Book Report: Miracle in the Ozarks by Chester Funkhauser (2004)

Book coverIn keeping with my recent spurt of Ozarkiana (Unto These Hills, The Willow Bees), I picked up this short novel.

In it, a grandfather still grieving from his wife’s death from cancer takes in his daughter and grandson as the boy suffers from leukemia and the marriage is on the fritz. The daughter takes a nursing job in town, leaving the ailing boy to spend the days with his grandfather in a cabin in the mountains. The boy starts talking about meeting the fairy people down, and his imaginative incidents almost make it sound believeable. But the boy gets lost in a thunderstorm, and the local crazy war veteran helps to find him, and the adventure results in reconciliation and healing all around.

It’s a short book–156 pages–and it’s one of the better of the local novels I’ve read. Although it’s not self-published, it’s apparently from a very small press, and the author is (or was) a grandfather himself who is pictured on the back with his wife and one of his large woodcarvings. So perhaps not a professional writer, but the story is well executed nevertheless.

Apparently, I bought this book four years ago at the Friends of the Christian County Library book sale, so it’s a relatively recent entry in my book stack. Which explains why it was in the front. Perhaps I should dust and turn-out the library again, but that would hide so many of my new acquisitions in the back. But it might turn up those Joshua Clark books I’ve hidden.

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, August 17, 2019: LibraryCon 2019

Subtitle: Daddy’s been a bad, bad boy.

This is my third year going to LibraryCon, a little one day convention that the Springfield Greene-County Library puts together (see also 2017 and 2018). Last year, I bought more books than the previous year. This year? Boy, howdy.

I got a bunch.

We got there while many of the comic book artists were in a conference room, which limited my comic book and graphic novel intake, but it had a larger supply of authors than in years past.

So I got:

  • A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney. The author, from Kansas City, tells me it’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s adventures through the looking glass in Wonderland.
  • A Trial By Error by Susan Eschbach which looks to be a science fiction romance novel. I say this because some of the other books on the writing group’s table were genre/romance books.
  • Several books by Levi Samuel. When I got to his table, I thought he looked familiar, but I didn’t recognize the name or his series. When he waved to milk crates to his right with discounted books, I recognized Dammit Bre. This is the same guy using a pseudonym. Sorry, a nom de plume. So I bought a fantasy trilogy, the Heroes of Order (Izaryle’s Will, Izaryle’s Prison, and Izaryle’s Key) and an urban fantasy book, The Pandora Gambit, to join The Order of the Trident on my to-read shelves. At least these will be at the top.
  • The only two books so far in the Earthborn Legacy series by Matthew S. Devore, Earthborn Awakening and Earthborn Alliance where elves ruled the Earth before being wiped out by an enemy that has now come for man, who allies with a couple of elves who escaped destruction. Sounds interesting with some similar elements to a fantasy novel I started, and the author was a great fellow. I’m looking forward to reading these sometime in the next decade.
  • Two mystery/romances by Barbara Warren, Murder at the Painted Lady and Hidden Danger, from the same table as A Trial By Error Genre/romances and Christian from what one of the placards said.
  • Four books by Elton Gahr: Random Fantasies, a collection of fantasy stories; Random Realities, a collection of science fiction stories; Spaceship Vision: The Impossible Dream, a science fiction novel; and Middlemen: The Brother’s War, part of a fantasy series that is interconnected but not dependent on each.
  • Sharing a table with Gahr was a graphic novel guy, Seth Wolfshorndl. I bought a couple of graphic novels from him, including Rook City (with Gahr as the writer), and Duel! as well as a comic (Evil Ain’t Easy).
  • Comic work by Isaac Crawford, including the graphic novel Seven Dwarfs and Some Odd Tales as well as comics The Musical Mishaps of Cat & Fiddle (1-6) and The Boy and the Dragon.
  • A graphic novel A Passage to Black presented by Cullen Bunn.
  • Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships, book one of Eric Shanower’s Trojan War tales.
  • Tales of the ShadowWood, a comic collecting stories about anthropomorphic fox warriors by Margaret Carspecken who also does vivid fine art pictures.
  • Three issues of Zombie Dave that have come out since I last saw Mark Decker.

I would tell you how much I spent, but I don’t want my beautiful wife to find out.

This year was a blast because I talked pretty easily with the authors–so many of them I recognized and whose works I’d enjoyed previously. No Shayne Silvers this year, which is just as well–I haven’t read the second Nate Temple book yet (the first is Obsidian Son).

I stopped by Joshua Clark’s table to say hello and to tell him I’m still looking for the books in his S.T.A.R. Chronicles that I bought two years ago and haven’t yet read. I also told William Schlicter that I had one of his Silver Dragon Chronicles books that I hadn’t read yet, so I was going to bypass his table this year.

And, you know, meeting these people who crank out a couple of books a year made me think about when I thought I was going to be a writer. And maybe they’ve inspired me.

They’ve certainly made me want to end this post so I can go read, so I shall.

Book Report: The Willow Bees by Lucy Willoughby Jones (1994)

Book coverThis book is a bit of local color. It was written in the early 1990s by a woman who grew up on a farm outside of (but which is probably now in) Nixa, a little town south of Springfield. It recounts very short, three to eight paragraph slice-of-life memories about farm work, socializing, family relationships, and whatnot interspersed with numerous poems composed by the author, her family, or those in her social circle.

