Tag: Literature

Henry James Asks for Directions

James and I chanced to arrive at Windsor long after dark. We must have been driven by a strange chauffeur – perhaps Cook was on a holiday; at any rate, having fallen into the lazy habit of trusting to him to know the way, I found myself at a loss to direct his substitute to the King’s Road. While I was hesitating, and peering out into the darkness, James spied an ancient doddering man who had stopped in the rain to gaze at us. “Wait a moment, my dear – I’ll ask him where we are”; and leaning out he signalled to the spectator.

“My good man, if you’ll be good enough to come here, please; a little nearer – so,” and as the old man came up: “My friend, to put it to you in two words, this lady and I have just arrived here from Slough; that is to say, to be more strictly accurate, we have recently passed through Slough on our way here, having actually motored to Windsor from Rye, which was our point of departure; and the darkness having overtaken us, we should be much obliged if you would tell us where we now are in relation, say, to the High Street, which, as you of course know, leads to the Castle, after leaving on the left hand the turn down to the railway station.”

I was not surprised to have this extraordinary appeal met by silence, and a dazed expression on the old wrinkled face at the window; nor to have James go on: “In short” (his invariable prelude to a fresh series of explanatory ramifications), “in short, my good man, what I want to put to you in a word is this: supposing we have already (as I have reason to think we have) driven past the turn down to the railway station (which, in that case, by the way, would probably not have been on our left hand, but on our right), where are we now in relation to . . .

“Oh, please,” I interrupted, feeling myself utterly unable to sit through another parenthesis, “do ask him where the King’s Road is.”

“Ah-? The King’s Road? Just so! Quite right! Can you, as a matter of fact, my good man, tell us where, in relation to our present position, the King’s Road exactly is?”

“Ye’re in it,” said the aged face at the window.

I found this here:
The Writer’s Voice
A Alvarez

The source is:
A Backward Glance
Edith Wharton

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? – NYTIMES

Some responses to a common question in this section of the Times:
By the Book
Writers on literature and the literary life.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Percival Everett
I love Butler’s “The Way of All Flesh.” No one else talks about it, so I will take that to mean they haven’t read it. Once I read it, I never stopped talking about it.

Bette Midler
Southern California: An Island on the Land,” by Carey McWilliams. A history of how Los Angeles was marketed to the unsuspecting in the Midwest, and the various scandals and horrors the local scalawags visited upon them when they arrived, as well as crimes against minorities and the land. Published in 1946.

Amor Towles
Harry Mathews’s “Cigarettes.” The only American-born member of the experimental confederacy Oulipo, Mathews often wrote about shattering conventions, and thus his work can be somewhat uneven. But in “Cigarettes” he gives us a sly, inventive and entertaining novel which is a racy investigation of midcentury New York society.

Anne Rice
“Kings Row,” by Henry Bellamann. It’s so terribly sad to me that Bellamann’s novels have been all but forgotten today. I regard this as a lost American classic. It was a great success upon its release and made into a film that featured a young Ronald Reagan. I discovered it after stumbling across the film, and then I rushed out to obtain a copy of the novel. It’s such a rich exploration of how we survive in a world full of ugliness, loneliness and suffering. As soon as I finished it, I went right to Amazon and posted a five-star review.

Phillip Lopate
“Earthly Days,” by Jose Revueltas (1949), an amazing, modernist, brutally honest novel about the Communist Party’s attempt to radicalize peasants in Mexico. A cult classic in Mexico, but just recently issued here in Matthew Gleeson’s fine translation by Archive 48.

Viet Thanh Nguyen
“The Land at the End of the World,” by António Lobo Antunes, beautifully translated by Margaret Jull Costa. This novel about an old man reflecting on his experiences as a young medic in Portugal’s colonial war in Angola was my touchstone while I wrote “The Sympathizer.”

David Shields
Simon Gray’s four-volume “The Complete Smoking Diaries,” which consists of “The Smoking Diaries,” “The Year of the Jouncer,” “The Last Cigarette” and “Coda” (the last being one of the most virtuosic and heartbreaking books ever written). The tetralogy is much admired in England but virtually unknown in America.

You Can Like What You Actually Like

This love can’t be faked, not inside your own soul. Yet among those who are merely trying to impress, it is of course faked all the time. At my university, we foolishly used to ask applicants for a list of the writers and books that had “influenced” them. This is not an entirely fair question to ask any writer, but for a board of academics to spring it on a bunch of young, inexperienced, aspiring writers was madness. Of course the answers we got were mainly intended to impress. The question became the single most insincere item in the entire application—bypassing the mendaciousness even of professorial letters of recommendation. The lists we got were almost always very grand, academically impeccable, and exactly the same: that year’s higher-than-highbrow list of what every applicant assumed a bunch of professors wanted to see. We should have been ashamed. We were doing people damage by inducing them to lie about their real tastes and their real identities, leading them into a form of self-betrayal that at worst can be a symptom of self-contempt. Dishonesty about what really pleases your imagination is outright dangerous to you as a writer.

The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction
Stephen Koch

Literature Promotes Empathy and Self Understanding, Example of

As I was steeping myself in the art of the popular genre writers of the day—Thomas B. Costain (The Black Rose, The Silver Chalice), Frances Parkinson Keyes (Dinner at Antoine’s, Came a Cavalier), Samuel Shellabarger (Captain from Castile, Prince of Foxes), Frank Yerby (The Foxes of Harrow, A Woman Called Fancy)—I was also marching through the middlebrow writers (John P. Marquand, Pearl S. Buck, John O’Hara), the current literary heroes (Waugh, Orwell, Faulkner), and the classics: Balzac, Dickens, Hardy, Twain. My crucial literary experience of these pre-college years was my first reading of Emma, when I was sixteen. When Emma behaves so rudely to poor, harmless, talkative Miss Bates in the famous scene of the picnic on Box Hill, I was suffused with mortification: I had been forced to look at my own acts of carelessness and unkindness. Jane Austen had pinned me to the wall. It was the first time I really made the connection between what I was reading and my inner self. There was no religious instruction in my life, no guiding principles other than to work hard, and my mind was not a philosophical one. It was in the novel, beginning with Emma, that I would discover some kind of moral compass.

Avid Reader: A Life
Robert Gottlieb

The Way Of The Shadow Wolves, Steven Segal Book – Commentary on

Amazon:
5 Stars

It really feels like a Steven Seagal movie but in a book. Honestly, maybe even better because of these deep state conspiracy theories him and his co-writer weave in. I also like the Native American setting. It makes the lead character feel like Seagal meets Walker. I can’t speak on the political aspects but I will say I was very entertained and couldn’t put it down. I didn’t expect it to be as excellent on the inside as the cover is but it’s legit. Don’t listen to these unverified reviews, I read the book. I’m still not sure why Obama would be bringing jihadists into this country by way of Mexico, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions and that’s what makes this country special.

via goodreads:

my friend patrick recommended me another book.

i will no longer let him control my life with book suggestions
i will no longer let him control my life with book suggestions
i will no longer let him control my life with book suggestions
i will no longer let him control my life with book suggestions
i will no longer let him control my life with book suggestions

This is not a good book. In fact, it’s very bad. However, this pile of word turds makes a great drinking game. Every time you read ‘my gut’, take a drink. You’ll be drunk within three chapters.

Came here for the comments section, was not disappointed… truly speaks to the lack of quality affordable education in America. Also, anyone want to talk about the blatant racism and cultural appropriation/ tropes??

5 Books I Read in 2021 That Weren’t Published in 2021

These were some books that I read in 21 and recommend. In no particular order and blurbs via Amazon.

Chickenhawk
Robert Mason

A true, bestselling story from the battlefield that faithfully portrays the horror, the madness, and the trauma of the Vietnam War

More than half a million copies of Chickenhawk have been sold since it was first published in 1983. Now with a new afterword by the author and photographs taken by him during the conflict, this straight-from-the-shoulder account tells the electrifying truth about the helicopter war in Vietnam. This is Robert Mason’s astounding personal story of men at war. A veteran of more than one thousand combat missions, Mason gives staggering descriptions that cut to the heart of the combat experience: the fear and belligerence, the quiet insights and raging madness, the lasting friendships and sudden death—the extreme emotions of a “chickenhawk” in constant danger.

So, Anyway
John Cleese

John Cleese’s huge comedic influence has stretched across generations; his sharp irreverent eye and the unique brand of physical comedy he perfected now seem written into comedy’s DNA. In this rollicking memoir, Cleese recalls his humble beginnings in a sleepy English town, his early comedic days at Cambridge University (with future Python partner Graham Chapman), and the founding of the landmark comedy troupe that would propel him to worldwide renown.

Cleese was just days away from graduating Cambridge and setting off on a law career when he was visited by two BBC executives, who offered him a job writing comedy for radio. That fateful moment—and a near-simultaneous offer to take his university humor revue to London’s famed West End—propelled him down a different path, cutting his teeth writing for stars like David Frost and Peter Sellers, and eventually joining the five other Pythons to pioneer a new kind of comedy that prized invention, silliness, and absurdity. Along the way, he found his first true love with the actress Connie Booth and transformed himself from a reluctant performer to a world class actor and back again.

Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed
Annabelle Gurwitch (Author), Bill Maher (Contributor), Felicity Huffman (Contributor), Bob Saget (Contributor), Robert Reich (Contributor), et al

Gurwitch’s popular Web site (www.firedbyannabellegurwitch.com) entices people to turn in their best tales of their worst firings; the cream of that crop is gathered in this star-studded collection of misery. The book is divided into chapters with titles like “The Job So Terrible You Can Only Hope to Be Fired” and “The Time You Deserved to Be Fired,” but mostly it’s just tales of horrible things happening to funny people. Gurwitch’s own piece—in which she’s canned from her role in a play written and directed by an officious Woody Allen, who told her “You look retarded”—is par for the course, with its droll humor and dash of celebrity. Comedians Bill Maher, D.L. Hughley, Bob Saget and Andy Borowitz all get in their zingers, while Illeana Douglas composes a poem that ranges from getting fired as a coat check girl (“How is it/possible to be fired hanging coats?/I have arms. I know what coats are”) to high farce with borderline psychotic filmmakers. The few noncelebrities invited to share their woes are generally less funny, though they tend to be more unpredictable, such as the ex–White House chef who provides a nice recipe for seared scallops.

The Last Face You’ll Ever See: The Culture of Death Row 
Ivan Solotaroff

In fascinating detail, Ivan Solotaroff introduces us to the men who carry out executions. Although the emphasis is on the personal lives of these men and of those they have to put to death, The Last Face You’ll Ever See also addresses some of the deeper issues of the death penalty and connects the veiled, elusive figure of the executioner to the vast majority of Americans who, since 1977, have claimed to support executions. Why do we do it? Or, more exactly, why do we want to?

The Last Face You’ll Ever See is not about the polarizing issues of the death penalty — it is a firsthand report about the culture of executions: the executioners, the death-row inmates, and everyone involved in the act. An engrossing, unsettling, and provocative book, this work will forever affect anyone who reads it.

The Last Taxi Driver
Lee Durkee

Hailed by George Saunders as “a true original—a wise and wildly talented writer,” Lee Durkee takes readers on a high-stakes cab ride through an unforgettable shift. Meet Lou—a lapsed novelist, struggling Buddhist, and UFO fan—who drives for a ramshackle taxi company that operates on the outskirts of a north Mississippi college town. With Uber moving into town and his way of life vanishing, his girlfriend moving out, and his archenemy dispatcher suddenly returning to town on the lam, Lou must finish his bedlam shift by aiding and abetting the host of criminal misfits haunting the back seat of his disintegrating Town Car. Lou is forced to decide how much he can take as a driver, and whether keeping his job is worth madness and heartbreak.

Here’s last years version of this list:
9 Books I Read in 2020 That Weren’t Published in 2020

The 5 Best Books of 2021

Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Selections mine, blurbs via Amazon.

Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood
Danny Trejo with Donal Logue

On screen, Danny Trejo the actor is a baddie who has been killed at least a hundred times. He’s been shot, stabbed, hanged, chopped up, squished by an elevator, and once, was even melted into a bloody goo. Off screen, he’s a hero beloved by recovery communities and obsessed fans alike. But the real Danny Trejo is much more complicated than the legend.

Raised in an abusive home, Danny struggled with heroin addiction and stints in some of the country’s most notorious state prisons—including San Quentin and Folsom—from an early age, before starring in such modern classics as Heat, From Dusk till Dawn, and Machete. Now, in this funny, painful, and suspenseful memoir, Danny takes us through the incredible ups and downs of his life, including meeting one of the world’s most notorious serial killers in prison and working with legends like Charles Bronson and Robert De Niro.

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City
Andrea Elliott

Invisible Child follows eight dramatic years in the life of a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter. Dasani was named after the bottled water that signaled Brooklyn’s gentrification and the shared aspirations of a divided city. In this sweeping narrative, Elliott weaves the story of Dasani’s childhood with the history of her family, tracing the passage of their ancestors from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, the homeless crisis in New York City has exploded amid the deepening chasm between rich and poor.

Dasani must guide her siblings through a city riddled by hunger, violence, drug addiction, homelessness, and the monitoring of child protection services. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter to protect the ones she loves. When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family, and yourself?

The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown
Michael Patrick F. Smith

Like thousands of restless men left unmoored in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Michael Patrick Smith arrived in the fracking boomtown of Williston, North Dakota five years later homeless, unemployed, and desperate for a job. Renting a mattress on a dirty flophouse floor, he slept boot to beard with migrant men who came from all across America and as far away as Jamaica, Africa and the Philippines. They ate together, drank together, argued like crows and searched for jobs they couldn’t get back home. Smith’s goal was to find the hardest work he could do–to find out if he could do it. He hired on in the oil patch where he toiled fourteen hour shifts from summer’s 100 degree dog days to deep into winter’s bracing whiteouts, all the while wrestling with the demons of a turbulent past, his broken relationships with women, and the haunted memories of a family riven by violence.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel
Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino’s long-awaited first work of fiction—at once hilarious, delicious and brutal—is the always surprising, sometimes shocking, novelization of his Academy Award winning film.

RICK DALTON—Once he had his own TV series, but now Rick’s a washed-up villain-of-the week drowning his sorrows in whiskey sours. Will a phone call from Rome save his fate or seal it?

CLIFF BOOTH—Rick’s stunt double, and the most infamous man on any movie set because he’s the only one there who might have got away with murder. . . .

SHARON TATE—She left Texas to chase a movie-star dream, and found it. Sharon’s salad days are now spent on Cielo Drive, high in the Hollywood Hills.

CHARLES MANSON—The ex-con’s got a bunch of zonked-out hippies thinking he’s their spiritual leader, but he’d trade it all to be a rock ‘n’ roll star.

Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency
Michael Wolff

Politics has given us some shocking and confounding moments but none have come close to the careening final days of Donald Trump’s presidency: the surreal stage management of his re-election campaign, his audacious election challenge, the harrowing mayhem of the storming of the Capitol and the buffoonery of the second impeachment trial. But what was really going on in the inner sanctum of the White House during these calamitous events? What did the president and his dwindling cadre of loyalists actually believe? And what were they planning?

See also the Best Books of 2020

Musil’s Librarian

“‘General,’ he said, ‘if you want to know how I know about every book here, I can tell you! Because I never read any of them.’”

The general is astonished by this unusual librarian, who vigilantly avoids reading not for any want of culture, but, on the contrary, in order to better know his books:

“It was almost too much, I tell you! But when he saw how stunned I was, he explained himself. ‘The secret of a good librarian is that he never reads anything more of the literature in his charge than the titles and the table of contents. Anyone who lets himself go and starts reading a book is lost as a librarian,’ he explained. ‘He’s bound to lose perspective.’

‘So,’ I said, trying to catch my breath, ‘you never read a single book?’
‘Never. Only the catalogs.’
‘But aren’t you a Ph.D.?’

‘Certainly I am. I teach at the university, as a special lecturer in Library Science. Library Science is a special field leading to a degree, you know,” he explained. “How many systems do you suppose there are, General, for the arrangement and preservation of books, cataloging of titles, correcting misprints and misinformation on title pages, and the like?’”

Musil’s librarian thus keeps himself from entering into the books under his care, but he is far from indifferent or hostile toward them, as one might suppose. On the contrary, it is his love of books – of all books – that incites him to remain prudently on their periphery, for fear that too pronounced an interest in one of them might cause him to neglect the others.

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read
Pierre Bayard

Reference is to:
The Man Without Qualities
Robert Musil

Best Book of Past 125 Years – New York Times Requests Your Suggestion

Help Us Choose the Best Book

The New York Times Book Review has just turned 125. That got us wondering: What is the best book that was published during that time? We’d like to hear from you. For the month of October we’ll take nominations, in November we’ll ask you to vote on a list of finalists and in December we’ll share the winner.

Note – First Review was Oct. 10, 1896

My Nomination –
The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James
—————————————————————————————————————–
Update 11/24 –  they are no longer accepting submissions, so above link is kind of dated.

However, here’s the link to vote on the selections (see below): https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/11/24/books/best-book-vote.html

1984
All the Light We Cannot See
Beloved
Catch-22
The Catcher in the Rye
Charlotte’s Web
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Fellowship of the Ring
A Fine Balance
A Gentleman in Moscow
Gone With the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Gatsby
The Handmaid’s Tale
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Infinite Jest
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Little Life
Lolita
Lonesome Dove
One Hundred Years of Solitude
The Overstory
A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Ulysses