What's everybody reading?

For discussions of subjects relating to literature and theater.
Movielover
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Postby Movielover » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:30 pm

It always takes me so much longer to read a book than it should. I often wonder if I have ADD because I am constantly putting my books down and picking them up again, and yet I LOVE reading.

So far in 2010, I finished Hopscotch (I began it in late 2009), and am now working concurrently on The Moslem Wife and Other Stories by Mavis Gallant and Arabian Nights and Days by Naguib Mahfouz.

I recently picked up Mahfouz's The Cairo Trilogy, which is a 1300+ page book. If anyone has read it, I'd love to hear thoughts. I am preparing myself for it by reading some of Mahfouz's smaller works. After Arabian Nights and Days, I'll read Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth and then I'll probably go into The Cairo Trilogy.

And if anyone here knows Hopscotch, and knew what the hell it is about, I'd love to hear. I'm stumped.

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kaytodd
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Postby kaytodd » Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:59 am

The Descendants Author: Kaui Hart Hemmings

Hardly the most original idea for a novel, but the clear presentation of events, the very realistic dialog, and unique imagery give life to this well trodden material. At the beginning of the novel, Matt King's wife, Joanie, is in a coma and the doctors tell Matt she will not recover. The workaholic is frightened by the prospect of having to be a real parent to his eighteen and ten year old daughters. While dealing with Joanie's illness, Matt and his daughters discover family secrets that lead them on a road trip. Of course, this leads to events that forever changes the relationship among Matt and his daughters.

The novel is often both hilarious and heartbreaking. And the novel makes great use of its physical setting to make the story more interesting and the important decisions Matt needs to make right away much more complex. And these important and imperative decisions do not just involve his wife and daughters.

I know, you have read this book and seen this movie before. Speaking of movies, what drew my attention to this novel was reading that this is going to be Alexander Payne's next directorial effort. According a story posted Friday on AtomicPopcorn.net, Payne and George Clooney are currently together going over Payne's script and looking over potential locations. I would have never read this novel had I not found out about the film. But I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the story and the characters. I recommend the novel highly.
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. Oliver Wendell Holmes

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kaytodd
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Postby kaytodd » Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:27 am

Shake The Devil Off by Ethan Brown.
Many of you remember the horrible murder that took place in October 2006 in the New Orleans French Quarter. Zack Bowen strangled his girlfriend Addie Hall and chopped her body into pieces, hiding parts in various places in their apartment, including the oven and pots and pans (the rumor that he ate part of her is completely untrue). Zack then killed himself by jumping off the roof of a hotel in the Quarter.

The book spends little time on details of the murder. The book also spends little time on the horrors of the immediate aftermath of Katrina. The part of town they lived in did not experience flooding and had little damage.

Zack and Addie achieved brief international fame as news organizations all over the world interviewed them as they explained why they were defying the orders to evacuate. They were young, attractive and outgoing. But they were both deeply disturbed emotionally, had strong dominant personalities, and were addicted to alcohol and various other drugs. When life returned to normal in New Orleans in the months after the storm their demons took over and erupted tragically.

But the real heart of this book is the shabby way the U.S. government treats its military veterans. Zack was bright but an underachiever who dropped out of high school. He worked as a bartender in high and low end bars and restaurants in the Quarter. His looks and personality made him very popular with locals and tourists.

But when he became a father and husband at nineteen, he got his GED and joined the Army in early 2001 for a steady paycheck and health benefits for his family. He was a dedicated and faithful husband and father. He also flourished in the Army. When he was assigned to Kosovo, his request to become a military policeman was granted. He saw this as a job in which he can really help the people by training locals to be policemen and maintain order for locals in their daily lives. He was quickly promoted to sergeant to make use of his leadership and teaching skills. It appeared he would go to officer training school and make the Army a career.