It was a pleasant read, and it made me consider writing something like this about my life. I mean, I’ve seen some things, and as a child of the last century, I have seen enough change that some of it would be novel to kids of today or tomorrow.

Assuming that any of them would want to read it.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book as you might expect. The author comes from a large family, and sometimes she name checks families who participated in an event or attended a (one room) school in Lone Hill (the actual town she lived in or near). When I read the list of names here (and in Unto These Hills), I wonder why the names of my relations from the Ozarks are not represented. But then I remember that they’re from Taney County further south and, in the early part of the last century, a whole world away.

Amid The Ruins

As you know, gentle reader, I very rarely put down a book that I own and think that I will never, ever read the book completely.

I mean, aside from the sets and encyclopedias I have about (some of which I have a flicker of hope I will read from end to end like A.J. Jacobs).

But if I start a book and I’m not really into it or if it stagnates on a book accumulation point for too long (which is often years), I’ll throw it back on the to-read shelves for another go when twenty years from now or whenever I’m down to it, my last book.

But I have recently (which means in the last two years) come across a couple of books like The Ruins and the complete stories of Algernon Blackwood that I will not bother to read, and both of them I knew very, very early.

The first, on the right, is Mark Merlis’ Man About Town. I picked that up last year at some point. I got that it was a Washington book, a novel about the goings on in the capital. The book started on in a Congressional hearing or something, and the narrator is an aide of some sort or policy expert. The narrator talked about his lover who had one of those ambiguous names that could be a boy or a girl, and a little while later it was revealed to be a boy. Okay, so the narrator’s gay. You know, I used to volunteer with a gay theatre company, and I have a certificate from one production proclaiming me to be the token straight man. So I’m not a flaming homophobe. But a couple pages later, the narrator is fantasizing about sex with a senator, and I’m gonna trust my squick on this one and put it down. Perhaps the author was hoping to shock the bourgeoisie, perhaps not, but I don’t want to read that. I’m in favor of keeping your private life private, and this book was not trending that direction early. As I mentioned, I started it last year and put it down shortly thereafter, and it’s remained on my paperback shelves where I put books and videos to donate and give away (it’s sitting there with the VHS version of Hitchcock’s Secret Agent which I tried to watch in March and found I also have on DVD). So the media accumulate there slowly, and I dispense of them as donations slower still.

But the small stack has this week been joined by Dark Star, a self-published novel about a murder mystery that erupts when a Hollywood lawyer/agent gives a new young lady a contract. I would read you the back material, which is the best edited part of the book. I started reading it, and it is bar none the worst-edited self-published novel I have ever encountered. It was so bad that I wondered if it was like the first part of The Sound and the Fury, told by an idiot, but the narrator is supposed to be a highly place attorney, for crying out loud. I read three pages of it, and I determined it was too much work amid the misspellings, grammatical errors, and Emily Dickinson capitalization to try to gut through the book in case it had an interesting plot.

So now I’m up to four books I’ve given up on as irredeemable. I feel like I’m getting awfully critical in my old age.

So to the top of my paperback bookshelves you go. To be donated to a church garage sale sometime in 2024 or when I get around to it.

Oh, and coincidentally, both of these books are dollar books from Hooked on Books. One has the red dot that they used to do and the other has the $1.00 sticker over the UPC that is the new paradigm. Come to think of it, The Ruins might also have come from Hooked on Books on the cheap rack. Perhaps I should not spend so much time (but not money!) there.

Also note that, although I gave up on The 188 Mormon War In Missouri after a couple of paragraphs, that was a library book and completely different in this context.

Thank you, that is all.

Book Report: Platoon by Dale A. Dye (1986)

Book coverThis book is the novelization of Oliver Stone’s Academy Award-winning screenplay. I’ve never actually seen the film, and I really haven’t watched a lot of Vietnam movies As I mentioned, I have seen the television program Tour of Duty and Forrest Gump, which is not really a Vietnam movie. I’ve also seen The Siege of Firebase Gloria (“That’s it, Nardo. The story’s over.”) and Apocalypse Now. But Platoon seemed to kick off a number of Vietnam films in the 1980s like Full Metal Jacket and Hamburger Hill (and including The Siege of Firebase Gloria). But I just never got into it. Kids in the 1980s didn’t get into playing Vietnam soldier like previous generations played World War II soldier.

So as a novelization of the screenplay, the book takes advantage of it and suffers from the disadvantages of the printed word. Let’s go with the disadvantages first: One, it’s an ensemble piece with a lot of different characters who are identified by name and a single distinguishing feature, and it is easy to confuse them (and the author refers to the protagonist both by his first name and his last name in different places, so you have to remember that these names are both one guy). On screen, that’s easy to see.

Another thing is that what must have been the spectacle of the film is lost a little.

But we do get more interior lives of the characters which the film would not convey; on the other hand, that turns a couple of seconds of screen time into a page or more.

So what’s the plot? The usual. A green recruit, a literate and educated young man, joins a platoon in the field where he gets mundane duties, gets into firefights, learns, sees death, and ultimately takes part in a pitched battle with massive casualties on both sides.

Not poorly executed, but mostly noteworthy as a study of turning a screenplay into a novel.

You know, I have a set of Tour of Duty DVDs–did I buy them for my father and then inherit them? Not likely–I think I bought them later. But I don’t know that I’m inspired to dive into Vietnam media based on this book alone. Unless the Marcinko books count.

Book Report: A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais (2019)

Book coverIt’s very rare for me to read a book written in the last couple of years, so it says something when I read a book in its week of release. Robert Crais is the only author that can claim that honor, slight that it be. Well, if you search for Robert Crais on this blog, you’ll see that’s not always true. It might actually only be true for this book.

The plot: Joe Pike runs into a crime in progress (like The Sentry) and helps a young lady that Joe Pike might develop feelings for (like The Sentry). She has a crush on him before the crime in progress and is pleased when he comes to her rescue. However, bad guys have been searching for a relation of the young lady (like in The Sentry). And Joe Pike and Elvis Cole have to figure out who has it out for her (is this, too, like The Sentry? I don’t mention it in the book report, but presumably so).

So maybe it was really like that other book, but I haven’t read it in six years, so it was fresh enough for me. But binge readers might find it a repeat.

The book has quick, modern pacing with lots of dialog and short paragraphs which contrasts with Platoon, the book I am currently reading as well as other literature and novels over forty years old. The book also shifts viewpoints, which is pretty standard for thrillers nowadays as well. But these devices really keep the action flowing along.

So I enjoyed it, and I expect I will get the next book right when it comes out. Well, my beautiful wife will, and I will read it when she finishes it. Which is not long, as I finished the book four days after it came out.

Book Report: Blood Run The Executioner #133 (1990)

Book coverI was disappointed with the last Executioner book of the 1980s, but this, the first of the 1990s (well, the last year of the 1980s decade, 1990, but let us not quibble) was pretty good.

In it, Bolan and his brother Johnny are given the task of taking a high profile witness from Florida to LA to testify against the cocaine king of Colombia who has been arrested on US soil while trying to set up a mega buy. the DEA fears leaks in its forces, so they ask Justice for help, and Brognola knows just the guys. So the Bolans take off cross-country with every hood and gang looking for them, including members of the KKK, a vicious Texas biker gang, and the Arizona mob.

So, yeah, it shares a plot with The Gauntlet and its reboot-before-reboots-were-a-thing 16 Blocks, but it’s executed pretty well. The action flows between the subplots, and this author uses the shifting viewpoint trick to build suspense. The characters didn’t pull any real boners and acted according to their natures.

The text, though, had a couple of sour notes. They talk about driving through Texas as though it was a desert starting at the Louisiana border; even though I’ve only been to Texas once and through Texas a couple times by plane, I know that Deep East Texas is like an extension of Louisiana. That’s the one that stuck with me, but a couple other cast-off lines were not true.

Still, of the, what, seven? Executioner books I’ve read this year, this one might be the best (although War Born was pretty good, too). So I will keep on with the series, probably with a couple more this year as time passes, with the renewed hope that every so often they’ll be actually good and not just the book equivalent of episodic network television.

Book Report: Unto These Hills by Paul W. Johns (1980)

Book coverThis book is a short collection of historical musings written by the curator of the Christian County Historical Museum in 1980. As such, it focuses on Christian County, especially Nixa and Ozark, although the abandoned town of Riverdale punches above its weight in these pages as the town had a couple of mills and spawned Ma Barker and her boys.

At any rate, some of it might be more folklore than real history. For example, the book says that Knoxville, Tennessee, was once called Nokesville and that the family it was named after ended up here (I live just south of Nokes Lane on property once owned by a Nokes). It talks about some of the pioneering families, but neither of the names in my family appear in the book–for good or for ill.

A pleasant read and a couple of interesting stories to relate to other people who can then wonder where I learned these things.

About the damage on the cover: When I got the book, it had a 1982 Mizzou Tigers schedule grafted onto it, and I found the cover tearing a bit as I tried to remove it. So I tried to steam it off with the intention of maybe framing the schedule and giving it to my mother-in-law for Christmas. But, as you can see, it was a bust.

Book Report: The Big Kill The Executioner #132 (1989)

Book coverThis book is nominally the last Executioner book from the 1980s: its cover date is 12/89. Almost a year into George H.W. Bush’s presidency. Midway through my senior year of college–I was pretty busy with DECA, the writer’s club, and National Honor Society at school, which was compounded by the fact that I didn’t have a car and lived midway down a holler. That’s what I was doing when the cover of this particular paperback was crisp and uncracked.

Reminiscing about where I was when the book came out is better than reflecting on the book itself.

The plot: The murder of a prostitute leads the son of a mafioso, the head of a respectable company but an unwitting participant in illegal activities, to start looking into his business a little more closely. You see, the son loved the young lady once. His investigations lead the mob to put out hits on him and the co-workers who might know too much. But the son retreats, with Bolan’s help, to a lodge in the Rockies where he should be safe–but it looks like the mob was already there waiting for him.

So it looks for the meat of the book like it’s going to be a tower defense plot, as Bolan, the son, the family of the son, and a trusted cop hold off the mafia hit teams, but it’s not that.

It’s a good plot treatment poorly handled. We’ve got some good elements at the high level that lead to a couple of set pieces that make little sense and some howlers. Like when Bolan comes out of an airport in the mountains and looks over the parking lot, and only at the end of his survey is his attention drawn to the car that has no snow on it as, I don’t know, maybe that’s important.

It took me a couple of times to get started on this as I tried to use it as a break from chapters of Bait and Switch, but I’d set it down for a day or so and when I picked it up again, I couldn’t remember what was going on. The jarring jump-cuts between the set pieces (which don’t hang together too well based on continuing the ultimate plot arc) left me wondering where I was.

So not one of the better books in the line, and not a strong note to end the 1980s. And it ends with a bit of a cliff hanger, although I’m not sure that the thread will be picked up in the next book. The hit woman from Dead Line has not yet reappeared. Perhaps it’s just something to throw into the Bolan plot warehouse for later.

But look at that coat he’s wearing on the cover. If you remember the 80s, you’ll remember someone who wore that coat.

Book Report: Potbelly Mammoth Volume 1 by Nate Hudson (2018)

Book coverI got this book at Rublecon last weekend. Rublecon is a small comic/toy convention held in Relics’ event center. I missed it last year because when I pulled into the parking lot, I could not find a parking space, and my family was reluctant participants anyway.

This year, though, I wandered through the aisles. You didn’t get a Good Book Hunting post because this volume is the only book I bought aside from comic books.

This is based on a Web comic that has been going on for a couple of years; this book collects the first 100 of them and some other extra materials. The story behind the comic is that two roommates, Nate and Swadley, live beside a mostly abandoned laboratory. An intern left behind at the lab creates a tiny mammoth and a tiny T-Rex that the roommates adopt as pets. Nate gets laid off from his job and starts dating the woman who fired him.

The cartoons themselves have a flavor of what you’d get in a newspaper column. Each has a single gag, and the stories build themselves into larger story arcs, but those arcs are not the point.

So I liked it. Better than Frik. Better than RPG World. I don’t know if that’s fair, as the other two have story arcs and whatnot, but it’s pretty good, and I’m hopeful that he’ll get another book out soon, but it looks like the actual Web comic has been at #141 since February.

Eh, no hurry. I have plenty to read in the interim.

Book Report: Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich (2005)

Book coverYou probably don’t know, gentle reader, that I read Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America around 2003 (my beautiful wife read it and sort of fisked it in two parts, Nickels and Dimes, about the same time). It’s before I was doing book reports on this blog, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The premise of that book is that Ehrenreich beams herself into communities and works for minimum or low wage jobs there and tries to lead a life on low wages.

In this book, she decides she’s going to do the same with white collar jobs in Corporate America, so she mocks up a resume and hopes to catch onto a series of middle management sorts of jobs not so much to see if she can survive on $60,000-80,000 a year, but to take the pulse of the middle class who must be also terribly frightened of losing their livelihoods. That’s the plan, anyway.

However, she finds it hard to get a job with her faked-up resume as an independent PR consultant looking for a full time job in corporate America at an advanced salary. So the book instead turns into an indictment of career coaches, job fairs, the Christers (of course), and networking events in general. She tries many different avenues of meeting people who would hire someone like her, but she doesn’t get job offers until she starts hitting the bottom feeders of commission-only sales jobs and pushing Mary Kay.

Basically, she spends 230+ pages LARPing G.J. Meyer of Executive Blues: Down and Out in Corporate America, but without the actual experience of being a corporate professional at all. Apparently, she has read that book, as she includes it in the footnotes a couple of times.

The book doesn’t provide any insight into anything much about anything except Barbara’s inauthentic attempts to be middle class and out of work. I mean, she chooses a profession (PR) that easily sheds experienced workers and hires English and communication majors right out of college. I mean, they’re down to Content Writers now with a going rate of blog posts for $20 each.

She does mention in her conclusion that someone in her fake career would have had a Rolodex full of contacts to reach out to after, you know, actually getting the fake experience she had on her resume. So perhaps, at the end, she recognizes the flaw in her premise. But she wrote the book anyway.

And I read it anyway.

Nickel and Dimed didn’t really match the experience I had with being poor or working entry level jobs. This book certainly doesn’t match being middle class and white collar or being white class and between jobs (as an actual consultant, I’ve been between jobs from time to time). I wonder if she’s not writing these books for people who have experienced these things, but rather for an audience of older Manhattanite women who wonder what it might be like and who might believe it’s anything like an Ehrenreich book.

But, on the plus side, I am at 80% completion of the books I bought at Calvin’s Books in May (and reading all five from that trip is one of my goals for the year).

And, as a means of comparison, this book did not make me as angry as Into the Wild. I didn’t swear at it nearly as much, although I might have flipped it off a time or two and might have said dumb bint a couple of times. I didn’t even hate it as much as Nickel and Dimed, but that might be because I’m mellowing. But Ehrenreich remains a curse word in the Noggle home in a way that Krakauer or whatever that kid’s name was will never be.

That Looks Familiar

Patrice Lewis is getting ready to move, and she has a picture of most of her library boxed and ready to travel.

As you might recall, gentle reader (because I bring it up over and over), when we moved from Old Trees to Nogglestead, we filled a 16′ PODS container with books and bookshelves.

And that was ten years’ worth of good book hunting ago.

My new financial planning goal is to get rich enough to be able to afford movers should we leave Nogglestead. So please be sure to buy one of the books listed to the right. Although, due to the wonders of print on demand, each book you buy is not one fewer I need to move.

Brian J. Lacks A du Toitian Education

Kim du Toit has posted a list of things he encouraged his children to read while homeschooling them.

A list of books? That’s a quiz!

So how do I do compared to a du Toit?

Once again, I will bold the things I’ve read and underline the things I own but have not yet read.

  • 1984 George Orwell
  • Animal Farm George Orwell
  • Of Civil Government John Locke
  • On Liberty John Stuart Mill
  • Our Enemy, The State Albert Jay Nock
  • The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Basic Economics Charles Sowell
  • The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith
  • From Dawn To Decadence Jacques Barzun
  • Heroes Paul Johnson
  • A History Of The American People Paul Johnson
  • A History Of The Jews Paul Johnson
  • The Iliad Homer
  • The Odyssey Homer
  • The Proud Tower Barbara Tuchman
  • United States Declaration of Independence
  • The Articles of Confederation
  • United States Constitution
  • The Federalist Papers
  • Carnage And Culture Victor Davis Hanson
  • The First World War Martin Gilbert (or John Keegan)
  • A History Of Warfare John Keegan
  • The Second World War John Keegan
  • A War Like No Other Victor Davis Hanson
  • The Bible (The NIV, so one of the short ones)
  • The Book of Journeyman Albert Jay Nock
  • Confessions St. Augustine
  • Essays Moral and Political David Hume
  • Intellectuals Paul Johnson
  • Meditations Marcus Aurelius
  • Memoirs of a Superfluous Man Albert Jay Nock
  • The Republic Plato
  • Summa Theologica St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Coriolanus William Shakespeare
  • Hamlet William Shakespeare
  • Julius Caesar William Shakespeare
  • King Lear William Shakespeare
  • Macbeth William Shakespeare
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream William Shakespeare
  • Othello William Shakespeare
  • Richard III William Shakespeare
  • Romeo & Juliet William Shakespeare
  • Billy Liar Keith Waterhouse
  • Faust Goethe
  • The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde
  • Lysistrata Aristophanes
  • ‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore John Ford
  • Waiting For Godot Samuel Becket
  • “The Eagle”, “Charge Of The Light Brigade” Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • “Dover Beach” Matthew Arnold
  • “The Soldier” Rupert Brook
  • “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • “The Good Morrow” and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” John Donne (I’m not sure if the first is in the Selected Poems I read in 2011, and I can’t find it quickly to see.)
  • “Ode To A Nightingale” John Keats (If not now, then by the time I finish the complete works I’ve been working on for a year or so).
  • “The Gods Of The Copybook Headings” Rudyard Kipling (I haven’t alluded to it in a whole week!)
  • “To Althea, From Prison” Richard Lovelace
  • The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
  • “Ozymandias” Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • “Leaves of Grass” Walt Whitman
  • “Tintern Abbey”, “The Solitary Reaper” William Wordsworth
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
  • Alice In Wonderland — Lewis Carroll
  • The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
  • The American Henry James
  • Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
  • As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
  • Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
  • A Handful of Dust Evelyn Waugh
  • The Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis
  • The Count Of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
  • Don Quixote Cervantes
  • A Farewell To Arms Ernest Hemingway
  • Emma Jane Austen
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
  • The Invisible Man H.G. Wells
  • Zorba the Greek Nikos Kazantzakis
  • Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
  • The Mayor Of Casterbridge Thomas Hardy
  • The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner
  • Fathers and Sons Ivan Turgenev
  • Stranger in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein
  • Les Misérables Victor Hugo
  • Carry On, Jeeves P. G. Wodehouse
  • Lord Of The Flies William Golding
  • Crime and Punishment Feodor Dostoyevsky
  • Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
  • The Harry Potter Stories by J.K Rowling
  • Women In Love D.H. Lawrence
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (probably not all of them, but I did read The Return of Sherlock Holmes this year.)
  • Catch-22 Joseph Heller
  • The Portrait Of A Lady Henry James
  • The Wind In The Willows Kenneth Grahame
  • Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
  • Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
  • Sons And Lovers D.H. Lawrence
  • Uhuru Robert Ruark
  • The Birds“, “Don’t Look Now” Daphne du Maurier
  • “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, “The Killers” Ernest Hemingway (likely, but I’m not 100% sure.)
  • The Pit And The Pendulum” Edgar Allan Poe
  • “Bartleby the Scrivener” Herman Melville
  • “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” Ambrose Bierce
  • The Jungle Books Rudyard Kipling
  • “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, “Good Country People” Flannery O’Connor (although perhaps they’re in a collection I bought in 2008 and deserve an underline.)
  • “Boule de Suif”, “The Necklace” Guy de Maupassant (although I also have a collection of his gathering dust which might mean the first need underlining.)
  • “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty”, “The Unicorn in the Garden” James Thurber<
  • The Gift Of The Magi“, “The Cop And The Anthem” O. Henry
  • “Where I’m Calling From”, “Little Things” Raymond Carver
  • “Sredni Vashtar”, “The East Wing” Saki
  • “Mountain Victory”, “A Rose For Emily” William Faulkner
  • Ars Amatoria Ovid
  • Delta Of Venus Anaïs Nin
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover D.H. Lawrence
  • Memoirs Of A Woman Of Pleasure (or Fanny Hill) John Cleland
  • The School of Whoredom Pietro Aretino

How did I do?

