Book Report: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Posted in Book Report, Books, History on January 30th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is a souvenir from Monticello. Not my souvenir, as I’ve never been. I probably got this particular book in a collection of thin books for a buck from the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but these little packs remind me of the varied grab bags I’ve gotten in the past where remaindered comic books were bagged at three for a buck, and you could only see the front of one and the back of another, so it was pretty much a crapshoot or where ten packs of record singles fresh from juke boxes were bundled ten for two bucks and you could only, again, see the ones in the front and the back. That’s what you get with the bundles of thin books at the book sale, a bundle of poetry chapbooks, souvenir books, or free pamphlet-sized books for a buck. I buy them and read them because they’re quick, and they count for a whole book on my annual quest for the magical reading century mark (which I’ve missed for a couple years’ running now, but I’m well on my way this year so far.

At any rate, this book has text describing the house, grounds, and gardens of Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia accompanied by color photos and diagrams and maps. It’s a tidy little book, something to help guide yourself around the joint and to remember your trip.

Or to make you want to go. Like I do now.

Another Top 100 of Books to Read; I Didn’t Read Many

Posted in Books on January 28th, 2015 by Noggle

Unsurprisingly, the first 40 Executioner novels do not comprise forty percent of the Amazon 100 Books To Read In A Lifetime.

So I didn’t do too well on the list.

Well, I didn’t do too well on the list primarily because the list is heavily weighted to modern and children’s books. Neither of which I read a lot of.

Here’s the list with items I’ve read in bold:

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  • A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  • Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  • Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Color of Water by James McBride
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  • The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  • The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
  • The World According to Garp by John Irving
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I’ve even provided links to book reports for books I’ve read in the last ten years.

I’ve got 20 of 103 (The Lord of the Rings, remember, is three books).

But I’m not broken up about it. There aren’t many others on the list that I have on my to-read shelves, and only a few that aren’t that I care about.

But, hey, it’s got bloggers blogging and maybe buying books. So the list schtick worked.

(Link seen on Trey’s Facebook page.)

Book Report: The Violent Streets by “Don Pendleton” (1982)

Posted in Book Report, Books on January 27th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book finds Mack Bolan in St. Paul immediately after returning from Turkey (as described in Double Crossfire, which I read in 2010 before I filled in gaps in the series). One of the Stony Man operative’s sister has been raped, and it’s a like several other rape/killings that have been haunting the Minnesota capital for years, off and on. Bolan investigates and discovers that elements of the police are covering it up because the suspect is the son of an elected official, and they want to use the knowledge and cover up as blackmail on the pol.

Then Bolan shoots most of the bad guys. finis.

Still, it’s a good read, certainly better than The New War, and I can see now how the house, by removing Bolan’s focus solely on the mob, broadens the variety of plots and adventures Bolan can have (and by now has had). This one is a little more vigilantish with the bad guys not being terrorists or external enemies, but domestic crime elements. This will definitely keep the series fresh. Unfortunately, the Bolan War Journal asides that talk philosophically about the nature of Man and the Hobbesian worldview must be mandatory, and in some books they’re not grafted well into the narrative. Instead, whole chapters are dropped in with a couple of nouns changed to reflect the current plot. Also, the books generally contain a roll-up of the overarching storyline from the Bolan books, especially the Mob War of the Pendleton books. These, too, jar expositionally when they’re inserted. They’ll probably move away from them as the number of non-Pendleton books increases, but they don’t aren’t well done in these early books.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Existentialism and Thomism by Joseph C. Michalich (1960)

Posted in Book Report, Books, Philosophy on January 22nd, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is a Thomist critique of Existentialism. Ho, boy, let’s get into some weeds.

Thomism is a philosophical system based on the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, a monk from the 13th century who wrote several thousand pages of reasoning including Summa Theologica. The philosophy is the only philosophy taught officially in the Catholic church’s seminaries and whatnot. The university I went to was apparently a hotbed of Thomism in the 1950s, or so I heard, but it did teach other systems of thought to its students. Including Existentialism. At any rate, this book looks like it’s still in print 55 years later, and that’s probably mostly because of its role in teaching Existentialism to bishops and Jesuits. But it could partly be because it’s fairly accessible.

