It resulted in a excruciatingly long and exhausting posting that I believe appeared in these very pages.  I don't recommend the book, necessarily.  It's not overlong but the passages I continue to adore are relatively few in comparison to the whole.. I am not all that easily taken to this sort of thing but it was the writing that did it.  Amazing writer. Elspeth Huxley. I post this rather compulsively because I am pleased enough to be reminded of it. Thanks.

 

 

 

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What a good choice, LUCKYDAN.   I love Willa Cather.   It was so many years ago I read "The Professor's House",   I don't remember many details, and may not have finished, but the "mood" of it stayed with me.   Willa Cather is so powerful.   Her descriptions of, and connection to, the American West, pack an emotional punch.  

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A most  excellent  novel with a charismatic, worldly wise man of  almost supernatural  strength and determination, though with a

minor flaw or two, among  its main characters.  😊

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 10/18/2022 at 12:30 PM, LornaHansonForbes said:

I will note here that ANNE SHIRLEY'S name becomes ANNE BLYTHE, I wonder if the actress ANN (with no E, I think) BLYTHE also took her name from the novel.

LHF,  I had never considered the possibility that Ann Blyth might have also taken her stage name from the title character of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.  Anne Shirley does become Anne Blythe when she marries Gilbert Blythe so I can totally see why you wondered about this.

I see that Ann Blyth (probably most remebered today as Joan Crawford's daughter in MILDRED PIERCE) was born Anne Blythe, so ultimately she dropped the "e" from both her first and last names for her professional  name.

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