Book Report: Georgia O’Keeffe by Georgia O’Keeffe (1976)

Book coverI bought this book in June at ABC Books; of the seven books I bought that day, I have now read/browsed six. So it is possible that for a second year in a row, I will finish all of the books that I bought on one trip to a book store in the same year I bought them. But that’s not actually certain.

At any rate, I had not really paid much attention to her work. I knew she had a reputation for being gay, although that is in dispute, and that a lot of people see vaginas in her flowers. I think I confused her with Grandma Moses when I was young, as she was still alive but was very, very old–both she and Grandma Moses lived to about the century mark (Grandma Moses a little older, Georgia O’Keeffe a little younger). And both of their names started with G, which means to a young man not steeped in the arts, they were practically the same person.

So. Georgia O’Keeffe. She’s a little modern for my tastes, but she paints in sharp lines and bright colors, so I rank her higher than Matisse, Picasso, and the post Impressionists–even Americans like William Partride Burpee. Some of the landscapes/buildings have wavy lines where I would have preferred them straight. I like a couple of her New York series, but I’m not fond of the landscapes with the floating skulls. The more abstract work and some of the stylized flowers, meh.

Still, I’m glad to have reviewed this monograph (for which I paid TEN WHOLE DOLLARS) to increase my familiarity with her work and make me slightly more intelligent of art.

Book Report: Amazing Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said by Dan Caddy (2015)

Book coverI forget where I saw this book listed most recently on the Internet, but I bought a copy for my former Marine brother and a copy for myself. As I had just finished an Executioner novel (Combat Stretch), I thought I would pick up something quick to read before jumping into another novel. Not that I’m reading long novels recently.

At any rate, it’s what you would expect: A couple of longer stories (which are a couple paragraphs long) interspersed against single-quotation-on-a-page sections. A lot of insults, some of which we civilians can appropriate.

As you know, gentle reader, I did not serve, but I come from a military family (Marines, not army). So I recognized at least one story–the candy bar in the toilet–that my father’s drill sergeant had done. So that’s been around a while. And I realized that I knew my mother’s boot camp nickname, but not my father’s–one assumes he had one.

I have seen a lot of ASMDSS t-shirts listed on my Facebook feed; now I know what it means.

So a quick read to be sure, and amusing enough if you’re the kind of person who likes the novels of Richard Marcinko. And maybe wonders if he regrets not signing up back when three or four years of military service sounded like a long committment, but four years of college and a decade’s worth of student loans did not.

Book Report: Loveroot by Erica Jong (1973)

Book coverI have mentioned before that I read Jong’s How To Save Your Own Life, her 1975 sequel to her seminal novel Fear of Flying a long time ago, before I started writing book reports on this blog. I never read Fear of Flying, though. And I’ve read some about it (mostly Wikipedia) that says Fear of Flying was an empowering bit of second-wave feminism. I guess it fit into the zeitgeist of the time, when the early boomers were coming of early middle age (well, their 30s, which was middle aged in those days), and Erica Jong became a thing.

This was her third volume of poetry. I started reading it after Fully Empowered, and the second poem in the volume is “To Pablo Neruda”. As a matter of fact, the poems refer/allude to/directly address a number of poets, including Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton (twice, and apparently Jong new her personally), Sylvia Plath, Keats, and Colette. A lot of the poems in the book deal with being a poet and the poetic impulse, so Jong is learned and takes herself very seriously.

The poetry is often vulgar and only sometimes crosses the line into earthy and sensuous, but you can only use the word “cunt” never in your poems to be anything but vulgar. Perhaps that’s the point, shocking little old bourgeois moi. Perhaps I’m judging her a little harshly because for every passage where it’s appealing that she’s good to go without using the cunt, she looks like she could be one of my immediate relatives.

So maybe that squickied the lusty appreciation of this early 1970s authentic womanly carnal expression right out of me.

