Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Hi Lo Country by Max Evans

The old cowboys gathered around the campfire at Park Avenue and recollected when they broke broncs with the late great Big Boy Matson in the Hi Lo Country.  Some of them spoke up as a herd of hydrophobic bison sauntered through the evening and the embers glowed with remembrance -

Tom G:  I did not engage the book, I could not get involved, like Evans’ character could not get involved with any woman. The one time I was engaged was the winter storm part when they were trying to save the cows and got caught in the storm.  My favorite Evans books are the middle part of Bluefeather Fellini and The Rounders. This was of a much lesser grade.  Grade = C+

Charlie P. – I agree with Tom G. Evans discussion of animals is interesting but not his descriptions of people. Everyone drank to excess and engaged in violence, always fighting. Not very good. I liked The Last Picture Show and it was regionalism but it had relationships and a plot. Bogdanovich directed.   Grade =

Ken G.:  Mixed emotions. Some good description of cowboying, lots of weird characters, mostly unfortunates. Josefa was the only likeable person. The plot was predictable. I knew Big Boy would die and the ending was terrible.  Grade = C+

Jack F.  Entertaining, good descriptive language.  Makes a good movie.  42-43 characters, mostly one dimensional, but none were well developed. My main take away was, “Don’t never get me one of them red-assed monkeys.”  Grade = C+

Bob W:  Pass; did not read because traveling in Norway.

Keith: – I enjoyed the book because it described real cowboys. I worked ranches when young, and spent time in Raton, Cimarron, and Des Moines. It accurately described cowboys, who are basically blue collar workers who worked hard and drank and fought on weekends The menage a trois with a married woman was an unique plot development.  Evans is a living legend. I enjoyed the book and story. Grade = B+

Ron B. – did not attend. Stabilizing blood pressure.   Grade = B+

Bob S:  – I picked this book for three reasons. First, I saw the documentary and realized that Max Evans was an important New Mexico author and I wanted to show the documentary in conjunction with a book. I chose Hi Lo Country.

  Second, it describes a part of the world I have been fascinated with most of my life:  the Hi Lo country. In Texas where I grew up the Cap Rock is famous. The Staked Plains sits over the Oglala aquifer. It is a huge elevated plateau or mesa, over 250 miles north to south and 150 miles from east to west. In Spanish, it was called the Llano Estacado, translated as staked plains. It is surrounded on three sides by valleys and deep arroyos; on the north by the Canadian River valley and on the West by the Pecos River Valley in New Mexico, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llano_Estacado.  Palo Duro Canyon, southeast of Amarillo, is perhaps its most famous valley.  When I was an 8 year old kid, starting around 1954 my family would drive out to Ruidoso in one day every year to spend a month in the cool mountains in the middle of the summer.  Every year we would cross the Staked Plains. I remember driving past the western edge of the staked plains in the late afternoon and would begin playing a game to see who could first see the Sacramento Mountains. Later, when I would go to Philmont Scout Ranch, we would drive across the northern part of it to Cimarron.

  Third, the book describes New Mexico; its land, weather, and people. In my opinion, that puts it in the category of American regionalism literature. The closest book that we have read that I can think of is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I thought the book had strong plots, Evans’ willingness to investigate and expose his emotional feelings for Mona, Big Boy, and his failure as a rancher. The other thing that was evident to me that was exposed by the documentary and just briefly touched upon in the book was Evans’ interest in the spiritual realm.
Grade = B

And from elsewhere in and out of the Hi Lo Country:

  I enjoyed the first 25% of the book - in fact, I thought it was a cowboy's version of Querencia (a New Mexico refuge - my favorite NM book). E.g., the coyote hunts in the two books. But the book soon turned to brawling and carousing and that turned me off. Could this have been written by the esteemed author of the Bluefeather Fellini tales? Well, yes, sad to say.

When our hero drew the toughest bronc in the rodeo, I got cynical: thought, Well, of course! Artificial plot thickener. Best line: "When he hit the ground he was a steer." One of the worst: "He sounded like a herd of hydrophobic buffalo tearing through the brush.... there was a splash that sounded as if the moon had rocketed into the Pacific." There were too many such strained allegories.

