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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Winter Reads

What is everyone reading in these long insomnial nights?


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I'm working my way through an anthology called The Best American Non Required Reading, 2014.

It's a rather amazing collection of short stories and essays selected by high school students. Topics included Syria, relationships, gods, being a refugee, being a "terrorist," being married to someone in a dream, staying by someone who has been beat up and called names, and so on. The stories come from magazines, web sites, and book excerpts.

The kids had good judgment and chose well. Many of the pieces are thought provoking (being tortured), some are humorous (teaching physics to preschoolers, by taking them to the sun), and so far all have been worth reading.


Also finished a collection of lectures from the Disney studio, to animators working on Snow White-era animation. All sorts of topics presented by experts and experimenters at a time when the studio was buzzing with activity and making great advancements in the art.


Marcel Proust

The Library had an old used copy of volume 1 of the two volume omnibus edition of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, translated in the 1920s by Scott Moncrieff. It's one lf those books like War and Peace that I've always wanted to read. It is densely written, an intricate tapestry of impressions. Sometimes he spends 80 pages at a dinner party at the home of a noble, or an afternoon with a group of girls at the beach. Long involved remembrances of things past, quite literally. But then it's something else too and that's what makes it fascinating, leading you to wonder, as you turn another page, what he's getting at exactly. And then at other times you catch a glimpse. I especially like his portrayals of shallow aristocracy. What a strange time that pre war period was.

I'm about half way through I think, and just started a new volume by a different translator, name of Kilmartin. The names lf everything have changed including the title which is now In Search of Lost Time. This new translator is much more direct in his prose, although everything is still stretched out in long sentences and very long paragraphs. However it's just started to get racy so that should help....

Whether or not I finish this before the end of winter is an open question, but seems doubtful. I have a lot of pages left to read.


Reading in the Dark

Just started it. Not a long book, but humor and horror mixed expertly.

Also read: Below Stairs, an autobiography about life in Domestic Service. Both Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey drew from it. Excellent read.


oh damn!

How could I have forgotten Dr. Sleep? OK, LOTR for now-New Year, then Dr. Sleep, then Clancy. A full load.


Christmas/Winter reads '13-'14

My brother just brought a box of books- sci-fi, fantasy, thriller- so I'll be starting with the LOTR trilogy in one book. Then there's a Clancy quartet which I'm thinking should get me thru late Winter. :)


I'm currently reading "The

I'm currently reading "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tarrt. It's a beautifully written book about a young boy whose mother is killed in an explosion at NYC's Metropolitan Museum. In the chaos following he is instructed by an injured, elderly man to take the priceless painting "The Goldfinch" and keep it safe. It's a big book - 800 pages -but the writing flows easily and is so interesting that you don't feel bogged down by the length of it. I've enjoyed all of her books although this one might be my favorite.
Just finished "Dr. Sleep" by Stephen King- another hefty book (although not the size of the Goldfinch) This is the sequel to the excellent "The Shining" and takes up with Danny Torrance -the little boy at the center of The Shining- when he is an adult with no small amount of residual trauma and power resulting from his earlier life. I think it may be the best thing King has written in a good,long while.



Well, so far Oliver Reed's bio doesn't disappoint at all. I've always had a weakness for awful men and he is no exception. Born with an entitlement conviction to an unstable couple from faded wealth and lineage (Peter the Great among them), Reed set out from the beginning to be a star. Not an accomplished actor, a star. The acting talent was there though- his great grandfather founded RADA and his uncle was the director Carol Reed, so it ran in the family. His uncommon good looks and more than a bit of con artistry helped, too. Like every actor I've known (he pronounced it "act-tor") he was a user, and took everything that came his way- roles, sex partners, drugs, drinks, money, friends, family- indiscriminately and in the firm belief that it all would help him get somewhere. And threw away anything that didn't, or had served its purpose. Which doesn't make me like him any less. He was a rogue but a very affable one. He seemed to have spared nobody, including himself, from his disdain and truly believed life was a farce.