Overall, aside from a few interesting moments, the poems have a very collegiate feel to them as though they were written by a sophomore at a university somewhere immersed in a creative writing program than real musings of someone growing older. I paid $4.95 (the same as the book’s cover price in 1973) for this at ABC Books in June for a first edition in a mylar cover, I don’t expect I’ll pay that much for another book by this author. If I ever buy another book by her, which is unlikely.

Book Report: Combat Stretch The Executioner #152 (1991)

Book coverNot longer after finishing the Medellín trilogy with Message to Medellín a week or so ago, I jumped back into the Executioner one-offs with this volume.

An interesting thing I discovered when researching the trilogy: Although the trilogy is numbers 149, 150, and 151 in the numbering, the numbering on Fantastic Fiction and in the front of the books indicates that #150 in the series is Death Load. Which makes me wonder how that happened. Was the middle book in the trilogy only available to subscribers? Who knows. Well, someone probably knows. Actually, Wikipedia says Death Load was in the main line and Evil Kingdom was in the Super Bolan line. Which probably explains why it was longer than the mainline. The copy I have of Evil Kingdom does not indicate Super Bolan at all. I wonder if that makes it a collector’s edition.

Sorry, that’s more about the series than this book. Don’t I decry series business over the individual books in my book reports? I do!

This book has Bolan working with a beautiful KGB agent to find a Japanese terrorist organization which has a super typhus that it threatens to release unless its demands are met. The KGB agent has another objective: To steal the bioweapon for the Soviet Union and kill Bolan.

In a series of set pieces, Bolan and the Russian track and engage elements of the organization at the safe houses where they’ve stored the bioweapon for dispersal. In one of the firefights, the good buys are exposed and have 72 hours to find the main stronghold and find an antitoxin before they become infectious and need to be quarantined. They find the stronghold, discover the kidnapped scientist who has already discovered the antitoxin, and get saved with thirteen minutes to spare–and the beautiful Russian agent has fallen in love with Bolan and cannot kill him, so her superior who is in love with her shows up and is disappointed.

So it’s not a bad entry in the series, but it does have some errata. At one point, Bolan discovers that the Russian agent is to poison his granola bars with arsenic using the nuts to cover the scent of almonds. As any Agatha Christie reader can tell you, arsenic doesn’t smell like almonds–cyanide does. And when teams kit up for battle, they all end up with different weapons again. I guess in a post-apocalyptic scenario, this might occur as gun collectors emerge with different guns in their collectons.

Aside from the little mistakes, not a bad entry in the series. Fear of bioweapons is as timely as ever, ainna?

Book Report: How To by Randall Munroe (2019)

Book coverI bought this book at Books-a-Million in June. I haven’t made a goal of reading the books I bought in Branson this year (unlike last year, when I read all five ending with Herschend Family Values). But we bought a copy of this book for the boys as well, and the oldest spotted on my to-read stack (those volumes from Branson this year are still stacked on the floor atop the box of books I inherited from my most recently passed aunt) and recommended the book.

Well, he hasn’t read What If?, another book with a similar premise. Wherein What If? the author speculates on crazy questions and works out the math and physics on the prospect, in How To, he takes a basic activity like being on time, digging a hole, moving a house, playing piano, and so on and then goes off on a little physics tangent exploration of the possibility. So the schtick is a little different because he’s taking things for which we already have a good solution–leave early, use a backhoe or excavator, buy a player piano–and goes tangentally off into ridiculous but physics-ally sound answers (or reasons why the answers he chooses are not physics-ally sound).

So a little less engaging than What If? from my perspective.

My boys liked it, though. Enough to recommend I read it sooner rather than later. Although I’m not sure how much they appreciated the math and physics in it. I suspect they liked it because it had a lot of cartoons in it, like their previous favorites Dog Man and Captain Underpants.

I see Munroe has published another book in the interim–Thing Explainer–that I’ll watch out for. I’m also thinking about getting a copy of What If? for that former physics teacher on my gift list. She might find it a hoot. Or not. The key in Christmas gift giving, especially to those with whom you’ll open gifts in person, is a large number of items so that, hopefully, something will delight the recipient.

