weird_O…starts…LATE! ...and is STILL late!

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weird_O…starts…LATE! ...and is STILL late!

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Sep 21, 2015, 1:59pm

Bird's Nest


The artist: Gracie

Editado: Dic 29, 2015, 6:19pm

Welcome to a new thread!

Current Reading


Editado: Sep 21, 2015, 4:46pm

Books read in the First Quarter


January (5 read)
1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1/3/15) (cc9. female author) (ROOT)
2. I Married a Communist by Philip Roth (1/9/15) (ROOT)
3. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (1/14/15) (cc14. non-fiction) ®
4. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1/28/15) (cc23. more than 100 yrs old)
5. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev (1/30/15) (cc13. set in different country)

February (7 read)
6. The Cycle of American Literature by Robert Spiller (2/4/15) (ROOT)
7. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (2/9/15) (AAC—May) (ROOT)
8. Native Son by Richard Wright (2/12/15) (cc50. started but never finished) (ROOT)
9. The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling (2/19/15) (cc7. non-human characters) (ROOT)
10. Henry and June by Anais Nin (2/23/15) (cc26. memoir)
11. Cotton Tenants by James Agee (2/26/15) (ROOT)
12. The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyan by Louis Untermeyer (2/27/15)

March (11 read)
13. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (3/1/15)
14. Penguin Island by Anatole France (3/4/14)
15. The Innocent Voyage (b.k.a. A High Wind in Jamaica) by Richard Hughes (3/7/15)
16. Travels with a Donkey by Robert Louis Stevenson (3/10/15)
17. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas DeQuincey (3/12/15)
18. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler (3/16/15)
19. Peter Ibbetson by George du Maurier (3/19/15)
20. The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham (3/21/15)
21. The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor by Anonymous (3/22/15) (cc27. read in less than a day)
22. Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr. (3/27/15) (cc6. under-30 author)
23. Treasure Island by RLS (3/29/15) (cc33. from my childhood) (ROOT)

Editado: Sep 21, 2015, 5:00pm

Books Read in the Second Quarter


April (13 read)
24. Spartacus by Howard Fast (4/3/15) (cc3. became movie) (ROOT)
25. William Tell by Friedrich Schiller (4/5/15) (cc47. a play)
26. Dangling Man by Saul Bellow (4/8/15) (cc30. published in my birth year--1944) (ROOT) ®
27. The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow (4/9/15) (AAC—December)
28. Flow My Tears Said the Policeman by Philip K. Dick (4/10/15) ®
29. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (4/11/15) (cc5. number in title)
30. Cup of Gold by John Steinbeck (4/15/15) (cc15. popular author's first book) (ROOT) ®
31. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmund Rostand (4/16/15) (cc34. love triangle) (ROOT)
32. Dameon by Hermann Hesse (4/18/15) (ROOT)
33. Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Murello (4/21/15) (ROOT) ®
34. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (4/24/15) (cc2. classic romance) (ROOT)
35. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (4/27/15) (cc29. set somewhere I want to visit) ®
36. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson (4/30/15) ®

May (8 read)
37. Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley (5/4/15) (cc10. mystery or thriller) ®
38. Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis (5/9/15) (cc11. one-word title) (AAC—May) (ROOT) ®
39. Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen (5/12/15) (cc8. a funny book) ®
40. Famous People I Have Known by Ed McClanahan (5/13/15) (cc24. based entirely on cover) (TBR-B) (ROOT) ®
41. The Stories of O. Henry by O. Henry (William Sidney Porter) (5/16/15) (cc12. book of short stories) ®
42. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (5/18/15) (cc19. based on a true story) ®
43. The Light of Day by Eric Ambler (5/26/15) (TBR-B) (ROOT) ®
44. The Commitments by Robby Doyle (5/27/15) (cc32. a trilogy—1st book) (TBR-A) ®
Standoff by Sandra Brown (DNF w/prejudice) (TBR-B)

June (8 read)
45. Sinclair Lewis by Mark Schorer (6/5/15) (cc1. book 500+ pages) (TBR-A) (ROOT) ®
46. The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner (6/8/15) (AAC—June) ®
47. Dorothy and Red by Vincent Sheean (6/16/15) (ROOT) ®
48. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (6/19/15) (cc31. bad reviews) ®
49. Hawk Mountain: A Conservation Success Story by James Brett and Keith Bildstein (6/20/15) ®
50. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry (6/22/15) (TBR-A) (ROOT)
51. Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson (6/24/15) (cc46. author with my initials) (ROOT) ®
52. Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work by Jackson J. Benson (6/30/15) (cc17. recommended by a friend)

Editado: Oct 15, 2015, 9:19pm

Books Read in the Third Quarter


July (9 read)
53. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding (7/2/15) (TBR-A) (ROOT) ®
54. A Bell for Adano by John Hersey (7/3/15) (cc18. Pulitzer Prize winner) (ROOT) ®
55. Joe Hill by Wallace Stegner (7/10/15) (AAC—June) ®
56. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin (7/11/15) (AAC—July) ®
57. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua (7/12/15) (cc40. graphic novel) ®
58. The Unvanquished by William Faulkner (7/15/15) (ROOT) ®
59. The Bounty by Caroline Alexander (7/19/15) (TBR-A) (cc41. by an author I've never read before) (ROOT) ®
60. The Two Mrs. Grenvilles by Dominic Dunn (7/24/15) (cc49. based on or turned into TV show) (ROOT) ®
61. To Engineer Is Human by Henry Petroski (7/31/15) (TBR-A) ®

August (8 read)
62. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (8/3/15) (cc39. with magic) (ROOT)
63. Carrie by Stephen King (8/7/15) (cc36. set in high school) (ROOT) ®
64. The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (8/9/15) (AAC—August) ®
65. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (8/18/15) (TBR-A) (cc42. book owned but unread) (ROOT)
66. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (8/20/15) (cc4. published this year) ®
67. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (8/24/15) (cc44. Translated from another language) (TBR-B) (ROOT) ®
68. The Snapper by Roddy Doyle (8/27/15) (cc32. trilogy—2st book) ®
69. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (8/30/15) (TBR-A) (cc25. supposed to have read in school…but didn't) (ROOT) ®

September (8 read)
70. The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (9/6/15) (AAC—April) ®
71. A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (9/10/15) (cc35. set in future) ®
72. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (9/13/15) (ROOT) ®
73. Rabbet, Run by John Updike (9/16/15) (cc43. set in my hometown) ®
74. Night by Elie Wiesel (9/20/15) (cc38. makes me cry) ®
75. The Red and the Black by Stendhal (9/23/15) (cc37. color in title) (ROOT) ®
76. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor (9/26/15) (AAC—September) ®
77. The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor (9/29/15) (TBR-B) ®

Editado: Dic 29, 2015, 6:22pm


October (8 read)
78. Spook Country by William Gibson (10/3/15) (TBR-B) ®
79. The Van by Roddy Doyle (10/6/15) (cc32. trilogy—3st book) ®
80. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (10/10/15) AAC--October ®
81. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (10/10/15)
82. Quicker than the Eye by Ray Bradbury (10/16/15) (AAC—October) ®
83. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (10/18/15) ®
84. Independence Day by Richard Ford (10/22/15) (AAC—March) ®
85. The Human Stain by Philip Roth (10/30/15) (cc16. an unread book by a favorite author) (ROOT) ®

November (8 read)
86. Benjamin Franklin by Edmund Morgan (11/5/15) (TBR-A) (NF November) ®
87. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (11/6/15) (AAC--November) ®
88. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (11/11/15) (TBR-A) (cc22. scares me—Wharton books almost always go badly) (ROOT)
89. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver (11/13/15) (AAC--November) ®
90. Dr. Mutter's Marvels by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz (11/17/15) (NF November) ®
91. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (11/22/15) (AAC—January)
92. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (11/25/15) (cc48. banned book) ®
93. The Warden by Anthony Trollope (11/27/15) (cc21. Mom's favorite book) ®

94. The Chocolate Trust by Bob Fernandez (12/1/15) (NF November)
95. Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow 12/4/15) (AAC—December) ®
96. Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle 12/13/15) (TBR-B)
97. Plainsong by Kent Haruf (12/17/15) (AAC—Memoriam)
98. The Ambassadors by Henry James (12/19/15) (AAC—February)
99. The March by E. L. Doctorow (12/20/15) (AAC—December)
100. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain (12/25/15) (cc28. antonyms in title) (ROOT)
101. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (12/27/15) (cc45. set during Xmas)
102. The Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson (12/28/15)

Still to Read (as of December 14, 2015)
Not in any particular order

Ditched 22. Food in History by Reay Tannahill (TBR-A) (ROOT) (NF November)
Save for 2016Middlemarch by George Eliot (TBR-A) (cc20. from the botton of TBR list) (ROOT)
21. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (TBR-A) (cc22. scares me—because Wharton books almost always go badly) (ROOT)
20. Benjamin Franklin by Edmund Morgan (TBR-A) (NF November)
Ditched 19. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (TBR-B) (ROOT)
Ditched 18. Socialism by Michael Harrington (TBR-B) (ROOT)
DitchedMartin Eden by Jack London (TBR-B) (ROOT)
17. Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle (TBR-B)
Ditched 16. Serpents of Paradise by Edward Abbey (TBR-B) (ROOT)
Ditched 15. The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul (TBR-B) (ROOT)
14. Spook Country by William Gibson (TBR-B)
13. The Human Stain by Philip Roth (cc16. an unread book by a favorite author) (ROOT)
12. The Warden by Anthony Trollope (cc21. Mom's favorite book)
Ditched 11. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (cc28. antonyms in title) (ROOT) (NF November)
10. The Van by Roddy Doyle (cc32. trilogy—3rd book)
9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (cc45. set during Xmas)
8. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (cc48. banned book)
7. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (AAC—January)
6. The Ambassadors by Henry James (AAC—February)
5. Independence Day by Richard Ford (AAC—March)
Save for 2016Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (AAC—August) (ROOT)
4. Quicker than the Eye by Ray Bradbury (AAC—October)
3. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver (AAC—November)
2. Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow (AAC—December)
1. The March by E.L. Doctorow (AAC—December)

Editado: Sep 21, 2015, 5:22pm

At last report, I had finished reading H. G. Well's The Time Machine, book #72. Since then I've completed Updike's Rabbit, Run and Elie Wiesel's Night, books #73 and #74. I'm 2/3 of the way through The Red and the Black and I'm 3 or 4 chapters into House of Mirth.

I'm falling further behind on book reports. A couple follow.

Sep 21, 2015, 5:28pm

64. The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry Finished 8/9/15


The Last Picture Show is a coming of age story set in a dreary, fading Texas town. The novel follows three teenagers—Sonny, Duane, and Jacy—as they complete high school and prepare…to…well, what? None of them really knows. As the story begins, the two boys are already free of parental oversight (and guidance).

Frank Crawford, Sonny's father, was the high school principal until an auto accident killed his wife and severely injured him. Strung out on prescription pain-killers, unable to return to the school, he's getting by running a domino parlor in the town. Duane's father was killed in an oil rig mishap; his mother lives in a two-room house, caring for her ailing mother, struggling to get by.

Sonny and Duane are living at a rooming house and typically avoid their surviving parents. Both have parttime jobs, Duane as a roughneck, Sonny delivering propane (for a dealer named Fartley). Together they bought an old pickup so they can get around. As the story begins, both have girlfriends, both have raging hormones. Sonny's dating Charlene, a dull, priggish, lumpen classmate. Duane dates Jacy, the spoiled rich girl; Duane expects to marry Jacy after graduation, and that's his only plan, his only topic of thought for the future.

After Sonny breaks up with Charlene, he mopes into the town's all-night café. The night waitress, Genevieve, asks him why he's blue. "There ain't nobody to go with in this town," he says. "Jacy's the only pretty girl in high school, and Duane's got her." To which Genevieve replies: "I'd call that his tough luck. She'll bring him more misery than she'll ever be worth. She's just like her grand¬mother. Besides, I doubt Lois and Gene want her marrying a poor boy."

Lois, Jacy's mother, doesn't much care, she says, but of course she's not taken with Duane. She advises Jacy that "…life is very monotonous. Things happen the same way over and over again….Everything gets old if you do it often enough. I don't particularly care who you marry, but if you want to find out about monotony real quick, just marry Duane."

Lois knows. Though hardly a romantic, her husband Gene provides a very comfortable life. A role model Lois is not; she's a hard drinker and, while she is picky, she sleeps around.

As the story plays on, Jacy does indeed churn a lot of tough luck, for herself as well as Sonny and Duane. Swept into the summer shenanigans—nude pool parties prominent among them—of wealthy, privileged teens in a nearby town, she dumps Duane. But the boy she has her eye on, abruptly marries a rival. She needs attention and will go to extremes to get it.

An upbeat story it is not. Virtually everyone in town is spiritless, struggling, beaten down, enervated, despairing. There are few available jobs of any kind, and certainly no "better jobs." Those that can get away have already done so. Those left behind, like the town, have nothing to look forward to.

Interestingly, McMurty dedicated the book "lovingly…to my home town" (Archer City). That may drip with irony, but McMurty has remained an Archer City resident. Yes, there's a lot to dislike in The Last Picture Show.. Yes, it's often crude, some of the characters are despicable, some are just losers. But it's true to life and well told. I finished the book about six weeks ago, and I still like it.

Sep 21, 2015, 5:40pm

71. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood Finished 9/10/15


A timely book, even if it is 30 years old, The Handmaid's Tale is Margaret Atwood's novel about life in a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Out-of-control pollution is devastating the earth; earthquakes in the western United States have damaged nuclear power plants, allowing radioactivity to escape. Because of sterility caused by this pollution (and drug-resistant strains of VD), the birth rate has plummeted. Food is in short supply. In the midst of the turmoil, control of the U. S. government is seized by a mysterious, anonymous group.

The broad goals of this new regime are irrelevant to the tale's narrator. What is relevant is that women are methodically stripped of most human rights. This nation, known as the Republic of Gilead, is totalitarian, guided by twisted interpretations of the Old Testament. Every citizen is repressed, but women most of all. Women can't own anything, can't have a job, can't vote. They aren't even allowed to read.

Women are rudely, crudely sorted into color-coded roles. The spouses of the elite men, upper managers perhaps, are designated "Wives" and wear blue clothes. Natural and adopted female children are called "Daughters" and dress in white. Spouses of working men are labeled "Econowives" and dress in red, blue, and green smocks. Household workers are designated "Marthas" and wear green clothes. Sterile women, widows, feminists, lesbians, nuns, and politically dissident women are this society's detritus, labeled "Unwomen" and banished "to the Colonies," where they are worked to death or succumb to pollution-induced disease.

The story is told by a 33-year-old woman, married with a daughter of about 8, who had been captured and separated from her family when they tried to sneak across the border into Canada. Do the math: This social rearrangement happens quickly. Within five years perhaps? Even the narrator muses: “It has taken so little time to change our minds about things”.

The tale spools out with intermittent flashbacks, in which we learn about her life "in the time before" and how she's come to be where she is.

Her marriage has been voided (because her husband was divorced) and, because she is judged to be fertile—she has a daughter, doesn't she?—she's offered a role as a "Handmaid." If she rejects it, off to the colonies! A Handmaid is a sort of temporary concubine assigned to an infertile Wife. Every 28 days, the family conducts The Ceremony, in which all in the household—including Marthas and Daughters—gather to hear the man, called "The Commander," read some scripture and lead them in prayer. Then it's off to the bedroom with the Wife, Handmaid, and Commander, where the Commander copulates with the Handmaid as she lies between the spread (but clothed) legs of the Wife. There is no romance, no affection, no foreplay, no kissing or hugging. Get the job done! Make a baby!

The entire concept is corrupt, of course. Failure to become pregnant is tolerated only so long. By definition, Commanders are not sterile, so failure must reside with the Handmaid. Since both Wife and Commander benefit from a pregnancy, both offer the Handmaid opportunities to mate with men other than the Commander. The Commanders do get horny (and visiting diplomats and especially trade emissaries do need entertainment), so private, discrete gentlemen's clubs staffed with Jezebels are government sanctioned.

Is it a spoiler to report that this tale surfaces in 2195 at an academic conference focused on the republic that was known as Gilead? Two scholars present a transcription of a batch of tape cassettes unearthed in Bangor, Maine. The same (unknown) woman's voice is on every cassette, and collectively, her story is reported.

Of course I liked the book.

Sep 21, 2015, 10:22pm

72. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells Finished 9/13/15


At long last, I read The Time Machine. Lists of "gotta-read-these" books typically list it as a stand-alone, but it's shy of 96 pages. A week ago I discovered it was included in a collection of H. G. Wells short stories that was on the shelf. So I read it. Not exactly what I expected, and so much the better.

This is the old story—ha ha; it was published in 1895—of the amateur inventor cobbling together a contraption of his own design (working entirely on his own, of course) to travel through time. A gathering of his friends is briefed on his invention and invited into his shop to inspect it. Then off he goes. Hours later he returns, minus his shoes and rather dusty and rumpled. He reports that he ventured about 100,000 years into the future. He recounts a weeks worth of adventures, including near-death experiences, followed by a quick hop out to the end-of-time. Then back, of course. No one really believes him, of course.

What I didn't expect was a story of devolution, though human history does suggest devolution is constantly at work…and just might prevail. The traveler initially encounters friendly, playful, but profoundly detached creatures called the Eloi. They live among ruins of what once were monumental structures. Their greatest fears are the dark, sleeping outdoors, and being alone. A few days later, the traveler discovers large, lumpen, furry beasts with huge, extremely light-sensitive eyes. Morlocks. By day, they stay in a network of unlighted tunnels (hence their eyes) deep underground; by night, they roam the surface, looking for Eloi to eat. Their efforts to capture him suggest he looks pretty tasty to them.

It's a pretty good yarn, told in that 19th century British reserve. I'm glad I finally read it.

Sep 22, 2015, 6:48pm

Hi Bill! Thanks for stopping by my thread which prompted me to come look you up. Great reading here. I loved The Handmaid's Tale when I finally read it (last year, I think).

I've dropped a star on your thread and look forward to following along from now on.

Sep 22, 2015, 7:51pm

>11 katiekrug: Oh please do come back. I kinda go in fits and starts. But it's nice to have some foot traffic.

Sep 23, 2015, 8:42pm

Just finished # 75: Stendhal's The Red and the Black. :-)

Guess I can just pack stuff up and go hibernate until January....

Sep 24, 2015, 2:38pm


Sep 24, 2015, 2:50pm

I've still not read The Handmaid's Tale, must do, at some point. Congrats on the 75 too.

And c'mon, no hibernation permitted. Onwards and upwards!

Sep 24, 2015, 2:57pm

Hi Bill

What an interesting thread you have. Your reviews are exceptionally well written, the images are wonderful, and the conversation flows freely! I'll be sure to visit more often. I'm still strugging seven months post surgery. I'm back at Lehigh, most days full time. I haven't read as much this year as previous years. I think I will make the 75 mark.

In the meantime, I want to let you know that the next Bethlehem library sale is December 2 and 5th. I'm wondering if you might be interested in a mini meet up on the 5th. I'll connect with Diane to see if she can join us. I can also post this on the meet up tread to see if others are interested. Bethlehem is pretty in December. I'm thinking that we can go to the sale, and then perhaps have lunch at Hotel Bethlehem. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Sep 24, 2015, 3:01pm

>1 weird_O: The artist: Gracie
Gracie is talented.

Congrats on 75.

Sep 24, 2015, 3:43pm

Congrats on reaching 75, Bill!

I remember getting a kick out of The Time Machine, too. Glad you found it to be a pretty good yarn.

A few years ago I read The Charterhouse of Parma and had a "meh" reaction. Periodically I think about giving The Red and the Black a go. I believe Al Gore identified it as his favorite book.

Sep 24, 2015, 3:52pm

Happy New Thread, Bill! love the artwork and I tip my cap to young Gracie!

Good reviews of The Last Picture Show & The Handmaid's Tale. I am a big fan of both books. I really enjoy your review style and look forward to more of them.

And congrats on hitting the Mighty 75 in September! Quite an accomplishment.

Sep 24, 2015, 8:41pm

>16 Whisper1: Thanks so much for your kind comments. Retirement offers a lot of reading time; I hit 80 last year, and I may get to 100 this year. Next year, I'm not going to commit myself to so many specific titles at the outset, so I can be more serendipitous.

Mini-meetup sounds excellent. Book sale plus lite lunch sounds great.

Sep 24, 2015, 8:42pm

>14 drneutron: Thanks. Took me all year to get 80 books read in 2014.

