I've read quite a few books since we arrived here, but now that I have internet access I'm not going to be reading nearly as many.
Pre-Internet, I even started reading the International Herald Tribune, which is a habit I plan to break immediately.
I'm much happier when I'm
uninformed and apathetic. I found myself getting riled up reading the news, particularly about
"intellectuals" like Wolfowitz and Perle... the masterminds behind the war.
Anyway, here are the books I've recently read, with some short comments.
Right as Rain by George Pelecanos, 359 p. (2001) OK, not great. I don't know why everyone is singing this guy's praises.
Death of a Blue Lantern by Christopher West, 208 p. (1994) I liked this one. Set in 1991 Beijing, a time and a place I know well,
having lived there then.
Driving Lessons by Ed McBain, 72 p. (1999) Short story, solid stuff.
Killer's Wedge by Ed McBain, 160 p. (1959) Early 87th Precinct book. Good stuff.
The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block, 182 p. (1976) I like Block.
Drop Shot by Harlan Coben, 341 p. (1996) Fast and funny, but not fantastic.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, 213 p. (1929) One of the original hard-boiled detective stories... unique in its day.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette by Mary Mitchell, 325 p. (1996) Useful. If you master the Big Four: Please, Excuse Me,
Thank You, and You're Welcome, you're set for life.
Shut Up and Deal by Jesse May, 217 p. (1998) On the back of the book a blurb by Anthony Holden says: "Few poker players can write
and even fewer can play poker," which made me smile. This is a sad novel about a professional Texas Hold'em player; there were a few amusing parts with which I
could (unfortunately) relate, like this one:
"... at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City... Floyd has been playing seventeen or eighteen hours in a row without
stopping to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom because he's so fuckin' stuck he don't want to move. And finally he can't take it any
longer so after he folds his hand he says, "Deal me in," and starts sprinting for the bathroom, which in the Taj isn't so close - no,
you have to go out of the whole poker room and down the hall - and so the hand ends and the dealer shuffles and says, "Should I deal
him in?" and Virginia says, "Yeah, give him a hand... he'll make it." And sure enough it hasn't even been thirty or forty seconds and
you can see Floyd through the plate-glass windows separating the poker room from the hall coming at a dead run, full sprint, waving
frantically so we can see that he wants to be dealt in and there's no way that the guy has time to finish let alone wash his hands,
but when you're stuck you don't want to miss even one hand, not even after eighteen hours and five or six hundred of them. And it's
not just Floyd - I mean we all been there."
Speaking of Lust - Lawrence Block, ed. 368 p. (2001) Compilation of 18 short stories, many of them lame, including Block's.
Ask Dr. Weil: Healthy Living by Andrew Weill, 84 p. (1997) Sensible advice on a range of topics, everything from enemas to
The Big Bounce by Elmore Leonard, 223 p. (1969) It doesn't get any better than early Elmore Leonard.
100 Best Films of the Century by Barry Norman, 272 p. (1998) Film critic for the BBC... his comments and judgment are
generally on target
(meaning that I usually agree with him).
"Critics should have enough experience, knowledge, understanding and taste to identify and recognize excellence
and its obverse when they see them... [critics help] to maintain standards."
When the Women Come Out to Dance by Elmore Leonard, 228 p. (2002) Recent collection of short stories, some more solid than others.
The Shark-Infested Custard by Charles Willeford, 309 p. (????) Willeford is one of my favorite writers.
"The musk smell on Jannaire was faint, because her own smell, or reek, to be more exact, of primeval swamp,
dark guanoed caves, sea water in movement, armpit sweat, mangroves at low tide, Mayan sacrificial blood, Bartolin glands, Dial soap,
mulberry leaves, saffron, kittens in a cardboard box, YMCA volleyball courts, conch shells, underground Atlanta, the Isle of Lesbos,
and sheer Joy -- Patou's Joy -- overpowered the musk smell... Here was a woman."
The Final Country by James Crumley, 310 p. (2001) Terrible. A huge disappointment because Crumley wrote some great books
back in the 80s (Dancing Bear, The Wrong Case), but this book is just awful: overly long, gratuitously violent, ultimately pointless. A
few classic bits of Crumley managed to slip through the crap:
"...the only people who drink bourbon are white trash chicken fuckers, con men, and counterfeit Confederate
"If you can't teach morality without superstition or hope without false promises of eternal life, the human animal has probably outlived
Dark Passage by David Goodis, 244 p. (1948) I liked it.
"He went that way, came to the door. He touched the door. He touched the knob. He handled the knob, and turned it.
He opened the door. He went in and closed the door." -- typical Goodis ;-)
Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis, 196 p. (1956) More goodness from Goodis.
The Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford, 192 p. (1960) Great stuff.
"To the really successful used car salesman there are only two types of people: Insiders and Feebs. Feebs are the
feeble-minded, and Insiders are those who are wise to themselves and to things as the way they are. A simple uncomplicated distinction, but
a true one nonetheless."
"I know this much about writing... It's hard work. You have to sit there filling paper in a convincing way. What's the secret? Rewriting.
First, one word at a time. After you get enough pages done you have something to read. If you can read it you can revise it. If you revise
it enough times, you come up with something pretty good. All writing is like that; it couldn't be any other way."
Welcome to Paradise by Laurence Shames, 220 p. (1999) Hilarious. Shames is much funnier than Hiaasen, cleverer too.
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