The invasion of Iraq changed everything. His unit was one of the first to enter Baghdad and they were assigned the most dangerous area. His unit had a very high casualty rate. Zack quickly saw the U.S. was trying to do this war on the cheap and was appalled by the lack of preparation and incompetence shown by the Pentagon and the high level command in Iraq. He then had a serious family crisis but was denied permission to return briefly to Germany to help. This happened right around the time we were forced to announce no WMDs were found in Iraq.

Zack decided he wanted out of the Army. He was able to get an early discharge. His immediate supervisor and that officer's supervisor both recommended an honorable discharge. But at the Pentagon level, the discharge was changed to general, making him and his family ineligible for some benefits, including counseling. No explanation was ever given for the change in discharge, but Zack's wife did call pretty high level officers during the family crisis and got the Red Cross to intervene on their behalf. This was likely a factor.

Everyone noted the change in Zack's personality after Iraq. His recreational drug and alcohol use turned into a serious addiction. He was unable to get desperately needed counseling and treatment. His marriage fell apart and he took up with Addie, a very high strung girl with her own demons. It was an intense passionate romance that was destined to end badly.

The author interviews many of Zacks friends and superiors from the Army. Many of them have their own stories of neglect from the military and their own tragic tales. They were shocked and saddened by what happened to Zack but, considering how they observed the military treat other Iraq veterans, they were not surprised.

Good timely story, well written. I recommend it highly.




Edited By kaytodd on 1260682438
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. Oliver Wendell Holmes

abcinyvr
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Postby abcinyvr » Wed Dec 09, 2009 12:34 am

Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee. A friend mailed this and it's follow-up, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, to me. I had never even heard about him.
Next up, Queen Camilla by Sue Townsend.

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Damien
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Postby Damien » Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:55 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan: Hollywood's All-Time Worst Casting Blunders by Damien Bona (1996).

It's out of print but you can still get it new from Amazon for under $5 or used for under $1.

I remember seeing this in book stores when it first came out, but forgot about it until DWS referenced Damien's put-down of Edward G. Robinson in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes.

Now that I've got the book (I splurged and bought it "new"), I have to say that I agree with Damien on most of his more than 160 subjects. The exceptions are Robinson and Diane Keaton in The Little Drummer Girl.

Thanks for buying it, Big, even though since it's out of print I don't receive royalties. :D
"Y'know, that's one of the things I like about Mitt Romney. He's been consistent since he changed his mind." -- Christine O'Donnell

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MovieWes
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Postby MovieWes » Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:29 pm

Coach Royal: Conversations with a Texas Football Legend by Darrell K. Royal, Pat Culpepper, Cactus Pryor, and John Wheat. I honestly wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they're a college football fan, though.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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Postby Big Magilla » Wed Dec 02, 2009 12:41 am

Starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan: Hollywood's All-Time Worst Casting Blunders by Damien Bona (1996).

It's out of print but you can still get it new from Amazon for under $5 or used for under $1.

I remember seeing this in book stores when it first came out, but forgot about it until DWS referenced Damien's put-down of Edward G. Robinson in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes.

Now that I've got the book (I splurged and bought it "new"), I have to say that I agree with Damien on most of his more than 160 subjects. The exceptions are Robinson and Diane Keaton in The Little Drummer Girl.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

Okri
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Postby Okri » Mon Nov 30, 2009 9:04 pm

Read the latest from Loorie Moore and Margaret Atwood. Both are pretty remarkable, with the note that Moore's book didn't quite reach my stratospheric expectations.

Current only Pamuk's latest.

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kaytodd
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Postby kaytodd » Sat Sep 12, 2009 8:17 pm

I am about a quarter through Rick Perlstein's lengthy tome about 1960's politics, Nixonland. Franz Ferdinand recommended it a while back and I am also enjoying it. One thing has stood out about this story, and I am sure everyone who started reading this book in 2009 has noticed it as well. The way the right in this country responded to LBJ's landslide victory for the Presidency and his party's success in Congressional elections is very similar to what is going on in the U.S. right now. Appeals to the worst instincts of working and middle class whites, blatant lies about the content of much needed federal legislation and the motives of those behind them (in the mid-1960's it was the Civil Rights Acts and Medicare), the spreading and acceptance of rumors that were absurd on their face, etc.