Book Report: Flight of the Golden Eagle by Terrence Webster-Doyle (1992)

Book coverI bought this book almost a year ago already when I went to ABC Books to get some books signed by a local author. I would say that the year has flown, but honestly it’s only because the number of event markers to indicate the passage of time have diminished in the year 2020, not that I had a lot of Big Events to jazz up the metronomic rhythm of middle aged life here at Nogglestead in 2019. As they say and I often quote, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

The author of this book runs (or ran) his own martial arts for peace institute. A psychologist and martial artist, the goal of this children’s book is as much about talking about world peace and how the perspective of a young person as a martial artist can help them bring about that greater understanding and world peace as it is about martial arts concerns qua martial arts. The book is broken into small sections, stories, recountings of teachers instructing the students through lessons or martial arts training (sometimes not the same thing). Each section has a lovely children’s book illustration, so it’s almost half an art book, too.

I can’t help but compare it to the Buddhist sesshin books I have read in the recent years (Everyday Zen and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind). Although sometimes with insights that my own kyoshi has told me (Learn your own tells when you’re sparring because your opponent, if he or she is good, will see them, et cetera).

Still, the appeal of it for me, and the part I appreciated the most, was that practical advice and not the kumbaya bits. Because kumbaya is impossible. The best we can hope for is live and let live, and that’s in short supply these days.

Book Report: Message to Medellín The Executioner #151 (1991)

Book coverAs I mentioned when reviewing Evil Kingdom, this book is more of a typical Bolan novel than the first two in the trilogy–which makes it a kind of a sad conclusion to the trilogy since it stands in contrast with the other books, which had a little more going on than the typical Bolan set pieces strung together. Standing alone, it would just be one of the others; as part of three, though, it’s glaringly weak.

At any rate, in the book, Phoenix Force comes to Colombia to join up with Bolan and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police commandoes to ratchet up the pressure on the lead cartel and to sow fear amid the other cartels. At the end of book one, Blood Rules, a member of Able Team is kidnapped by the lead bad guy’s female assassin in Miami for torture and interrogation; this situation is ignored completely in book two, but in the first part of this book, Able Team quickly rescues him and kills the assassin. And their portion of the book is done. It’s pretty clear that the people who plotted the trilogy out thought this might be an interesting thread, but two of the three authors did not.

At any rate, in Columbia, Bolan and the team assault the main bad guy’s heavily fortified ranch complete with private zoo (so you know the tigers will eat someone by act three; it’s Chekov’s Rule). As they do, the heads of competing cartels arrive in their own helicopters in their own planned assault, just in time to get shot down by Jack Grimaldi, and then A VOLCANO ERUPTS! threatening everyone.

I can see the outlined plot points, and I can see where they’re checked off. Which sometimes happens with Bolan novels, but really happens when you contrast better versus more common entries in the series (or especially in the bad entries in the series).

This isn’t a bad entry, but I’m disappointed nevertheless because the preceding volume was so much better.

Hopefully, the series will stick with the one-offs which the nature of the subscription book better supports.

Book Report: Evil Kingdom The Executioner #150 (1991)

Book coverAs I mentioned, this is the most expensive Executioner book I own. Or that I paid for, anyway. Blood Rules, the preceding book in the series, was the first in a “trilogy.” As I owned the first and the third, I had to order the middle one off of the Internet to get it, so I paid more than the fifty cents I usually spend on Executioner books. I spent like five whole dollars. So I will definitely put this in the book safe. Or maybe I mean I should buy a book safe for valuable tomes like this one.

It continues the story that teams Able Team, Phoenix Force, and Mack Bolan fighting against the Columbian drug cartels. The story focuses primarily on Bolan and Grimaldi as they work in Columbia, setting the cartels against each other and denting production and manufacturing facilities. They find help in an elite Royal Canadian Mounted Police (!) team, a dying priest, and a Justice Minister who wants to make a difference. Meanwhile, Phoenix Force starts closing in on the strongman in Panama only to be interrupted by a U.S. invasion. The book skips over Able Team in Miami for the most part, which tightens it up a bit even though the book contains a couple of smaller subplots that fit within the confines of the book and add a little bit of interesting asides.

So this is probably the best book in the trilogy; as you know, gentle reader, Bolan books and other subscription books of the type were farmed out to a team of writers with plot outlines and maybe some scenes to include. But the first included sex scenes atypical to the series; this one some depth found in better books; and the third, which I have started, is pretty straight forward Bolan. Compare and contrast: This volume is 350 pages, and the third a touch over 200. More typical Bolan length for the era.

The only quibble I have with the book is that he mentions the chain guns on an Apache helicopter, and if you had asked me in 1991, I could have told you that the AH-64 had a single 30mm gun. Not so much because my recently passed aunt worked logistics for the Army aviation back in the day, but more because I got Microprose’s Gunship in 1986 or 1987 and played it a lot.

Okay, another quibble: Each team member on the fire teams tends to have his own weapon in his own chambering. Come on, a little standardization would be very, very handy if you had to change weapons or share magazines in the heat of battle. Richard Marcinko doesn’t make those sorts of mistakes, anyway.

Still, this was a good entry in the series. After I finish the third, I’ll have to really reflect on the pace of my reading these books. If I only read 10 a year, I still have, what, five or six years to go? And I won’t be able to keep up that pace when we get to the thicker titles later in the series. Perhaps I should make it a goal to read them all before I die; however, when acutely fearing mortality, I tend to want to read better things. So I guess I’ll keep plugging at them as I feel like it.

Book Report: The Legend of the Golden Huaca by Colleen Tucker (2011)

Book coverI got this book at a “book sale” last spring. A book sale, in the Before Times, was when a library organization sold books at fairly low prices as a way to raise money to help the library. I could tell looking at it where I got it; the first page inside has the price (from the Better Books section) and section. It’s different from the ABC Books markings, where I often also get books from local authors.

The book is the story of a group of fresh college graduates who go into the heart of deepest Arkansas to find out what happened to the missing father of one of the group. Late in the autumn, around Thanksgiving, the boy and his father were hunting and got a little lost when the boy falls and hurts his arm, which will end their trip. They find a rock which looks to have ancient carvings on it, and the father runs into the brush and up to a bluff and never returns. The boy gets help from some other hunters in the area, and they alert the authorities, and after a brief search, they all give up and the boy goes back to Springfield for college. He completes his finals and his final semester and gets his friends involved, including the daughter of a Real Archeologist who has a plane and for some reason decides to fly from Springfield to Northwest Arkansas. But that’s part of the problem I have with the book. So many of the parts require a suspension of disbelief.

You see, they find that the local hermit has found a cave containing treasure that Conquistadors were taking to New Orleans the long way when an Aztec prince and his retinue catch up with them, but the Conquistador Captain manages to hide the loot in a cave before they strike. A descendant of the noble (the book has a rather simplistic notion of the history of the Aztecs and lays out an easy Aztecs good/Conquistadors bad back story) lives nearby, seeking the loot of his ancestors. So when the kids come camping (elaborately) to look for the one fellow’s father (and maybe the loot), things kick into gear. The hermit sneaks into their camp; one of the kids gets greedy and wants the treasure for the treasure, not for the noble pursuit of archeology; and, eventually, they find the cave where the hermit has chained the father for six months (suspend your disbelief!) They liberate the father, who seems to have killed the hermit just that day, and an earthquake or volcano or Aztec magic destroys the treasure. But the kids have their memories. Except the greedy one, who died.

So. Although the biography of the author gives her creds in television and in law enforcement, she is an amateur. The pacing is a little off, the story makes you scratch your head a lot and need to suspend disbelief, and the ending disappoints. But as I was reading it, I felt a little deja vu–because I’m pretty sure that one could make the same sorts of critiques of my self-published novel, too.

