Saturday, April 30, 2022

April 2022

 April was a good month for books. 

And my purchases:

  • Middle Egyptian Literature, by James Allen. In my Glyphstudy group, someone will be leading a translation project later this year, most probably "The Debate Between a Man and his Soul." I'll most likely, at least, audit it. 
  • The HarperCollins Study Bible. I thought I'd read the Bible over a year-long period. We had this Bible decades ago and I loved it for its footnotes, esp. the historical and linguistic notes. I've fallen a few days behind, but so far so good. 
  • The Novels of Iris Murdoch (Henry and Cato; The Italian Girl; The Philosopher's Pupil). Kindle deal for $2.99. Never read her, but everyone says she's good. Probably start with the Italian one.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Hemingway. Was my Classical Spin selection, but I missed the deadline. Will probably pick it next for the family book club. One Audible credit.
  • Death of a Russian Priest, by Stuart Kaminsky. Read his first Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov book and loved it. When this showed up for 99 cents, couldn't say no.
  • The Assistant: A Novel, by Bernard Malamud. Heard he was good, I think Bloom liked him. Kindle deal, $3.
  • The Catcher in the Rye. Family book club choice.
  • The Double, by Saramago. My wife absolutely loved Blindness. I may try that one someday. This one looks awesome, and was only two bucks.
  • Beau Geste, by P.C. Wren. I heard about this book years and years ago. Bought first edition (hb, dj) for a good price, $25.
  • Take Nine Spies, by Fitzroy MacLean. Greatest generation. Definitely was a curmudeon. This study on espionage looked good. hb w/dj, $3.
Language-wise, started reviving my BCS in April. Did two lessons in the big Alexander & Elias BCS text and on lesson three in Hippocrene's Croatian. My class with the DLI instructor starts Monday afternoon and I can't freaking wait!

The Classical World, by Robin Lane Fox

 Dear reader(s), you know me. I loves me some classical history. Granted, most of what I've read in this genre is ancient Egyptian, so I felt I needed a good one-volume which covers Greece and Rome. This one I got at the library, looked through and thought it was good, so got it cheap on Audible. 

Spoilers follow:

Ancient Greece and Rome are both dead.

Spoiler fin.

It really is a very in-depth study. Can't really specify what I liked best about it. The descriptions of the blood sports were horrible, and the hypocrisy of the Romans not liking sport due to its connection to Greece where they practiced in the nude, yet Romans created more and more cruel blood sports, like hanging victims barely within reach of hungry wild animals so that they were eaten slowly but surely. Or putting giraffes in the arena with really hungry lions. Or tying two wild animals together and letting them kill each other. 

Had no idea some of those emperors would build artificial lakes and re-enact famous sea battles, only the actors actually fought to the death. Horrible. 

Of course there is more, and what I liked about this book versus some others I'd gotten out of the library (and not bought thank the gods) was the matter-of-fact way the author dealt with the homosexuality of those times. Wasn't a big deal, basically. He didn't try to make the entire history revolve around this or that Caesar's love for his boy-toy. It just happened. And in a society where women were sheltered and hidden, and rape was treated harshly, hard to not expect young, hormone-high youth to mess around. Bottom line, thank you RLF for not making it the central tenet of your book. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sirens of Titan, by Vonnegut

 His weirdest yet. Ok, yes, I've only read four of his, but, damn. How this author wasn't tagged immediately as a sci-fi author, I'll never know. 


I'm following Rachel's suggested reading order. Glad I almost did it in order (I read SH5 first, that's 3rd in Rachel's list). Planet Tralfamadore shows up again in this gem. Even more interesting, an idea he expounded on in his short story "Harrison Bergeron" shows up here, 3 years prior to the publishing date of that short story. I'm of course talking about making everyone equal by making strong(er) people to wear weights. When I read about the bags of shot on one character's arms and legs, I thought: Wait a minute, I've read this before. 

Initially I thought it was from Ayn Rand's Anthem. Wrong. When I searched, Vonnegut came up. I should have known. 

I can't say I noticed any characters that were in the previous three novels I'd read, but I know he does that sort of thing. I also don't want to research it for fear that I'll learn something about future novels of his I'll read.

Spoilers done.

I love this man's books. Can't wait to read the next in the sequence, Cat's Cradle.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Laughing Gas, by PG Wodehouse

 Laughing Gas was the April pick for the FB Wodehouse Reading Group. I'd never read it again. And wow, why had I waited so long.


Had no idea Wodehouse had written a Freaky Friday-esque novel. This was so damn funny I couldn't believe it. You've got Hollywood, a kid actor, two beauties, a bumbling alcoholic cousin, and an earl. What else do you need in a book? Well, of course you need the 12-year old actor and the earl to switch bodies!

Spoilers, what little there were, are at an end.

I can't say much more about this, except that I wish I owned this book. (I listened to it in Audible.) The narrator was Jonathan Cecil and he was incredible. The voices were amazing. I really must consider all future Wodehouse reads on Audible...

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Catcher in the Rye, by what's his name

 Yeah, Salinger. So what can I say about Catcher in the Rye? I don't get it.

How did this book shape a generation? It wasn't good. I really didn't like it, at all. I tried to like it, I really did. First off, it's in first person. Why do all these classics lately (Rabbit, Run, comes to mind) have to be in first person POV? There's been few good 1P POV novels out there (Clockwork Orange: fantastic; Slaughterhouse-5, its interruptions). What other good ones are out there? Don't say Artemis, because that was crap. 

But that wasn't all. This was stream of consciousness type stuff. Just kept waiting for something to surprise me. Like the phonies thing, I thought maybe it would turn out everything the narrator was telling us wasn't what was happening, that he was a phony as well. Phoebe was perhaps the best character, and damn I felt bad for her. And sorry, but I would have had issues with this Holden character if I'd been spending so much money on him and private school. 

OK, so enough. I read it. Like Wuthering Heights, I never have to read it ever again. Yuck.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut

 Another great Vonnegut book. And quick. Kindle said 290 pages, but I'm sure those pages are filled with large fonts. I read this in less than 24 hours. It was good.

Like any other Vonnegut book (granted, this is only the third of his I've read), it got weird. Weirdness started at 40%. 

Spoilers follow:

But when the reincarnation-talk began, I thought: oh here we go. But then it didn't go there. I seriously thought the soul that finally wanted to be born again after being killed as a witch (despite being a legit midwife) would be reappearing in the book as the kid of the main character, sad, dull Eliot. But s/he never showed back up. Frankly, the ending seemed a cop-out. Too simple. One check written and all solved? I wanted more from Mr. Mushari. 

Spoilers complete.

I still liked this book. 4 stars. His writing is just so good. And his using the theme of Player Piano in this book, as well as the planet from Slaughterhouse-5, Trafalmadore. I like how he incorporates his other books in his stories. And some other characters. Looking forward to reading next in the suggested order, The Sirens of Titan

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

 Loved this book. Thought for sure I'd read this before, but I think what actually happened in my brain was that I recalled parts of the movie. This book is quite the fun dystopia. 

Spoilers follow:

If you don't know about this book, or what it's about, then I can't help you. How have you gotten through life without knowing about the change of definition for fireman? I mean, really?! 

For when it was written (1953), it's not as bad as others. Bradbury does not develop his female characters very well (like Asimov, Heinlein), but some personality squeaks out of Mildred near the end. But other than that, his vision of the future at least is farther away from just 1950s culture than most books written about that time (or for instance, original Star Trek with respect to what female characters wore), with his very, very wide highways, super-fast cars and planes, airpods for God's sake! And let's not pass on this scarily prescient or kismetic line:

We started and won two Atomic wars since 2022...

Holy crap, that freaked me out. Stupid Putin.  

Spoilers done. 

Read this one in audio, and I gotta admit, Tim Robbins did a great job. I love(d) him as an actor, until several years ago he got all political. Granted, he's been quiet the last few years, thank goodness, so props to him there. I got this from the library for free, so thought: oh well, I'll try to forget who's reading it. I was so wrong. He did great voices (his Beatty and Mildred were awesome). 100% recommend his reading.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Harlequin House, by Margery Sharp

 I read Something Light by this wonderful author earlier this year, so I immediately bought more of her books, Harlequin House being one.

Like the first book, HH concerns a young lady and her attempts to settle down. This one also includes a widower, a man of honor (honour?) who wants to protect his new friend. The protagonist's brother is a ne'er-do-well, who can't seem to get a break. (No worries; all's fixed up in the end.) Let's not forget the fiance, off on an attache mission to the Middle East. 

Fear not, dear reader(s), it all ends up nicely. Not for one character, granted, but the reader doesn't get too attached to him, so it's okay. 

So, I'm 2 for 2 on Margery Sharp books. Still 2 more on my shelf. Can't wait!

Friday, April 1, 2022

March 2022

 Didn't read as many this month, mostly due to the Burgess I just finished. Yeah, finished on 1 April, so will have to wait...

  • Carry On, Jeeves, by PG Wodehouse. Great example of Wodehouse's humor. I mean: humour.
  • Artemis, by Andy Weir. Horrible sophomore effort. Too cutesy. Too inclusive.
  • War Music, by Christopher Logue. The most incredible thing ever. Anachronisms peppered throughout that just are wonderful. I read this years ago and listened to it this time around and it was wonderful. 
  • Something Light, by Margery Sharp. Brand new favorite author. I've since bought a few more (see below).
  • Rabbit Run, by John Updike. Hated it. Ok, didn't hate the writing, hated the character.
And here are my purchases for March:

  • Confronting the Classics, by Mary Beard. Love me the classics. 
  • The Big Book of Science Fiction, ed. VanderMeer. A dollar. 
  • Antkind, by Charlie Kaufman. Friend read this and liked it. Then it came up for two bucks. 
  • When Books Went to War, by Molly Guptill Manning. Two things I love to read about.
  • Honey for the Bears, by Anthony Burgess. Two bucks. 
  • The Doctor is Sick, by Burgess. Two bucks. 
  • Usher's Passing, by Robert McCammon. This was a possible back when I was picking a horror for our family book club, but it was too expensive. But guess what: two bucks!
  • Harlequin House, by Margery Sharp. 
  • The Stone of Chastity, by Margery Sharp.
  • Britannia Mews, by Margery Sharp. Told ya.
  • Tactical Exercise, by Evelyn Waugh. Never knew of this one.
  • Such Darling Dodos, by Angus Wilson. Heard great things about him. This'll be my first. 
  • Morte d'Urban, by JF Powers. My favorite of his two.
  • Wheat the Springeth Green, by Powers. I had to have first editions of his two novels. 
Language-wise, still reading some Esperanto books. Just successfully finished another Esperanto Sumoo. Middle Egyptian is progressing: we're half-way done and beginning past tense. So exciting!

Napoleon Symphony, by Anthony Burgess

 Wow, what a book. This man could write. I loved his turns of phrase:

When they woke up next noon, warm in twelve blankets each but with wooden mouths and coffin-makers hammering away in their skulls (201)

...some bearded bastard in the Kremlin heard the voice of God (167)

...and started to Koranize... (38)

...the young private must share of some transgression of the latter's which had been duly and Non-Commissionedly punished. (334) 

His vocabulary was quite advanced: simony, sarabanded, micturition, brume, swive, exogamia, pantisocracy, longitudo clitoralis, pellucid, cerement, marc, galligaskins, tisane, quiddity... Almost all of these words are currently underscored in red wavy lines. 

Can't really spoil this book. If you don't know already, Napoleon is dead. Burgess manages to make his history interesting. Great playing with time, like when the young Betsy went to get him a fancy snuff box but returned to two years earlier when she'd offered him a toy version of himself as a monkey. 

He also broke the fourth wall once in a delightful way:

Those of our readers who are prepared to seek occasional diversion in what may, for want of a more learned term, be described as literal magic, will perhaps be encouraged to ponder on the signification of the letter W in the truncated career of our incarcerated Corsican. (318)

The whole bit between the two (three?) doctors about Napoleon's lactose intolerance was hilarious; I could see it being done by the geniuses behind 'Allo, 'Allo. I practically LOL'd.  




The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab

 Great book. I'm on a roll.  Spoilers : Adeline "Addie" LaRue has a problem. She's being forced to marry. This is 1600s Fr...