Author Topic: Rate the last book you read.  (Read 77700 times)

pixote

  • Global Moderator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 32350
  • Up with generosity!
    • yet more inanities!
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1790 on: October 21, 2017, 11:00:35 PM »
Touch  (Elmore Leonard, 1987)

The Elmore Leonard-related movies I've seen have never inspired me to check out his novels, but I randomly bought this book at a library book sale years ago and finally got around to reading it (as part of my 'page-turners' kick). Leonard's prose reads almost like a screenplay: quick scenes, terse but evocative descriptions of settings and characters, and most pages driven by dialogue. Paul Schrader probably didn't have too much trouble adapting Touch into a movie in 1997, but I'm not very interested in finding out. It's an odd story about overly nice guy given to bouts of stigmata and all the colorful characters who see him as a means to achieving their selfish goals. It's been a few months since I read it, but I don't remember it having that much to say about religion or faith, even though the potential was there.

Grade: C
   


Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance  (Leonard Peltier, 1999)

Peltier has been in prison since the mid-70s, when he was convicted of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The details of the case seem sketchy as hell, but it's easy to believe that his imprisonment is another in a long line of injustices against Native Americans by the federal government. But I'm not sure we'll ever know.

Peltier writes fluidly and is especially effective when describing the general Native American experience and the weight of centuries of persecution. He's less effective a writer when it comes himself and the "incident at Oglala" and his fight for freedom in the years since. There's an indignation that permeates these paragraphs and, even though it's an understandable tone, it still makes for disappointing reading, like the diaries of a sullen teenager who's been grounded for no reason.

That big caveat aside, Prison Writings is still a very valuable book, fomenting some very appropriate frustration with those in power and shame at America's history. I grimaced extra hard while watching the baseball playoffs and seeing Chief Wahoo on the uniforms of the Cleveland Indians. It's also, surprisingly, a very inspirational book. Should Peltier, now 73, ever be awarded clemency in his lifetime, I imagine it would be more uplifting than the end of Major League.

Grade: B-
   


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao  (Junot Díaz, 2007)

After a full decade of eager anticipation, I finally read this Díaz's Pulitzer prize-winning debut novel, and... Perhaps I hyped it up too much in my head. As a pop cultural history lesson of life in the Dominican Republic in the twentieth century, it's pretty great. I was less enamored of the narrative, though. The title is no help in that regard, as I think it sets false expectations. Oscar is just a supporting player in the ensemble of the Domincan American experience, really, and actually one of the less interesting characters, due to how broadly Díaz draws him. Other characters fare better, and I would have preferred to focus more directly on any single one of them rather than jump around in time, scratching surfaces here and there.

Díaz's prose didn't always appeal to me either, especially the tendency to drop the subject from sentences and jump straight to the verb. The geeky sci-fi references tended to be either too obvious (another Lord of the Rings reference? okay, sure) or too obscure. I also chafed at the tendency to essentialize Dominicans.

Grade: B-
   


The Bread Givers  (Anzia Yezierska, 1925)

I was inspired to take this off my shelf (where it sat unread for years and years) after watching A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, another tale of a girl's coming-of-age in poverty in New York in the early 1900s. Yezierska's novel was written 18 years before Betty Smith's and is more concerned with the Jewish immigrant experience; the clash between the values of the old world (Russian Poland) and the values of the new being much more pronounced. The story, written in the first person, follows protagonist Sara Smolinsky through three chapters in her young life, from a ten-year-old on Hester Street to a driven college student to a young woman with a room of her own. A third-person narrator might have been a better choice; at times it just reads like Yezierska (through Sara) is just bragging about how great she did to pull herself up out of poverty. It's a nice read though, old-fashioned in style but impressively modern in worldview, especially related to gender dynamics and organized religion.

Grade: B-
   


Nothing Lasts Forever  (Roderick Thorp, 1979)

It's impossible not to read this novel through the lens of Die Hard. In the first few chapters, Joseph Leland (aka John Mcclane) gets rides from two different black chauffeurs. When neither of them morphs into Argyle, it's downright unsettling, like we're trapped in an alternate universe where nothing is as it should be. But then, a few chapters later, when Anton Gruber (aka Hans Gruber) says, "We have to tell Karl his brother is dead," it's like putting on a warm pair of socks on a cold day.

Thorp doesn't write that well. His action is especially confusing. Without the film as a reference point, I would have needed to spend much more time rereading paragraphs to figure out what was supposed to be happening. The novel is surprisingly misanthropic and joyless, with each death being both animalistic and shameful. The narrator is stuck to Leland on every page, and I really wanted to get away from him. His aging white guy cynicism bored the hell out of me.

Politically, it's interesting how the novel is very much a reaction to the 1970s (Nixon, hippies, terrorism chic), while the film is very much a product of the Reaganistic 1980s, despite many shared, foundational element. The terrorists are really terrorists here, by the way. The film turned them into thieves as a way to "make terrorism fun." A wise choice, I think, especially given the novel's unpleasant grimness. The corporation is painted in the same negative light as the terrorists, which is part of that general misanthropy — all symptomatic of the erosion of humanity and lack of common sense in kids these days.

Grade: C+

pixote
   
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 28998
  • Marathon Man
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1791 on: October 22, 2017, 12:16:18 AM »
That's my memory of Nothing Lasts Forever. It's a sequel to The Detective, and it's amazing that such a generic title as The Detective led into something that sounds like a James Bond film.

smirnoff

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 23964
    • smirnoff's Top 100
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1792 on: October 22, 2017, 02:57:46 AM »
Touch  (Elmore Leonard, 1987)

The Elmore Leonard-related movies I've seen have never inspired me to check out his novels, but I randomly bought this book at a library book sale years ago and finally got around to reading it (as part of my 'page-turners' kick). Leonard's prose reads almost like a screenplay: quick scenes, terse but evocative descriptions of settings and characters, and most pages driven by dialogue. Paul Schrader probably didn't have too much trouble adapting Touch into a movie in 1997, but I'm not very interested in finding out.
Yeah, definitely don't bother. I mean unless your a die-hard Skeet Ulrich fan. [/td][/tr][/table]

Bondo

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 20011
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1793 on: November 05, 2017, 02:47:06 PM »
American War by Omar El Akkad

Set about 60 years in the future, this imagines an fractured America in which once again the North and South are divided in violence, this time over the issue of climate change. This is plausible. What isn't plausible is that the South is somehow created as having the moral high ground AND is a diverse cause as my impression is Sarat Chestnut, the main character, is Black. Sorry, both of these are bridges too far for me. If there is a second civil war, the "South" side will be a revanchist and racist side, just like they were in the first civil war. Suddenly Bushwick feels sager in handling this scenario.

The Deer Hunter

  • Elite Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1256
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1794 on: November 29, 2017, 03:39:22 AM »


Enjoyable but pretty uneventful i found but i was most likely skewed from the tv adaptation.

DarkeningHumour

  • Godfather
  • ******
  • Posts: 9791
  • When not sure if sarcasm look at username.
    • Pretentiously Yours
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1795 on: November 29, 2017, 03:48:36 AM »
What isn't plausible is that the South is somehow created as having the moral high ground AND is a diverse cause as my impression is Sarat Chestnut, the main character, is Black. Sorry, both of these are bridges too far for me. If there is a second civil war, the "South" side will be a revanchist and racist side, just like they were in the first civil war.

Agreed.
« Society is dumb. Art is everything. » - Junior

https://pretensiouslyyours.wordpress.com/

oldkid

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 17572
  • Hi there! Feed me worlds!
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1796 on: November 29, 2017, 06:01:53 PM »

Enjoyable but pretty uneventful i found but i was most likely skewed from the tv adaptation.

I read it in the 80s, where I found it to be brilliant, but it was one of the first explorations of the idea, "What if the Nazis won?"  After reading a lot of Dick's works, I realize that paranoia and Big Brother were his main themes, and that is what he was probably exploring, more than the result of fascism.
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

The Deer Hunter

  • Elite Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1256
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1797 on: December 08, 2017, 12:25:28 AM »


Great read. One of my favourites now. Rosario Dawson does a great job narrating the audiobook too.

This has movie adaptation written all over it. Apparently Lord and Miller are poised to do it which sounds awesome.

smirnoff

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 23964
    • smirnoff's Top 100
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1798 on: January 19, 2018, 11:13:11 PM »
Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse: Book 1) - James S. A. Corey

A friend who does some effects work for the tv series recommended this to me. I had never heard of it, but it didn't take long to be totally sold. As a sci-fi world it's got many things I like. A quite distant future, a history of how humanity got there, neat tech with lots of details, and a general size to the story that captures some of that largeness of space.

Corey has good comedic timing as a writer and the book was just plain fun to read. Sometimes it reads like a noir novel, other times it's a space adventure. The writing is also pleasingly technical when it comes to spaceship travel and feeling like what's happening is all according to the laws of phsyics. A lot of drama is created simply through characters hitting the ceiling of their physical limitations.I'll definitely carry on with the series. Has anyone else already been through it?
« Last Edit: January 19, 2018, 11:17:13 PM by smirnoff »

oldkid

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 17572
  • Hi there! Feed me worlds!
Re: Rate the last book you read.
« Reply #1799 on: January 20, 2018, 12:45:32 AM »
Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell

I love the SNL skit on the weekend after Trump's election.  A bunch of white liberals slowly realize that their candidate is going to lose and they moan in despair as they realize that their vision of a post-racist America was just an illusion.  In the meantime, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock knew what the outcome would be because they had a better idea what the heart of the country looked like.

Derrick Bell understood the heart of the nation from 1995, and this book is his effort to work out his realization that since the country was built on racism, you cannot have the nation without racism.  It is something to live with or to run away from, but the deeply cynical conclusion is it will never disappear.

For such a depressing conclusion, it is entertainingly written, with a plethora of fictional premises, from a conversation with a character from Langston Hughes, to the story of a civil rights leader who wants to marry a white woman to the final chapter which tells a compelling science fiction story.

The premise of the story is this: Aliens finally land on the earth, but they make a proposal no one ever expected.  They would leave peacefully, they said threateningly, if only the US would sell them every last African American to the invaders for a huge amount of gold, bringing the US out of their current economic depression.  The question is, what would the leaders of the US choose: their pocketbook or their soul?

Bell isn't a professional writer, he is a professor of law and he writes fiction like a professor of law.  But it is still entertaining, albeit a bit stiff.  I both enjoyed and despaired over reading this book.  I certainly won't forget it.

4/5
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky