When the Women Come Out to Dance by Elmore Leonard - Apr-2013
Re-ordered this in Paperback but had the feeling I’d read it already. Indeed in 2002. And even more recently Fire In The Hole (this January) the short story that starts the series Justified. Interestingly I’m working on an old novel from 2002 where I wrote this:
You know the feeling? You’re half way through an Elmore Leonard and you think wait, I know exactly what’s going to happen now, I must have read this already. No disrespect to Elmore, whom I adore, but sometimes publishers change the titles: The Big Heist previously published as Detroit Snatch. It can be very confusing.
Light In August by William Faulkner - Apr-2013
I loved this exquisite novel with it’s complicated way of telling a story, skipping from one character to another so we finally piece together what is happening from several different viewpoints. First the pregnant Lena, then Byron Brown, and then the early days of Joe then Burden for a while until he murders his landlady lover and is hunted down. The crazy old Grandfather and his wife determined to thwart him. All in the most beautiful prose. A beautiful Modern Library Edition from 1952. I think this is one of the most impressive books I have ever read.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - Apr-2013
Still pursuing this. I decided I only really like the Anna scenes, and find that the Levin scenes are a bit of a waste of time….
Glittter Dome by Joseph Wambaugh - Apr-2013
Darker than some of his books. The crime when finally revealed is nauseating, but this tale somehow failed to connect for me. He tends to build up situation and narrative through various protagonists, almost always cops, but here I kept forgetting what was going on. His lack of skill or my lack of concentration. Still many memorable things. The incomparably sad life of the policeman. I like his books though and will continue exploring him.
Reader’s Block by David Markson - Apr-2013
Improbably, utterly and against all expectation I totally loved this book. At first sight I disliked it, discarded it but constantly came back to it until I could not put it down. It is a book like no other. No character, no plot, no description. It is more like a commonplace book. It consists of hundreds of quotations, and references and facts about writers, painters and artists. It is hypnotic like poetry, and fascinating like philosophy. As he himself describes it: – Nonlinear. Discontinuous. Collage-like. An assemblage.
David Markson, Postmodern Experimental Novelist. Is Dead at 82 June 7, 2010 – Mr. Markson’s wry, elliptical novels were almost always surprisingly engaging and underappreciated.
Split Images by Elmore Leonard - Mar-2013
Found a nice 1981 first edition, with an autographed envelope from the author. Great read. Thrilling and exciting. About the rich murderer who does it for kicks. I’m not giving anything away, that’s up front.
N.W. by Zadie Smith - Mar-2013
I couldn’t get into this. My fault probably. New barbaric Britain is so depressing. Autographed though so I must have picked it up in Hatchards.
The Last Lion. Winston Spencer Churchill by William Manchester & Paul Reid - Mar-2013
Defender of the Realm 1940 – 1965
Thrilled to discover that the classic biography by William Manchester has been finished by another hand. This is the third and final volume. It’s utterly compelling. The first is the best, the second you can skip as he is out of power and mainly stays home frustrated, but this ought to be taught in schools. No one remembers WW2 anymore, which is a pity as it was the most disruptive, disgusting world event in history, and millions were killed and enslaved and Britain survived only by the will of Churchill, and by pawning the British Empire to America for second hand boats… until finally the Japanese struck and made up Roosevelt’s mind for him.
I also downloaded this onto my mini-pad as it is a wrist-breaking monster of a book. I recommend that way of reading this admirable book.
Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr - Mar-2013
Nice lady at Book Soup recommended this. Actually most of his books, but I chose this one for a plane journey. He writes well. An odd area for crime novels, set in 1941 Berlin under Hitler, a non-Nazi detective pursues a case. Interesting and excellent travel read. One of the things I love most about reading is the occasional felicitous synchronicity, for example here while reading the assassination of Heydrich in Prague in fiction, it also cropped up in historical reality in the Churchill biography. (cf)
The Switch by Elmore Leonard - Mar-2013
A nice reprint edition from Book Soup. The biter bit is often the subtitle of his plots. Loved it of course.
Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man by Joseph Heller - Mar-2013
His final novel. I found a nice 1st edition from 1999 at Iliad. I love Heller. This book is about an elderly iconic comic novelist struggling to write a final classic novel. He rejects several false starts before settling on writing a final comic novel about an iconic novelist trying to write his final comic novel. It’s great fun. And very revealing of the optimistic bravery of Heller at the end of his life, and the insane urge to continue writing, despite the knowledge that almost all great novelists commit suicide or end in despair. Black humor to the end.
The Mansions of Limbo by Dominick Dunne - Mar-2013
Dominick was a very agreeable guy and in his writing he is agreeable company, but in the end his obsession with the very wealthy is cloying. Reading this book from the early 90’s with the benefit of hindsight, the rich with their snobbish ways are almost all dead, and only the murderers remain alive. He is better at the terrifying Kashoggi than pandering to Princess Thurm und Taxis. Rich old men, young beautiful women, nothing changes…
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck - Feb-2013
I am now officially in love with Steinbeck. I can’t believe I never read him before. But I am thrilled I didn’t because I have a lot to look forward to. This delightful 1942 first edition I picked up is an elegant tale about invasion, war, and what happens to people who wage it. He is so simple and so precise, so sparse and yet paints characters so well.
Success by Martin Amis - Feb-2013
I picked up a signed first edition at the Santa Monica Book Fair. Not cheaply, but happily, for this is a wonderful novel. I had a lot to say about it, but forgot to write it down. Ah, memory. Anyway I highly recommend it.
Fifty-two Pickup by Elmore Leonard - Feb-2013
Found a nice UK first edition of this, (1974) with a signed envelope from him, in a secret new treasure trove bookstore I won’t be sharing with you. Couldn’t resist re-reading this. The tale of the manufacturer who resists blackmail and revenges himself on the perpetrators. Classic tale.
10 Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard - Feb-2013
I picked up a lovely illustrated edition of this at Iliad. Some of the advice here should be illuminated and hung on the wall of all writers rooms. Many offenders, including a Graham Greene I picked up but put down because it broke one of his rules: “Never open a book with weather.”
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon - Feb-2013
I confess I had a bit of trouble with this one. I love him and his writing but to me the writing became very dense and some parts I had to read two or three times to see what was going on. This seems to defy a couple of the basic Elmore Leonard rules: “Try and leave out the parts that readers skip” and the most important “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth - Feb-2013
I gave it a re-read. To me it’s only a pointer towards what he can achieve. The writing is superb, but I got a little tired of it.
Nice Weather by Frederick Seidel - Feb-2013
Book of poems gifted by Dylan Moran—most of which I enjoyed.
For The Love of Vinyl by Storm Thorgerson & Aubrey Powell - Feb-2013
Co-written by my co-Director of What About Dick, his co-story of his co-work in the great album art of Hipgnosis. Lavishly illustrated classic album covers (Pink Floyd and co) with tales from the front line. Aubrey is witty and honest and wise. A lovely book. Contains my favourite summation:
There are five stages to a project
a) Excitement and Euphoria
c) The Search for the Guilty
d) Punishment of the Innocent
e) Distinction for the Uninvolved.
That says it all.
The Shipwrecked by Graham Greene - Feb-2013
First published in 1935 as England Made Me. A seedy tale of a no good brother and his too-loving sister attempting to help him with Krogh the millionaire in Stockholm. Ends in a seedy death. Nice moments of writing. I apparently read it in 2006 under the other title, but left no notes. Only for the Greene fan probably.
Fire in The Hole by Elmore Leonard - Jan-2013
Collection of excellent short stories by the master. He seems to be as intense and as in depth about characters in the short format as the longer.
And I never even got to the middle of Middle March and it’s only middle February….
The Boyfriend by Thomas Perry - Jan-2013
Highly readable and suspenseful as usual. You can’t put him down. I don’t want to give away the plot, as this book isn’t published until March and I am lucky enough to get a pre-publication copy, but it features Jack Till hunting a dysfunctional young hit man with an unusual method of hiding his tracks….
The Life of Brian / Jesus by Julian Doyle - Jan-2013
Python memories of filming by Julian Doyle the seventh, eighth and ninth Python.
Working The Room by Jeff Dyer - Jan-2013
Essays on writers and writers and Jeff Dyer. Always interesting.