I'm only halfway through but this is another book I don't want to end. As it began with his death while filming "Gladiator", at least that won't be its conclusion. But I've yet to read about his "twinning" with Keith Moon and their adventures, and Keith's death, which I've heard shattered him. I'm just now coming to Ollie's apex in life. I'm going to read the rest very, very slowly indeed.


hey L & C

There seems to be no way to delete a comment. Somehow I doubled the Ollie review and tried to delete it but it only gives an edit option so here's the comment that was the dup of Ollie, edited to say this. ;)


Hedy Lamarr

I saw a fascinating looking book in the window of Everyone's the other day. Given that it's Women's month it seems appropriate to talk about this book and this woman.
I looked at the book just long enough to find out that Lamarr was born in and grew up in Vienna, Austria where her wealthy father encouraged her to be curious about the world and to take herself seriously.
Eventually she came to America and got into show business and became known as "the most beautiful woman in the world", but what was less known is that she had an idea that gave rise to a new radio network - or perhaps a new way of using radio. Hopefully one of you an straighten me out on this.
In any case it sounded like a great story - and I hope soembody gets a chance to read it and report on it at length here!


A Song of Ice and Fire

I'm rereading this because it is easier than plowing through nonfiction.

Why ASOIF instead of some other scifi/fantasy that I haven't yet read?
I'm not sure.
I'm trying to figure out what compels me to follow this series at all. At many points the story feels like a celebration of the worst human behavior that can be imagined. But then I'll remember some of the stories I've heard on the news or seen in a Quentin Tarantino movie and ASOIF seems about on par with those things.
You could look on ASOIF as a curative for all those fantasy stories that have happy endings. There are a lot of endings in ASOIF and none of them happy.


7 Lively Arts

Working my way now through a group of essays by Gilbert Seldes called The 7 Lively Arts.

He makes a spirited defense of popular culture in the mid 1920's, telling his highbrow readers that the "vulgar" films, pop songs, vaudeville acts, and ragtime jazz are actually worthy of enjoyment and should be considered part of our culture.

Fun to see him announce who is talented and will be remembered. In most cases he was right - Chaplin, Keaton, Gershwin, and so on.

He is a bit racist in parts, and tries to argue that white jazz bands are best, despite the better performances of "negro" bands.

We'll see where this goes.


Finishing Off.

Back when it was first released, I took Stephen King's 11/22/63 out of the library, but it being so dense and at times too King-ish, I didn't finish it before returning. Meh, I thought. Whenever. Then my brother Billy and I started sending things to each other, and here it is.

Again, I'm stuck in what I'm sure King is very happy and proud of having written. But this time it's not due anywhere, I've put it down and yet I still want to know what happens. It can wait.

A week ago I received Evil Spirits, the bio of Oliver Reed. I'd ordered it from England several weeks ago and I'm anxious to read it. So all else may come to a standstill for that. Behind that is Jilly Cooper's Class, which I read in college and am looking forward to rereading.


The Folklore of Capitalism

Just finished The Folklore of Capitalism by Thurman W. Arnold. He was a professor at Yale who went on (after writing this) to advise Roosevelt. This is a 1938 edition of a 1937 book, and a hilariously written collection of wry observations about our system of doing things.

Sample chapter:

III. The Folklore of 1937

In which it is explained how the great sciences of law and economics and the little imaginary people who are supposed to be guided by these sciences affect the daily lives of those who make, distribute, and consume our goods.


VII. The Personification of Corporation

In which it is explained how great organizations can be treated as individuals, and the curious ceremonies which attend this way of thinking.


Arnold talks about how we regard businesspeople as we would have looked up to medieval priests; how we hate government projects created with our taxes, but love paying tribute to corporations via high prices; how we see government as wasteful, but private projects that fail are excused, and more.

He observes that we vote against improvements and benefits that would strengthen us now, and our nation in the long term, for very silly reasons:

1. If government conserves our soil from floods and erosion in order to bequeath to posterity a more productive country, our children will be impoverished thereby and have to pay for it through the nose.