This book is short (88 pages) and collects five separate essays that target some places where Existentialism is systemized. The essays include:

  • “Some Aspects of Freedom in Sartre’s Existentialism” which talks about Sartre’s view of human existence and its freedom to be for itself.

  • “Gabriel Marcel’s Ontology of Love” which talks about Marcel’s take on the interconnectedness of human experience. Let’s be honest: whenever the phrase ontology of love appeared, I heard it in Barry White’s voice.
  • “Mood and Cognition in Heidegger and Sartre” which discusses the importance of mood and emotion as the starting point for cognition in Heidegger and Sartre and how little beyond those base and concrete elements the Existentialists could move.
  • “Husserl and the Rise of Continental Existentialism” which talks about Husserl’s theories and how they coincide and conflict with the Existentialist mindset: namely, the importance of phenomenonism and its importance, but how Husserl’s “reductions” of the phenomena would be rejected because they abstract the phenomena away from the subject perceiving them.
  • “Thomism and the Challenge of Existentialism” is the heart of the criticism, and it explores a bit how Existentialism rebels against philosophical systems that focus on the abstract and the reasoned over the experience and subjective nature of cognition itself. It claims that Existentialism is essentially (see what I did there?) fighting a straw man, as so many other philosophical systems including the perfect Thomism derive those abstractions by reasoning from individual experience and perception and by balancing intellect with the emotions. It puts the finger on why I’ve only considered myself an Existentialist in bad moods: it really doesn’t go beyond the subjective in creating or describing reality and can’t because if it does, it threatens the subjectivism that’s very important to it.
  • “Existentialism in The Outsider“, the last chapter, seems a bit like an add-on. It takes to task an Existentialist novel by a British writer; you’re forgiven if you thought it was about The Stranger which appeared in Britain as The Outsider. Side note: This essay originally appeared in RENASCENCE, a Thomist publication at Marquette University, that hotbed of Thomism in the 1950s. At any rate, the essay rails a bit about this novel and its weak underpinings and defense of the Beatniks, those kids with their “eccentric dress and wild demeanor”. Given that novels obscurity, I have to wonder if this chapter made it into later editions.

I’m normally a primary source kind of fellow, so I’ve some familiarity with the Sartre mentioned above, and I’ve heard the names Heidegger, Hegel, and Husserl in my college classes. Heck, I might even have read them.

But it’s refreshing to pick up a criticism of the philosophy. It takes one out of the philosophy, so to speak, to see what someone else thinks of it, which can be clarifying. Of course, one must not take the critic’s depiction of the philosophy under study as the definitive representation of the philosophy. It’s another perspective on it.

So if you’re into Existentialist thought or explore it a bit, this book can serve that role for you quite nicely. It’s approachable, but it does get into deeper analysis of cognition, perception, and reality. It’s not too heady for most of it if you’re just a lightweight Existentialist who has read The Stranger and Nauseau and never even tried Being and Nothingness (I did just that: try), and the stuff that is heady does lean a little on you already knowing some terms of philosophy, so it’s not too hard to follow and even understand.

Recommended.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The New War by “Don Pendleton” (1981)

Posted in Book Report, Books on January 20th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is the first that Don Pendleton did not write in the Mack Bolan/the Executioner series, and, boy howdy, don’t we know it. Fantastic Fiction says it was written by Saul Wernick, and I’m pleased to see this is the only entry this particular author wrote in the series.

In it, Mack Bolan goes to Columbia or Panama to exfiltrate or eliminate an agent with intimate knowledge of…something. When Bolan gets there just ahead of a hurricane, he finds the jungle lair of Islamic terrorists is a missile base and a base capable of reprogramming satellites. The makers of the satellites have provided a liaison to help the bad guys log into the satellites for some undisclosed reason. The bad guys’ bosses in the middle east want them to launch the missiles, but in the jungle, the terrorists’ plan is far more dramatic: to crash a satellite into the Panama Canal. So it’s up to Bolan to stop the plan, save the day, exfiltrate the agent and an attractive defector from the cause, and the pilots of the first helicopter that arrived to retrieve him.