The examples I have run across are many, but there was one I thought was particularly timely. In 1966, a Democratic congressman from Iowa, John Schmidhauser, was at a town hall meeting prepared to discuss a wide veriety of issues, including the riots that had been convulsing U.S. cities the last two years. The congressman was completely flummoxed when the meeting turned into a shouting match. At the very beginning of the meeting, people shouted that they heard Martin Luther King was organizing a large group of blacks in Chicago. They were going to ride down to Iowa on motorcycles, rape white women, kill white men and burn down every town they come to. Of course, Schmidhauser said he had heard no such thing and that it was an absurdity anyway. That was the end of any productive discussion at that town hall meeting.

The more things change...
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. Oliver Wendell Holmes

dreaMaker
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Postby dreaMaker » Sat Aug 08, 2009 3:33 pm

Last week i finished two great books..

Man and Boy (Tony Parsons)

and

The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

i LOVED them!

i am reading ''Father Goriot'' (Balzac) at the moment..

Okri
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Postby Okri » Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:19 pm

Recently finished....

Nobody Movie, by Denis Johnson
Quick read. It ries to ape old style pulp and mostly succeeds. Johnson's prose alternates between the lacerating and the oblique. Needs more punch in the end and comes off as minor Elmore Leonard.

The Selected Works of TS Spivet by Reif Larson
Fantastic work with a bad ending. Every brilliant work of "children's literature" I read will simply be a sledgehammer against the Harry Potter phenomena. Artful, fascinating, discursive. The ending doesn't quite have the punch the book needs (Larson includes one element nearing the end that doesn't work and throws the whole thing askew) so it won't rank with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but a worthwhile read nonetheless.




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Franz Ferdinand
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Postby Franz Ferdinand » Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:57 pm

Good call on the Mandanipour, Okri. The cover caught my eye a few weeks back, and I'm in the middle of it now. A terrific read.

The Man Booker announced its longlist for the year and it seems to be a good list. They seemed to go for a mix of new talent and established greybeards. Four of the books are currently available here in Canada and I've read three of them (the underwhelming, perhaps not entirely deserving Toibin and Waters). Based on the Lessing Nobel, I would cynically pick William Trevor to win, simply because he is 81 and is already a five-time shortlisted writer, but we shall see.

Okri
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Postby Okri » Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:51 pm

Read Brooklyn a while ago. Was very disappointed with it (and moreso because I had to pay overdue fines)

I much prefer The Little Stranger to Night Watch. I liked how she married the idea of Victorian Gothic to this very trenchant class study.

I only read a few pages of Man Gone Down when it came out a few years ago. I've been meaning to return to it.... eventually.

My favourite books so far from 2009 are Brothers by Yu Hua (winner of the Man Asian Literary Award) and Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour.

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Postby Franz Ferdinand » Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:12 am

He won't show up on the site with the other recently deceased, but I wanted to offer condolences for the loss of Frank McCourt, the author of "Angela's Ashes". He passed away at 78.

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Postby Franz Ferdinand » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:57 pm

Funny you should mention it, I am actually in the middle of it. I took it on a flight with me and I devoured 300 pages of it, it is good but it's missing something "The Night Watch" had. Maybe I'll know when I finish it, but it is a good read. Also in the middle of Iain Pears' "Stone's Fall", I definitely want to get around to "An Instance of the Fingerpost", it is waiting on my shelf.

Recently for Booker potentials, I've also read Colm Toibin's "Brooklyn" earlier (hard to follow "The Master" for sure), Samantha Harvey's "The Wilderness", "Samantha Hunt's "The Invention of Everything Else", Patrick McCabe's "The Holy City", and Kamila Shamsie's "Burnt Shadows".

Have you read Michael Thomas's "Man Gone Down", the winner of the IMPAC Dublin Award? It is a fantastic read, not sure if it is empty rhetorical posturing or a work of immense lyrical genius, but it's one of the most powerful and gripping books I've read recently.


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