Sep 24, 2015, 8:46pm

>15 charl08: Thank you, Charlotte. Don't worry, my wife won't take hibernation lying down. I gotta get up every morning to make her espresso. :-)

Sep 24, 2015, 8:55pm

>18 jnwelch: Ha ha; I had a "meh" reaction to The Red and the Black. It had some good passages, but the politics of France during the 1820s, holy smokes. Couldn't quite follow that thread of the story. I guess I'm not surprised Mr. Gore favorited it.

Sep 24, 2015, 8:57pm

Thanks, Katherine. For me and for Gracie.

Sep 25, 2015, 9:43am

>23 weird_O: Oh thank goodness; I couldn't follow that aspect of The Red and the Black, either. And yeah, I'd say "meh" is just about right.

Editado: Sep 26, 2015, 10:16am

Another library sale (last week), another stack o' reading. Including the 2014 Man Booker winner and five past Pulitzer prize winners. $34 and change.

Sep 26, 2015, 11:00am

Ooo that's an enviable stack. Lots o BBs in there

Sep 26, 2015, 1:18pm

Wow, Bill! That is a helluva haul! No, wonder you are gloating. Good to see the Doctorow on there, since he will be closing out the AAC. I liked that book too. You have Russo ready for next year's AAC, along with the Steinbeck & Tyler. I have not read the Russo.

I loved Oscar Wao. I have still not read Pynchon.

Sep 26, 2015, 4:17pm

Crumbs what a lot of books. I am feeling pleased with myself for pushing some in the other direction (delivered to the local charity shop).

Sep 28, 2015, 2:55pm

Great haul, Bill. Lots of ones to get excited about in there, but of the recent ones, I'm glad to see you got a copy of Narrow Road to the Deep North. What a book.

Sep 28, 2015, 4:18pm

>27 mahsdad: Thanks. I get into the door to the sales room and I also get giddy. Also, my wife would say, carried away. At some point, I'm going to figure out what LTers mean by BBs. Book Bullets, I believe, but what does that mean?

>28 msf59: It is a haul, Mark. I now have three unread Doctorows: World's Fair, The March, and now Homer & Langley. Don't know if I can get all three read in December or not. The Steinbeck is simply getting a sound hardcover edition of a title I read long ago in pbk that I have since lost. The Russo is an unknown; I know he got the Pulitzer in '02 for Empire Falls, but haven't heard one way or another about anything else he's written. Be a surprise when I get to it in 2016. Pynchon: Can anyone really read (and understand) him. Yes, The Crying of Lot 49. But Gravity's Rainbow? Mason & Dixon is a wheel chock. I'm excited about a lot of these books.

>29 charl08: Despite what my wife says, we've got lots of room for these (and a lot more). I'll part with dupes and with those that're total crap. My sister-in-law is a big supported of her town's library, and I've delivered things--several boxes of books--to her.

>30 jnwelch: And last but never least, Joe, thanks for stopping by. Narrow Road... is one of my prizes. I had to pay twice as much for it as for any of the other hardcovers: *snork* $2. (I've always wanted to let out one of those "snorks.") (-:

Sep 29, 2015, 4:23pm

>31 weird_O: BB - In my mind it LT shorthand for I've just been hit by that suggestion. You are putting book bullets out there when you show your pictures, or recommend a book, or post a "best of" list. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they miss. I think with this group, we're all pretty good shots and there are a lot of hits.

Sep 29, 2015, 5:14pm

>32 mahsdad: Ok! I got it now. Thanks. Hope none of them drew blood.

Editado: Sep 29, 2015, 11:02pm

>26 weird_O: Is this book haul from the Bethlehem library sale? What great books!

Editado: Sep 30, 2015, 12:31pm

>34 Whisper1: Yes, it is, Linda. Actually, one is missing from the stack--The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. My wife was reading it. I should add that Judi's read several from that pile:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Dog Years by Mark Doty
Izzy & Lenore by Jon Katz
My Antonia by Willa Cather
She's currently reading The King's Speech.

I have read zilch from the pile, though Doctorow's Homer & Langley and Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun will be read by me before the year ends.

ETCorrect: Actually, I have read a book from this pile: Night by Elie Wiesel. Finished it 9/20/15. Ahh. So soon I forget.

Sep 30, 2015, 9:42am

Finished Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor last Saturday. I really liked it; 'twas a hoot. Hope to have my book report posted later today.

Last night I finished Garrison Keillor's The Book of Guys, a collection of stories published in the '90s. Okay, not great. It was on my TBR Challenge "B" List.

Rather than go back to House of Mirth, I started William Gibson's Spook Country, which I am sure I'll zip right through. Roddy Doyle's The Van is in the on-deck circle.

I do wish I could get enthused by Wharton; her prose is marvelous. But so many of her stories are such downers.

Sep 30, 2015, 10:15am

Morning Bill! That is good news about Wiseblood. I am not sure if you are much a film-lover but if you can find the film adaptation, try to do so.

House of Mirth is one of my favorites. I don't feel like she is as much of a "downer", as say...O'Connor. LOL.

I have still not read Gibson. Bad Mark.

Sep 30, 2015, 10:43am

>36 weird_O: Good to see someone else reading William Gibson, Bill. Yeah, I'm sure you'll zip through Spook Country. I liked his most recent one, Peripheral, a lot.

Sep 30, 2015, 8:22pm

76. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor Finished 9/26/15


Southern gothic! Grotesques! Sinister stuff! Flannery O'Connor! D I S T U R B I N G…yet comic. In so many ways, Wise Blood is a hoot, even though its author has a serious intent.

As the novel begins, the main character, Hazel Motes, takes a train to Taulkinham in an unidentified state in the Old South.

Okay, okay!! Just stop a minute. Say that name again. Hazel…Motes. Yes, Hazel is a man, and yes, that's a little weird, but think about that name Motes. Motes. What comes to my mind is the Biblical injunction about a mote in the eye. The novel's author, Flannery O'Connor, is renown for her biblical themes. So I googled "a mote in the eye" and with little effort ended up at Matthew 7:3-5, which in the King James Bible reads:

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Hmmm, is this guy Motes a hypocrite? Does he have impaired vision? Note that by page 3, O'Connor is calling him "Haze," perhaps another indication he doesn't see clearly.

Now where were we? Oh, yeah, on the train with Haze. He's withdrawn and taciturn. Wearing a "glaring blue" suit, the price tag still stapled to a sleeve, and holding a black, wide-brimmed hat, it strikes many observers that he's a preacher. (He denies it.) When a fellow passenger tries to start a conversation, he says to her, "I reckon you think you been redeemed." When she doesn't respond, he repeats, "I reckon you think you been redeemed." A short time later, he's seated in the dining car with a different passenger, to whom he says, "If you've been redeemed, I wouldn't want to be." She laughs, and he asks, "Do you think I believe in Jesus? Well, I wouldn't even if He existed. Even if He was on this train."

Later, sleeping in his berth, he dreams about his grandfather, who was a preacher, a circuit preacher traveling around three Tennessee counties and using his car as a pulpit from which to harangue passers-by. From his grandfather, Haze inherited "a strong confidence in his power to resist evil." He had decided early in his life that he didn't need Jesus; it was "a deep black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin."

Nevertheless, Motes has redemption, Jesus, and preaching weighing on his mind, one way or another. Clearly, it's a focus of this novel. So too is faulty conviction and faulty vision. During his dream, O'Connor tells us that "…the Bible was the only book he read. He didn't read it often but when he did he wore his mother's glasses. They tired his eyes so that after a short time he was always obliged to stop." And as the story progresses, we see how stubborn (and wrong) he is.

Once he gets to Taulkinham, he finds the name and address of a prostitute in the railroad station bathroom, rides to her place in a taxi whose driver insists Motes IS a preacher ("It's a look in your face somewheres"), and is welcomed into her bed ("That's okay, son. Momma don't mind if you ain't a preacher"). The next day Motes walks the streets of Taulkinham where he's ensnared by a teen named Enoch Emery and by a blind man rattling a tin cup while his young female companion distributes leaflets. The former sticks to Haze like a burr. He's new to the town himself, has no friends (though he does have a job as a guard at the city zoo), and thinks everyone in the town looks like "all they want to do is knock you down." The latter asks why Haze is following him, and as he and the girl amble away, he needles and goads him. "I can smell the sin on your breath." And: "I can hear the urge for Jesus in {your} voice." And: "Listen boy, you can't run away from Jesus. Jesus is a fact." And: "Some preacher has left his mark on you. Did you follow for me to take it off or give you another one?"

Asa Hawk is this preacher's name; the girl is, he asserts, his daughter, named Sabbath Lily Hawk. (I like the idea of a blind man being a Hawk; hawks have remark vision.) Haze is very curious about him, as well as about his peculiar "daughter." Before long, Haze has moved into their boarding house, and every day, he knocks at their door but is turned away. Sabbath Lily confides to Asa that she is drawn to Haze's eyes. "I like his eyes…They don't look like they see what he's looking at but they keep on looking."

About this time, Haze buys a derelict rat-colored Essex automobile, and he uses it as a pulpit—just like his grandfather—to preach about the Church without Christ. The first time Enoch sees him preaching from atop the Essex, he hears Haze shout: "The Church Without Christ don't have a jesus but it needs one! It needs a new jesus! It needs one that's all man, without blood to waste, and it needs one that don't look like any other man so you'll look at him. Give me such a jesus, you people." Enoch has a "Eureka moment." He knows where this figure is! He knows it is "the new jesus." He can feel it in his blood because Enoch knows he is blessed with "wise blood." It drives his life, telling him when to act and when to wait. And his blood is surging, driving him to act.

1930 Essex sedan with an oval rear window; not rat-colored or derelict.

Haze preaches every evening, parking his car right outside a movie theater, so he can address young and old as they emerge from the show. One evening he has a disciple, a heavy-set fellow who expects to pump up the crowd and, in the bargain, collect some donations.The disciple identifies himself as Onnie Jay Holy, but soon acknowledges his name really is Hoover Shoats (need I point out that a shoat is a young pig). When Haze chases him away, he turns up the next night, standing on the sidewalk next to a duplicate of Haze's Essex complete with a Haze doppelganger standing on the hood.

Still ahead is GONGA! Giant Jungle Monarch, the shrunken man-doll from the zoo museum, a landlady in love, quick-lime, barbed-wire chest-wrap, the acceptance of redemption, and the end of the novel. But if you are at all like me, it will live on in your head, challenging you to sort it all out.

..Wise Blood begs for a lurid cover, but these are pretty tame.

Oct 1, 2015, 7:06am

I confess that I have not read a Flannery O'Connor. Congratulations on reading 75 books! Nice haul from the library sale. All Quiet on the Western Front was one I really enjoyed. I'm a fan of Anne Tyler too. Lots of variety there. Great review of Wise Blood - you have me almost convinced to try the book.

Editado: Oct 1, 2015, 7:24am

Great review of Wiseblood, Bill! Big Thumb! You make these a multi-media adventure and I love it. I also better find a copy of this one.

Oct 1, 2015, 9:02am

Yeah, that really is quite the review. :-) And the images enhance it.

Oct 2, 2015, 1:16pm

>26 weird_O: Stack envy! So colorful and will give you many happy hours immersed in those pages. I haven't gotten to my Flannery O'Connor yet. I may cheat a bit and just choose one of the stories from A Good Man is Hard to Find. At least for now so I can get started on Ray Bradbury. He is a sure thing for me.

Oct 2, 2015, 4:53pm

>40 vancouverdeb: Thanks for looking in. I started to listen to All Quiet on the Western Front, borrowed from a library, but found myself zoning out. So I'm pumped to now have a good hardcover copy. I don't know if I'll wedge it in this year anymore, but certainly I'll read it early next year.

>43 Donna828: Thanks for stopping by, Donna. Bradbury IS a sure thing. I've just got to find the right title.

>41 msf59: >42 qebo: Glad you like my weird book reports.

Now all-a-yas get busy reading Wise Blood. It's not even 250 pages.

Oct 2, 2015, 5:04pm

77. The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor Finished 9/29/15


Garrison Keillor is surely best known for his multifaceted role with "Prairie Home Companion," the long-running NPR show. Material created for the show—for example, the letters from Lake Woebegone—has been collected into books. The Book of Guys is a 1993 collection of short stories written primarily for The New Yorker.

A bought a jacket-less hardcover edition at a library sale, figuring it was cheap and would be good light reading. I alternated reading chapters in The Red and the Black and The House of Mirth with stories in this book. Between meal snacks, so to speak. Ease to read, no heavy intellectual lifting, many chuckles.

My mind's ear heard many of these stories being read/performed on PHC. "Lonesome Shorty" is one:

The summer before last, I was headed for Billings on my horse Old Dan, driving two hundred head of the ripest-smelling longhorns you ever rode downwind of, when suddenly here come some tumbleweeds tumbling along with a newspaper stuck inside—I had been without news for weeks so I leaned down and snatched it up and read it trotting along, though the front page was missing and all there was was columnists and the Lifestyle section, so bouncing along in a cloud of manure I read an article entitled "43 Fabulous Salads to Freshen Up Your Summertime Table" which made me wonder if my extreme lonesomeness might not be the result of diet. Maybe I'm plumb loco, but a cowboy doesn't get much fiber and he eats way too much beef. You herd cattle all day, you come to despise them, and pretty soon, by jingo, you have gone and shot one, and then you must eat it, whilst all those cattle tromping around on the greens takes away your taste for salads, just like when you arrive at a creek and see that cattle have tromped in the water and drunk from it and crapped in it, it seems to turn a man toward whiskey.

I thought to myself, Shorty, you've got to get out of this cowboy life. I mentioned this to my partner, old Eugene, and he squinted at me and said, "Eeyup."

There's some verse, such as "Casey at the Bat (Road Game)", with Casey playing for the visiting team. For those of us who remember when George H. W. Bush was president, Keillor imagines him dealing with an invasion of Chicago by "hordes of Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Hloths, Wendells, and Vandals." He has fun bringing Greek gods up to date in "Zeus the Lutheran" and "The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus."

…He heard the unmistakable clip-clomp-clomp of the sensible shoes of the Muse of maturity, Gladys, clambering up the steps, clipboard in hand, knapsack on her back, wearing a frumpy brown dress with sweat stains under the arms. She blew a hard tweet on her whistle and cried, "Climb off that girl, Gramps, and put down the beverage. And brace yourself for a major news item," and then she broke it to him hard. He was fifty. Fifty years old.

Dionysus sat up—"What?" he said, letting go of the supple young woman. "Fifty. Ha! I'm immortal! Ageless! You can look it up!"

....My book doesn't have a jacket. Try one of these instead.

Oct 3, 2015, 2:47pm

74. Night by Elie Wiesel Finished 9/20/15


Elie Wiesel was 15 years old in early 1944 when Hungarian authorities rounded up Jewish families in Sighet, Transylvania, and moved them into two new ghettos. In May, the Hungarians allowed the German army to empty these ghettos and move the Jews, among them Wiesel, his parents, and his three sisters, to Auschwitz-Birkenau. A year later, U.S. troops liberated the concentration camp at Buchenwald. Elie was the only family member still alive.

Night is Wiesel's short but justly famous account of his family's ordeal during the final 12 months of the war in Europe. He begins with his friendship with Moishe the Beadle, who was teaching him "the Zohar, the Kabbalistic works, the secrets of Jewish mysticism." One day, all the foreign Jews, Moishe included, were rounded up by the Hungarian police, herded into cattle cars, and shipped away. Amid the tears, Wiesel heard someone sigh, "What do you expect? That's war…" Within days, the deportees were forgotten.

Months later, Moishe the Beadle reappeared outside the synagogue. The train he was on crossed into Poland, he told people, and there the Gestapo took charge. The Jews were ordered off the train and trucked into a forest, where they were forced to dig trenches: their own graves. The Gestapo murdered them all. Moishe suffered a leg wound, but was left for dead. Upon his return to Sighet, Wiesel explains, Moishe went from family to family, telling his story and warning of the fate that awaited all Jews. "Even I did not believe him," Wiesel says. It was 1942.

In the spring of 1944, Wiesel reports, "The people were saying, 'The Red Army is advancing with giant strides…Hitler will not be able to harm us, even if he wants to…' " Shortly thereafter, all Sighet's Jews were entrained for Auschwitz. Once there, they were sorted—"Men to the left! Women to the right!" Wiesel saw his mother and sisters moving away from him and his father. "I didn't know that this was the moment in time and the place where I was leaving my mother…forever." But he was able to stay with his father. For months, they labored in a work camp, doing nothing productive, it seems, other than wearing themselves down. Eventually, the prisoners as well as the guards could hear cannon fire. The Russians were very near!

The German response was to move the prisoners west. On foot. Mid-winter. Snow falling heavily. All the prisoners lined up in ranks, cellblock by cellblock, awaiting their turn to march out of the camp; Wiesel and his father were in block 57. As they marched, the SS increased the pace; soon they were practically running. Anyone not sustaining the pace was shot. "Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of the pleasure. If one of us stopped for a second, a quick shot eliminated the filthy dog." Wiesel thought of himself. "I shivered with every step. Just a few more meters and it will be over. I'll fall. A small red flame…A shot…Death enveloped me, it suffocated me. It stuck to me like glue. I felt I could touch it." Only the presence of his father beside him prevented him from falling. "I had no right to let myself die. What would he do without me? I was his sole support."

The descent continued, even after reaching a new camp, Buchenwald. Wiesel's father was failing. "He had become childlike: weak, frightened, vulnerable." More and more, the son was feeling guilt: "I gave him what was left of my soup. But my heart was heavy. I was aware that I was doing it grudgingly." Then other prisoners turned against the old man; he couldn't "drag himself outside to relieve himself." A block leader, himself a prisoner, counselled the son: "In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others. Not even your father. In this place, there is no such thing as father, brother, friend." One evening, an SS guard, enraged by the suffering father's moans, clubbed his head. By morning, he was dead and gone, a new prisoner in his place.

By early April 1945, the Allies were closing in on the camp. The SS ordered the camp's Jews into the Appelplatz, with plans to shoot them. But word was spread, and the prisoners defied the order. Confusion and defiance reigned. The camp's organized resistance emerged from "underground" to fight the guards with guns and grenades, driving them away. Within hours, the first U.S. Army tank rolled into camp. The prisoners were free. Elie Wiesel was 16.

Buchenwald concentration camp, 1945. Wiesel is in the second row from the bottom, seventh from the left, next to the bunk post. From Wikipedia

Oct 3, 2015, 7:08pm

Great new thread, Bill! Gracie is a very talented artist; thanks for posting her work on your thread, and I hope that you continue to do so. I thoroughly enjoyed your review of Wise Blood, a book that I also loved. Reading your comments make me want to read it again now.

Oct 3, 2015, 9:23pm

What an amazing review of Night. Your writing is crisp, clear and very detailed. I'm sure Professors MacFadden and Sullivan would be very proud of you!

I'm anxious to hear your comments when you finish reading Johnny Got His Gun. In my opinion, it is the most serious anti-war books I've ever read. It shook me to the core when I read it ever so long ago in my college freshman English class.

Happy Weekend to you Bill. Diane connected with me. She is not a member of the 75 challenge group, but she and I shared posts awhile back because we share so many books and our reading tastes are similar. She is now retired, but worked in the Lehigh Valley. She lives in New Jersey, a hop, skip and a jump away from Bethlehm. She will be meeting with us on December 5th at the Bethlehem Library sale.

Oct 4, 2015, 9:54pm

>47 kidzdoc: Hi, Darryl. Glad you could drop in.

>48 Whisper1: Thanks for the compliments. Not sure when I'll get to Johnny Got his Gun. It's been on by "Wanted!" list for several years; I am glad to have found it.

Looking forward to meeting up with you and now Diane.

Oct 4, 2015, 10:01pm

Just found your thread, and haven't had a chance to read all your reviews, but it looks like there's some very interesting and thoughtful commentary here...I'll be back!

Oct 5, 2015, 9:39am

>50 laytonwoman3rd: Oh sure, sure. "I'll be back!" I've heard THAT one before.

Oct 5, 2015, 11:17am

>51 weird_O: No, I am. I love your review of Wise Blood.

Garrison Keillor has never worked for me in print. I love his radio show, and "It's been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon" was the beginning of many a bedtime story for my daughter in her adolescent years. We had boxes of cassette tapes with the collections of those stories, and after she was "too old" for bedtime stories, she continued to listen to those night after night. As my husband worked for a local NPR/PBS station, we had occasion to see Keillor in person (solo, not as part of the Prairie Home Companion show) several times, and to "meet and greet" him at the usual reception before or after. He's incredibly shy in person, and not chatty at all.

Oct 5, 2015, 4:23pm

>52 laytonwoman3rd: Swell to see you back! Yipee!

Editado: Oct 5, 2015, 11:24pm

73. Rabbit, Run by John Updike Finished 9/16/15


Rabbit, Run is the novel that launched John Updike's long, celebrated writing career. Though not his first novel, it is the one that prompted critics and readers to take notice of the young Harvard grad and staff writer for The New Yorker. The character it introduced—Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom—would return (once a decade) in three more novels, two of which earned Updike Pulitzer Prizes.

Reactions to the novel were mixed then and now. It was common to dismiss Updike as a magnificent wordsmith with, well, "nothing to say." More recently, organizations given to such exercises—Time and the Modern Library—named it one of the 100 best American novels of, roughly, the 20th century. Time's citation called Rabbit "ignorant" and cited his "feeling trapped in a job, a marriage, a town, a family that bore him… Rabbit is not a character calculated to inspire affection, but he is an unflinchingly authentic specimen of American manhood, and his boorishness makes his rare moments of vulnerability and empathy that much more heartbreaking."

The story follows Rabbit through a marital crisis largely of his own making. In high school, Rabbit was a basketball star, the leading scorer on the team; in real life, he's on the bench. Shortly after high school, he got his girl-friend, the daughter of a locally prominent car dealer, pregnant. They married. Now their son is a toddler, Janice is pregnant, and Rabbit is "demonstrating" a vegetable peeler for a living. He's blithely self-centered; Janice is alcoholic. One day on his walk home from "work," he encounters a group of lads shooting hoops at a playground. He muscles in on the game and demonstrates, if only to himself, that "Wow, Man! I've still got it!" Puffed up and proud, he gets home and…his supper isn't cooking, Janice is tipsy, their son is at his parents, and their car is parked at her parents. Miffed, he walks the several blocks to the car, but instead of then picking up young Nelson, he heads away, east, to the county line, then south…running.

Rabbit drives all night and returns to town by morning, but not to his wife. Instead, he drives to the clapped-out former factory building—now a "clubhouse"—where his high school coach, now almost a bum, is living. As Rabbit approaches,

Tothero says the perfect thing. "Harry," he says, "the great Harry Angstrom." He puts out his hand for Harry to seize and with the other squeezes the boy's arm in a clasp of rigour. It comes back to Rabbit how he always had his hands on you. Tothero just stands there holding on and looking at him, smiling crookedly, the nose bent, one eye wide open and the other heavy-lidded. His face has grown more lopsided with the years. He is not going bald evenly; brushed strands of grey and pale brown streak the top of his skull.

Rabbit blurts out that he wants advice, then confesses that he what he really needs is a place to sleep. He's left his wife, he tells the coach.

"It's Janice Springer, isn't it?" Tothero asks.

"Yeah. God she's dumb. She really is."

"Harry, that's a harsh thing to say. Of any human soul."

Then Tothero says:

"You asked me for two things…Two things. A place to sleep, and advice. Now, Harry, I'll give you the place to sleep provided, provided, Harry, that when you wake up the two of us have a serious, a long and serious talk about this crisis in your marriage…"

"Yeah, but I don't think I can. I mean I'm not that interested in her. I was, but I'm not."

The coach quickly provides Rabbit a place to sleep, and that night, despite the earlier tough talk, the coach introduces Rabbit to a girl named Ruth, who is a part-time hooker. Once at her apartment he settles in.

"You were a beautiful piece," he says from the pillow listlessly, and touches her soft side. Her flesh still soaks in the act; it ebbs slower in her.

"I had forgotten," she says.

"Forgot what?"

"That I could have it too."

"What's it like?"

"Oh. It's like falling through."

"Where do you fall to?"

"Nowhere. I can't talk about it."

He kisses her lips; she's not to blame. She lazily accepts, then in an after-flurry of affection flutters her tongue against his chin.

He loops his arm around her waist and composes himself against her body for sleep.

The next day, he sneaks back to his own apartment to leave the car for Janice and to collect clothes and toiletries. As he leaves, he is accosted by a man who introduces himself as Rev. Jack Eccles. He's pastor of the church Janice's parents attend and wants to facilitate reconciliation. Eccles' efforts take him into the homes of Rabbit's parents as well as Janice's parents. When Eccles arrives at the Springer home, Mrs. Springer is watching Nelson and another toddler while their mothers are shopping. He joins her on the screened-in back porch; the two boys are in the yard.

"Nelson! Stop that this minute!" She turns rigid in the glider but does not rise to see what is making the boy cry…Mrs Springer's voice leaps to a frantic hardness and cuts through the screen: ''Did you hear me I said stop that bawling!'

"The boy's taken his truck," {Eccles} tells Mrs Springer.

"Well let him get it himself," she says. "He must learn. I can't be getting up on these legs and running outside every minute; they've been at it like that all afternoon."

At the Angstrom home, opinion is divided. Rabbit's mother defends her son, telling Eccles Rabbit has nothing to apologize for, nothing to be ashamed of. He asserts that Janice is shy.

"Shy! She wasn't too shy to get herself pregnant so poor Hassy has to marry her when he could scarcely tuck his shirt-tail in…These little women are poison. Mincing around with their sneaky eyes getting everybody's sympathy. Well she doesn't get mine; let the men weep. To hear her father-in-law talk she's the worst martyr since Joan of Arc."

"Well uh, what does Mr Ang¬strom think Harry should do?"

"Crawl back. What else? He will, too, poor boy. He's just like his father underneath. All soft heart."

When Rabbit's father arrives from work, he convinces Eccles how terrible he feels about the split.

Earl Angstrom has a grey, ragged look. This business has blighted him. He thins his lips over his slipping teeth like a man with stomach trouble biting back gas. He is being nibbled from within. Color has washed from his hair and eyes; like cheap ink. A straight man, who has measured his life with the pica-stick and locked the forms tight, he has returned in the morning and found the type scrambled.

"I just don't see how Harry could make such a mess. As a boy he was always so trim. He wasn't like other boys, sloppy. He was a neat worker…In my opinion a good swift kick is what he needs."

In the end Rabbit gets several good swift metaphorical kicks from tragedies in which he is complicit. But to no lasting effect. He goes back to Janice, he slides into a car sales job at one of his father-in-law's lots, yet he just can't be still. He drops in on Ruth and pledges his love to her. But then he runs. "Ah: runs. Runs."

Oct 5, 2015, 4:42pm

Well, I've finally found something positive I can say about Updike, and it's this: He certainly got better-looking as he got older!

That's a wonderful review of Rabbit, Run. But tell me, did you LIKE it? His books just make me feel like I walked into an adolescent boy's bedroom and found his mother had decided never to pick up a dirty pair of socks or run the vacuum in there again.

Oct 5, 2015, 5:07pm

Ha! Well said, Linda.

That is a well done review, Bill, and I wondered the same thing as Linda. This one and others of his didn't appeal to me at all.

Oct 5, 2015, 6:56pm

Good review of Rabbit, Run, Bill. We featured Updike, in last years AAC, to mixed results. Yes, there was some booing and hissing too!

Oct 6, 2015, 6:25am

Well, I'm skipping that last review as I haven't read the Rabbit series yet, but plan on it soonish. I know lots of folks don't like his stuff, including some people whose opinions on reading I take pretty seriously *cough*laytonwoman3rd*cough*. In general, though, I tend to revel in reading works that divide opinion in this way, so I'm looking forward to it. Ha!

Oct 6, 2015, 8:18am

Nice review of Rabbit, Run, Bill. I'm still undecided on whether I want to read this series or not...which means that I probably won't, given all the books I'm far more interested in getting to.

Oct 6, 2015, 8:29am

>58 scaifea: Do it before Charlie reaches the hormonal years...

Oct 6, 2015, 12:33pm

>55 laytonwoman3rd: But tell me, did you LIKE it? That's sort of a trick question, isn't it? The simple answer is: Yes, I did like it. I admire Updike's accomplishment.

None of the primary characters are thoroughly likable. Rabbit is certainly a dirtball. Janice is irksome. I feel oh so sorry for Ruth as she deals with Rabbit's unconscionable manipulations. But she's as undecisive as he is; come on, girl, stand up for yourself! (Oh, and stop the hooking!) Jack Eccles? He's diligent but ineffectual. Marty Tothero? Either set of parents?

None likable, but certainly all authentic. They're familiar.

The book is a tour de force in capturing the small-city culture of 1959. It hits quite a few concerns of that day (and of today), particularly related to sex—orgasm, oral sex, abortion, the suspicion of homosexuality (which of course is not openly discussed). Everyone's self-absorption, too, is out there. Lack of compassion.

Yeah, it is seemy, frustrating, revolting, angering. But it is authentic. Yeah, I like it.

Now. In that light, how do I feel about that Ol' Bat Edith Wharton? Hmmm.

Oct 6, 2015, 4:14pm

Aw, you guys! >56 jnwelch: >57 msf59: >59 kidzdoc: It's okay. You don't HAVE to read Updike. Read whatever suits yis. Always, you'll have that void in your reading experience where Updike could have, should have fit. But you know, it is your choice, yours alone. I'll not going to pressure you, or belittle your reading choices, or tell you what to read. If you want to miss out...

>58 scaifea: I was going to say that you shouldn't let that *snort* ol' Laytonwoman3rd *snort* push you around, reading-wise. Ah but you probably won't like his stuff. Try some short stories. Get Pigeon Feathers and read "A & P." My retired English-teacher friend tells me that's Updike's most-anthologized short story.

Oct 6, 2015, 4:17pm

78. Spook Country by William Gibson Finished 10/3/15


I enjoyed this book, though it isn't really William Gibson's best effort. It has a topical subject, clever and twisted plot, captivating characters (though only marginally believable), high tech wizardry, sinister stuff, humor. What's going on here? Who are the good guys?

It is formulaic—Gibson's formula. As in his other books, he switches viewpoint and character from chapter-by-chapter, laying out aspects of the story, making you wonder: How will all come together? It does, of course, come together. Unlike other Gibsons I've read, here he dishes out enough info for you to scope out the denouement, though not all the particulars. In the end, it is calculated to satisfy, with the likable characters collecting their rewards and the bad guys collecting their just desserts.

In Spook Country a prime question is whether or not it's possible to get lost, to just sneak off by yourself, with no one who knows you being able to locate you. And with those who see you not knowing who you are. GPS is central to the story. In years past, Hollis Henry, the protagonist, was a singer in a cult band called Curfew. Now she's eaking out a living as a free-lance writer, and as the story begins, she's on assignment in L.A., developing an article on "locative art" for a mysterious London-based magazine called Node. GPS, which at this time—2000—is strictly military, is pivotal to the art, since the locative artist creates a virtual-reality object or figure in one location, and places in another via gps coordinates obtained by "geohacking."

The reclusive Bobby Chombo, who does seminal gps research and development for the military, IS, quite naturally, the go-to guy for geohacking. If you can find him. Alberto Corrales, introduced to Hollis as creator of a locative art series known as death scenes of the famous (River Phoenix, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Helmut Newton), knows where Bobby is and, with trepidation, takes her to meet him. Bobby is angry and terrified, yet willing to show her around. She returns a day or so later, and Chombo and all his gear have vanished.

In alternative chapters, we meet members of a Cuban family—their bloodlines are an international melange—who are espionage adepts. We also meet a man named Brown who seems to tracking at least one specific member of the family, a young man called Tito. Brown is accompanied by Milgram, who seems to be a captive. Slowly, it comes out that Tito is doing something secret for yet another cypher, known only as "the old man." We learn that Bobby Chombo also is doing something secretive for this "old man." The biggest challenge in these goings on—for all the players—is keeping track of the other guys' locations. Gps, tracking devices, and all that technology. Try it. You may like it.

Tracking one specific shipping container's travels around the world is Bobby Chombo's burden.

Oct 6, 2015, 4:46pm

ME?? Push Amber around? I never would. She can read Updike iffen she wantsta. His non-fiction is a different kettle of fish, by the way. He wrote some dynamite criticism.

Oct 6, 2015, 4:52pm

Oh, I know, I know. Just havin' a little fun wid yis.

And I know too that Amber has enough steel in her spine to resist pressure from en...eee...body. Okay, well, except from Charlie.


Oct 6, 2015, 8:52pm

Actually, I liked Rabbit, Run enough, to want to read the next one in the series, despite him being such an unpleasant character. I read Rabbit is Rich, way back in the 80s and remember liking it but, of course I had no context.

Good review of Spook Country. I hope to read my first Gibson soon...

Oct 7, 2015, 6:52am

>65 weird_O: Oho, yes, I'm a stubborn one, for certain, which is partly why I like reading books that others rant about. Stubborn and curious. But I'm also a slave to my lists, and Updike is coming up on a couple of those, so I *must* read him. I simply must.

Oct 7, 2015, 8:15pm

Finished reading The Van by Roddy Doyle yesterday. That's #79, and it completes category challenge # 32--a trilogy.

I went back to House of Mirth, read a couple of chapters, and had to lay it aside. These characters are so vapid and shallow!!! Arrrrrg...gakkkkk!

Turned to Bradbury for respite. Last spring, I grabbed a couple of short story collections against this month of the AAC: Quicker than the Eye and Driving Blind. Seems as though it was only a short time ago that I saw a post panning one of these as having juvenile seeming stories. But now I can't find that post to remind me which book. Might be Quicker... since the first half-dozen stories were kinda lame.

But wait! Got my hands on a copy of The Illustrated Man and started into it this afternoon. I do believe I can rip through it lickety-split.

After that, I'm digging into Between the World and Me, which I scored at my hometown library. Just everyone is warbling about it, aren't they?

Then, instead of tightly wrapping my chest with barbed wire, I'll read a couple more chapters of...MIRTH. Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....

Oct 8, 2015, 9:27am

Illustrated Man is one of my favorites of his, Bill. I'll look forward to your reaction to Between the World and Me. I'm one of the many warbling about it. Seems like a good sign if lots of folks are interested in this one.

Oct 8, 2015, 10:43am

You've reminded me that I've not read any Roddy Doyle lately, and I do like his stuff. I'd missed The Guts when it came out, and am keen to see what happened to the Rabbitte family, so hoping the library will have a copy.

Oct 10, 2015, 7:53am

Hi Bill, found you and I love your reviews. Night is one of my favourite books. I've read it several times. I've to admit that I loved Quicker Than The Eye.
Wishing you a great weekend.

Editado: Oct 20, 2015, 3:43pm

I'm procrastinating on book reports. So here's checklist of what books are unreported. I'll scratch 'em out as I get them posted.

50. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry (6/22/15) (TBR-A) (ROOT)
52. Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work by Jackson J. Benson (6/30/15) (cc17. recommended by a friend)
62. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (8/3/15) (cc39. with magic) (ROOT)
65. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (8/18/15) (TBR-A) (cc42. book owned but unread) (ROOT)
75. The Red and the Black by Stendhal (9/23/15) (cc37. color in title) (ROOT) ®
79. The Van by Roddy Doyle (10/6/15) (cc32. trilogy—3st book) ®
80. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (10/10/15) AAC--October ®
81. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (10/10/15)

Edited to add a couple more books to the "list o' shame."

Editado: Oct 12, 2015, 10:38am

75. The Red and The Black by Stendhal Finished 9/23/15

..Marie-Henri Beyle adopted the pen-name Stendhal

Julien Sorel is the protagonist of this French novel, first published in 1830. It follows him through his short life, as he tries to overcome his lowly birth and, through intelligence and hard work, to rise through French society. I don't know why, but from beginning to end, Keanu Reeves was Julien in my mind's eye.

Sorel is an intelligent, ambitious youth, the third son born to a saw-mill operator. Julien is considered a peasant. He's not interested in the hard physical work that his father's business involves, and his father isn't enamored of Julien's work ethic. To escape his harsh father, he becomes a candidate for the priesthood though the local Catholic cleric named Chelan. Julien devotes many hours to memorizing long bible passages in Latin. In time, Chelan lines up a tutoring job for him. He is to live in the home of the mayor of Verrieres, Monsieur de Renal, providing full-time care and teaching for the mayor's children. Before long he becomes involved with Madame de Renal. Sexy times in Bourbon France.

Eventually the affair is exposed by the Madame's maid, who herself is enamoured of Julien. Chelan sends him to a seminary, which he finds stultifying. The abbe at the seminary Pirard, is a hated Jansenist, and eventually is driven from the seminary by the church politics, which disgust him. Before he goes, though, he rescues Julien, who he's come to like, to protect him from the persecution that would be inevitable should he remain in the seminary. On Pirard's recommendation and after a successful interview, Julien is hired as private secretary to Marquis de la Mole, an aristocratic diplomat.

In his new position, he gets general directions from the Marquis, then retires to the library to draw up letters for the Marquis to approve and sign. He travels and conducts business for the Marquis. Julien takes his meals with the family, and he attends social events together with the family. But never is he permitted to forget he is an inferior, a peasant who doesn't dress right and is ignorant of aristocratic customs. Despite this, Julien eventually becomes involved with Mathilde de la Mole, the Marquis's teenage daughter, and she gets pregnant. Things get crazy, oddly enough, and not in good ways.

Sorel's story is good, but I couldn't keep the politicking and plotting and conniving of the clerics and politicians and aristocrats straight. The story's conclusion didn't win me. On the whole, I rate the book "meh."

. Illustrations by Rafaello Busoni


Julien takes direction from the Marquis de la Mole (left). Julien and young Mathilde de la Mole in heat(center). Mathilde and dead Julien (right)

Oct 12, 2015, 2:20am

Bill, I haven't read this book but I love the drawings. They are wonderful.

Editado: Oct 12, 2015, 10:34am

80. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury Finished 10/10/15

....(Ha ha! Love the glasses.)

I wasn't paying much attention. Back in 1951, when I was six going on seven, Ray Bradbury pulled together a dozen-and-a-half short stories he'd published during the previous three years, titled the collection The Illustrated Man, and had himself a book. It wasn't at all what I expected when I picked up a used copy a couple of weeks ago to read for October's AAC. I was looking for a novel, like Fahrenheit 451 or Something Wicked this Way Comes. Instead I got a story collection like The Martian Chronicles.

The titular character figures in a two-page prologue. He's been tattooed from shoulders to toes. The mysterious lady who illustrated his body produced a magical gallery; the pictures and figures seeth and squirm and present viewers with story after story. They also creep out people. The premise is pregnant, and it does deliver, but not the extravagant novelistic fantasy I expected. As Otto would say: Dis..APPOIN..ted.

The opening story is called "The Veldt." The ideal gentleman's family—Dad, Mom, son, and daughter, named (what else?) Peter and Wendy—buy a fantastical futuristic home that prepares the meals and cleans up, conjures up relaxing atmosphere, rocks the family members to sleep at night. The centerpiece is a kind of virtual reality playroom for the kids that generates whatever exciting or mysterious or relaxing environment they desire. What they desire is an African veldt, complete with antelope and lions. They visit it everyday and resist all efforts by their parents to change the scene.

.... Inspired by "The Veldt"

"The Long Rain"tells the tale of a routine expedition to the planet Venus that goes awry. The rocket carrying the crew from Earth crashes short of its target. The crew survives, but they've lost contact with their fellow men and must hike overland to a Sun Dome, a weatherproof shelter with food and clothes, kitchen and beds. The situation is that on Venus, it rains constantly. Bradbury opens the story:

The rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shave the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men's hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped.

The crew presses on through the rain and the muck. "I don't like this rain," whines a crewman to the commander. "If we only knew how far it is to the Sun Dome, I'd feel better." Even though he has no ideal, the Lieutenant tells the whiner it's only one or two hours to the Dome. Then they, having walked in a circle, come upon their wrecked rocket. Will they every escape the rain?

.. The Long Rain

"The Exiles" was a treat to me, since it played on the theme of Fahrenheit 451. The opening scene, set on Mars, features Macbeth's witches, working their spells. Cut to a rocket traveling from Earth; a crewman is disabled mysteriously, then dies inexplicably. Cut back to Mars, where Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and other writers of fantastical and horrifying stories discuss their plight. Joining these morbid authors are the likes of L. Frank Baum, Charles Dickens, and Will Shakespeare.

Bierce glanced up merrily. "I've just been thinking—what'll happen to us."

"If we can't kill the rocket men off, frighten them away, then we'll have to leave, of course. We'll go on to Jupiter, and when they come to Jupiter, we'll go on to Saturn, and when they come to Saturn, we'll go to Uranus, or Neptune, and then on out to Pluto—"

"Where then?"

These legendary writers escaped Earth when socio-political upheaval led to the banning of their books. Not content to have burned every copy of their books that could be found, the Earthmen are dogging the writers to Mars, to seal their future.

........Exiles all.