And I couldn’t help but wonder, when thinking of this book and Murder at the Painted Lady, I had to wonder if not many older women were writing grandmother poetry these days because they were all writing novels.

At any rate, it was not the worst self-published book I’ve ever read, but you can probably pass on this one.

Book Report: Fully Empowered by Pablo Neruda (1962, 1995)

Book coverI picked this book up shortly after 100 Love Sonnets because I couldn’t think of another time where I’d be more primed to read more Neruda. As I have mentioned, I read a bit of a middle 1970s translation of Neruda that was, erm, not very literal–it inserted 1970s slang into the work where Neruda had not put it. 100 Love Sonnets, by my survey of the original Spanish on the left-facing pages, was very close. I hoped this volume would be, too.

Oh, but no.

It’s not as bad as the glimpse I had earlier (which is not this book; I looked for “I ain’t got no truck with death” specifically). This book does not throw slang into the mix, but it does use some synonyms for direct translations where I wonder how much license the translator took and why.

Also, the poems are longer, a little more free-flowing, and of varying topics, sometimes of a political nature, that makes the poetry more modern than 100 Love Sonnets. Which means I like it less to begin with.

At any rate, I probably did catch the book at the right time. I probably wouldn’t think anything that Neruda wrote would equal 100 Love Sonnets anyway, so it’s best to have read them almost back to back. Now, of course, undoubtedly two or three other volumes of Neruda’s work will catch me by surprise when I go looking for something to read. Or, worse, I’ll stumble across a second copy of this, translated with a different title, in a couple of years and will accidentally re-read these poems again without knowing it.

Book Report: Blood Rules The Executioner #149 (1991)

Book coverThis book is the first part of a trilogy called the Medellin Trilogy. So it includes appearances by Phoenix Force and Able Team, two spin-off series, as they work together, but separately, to deal with the narcotics traffickers who were bad guys of the era, before everything went back to the Nazis. Come on, there was a James Bond movie and a Tom Clancy novel/movie in the same stripe.

At any rate, Bolan goes to Columbia to bring some pain to the cartels in the area; one of the other teams goes to Panama to take on the strongman leader who’s also a drug conduit (and whose name is not Nanuel Moriega); the other team goes to Miami to deal with the local dealers there and to maybe find a high-powered assassin for one of the cartels. Bolan does his thing playing the cartels against each other, the team in Panama encounters some high powered mercenary talent that one of the team members knows from his time in the Israeli Defense Forces; and the team in Miami links up with an anti-drug crusader who provides them with tips on dealers and factories, a member of the team gets involved with her on a personal level, and in a plot twist that I saw coming from forever away, she is the asssassin who takes orders directly from the leader of the biggest cartel!

So we end with a cliffhanger: The guy involved with her disappears!

At any rate, I checked my shelf, and it looks as though I have the first and the third books in the series. Which kind of matches the experience I had with a lot of fantasy novels that my kid brother, an impressionable Marine back then, gave me when he was in the Corps. He ended up with a lot of incomplete trilogies, and he gave them to me for Christmas one year. So I’m not entirely sure how most of the Forgotten Realms sagas ended. Which led me to a dilemma: do I order the middle book or not?

Well, I discussed it with my beautiful wife, and she encouraged me to order it. So I did. I paid like $5 for an Executioner novel, and suddenly I’m getting further from my goal of reading all the ones I have. Ay, well. I will probably finish this three-book set before I forget what’s going on. Which is always a danger with boilerplate books like this.

I’ve also looked ahead a bit at other books, and it looks as though the trilogy thing for Executioner novels did not become a normal staple in the years ahead.

Book Report: William Partridge Burpee: American Marine Impressionist by D. Roger Howlett (1991)

Book coverYou know, he’s a marine impressionist because he painted seaside towns and whatnot, not because he went to Parris Island. As I come from a family of real Marines, I feel the need to make this distinction early. Not that you would have been confused otherwise, gentle reader; I know you’re discerning. But I wanted to again bask in the reflected glory of my relative who served whilst I studied poetry at the university.

At any rate, Burpee was a late 19th and early 20th century painter from Maine who lived/showed in Boston for a while. He seems to have come from some money, and he worked for a time as a bookkeeper before chucking it all for his art. And he did well, showing in Boston as I mentioned among some of the other notables of the time, including Sargent and Monet. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, if you can believe such a thing possible. And you can find his work for sale at a thousand dollars a throw, which means of all the art books I’ve read, his is the most likely for me to acquire to hang alongside my garage sale Renoirs.

At any rate, the work is okay. A lot of landscapes, but some figures, and as you know, I like figures in my Impressionism.

I have mentioned that the text with these books tends to run in two ways: One, you have the critic-themed text talking about the influences and comparing the artist to other works, often looking at an artist’s evolution and using a lot of cant. The second tends to the biographical in nature, and I prefer that because reading a bunch of name-dropping text making comparisons and contrasts that I won’t get bore me.

This book, on the other hand, does both: At the start and end, we get the comparisons, but in the middle, Burpee takes a trip to Europe at like fifty, and he travels through France, Italy, and whatnot for two years. We get a lot more detail about his life at that time, but then we’re back into the other. So a bit whip-sawed, but not bad.

So I’m glad to have read it and glad to have written this review so I can some time in the coming years look back at it and say, “Oh, yeah, that guy.”

My Other Little Friend

So in addition to working on the The Elements of Style, I have had my boys working on outlining/summarizing various things as “bonus” assignments through which they can earn a little afternoon video game time. I’ve had them outline the forward and introduction to The Elements of Style and the introduction to Vintage Reading by Robert Kanigel. However, I didn’t want to have to come up with a new short essay for them to outline every day, so I have started them summarizing the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

You might remember that I read Meditation myself in 2009. What? Eleven years ago? Eesh.

More recently, Adaptive Curmudgeon came across some of quotes from Marcus Aurelius for contemporary consideration.

Also, note that The Elements of Style intersects with Meditations in that the first rule, which describes using the apostrophe and s in possessives, says to use ‘s when the name ends in s except in ancient names, in which case you probably want to change it to the possession of owner. Like the temple of Zeus. Or the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

So I got to apply both to this post. Ain’t I smart?

Reading Recommendation

Fillyjonk mentions an author:

I also have a few of the one-off Rosemary Sutcliff novels (after reading her Roman Britain ones, which I enjoyed).

I have a 1964-ish paperback of Sword at Sunset around here somewhere which I believe I started sometime in the distant past (I think I acquired the paperback when I was in middle school or high school, perhaps at the flea market up the hill from the trailer park where I lived at the time).

A mention like this is just the sort of thing that would trigger me to pick up a book next.

If I could find it.

Although I have a vague notion it is on one of the two rightmost bookshelves in my office. However, that’s still a lot of books to search through, and I’ll probably forget the mention before I look to pick out another book.

Book Report: Ain’t No Such Animal by Larry Dablemont (1999)

Book coverI bought this book at ABC Books last month before our trip to Branson, and I started reading it whilst on vacation, but I finished it up after we got home.

This looks to be Larry Dablemont’s first collection of his outdoor writing; as I mentioned, I encountered him in the Current Local newspaper with his weekly column where he bills himself as the Outdoor Columnist of the Ozarks. The introduction to this book details his history as a writer: The child and grandchild of outdoorsmen who made their livings trapping, fishing, hunting, and acting as guides, he, too, lived that lifestyle, but when he was in college, he started writing pieces that he pretty immediately started to place in outlets like Outdoor Life. So, yeah, he has been at the game a while.

This book collects a number of articles, essays, and short storied dealing with hunting and fishing in the Ozarks from the last twenty-five years of the last century.

Some themes repeat. Mostly the stories where the young hunter throws a competition or bet so that the wizened old hunter who has a longstanding reputation for prowess continues to hold that lofty position. Also, the old guys on the front bench of the old pool hall appeared once in the book and returned in one of his columns in the Current Local a week or so ago.

As I might have mentioned, I really like the books from the local columnists, and it hit me why I might: These are the kinds of stories my dad might have told. Alas, Babylon.

Buck Rogers Books I’ve Read

Over at the Other McCain, Wombat-socho posts about books with Oriental antagonists and talks about the original Buck Rogers books:

The most famous of these is, of course, Philip Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419, which introduces us to Anthony “Buck” Rogers, veteran of the Great War and hero of the Second American Revolution. Rogers wakes from a 500-year-long sleep induced by a radioactive gas pocket to find that the United States he knew is long dead, but scattered gangs of Americans carry on the war against the decadent Han, having developed new technologies to aid them in the fight. Rogers brings to the table forgotten tactics that prove lethally useful, and provides a leader the mutually suspicious gangs can follow. Nowlan’s original novel and its sequel (The Airlords Of Han) are both available for free on amazon and through Project Gutenberg, but the Ace paperback edition combines them into one novel.

* * * *

I really wanted to like Buck Rogers: A Life In The Future, by Martin Caidin. I really did. Unfortunately, Caidin plays fast and loose with the original plot, and instead of Anthony Rogers leading the gangs of America to victory against the Han, instead he gets dragged along on a number of pointless adventures and meaningless contests, and zzzzz…oh, sorry. The worst part of all this is that Caidin is a decent writer who’s written a bunch of exciting books, and this just feels like he phoned it in to TSR. Not recommended.

Hey, I read Armageddon 2419 in 2007 and Buck Rogers: A Life In The Future in 2004.

He fails to note the latter was to drum up support for the TSR roleplaying game. TSR game-promoting fiction was a mixed bag. You got the Forgotten Realms works and Dragonlance, but you also got this as well as the Greyhawk books (which I overpaid for when I bought four for a dollar.)

At any rate, I just wanted a book quizzish post that I scored better on.

Brian J. On The Best and Worst Books of the 20th Century

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has produced a list of the 50 Worst Books of the 20th Century and the 50 Best Books of the 20th Century.

As is my wont, I took these to be a quiz and looked to see how many of each I’ve read.

On the worst books, it’s 1.something; I read John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage in middle school, and I started Paul Tillich’s The Courage To Be in 2016 but did not finish it (and have since put it back in the stacks instead of leaving it lying around).

Of the best books, I’ve only read one: Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (which, as you know, gentle reader, is one of my favorite books to give away as well–whenever I find it at a book sale, I pick it up and give it to someone).

I would double my scores on both if I I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as it appears on both the best and the worst list.

I don’t see many on my to-read shelves from the worst list except the aforementioned books (I picked up a copy of Profiles in Courage since I borrowed Mrs. Pickering’s copy in middle school). As to the best, I have Churchill’s history of World War II and Copleston’s History of Philosophy, but these are both series of books and not single volumes. I probably have the C.S. Lewis book The Abolition of Man around in one of the omnibuses and might have the Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man.

I don’t know what that says about me as a reader, but it does track more and more with the more modern lists.

(Link via the world-famous Ace of Spades Book Thread.)

The Second Most Viewed Book Report on MfBJN

I might have mentioned, gentle reader, that amongst the 1500-odd book reports on this humble blog, for some reason my book report from 2013 on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Sire de Maletroit’s Door is very popular. Probably because it’s on the first page of Google search results.

Would you care to guess what is the second most popular book report here?

Continue reading “The Second Most Viewed Book Report on MfBJN”

Book Report: The Meat in the Sandwich by Alice Bach (1975)

Book coverThis is nominally a children’s book. I bought it almost twenty years ago from a table in the foyer of the Bridgeton Trails branch of the St. Louis County library back when we lived in Casinoport. We didn’t have children then, but if I was going to have children, I would want them to read a book about young hockey players (as my beautiful wife and I watched every St. Louis Blues game at that time). As it turns out, a couple years later, I had children (well, my beautiful wife gestated and emitted them, but you know what I mean). A couple years after that, they could read, but neither of them were much interested in the old-timey children’s books I had, favoring the cartoonish children’s books of today. A couple years later, I finally picked up this book since there’s no hockey season. Was there one earlier in the year? It seems so long ago.