Not good enough.

Especially since I have not made much progress in thirteen years on improving my score on the list of Kim du Toit’s favorite short stories.

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, July 13, 2019: ABC Books

Well, ABC Books had a book signing on Saturday, so of course I went to pick up a copy of a local author’s work. Well, two local authors’ work. And a couple other things.

The two fellows signing books were Jordan Bennett and Michael Jay, both fresh out of school and presenting their post-apocalyptic fantasy novel The Book of Heroes (the first volume of a continuing series called The Books of Magic).

I also got:

  • The next Little House book, The Long Winter.
  • A chapbook called Gettysburg Visions by Sam Weaver.
  • The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art by Stephen K. Hayes.

I noticed that the Martial Arts section had a couple new titles (well, not for long) and that the Football section next to it had a couple more Green Bay Packers titles.

It’s almost like the proprietrix or the more technologically minded manager have figured me out.

Book Report: Funny Ladies by Stephen M. Silverman (1999)

Book coverWhen I picked up this book at Hooked on Books last year, I might have though the book was authored by Sarah Silverman, who is a comedienne and might have collected stories of those who came before her (even though in the Good Book Hunting post, I got the author’s full name). I say I might have then, because when I’ve seen it on the bookshelves between then and now, I’ve had the same thought. But it’s by a dude who’s been a reporter and a celebrity book writer for a while by 1999.

At any rate, the book collects short bios about a number of comediennes (I wrote it again because I’m pleased I know how to spell it) from the various 20th century media (including theatre, which is not media per se, and I put those in italics because the italic store had a discount). It runs roughly in chronological order, with women from vaudeville and burlesque through women on The View (Which is 23 years old now? Crazy!).

You’ve got Fanny Brice (and Barbra Streisand, who gets into the book by virtue of playing Fanny Brice). You’ve got Gracie Allen, which reminds me I have more George Burns to read, and I should. You’ve got Mae West, Lucille Ball, Dorothy Parker, Sophie Tucker, Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Burnett, Totie Fields, and so on. When we get to the modern era, we’ve got Roseanne Barr, Tracey Ullman, Ellen, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Rudner, Margaret Cho, Whoopi Goldberg, and so on. Apparently, Joy Behar was considered a comedienne (I really hope I’ve spelled it right because I made a point of saying I did) at some point.

On the one hand, like Whatever Became Of…?, it makes me realize how many movies from the early part of the century I missed.

The book talks about all the things that the comediennes did in the early part of the century, movies and theatres and television series, but the latest in the book have much thinner resumes. I mean, Whoopi Goldberg has Ghost, The Color Purple, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Sister Act, and Eddie (knowing this last might make me a Whoopi super fan). I like Rita Rudner, but aside from a book and some cable stand-up shows, what does she have? Not to mention Margaret Cho–she had a short-lived television series, I recall.

But after the 1970s, the funny ladies are all a little more, erm, political–as is this book. We get to the 1970s, and suddenly there are jabs at Nixon (“Richard Nixon appointer her [Pearl Bailey] the country’s unofficial Ambassador of Love, one of the few nonpartisan things he ever did.”) and digs at conservatives. And, of course, even beyond 1999, we’ve seen how political comedy has become.

Of course, twenty years after this book, we see what has become of the then-young modern funny ladies (which is easier to spell than comedienne). Mostly talk shows and not a lot of movie credits. It’s a different career now than it was then, I suppose, and the media have changed. These women can maybe get by with an occasional book and movie where the women of the 1940s had lower salaries and had to hustle more, which leads to lengthier IMDB entries.

At any rate, it’s a pleasant book. I wish I would remember more of it than I will; perhaps if I get into actually watching these women, I’ll remember them better.

Book Report: The Coloring Book by Colin Quinn (2015)

Book coverWell, it has happened: I have finally been reduced to reading an actual Coloring Book to pad my annual reading statistics. Oh, how the might he? have fallen.

You might know Colin Quinn as the guy who was the anchor of Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update for five years, but I didn’t watch it then. I know him as the guy from A Night at the Roxbury and the announcer from MTV’s Remote Control.

The subtitle of this book is A Comedian Solves Race Relations in America. Which it does not, really. The book is part a musing on race relations, but mostly a memoir of Colin Quinn growing up in multi-ethnic Brooklyn in the 1970s. “Growing up” might be a misnomer; some of it deals with his pre-adulthood, but a lot of it deals with his early adulthood when he was an ass and drank a lot and did a lot of drugs.

But it does make some interesting points. I do think that race relations were better in the old days, where we had just had normal human friction amongst groups and individuals, not the dialed-up Meaningful animosity. I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, but I was living in the projects in the era he describes, and I was enmeshed within a vibrant community of different races, backgrounds, and cultures, and we could laugh at each other’s caricatures. Maybe it’s that I was younger then and am different now, but I don’t think so. I think the environment has changed a lot. I mean, I close the shades when watching Blazing Saddles and Airplane! now, and I would have been comfortable watching it with black friends then.

But the book itself is broken into different chapters talking a little about different races blending in Brooklyn at the time, how Quinn related to them, and the drugs and alcohol he consumed. You’ve got lengthy chapters on black, Puerto Rican, Jews, Irish, and Asian immigrants, and then you’ve got some clearly tacked-on short chapters at the end about Europeans and Arabs. But the book bifurcates between the musings on race and the memoir, and it really doesn’t do justice to either theme.