Many of Bradbury's stories from this period feature planetary invasions. In "The Concrete Mixer" the invasion is of Earth by Martians. One Martian, Ettil Vrye, senses disaster and wants no part of it. But since the only alternative he's offered is to be burned to death, he swallows his misgivings. When the Martians arrive, they discover they're being welcomed with open arms. Every Martian is wined and dined and entertained within, well, within an inch of his life. Ettil wants only to return home to his wife Tylla. "He knew just what he would say to Tylla. 'War is a bad thing, but peace can be a living horror.' "

On the whole, the stories are clever, thought-provoking, and entertaining. There's a strangeness to them: the settings are intended to be futuristic, yet them seem awfully fifties. Futurama! Characters travel in rockets, not spaceships. The rockets are roomy and travelers don't contend with weightlessness. They eat regular food. Space aliens are generally just like earthlings, just like humans. Huh. Interesting.

Oct 12, 2015, 10:27am

Bill, I really enjoy your illustrated reviews! Thanks for taking the time to put them together.

Oct 12, 2015, 10:32am

Good reviews, Bill. Meh for The Red and the Black - I'll wait before trying that one. The Charterhouse of Parma garnered the same kind of reaction from me.

I loved The Illustrated Man when I read it as a young man, and The Veldt just bowled me over. Still one of my favorite stories of his.

Oct 12, 2015, 11:21am

>73 weird_O: No one has ever been able to tempt me to read Stendahl...those illustrations are nice, though.

We sure are getting a lot of variety out of the Bradbury reads. Even though much of his material isn't my favorite thing, I admire the breadth of his imagination, and he sure could write.

Oct 12, 2015, 8:47pm

>76 katiekrug: Thanks. I enjoy scouting for pictures to embellish my little reports. Fussing with the reports forces me to mull over what I've read. Just trying to understand what the author means.

>77 jnwelch: Glad you like, Joe. I also have the charterhouse novel; like you, I'm not in a hurry to read it.

>78 laytonwoman3rd: I've had a paperback The Red and the Black on my shelves for decades. When I bought my lode of Heritage Press books last February, I got copies of both R&B and Charterhouse. I felt obliged to read one of them. Just thank me for reading Stendhal so you don't have to.

Oct 12, 2015, 9:33pm

>79 weird_O: Your sacrifice is noted and will not be forgotten.

Oct 13, 2015, 6:58am

You're too late on the Stendhal to save me - I struggled through it a few years ago. Well, to be fair, you wouldn't have saved me, anyway; it was on one of me Lists, so I'd have read it anyway...

I read The Veldt when I was 12 and LOVED it. I need to get round to the rest of that collection soon.

Oct 14, 2015, 2:33pm

Amazing day it was yesterday. Sky was overcast. Mopey day. My beloved wanted to go "somewhere." Then she suggested we go to the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem. The oldest book store in continuous operation in the U.S. Established in 1745 by the Moravian Church.


She wanted to get Christmas tree ornaments to give the Grands at Thanksgiving, and she intimated she wanted...well...maybe...a book. I knuckled under. "Ohhhh, if we have to," I said. Then she made me scour the bookshelves whilst she selected the ornaments. Bought the book about Doctor Mutter of the museum in Philly and Dear Committee Members.

Now I am currently reading The House of Misery Mirth, Independence Day, Quicker Than the Eye, and Dear Committee Members.

Oct 14, 2015, 3:12pm

>82 weird_O: book about Doctor Mutter
That's a good one!

Oct 14, 2015, 3:41pm

>82 weird_O: Wow. I want to go there!

Oct 14, 2015, 4:22pm

The oldest book store in continuous operation in the U.S. Established in 1745 Guess what just went on my bucket list...

Editado: Oct 14, 2015, 5:03pm

>83 qebo: Have you read it? Someone here reviewed it, and I put it on my list. Have you been to the museum? Our younger son was there when he was at Temple. He thought it was something of a hoot, though being 19 and being accompanied by his best friend from high school and college may have shaped that response. My wife thinks it sounds creepy, but I am interested.

>84 charl08: >85 laytonwoman3rd: I don't want to oversell the place as a book store. The MBS is cozy, but the book selection is pretty limited. Four store fronts have been joined inside to expand the sales space, but I think more of it is given over to decorative items, cards, candy and stuff. The whole store should be nuttin' but books, and I'd tell them that if they'd just ask me.

Bethlehem has a spiffy downtown, with lots of good places to eat. (And the public library book sales, held four or five times a year, are really special; last one for 2015 coming up Dec 3 & 5.)

Oct 14, 2015, 5:16pm

>86 weird_O: Yes, the book was an ER, and several local-ish people reviewed it. When I worked for a medical instruments company near Philadelphia, the company holiday party was held there one year, and I've returned a few times since. I'd suggest reading the book first for better appreciation of the doctor and the collection. It's not ghoulish; he was genuinely concerned about improving surgical techniques and the lives of his patients.

Oct 14, 2015, 9:19pm

Hi, Bill! I loved your reviews of the stories in The Illustrated Man. I have not read that collection but I have it on shelf, in a nice hardback.

I really want to read The Veldt.

LOVE that Bethlehem bookstore.

Oct 15, 2015, 4:13pm

>86 weird_O: Well, I'd like to be able to say I'd been in the oldest book store in continuous operation in the country, anyway. Sort of like climbing a mountain because it's there, I guess, although I have never understood THAT compulsion.

Editado: Oct 15, 2015, 8:15pm

>89 laytonwoman3rd: Well, okay then. Here's an invite: Whisper1 and I are having a meetup Saturday, Dec 5 at the Bethlehem Public Library book sale. Then a nosh, perhaps at the Hotel Bethlehem. The Moravian Book Shop is directly across the street from the hotel, which in turn is two blocks from the library. Things will be Christmas-y.

ETA: Any other LTers are welcome too. Good stuff at the book sale (usually $.50 for paperbacks, $1.00 for hardcovers). Yes, they take credit cards. Good food at a variety of restaurants along Main Street and Broad Street. Other specialty shops there too.

Just sayin'.

Oct 15, 2015, 9:11pm

My bad.

I returned Between the World and Me to the library. I even erased the pencil underlinings.

And then I blew another ten bucks on...BOOKS!

Oct 15, 2015, 10:25pm

Nice book haul Weirdo Bill! I love Richard Price. Lush Life is terrific. I also loved Issac's Storm, The Interestings & Smiley's People. I think that was my first Le Carre.

I thought Home was from Robinson, but I stand corrected...

Oct 15, 2015, 11:01pm

Thanks, Mark. I read Price's Clockers; I wasn't too sure I was going to like it, but I did by the end. So, 2 more to read.

Home is a popular title. I've got "Homes" by Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, and now Witold Rybczynski.

I now have Tyler's Pulitzer-winning title (for 2016's AAC, right?)

LeCarre is an author I like, and I have about 2 feet of his books. I've read Smiley's People (and watched Sir Alec Guinness as Smiley on PBS). Just nice to have a hardcover copy of it.

Oct 16, 2015, 6:42am

>90 weird_O: Great bookstore, good food and excellent company; ooof, that sounds like heaven. Wish I could get there!

Oct 16, 2015, 8:15am

>90 weird_O: I'm going to give that Very Serious Consideration. Thanks! And...the Modern Library small format edition of Sanctuary---serious SCORE! Congratulations. I have six Faulkner titles in those editions, and about a dozen others. I'm always on the lookout for those little gems.

Oct 16, 2015, 8:25am

Clockers may be my favorite Price novel, but Lush Life comes in a close second.

And yes, it does look like Tyler is a lock for AAC III.

Oct 16, 2015, 10:10am

>91 weird_O: Whoa, that's a lot of bang for the buck, Bill. Nice going.

Editado: Oct 17, 2015, 3:31pm

79. The Van by Roddy Doyle Finished 10/6/15


Roddy Doyle's wonderful Rabbitte family saga—known as the Barrytown trilogy—concludes in The Van. Jimmy Rabbitte Sr and his good friend Bimbo Reeves go into business selling fish and chips out of an old van. It's about love, loyalty, sharing, trusting, working yer arse off, dealing with both setbacks and success. This novel is longer that the trilogy's first two, but it shares their attributes.

The setup is this. Jimmy Sr is out of work. He is a plasterer, a master of the finish coat, the embellishments, the details. Builders are cutting their costs using sheetrock instead of multiple coats of plaster over lath. Jimmy is expendable to the builders, but not to his family. His income lost, the family is paring back, way back. Jimmy no longer meets "the lads" for a pint every evening. The days are long and he can't find productive things to do. He cares for his granddaughter, Gina, who was born in the previous book, The Snapper. But he's bored, ashamed, depressed.

One day he does meet the lads, and when he arrives, Bimbo is crying. He can't draw out an explanation. Finally, Bimbo says:

--I got a bit o' bad news earlier…It knocked me a bit.

…Bimbo's parents were already dead. Jimmy Sr knew that…Maybe Maggie's mother had snuffed it but—Bimbo was a bit of a softy but he wouldn't break out crying in his local for Maggie's mother; she'd been as good as dead for f*ckin' years. One of the kids—

Oh f*ck he wished Bertie was here.

Bimbo spoke.

--I was let go this mornin'.


--Let go. ---I'm like you now, Jimmy, wha'. A man o' leisure.

One big difference for Bimbo is that he gets a one-time payment (like severance, I think). But like Jimmy Sr., he's unhappy in his idleness. The sudden absence of "the chipper van" from its usual spot outside a local pub, prompts Bimbo to ask Bertie, another of the lads, who's always got something to sell.

---Yeh wouldn't have a chipper van to sell, I suppose…would yeh, Bertie?

---Wha' abou' a Mister Whippy one? Bertie asked Bimbo. ---I think I could get me hands on one o' them.

---No, said Bimbo.

---You've your heart set on a chipper one?

---Yeah. ----Not really; just if yeh see one.

Not long after, Bertie tells Bimbo and Jimmy Sr that he wants them to see something. It's a derelict van.

It was filthy. He'd never seen anything like it. They walked around it. It was horrible to think that people had once eaten chip and stuff out of this thing; it was a f*ckin' scandal. There was no way he was going to look inside it…

Bimbo looked excited and disappointed, like a light going on and off. Jimmy Sr looked at the van again.

Ah Jesus, the thing was in f*ckin' tatters. The man was f*ckin' mad to be even looking at it. He wouldn't let him do this.

But of course he does, and he even helps. They install the wheels and tires, getting it off the blocks that have supported it. It's got no engine, so it has to be towed to Bimbo's place. It has to be degreased and scoured and cleaned outside and in. It's got no electricity, of course, and no running water. The fryer and grill use bottled gas. Once the van is as clean as they can make it, they tackle the provisions, learning how best to cut and stockpile chips, how to batter the fish.

Although Jimmy Sr has no money to invest, Bimbo offers him a half interest in the new business. Therein will lie the rub. Almost from the start, the business is a success. But as with Jimmy Jr's band in The Commitments, success leads to petty jealousies and bickering and sulking. Rest assured that all works out, eventually.

All three novels in the Barrytown trilogy have been made into movies. Here's how the van looks in the film.

Bimbo, Jimmy Sr, and Sharon at the hatch.

The cover of the book I read is limp, compared with those preceding it. What's up with that?


Editado: Oct 17, 2015, 1:11pm

Lovely review, altogether. Must get to reading more of our man Doyle. I have the trilogy in an omnibus edition. (That's Colm Meany in the middle, there, isn't it?)

Oct 17, 2015, 3:34pm

Yes, that's Colm Meany in the middle. He was Jimmy Sr in all three movies, though I understand that in "The Van" Jimmy Sr suffered a name-change to Larry. WTF?

Oct 19, 2015, 11:15am

I enjoyed that review, too, Bill. Maybe some day.

Oct 19, 2015, 8:18pm

Halloween IS coming, but waiting is reaaallly HARD!

Oct 20, 2015, 5:03am

Ha, great photo, Bill. Thanks for posting it.

Oct 20, 2015, 11:22am

Wow. That's a great shot!

Oct 20, 2015, 5:14pm

82. Quicker Than the Eye by Ray Bradbury Finished 10/16/15


First and foremost, Ray Bradbury was a short story writer. Quicker Than the Eye is a collection of 21 entertaining stories written in the mid-1990s. Some were published first in magazines. The book was published in 1996, and for some reason, I expected these to be among Bradbury's last stories. But ooohh no; in fact, he was contriving stories for at least another decade. According to Wikipedia, Bradbury wrote more than 600 short stories.

The title story, "Quicker Than the Eye" tells of a man attending a variety magic show with his wife who is chagrinned that one of the "volunteers" from the audience humiliated by a pocket-picking female performer looks exactly like him. In an afterword to the collection, Bradbury acknowledged it happened to him; he attended a magic show "where, to my dismay, I saw someone much like myself being made a fool of onstage."

Other stories are surreal, fantasies, nostalgic. They don't display Bradbury's most sublime side, but they are sound and entertaining.

Oct 20, 2015, 8:38pm

83. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher Finished 10/18/15


Payne University is a small liberal-arts college in Minnesota. Jason Fitger is a tenured professor of creative writing at Payne. In Dear Committee Members Fitger is called upon by various students and faculty and staff to write simple letters of recommendation (LOC), which he seems incapable of keeping simple and on-message. The text of this novel consists exclusively of Fitger's letters, and it's through them that we learn of the brief affair that torpeded his marriage, his four obscure novels, the decline of the English department, the exodus of faculty and staff to greener pastures, the financial woes of the students, and Fitger's opinions about business, bureaucracy, college administration, and more, of course.

Irked that the English department is chaired by a sociology professor, Fitger addresses him as "Resident Sociologist" or "CEO" or "Sociologist and Commander in Chief" or "Kapellmeister and Chair." Fitger's letters to Ted Boti almost invariably digress into complaints about the state of the English department and its office space.

I'm not sure that you noticed, but the Econ faculty were, in early August, evacuated from the building—as if they'd been notified,
sotto voce, of an oncoming plague. Not so the faculty in English…We have been left behind, almost biblically, expected to begin our classes and meet with students while bulldozers snarl at the door…While I am relieved to know that the economists—delicate creatures!—have been safely installed in a wing of the new geology building where their pysical comfort and aesthetic needs can be addressed, those of us who remain as castaways here in Willard Hall risk not only deafness but mutation: as of next week we have been instructed to keep our windows tightly closed due to "particulate matter"—but my office window (here's the amusing part, Ted) no longer shuts.

His first letter recommends Darren Browles for a one-month literary residency. Browles has taken two of Fitger's workshops, Fitger writers, adding that "his novel in progress, a retelling of Melville's 'Bartleby' (but in which the eponymous character is hired to keep the books at a brothel, circa 1960, just outside Las Vegas), is both tender satire and a blistering adaptation/homage." Browles is selected, but Fitger tirelessly—but always unsuccessfully—promotes the young man for assistanceships, menial jobs, and to literary agents.

The construct is pretty clever, and Ms. Schumacher holds to it conscientiously. There's quite a roster of students, faculty, lovers and despisers, and inside and outside administrators to keep track of. You can read the book in a day; it's fun and entertaining. Not the Great American Novel, but them what is? As Fitger signs off:

Signing off with the usual commitment to righteousness and justice,
Jay Fitger, Winner's Circle
American Letter of Recommendation Society

Oct 23, 2015, 12:18pm

>91 weird_O: That's a decent few hours work, Bill. I have that same edition/version of Breathing Lessons and I do think that The Comedians is one of the more underrated books by Greene.

Have a great weekend.

Oct 23, 2015, 7:12pm

Bill, your thread is a treat!! I can't believe I haven't been over here to visit before. Well. I'm glad I found you.

We are indeed reading neck-and-neck in our quest for the century mark. I'm confident we will both get there and I will cheer you on as you cross the finish line a split second before me.

Oh, and I adore the art work of your thread's artist-in-residence. Gracie is quite talented (and cute)!

>102 weird_O: That's awesome.

Oct 24, 2015, 12:05am

I have finally found your thread! As a late comer to you thread I want to start off by congratulating the artist (Gracie) for the wonderful artistic images that make up your thread topper! Excellent eye for colour, depth and proportion.

>26 weird_O: - Don't mind me... I am just standing here scanning the spins.

>39 weird_O: - I avoided the Flannery O'Conner month on AAC only to have you now inform me that she has, at least one book, that is Southern Gothic. I LOVE gothic stories, Southern or otherwise. Looks like I may be back-tracking on some of my author challenge reading before the year is out.

>46 weird_O: - Not sure I am up to reading Night but I do find your review very moving. Well done!

>54 weird_O: - Dodging Updike, because, don't you know, I need to dodge some things and I feel pretty confident that I can plead total ignorance of Updike's works and just move on. ;-)

This is just my really quick pass through to get caught up with your thread - which I have totally neglected until now - and I hope ....

.... Oooohh... Hello... >106 weird_O: - I loved the Schumacher novel... especially the totally cringe-worthy parts! YAY!

... sorry.... lost my train of thought. If it comes back, I will post it. Otherwise, Happy Weekend!

Oct 26, 2015, 11:46am

Richard Ford weekend. It was. Finished reading Independence Day, Ford's Pulitzer Prize winner. Saturday morning, I acquired a cheap, gently read copy of The Lay of the Land, the third novel in the Frank Bascombe series. Read The Sportswriter, the first Bascombe tome, last year. I was surprised to learn that Ford is a southerner, born in Mississippi, who still lives part of the year in NOLA. Bascombe lives in New Jersey. Whaddayaknow?

Oct 26, 2015, 12:04pm

Hi, Bill! Hope you had a fine weekend. I was hoping to do a reread of Independence Day, but didn't get to it. I also have The Lay of the Land on shelf, along with one of his story collections.

The Kingsolver AAC thread is up, if you would like to drop by.

Editado: Oct 26, 2015, 12:21pm

>111 msf59: Yahhh to Kingsolver. I got a tattered copy of The Bean Tree on Saturday, to accompany Pigs in Spaaace!...ahem...Heaven, which I got earlier. Plus some NF, The Ambassadors, and prolly something else. Busy November.

But I must complete House of Mirth and The Human Stain this week to meet October's target.

Oct 26, 2015, 12:56pm

The Bean Trees is really good. That one caught me by surprise, looking forward to that follow-up, Pigs in Heaven.

How is The Human Stain? I have not read a lot of Roth.

Oct 27, 2015, 2:37pm

The Human Stain is being good, Mark. It is about a college professor and dean who is passing (for white). After stepping down as dean, Coleman Silk resumes teaching classics. The story begins shortly after the beginning of the semester and now Prof. Silk, in taking attendance at the beginning of the 4th or 5th class, notes that two students registered for the class have never ever shown up. "Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?" Next thing he knows, he's called on the carpet because they not only exist, they are blacks. Uh oh.

A fun sidebar is that Philip Roth had one hell of a time getting Wikipedia to correct its entry on the book. The original entry cited the life of New York Times literary critic Anatole Broyard as the inspiration for the Coleman Silk character. (After his death, Broyard was revealed to have been black "passing" as white.) Roth contacted Wiki to correct that assertion, insisting that he drew on the experience of his friend Melvin Tumin, professor of sociology at Princeton, for the opening episode--Are they spooks?--and created everything else about Coleman Silk. Eventually, The New Yorker published an open letter from Roth to Wiki, in which he laid out his facts. What the Wiki editor he communicated with told him, he wrote, was that they had to have two sources for every fact/assertion. And of course he was only one source. ("Isn't that conveeenient," as the church lady says.) I guess he needed someone else to vouch for what went on inside his head as he wrote the novel. Oh my.

Wiki has since revised its entry to include Roth's side of the story (without any mention of its stonewalling of the novelist) but retaining the contention of some that Broyard was really the inspiration. Wink wink, nudge nudge, ya know wha' I mean?

Mark, you ought to read more Roth. He has a long bibliography.

Editado: Oct 27, 2015, 8:45pm

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes


I didn't read this book, my wife Judi did. But I'm expecting to reap some of the benefits. In brief, the author tells about her purchase and rehabilitation of a house in Tuscany. Mixed amongst the text are recipes for tuscan dishes. What Judi has in mind is a family cooking and eating event. All will gather either here or at our older son's house. I will stay the hell out of the way. Everyone else—Judi, DIL Tara, grandaughters Helen and Claire and Gracie. son Jeremy—will prepare and cook delectable Italian food. And then…

And then…we all—including me—will eat 'til we stop. I. AM. PUMPED!

Oct 27, 2015, 5:14pm

Oh I love that book. What a great idea.

Editado: Oct 29, 2015, 5:08pm

I like picture books, and sometimes you can get old ones cheap at the kind of library book sales I like. About a week ago, I got a collection of cartoons and covers from early 1950s The New Yorker. It's not a book for reading; there IS no text other than cartoon captions. Just a browsing book.

