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March Madness - A Reader's Story

All around me friends and family have succumbed to March madness and have nothing on their minds, or TVs, but basketball. Me, I'm waiting for the opening pitch of baseball season. Anyhow, while the rest of the country has been captivated by the thrall of dribbling and screeching rubber-soled shoes, I have been catching up on my reading. For a number of reasons, I got off on a wrong foot reading-wise this year. In the months of February and January I read only two books! Imagine! I usually read two a week, or at least one a week.
Now I have gotten my stride back. Here are the books I have read in the month of March.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. This book is a whole lot of fun. Besides the goofy underworld slang, there is a ghastly crew of colorful thugs, pimps, punks, nymphos and frails (those are girls in 1930s lingo). You never know what type of creep you're going to run into next, but you can be pretty sure he won't be naked, which is to say he is toting a gat. The plot is as screwy and loopy as the varied ne'er do wells, but fair for the figuring out; Marlowe doesn't hold back on the necessary clues. Perhaps the best two things about the book are the evocation of Los Angeles in the '30s and the humor, trenchant, even mordant humor. While Marlowe at times seems a cold-blooded SOB, he is at heart a sentimentalist, a compassionate and honest guy trying to live straight in a world that's going to hell.

Two things that do sour this book a bit are the taints of misogyny and homophobia. One of the hazards of vintage literature.

Elizabeth Ironsides, aka Lady Catherine Manning,
The Accomplice by Elizabeth Ironsides is a highly intelligent and stylishly crafted mystery, literate, with not just the veneer of knowledge and with the resonance of not very distant history. Think Dr. Zhivago with a who-dun-it attached. This is the third of Ms. Ironsides's mysteries that I have read, and I am never disappointed.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is marginally amusing, at times thought provoking. But more often, there is a whiff of too sophomoric wit and wisdom to be entirely compelling. I wasn't bit by the Vonnegut bug when the rest of my peers were; I was wrestling with black humor in the form of Giles Goat Boy and Lost in the Funhouse. Having passed through adolescence and college years with reading only Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House and, possibly, Slapstick, I decided it was high time that I figured out what all the fuss was about, after all, Vonnegut is still hugely popular, something which can't be said for John Barth. I mentioned to a reader friend of mine that I had decided to read Slaughterhouse Five and a couple of other books that had passed me by. She was ecstatic, but then said, I might have outgrown his style which had appealed to her in her teens. I am afraid that is what has happened. I will read more Vonnegut simply because he is fun in a way. A fair decent way to pass a rainy day.

Dresden - Before and After the Allied Firebombing of 1945

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie is quick and fairly fun light reading. One of my complaints about Christie is that she springs an important clue on you late in the game so that you really haven't a fair chance of figuring out they mystery. In other words,she doesn't play fair. I have to say that that was not the case in this one. The clues were well distributed. The characterization wasn't brilliant and was not entirely believable in some cases. The setting served as little more than a backdrop, and considering the dramatic nature of Petra, better use of it might have been made.


Note to Mike Troll...I see you have The Big Sleep in your TBR list!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, The Big Sleep is around here somewhere along with crates of other books. I'll get there one day!

I was arrested by your pic of the 'Treasury' in Petra, a place the Trolls have visited and want to return to. I'm curious now about how Christie describes it; Petra is hard to believe when you see it, never mind on the page.

As for Slaughterhouse Five I always found it the most overrated of Vonnegut's oeuvre. People have given him worthiness points for the subject matter. I prefer earlier works like Player Piano, Mother Night and Cat's Cradle. His work gets worse as he gets older. His enduring popularity relies, I think, on his penchant for very short sentences. Same goes for Pratchett, though I don't rate him at all.

You're the only other person I know who has also read Giles Goat-Boy. I've been wanting to re-read it, but it has been OOP for 20 years. (Having said that, I've just found and ordered a copy in good condition!)
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
Petra, etal
I really found Christie's descriptions of Petra wanting. It is really treated as a backdrop, no real evocation of the place.
I have been considering a re-reading of Giles Goat Boy as well. Now that I have more classical lit under my belt than I did at sixteen, I wonder if I won't pick up on things I missed then.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



"And I quote"

Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a full-time job. - Adali Stevenson

He who feels punctured must have been a bubble - from the Tao Te Ching

The universe is made of stories not atoms - Muriel Rukeyser


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