GSM235's 2021 Big Fat Books


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GSM235's 2021 Big Fat Books

Redigeret: mar 31, 2021, 8:51 pm

001. Theodore Rex By Edmund Morris; audio, biography , 792 pages
002. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky; audio, fiction, 558 pages
003. The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds; audio, science fiction, 563 pages
004. The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne; audio, biography, 640 pages
005. JR by William Gaddis; print & audio, novel, 770 pages
006. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: A London Trilogy by Patrick Hamilton; digital, novel, 528 pages
007. The Good House by Tananarive Due; audio, horror, 597 pages
008. The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War--a Tragedy in Three Acts by Scott Anderson; audio, history, 536 pages
009. Deep River: A Novel by Karl Marlantes; audio, historical novel, 736 pages

jan 10, 2021, 4:44 pm

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. This is the second of three volumes in the Roosevelt biography. Excellent overall, but I have to give a slight preference to the first book. There is a lot of good history and details here, especially on the building of the Panama Canal. Strange as it may be, but I think the life of Roosevelt is more interesting when he isn’t actually the president. I’m definitely going to pick up the third volume.

jan 12, 2021, 4:36 pm

Welcome to this year's group.

jan 16, 2021, 8:15 pm

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’ve read the novel two or three times before. I’ve read the Oliver Ready translation which seems like a compromise between the dreadful Victorianism of Garnett and faithfully awkward Pevear and Volokhonsky There are many reasons to consider Crime and Punishment one of the greatest novels of all time. There are also many reasons why some readers experience extreme frustration. It’s not a novel for those who prefer a straight forward movie style story telling. It’s dense, convoluted, melodramatic, and digressive; Dostoevsky is, in many ways, an awful writer stylistically, but his power—his white hot verve hooking like a bear trap—is undeniable and griping. I can only read this novel in complete in amazement even though I hate the ending; I don’t buy into the manic religiousness, but it’s Dostoevsky, and I’ll just have to disagree.

jan 17, 2021, 5:30 am

Welcome to the BFB-ers.

jan 27, 2021, 10:09 am

The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds. Perfectly acceptable science fiction, but nothing extraordinary. I’ve read other Reynold’s novel which I thought were better, but I enjoyed listening to this one. I may or may not pick up the second book in the Dreyfus Emergencies; if Audible offers it has a 2 for 1 credit sale, I’ll probably get it.

feb 3, 2021, 10:13 am

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne.

The author died before finishing this book and it was completed by his daughter who also helped him with research; parts of this biography don’t feel fully flushed out (like going from prison to leadership in the Nation of Islam) and maybe the author would have gotten around to filling in the details. However, the polished parts are good. Early in the book, when author describes a lynching and the verve of the mob, it reenforces how the underpinnings of bias that were swarming back then are still alive today.

feb 26, 2021, 9:49 pm

JR by William Gaddis; print & audio, novel, 770 pages

--Difficult…? in a voice that quavered.
--Yes, well, just that, but…
--Sounds hard, looks really big and heavy too. Do you think I could hold it for more than a few minutes without my hands aching? How is the print size? I don’t see any chapter breaks, only this unending stream of lines.
--Why would someone want to read a difficult novel when there are so many easy reading books available on the bestseller lists. That’s what I want, no fuss no muss.
--Of course, yes, of course, it’s a long a novel, seven hundred and seventy pages, and the text is dense, forty lines per pages, and no chapters breaks, of course.
--Why didn’t the author use chapters? Didn’t he know that it’s the author’s job to make it easy for the reader.
--You want us to read that?
--Yes, and the author was deliberate with his choice of writing style, he wanted to show the complexity of, of, oh, of life and communications, or something, how it’s not always simple to understand everything that’s going on. He wanted readers to pay attention. From one line to the next scenes and characters could shift, hours or days could pass, and it’s almost completely told through unattributed dialog, naturalistic dialog, too, so characters can often say “ahm”, “hey”, “holy” with stops, starts, and word breaks . All said and told, there are maybe fifty pages worth of narrative.
--The author never says who’s talking?
--I like action. Is there a lot of action? What’s the story about?
--Nope and nope. This novel is a satire of business, banking, and finances, and the author wants to point out the absurdity of how we, society, deal with money. First of all, this novel is a satire of business, banking, and finances, and the author wants to point out the absurdity of how we, society, deal with money. Secondly, is how the artist (painters, writers, composers) function in this environment. The book was published in 1975, but, oddly, it doesn’t seem too dated. The main of the plot revolves around an eleven-year-old boy, the JR of the title, who loves writing away the classified ads for “free stuff” and “get rich quick” schemes. One day his class takes a day trip to New York City to buy a single stock certificate. Then, using the pay phone at his school and a handkerchief to muffle his voice, he is able to convince banks that the one certificate is actually more and is able to start buying unsuccessful business for the tax write off value. Of course, JR has no income to apply the tax write off to, but he has amasses a paper empire theocratically worth millions. Early on, JR loans to broke music teacher ten dollars, and uses that to force the music teacher to appear has the face of the company.
--Doesn’t sound realistic to me.
-- JR sounds like he was doing the kind of this Bernie Madoff was doing. How could a little boy do all that?
--That’s probably the point. Thirty three years before Madoff, the author was saying that the financial industry is so corrupt, debased, and underhanded that it could be open to the manipulations of an ignorant boy. And JR is very ignorant. Later in the novel, when the paper empire begins to implode, JR complains to his music teacher, that he got this importing looking document, but he doesn’t understand what the word subpoena means because he hasn’t learned it in school yet. The book can be brutally funny. There is scene when the music teacher to trying to teach JR about celestial beauty by listening to Bach’s Cantata 21, but JR is unable to hear the soprano singing (in German) “ach nein”, he hears her singing “up mine” and male counterpoint singing “up yours.”

Okay, that’s enough of my amateur attempt to imitate the writing style of William Gaddis. I was captivated by this novel and for the first time in a few years, I’ve a added a new book to my favorites. I can wholly recommend the unabridged audiobook version narrated by Nick Sullivan. He does an excellent job giving all the charters unique voices. I also read the book simultaneously while listening, something I’ve never done before.

feb 26, 2021, 9:50 pm

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: A London Trilogy by Patrick Hamilton; digital, fiction, 528 pages

Actually, this book is a collection of three short novels, but each follows the same characters and basic story. In the first, Bob is young waiter at pub with a little bit of savings and dreams of writing a novel, but everything falls apart when he falls for a pretty prostitute. In the second, the backstory of the prostitute, Jenny, is shown. In the third, Ella, Bob’s co-worker, at waitress at the pub, is pursued by an older gentlemen who loves her, but she doesn’t think it would be a proper relationship. Hamilton does an excellent job examining the parallel inner lives of these three characters. The setting in London in the late twenties.

feb 26, 2021, 9:50 pm

The Good House by Tananarive Due; audio, horror, 597 pages

The setting is 2001 in a small town in Washington state. A black family owes a magnificent old house, but there is a curse. Angela’s grandmother was a voodoo priestess who tangled with an evil spirit in 1929, but now the evil spirit is awakening. People who read horror novels know what’s going to happen next. Things get bad, characters die: this is a horror novel. For the most part, I liked this book, but few novels, films, or other stories have a worse ending. The end of Blade Runner, the movie, still holds the record for all time unforgivably bad ending, but The Good House is probably coming it second as far as I can recall. I guess some readers would like it or accept it, but I think it ruined an otherwise pretty good horror novel. If the author had ended the book before the finial section, I would have given it 3 ½ stars, maybe 4 stars, but as it stands, 2 stars is the best I can give. I probably would not read this author again.

If you want to know the bad ending: Angela with add from her grandmother’s spirit defeats the evil spirit; in gratitude, a voodoo god grants her a miracle: a wish; Angela chooses to reset time so she can go back and banish the evil spirit before it grows in power and starts all the bloodshed. Bah. A little too Happily Ever After for me.

mar 10, 2021, 9:03 am

The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War--a Tragedy in Three Acts by Scott Anderson; audio, history, 536 pages

There’s something about this era that I enoy. Parts if this history were covered in the biography of Edward Lansdale, The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam by Max Boot, and the novel, The Company by Robert Littell, and maybe Harlot’s Ghost by Norman Mailer. The stories of what these men did and went through is incredible. Though oddly enough, one of my favorite vignettes was describing an interview by Roy Cohn, working for Joseph McCarthy, investigating a CIA employee, and asking about Communist books in his personal library. The employee replied he had none. Cohn asked if he had any novels by Dashiell Hammett. Yes, he had some of those novels. But, do you see, Hammett was a Communist and so the employee must be a sympathizer. You can’t make this stuff up. In all fairness, I suppose, Hammett was a strong antifascist, devoted to left-wing causes, and a member of the Communist party in the late 30s.

mar 17, 2021, 11:31 am

>8 gsm235: JR was very good and challenging. I read it latter part of 2019; after struggling with his other (longer!!) work The Recognitions. And after finishing thinking now what?

It was fun reading your review. Congratulations.

mar 31, 2021, 8:52 pm

Deep River: A Novel by Karl Marlantes; audio, historical novel, 736 pages

This historical novel focuses on the lives of Finnish immigrants around the Columbia river between 1900 to 1932. Most of them were loggers and fishermen, two difficult and dangerous jobs, and desperately poor. The heart of the novel is Aino Koski who had to flee Finland for political reasons: she was a Red, a Communist before the 1917 Russian Revolution. She has a staunch passion for workers rights and gets involved with IWW (the Wobblies) and that leads to a lot of conflict. A guess some people might be put off by her “socialism” but I was rooting for her.

This is a long novel that covers more than 30 years, so reader should be warned to get too attached to all the characters. I did a double take once or twice.

As a direct result of listening, I’ve picked up the novel Joe Hill by Wallace Stegner--Joe Hill was a historical person who was featured in the story—and I want to know more about the early labor movement in America.

apr 19, 2021, 8:13 pm

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris; audio, biography, 784 pages

The third and final volume in the biography of Theodore Roosevelt by Morris. It took the author 30 years from start to finish to complete the writing of the life of TR. This book focuses heavily on his run for a third term under the progressive Bull Moose party after leaving the Presidency in the bitterly disappointing hands of Taft, then loosing to Wilson. It didn’t a fine job describing his journey down an unexplored Amazon tributary called the River of Doubt. I doubt we'll ever see the likes of him in the White House again. Overall, 4 1/2 stars for all three volumes.