I say “nominally” a children’s book because, although the main character is in fifth grade, it’s 182 pages of dense, adult-focused text. I mean, I know kids books today are dumbed down, but compared with other kids books of the past like the Great Brain series and the Little House series, not to mention the Peggy Parrish books, and this is freaking Ulysses.

So the main character is a fifth grader who has two sisters (one older, one younger, so he’s the meat in the sandwich of the family), a father with a job at the electric company, and a stay-at-home mom (in 1975, this was still the norm or the ideal, gentle reader). His best friend and the star of the elementary school hockey team lives with his mother after his parents divorced, and that’s a big deal in 1975. A new kid moves in, a competitive kid whose father drives his own son and the main character to be better athletes, but not without tension (the usual “we train hard, and everyone else is a loser” mentality). When a new hockey coach splits the team into two squads, the main character and his athlete ‘friend’ are on different squads, so they’re not really friends any more.

In addition to that main story line, the protagonist’s mother wants to pursue her dream of being a painter, so the whole family has to divvy up the chores, including the cooking and the cleaning. His friend’s divorced mother pursues her dream of opening a little swap shop in her home where people can trade things they need without spending money. The protagonist’s mother offers her paintings in the shop, but nobody is interested in her abstract works which her children don’t think are very good.

The turning point in the book comes in a scrimmage between the two squads, when the protagonist is checked hard into the boards by his former friend. The protagonist ends up knocked out and with an injured shoulder, and as he mends (and hides from returning to school in shame), he rethinks his life and determines, hey, he doesn’t have to be a star athlete after all!

So, yeah. The voice is too sophisticated for a fifth grader, and it reads more like what a 1970s feminist would like to instruct little boys. Women’s empowerment and don’t be a boy. Learn to love the liberation of the new world which will lead to the utopia we see today. Meh.

Perhaps I’m a bit down on the book because I come out of that liberated millieu to some deleterious effect. But, yeah, there’s probably a reason why this book was marked $.25 after sitting in a library, likely unread, for 25 years. I can’t imagine what a millenial child would have gotten from it.

Book Report: Charles Russell by Sophia Craze (1989)

Book coverI got this book at ABC Books a week ago. I think in lieu of reading during football games, I will set artists’ monographs and travel books beside the recliner to browse through after a couple chapters or sections of other books I’m reading. Kind of like I used to do with comic books. I’ll use them to fill out the evening when I don’t want to start another chapter before bed.

This book gives a brief bio of Russell, a native of St. Louis and the child of a well-to-do family (Russell Avenue might well be named after the family), who decided early that he wanted to be a cowboy. The family, of course, were against it and tried to get him schooled and whatnot, but he kept hanging around with unsavory types. So they sent him out to Montana hoping to get it out of his system, but he caught on as a cowboy and whatnot until he found that he could draw and paint, and he became known as the cowboy artist. Unlike Frederic Remington, Russell did work from the frontier, but he did visit and have art shows back east and around the world.

You know, Russell is active painting and whatnot at the same time that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books cover, but it’s a very different frontier. Of course, the images would have to be more dramatic and marketable with images of cowboys and Indians and whatnot. That and perhaps the difference in locations explain the differences in the depictions.

“So, Brian J., Remington or Russell?” you might ask. To be honest, I guess it’s been ten years since I reviewed the Remington monograph. The works of both artists tend to be dramatic, with action depicted, and I prefer my art to be a little more still. Renoir portraits and landscapes and whatnot. So Remington and Russell are of a type that’s interesting to look at briefly, but not something I would hang on the walls of my home nor sit on a bench in an art museum and contemplate. Not that I do that with art that I do like, either.

So Remington and Russell. If that’s not a cop-out.