This was actually the second of the books I read from Calvin’s Books this year; I read it before Into the Wild, but I wasn’t sure if I had anything serious to say about Race in America to go along with it. However, I guess not. So the book reports are out of order. Not that you were keeping track. But I am.

Book Report: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996)

Book coverI bought this book at Calvin’s Books at the beginning of the summer, and I have set as a goal to read all five of those books this year. I know, it’s one of my twee goals, but it might represent the only time in the last couple of years that I have read all the books I bought at once within the year I bought them.

At any rate, I rage-read this book. It angered me quite a bit. The author says:

When McCandless turned up dead in Alaska and the perplexing circumstances of his demise were reported in the news media, many people concluded that the boy must have been mentally disturbed. The article about McCandless in Outside generated a large volume of mail and not a few of the letters heaped opprobium on McCandless–and on me, as well, the author of the story, for glorifying what some thought was a foolish, pointless death.

Which is exactly how I feel (and I even know how to pronounce opprobrium these days). This is a hagiography of a well-to-do young man from a messed-up family who gave up his comfortable lifestyle after college to wander the country as a vagabond and who had too much confidence in his own abilities, which led to a poor decision to live off the land in Alaska that proved fatal. The author presents this kid as a pilgrim, as an ascetic, and as perhaps as an example to emulate–without the fatal consequences, of course.

I have to wonder who made this book a National Bestseller–as the cover touts. I have to expect that it was done by people who had that sort of wanderlust and sense of invincibility who did something like it and survived (like the author) or people who wanted to do something like it and think they would have done better (likely not). I don’t know. I was four years younger than the subject of the book, so the book is set and is published around my formative years, too. Perhaps there’s something in the 1990s zeitgeist that supports the sort of behavior that no longer exists–or perhaps the young men who would have done something like this, the cross-country car trip with no money or the desire to live off the land (but not in quite as hospitable environment as Alaska) now are in the basement playing video games or covering their faces and taking to the street to start a riot.

The author expands upon his original article (I assume, since these sections seem to be grafted onto the narrative) by adding stories of other people who have wandered out into the wilderness in Alaska and a fellow who wandered into the desert in the 1930s. The author also includes a story about one of his individual expeditions that ended in failure but not in death. He visits the abandoned bus that served as the subject’s base camp and where he died. And he appends an artificial coda of helicoptering the parents in to visit the bus as well.

At any rate, yeah, the subject is not an exemplar of anything positive. He was a poor (rich), misguided young man. I didn’t relate to him much–we both had newspaper columns in the college rag (which means the names Biden and Trump both appear in this book from 23 years ago). He read The Death of Ivan Ilyich. I don’t like to speak negatively of the dead or speak to a hurtful event in a family, but this book is a misguided opposite of that.

I think the book might have triggered a bit of latent classism in me, as I couldn’t think of many in my cohort doing anything like this, and I consider mountain climbing as a rich kid’s game. But I was urban poor and then rural poor in the Midwest. Maybe rural and urban poor in the mountains do free climbing for fun, but they certainly cannot afford a lot of gear and to travel for their hobby.

I must have mellowed; although this book is a paperback, I didn’t throw it at any point. Although I did curse at it a bit. It took me over a week to go through 200 pages. But I’m glad to be done with it.

And as to my twee goal: I still have a Barbara Ehrenreich book to go through. In hardback. So that might block my goal of reading these five books this year.

Books For The Ages And Brian J.

A photographer for the Washington Post has a listicle up called Books for the Ages which includes a book (or a series, or more) for each year of life.

It’s a silly list, but it’s an excuse for me to compare what I’ve read against the list.

Books I’ve read I’ve put in bold; books I have to read are in orange. I’ve included links for the books I’ve read and reported on on this very blog.

Here they are:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
  • The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell
  • A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
  • The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  • The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
  • Stretching by Bob Anderson
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  • Who Do You Think You Are? by Alice Munro
  • Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
  • Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
  • Dynamic Aging by Katy Bowman
  • The Five Years Before You Retire by Emily Guy Birken
  • Fear of Dying by Erica Jong
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  • Old in Art School by Nell Painter
  • 65 Things to Do When You Retire edited by Mark Evan Chimsky
  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
  • Master Class: Living Longer, Stronger, and Happier by Peter Spiers
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
  • The Years of Lyndon Johnson four volumes, by Robert Caro
  • Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  • Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The Coming of Age by Simone de Beauvoir
  • Coming Into Eighty: Poems by May Sarton
  • Devotions by Mary Oliver
  • The Summer of a Dormouse by John Mortimer
  • All the thrillers and mysteries
  • The Last Unknowns: Deep, Elegant, Profound Unanswered Questions About the Universe, the Mind, the Future of Civilization, and the Meaning of Life edited by John Brockman
  • Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
  • Old Filth by Jane Gardam
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • Nearing Ninety: And Other Comedies of Late Life by Judith Viorst
  • A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing 90 by Donald Hall
  • Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God by Joe Coomer
  • Selected Poems: 1988-2013 by Seamus Heaney
  • Nothing to be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes
  • Sapiens by Yuval Harari
  • This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite
  • The Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante
  • Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Life Is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman
  • Little Boy by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  • Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author by Herman Wouk

Of the books that I don’t have colored in the list above, I don’t expect that I’ll even consider reading. I mean, most of the YA fiction listed above that I haven’t read is message-oriented, as are many of the other novels. I might read Gilead but that’s only because I gave a copy to my beautiful wife and her mother for Christmas a couple years ago, so there’s bound to be one or more floating around by the end of my retirement.

Fun fact: Rabbit, Run and Stretching are both at the chairside book accumulation point. I’ve tried to read Rabbit, Run, but I’ve found it odious. And I got Stretching on the indirect advice of my editor. For years, I’ve meant to take up stretching, but I haven’t yet.

At any rate, make of it what you will, the intersection of my reading habits with that of a photographer.

(Link via Althouse.)

Book Report: By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1939, 1981?)

Book coverWhen I read the preceding Little House book, On the Banks of Plum Creek in March, I predicted I’d read the next volume (this one) by summer. I missed that prediction by a couple of days.

You know, as the series progresses, the narrator (“Laura Ingalls,” a lightly fictionalized version of the author) becomes more sophisticated. In this book, she’s on the edge of thirteen. At the onset, the family is still in the house on Plum Creek. The mother (Caroline), Mary, and Carrie suffer from scarlet fever (which has made Mary blind). Relatives from Wisconsin pass through; one of the uncles has a job for the railroad running a grading team at the edge of the railroad construction. The uncle offers Charles a job running the company store with a salary and everything, and Charles takes it. So he goes on to join the railroad workers in North Dakota, and the ladies are to join them when they recover fully.

They get to ride on a train, and Laura has been tasked with describing the scenery to Mary as they pass. They meet with the workers’ camp as it’s being dismantled to move to the shores of Silver Lake, and Laura reconnects with her cousin Lena. The family moves to and they arrive at the shore of Silver Lake before the railroad camp arrives to meet them.

The book explores the environs around Silver Lake. Charles hopes to stake a claim to a homestead, and they find a spot. When the construction workers finish for the year, the camp disbands in the autumn, but the Ingalls get to stay on in a finely constructed and comported home used by the surveyors. When spring comes, a rush of homesteaders appear, and it’s only by the intercession of a previous acquaintance that allows Ingalls to beat some competitors to the claim office to ensure he gets the patch he wants. Then he stakes a claim and builds a building in the suddenly developing town of De Smet, which is constructed seemingly overnight.

As I mentioned, the book’s narrator is more sophisticated; we see some indications, as we did in On the Banks of Plum Creek, that Charles Ingalls is a bit of a dreamer, willing to give up what he has with a chance at something better (which does not always work as planned). Caroline is not so much a “Yes, Charles,” believing unalloyed that everything he does is the best possible decision–there’s a little resignation and acceptance demonstrated. And the stories are moving from the rural/wilderness to the urban landscape. With the next books, they’ll be living outside of town (kind of like in the television show), and I expect that the stories will be more centered on small town life and farming. So they’ll come to align with the stories from John D. Fitzgerald (The Great Brain series) perhaps.

At any rate, I’m still enjoying the series, and they’re quick enough reads when I am trying to pad my annual stats so I don’t have to resort to coloring books (given that this is the 56th book I’ve read this year, I think I’m in good shape). I don’t have the next volumes in my library, so I guess I’ll suspend reading them until such time as I find them on the old childrens’ books shelves (technically, not my to-read shelves) where I collected books I thought my boys might like to read–but they didn’t. In their defense, I got most of them from my aunt when I got Captain’s Courageous, and I didn’t read them either. So maybe I should count them as to-read shelves since it took me almost two years to read Captain’s Courageous, and I’m apparently not above reading children’s books now.

Book Report: Out of Season by Michael Z. Lewin (1984)

Book coverThis book is the bread and butter of 1970s and 1980s midlist genre fiction. It’s toward the sixth book of an eight book series where the seventh and eighth books come at a gap of seven and thirteen years when the first six were within a span of thirteen years. The series character, Albert Samson, is a throwback of a private invesigator who is a bit of a cipher, a guy running around talking to people and taking notes and figuring things out. It might even have been a throwback in the 1980s, actually, since the likes of Robert Crais and Robert B. Parker were writing more vivid, personality-driven detective thrillers.

At any rate, Al Samson is hired by a rich banking family after the wife discovers, in the course of applying for a passport, that her birth certificate is a fake. They want him to look into it and find out why. Meanwhile, a man in a fancy apartment offers to retain him full time indefinitely in a nebulous assignment. During his investigation, he discovers that the woman was raised by an adopted family, and that the birth mother came into some money, and then that the birth mother was a Depression-era singer with a child out of wedlock who then married a society boy and shot him one night. She was acquited in the trial and then disappeared, so the detective has to find out where she is, if she’s still alive.

So the book features the tangled plot of a well-to-do family and layers of deception in the past. Like I said, a throwback. The kind of thing I thought I’d write.

Not a bad read; short, at the 180 page mark of the old timey genre fiction. I wouldn’t mind reading more of the series in time, but to be honest, I probably won’t remember the author’s name to look for more in the line. When my beautiful wife asked me late last week what I was reading, I couldn’t remember the author’s name or book title; all I could remember is that it’s an old school Indianapolis PI.