2. If government builds a large number of productive public works which can be used by posterity, posterity will be worse off.

3. We cannot afford to put available labor to work because it would burden posterity.

4. We cannot distribute consumer's goods now on hand because that would burden posterity.

5. The less government does about controlling money and credit, the more orderly they become.

6. Credit inflation and depressions would be even worse than they are if the government tried to control them.

7. When a problem arises which concerns the production of goods, the question "Where is the money coming from?" is more important than "Where are the goods coming from?"

Therefore, we do not improve our country, or conserve its resources, or utilize its labor, or run its productive plant to its maximum capacity - out of consideration for our grandchildren.

Great book. It ends with principles of political dynamics. One interesting point - that if a moral organization goes to battle against an organization serving a practical need, the moral organization will appear to have the upper hand. However, the opposition to the organization serving a practcal need will strengthen the group they oppose. The easiest projects are ones in which the morals and the practical need are in line with one another.


Still in use

"1. If government conserves our soil from floods and erosion in order to bequeath to posterity a more productive country, our children will be impoverished thereby and have to pay for it through the nose.

2. If government builds a large number of productive public works which can be used by posterity, posterity will be worse off.

3. We cannot afford to put available labor to work because it would burden posterity."

These are still in use today...in this town as well as at the national level.


Quirky British Comedy of Manners For Downton Abbey Fans

Last night, I finished a pair of Nancy Mitford novels which I believe may have provided some inspiration for the writers of Downton Abbey. The Pursuit of Love and Love In A Cold Climate are hard to characterize in a sentence but generally speaking, they both revolve around affairs of the heart experienced by the various young ladies of the Radlett family, their cousins, and their friends. This makes these books sound like boring romance novels, which they are anything but. Mitford is almost shocking at times with the things her characters come out with. She is no prude and not above using the word "sexual" in a sentence. She's also laugh-out-loud funny. But now that I think of it, they really are romance novels, just unusually good ones.

Both books were published shortly after World War II, and like Downton Abbey, reflect a bit of nostalgia for the good old days of the mid 1930s in which they are set. Given the time of their writing, it's not surprising that one of the love-addled daughters runs off with a communist and various lords occasionally "lose everything."

The narrator has a few tart comments for bankers and the idle rich, and doesn't see her own family's relatively genteel and aristocratic lifestyle as being comparable (they are doing what lords and ladies are supposed to do, in her view, which is take care of the land....)

Great books, but if you can only read one, I'd suggest The Pursuit of Love. Love In A Cold Climate is fun if you've read the other because most of the same characters come back, even the intriguing Lord Merlin...


A long read that spans generations

I’m reading The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz. Years ago I read and enjoyed his Cairo Trilogy so when I found this one at the library I grabbed it. Like the Cairo Trilogy this is a story of many generations of a family, but unlike the Cairo Trilogy the family at the center of this story are poor and live in an alley, one of many that are ruled by clan chiefs. The first chief in this family is a devout and just person, and when he dies his son becomes chief and continues, more or less, his father’s values. I’m now into the third generation and things are starting to change. The new chief is succumbing to the temptations of wealth. I gather that more drama is to come...

Mahfouz is a brilliant storyteller and I’m being transported to one little corner of Egyptian culture. It’s a great book (so far) for people who enjoy this sort of multi-generational saga.


Long reads for long nights

This past holiday I received a gift of Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles. All ten books in one giant format volume and just over 1000 pages. Fabulous unusual fantasy storytelling about a man who's a member of a royal dysfunctional, magickal dynasty. Not terribly contrived, surprisingly humourous, not tough to follow and with a minimum of "specialness" even though it's set in a constructed world. I'm 3/4 through, and am slowing down so as to not end so soon. I do recommend it.

There are still a few weeks left to Winter and I have many more books stacked to read next. What are you reading?



This book is like comfort food to me. I can pick it up anytime and open any page in the book and be immediately pulled in by the story.

It's amazing to me that nobody has ever made a movie from this series. Especially with the CG marvels available to studios now it seems like a natural.


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