I want to share a cover, a couple of "bookish" cartoons, and a few sketches by the incomparable Saul Steinberg.

The New Yorker Album, 1950-1955


Here is where I live. Though this cover may be 65 years old, it shows a red Pennsylvania Dutch barn, typical in this area, many still with hex signs.


Saul Steinberg sketches.

Oct 28, 2015, 7:26am

Thanks for your comments on Roth and The Human Stain. Very interesting. I did read The Plot Against America last year and I liked it. I have a few more on shelf.

Love the New Yorker covers.

Oct 28, 2015, 11:58am

The Human Stain is the only Roth I can say I more or less enjoyed reading (more or less because there's just no getting me to like Nathan Zuckerman). The movie starring Anthony Hopkins was well done, too.

Oct 28, 2015, 12:15pm

Lovely illustrations. I'd have the farmhouse on my wall at home, looks like a piece of history.

Oct 28, 2015, 1:19pm

>118 msf59: I liked A Plot Against America too.

>119 laytonwoman3rd: Well, there's just no pleasing you, is there? Don't like Updike, don't like Roth's alter-ego Zuckerman. :-) There's always Faulkner, I suppose.

>120 charl08: Hi Charlotte. That barnyard is close to home for me; that's why I love it.

Oct 28, 2015, 1:20pm

>121 weird_O: Sho'ly now. Faulkner is just FULL of likeable characters.

Oct 28, 2015, 4:21pm

Ah ha ha. Touche!

Oct 30, 2015, 11:10am

Read the last 20 pages of The Human Stain by Philip Roth this morning. Book #85 for the year. Yes, I liked it. Admired the author's achievement. Provocative.

Editado: Oct 31, 2015, 2:52pm

Birthday party yesterday. My wife's cousin Ellen turned 103. Wowzer!

When we got home, I just couldn't face Lilly and Lawrence and Gerty and Gus and all those mirthful folks. So I turned to Benjamin Franklin by Edmund Morgan to kick off NF November a couple of days early.

My reading menu for November seems to be:

Food in History by Reay Tannahill (TBR-A) (ROOT) (NF November)
Benjamin Franklin by Edmund Morgan (TBR-A) (NF November)
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (cc28. antonyms in title) (ROOT) (NF November)
Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver (AAC—November)
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (AAC—November)
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (cc48. banned book)
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (AAC—January)
Doctor Mutter's Marvels by Christin O'Keefe Aptowicz (NF November)

And that holdover from October House of Mirth.


Oct 31, 2015, 3:52pm

103, what an age.

Oct 31, 2015, 4:27pm

I enjoy visiting here.
What a find re the New York er covers.
103 years old is an incredible milestone!

Oct 31, 2015, 4:39pm

Wow, 103 years old. That is remarkable! A true reason for celebration. ;-)

Nov 1, 2015, 1:29am

>125 weird_O: That is a powerful stack of reading for November, Bill. Longevity is great when accompanied by full faculties and dignity hope she has a full house and she is certainly entitled to our fullest congratulations.

Have a great weekend.

Editado: Nov 1, 2015, 8:50am

Happy Sunday Weirdo Bill! And happy birthday to cousin Ellen! I hope I live that long. We have some books to read, my friend!

Those are perfect Kingsolver choices, you have selected. I will be joining you on Pigs of Heaven, but make sure you read The Bean Trees first.

Nov 1, 2015, 11:14pm

>126 Ameise1: >127 Whisper1: >128 lkernagh: >129 PaulCranswick: >130 msf59: Thanks for for the good wishes for Cousin Ellen.

Mark, thanks for the tip about reading The Bean Trees before Pigs in Heaven. I will read 'em in that order.

Nov 2, 2015, 1:57pm

Found and starred your thread.

Nov 2, 2015, 4:56pm

Hi Connie. Nice of you to stop by.

Here are the Halloween photos of the grands.

Johnny Depp characters: Helen as Capt. Jack Sparrow, friend Clara as Cry Baby, Claire as the Big Bad Wolf, and friend Maggie as Edward Scissorhands. Helen and Claire are my twin grands.


Grandson Gus as a medieval kind of guy; Gracie as a suffragette.

Nov 3, 2015, 10:56am

Lovely Pictures! You have great grand kids!

Nov 3, 2015, 11:31am

>133 weird_O: I particularly like the suffragette costume.

Nov 3, 2015, 1:58pm

>133 weird_O: Great photos! Your twin grands sure differentiated themselves.

Nov 3, 2015, 2:22pm

Thanks, folks. We certainly think our grands are grand.

More on the way, too. Ned and Sam, our son and dil, Gus's parents, are adopting a second child in November 20, which is National Adoption Day. She's been in their family for more than a year, and they thought the adoption would go through months ago. But the state agency in New Jersey wants to stage an adoption hoo-haa on Adoption Day. But it'll happen, and they'll all be able to join us for Thanksgiving. (Boosting attendance to 13.)

One other note, prompted by Erik's comment on the suffragette costume. It's election day here in PA (and in NJ, too). We got out to vote. If Miss Anthony can stand the gaff she and her sisters did to get the vote, I guess we can bear to motor to the firehall to cast our ballots.

Editado: Nov 3, 2015, 3:21pm

84. Independence Day by Richard Ford Finished 10/22/15


Independence Day is the second of four Frank Bascombe novels written by Richard Ford. This one garnered the Pulitzer Prize for 1996.

The story takes place over the Fourth of July weekend, with flashbacks stretching that three-day time frame. In the seven-year interval since The Sportswriter, when their son Ralph died of Reye's and Frank and his wife Ann divorced, Ann has remarried. With the two surviving Bascombe children, she's moved from Haddam, New Jersey to Deep River, Connecticut where her new husband, Charley O'Dell, is a successsful architect. Frank's gone into residential real estate sales. When his wife put her house on the market, Frank bought it and at the same time sold his to the Haddam Theological Seminary. In addition to his residence, he owns two rental houses, side-by-side, in a predominantly black neighborhood of Haddam, and an interest in a roadside root beer stand. He's got a girl-friend, Sally, who lives at the Jersey shore, but he seems ambivalent about her.

Frank begins his narrative:

{T}o anyone reasonable, my life will seem more or less normal-under-the-microscope, full of contingencies and incongruities none of us escapes and which do little harm in an existence that otherwise goes unnoticed.
This morning, however, I'm setting off on a weekend trip with my only son, which promises, unlike most of my seekings, to be starred by weighty life events. There is, in fact, an odd feeling of lasts to this excursion, as if some signal period in life—mine and his—is coming, if not to a full close, then at least toward some tight¬ening, transforming twist in the kaleidoscope, a change I'd be fool¬ish to take lightly and don't. (The impulse to read Self-Reliance is significant here, as is the holiday itself—my favorite secular one for being public and for its implicit goal of leaving us only as it found us: free.) All of this comes—in surfeit—near the anniversary of my divorce, a time when I routinely feel broody and insubstantial, and spend days puzzling over that summer seven years ago, when life swerved badly and I, somehow at a loss, failed to right its course.

Frank's relationship with his 15-year-old son, Paul, drives the plot. Paul's mother is concerned by his antipathy toward Charley, his menu of tics, and his behavior. Paul was caught shoplifting.

Two and a half months ago, just after tax time and six weeks before his school year ended in Deep River, he was arrested for shoplifting three boxes of 4X condoms ("Magnums") from a display-dispenser in the Finast down in Essex. His acts were surveilled by an "eye in the sky" camera hidden above the male hygiene products. And when a tiny though uniformed Vietnamese security person (a female) approached him just beyond the checkout, where as a diversionary tactic he'd bought a bottle of Grecian Formula, he bolted but was wrestled to the ground, whereupon he screamed that the woman was "a goddamned spick asshole," kicked her in the thigh, hit her in the mouth (conceivably by accident) and pulled out a fair amount of hair before she could apply a police stranglehold and with the help of a pharmacist and another customer get the cuffs on him. (His mother had him out in an hour.)

In response, Ann set up several sessions for Paul with a psychiatrist in New Haven. She sent him to a "an expensive health camp" where therapists and camp counselors observed him closely but discretely and wrote reports about him. Among their other observations, Frank writes, is that Paul is

intellectually beyond his years (language and reasoning skills off the Stanford charts) but was emotionally underdeveloped (closer to age twelve), which in their view posed "a problem." So that even though he acts and talks like a shrewd sophomore in the honors program at Beloit, full of sly jokes and double entendres (he has also recently shot up to 5' 8", with a new layer of quaky pudge all over), his feelings still get hurt in the manner of a child who knows much less about the world than a Girl Scout.

Frank chews this and other observations and opinions passed along by Ann. He mulls thoughts and opinions culled from daily telephone conversations with Paul.

In a way his "problem" is simple: he has become compelled to figure out life and how to live it far too early, long before he's seen a sufficient number of unfixable crises cruise past him like damaged boats and realized that fixing one in six is a damn good average and the rest you have to let go—a useful coping skill of the Existence Period.

The "Existence Period," by the bye, is Bascombe's term for, as he says, letting "matters go as they go." Throughout his narrative, Bascombe exposes his caution, his indecision, his reluctance to commit, to engage, yet also his need to be in control. He is, for now, he thinks, going through the motions, remaining aloof and disconnected. He's "existing."

To deal with Paul's teen-year crisis, Frank uses the holiday weekend to take a father-son road trip, from Connecticut to Springfield, MA to visit the Basketball Hall of Fame, then to Cooperstown, NY to see the Baseball Hall of Fame. The trip starts off well enough, but starts to unravel, then runs into catastrophe in Cooperstown.

When the novel was published two decades ago, Michiko Kakutani, then the New York Times's regular reviewer commented: "Although Frank's existential gloom and talent for self-pity can sometimes make him an irritating (not to mention long-winded) narrator, Mr. Ford expertly opens out his story to create a portrait of middle age and middle-class life that's every bit as resonant and evocative of America in the 1980's as John Updike's last Harry Angstrom novel, Rabbit at Rest."

Did I like Independence Day? Of course. Why go on at length if it stinks?

Nov 3, 2015, 5:20pm

I voted today, too, Bill. And had jury duty. It was like my own personal Celebrate My Constitutional Rights Day :)

Love those pics of your grandkids!

Nov 4, 2015, 9:24pm

85. The Human Stain by Philip Roth Finished 10/30/15


Coleman Silk has had a stellar career as a classics professor and dean of faculty at a small New England college. He was, we're told, "one of a handful of Jews on the…faculty when he was hired and perhaps among the first Jews to be permitted to teach in a classics department anywhere in America." He grew up in the 1930s in East Orange, NJ, neighboring Newark. In high school, he excelled academically and was a standout boxer. After a stint in the navy, he moved to NYC's Greenwich Village, attended NYU, met and married a Jewish girl named Iris Gittelman. They had four children.

As Philip Roth's novel begins, Coleman Silk has stepped down as dean to return to the classroom. About five weeks into the semester, he notes that two students have never appeared, never attended a single session. He doesn't know who they are; he's never laid eyes on them. He asks those in the room: "Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?" So of course these people exist and they are…blacks. Called into the dean's office--his old office—and told a complaint charging racism has been lodged, Silk is stunned, then enraged. He tells the dean:

"I was referring to their possibly ectoplasmic character. Isn't that obvious? These two students had not attended a single class. That's all I knew about them. I was using the word in its customary and primary meaning: 'spook' as a specter or a ghost. I had no idea what color these two students might be. I had known perhaps fifty years ago but had wholly forgotten that 'spooks' is an invidious term sometimes applied to blacks. Otherwise, since I am totally meticulous regarding student sensibilities, I would never have used that word. Consider the context: Do they exist or are they spooks? The charge of racism is spurious. It is preposterous. My colleagues know it is preposterous and my students know it is preposterous. The issue, the only issue, is the nonattendance of these two students and their flagrant and inexcusable neglect of work. What's galling is that the charge is not just false—it is spectacularly false."

It doesn't end there though. The dean sets up a formal hearing. Faculty members begin tiptoing around, most aligning themselves against their demanding, autocratic former dean. Silk abruptly resigns. Iris—Mrs. Silk—abruptly has a stroke and dies. He seeks out a writer, Nathan Zuckerman, that he knows lives in the area.

Coleman was at the side of my house, {Zuckerman says,} banging on the door and asking to be let in. Though he had something urgent to ask, he couldn't stay seated for more than thirty seconds to clarify what it was...I had to write something for him—he all but ordered me to…I had to write about this "absurdity," that "absurdity"—I, who then knew nothing about his woes at the college and could not even begin to follow the chronology of the horror that, for five months now, had engulfed him and the late Iris Silk: the punishing immersion in meetings, hearings, and interviews, the documents and letters submitted to college officials, to faculty committees, to a pro bono black lawyer representing the two students . . . the charges, denials, and countercharges, the obtuseness, ignorance, and cynicism, the gross and deliberate misinterpretations, the laborious, repetitious explanations, the prosecutorial questions—and always, perpetually, the pervasive sense of unreality. "Her murder!" Coleman cried, leaning across my desk and hammering on it with his fist. "These people murdered Iris!"

Zuckerman turns him down, but the two men stay in touch. And Silk begins writing the book himself, planning to title it Spooks. Ultimately, Zuckerman does write Coleman's book, and it is the one we are reading.

A couple of years pass, during which Silk takes up with Faunia Farley, a woman half his age who's a janitor at the college and, on weekends, at the post office, who lives at a farm in exchange for milking cows, who claims to be a victim of childhood molestation by her stepfather, who purports to be illiterate, who was married to a PTSD-afflicted Vietnam vet who stalks her because he believes her responsible for the deaths of their two children in a housefire. Yoiks! One night, this former husband, Les Farley, barges into Silk's house to threaten both him and Faunia. So Coleman turns to Atty. Nelson Primus for advice, which advice (and more particularly the way in which it is delivered) so enrages him that he tells the lawyer, "I never again want to hear that self-admiring voice of yours or see your smug fucking lily-white face."

Primus is mystified. "Why 'lily-white'?" he wonders.

Cut—three pages later—to 1943 in East Orange, NJ. Ernestine Silk is recounting for her brother Coleman an overheard conversation between their parents and Dr. Fensterman, a Jew and a prominent surgeon. He offers the Silks $5,000 if his son Bertram is helped to become valedictorian of the East Orange High School Class of 1944. The help needed? Coleman, who is first in the class, must boot a course to allow Bertram, now second in the class, to slip past him into first. Bert needs to be the best of the best to beat the tight quotas designed to keep Jews out of the top medical schools. The irony? The Silks are Negroes, victims of even greater discrimination in all things than Jews.

And so, on page 86, we're told what Coleman's secret is; but that's far from the totality of it. As the story unfolds, we learn how Coleman learns just how easy it is for him to pass for white, thanks to a tryout his boxing coach, a Jewish dentist in East Orange known as Doc Chizner, arranges with the Pitt boxing coach.

Doc was sure that, what with Coleman's grades, the coach could get him a four-year scholarship to Pitt, a bigger scholarship than he could ever get for track, and all he'd have to do was box for the Pitt team.
Now, it wasn't that on the way up Doc told him to tell the Pitt coach that he was white. He just told Coleman not to mention that he was colored.

"If nothing comes up," Doc said, "you don't bring it up. You're neither one thing or the other. You're Silky Silk. That's enough. That's the deal." Doc's favorite expression: that's the deal. Some¬thing else Coleman's father would not allow him to repeat in the house.

"He won't know?" Coleman asked.

"How? How will he know? How the hell is he going to know? Here is the top kid from East Orange High, and he is with Doc Chizner. You know what he's going to think, if he thinks anything?"


"You look like you look, you're with me, and so he's going to think that you're one of Doc's boys. He's going to think that you're Jewish."

Coleman Silk passes for white. He does it with Iris, with his children, with his academic colleagues, with everybody. To do it, he makes calculated choices. Iris suits him because of her hair, "that sinuous thicket of hair that was far more Negroid" than his own. He totally abandons his birth family, depriving his mother of her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren. He never tells his daughter, who just may have to explain to a future white husband how it is their newborn child is black.

The Human Stain is full of wrinkles, all sorts that you might not imagine as you contemplate the ins and outs of a Negro passing for white. Once you make the choice, and the ancillary hard choices that follow—lying to your spouse throughout a close and intimate marriage, cutting yourself from your parents and siblings (and them from you), contriving and maintaining a false family history—you can't go back.

Philip Roth is a favorite author. The Human Stain is one of his best books, in my opinion. I give it two thumbs up. .

Nov 5, 2015, 12:40pm

86. Benjamin Franklin by Edmund S. Morgan Finished 11/5/15


I've read Franklin's autobiography a couple of times, and I read Walter Isaacson's 500+ page bio went it was published. I ran across a booklist that recommended Morgan's 316 page Franklin bio, with the comment: "A model biography: pithy, wise, and—despite its brevity—complete. Franklin emerges as a quintessential hero of his time, and ours." Having now read the book, I agree with that assessment.

Nov 5, 2015, 1:24pm

>131 weird_O: Thanks for the message regarding reading The Bean Trees before Pigs in Heaven. Last night, I obtained a copy of Pigs in Heaven on the sale shelf at the Bethlehem Public Library. In addition, I bought a copy of Flight Behavior What a deal-- two books for $1.00!

And, I look forward to seeing you and Diane at the Dec. 2nd sale at the library.

Nov 7, 2015, 9:24am

^Thinking of you, Bill! Happy Saturday, my friend.

I LOVE the Halloween photos of the grands. Perfect.

Nov 8, 2015, 1:54am

Thanks for stopping by, pal!

I've got me light on bright. See?

Nov 8, 2015, 2:02am

>144 weird_O: Great photo Bill.

Thanks for the reviews of Roth, Ford and Morgan. All three go closer to the front of the queue as a result.

Have a glorious Sunday.

Nov 8, 2015, 11:40am

By the amount of light pouring in the windows, I'd judge it will be a glorious Sunday.

Nov 10, 2015, 6:01pm

Yes, yes; I was correct. A glorious Sunday it was.

I did some reading, of course. I also did some thinking and planning for next year's reading agenda.

I do plan on taking up the American Author Challenge; I even have titles selected for 11 of the 12 authors atop Mark's list of nominees. ( Haven't given the also-in-the-running authors a lot of thought. (Oh, I went and looked at their names just now, and I'm pretty confident I can muster up a pretty super book that I haven't read for each of them).

The Pulitzer Prize Challenge will naturally be on my agenda. I've got 13 unread PP winning novels on my shelves. I've listed another 12 fiction winners I really do want to read but don't (presently) own. (I know. That's what libraries are for.) Consolidate all the non-fiction categories, and I have 12 unread winners on the shelves. I could slot three winners per month to read, but ahhhhh...Not sure I want to go that far all in.

Not going to do that category challenge thingie. Bahhh! Too much monkey business, as Chuck Berry said. (Name the song! If you can...)

A kind of yin-and-yang challenge I have percolating involves doorstops and compensatory featherweights.

I've seen chatter about a War and Peace group read; need to look into that, since it would fit well with the doorstop challenge.

The TBR and ROOTs fit too.

I. AM. READY. TO. READ. Except I still have a dozen books to read to finish 2015.

Nov 10, 2015, 6:09pm

Ah, but the planning is so much fun..... I'll be interested to hear more about your yin and yang challenge, as I have to make a real concerted effort NOT to avoid books just because they are chunksters. I know I'm missing out on a lot of good stuff!

Editado: Nov 17, 2015, 6:58am

Like all the planning. I've had fun thinking about my BAC and CAC reads, but need to get going on the rest.

Nov 11, 2015, 5:58pm

>148 katiekrug: >149 charl08: Yeah, I like the planning too. One of those stories of my life: just as a project nears culmination, I get sucked into dreaming and scheming about the next project...and struggle to complete the almost-done one. Ah well.

My yin and yang challenge idea is to read a "doorstop" of at least 601 text pages each month, balanced by a book of under 200 text pages. This would be like the TBR Challenge ( in that, at the beginning of the year, you'd commit yourself to reading 12 books, one each month, from a list of your own devising. Read them in no particular order. My idea is to make lists of 15 books--15 doorstops and 15 banties--with the aim of completing 12--one of each category each month. The extra three books give you some wiggle-room; back in April I put some books on my TBR list that felt really compelling but now (6 or 7 months later) look really, really punishing.

Together a 750-pager and a 150-pager become two 450-pagers. That's do-able.

Nov 11, 2015, 8:46pm

Hi, Bill! I am loving Pigs in Heaven. I am so glad you started it, after the Bean Trees.

And I am also happy you have so many AACIII books lined up.

Nov 12, 2015, 12:48am

Completed #88 for the year, House of Mirth.

>151 msf59: Not quite 1/3 of the way into Pigs in Heaven, Mark, and so far I like it better than its predecessor. Not that I didn't like The Bean Trees.

Sitting in bed reading Mirth and PiH tonight, alternating chapters, I was really struck by the contrast in pace between the two books. PiH is moving at a nice brisk walk, and Mirth is crawling, crawling to its denouement. I know you like Wharton, but she and I were at odds the whole damn read.

Nov 12, 2015, 12:54am

>152 weird_O: Congratulations on outlasting Wharton! Care to join me for Custom of the Country?

Actually, I think I'll just duck and run now ...

Nov 12, 2015, 1:11am

>153 swynn: HA! Mrs. Wharton and I parted ways politely but emphatically. I don't think we'll be having tea any time soon.

I give House of Mirth a heartfelt

Nov 12, 2015, 9:31pm

Nov 12, 2015, 9:32pm

I really liked Custom of the Country too. Just sayin'...

Nov 14, 2015, 10:21am

>155 msf59: Ahhhhh. Thanks, Mark. Have to say, I've been in each of those categories...frequently.

>156 msf59: Mark, I am SOOOO glad you really liked Custom of the I don't have to. What are friends for, amiright?

Nov 14, 2015, 10:38am

Completed Pigs in Heaven to wrap up the November AAC and picked up Dr. Mutter's Marvels for NF November. Lots of "looking-forward" scheming going on.

Editado: Nov 15, 2015, 1:05am

87. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver Finished 11/6/15


In The Bean Trees young Marietta Greer tells the story of her journeys…from her Kentucky birthplace to the American west, from near-poverty (economic, social, and cultural) and non-existent opportunity, from her given name, even from her mother.

When I drove over the Pittman line I made two promises to myself…The first was that I would get myself a new name. I wasn't crazy about anything I had been called up to that point in my life, and this seemed like the time to make a clean break. I didn't have any special name in mind, but just wanted a change…I decided to let the gas tank decide. Wherever it ran out, I'd look for a sign.

Coasting into Taylorville, Illinois, she becomes Taylor Greer.

Driving on in her marginally functional 1955 VW, Taylor stops at an Oklahoma roadside bar, in hopes of cadging a burger, and is given a small, silent child, closely wrapped in a blanket that obscures its sex and its age, a bundle carefully set in the passenger seat. A woman—the child's mother?—murmurs furtively about desperate circumstances and quickly moves away. She climbs into a pickup parked across the lot and it pulls away. Just that fast, Taylor is a mother.

Within a few hours, Taylor learns the child is a girl, that she's pathologically withdrawn, undernourished, a victim of sexual abuse. She continues to drive west, her mind sorting and resorting questions and options. On the outskirts of Tucson, the VW's tires give out. They've stayed inflated long enough to get the car onto the lot of Jesus Is Lord Used Tires. Taylor, of course, has no money by this time, so getting tires, even well-used tires, are out of the question. She's arrived, it seems, at the end of her journey.

But we're only on page 41, and Taylor has a whole lot of journeying still to do. As she progresses, she's befriended by Mattie, the woman who runs the used tire business and who moonlights with an underground railroad marshalling Guatemalan illegals through Arizona and on into the secret American heartlands. Mattie gives her employment. Taylor also hooks up with Lou Ann, a fellow Kentuckian married to a rodeo rider of Mexican heritage. Lou Ann has an infant son, Dwayne Ray, but is losing her husband, who is intent on divorcing her.

Taylor's named her "daughter" Turtle because, like a snapping turtle, she grasps her hand or coat-hem with a vise-like grip. Inevitably, Taylor is confronted by the need to somehow legalize her adoption of Turtle.

The Bean Trees was Kingsolver's first novel, and in it she demonstrated her ear for dialog, her sensitivity to the nuances of interpersonal relationships, her appreciation of all the facets and feelings surrounding motherhood, whether biological or adoptional. The story builds, enticing you to follow along Taylor's road. You'll be glad if you do.

Nov 15, 2015, 11:42am

Enjoyed your review of The Bean Trees, Bill. I may well add that to the shelves next week.

Have a great Sunday.

Nov 15, 2015, 9:13pm

Thanks Paul. My take on the sequel is next.

Nov 15, 2015, 9:21pm

89. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver Finished 11/13/15


Here's the story of this sequel to The Bean Trees. It's three years later. Turtle does something pretty remarkable that catches the eyes of Oprah Winfrey's minions. She and her mother appear on Oprah's TV show, where Annawake Fourkiller sees them and immediately recognizes Turtle as Cherokee. Annawake is Cherokee and a recently minted attorney who gloms onto what she sees as a child improperly separated from the tribe. She feels compelled to interfere with a mother-daughter bond to enforce a tribal bond. She reviews Oklahoma's adoption paperwork and arranges to meet Taylor Greer at her home in Tucson.

Standing in Taylor's kitchen, coffee in hand, Annawake begins their conversation with an admission:

"I'm sorry," she tells Taylor, "I've misled you…I'm not a reporter. I'm an attorney… I work in an office that does a lot of work for the Cherokee Nation. That's what I want to talk with you about. Turtle's adoption might not be valid."
Taylor's cup stops an inch from her lips, and for nearly half a minute she does not appear to breathe.

Annawake tells Taylor of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted in 1978 because so many Indian kids were being separated from their families and put into non-Indian homes.

"I don't mean to scare you," Annawake says quietly. "But I want you to have some background on the problem. We need to make sure our laws are respected."
Taylor turns around and faces Annawake, her hair wheeling. "I didn't take Turtle from any family, she was dumped on me. Dumped. She'd already lost her family, and she'd been hurt in ways I can't even start to tell you without crying. Sexual ways. Your people let her fall through the crack and she was in bad trouble. She couldn't talk, she didn't walk, she had the personality of—I don't know what. A bruised apple. Nobody wanted her." Taylor's hands are shaking. She crosses her arms in front of her chest and slumps forward a little in the manner of a woman heavily pregnant.
"And now that she's a cute little adorable child and gets famous and goes on television, now you want her back."
"This has nothing to do with Turtle being on television. Except that it brought her to our attention." Annawake looks away and thinks about her tone. Lawyer words will not win any cases in this kitchen. She is not so far from Oklahoma. "Please don't panic. I'm only telling you that your adoption papers may not be valid because you didn't get approval from the tribe. You need that. It might be a good idea to get it."
"And what if they won't give it?"
Annawake can't think of the right answer to that question.
Taylor demands, "How can you possibly think this is in Turtle's best interest?"
"How can you think it's good for a tribe to lose its children!" Annawake is startled by her own anger—she has shot without aiming first. Taylor is shaking her head back and forth, back and forth.
"I'm sorry, I can't understand you. Turtle is my daughter. If you walked in here and asked me to cut off my hand for a good cause, I might think about it. But you don't get Turtle."
"There's the child's best interest and the tribe's best interest, and I'm trying to think of both things."
"Horseshit." Taylor turns away, facing the window.

No sooner does the dust settle behind Annawake Fourkiller's departing rental car than Taylor is packing her car and departing Tucson with Turtle, the beginning of an odyssey to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and on to the Pacific Northwest. At each stop, Taylor's resources and options dwindle.

This confrontation between maternal commitment and tribal rights is the linchpin of the plot. Yes, we read about Lucky Buster and his mother; about Barbie, who's obsessed with the outfits marketed for the doll she's named and modelled herself after; about Steve Kant, the wheelchair-bound air traffic controller. There's Gundi, Taylor's landlady, a quirky artist who's as likely as not to roam about her rental cottages in the buff. These are rich and entertaining characters. Kingsolver's a master of character and dialogue.

In the end, I felt disappointed because while the plot rummaged through the difficult, divisive, often (usually?) sorrowful issues of heritage, family, parenthood, and adoption, the characters were contrived and the plot manipulated to produce a heartwarming, everybody-wins finish. The solution in such circumstances is to have distant, dormant, unlikely-but-damned-convenient family relationships.


Nov 16, 2015, 9:16am

Great reviews of The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven, Bill. I'll consider reading the first book, but, based on your comments, probably not the second one. That book's title seems vaguely familiar...

Nov 16, 2015, 9:49am

Yayyyyy!! Link Hawgthrob!

Strangely, though Pigs in Heaven disappointed and frustrated me (kinda of), I didn't dislike it. Kingsolver constructs wonderful, memorable characters, lots of set pieces. But you could see from the first how conveniently it would work out.

Nov 16, 2015, 11:47am

>163 kidzdoc: Big fan of Pigs in Space!

>164 weird_O: Bill, have you read The Poisonwood Bible? Definitely my favorite by Kingsolver.

Nov 16, 2015, 4:30pm

Nick Offerman in A Confederacy of Dunces at the Huntington Theater in Boston, MA

Nov 16, 2015, 4:38pm

>165 Oberon: I have not read that, Erik, though I have read about it. Got to remember to ask my SIL if she'll lend it to me; I recall that she was a BIG fan of it. For 2016 reading.

I loved Pigs in Space, too. I have a PiS poster from--oh Lordy!--the 1970s that I taped over the window in my office door, back when I was claiming to work (but it just for the paycheck). The edges are majorly tattered, but I am sure I have it squirreled away in storage.

Nov 16, 2015, 4:46pm

>166 weird_O: I'd like to see that! I've seen Nick O's name in connection with a potential Confederacy of Dunces film. Seems like he'd be great in that part.

Nov 17, 2015, 6:43am

Oh, Nick Offerman - love him.

Nov 17, 2015, 7:18am

Good review of Pigs in Heaven, Bill. Love the images and quotes. Fortunately, the ending did not bother me at all. I am not sure a bleaker ending would have served the story. I may have slightly liked this one, more than The Bean Trees.

Wow! Offerman and the Confederacy of Dunces? What an interesting pairing.

Nov 17, 2015, 10:31pm

Oh boy, The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven will be rereads for me and I can hardly wait. As soon as I finish my current library read....

And, I see: eleven to go for that century! :-)

Nov 18, 2015, 7:42pm

Greetings, Joe, Amber, Mark, Ellen. Glad you all found something to like; that's always good. Ellen, I am pleased you'll be giving the Pulitzer challenge a go. The more the merrier.

Tuesday I finished Dr. Mutter's Marvels, and I have a report to post next. That's number 90 for the year. To catch up on the AAC, I'm reading The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, January's honoree (before I knew anything about LT).

Nov 18, 2015, 7:56pm

90. Dr. Mütter's Marvels by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz Finished 11/17/15


Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter (1811-1859) was a pathfinding surgeon and medical educator who may be best known today for his collection of 19th century medical memorabilia—instruments, unique (often grotesque) specimens, and anatomical and procedural drawings and photographs. Mutter was a force driving the modernization of medicine. A graduate of Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania Medical College, a student of surgery at various Paris specialized hospitals, Mutter was hired at the new Jefferson Medical School to teach surgery.

Cristin Aptowicz's relatively short book, Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, tells of Mütter's remarkable surgeries, set in the context of 1840s medical know-how, accepted dogma, theory, speculation, and myth, as well as 1840s society and culture. Without anesthesia, surgery was unimaginably painful. Moreover, it was terrifying; you the patient didn't really know what the surgeon was going to do, two or three strong men physically restrained you throughout the procedure, you were witness to your own blood oozing, trickling, even gushing over your body. No one knew if the procedure would work: Would you die while the surgeon operated? Several days later? Even if you survived, would you be better off than before?

In deference to the patient's suffering, surgeons worked as quickly as they possibly could. The heedless haste often contributed to the mayhem. British surgeon Robert Liston, whose book Mutter annotated and expanded for an American edition, was known as "the fastest knife in the West End."

Liston…was a colorful figure in surgery. He was tall, ambitious, and charismatic, often yelling, "Time me, gentlemen, time me!" to his students before beginning his amputations…
{One} leg amputation performed in less than three minutes had the unfortunate result of killing three people: the patient (who survived the surgery but died of gangrene several days later); his young assistant (whose fingers he accidentally sawed off during surgery and who would also later succumb to gangrene); and "a distinguished surgical spectator" whose coattails Liston also slashed. The man, who found himself surrounded by geysers of blood, was so convinced that the knife had pierced his vitals that he immediately "dropped dead from fright." It was later described as "the only operation in history with a 300 percent mortality {rate}."

When nitrous oxide and and sulphuric ether were discovered to have anesthesizing properties, many so-called authorities dismissed not only the claims for these gases, but the entire idea of anesthesia:

"I think anesthesia is of the devil,"
{one physician asserted,} "and I cannot give my sanction to any Satanic influence which deprives a man of the capacity to recognize law! I wish there were no such thing as anesthesia! I do not think men should be prevented from passing through what God intended them to endure!"

To the contrary, Mütter embraced anesthesia and in 1846 was the first surgeon in Philadelphia to demonstrate its use.

Primarily a plastic surgeon, Mütter was driven to find ways to correct deformities, excise tumors and disfiguring growths, and reparing disfigurations that kept the sufferers in hiding. A relatively early innovation was what is known to this day as the Mütter flap. Skin grafts, even taking skin from one part of the body and attaching it to another part of the same body, seldom if ever worked. The transplanted skin would simply turn black and die. Mütter took the skin needed to cover damage from a spot adjacent to the wound and left a connecting bit of tissue—a hinge, if you will—so the graft was never completely severed from the body and bloodflow through it was maintained. He'd reposition the flap to cover the injury, twisting the connection as needed.

General cleanliness, good bedside manners, and thorough, thoughtful interactions with patients (and his assistants) before, during, and after surgery had significant benefits in Mütter's practice. He badgered the trustees of Jefferson to provide hospital rooms so he could provide post-operative care. When it first opened, Jefferson was strictly a school. Yes, surgeries and other procedures were performed—demonstrated for the students—but immediately after the operation, the patient was loaded into a horse-drawn wagon and transported home. Mütter eventually persuaded fellow doctors (and the trustees) that on-site post-operative care was essential and beneficial.

Throughout his medical career, Mütter collected artifacts and specimens, models and drawings, and any other visual aids that would help his students and colleagues understand the maladies and the remedies. As his health failed in the late 1850s, his final endeavor was to establish a secure, curated repository for this collection. He not only succeeded, but the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia still exists, open to the public. The museum's collection has increased in size and scope in the years since Mutter's death. Check it out:


..Repairing a cleft palate

Nov 18, 2015, 8:24pm

I definitely want to read that book. Great review!

Nov 19, 2015, 9:16am

Great review! I picked up a copy of Dr Mutter's when Joe and I met up in DC a few weeks ago. Starting it today.

Editado: Nov 19, 2015, 9:55am

Good review, Bill! Thumb from me. Onto the WL Dr. Mutter's Marvels goes.

ETA: Oops, if you post it on the book page, I'll thumb it. You'll lose the photos there, but it may help draw other readers to the book.

Nov 19, 2015, 10:09am

Great review of Dr. Mutter's Marvels, Bill. Thumb pending...I have this one saved on audio. I should move it up. I know Jeff was a fan too.

Nov 19, 2015, 10:45am

>174 Dianekeenoy: >175 drneutron: >176 jnwelch: >177 msf59: Thanks, folks. Glad you find it thumb-worthy. I have now posted the review on the book page.

A Confederacy of Dunces has opened in Boston. My daughter tells me Nick Offerman gave her (and I imagine all the others on the crew) a copy of his book, which she hopes to finish before Christmas. Then she'll pass it along when she visits for the holidays.

I saw that Andy Borowitz hosted the National Book Awards. So I'll have to search for the winners.

Nov 19, 2015, 12:05pm

>173 weird_O: >177 msf59: Yep on both counts. I got the book on ER, excellent read.

I also must say, that I love your ability to find great images for your reviews. Really enhances things.

Editado: Nov 19, 2015, 12:18pm

Nov 19, 2015, 1:07pm

>179 mahsdad: Thanks for the compliment re: visuals. With Doc Mutter, the visuals were easy to find. I really do have to go to the museum. But my wife is NOT willing.

Nov 20, 2015, 4:30pm

My new granddaughter, Aurelia. She's (finally) been adopted by my younger son, Ned, and his wife, Sam. Officially sister to Gus now. Ned 'n' Sam have been fostering her for more than a year. She's wearing her Halloween costume; she wanted to be a cow, so her ma sewed pink horns and white ears to a cap.

Nov 21, 2015, 5:32am

>182 weird_O: Gorgeous little scamp with a lovely name.....sorry Bill, I meant Aurelia!

Have a great weekend.

Nov 21, 2015, 6:52am

>182 weird_O: Aurelia is BOO-tiful!

Nov 21, 2015, 8:28am

Aurelia is so cute. Congrats on your lovely new granddaughter.

Nov 22, 2015, 9:23pm


Nov 22, 2015, 10:11pm

Editado: Nov 22, 2015, 11:02pm

>183 PaulCranswick: >184 kidzdoc: >185 Ameise1: She's great. She'll be meeting her cousins for the first time on Thanksgiving.

Can't resist a couple more photos.


>187 laytonwoman3rd: Great show, hey? I usually miss these.

Editado: Nov 22, 2015, 11:33pm

Finished # 91. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. 11/24/15 My belated AAC January read. In addition to December, I still expect to read The Ambassadors by Henry James for AAC February. Don't know I can slip in a Haruf beofre the end of the year, but I'm going to try.

Starting Johnny Got His Gun. Anyone see the film Trumbo?

Nov 23, 2015, 7:02am

Oh, Aurelia is lovely! Congrats on the new granddaughter!

I read Johnny Got His Gun not too long ago and, whoa, what a powerhouse. I've not seen the film, though.

Nov 23, 2015, 11:14am

>155 msf59: So very true! It took a long time for my Air Force son in law to figure me out. It was too out of the box for him. Now, he periodically gives me a hug and tells me he loves me. 'This is indeed quite a gift.

Nov 23, 2015, 11:15am

Bill, I anxiously await your thoughts/feelings regarding Johnny Got His Gun. It is one of the most powerful anti-war books I've ever read.

Nov 25, 2015, 10:00am

Completed Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo today 11/25/15. Number 92 on the year. BAM!

Nov 25, 2015, 12:55pm

Your grands are adorable! Love their creative Halloween gear.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 26, 2015, 2:18pm

Editado: Nov 27, 2015, 3:34pm

Oh my goodness this thread is really really pretty. I am definitely coming back here. :)

Eta look at that, I am already back!
>152 weird_O: I recently finished House of Mirth, or 'House of Meh' to you, and did find the pace very slow. Plus, I rarely read historic fiction, so I was into it with trepidation from the onset. But I found her writing so deliciously descriptive, I just couldn't help myself liking it.
Your discussion of The Bean Trees has made me want to read it ASAP, job well done!

Nov 28, 2015, 6:46pm

Bill, the movie rendition of The House of Mirth is worth watching. I liked it much better than the book.

Nov 28, 2015, 8:31pm

>188 weird_O: & >186 weird_O: I didn't think it possible but one little lady eclipsed that beautiful sunset. Hope she has thoroughly enjoyed meeting her cousins.

Nov 28, 2015, 9:55pm

>196 LovingLit: >197 Whisper1: Oh my!! So much love for "Mirth." It's a slice of life I happily live without.

>198 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. First time in well over a year that Lia's mom Sam got out of NJ. Until Lia was adopted, she couldn't be taken out of the state. Couldn't be left in the care of a babysitter (even one in the family). Her brother Gus refers to her as "my baby."

I finished Number 93 for the year a few minutes ago. Trollope's The Warden. Read for a category challenge: Your mother's favorite book. Had to ask my sister for the answer to that, and it happened that I had a lovely hardcover copy of the book. Wouldn't be MY favorite, but I did enjoy it.

Now I have to get caught up with book reports.

Editado: Dic 2, 2015, 1:05pm

So the month is finished (okay, okay; there's still 50 minutes left). I haven't done a monthly wrap up for several months, so I think I'll do a year-to-date without relisting everything I've read do far. First, here's what I read in November:

November (8 read)
86. Benjamin Franklin by Edmund Morgan (11/5/15) (TBR-A) (ROOT) (NF November) (hc) ®
87. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (11/6/15) (AAC—November) (pbk) ®
88. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (11/11/15) (TBR-A) (cc22. scares me—Wharton books almost always go badly) (ROOT) (pbk)
89. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver (11/13/15) (AAC—November) (pbk) ®
90. Dr. Mutter's Marvels by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz (11/17/15) (NF November) (pbk) ®
91. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (11/22/15) (AAC—January) (pbk)
92. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (11/25/15) (cc48. banned book) (pbk)
93. The Warden by Anthony Trollope (11/27/15) (cc21. Mom's favorite book) (hc)

Here are the stats, year to date:

Total Read

Author Gender
Male: 75 (80%)*
Female: 19 (20%)

Living: 37 (40%)
Dead: 57 (60%)

Hardcover: 51 (54%)
Trade: 27 (29%)
Mass Market: 15 (16%)

Fiction: 70 (75%)
Nonfiction: 23 (25%)

Borrowed: 5 (5%)
Owned: 88 (95%)

2015 American Author Challenge

☕JANUARY: Carson McCullers Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
FEBRUARY: Henry James The Ambassadors
☕MARCH: Richard Ford Independence Day
☕APRIL: Louise Erdrich The Plague of Doves
☕MAY: Sinclair Lewis Dodsworth + Main Street (read in February) + Sinclair Lewis bio (late finish)
☕JUNE: Wallace Stegner Joe Hill + The Spectator Bird + Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work bio
☕JULY: Ursula K. Le Guin The Lathe of Heaven
☕AUGUST: Larry McMurtry The Last Picture Show
☕SEPTEMBER: Flannery O' Connor Wise Blood
☕OCTOBER: Ray Bradbury Driving Blind + Quicker than the Eye + The Illustrated Man
☕NOVEMBER: Barbara Kingsolver Pigs in Heaven + The Bean Trees
DECEMBER: E.L. Doctorow The March + Homer & Langley

Category Challenge

1. A book with more than 500 pages Sinclair Lewis (6/5/15)
2. A classic romance Pride and Prejudice (4/24/15)
3. A book that became a movie Spartacus (4/3/15)
4. A book published this year The Wright Brothers (8/20/15)
5. A book with a number in the title Around the World in Eighty Days (4/11/15)
6. A book written by someone under 30 Two Years Before the Mast (3/27/15)
7. A book with non-human characters The Jungle Books (2/19/15)
8. A funny book Sick Puppy (5/12/15)
9. A book by a female author I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1/3/15)
10. A mystery or thriller Bad Boy Brawly Brown (5/4/15)
11. A book with a one-word title Dodsworth (5/9/15)
12. A book of short stories The Stories of O. Henry (5/16/15)
13. A book set in a different country Fathers and Sons (1/30/15)
14. A non-fiction book Just Mercy (1/14/15)
15. A popular author’s first book Cup of Gold by John Steinbeck (4/15/15)
16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet The Human Stain by Philip Roth (10/30/15)
17. A book a friend recommended Wallace Stegner by Jackson J. Benson (6/30/15)
18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Bell for Adano by John Hersey (1945) (7/3/15)
19. A book based on a true story The Killer Angels (5/18/15)
20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list Food in History
21. A book your mom loved The Warden by Anthony Trollope (11/28/15)
22. A book that scares you House of Mirth (11/11/15)
23. A book more than 100 years old Tom Jones (1/28/15)
24. A book based entirely on its cover Famous People I Have Known with cover by R. Crumb (5/13/15)
25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t Under the Volcano (8/30/15)
26. A memoir Henry and June (2/23/15)
27. A book you can finish in a day The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor (3/22/15)
28. A book with antonyms in the title Thinking, Fast and Slow
29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit The City of Falling Angels (4/27/15)
30. A book that came out the year you were born Dangling Man in 1944 (4/8/15)
31. A book with bad reviews Of Mice and Men (6/19/15)
32. A trilogy Barrytown Trilogy (#1 5/27/15)(#2 8/27/15) (#3 10/6/15)
33. A book from your childhood Treasure Island (3/29/15)
34. A book with a love triangle Cyrano de Bergerac (4/16/15)
35. A book set in the future A Handmaid's Tale (9/10/15)
36. A book set in high school Carrie (8/7/15)
37. A book with a color in the title The Red and the Black (9/23/15)
38. A book that made you cry Night by Elie Wiesel (9/20/15)
39. A book with magic Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (8/3/15)
40. A graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (7/12/15)
41. A book by an author you’ve never read before The Bounty by Caroline Alexander (7/19/15)
42. A book you own but have never read Winter's Tale (8/18/15)
43. A book that takes place in your hometown Rabbit Run (9/16/15)
44. A book originally written in a different language Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (8/24/15)
45. A book set during Christmas A Christmas Carol
46. A book written by an author with your same initials Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson (6/24/15)
47. A play William Tell (4/5/15)
48. A banned book Johnny Got His Gun (11/25/15)
49. A book based on or turned into a TV show The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (7/24/15)
50. A book you started but never finished Native Son (2/12/15)

Dic 1, 2015, 1:19am

Next year, I'm steering clear of a lot of crazy reading challenges. I'll do the AACIII and my own Pulitzer Prize challenge, but not those whacko category challenges, or Bingo cards, or TIOLI. I've decided to chill out and dip into some real books. Blockbusters. Toebusters. Rupture-inducing mammoths.

Check it out here:

Dic 1, 2015, 3:52am

"Rapture inducing mammoths"?

Wow. Looking forward to those reviews.

I want to read Middlemarch next year (because it's there) but that's the extent of my ambition in the field of doorstops.

Dic 1, 2015, 7:31am

It looks like you had a good November, Bill! And fine job on the AAC reading. You get a Purist Button, (as long as you read a Doctorow, that is. LOL.)

I highly recommend Middlemarch. What a joy that one was. And speaking of Classic Chunksters, there is a Group Read of War And Peace kicking off in January. I have not read it. Have you?

Dic 1, 2015, 4:03pm

93. The Warden by Anthony Trollope Finished 11/28/15


The Warden is a story about honesty and integrity, about being at peace with yourself. The central character is an elderly cleric named Septimus Harding, who is the resident supervisor (called the warden) of Hiram's Hospital in Trollope's fictional Barsetshire county. (In fact, The Warden is the first novel in the author's series, "Chronicles of Barsetshire".) In this context, a "hospital" is a retirement home for 12 indigent pensioners, who are called bedesmen and are paid a daily stipend of 1 shilling and fourpence. In medieval times, John Hiram set up the place with a bequest to the Diocese of Barchester, the income from which provides funds for operating and maintaining the home. Harding is paid 800 pounds annually and a comfortable residence and garden is provided for him and his younger daughter, Eleanor.

The job of warden is, truth be told, pretty cushy, with little actual work required. Mr. Harding owes his appointment to his long and enduring friendship with the Bishop of Barchester. As it happens, the bishop's son, Dr. Grantly, is the archdeacon, and it is he who pretty much runs the diocese with the ascent of his father. And, as it further happens, Dr. Grantly is married to Mr. Harding's older daughter, Susan.

So… Eleanor Harding's got a suitor, a young and attractive and personable and well-heeled man named John Bold. Bold gets a notion to question the division of the income between the warden and the bedesmen, and thus to instigate reform of the hospital operation. He seems oblivious to the potential consequence for his love's father and how it will cascade onto him. Bold initiates a lawsuit, and he shares details of his venture with Tom Tower, editor of the dominant London newspaper, to stir up publicity. Tower does just that with a column decrying the failure of the church to pay the bedesmen the 100 pounds per annum specified by Hiram's will, while warden, who isn't mentioned in the will, Towers asserts, gets 800 pounds. (What exactly the will specifies is not, of course, clearly revealed in the novel.) The warden is derelict in his duties and selfish beyond measure, insists Tower. His campaign is picked up and expanded by two renown gadflies, Dr Pessimist Anticant, and Mr Popular Sentiment, who, according to Wiki, are widely believed to be caricatures of Thomas Carlyle and Charles Dickens respectively.

Dr. Grantly, angered, urges his father and the warden to hold their ground, and takes charge. He harangs the bedesmen. He hires a big-name lawyer to advise and represent the Diocese. But Mr. Harding is beset and withdraws to consider the merits of the lawsuit and to weigh his options if the claimants prevail and he loses his position. He takes action. You have to read the book.

I don't think I would ever have picked up this book on my own, even though I acquired a handsome Heritage Press edition of it in February of this year. But I signed onto a category challenge that required me to read my mother's favorite book. Clueless, I asked my sister what it was. She named Anthony Trollope, and picked The Warden as Mom's favorite. It isn't my favorite, but I did enjoy the read.

Here are a selection of Fritz Kredel illustrations from the Heritage Press edition.

{A}s this tale will refer mainly to the cathedral dignitaries of the town in question, we are anxious that no personality may be suspected. Let us presume that Barchester is a quiet town in the West of England, more remarkable for the beauty of its cathedral and the antiquity of its monuments, than for any commercial prosperity; that the west end of Barchester is the cathedral close, and that the aristocracy of Barchester are the bishop, dean, and canons, with their respective wives and daughters.

The warden serenades the bedesmen.
The musician was seated in a garden-chair just within the summer-house, so as to allow the violoncello which he held between his knees to rest upon the dry stone flooring; before him stood a rough music desk, on which was open a page of that dear sacred book…and around sat, and lay, and stood, and leaned, ten of the twelve old men who dwelt with him beneath old John Hiram's roof.

Mr. Harding stands by as Dr. Grantly harangs the gathered bedesmen
Not a sound came from the eleven bedesmen, as they sat listening to what, according to the archdeacon, was their intended estate. They grimly stared upon his burly figure, but did not then express, by word or sign, the anger and disgust to which such language was sure to give rise.
"Now let me ask you," he continued; "do you think you are worse off than John Hiram intended to make you? Have you not shelter, and food, and leisure? Have you not much more?"

Dr. Grantly tells his father (the Bishop) and Mr. Harding how to handle the lawsuit.
"The only thing we have now to do," continued the archdeacon, "is to remain quiet, hold our peace, and let them play their own game as they please."
"We are not to make known then," said the warden, "that we have consulted the attorney-general, and that we are advised by him that the founder's will is fully and fairly carried out?"
"God bless my soul!" said the archdeacon, "how odd it is that you will not see that all we are to do is to do nothing. Why should we say anything about the founder's will? We are in possession; and we know that they are not in a position to put us out; surely that is enough for the present."

Tom Tower
"My dear Bold," said Tom Towers, "I have a sincere regard for you. I have known you for many years, and value your friendship. I hope you will let me explain to you, without offence, that none who are connected with the public press can with propriety listen to interference…
"Ah, my dear fellow…{y}ou think that I am able to keep certain remarks out of a newspaper… {Y}ou think I have such power, and you ask me to use it. Now that is interference."

Passing into the Strand, he saw in a bookseller's window an announcement of the first number of the "Almshouse"; so he purchased a copy, and hurrying back to his lodgings, proceeded to ascertain what Mr. Popular Sentiment had to say to the public…Of all such reformers Mr. Sentiment is the most powerful. It is incredible the number of evil practices he has put down…{H}is good poor people are so very good; his hard rich people so very hard; and the genuinely honest so very honest.

Dic 1, 2015, 4:12pm

>202 charl08: Oh no, no, no. RUPTURE-inducing as in so heavy as to cause a hernia.

>203 msf59: Beyond Doctorow, I haven't read Hank James yet either. Nor Haruf. Busy December it will be.

Middlemarch was on my TBR list this year, but I postponed the reading until 2016, thinking specifically of the Doorstop Challenge. Same with Lonesome Dove. Yes, War and Peace is on my DC roster.

Dic 1, 2015, 5:08pm

>204 weird_O: Love the drawings. Thanks for sharing them.

Dic 2, 2015, 10:00am

Nice review, Bill.

Dic 2, 2015, 1:06pm

Great review of The Warden; the illustrations are very engaging too.

Editado: Dic 4, 2015, 7:22pm

92. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo Finished 11/25/15

Joe Bonham is a wounded veteran of World War I (that's Joe in the photo above). Johnny Got His Gun is his story.

Joe was born to Bill and Margie Bonham in Shale City, Colorado, and he lived there with his family through his teenage years. He liked camping and fishing with his father. His life was largely uneventful. In high school, he had a girl friend named Diane. His best friend, Bill Harper, tattled on Diane for dating Glen Hogan, when she also cheated on Joe by dating Harper. After Joe's father died, he moved with his mother and two younger sisters to Los Angeles. He got a job in a vast bread bakery, and he found a new love named Kareen. They intended to wed, but their plans were disrupted when Joe was drafted as the U.S. entered the Great War in Europe.


As the novel opens, Joe is feeling unwell, really sick, and he is irritated by the ringing of a distant telephone that no one will answer. Is he hung over? You can't drink enough of that French wine to get THIS hung over, he thinks. Then he recognizes the roaring of the bread ovens and the mechanical noises of the conveyors. He walks past dollies and other equipment to the phone. It is his mother; he must come home because his father's died. His supervisor directs a delivery driver to take him home, and he arrives in time to witness morgue workers carrying his father's body away.

"That's not Bill," he mother tells him. "It may seem like it, but it's not." Bill had died in Colorado several years before, of course. And Joe wonders "why couldn't the goddam phone stop ringing?" He feels things getting "floaty and sticky."

He drifted again. He was hurt. He was bad hurt. The bell was fading. He was dreaming. He wasn't dreaming. He was awake even though he couldn't see. He was awake even though he couldn't hear a thing except a telephone that really wasn't ringing. He was mighty scared.

He remembers reading The Last Days of Pompeii and having nightmares of being entombed by his blankets, dreaming them to be lava. He has that same feeling now and tries to claw his way out of loose ground. And excruciating pain engulfs him. He sweats and the sweat makes him aware of bandages that cover every part of him. Even his head. He's suddenly aware that he can't hear his pulse, though his heart is pounding.

Oh god then he was deaf. Where did they get that stuff about bombproof dugouts when a man in one of them could be hit so hard that the whole complicated business of his ears could be blown away leaving him deaf so deaf he couldn't hear his own heart beat? He had been hit and he had been hit bad and now he was deaf. Not just a little deaf. Not just halfway deaf. He was stone deaf…
So he'd never hear again. Well there were a hell of a lot of things he didn't want to hear again. He never wanted to hear the biting little castanet sound of a machine gun or the high whistle of a .75 coming down fast or the slow thunder as it hit or the whine of an airplane overhead or the yells of a guy trying to explain to somebody that he's got a bullet in his belly and that his breakfast is coming out through the front of him and why won't somebody stop going forward and give him a hand only nobody can hear him they're so scared themselves. The hell with it.

Chapter I draws to a close.

The novel alternates chapters set in Joe's past—experiences in Colorado, his work in the bakery—with those in his isolated present. It is all in what's left of his head, as he recalls his past and contemplates his future, as he struggles to break out of his isolation. He has nightmares, daymares, anytime-mares. He hallucinates of his last hour with his love, Kareen.

"Joe dear darling Joe hold me closer. Drop your bag and put both of your arms around me and hold me tightly. Put both of your arms around me. Both of them."
You in both of my arms Kareen goodbye. Both of my arms. Kareen in my arms. Both of them. Arms arms arms arms. I'm fainting in and out all the time Kareen and I'm not catching on quick. You are in my arms Kareen. You in both of my arms. Both of my arms. Both of them. Both
I haven't got any arms Kareen.
My arms are gone.
Both of my arms are gone Kareen both of them
They're gone.
Kareen Kareen Kareen.
They've cut my arms off both of my arms.
Oh Jesus mother god Kareen they've cut off both of them.
Oh Jesus mother god Kareen Kareen Kareen my arms.

As best he can, he inventories his body and its conventional parts.

It was a process of feeling with his skin of exploring with something that couldn't move where his mind told it to. The nerves and muscles of his face were crawling like snakes toward his forehead.
The hole began at the base of his throat just below where his jaw should be and went upward in a widening circle. He could feel his skin creeping around the rim of the circle. The hole was getting bigger and bigger. It widened out almost to the base of his ears if he had any and then narrowed again. It ended somewhere above the top of what used to be his nose.
The hole went too high to have any eyes in it.
He was blind.

Calm and mentally quiet, he continues, feeling "just like a storekeeper taking spring inventory… He had no legs and no arms and no eyes and no ears and no nose and no mouth and no tongue." His biology teacher comes to Joe's mind. He had chunks of cartilage that "didn't have anything except life so they grew on chemicals." But Joe was "one up on the cartilage. He had a mind and it was thinking."

He thought here you are Joe Bonham lying like a side of beef all the rest of your life and for what? Somebody tapped you on the shoulder and said come along son we're going to war. So you went. But why?

Joe thinks about those dangerous concept words: Liberty. Freedom. Honor. Decency.

You can always hear the people who are willing to sacrifice somebody else's life…They sound wonderful. Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men who died so gloriously. They shall not have died in vain. Our noble dead.

All the while, Joe Bonham is trying to figure out a way to communicate with anyone other than himself. He is a part of nurses' routines. He can't tell daylight from night, but he eventually recognizes a regular day nurse from her routine, her touch, the particular vibration of the floor as she moves about the room. Night nurses seem to change regularly. He roughly calculates time and day from the schedule of his care. He is bathed and his bedding is changed every two days. The routine of changing his feeding tube and bodily discharges contribute to his perception of time. He always thinking, always planning. And by the book's end, he can communicate.

So that's Joe's story. Do you still want to put your boots on the ground in the Middle East?


Dic 2, 2015, 4:09pm

Wow. That sounds like a heavy (if very timely) book, which I haven't read. Great comments. Apparently Trumbo (the author's biography) has been rereleased this year to coincide with the film of the same name. I wondered if you'd read the bio?

Dic 2, 2015, 4:34pm

>209 weird_O: Superb, Bill. I've been avoiding that book every since I first heard about it in high school. You make me feel guilty about that, but I still don't have the guts to take it on. I do wish a few other people would read it, though.

Dic 2, 2015, 10:19pm

.Dalton Trumbo with the Oscar awarded him in 1973.

Dalton Trumbo seems to be known at this bookish venue as the author of the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun. The recently released bio-pic Trumbo should improve awareness of the man and his work. I've known of him as a screenwriter, I think primarily because he was one of the Hollywood Ten.

Trumbo was born on December 9, 1905 (so we'll be commemorating his 110th birthday in just a few days), and grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado. He attended the University of Colorado for two years. After his father, Orus Bonham Trumbo, lost his job, the family moved to Los Angeles and young Trumbo worked the night-shift wrapping bread in an L.A. bakery. (In JGHG, of course, the main character is named Joe Bonham, who lives in Shale City, Colorado, and who, following his father's death, moves to L.A. and works in a bread bakery.) Trumbo also attended the University of Southern California.

Throughout his schooling Trumbo wrote for school newspapers and literary publications. He continued writing after finishing college, turning out more than 80 short stories, as well as 6 novels, none of which found publishers. In the late 1930s, he got into the movie business, and wrote scripts for Road Gang (1936), Love Begins at 20 (1936), Devil’s Playground (1937), Fugitives for a Night (1938), and A Man to Remember (1938).

In 1939, Trumbo wrote a novel that found a publisher. It was a powerful anti-war story, set at the end of World War I. And its publication coincided with the beginning of World War II in Europe. The first printing sold out quickly, but Trumbo agreed with the postponing of a second printing until after the war's conclusion. Trumbo continued his screenwriting during the war, scripting A Bill of Divorcement (1940), Kitty Foyle (1940), Tender Comrade (1944), A Guy Named Joe (1944), and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944).

The anti-Communist hysteria of the late-1940s brought Trumbo into the public eye. Called to Washington to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his communist sympathies and activities, he appeared but declined to testify. Along with nine other Hollywood screenwriters who also declined to testify, he was found to be in contempt of congress and sentenced to a year in federal prison. Movie moguls blacklisted all ten, refusing to employ them.

. Trumbo before HUAC

Dalton Trumbo (left) and John Howard Lawson, two of the Hollywood Ten, address a crowd of supporters before leaving for prison in 1950.


As did a number of the Ten, Trumbo continued writing scripts that the moguls turned into films. They either used a pseudonym (Trumbo's was Robert Rich) or worked with a non-blacklisted partner who got the screen credit. By 1960, blacklisting collapsed. That year, producer-director Otto Preminger announced that Trumbo wrote the script for Exodus. Kirk Douglas revealed shortly thereafter that Trumbo had scripted Spartacus, the blockbuster he had produced and starred in. (Tasty it is that commie-sympathizer Trumbo turned commie-sympathizer Howard Fast's self-published novel into a very successful movie.)

Thereafter, Trumbo got on-screen credit for scripts he created or adapted, among them Lonely Are the Brave (1962), The Sandpiper (1965), Hawaii (1966), The Fixer (1968), and Papillon (1973). In 1973, Trumbo belately was awarded an Oscar for his script of The Brave One, which had been credited to Robert Rich (Trumbo's pseudonym, remember). In 1993, 17 years after Trumbo's death, he was awarded an Oscar for the script of 1953's Roman Holiday. His "front" on the work was Ian McClellen Hunter, and Hunter had accepted the Oscar back in 1954 (and his son wouldn't relinquish the statue; the Academy minted another for Trumbo's heirs).