So, plotwise, it’s an international thriller and not just a mafia hit. But the style of the writing is the real Louisville Slugger to the cranium. It’s less gritty and consistently introspective as the Pendleton books; it’s more florid in descriptions and does the Men’s Adventure thing with the guns, although when someone brings an automatic weapon up to the hip “in firing position,” one has to recognize that fifteen year old video gamers are probably better versed in military operations, practices, and tactics than your average men’s adventure paperback writer in the golden age of the paperback original.

Also, the guy had a thing for exclamation points. In prose. Fiction. A lot! And the plot, although workable, didn’t use much of the supporting players. Only the pilot Grimaldi makes an appearance, dramatically appearing in the hurricane with a gunship. Also, the book lacks tension, as the risk to Bolan is told rather than actually conveyed in the text. He eliminates half the base on one sortie and then worries about the other half on the next sortie. At one point, we’re concerned about all the people Bolan has to protect, then after Grimaldi’s heroic flight through the hurricane, he arrives at Bolan’s camp. And, hey, right behind him is a rescue chopper! How conveniently placed to take care of one plot point.

A subpar outing in the series, I hope. Although I’ve read a couple in the line after Pendleton and they haven’t made much impression on me. They will make more of an impression and get more of a direct comparison here as I read them consecutively and pretty quickly.

You’re not really asking, but I’ll tell you I’m almost done with the Gallic War by Caesar; I’m to Book VIII which was written after Caesar’s death to complete the account. It was written by someone other than Caesar, or so the story goes. Or did Julius Caesar fake his death? This is the Internet. All possibilities are equally valid unless they require contact with the actual physical world.

Books mentioned in this review:

It Wasn’t A Joke, Sadly

Posted in Books on January 19th, 2015 by Noggle

On the Facebook, I said:

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I don’t have a copy of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. I should get one.”?

Because I have.

Because, well, I have..

I’m reading a book about Thomism–you’ll hear about it eventually–and I thought that I haven’t read much of Aquinas, even in my Catholic university Philosophy studying days. This book I’m reading mentioned some of Aquinas’s work, and I don’t have anywhere handy where I could physically look up the primary text.

One might think go to the library, but that would be a misunderstanding of what the local library is. It’s a service designed to meet the needs of its customers, and most of the public doesn’t want to read Summa Theologica. They want to read the contemporary thrillers and pop nonfiction books. So the libraries can’t waste valuable space on product that their clients don’t want all the time.

I could go to the university library, maybe, and get a day pass or whatever they offer itinerant amateur scholars. But that’s a thirty minute car ride away plus whatever fees.

I know, I know: You can get this for your phone or computer for free by downloading it from Project Gutenberg or the free Kindle editions floating around. But I don’t read from a small device. Brothers and sisters, as you know, I work on computers and whatnot all day. When I want to unwind, I want to sit in a chair with a cat on my lap and a book.

So I got to looking around the Internet for them.

Look at that set. Note the volume numbers: This is only the ten volumes in the complete works of Thomas Aquinas. Now I want that, too.

Most of them run a tad over two hundred bucks (they’re obviously not priced for a consumer, but for a collector or an academic with a budget). Still, I only have to sell a little plasma or a couple of software testing articles and I could have one of these.

Book Report: Thermal Thursday by Don Pendleton (1979, 1990)

Posted in Book Report, Books on January 14th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is the sixth printing of the book from 1990, which means it was in print for at least eleven years. Which is something to note of its own accord.

This book closely follows the events of Monday’s Mob, Terrible Tuesday, and Wednesday’s Wrath. I’m not actually reading one of these per day, although it might seem like it. It’s taking me about two and a half calendar days (not, surely, sixty hours each). How’s that Gallic War that you claim to be reading coming along? you ask. I’m to the part where a couple of tribes band together and challenge Caesar. So, I’m somewhere between Book One and Book Seven.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Hours after leaving New Mexico, Mack Bolan is steeped in doubt about his future with Washington, so he asks for a little space from his government contacts. He goes to Miami and infiltrates a mob project to build undersea tunnels from the Everglades to Mexico and Caribbean islands to facilitate smuggling. So it’s the craziest plot yet.

It’s also a very segmented book, and not in a good way. The first 120 pages or so involve the set-up and then Bolan infiltrating the site acting as Frankie, a mob bigwig looking in on operations. He finds a vast complex underground where engineers are using slave labor pirated from amateur smuggling operations to build a great undersea network of smuggler’s subways in the limestone strata beneath the sea. When Mack gets out from his probe, we get twenty pages of him getting together with his Washington contacts and discussions with scientists about how such a thing could be remotely feasible enough for a book plot. Then we get 20 pages of Mack blowing it up. However, at some point after Bolan left, the mob got onto his game and redoubled patrols. A bit of whiplash there; I put the book down one night after the scientists were talking, and I opened it up and the mob was onto Bolan. I actually backtracked to see if I’d forgotten something overnight, but apparently not.

At any rate, this effectively wraps up my reading of the tail end of the Pendleton Mack Bolans; all the others out from here are the stable books. They probably lack the philsophical asides that Pendleton deftly inserted (or made into full discussions at times). And, brother, I’ve got a long way to go to clear my top shelf off.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Wednesday’s Wrath by Don Pendleton (1979)

Posted in Book Report, Books on January 13th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book takes place about 12 hours after the events of Terrible Tuesday. Given the nature of the last “week” of novels that Pendleton wrote, the timing of it would be tricky: Bolan goes to different cities across the country and does his thing there within the span of 24 hours (usually less, since he does not begin exactly at midnight). If you’re reading them back to back, you go “Hmmmm.” This probably wasn’t a problem when they first came out, as the books were months apart.

In this book, the “Hmmmm.” involves people apprehended at the end of Terrible Tuesday. In the twelve hours it takes Mack Bolan to fully heal and whatnot, those mobsters are sprung from jail, transported to New Mexico, and tortured slowly–in other instances where Pendleton refers to “turkeys,” that indicates torture over the course of days or weeks, not hours. But Bolan bursts into a torture scene, executes the torturer, and then impersonates the fellow who’s involved with a paramilitary plot to steal weapons from the nearby military bases. It’s the same military fellow from Colorado Kill-Zone which I read back in 2011 when I only had 20 Executioner books on my to read shelves. The Old Days.

At any rate, Pendleton is beginning the transition in these books from the previous focus on mob activities to more military thriller sorts of plots and operations. This will ease the transition into the stable of writers to follow and how Mack Bolan starts his life as a government operative.

A quick enough read, obviously. I’m a book away from finishing the ones I’ve in this week (I’ve previously read Friday’s Feast and Satan’s Sabbath). And then it’s into the world after Don Pendleton, where the books are up and down.

We’ll see if I continue my, erm, “discipline” of reading Executioner books as I read Caesar. It might not last many of the “Don Pendleton’s” books.

But that’s okay. I have other books to choose from.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire translated by Jacques LeClercq (1958)

Posted in Book Report, Books, Poetry on January 12th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverInterspersed among my other reading, I’ve been working on this book for a little bit. It’s a collection of poems by Charles Baudelaire, but they’re end-rhymed, so the translator had a heavy hand in the actual English of the poems which probably means they’re almost as much his work as Baudelaire’s. Because poems have so much nuance, rhythm, and flow that rely on word selection, you have two choices when translating: You can go with the literal translation, which will chop most of the mouthfeel of the original poem out, or you can try to put the poem in the target language with as much of the flavor of the original as possible but still ending up with something of the original in it. I think this translation, as demonstrated by the end lines, did more of the latter.

Now, about the poems: Oh, my.

On one hand, these are the poems I wanted to write when I was twenty years old. Vivid, evocative, concrete, and meaningful (and full of end rhymes). You’re in the moment with the poet narrator in a way that overshadows a lot of poetry in English that I’ve read. The topics are full of love, lust, and pondering mortality.

But.

The introduction explains a bit of Baudelaire’s bio and explains his obsession with a particular woman, and it comes through in the poems as the poet-narrator fixates on a woman and the poems describe a love/lust/hate relationship with a woman. And the poet-narrator muses on death and the ultimate meaninglessness of love when confronted by death. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

And vivid in a sometimes squicky way. There’s a poem called “Carrion” which is about the poet-narrator and his love out for a walk when they come across a dead animal, and the poet-narrator describes it in great detail as it breaks down and then says something about the breakdown of the flesh and how the woman will be food for worms soon. And then there’s a poem about necrophilia. But only one.

So.

It’s good poetry qua, but some of the topic matter is a bit objectionable.

This book features an inscription, To Michael, with love and a Merry Christmas, Ellen 1966. Frankly, I’m not sure what sort of message you’re sending if you’re giving this book to a lover. Also, Phil offers to read Baudelaire to Rita in the film Groundhog Day; suddenly, this changes the meaning of the film for me forever.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Terrible Tuesday by Don Pendleton (1979)

Posted in Book Report, Books on January 9th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverI know, I know, you’re quoting back to me what I said last week: “In 2015, I hope to finish more books, and as always, I hope to read a better quality of literature….” How does it explain that the last two books I finished were this book and Monday’s Mob?

I’m reading Julius Caesar’s The Gallic War, and after every book or half book, I take a little time to read from cheap paperbacks. As these paperbacks are shorter than The Gallic War, I’m finishing more of them as I read one piece of longer work. So there.

Mack Bolan, on the second day of the last week of his free agency, swings out to California at a tip from Leo Turrin and stumbles into a plot of the new California Concept. A group of retired mobsters and the remnants of Bolan’s previous visits have gathered in a plan to build the world’s foremost data and electronic signals interception facility to gather as much information as they can for their nefarious schemes, and it’s up to Bolan to stop it.

Man, what a world that was where the plot of men’s adventure novels involved the mob doing this sort of thing. In the 21st century, it’s the government doing it, and the electronic and wireless transmission of information is much greater.

If only they weren’t the 1970s, I’d want to live in the sweet, innocent world of the 1970s.

Books mentioned in this review:

There’s Probably A Sad Story In That Stack

Posted in Books on January 9th, 2015 by Noggle

Spotted in the wild: A stack of non-children’s books in the children’s book section of Barnes and Noble:

A Sad Story in a Stack of Books

It would prompt a writing exercise if it wasn’t a story told all the time already.

Book Report: Monday’s Mob by Don Pendleton (1978)

Posted in Book Report, Books on January 8th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book follows Tennessee Smash which I read in 2010 and not Washington I.O.U. which I read just a week or so back. So I’m reading the books far out of order (at least I was and should not be unless I find a bunch of earlier ones in Clever or Ozark this spring).

At any rate, the nature of the series, at least in the Pendleton years, is such that you can have an overarching knowledge of the series to kind of orient yourself, but the books themselves are episodic enough that you can pick them up in any order.

This book is the first of Bolan’s last week as a free agent before he goes to work for the government (and the last of the books Pendleton wrote for the series). He takes his war wagon (it’s the war wagon years) to Indiana to find a Chicago mobster who fled the carnage there. Along for the ride is government agent April Rose (it’s the beginning of the April Rose years). Bolan hits the mobster’s hideout, but the mobster is not there. Bolan spares the houseman from the site with the latter’s promise that he will go and sin no more.

The mobster has summoned other remaining leaders of the midwest to a secure location to talk about splitting up the territory, and the mobster gathers the fleeing head man and April Rose to the hard site while the parley occurs. Bolan has to hit the site but rescue April, and he does so by making a grisly exchange with the houseman: The heads of the bosses and April Rose in exchange for sparing the houseman and the fifty other gunsels from a watery grave.

A quick read, to be sure, and a little outlandish–Bolan in the missile-firing war wagon is less at risk than before and it’s a little less than satisfying to read this part of the series.

Additionally, Pendleton describes a “large lake” as being five or six acres in size. I ascribe this to a city man writing about rural areas, but I can’t quite pin that to Pendleton (mainly because Linda Pendleton is watching). But it’s a jarring note that echoes throughout the remainder of the book.

So if you’re into men’s adventure novels, you could do worse.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Book Challenge I’ll Pass On

Posted in Books on January 7th, 2015 by Noggle

At Rural Revolution, Patrice Lewis is going to participate in a 52 book challenge this year:

This is a list of 52 books (50 categories, but one of the categories is a trilogy) to be read over the next 52 weeks. Older Daughter got it in her head to accept this challenge and managed to talk the rest of us (Younger Daughter, our friend GG, and myself) into participating as well.

She includes the list of categories as well as books she has selected for each category.

I’d play along, but I’m more fluid in my reading choices. I don’t tend to plan ahead, and I don’t generally know what I’m going to read next.

I’m also not sold on the categories, such as a woman author, an author under 30, a book published this year…. I’m not against any of them, but I can’t promise I’ll read anything like that in 2015.

(Also note the Lewises have a library of 5000+ books. You know what we call a library of 5000 books at Nogglestead? “If my beautiful wife had her way and decluttered.” As a reminder, you can see the library at Nogglestead ca 2010 here. In 2015, we don’t have any additional shelving, but we do have more books piled atop the additional shelving.)

Book Report: Up in the Air by Walter Kirn (2001)

Posted in Book Report, Books on January 6th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is the source for the George Clooney film of the same name, but a quick perusal of the film’s plot indicates they differ widely.

In this book, a business consultant whose job it is to counsel laid off employees across the country is nearing a million frequent flier miles on an airline. His employer has given him pretty free rein to travel the country to meet with clients, and the consultant also travels for some pleasure and for some of his side projects. He’s left a resignation letter on his vacationing boss’s desk, so in a week he’ll be out of a job. But he should make the million mile club before then, before they cut off his company credit cards.

He’s been travelling like this for many years, and he’s got no home but the series of airports and hotels he calls Airland. He’s got his own set of rules and expectations from other business travelers, and he’s working on a book with it. He also thinks a secretive consulting company might be trying to recruit him through a series of tests and contacts with his clients and friends.

It starts out a lot like a Stanley Bing novel (see Lloyd What Happened and You Look Nice Today). A bit wry, with an obviously unreliable narrator. However, over the course of the book, it becomes clearer just how unreliable the narrator is: he’s having a breakdown of some sort, or perhaps an entire psychotic episode where none of it really happens.

Which is unfortunate: I would have preferred a better payoff for what was a pretty engaging narrative and voice.

As I finished it, I didn’t think it would be the sort of character George Clooney would play, so I’m sort of interested in seeing the film now to see how little they overlap. And it’s definitely possible I’ll like the film better than the book.

Books mentioned in this review:

Somehow, I Missed The Party

Posted in Books on January 5th, 2015 by Noggle

A month ago, Jamie Malanowski offered A Centenary Salute to Patrick O’Brian:

Let us pause in the day’s labors to raise a glass, preferably containing Madeira or a rich, full-bodied port, to the centenary of the greatest historical novelist ever, and one of the best novelists of our era.

Patrick O’Brian was born Dec. 12, 1914—or, rather, Richard Patrick Russ was born on that date in Chalfont St. Peter, England, and grew up to become a novelist of middling success. O’Brian was technically born in 1946, when Russ adopted that pen name and went on to develop a new persona as an elusive Irish writer ensconced in the south of France.

Although O’Brian would produce much estimable fiction and nonfiction under his nom de plume, his signal achievement was the series of 20 novels set during the Napoleonic Wars and informed by O’Brian’s encyclopedic knowledge of nautical matters from that era. The heart of the novels is the friendship between the charismatic Captain Jack Aubrey of the British navy and the Irish-Catalan Dr. Stephen Maturin.

I have a pile of the Aubrey/Maturin novels, but I’ve only read Master and Commander so far. And given how I’ve been reading historical fiction from an earlier era recently, it might be a while until I get back around to them.

I’d better start eating better because I’ve got a lot of books and series I’ve got to get back around to.

Book Report: Bad Cat by Jim Edgar (2004)

Posted in Book Report, Books on January 4th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverI have an embarrassing and stunning admission to make: I have readthis book twice even though I didn’t like it. Not exactly. Let me explain.

This book is based on a desktop calendar that features pictures of cats, sometimes doing things that make them look a little guilty, accompanied by qouted captions where the cat is saying something. And they include the cat’s name, age, and hobby. Here, have a taste:

Bad Cat example

Obviously, this one would have come from December in the calendar.

Most of the captions have a sexual or drug use angle, and all of them are not funny. As a matter of fact, some of them are so not funny that they’re enjoyable for the spectacular badness. Although it’s been seven years since I had the calendar, I remembered some of them.

But this collection is really the sweepings on the floor of cat caption industry. Your Facebook wall or Twitter feed have better examples of the genre.

This book was a Christmas gift, as was the desk calendar. But at least with the book, I was able to flip through it in a couple hours instead of over the course of a year, one dreadful cat sex caption at a time.

Books mentioned in this review:

When You Find A Contradiction In A Book, You Cannot Trust It

Posted in Books on January 4th, 2015 by Noggle

You know how it goes: You’re reading a book, and it says something, and a couple of pages later it says the exact opposite, so you can’t trust anything it says at all.

For example, today I was reading Simms Taback’s Great Big Book of Spacey, Snakey, Buggy Riddles.

And one riddle is:

And a couple pages later, another riddle is:

Both of these things cannot be true.

Wake up, sheeple! This is how they break down the minds of your children: By presenting riddles that compel your child to hold two contrary ideas in mind at once and/or to not recognize or object when two opposing assertions appear and are presented as TRUE!

Or maybe I take things too seriously. Or lack a sense of humor.

2013: The Year In Reading

Posted in Books on January 3rd, 2015 by Noggle

So the day after dinging a professor for not reading enough good stuff, allow me to present the list of books I finished in 2014:

  • Modge Podge Rocks by Amy Anderson
  • Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard
  • You Must Remember This 1978edited by Betsy Dexter
  • Poetry for Cats by Henry Beard
  • Captive of Gor by John Norman
  • Rebel Moon by Bruce Bethke and Vox Day
  • Spectrum II edited by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest
  • The French Powder Mystery by Ellery Queen
  • God, Man, and Archie Bunker by Spencer Marsh
  • The Day After Tomorrow by Allan Folsom
  • Wonderland by Ace Atkins
  • Damned If You Do by Michael Brandman
  • Skin Tight by Gary Henderson
  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  • The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell
  • Real Women Don’t Pump Gas by Joyce Jillson
  • A Daughter’s Revenge by J.R. Roberts
  • Rogue Warrior II: Red Cell by Richard Marcinko and John Weisman
  • Churchill: In Memoriam by The Editors of the New York Times
  • Forbidden City by Alex Archer
  • The Bloody Crown of Conan by Robert E. Howard
  • Devil’s Pool by Charlie Farmer
  • The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray
  • The Battle Off Midway Island by Theodore Taylor
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Sink the Bismarck by C. S. Forester
  • The Conquering Sword of Conan by Robert E. Howard
  • Blood Silver: The Story of the Yocum Dollar by Woody P. Snow
  • Books are Better In Bed Than Men Because by Deenie Vin
  • Women Who Love Cats Too Much by Allia Zobel
  • 101 Reasons Why A Cat Is Better Than A Man by Allia Zobel
  • Bomun Temple in Seoul Korea
  • The Private Hell of Hemingway by Milt Machlin
  • The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins
  • Cheap Shot by Ace Atkins
  • Mary Rose by J.M. Barrie
  • Beautiful Korea
  • What Makes a Picasso a Picasso?
  • Designation Gold by Richard Marcinko and John Weisman
  • The Barrabas Hit by Jack Hild
  • Poems of Creatures Large and Small by edited by Gail Harvey
  • Dirty South by Ace Atkins
  • The Fall by Albert Camus
  • Longarm and the Border Showdown by Tabor Evans
  • As Autumn Approaches by Ronald E. Piggee
  • No Exit and Three Other Plays by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Leif and Thorkel by Genevra Snedden
  • Limericks
  • Murder for Halloween edited by Michele Slung and Roland Hartman
  • New Pearl of the Orient Korea by the Korea National Tourist Corporation
  • Last Seen in Massilia by Steven Saylor
  • Norman Rockwell: A Sixty Year Retrospective
  • The Time-Hoppers by Robert Silverberg
  • Tiger at the Gates by Jean Giraudoux / Chistopher Fry
  • Magic by William Goldman
  • Chains of the Sea edited by Robert Silverberg
  • The Programmer’s Book of Rules by George Ledin, Jr. and Victor Ledin
  • The Three Legions by Gregory Solon
  • Washington IOU by Don Pendleton
  • Conan the Cimmerian by Roy Thomas
  • Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
  • Bad Cat by Jim Edgar

That’s only 62, and it’s a bunch less than I read a few short years ago.

There’s a couple books of lightweight poetry in there, a couple of plays, and only a couple of things one would consider Literature (the Existentialist works). Of all the things I’ve read, I’m proudest of reading the Robert E. Howard’s complete Conan stories. I probably read too much Ace Atkins considering how little satisfaction I get out of reading them.

Still, I did make progress on two thousand+ pages books that I’ve been working on for several years now, and I’m actually almost done with an actual Harvard Classics book (Folklore: Aesop, Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Anderson) that I’ve been reading aloud to my child(ren) off and on for a couple of years.

In 2015, I hope to finish more books, and as always, I hope to read a better quality of literature, but I’ll sneak in the short bits while watching sports and while digesting Literature. But I promise that to myself every year anyway.

Also, if you’re thinking 62 books is a lot to read in a given year, check out the numbers over here. That fellow reads as many books in a year as I buy.

The Harvard Classics Collection is a Gateway Drug

Posted in Books on January 2nd, 2015 by Noggle

Actually, the cheaper Walter J. Black Classics club edition are a less expensive gateway, but the Harvard Classics are a better-bound alternative, also available unfortunately inexpensively because nobody values the old canon packaged for the middle brow like they used to.

Except for this newcomer:

For years, I’ve had a set of the Harvard Classics in my study: 50 volumes of “great works” bound in faded green cloth—the “Five-Foot Shelf,” as the collection was called when it was first published in 1910. Our set was left to us by my husband’s aunt. She acquired it secondhand during the Great Depression and willed it to us because we had a literary bent. It is unclear whether she ever looked at it. Despite our literary bent, we let it gather dust.

. . . .

Some of the selections were hard to follow or lacked context. Even so, they generally yielded something of value. I did not understand Faraday ’s treatise on magnetism, but I could discern a method to his argument. I did not know what was transpiring in Act III of “The School for Scandal,” but I could tell that Sheridan had wit.

The editors of the “Reading Guide” were working on the cusp of two worlds: the Victorian and the modern. They returned again and again to predictable classic texts. But they also excerpted repeatedly from Darwin’s work on evolution, and included selections from folk and fairy tales that reflected respect for populist culture.

I was most taken with the great essayists: Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, the Enlightenment philosophes, and the proto-bloggers of the 19th century such as Thomas Carlyle and J.S. Mill. These works, well suited to brief reading bytes, were models of critical reasoning, insight, cleverness and taste. Jonathan Swift ’s “Hints Toward an Essay on Conversation” clarified for me why I like to talk to some people and not to others.

Ah, a gateway.

Or so I thought until I got to the bio at the end of the piece:

Ms. Cohen is a professor of English and dean of Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University.

One would hope that a professor of English and a dean of a college might have touched upon some of these authors before. I graduated in 1994 from the university, and although I was steeped in the Western canon, I had the benefit of studying English and philosophy. Also, I had so many English credits that I was almost ineligible for an English degree. Think on that for a moment: I had to creatively explain why I should graduate even though I had too many English classes along with my second major. So I had a pile of reading in those days in the canon even as I had a pile of reading in the stuff that the young professors was trying to make into the new canon, which would never actually be a canon because younger English professors would have other canon-toppling reading to displace the ephemera from a couple years ago.

Where was I before the rant?

Oh, yes.

It’s a good article about the discovery of the canon, but it’s sad that a professional educator in the field is just now discovering so much of it. It’s possible to get that far in the industry without it, but, zang.

I hope some people read her article and pick up this set or one of so many similar programs and discover that a lot of the Western canon is approachable and, yes, relevant and universal.

Disturbing News

Posted in Books on January 2nd, 2015 by Noggle

From Randy Johnson (not the pitcher):

With the recent announcement that the Gold Eagle imprint would cease in 2015, it would seem that Mack Bolan, at least the ghost written versions will be consigned to history.

More here, including some juicy inside stories.

I’m saddened by the news; I thought Mack Bolan would be eternal, and that the number of Executioner and related titles that I’d never get around to reading would continue to expand at an exponential rate. But now that the titles are limited, I might be fool enough to try to read them all.

Just kidding. I’m reading well under a hundred books annually these days, so I might not make it through all the ones I currently own without getting the other thousand plus.

Also, somewhere, sometime, will resurrect the series as eBooks or something.