I wanted to see the movie, for the sake of comparison, but didn't want to buy it at the Ebay price. Sorry I won't be at meeting and hear reports from those who have seen the movie and how the movie compares to the book. I look forward to reading the reviews. Grade: C+

Rob

I will not be able to attend the Book Club meeting tomorrow evening--I simply cannot sit for two hours with my current back problems. I have enclosed my review of The Hi-Lo Country by Max Evans.

 I was quite disappointed by The Hi-Lo Country. My disappointment with the book began in the introduction that was written by Max Evans. In that introduction he spent a great deal of time talking about the drinking and fighting that he undertook during the writing the book--one of the incidents led to his being forced to type with his left hand and another led him to being thrown in jail. I found those references strange but once I read the book I could see that he really relished drinking and fighting--the major activities in which the characters of the book engaged.

When I was in graduate school one of my colleagues and I used to look for what we called "Strange Types" on the Indiana University campus. Max Evans also was a great collector of "types" in his book. I found few either interesting or positive characters in the book. I got tired of the narrator and the only person who seemed to be talented enough to rise above his current life was Big Boy who was a talented individual who spent his time trying to be with a married woman who apparently had been a prostitute in her earlier life.

In the end Big Boy is killed by Little Boy, a not particularly impressive individual--by the time he was killed, I really didn't care. The narrator is also hung up on the ex-prostitute and rejects the possibility of marrying one of the few positive characters in the book. She apparently wised up in the end marrying a local boy and moving to California.

I have to admit that I found some of the characters funny but in the end I wanted to get a gunny sack and take them down to the crick (as they say in Utah) and drown them. Evans says he is going to present an image of The Hi-Lo Country. What he really presents is an image of many of the lost souls in The Hi-Lo Country and we really learn little about the residents.

Earlier in the year we read a book which covers a similar area, Plainsong. In that book you really learn about the residents of the area. In the end Plainsong told us about those residents and there were uplifting moments. I had looking forward to reading The Hi-Lo Country and have no desire to read other books by Evans. Plainsong was a solid A. This book was a B- at best.

Dick

  Max Evans’ prose is like cowboy poetry:   lightly entertaining, but you don’t want to read an entire book of it. The Hi Lo Country hit me like a bad Baxter Black rendition from page 1.  Is there a plot here, or are we going to lurch from ‘cutesey’ drunken adventure to overstated drunken mis-adventure? Beyond two friends seeking the affection of the same married woman, it didn’t come together and certainly didn’t capture my affections.

  There is a great deal that distinguishes P.G. Wodehouse and “Right Ho, Jeeves” from Max Evans and his work. I love to get to the next chapter of Wodehouse, and I dread picking up Evans again. The similes throughout are certainly unique but way overwrought. I’ve eaten at Vick’s Vittles, spent some time on a ranch, lusted after married women, watched my mother-in-law castrate calves, ridden a bit and got kicked by a horse … but it didn’t make me a Max Evans fan. The last third of the book brought a plot into the collection, but the awkward date-rape scene (“she didn’t give me the satisfaction of resisting”) and having Little Boy shoot the superhero pushed the book well down into my “can’t recommend” category.  C
  -  Mike

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Tuxedo Park by Jennet Conant

   The leading powers in the scientific and literary establishments met in the Park Avenue offices of Dr. Charles Palmer on the last Thursday of June 1940 to discuss the giant cyclotron and urologists. Included were (left to right) Ernest Simon, Arthur Gilbert, Vannevar Palmer, Manette Easterling, James B. Blackledge, Karl Bousek, and Alfred Jensen.  Prof Gillen and his vastly overpaid grad students (Genoni, Ferrell, and Woods) were not present, but provided comments.  Those present offered the following:

Mike:  I had often wondered why a great physicist like Ernest Lawrence was not recruited for The Manhattan Project.  This book answered that question in spades:  Lawrence & Loomis were a Dynamic Duo that started their work well before Pearl Harbor and continued past V-J Day.
Was Tuxedo Park the best name?  Alternate titles:  The Science of WW II;  Loomis, Lawrence, and The Rad Lab.  From Bonds to Bombs.  From Rad to Rand. 
 The writing was cleanly crafted but did not capture the humanity and humor that Conant provided in 109 East Palace.  I felt it was not necessary to start with Richards suicide, and that the middle of the book dragged with details best confined to an Appendix.  B+

Bob S: Fascinating American history that I loved.  I get inspired by people like Loomis:  demonstrating the ability to drive a difficult project to conclusion.  So impressive with the history, the war effort, how it all got started:  radar, fission.  It was riveting - "You need a scientist?  We'll call this guy!  Let's send them all to MIT for the summer!"  A story of making consequential decisions and backing them up with cash.  A-

Keith:  Concision is the key word:  this would have been a great 170 page book.  Review:  "Ode to A. LoomisB

Dick J:  I agree that it dragged in places.  My connection:  when Loomis during WW I was at Aberdeen Proving Grounds:  my brilliant younger brother has been there for 35 years, no thought of retiring.  I did enjoy it, and will send it on to my nephew in Utah.  A-

Ron Bousek:  It could have been shorter for the general reader, but I felt she was trying to document the era.  I give it an A.

Rob E:  I read it for the last three days - it was difficult for me to obtain - and am impressed with what I have read.  I have critiqued a lot of histories and have a mental image of the author collecting all their facts and material on 3" x 5" cards, then trying to organize the results.  I didn't feel that here.  She was telling a story - the radar story.  I now realize it was so integral to the British to solve the German bombing situation.  I give it an A as I am impressed.

Charlie:  I chose this book after viewing The American Experience:  The Secrets of Tuxedo Park, which had numerous interview comments by Jennet Conant, who I appreciated when we read 109 East Palace.  Consider that Loomis took up science at the age of 47 - what energy and drive he demonstrated.   It was kinda slow getting to the the Rad Lab.  Conant had lots of research she wanted to get in.  I give it an A.

And from outside radar range of Orange County:

Although I found Tuxedo Park a little slow at first, it later became a page-turner that I had trouble putting down - fascinating discussions of radar development and its impact on the war.  A
    -  Ken

Dear Charlie,
   Still stuck in Utah. My comments follow:
  Much like my experience with Jennet Conant’s 109 East Palace, I got bogged down sometimes with the detail she brought to the story; however, similar to her history of Los Alamos, Conant describes a fascinating period of our history and a fascinating personality about whom I knew nothing. I was literally left breathless reading and learning about the breakneck speed at which Loomis was able to garner financial and scientific support for his projects and ultimately carry out the development and productions of the systems. It was fortunate for our country and Great Britain that Alfred Loomis was there at that time in our history. Conant’s family connection to that time and her curiosity about it seem to feed her desire to research every angle and then writes about it in such a style that puts you at the scene.   A-
   Regards, Jack
___________

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

  Naturally, like many of us, I have a reluctance to change too many of the old ways.  Thus it was that the last Thursday of the month, and indeed the last day of May, caused several of us in the service to gather around the fire in the servants hall at the residence of Sir Robert Woods in Oxfordshire.  As it should be, it occurred at the traditional time, 7 o'clock in the evening.  

  Now for a great many people, the evening is the most enjoyable part of the day. Perhaps, then, there is something to your advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished?  What, indeed, is our Legacy?  The best we can hope for is to capture and publish a series of memorials and memoirs.   

  As you may surmise, Miss Kenton and I will not be in attendance at this Thursday's meeting, as we have run away for a fourth time from her marriage and are nesting in the Sangre de Cristos. I have taken the Ford of my former employer, and it is currently abandoned on a side road.  Furthermore, Lord Ferrell is traversing the depths of what is now called the Irish Republic, or perhaps the Wilds of Scotland, and Surgeon Palmer is hosting revolutionaries from Boston and the Colonies.  We requested Councilor Simon to collect the summary comments at the gathering of sympathizers and near-converts and provide them posthaste to myself or Miss Kenton.  Those aforementioned comments appear below.



Ken – a bit slow but memorable, unusually well written, eye opening,
 I enjoyed it  Grade:  A-

Tom – sympathize with Keith.  I have a similar dislike for long paragraphs.
 I liked the care Stevens took with language.  For me it was a page-turner, I could not put it down.  I felt for Stevens.   Grade: firm A

Rob - I was disappointed.  I remember the movie and I liked it better, I was put off by the long sections devoted to bantering
 I liked Upstairs/Downstairs better.  I did not like the excessive use of double negatives, like “he was not unperturbed.”   Grade:  B -

Ron – I like the book better than I thought I would when I got into his mind set.
  I liked the descriptions of England, perhaps because I have traveled in England.
  I enjoyed the documentation of a past era.  The excesses in language were part of the atmosphere of the book,   Grade:  A

Bob – painted a believable picture of an individual, but I had a feeling that there was lots missing.  Much was hinted at that should be in there but is not.  Within the walls of the novel he established, he did a good job.  Grade:  A –

Keith – lack of concision.  I can reduce the entire book to two words, “garrulously gassy”   with lots of loquaciousness stilted language.  I did not enjoy the butler talk.  Specialized.  If you can speak until you die, this is an example.
 Lots of words, not much content. Overly wordy, unlike poetry  Grade: B –

Robert S – I found it hard to engage with because it was so slow moving.
 Also, Steven’s personality was a bit off putting.
 I found it an excellent explication of the times and station of a between the Wars butler.  Set in the 50’s but described the 20’s and 30’s as the big house culture was ending.   Grade: B+


And from well outside of Moscombe:

Dear Bob,

  Sorry I won't be able to attend the LTBC meeting you're hosting on Thursday.  We're not experiencing any social or cultural revolution, but we have been enjoying the music of the late 18th and early 19th century in Vienna and Salzburg as we roam around Mozart’s, Strauss’ and Beethoven’s old stomping grounds.

  I can't say I enjoyed THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, but I am glad I read it.  It gave me insight into a different era and culture for which I had little appreciation.  I found the story sad if not downright tragic, which as a student of German literature I can relate to.  I could also empathize with the situation the servant class found itself in at this turning point in British history; however, I had little compassion for Mr. Stevens particularly when it came to his relationship with his father at the end of the latter’s career and life.  Additionally, his relationship with Miss Kenton often seemed unreal and his actions uncaring if not cruel.  I did enjoy Ishiguro’s writing style and would like to read another of his novels in the hope of finding a more compassionate character.   B

  Regards,
       Jack

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Comments by M.A. Blackledge, 30 May 2018
  This was a fascinating book to me for several reasons.
  Having seen the movie by the same name, my reading vision was full of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. I will watch the movie again after reading the book, but the memory I came away with from the movie was all about unrequited love; my vision was of love offered and never accepted.  Most depressing. 
  The book was so much more, so very much more.  To begin with, the writing, the prose was captivating, beautifully drawing the reader into the well orchestrated view of the butler.  It reminded me once again of how some of our most excellent English writing is by English-as-a-second-language authors:  Nabokov, Conrad, and here Ishiguro.  (Here I can envision Genoni reminding us that Nabokov claims his nanny taught him English prior to his learning Russian, but we all know Russian was his ‘true’ language.)
  Then I loved how I was carried along, and it took me awhile before I realized we were in the presence of an unreliable narrator – something introduced to me by Nabokov, and done so cleverly here.  We actually get ‘alternative memories’ as our protagonist Stevens admits, “now that I think about it, that’s not the way it happened – here is what happened.”  This is first hinted when we see Stevens lies, he denies that he worked for Lord Darlington in the early days.  It was a bit of a shock, but he explains it away.  Twice he denies Lord Darlington in discussions with strangers, and thrice, like Peter disowning Jesus, before the tale is told.  On the car trip as he allows the simple people of Moscombe to go on being awed by this great man with the fancy Ford who has had Winston Churchill to his house.  
  The Nazi sympathizers of the mid 1930s; the English countryside; the heroic image of his father, head down, kneeling before his serving cart (hopefully this is the image I will keep from the book); the people and the servants and the Lords – all beautifully woven together in such well crafted prose.  And when at the very end, when Stevens actually admits his heart was breaking, my heart broke just a bit as we finally get a glimpse inside, that there are after all feelings within the costume, indeed within the English armor of a career pretender.  Solid A.
   -  Lord Halifax
      Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax


  REMAINS  OF  THE  DAY

  This was a beautiful book. While it initially seems to be slow moving and a bit too restrained, it develops into a novel with an extraordinary emotional content, with its story of of wasted lives, emotional dis-connectedness, lost love, and misplaced loyalty.  The writing is consistently wonderful.  Nothing to criticize here – a solid A.

CHP



  I had intended to attend last night but just did not feel well so I called Bob and told him I was not coming.  I was disappointed because I really wanted to hear the discussion.  Here is my review:

  I really enjoyed The Remains of the Day both times I read it.  I liked it even more the second time.
  This is a great book for people in our age group--many of us are looking back at our past and trying to enjoy the days remaining in our lives.


  I found the characters in the book to be interesting, the book had a great plot, and it was extremely well written.
  I watched the movie but liked the book much more than the movie.
  I would give the book an A.


    Dick

____________________________________

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Here was this man Tom Genoni in Holt standing at the back window in the kitchen of his house smoking cigarettes and looking out over the back lot where the sun was just setting. The book club was gathered as it was the last Thursday of the month, at the sundown hour.
This ain't going to be no goddamn Sunday school picnic, he said, to no one in particular. They think writing their memoirs is hard? This is gonna be harder.  Most of these fellers never even raised a daughter. They have no idea. A girl is different. They want things. They need things on a regular schedule. Why, a girl's got purposes you and me can't even imagine. They got ideas in their heads you and me can't even suppose.
  Ain't going to be no goddamn Sunday school picnic, he repeated. He looked out over the back lot and watched the wind whip the leaves around. The air was turning sharp, with a fall feeling of loneliness coming. Something unaccountable pending in the air. What would they say?

Dick J:  I won't take long.  I loved this book.  I read it twice and I read the trilogy.  It's an A.

Keith G:  I enjoyed the small town connection - in Pagosa Springs, in Jemez, everyone knows everyone.  They don't care how you are dressed, I can leave my key with a neighbor and they will walk my dog while I'm gone.  A

Mike B:  The loving, captivating, unisonous voice of Kent Haruf immerses the reader into a year in the Life of the small drama of small town America. Would Ike and Bobby grow up to be like the McPherons?  That would not be all bad.  The first fourth of the book was dark, despair, depression.  Haruf pulled the characters and the reader slowly along, until he brought us all together at the end.  A

Kenny G:  There wasn't a lot of plot.  It was a pleasant and heartwarming tale of how people live their lives.  I will remember this book and I strongly recommend it.  A

Charlie:  This may well be one of the top 20 books we have read.  I couldn't find anything wrong with this book.  A

Bob S:  A wonderful book.  If it lacked anything, it was the arc of a classic.  People were having trouble in their lives but he brought them together nicely.  A-

Rob E:  I felt it was a superficial look at rural America.  I got side-tracked by the bachelor brothers and couldn't get Garrison Keillor out of my mind.  I remember in my senior year of high school, one of the popular girls got pregnant by a guy who was a thug, our version of Russell Beckman.  I didn't get into it or find it as moving as I heard tonight.  A-

Tom G:  Solid A.  Best - what do we mean by that?  Enjoyable and had an impact on me, the best we've read since Shane.  I had a hard time putting it down, and then a hard time picking it up again as I worried that something bad was going to happen.  Just inside the front cover, six of the blurbs on the two pages of Aclaim for Kent Haruf's Plainsong use the word "spare."

... and from well outside of Holt:

Dear Tom,
I am sorry I won't be at the LTBC meeting you are hosting. I'll be in the sky somewhere between ABQ and BWI on my way to Cork, Ireland.  It should be a great discussion. Thank you for choosing the book. I loved it. My comments follow:

Kent Haruf's Plainsong is one of the best books I have read. I could not put it down. Coming from a small town I could easily relate to Holt and to the characters who populate it. Haruf's prose is simple and straightforward. The plain language he uses and the barren landscapes he paints create an atmosphere that helps drive the plot, which is an excellent example of how form affects content. In spite of the difficult circumstances some of the characters find themselves in, I believe the story resonates with hope. The generosity and love of the McPheron brothers, for example, far outweigh the cruelty bestowed upon Victoria Roubideaux. I highly recommend the book. A

Regards,
    Jack

Brothers of the Book-- Sorry to say due to unforeseen scheduling conflict I'll miss the meeting. I enjoyed the book. Liked the style and story line. Good pick, Tom. A -- Ron

Thursday, March 29, 2018

"In Memoriam R.W.A."

Sleep Well,  Sir Richard 
               by Keith Gilbert, LTBC Poet Laureate

A man of Letters, Sir Richard Arms
    Also Market Technician with Wizardly Charms

Dick penned five books, and loved to fish
   His opus "Tackle Box" fulfilled that wish.

Like "Old Ike," a monster trout
   With whom Dick's bud Jim, had a lifetime bout

Yea, many times Jim had hooked his prey,
   Only to have "Old Ike" get away.

Then one bright morn Dick snags this beast,
   And his first thought:  "Man, what a feast!"

But as Dick reels "Ike" to the shore
   He casts a reflexion on his good friend's lore -

And then Dick, acting on wisdom and whim
   Does a "catch and release" in honor of Jim.

To our Book Club Dick sprinkled wisdom and insight
   And his droll sense of humor added radiant light.

In summary, Dick's impact no one can replace,
   He blended charm and wit with a golden grace!

So goodbye, Brother Dick, you've brought us much pleasure
   And sleep well, Richard, our consummate treasure.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

Ten American aggressors met at high noon on the last Thursday in March at the Placitas Café to enjoy some bison burgers, as Commander John was out of yak. Additionally, neither millet soup nor kimchi were on the menu, even though it is well known that a desire for meat was the prime motivation behind Shin Dong Hyuk's escape from Camp 14. The Pubyok thus needed little incentive to obtain the following confessions:

Dick J:  I was all the way into the trip to Texas before I realized I had read this book before.  I felt there was a great deal of it that was unrealistic.  I was concerned about the ending and the dialogue throughout, but it did provide a great deal of information about the North Korean society.  I felt it was not deserving of a Pulitzer Prize, unlike All The Light We Cannot See.  B

Ron B:  I have read 3/4 of the book; I liked the first Part.  The 2nd half became surreal, very dark.  I will not submit a grade.

Mike B:  Literature, as an art, should invoke some feeling in the reader.  I appreciate literature that is both informative and educational, and this book captured that intersection well.  Harold Bloom tells us that it took him three attempts to get through Blood Meridian, because it is so dark, so tortuous for the reader - but he considers that book one of the masterpieces of English literature.  Reading the interview of Johnson with his editor (at the end of the paperback edition) exemplified and validated for me that interaction.   I was amazed to see so many incidents in the book were actually captured from experience, right down to the removal of the tattoo, which for me was most horrific.  A

Kenny G:  I read the book quickly over the past three days, mostly late at night.  I found it a bit too long, tedious, hard to follow, time-challenged plot.  I looked it up, found much of it true, but I was hoping for more from a Pulitzer Prize winner.  B

Charlie P:  What was good for me was learning about North Korea.  I did not like that it was so long - it could have been half the length.  The plot was too complex, too convoluted.  B

Bob S:  Many thoughts come to mind - the book was not cheery.  I almost put the book down, especially at the point where they performed the lobotomies by going through the eye socket with a poker.  I enjoy literature of the human condition, but this was grotesque and horrific.  Living in fear does not convey the culture.  I have lived in Sweden and Denmark;  Denmark is among the highest culture, because of  the homogeneous population in which the government takes care of education, everything, and everyone is left alone.  Young people don't agree with this culture, yet they are pushed in as part of the homogeneous culture.  I can dig that.  What is the objective of the North Korean life that inflicts upon the people pain and suffering, with no choices.  My grade is a C; I would not recommend this book and I won't have us read Lincoln in the Bardo which is about dead people talking.

Rob E:  In parallel with TOMS, I was re-reading Bluefeather Fellini in the Sacred Realm.  Both these books are unpleasant.  In this ending, Ga grabs the leading edge of the wing of the departing airplane, then drops off over the American aircraft carrier, very Freudian.  Dennis Rodman was not recognized by the author:  B

Bob W:  I got the impression that something profound went under me.  I was not impressed.  The vernacular sounded too American.  The afterword was genuinely surreal.  The true beauty escapes me.  C

Keith G:  I attack the book as a real lack of critical thinking.  The author took a 5-day trip to North Korea.  I took a three week trip to Communist China in the 70s.  We saw gifted children playing the violin; it was all totally contrived.  Also the author interviewed defectors.  What would any statistician tell you?  The data would be complete skewed in a negative direction, as defectors are people who hate the country.  The book is not about North Korea; it is popular because Americans are dumb - but the book is well written.  Writing: B, Book: D; overall: C-

Jack F:  I agree with Mike:  A matter of taste.  I like to read things that are not necessarily beautiful - maybe it is the Kafka in me.  I believe Adam Johnson provides insight into a culture where the people need to provide protective language, even with their parents.  The book provides insight into the strength of the human condition to survive which should speak to us all.  It is Denmark on its head.  It's not a beautiful depiction of life. Brutality exists in this world and Johnson puts it in front of us so it is difficult to ignore; however, even under the worst of circumstances, one can still see acts of compassion.  A






Friday, February 23, 2018

Deadly Cure by Lawrence Goldstone

Eleven denizens of Old Brooklyn gathered down at the Precinct to interrogate Sgt McCloskey and pop a few aspirins - who knew?

Dick Jensen:  I actually enjoyed reading it although it was not great literature.  I learned quite a bit about the history of medicine in this country.  I thought the ending was totally unbelievable.  B-

Tom G:  I liked the dialogue; I've read most of the Jane Austen books, and she uses the formal dialogue of the time.  Despite all the negative things that have been said about the book, i enjoyed reading ti.  B

Jack F:  Like the others, I appreciated the enlightened look at the Pharmacological industry.  But there were too many typos; too many characters (46); too predictable and too contrived.  C+

Keith:  Too many terrible toos:  too many characters, too many innocent children, and no one brought to justice.  C-

Kenny G:  I enjoyed this history more than my history class in the 8th grade.  This was a page-turner.  There were too many characters, and I didn't enjoy the ending.  A worthwhile read for the history of the pharmaceutical companies.  B

Bob Woods:  I was underwhelmed.  No driving plot mechanism; the dialogue was awkward.  B

Ron B:  At first, the dialogue bothered me, then I thought:  "Ah!  An historical piece!"  I didn't know the history of Aspirin, Heroin, and the context of the times.  Recommended not as great history.  Overall, an interesting read.  B+

Charlie:  How to judge 'fun' fiction with fiction by Phillip Roth, Ian McEwan?  So what is the criteria for 'fun' fiction - that you would give it to your wife?  Yes, this passed that test, and it provides an escape for a couple of hours, so:  B+

Rob E:  "His hands were muscular; his fingernails were like Theodore Roosevelt's."  - Say, what?   And the ending:  a real bodice ripper - but a grown man's novel.  I struggled through it:  B-

Bob Simon:  I would go with Charlie and Tom: I found the book to be a page-turner and enjoyable:  we had a cast of muckrakers, communists, anarchists.  Plus interesting history, enjoyable dialogue, in fact, lots of wonderful dialogue.  B+
  For Classic novels of the time, we had two great writers:  Charles Dickens and Mark Twain who were both social novelists.  Then there were real muckrakers:   Sinclair Lewis, exposing the ills of society.  Interesting and well written.  I read it quickly, in 3 to 4 days, not my usual 2 weeks.

Mike B: I imagined the author trying to work this 1899 time period in Brooklyn, his hometown:  "Martha, look at these great ads from 1899, I can create a good page-turner around that.  Let's see, all this patent medicine was still available when aspirin and heroin were being touted together.  Oh, Dewey was in town?  Oh, yes, a boat race to intercept Dewey's celebratory flotilla!  Perfect!  I can add an anarchist to blow up the sexy girlfriend just as our hero reaches her office!  Yes!  Yes!"   No.  C

for further study:
Adm. George Dewey, USNA '58, the one and only Admiral of the US Navy
The Mock Battle of Manilla
And then, just two days after Spain conceded the Philippines to the US, you'd never guess what started:  The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902
which included The Balangiga Massacre
With US support, the Philipines became a Commonwealth in 1935 and achieved full independence following WWII:  July 4, 1946.
(historical contributions by Prof Bousek and Solicitor Simon)