"{Trumbo} worked at night, often in the bathtub," wrote Kirk Douglas in his autobiography The Ragman's Son. He'd have "the typewriter in front of him on a tray, a cigarette in his mouth (he smoked six packs a day)." The image became iconic, and when his home town decided to remember him with a statue, Grand Junction had a replica of Trumbo writing in a bathtub cast in bronze and installed in front of the Avalon Theater.

Dic 3, 2015, 8:46am

Ooof, that book. I'm glad I read it, but, dang.

(I can be quite eloquent when I want to be, dontcha know.)

Dic 3, 2015, 8:48am

Amazing review. Thumbsie. But, no thanks, I don't think I want to read it.

Editado: Dic 3, 2015, 9:11am

I love that sculpture. Think there should be a paired one in London for Douglas Adams.

Dic 3, 2015, 2:43pm

" Trumbo writing in a bathtub " But....the water gets cold. And you can't get at the tap with a typewriter and all that in the way. And SIX packs of cigarettes a day? Can't imagine how he managed to live to 70. I see he donated his body to science; I'll bet it was verrrry interesting.

Dic 3, 2015, 10:26pm

Good review of "Johnny", Bill. I have heard of this one, all my life but have never read it. Thanks for the info on Trumbo. Fascinating stuff.
I have family that is living in Grand Junction. I have been there several times. Also I did read The Ragman's Son, many years ago.

Dic 4, 2015, 4:46pm

What incredible books and images. This is a feast of delight! I'm hoping you received my message re. tomorrow. Please send message to me ok?


And, what an excellent review of Johnny Got His Gun!!!

Dic 6, 2015, 6:09pm

95. Homer & Langley by E. L. Doctorow Finished 12/5/15


For some reason, Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow didn't win me. I am not sure what I missed; I am not sure what Doctorow was telling me. He mused on the lives of two reclusive brothers, who sequestered themselves from the world in the middle of residential Manhattan, accumulating and eventually smothering themselves in tons and and tons AND TONS of trash. As was his wont, the author altered their history considerably.

In Doctorow's telling, the brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer, are Forrest Gump-like witnesses to U.S. history, but instead of the main character(s) travelling to historic events and places, those events and places come to the character(s) in various guises. The sights and sounds of the history are relayed through the (blind) eyes of a recluse.

Homer and Langley are touched by World War I, when Langley goes as a soldier to France where he is gassed. Their parents die within days of each other of the Spanish flu. When the Great Depression descends, the two men hold dollar-a-couple tea dances in their spacious drawing room. They visit a speakeasy where a gangster identified only as Vincent buys them drinks, chats briefly, and moves on. (Decades later, Vincent's henchmen barge into the Collyers' once-luxurious four-story brownstone at 5th Avenue and 128th Street and place their injured—gunshot injured—boss on the kitchen table. Hiding out.) As the world once again goes to war, the Collyers provide shelter for a Japanese-American couple who were driven out of their apartment by distrusting, aggressive neighbors. And shortly thereafter the Collyers lose them to FBI agents rounding up all Japanese for internment.

For recluses, Doctorow's Homer and Langley are remarkably sociable. Their lives extend past the '60s into the 1970s (which would take them into their 80s). They share their house for a few days with a band of hippies, one of whom resembles cartoonist R. Crumb. Even then, Homer is able to couple with one or two of the young girls. (Why would any young girl DO that!? Sex with a groaty 80-something living in an immense, four-story, full-to-the-brim dumpster! Maybe it was just a Homeric hallucination.)


Homer Collyer and NYPD officers in 1939 (left). Langley Collyer with an attorney in 1946.

Langley and Homer Collyer actually lived most of their lives in a luxurious—at least when the family moved in it was luxurious—brownstone at 5th Avenue and 128th Street in Harlem. Born in the 1880s, Homer was about 4 years older than Langley. Homer enrolled as a "sub-freshman" at CCNY at 14, and earned a bachelor's degree six years later. Both attended Columbia, Homer getting a degree in admiralty law, Langley to study engineering and chemistry. Langley was a concert pianist and did perform at least once in Carnegie Hall. After he stopped playing professionally, he told a reporter: "Paderewski followed me. He got better notices than I. What was the use of going on?" By the late 1920s, the brownstone was in disrepair, and the brothers had stopped paying bills. When Homer lost his eyesight in 1933, Langley left his job as a piano dealer to care for his brother. The downward spiral continued until both died—buried in trash in their house—in 1947.

. Collyer Brothers' brownstone.

Cleaning out all four stories took weeks. Deemed irreparable, the building was demolished and the site is now a small park.

Editado: Dic 14, 2015, 7:33pm

Reading Update

My current active read is The Ambassadors by Henry James, which I am working on the February's AAC. (Running behind because I didn't become ensnared in the challenge until May.) James certainly is a demanding author to read. Once James is done, I have Plainsong by Kent Haruf to read, which will complete the full 13-author challenge for 2015.

I have read this year two books by Doctorow: The Waterworks and Homer & Langley. I have both The March and World's Fair shelved, and I expect (hope) to read the first of those yet this month.

I signed on for a category challenge of 50 items, and have only three to go. But I may miss the target by a single title. Remaining are: 20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list; 28. A book with antonyms in the title; and 45. A book set during Christmas.

My plan was to read Food in History for #20, but I've stalled in about 1400 B.C. I can surely find a book that meets the criteria amongst the 95 I have read this year.

A re-read of A Christmas Carol will fulfill #45.

#28 has me stuck; I was going to read Thinking Fast and Slow, but I may run out of time.

I also committed to a TRB Challenge that involves reading 12 titles on a primary list and 12 on a secondary list. What screwed me on this challenge was committing to books in May that five or six months later aren't as compelling. I have read 10 of 12 from the primary list. One of the two "unreads" is Middlemarch, which I'm holding for 2016's Doorstop Challenge. Food in History is the other--it just isn't compelling enough to keep me going.

From the secondary list, I still want to read Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle. In fact, I have read a few pages into it.

I am at 95 books for the year. I kinda do want to get to the century. The Ambassadors, Plainsong, Paddy Clarke, A Christmas Carol, and The March will get me there. Thinking Fast and Slow would break on through...

Dic 10, 2015, 12:45am

>219 weird_O: that's quite a house situation those two had there! Wow.

Dic 10, 2015, 5:48am

Good luck Bill as you bound towards three figures in reads for 2015. Pretty solid five you have to go at too.

Fascinating info on Langley & Homer too.

Dic 10, 2015, 10:13am

Plainsong is one of my favorite books ever. Hope you enjoy it.

Dic 10, 2015, 10:14am

>220 weird_O: If you get through The Ambassadors by the end of the year, I'm perfectly willing to give you a bonus of 3, 4, or 5 books---whatever it takes to put you over the top.

Dic 10, 2015, 12:43pm

>222 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. I'm quite confident I'm make it. :-)

Joe, I expect I will like Plainsong.

>224 laytonwoman3rd: Why thank you, Linda. I'm just over halfway, and I pretty much know what's going on. Despite Henry James.

Editado: Dic 14, 2015, 7:45pm

Finished Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, Roddy Doyle's Booker Prize-winning novel. Number ninety-six for the year.

Only 100 pages of The Ambassadors to go.

Next up: Plainsong.

Hope you all had good weekends.

Editado: Dic 14, 2015, 7:41pm

Closing Out 2015


Seventeen days left in the year. Five books between me and my own personal, just for me, gold statuette.

Dic 14, 2015, 8:02pm

Hi, Bill! I am sure you are completely immersed in Plainsong at the moment. Don't forget to come up for air and you should take bathroom breaks periodically too. Smiles...

I also read and enjoyed Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. I have read 3 of his books and liked 'em all. I should read more.

Dic 17, 2015, 1:00pm

Plainsong done. Nice. 12/17/15

Number ninety-seven. Nice.

Only 30 pages to go in The Ambassadors.

Slow progress being made.

Thinkin' we'll do some Christmas shopping today. In the rain...

Non-snow day.


Dic 17, 2015, 3:27pm

Just ordered Doyle's latest The Guts - looking forward to reading it very much. He has such a witty style.

Good luck with hitting your 100 target.

Dic 18, 2015, 9:39am

I don't know how many times I've read A Christmas Carol. I love this story very much.

Editado: Dic 19, 2015, 7:15am

^I thought you would get a kick out of this, Bill. Happy Saturday! Glad you can finally cross Plainsong off the list.

Dic 19, 2015, 12:43pm

Oh happy happy joy joy! Christmas is on the agenda for next week!

>230 charl08: Charlotte, I've read only four Doyle books, and they are his first four. I ought to follow your lead and get a more recent book or two of his. Thanks for the Century support. I'm confident I'll make it.

>231 Ameise1: Someone told me the other day that Dickens tried to repeat A Christmas Carol by writing a short (for him) Christmas-themed story in each of four subsequent years. The first--about Ebeneezer--was the only good one. It'll be a re-read for me, though I've seen easily a dozen films and animations and adaptations of it.

>232 msf59: Thanks, Mark.

Editado: Dic 20, 2015, 10:53pm

The Ambassadors has been completed! That means my 2015 AAC is completed, too. In light of that, a little dance is appropriate, and who better that the Darthster himself.

JANUARY: Carson McCullers Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
FEBRUARY: Henry James The Ambassadors
MARCH: Richard Ford Independence Day
APRIL: Louise Erdrich The Plague of Doves
MAY: Sinclair Lewis Dodsworth + Main Street (read in February) + Sinclair Lewis bio (late finish)
JUNE: Wallace Stegner Joe Hill + The Spectator Bird + Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work bio
JULY: Ursula K. Le Guin The Lathe of Heaven
AUGUST: Larry McMurtry The Last Picture Show
SEPTEMBER: Flannery O' Connor Wise Blood
OCTOBER: Ray Bradbury Quicker than the Eye + The Illustrated Man
NOVEMBER: Barbara Kingsolver Pigs in Heaven + The Bean Trees
DECEMBER: E.L. Doctorow The March* + Homer & Langley + The Waterworks (read in April)

MEMORIAL: Kent Haruf Plainsong

*Oh alright. I'm not quite finished with this one. Sherman's army has swept through Georgia and South Carolina, and in a few minutes will plunge into North Carolina. Think of it as a bonus. Now completed--12/20/15

Does this make me a Gold Star reader, Mark?

Dic 19, 2015, 11:39pm

Congratulations, Bill!

Dic 20, 2015, 7:51am

Well done, Bill!

Editado: Dic 20, 2015, 11:26pm

Finished The March by Doctorow an hour or so ago. Book Ninety-nine.

Two of my category challenges remain to be read: A book with antonyms in the title, and a book set at Christmas. Last-minute maneuvering drops Thinking, Fast and Slow and replaces it with a reread of The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. TFaS is a 400-pager that'll require time and concentration to comprehend as well as read. I'll read it next year.

I last read A Christmas Carol on 12/24/11. Figure I can read it on Christmas Eve day again.

I want to get these two read by Christmas, so afterwards, I can wallow in the new books I get as gifts. And turn my attention to 2016's reading adventures.

Have a happy, everybody!

Editado: Dic 21, 2015, 7:01am

Fine job, Bill! I am very impressed. You have been a refreshing addition over here, my friend. Glad to have you part of the Mighty 75!! You fit in perfectly.

Dic 21, 2015, 4:49pm

>238 msf59: What Mark said.

Dic 21, 2015, 9:34pm

>238 msf59: >239 kidzdoc: Oh thank you, fellows. Mark, my epaulets aren't long enough for ALL those stars. Have to look for an old 1970's shirt with the superlong collar.

I've been tidying up my reading lists and stats for 2015. I may post 'em before I actually finish A Christmas Carol on Thursday. Right after Christmas, I'll get a thread set up for me, and for the two challenges I've posed.

The nutcrackers are forming up!

Dic 22, 2015, 11:46am

Weird_O's Top Ten Reads of 2015

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1/28/15)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (4/24/15)

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (5/18/15)

The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner (6/8/15)

The Unvanquished by William Faulkner (7/15/15)

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (8/3/15)

Rabbet Run by John Updike (9/16/15)

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor (9/26/15)

The Human Stain by Philip Roth (10/30/15)

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (11/25/15)

Dic 22, 2015, 1:55pm

Thrilled to see a Faulkner novel in your top ten, Bill!

Dic 22, 2015, 4:03pm

Nice Top Ten, Bill. Hope you and yours have a great holiday.

Dic 22, 2015, 10:38pm

I have only read 3, off your Best Books of the Year List, Bill, but I am still impressed. I have not read Tom Jones. I should add it to next year's list. I also have the Stegner on shelf. I also hope to read the 2nd Rabbit book, in the new year.

Plainsong didn't make the cut? Ouch...

Dic 23, 2015, 3:34am

I've only read the first two. Must try harder...

Editado: Dic 23, 2015, 11:58am

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Dic 23, 2015, 10:50am

Dic 23, 2015, 6:54pm

For my Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Holiday image this year (we are so diverse!), I've chosen this photograph by local photographer Mark Lenoce of the pier at Pacific Beach to express my holiday wishes to you: Peace on Earth and Good Will toward All!

Dic 24, 2015, 2:24am

Dic 24, 2015, 1:41pm

No time to get caught up with all that has been happening over here but making sure to stop by to wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas!

Dic 24, 2015, 8:04pm

Merry Christmas! Hope its a great one!

Dic 24, 2015, 8:20pm

Have a lovely holiday, Bill

Dic 26, 2015, 7:07pm

Thank you one and all for the lovely, fun, smartass Holiday visuals. Love 'em all.

We had a epic Christmas, and it ain't over yet. WHAT?!!! Tomorrow Son the Younger, Ned, will journey to visit with his Old Folks, bringing along his wife Sam and their two children, Gus and Lia. Daughter the Only, Becky, has been visiting us Old Folks, so of course she'll be part of the festivities. Rounding out our troupe will be Son the Elder, Jeremy, his wife Tara and their daughters Helen and Claire, twins, and Gracie. We visited them Christmas Day. So we'll enjoy more jabbering and merchandise swaps and noshing and other family stuff.

I don't expect to do a lot of reading. I'm into A Christmas Carol as book #101 for 2015, probably the last. More busy scripting thread toppers for 2016.

Dic 27, 2015, 9:14pm

Hi Bill! Just catching up on your thread a little here. I've read three of your top 10, so that's a good start. :) You have some very beautiful reviews up here with all these pictures!

Editado: Dic 28, 2015, 1:58pm

>242 laytonwoman3rd: For you, Linda, a Faulkner makes my Top Ten. But I balanced it with a Updike.

>243 jnwelch: I easily had a half-dozen runners up, Joe, including The Lathe of Heaven, The Van, Spartacus, The Plague of Doves, and Night. Oh...and The House of Mirth. Ha ha ha ha ha. NOT! A! CHANCE!

>244 msf59: Sorry about Plainsong, Mark. It was good; I enjoyed it, but I felt some others were better. (By the bye, I understand Plainsong is one of a trilogy. What are the others?) Tom Jones is a hoot, which you know if you ever saw the movie. The film is very faithful to the book.

>245 charl08: Charlotte, the bookshelf--magically--always has another great book for you to read.

Dic 28, 2015, 3:52pm

I undertook a category challenge shortly after joining LT. I finished it with A Christmas Carol, which I completed last night. Here's the 50 categories with the title of the book of read and the date I completed it. It was fun and challenged me to read some books I otherwise would not have have read. But I'm ready to move on, with some challenges of my own devising for 2016.

1. A book with more than 500 pages: Sinclair Lewis (6/5/15)
2. A classic romance: Pride and Prejudice (4/24/15)
3. A book that became a movie: Spartacus (4/3/15)
4. A book published this year: The Wright Brothers (8/20/15)
5. A book with a number in the title: Around the World in Eighty Days (4/11/15)
6. A book written by someone under 30: Two Years Before the Mast (3/27/15)
7. A book with non-human characters: The Jungle Books (2/19/15)
8. A funny book: Sick Puppy (5/12/15)
9. A book by a female author: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1/3/15)
10. A mystery or thriller: Bad Boy Brawly Brown (5/4/15)
11. A book with a one-word title: Dodsworth (5/9/15)
12. A book of short stories: The Stories of O. Henry (5/16/15)
13. A book set in a different country: Fathers and Sons (Russia) (1/30/15)
14. A non-fiction book: Just Mercy (1/14/15)
15. A popular author’s first book: Cup of Gold by John Steinbeck (4/15/15)
16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet: The Human Stain by Philip Roth (10/30/15)
17. A book a friend recommended: Wallace Stegner by Jackson J. Benson (6/30/15)
18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: A Bell for Adano by John Hersey (1945) (7/3/15)
19. A book based on a true story: The Killer Angels (5/18/15)
20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list: The Unsettling of America (6/22/15)
21. A book your mom loved: The Warden by Anthony Trollope (11/28/15)
22. A book that scares you: House of Mirth (11/11/15)
23. A book more than 100 years old: Tom Jones (1/28/15)
24. A book based entirely on its cover: Famous People I Have Known with cover by R. Crumb (5/13/15)
25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: Under the Volcano (8/30/15)
26. A memoir: Henry and June (2/23/15)
27. A book you can finish in a day: The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor (3/22/15)
28. A book with antonyms in the title: The Prince and the Pauper (12/25/15)
29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: The City of Falling Angels (Venice) (4/27/15)
30. A book that came out the year you were born: Dangling Man (1944) (4/8/15)
31. A book with bad reviews: Of Mice and Men (6/19/15)
32. A trilogy: Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy
   #1:: The Commitments (5/27/15)
   #2:: The Snapper (8/27/15)
   #3:: The Van (10/6/15)
33. A book from your childhood: Treasure Island (3/29/15)
34. A book with a love triangle: Cyrano de Bergerac (4/16/15)
35. A book set in the future: A Handmaid's Tale (9/10/15)
36. A book set in high school: Carrie (8/7/15)
37. A book with a color in the title: The Red and the Black (9/23/15)
38. A book that made you cry: Night by Elie Wiesel (9/20/15)
39. A book with magic: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (8/3/15)
40. A graphic novel: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (7/12/15)
41. A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Bounty by Caroline Alexander (7/19/15)
42. A book you own but have never read: Winter's Tale (8/18/15)
43. A book that takes place in your hometown: Rabbit Run (Reading, PA) (9/16/15)
44. A book originally written in a different language: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (8/24/15)
45. A book set during Christmas: A Christmas Carol (12/27/15)
46. A book written by an author with your same initials: Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson (6/24/15)
47. A play: William Tell (4/5/15)
48. A banned book: Johnny Got His Gun (11/25/15)
49. A book based on or turned into a TV show: The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (7/24/15)
50. A book you started but never finished: Native Son (2/12/15)

Editado: Dic 28, 2015, 4:11pm

>255 weird_O: The others in the Plainsong trilogy are Eventide and Benediction. So good! We were handing out Our Souls at Night like candy to family at the Christmas clan gathering.

P.S. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage - nice choice for your graphic novel. If you're like me, a good bit of it may sail over your head, but I've still really enjoyed it.

Editado: Dic 28, 2015, 4:24pm

I set deadlines for completing what I expected to be my final reads of 2015 in >237 weird_O: above. Wrong all around. I didn't get The Prince and the Pauper completed until Christmas Day. And I read the last three chapters at my son's house, reading the copy I gave to my granddaughter Gracie. That was book # 100. Once we got home that night, I started A Christmas Carol. Finished that last night. Book # 101.

Checked the library stacks in the basement and picked out three titles from the collection of Heritage Press editions I bought in February:

    The Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson (130 pages)
    Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings by Joel Chandler Harris (158 pages)
    The Singular Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Raspe and others (160 pages)

I hope to complete at least two of these before January 1, 2016. All are relatively short, and already I'm half through the RLS story.

Editado: Dic 28, 2015, 4:23pm

>257 jnwelch: Thanks for the info, Joe. I had Our Souls at Night on my "Buy These for Me" list, but Christmas is gone and it is still there on the list. Oh well, I got a birthday July.

Speaking of graphic novels, one DIL asked for and got (from me) The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. Hmmmm.

Dic 28, 2015, 4:52pm

>259 weird_O: Ha! I liked Bechdel's Fun Home, but I just couldn't get any momentum with The Essential Dykes.

Dic 31, 2015, 3:30pm

Editado: Ene 1, 2016, 6:11pm

Final Notice, ya'll. This thread is toast. Didn't finish either Uncle Remus or The Singular Adventures of Baron Munchausen, so my final total for 2015 readings is 102, as recorded here:

I will finish Remus and Munchausen, but the credit will appear on the 2016 ledger. I've been itching for at least a week to begin the 2016 reading, so The Accidental Tourist is my current reading.

Adieu. New thread is here: