Schmerguls's Comments (member since Oct 28, 2008)


Schmerguls's comments from the Readers and Reading group.

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Dead authors (175 new)
Mar 28, 2017 07:00AM

10168 David Storey, who was born 13 July 1933 at Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England, died 27 March 2017 in London. I read one book by him of which I said:

3066 Saville, by David Storey (read 15 Apr 1998) (Booker prize in 1976) This is an amazing book, well worth reading, though I came to detest the "hero," Colin Saville. His father is a coal-miner in South Yorkshire, and some of the accounts of events are so vivid they have to be based on truth. The account of Colin's early years is full of interest, though the adult Colin is a reprehensible adulterous person, bitterly in revolt against his good parents and his sensible, stoic brother. Towards the end the book is dreary and depressing. But the net impression is of a powerful book, reminding me in a way of Flaubert. (4 stars)
Dead authors (175 new)
Mar 10, 2017 01:38PM

10168 Robert James Waller, who was born 01 Aug 1939. at Rockford, Iowa, died 9 March 2017 at Fredericksburg, Texas. I read two of his books:

2791 The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller (read 12 Oct 1995) This book has been on the New York Times best seller list for 163 weeks--far longer than any other book on the list. And it is laid in Iowa. So these are reasons to read it. It is soupy, and glorifies adultery, so it is not a book to be endorsed. But it tells a schmaltzy story, and I found it very moving, after the affair was over. But I am easily moved. (2 stars)

One Good Road Is Enough: Essays by Robert James Waller (read 24 Jul 1993) I seldom read a book of essays but I thought this book was well worth reading. Waller was born about 1939 and grew up in Rockford, Iowa, a town of about 1000 west of Charles City. These essays are good--one on a goose attacked by hunters made me glad I don't hunt geese. He admires Loren Eiseley and Barry Lopez, whom I have never heard of. He says interesting things about the idiocy of college sports and quotes the following: "Anyone who graduates from college and five years later cares whether or not the athletic teams from that college win should consider his or her education a failure." That is a little extreme, but certainly makes a point. (4 stars)
Dead authors (175 new)
Feb 20, 2017 07:20AM

10168 Michael Novak, who was born in Johnstown, PA, on 9 Sept 1933, died on 17 Feb 2017 in Washington, D.C. I read two of his books:

1197. The Tiber Was Silver, by Michael Novak (read 14 Nov 1972) This was published in 1960 and I found it a tremendously moving book. While it is a novel, it reeks authenticity, telling of a year of a seminarian in Rome. The protagonist (unlike the author) perseveres and the book ends with his ordination. The book is very well-done and easy to read, tho full of talk. ( five stars )

1141 A Theology for Radical Politics, by Michael Novak (read 27 Nov 1971) This is a compilation of some of the author's articles. He is nuts and says nix to me. I sure am not a radical. I doubt he knows what he is saying. I am a liberal, history-conscious, and for knowing the past. (2 stars )
Dead authors (175 new)
Feb 13, 2017 06:25AM

10168 Harold G. Moore, who was born 13 Feb 1922 in Bardston, KY, died 10 Feb 2017 in Auburn, Ala. I read two books of which he was a co-author:

3190. We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young / Ia Brang: The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, USA (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway (read May 4, 1999) This was certainly the outstanding reading experience of the month. The account of the horrendous suffering these men went thru is so vividly told, I doubt there could be a better account. The final chapters are so wrenching--I have certainly not read anything so poignant on Vietnam since reading Fortunate Son, the Autobiography of Lewis Lewis B. Puller, Jr. (read 6 Feb 1994). ( 5 stars )

4481. We Are Soldiers Still A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam, by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (USA RET.) and Joseph L. Galloway (read 5 Sep 2008) This is a sequel to the authors' superlative book We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, and tells of their return to Vietnam to visit battlefields there and meet with the Vietnamese generals who fought againt them. The book is full of wise comments, especially noteworthy being those about Geroge Bush's unwise rush to war in Irag. Moore suggests that Bush have over his library the words "Dulce bellum inexpertis" (War is delightful to those who have no experience of it). ( 4 stars )
Dead authors (175 new)
Jan 16, 2017 06:45AM

10168 William Peter Blatty, who was born 7 Jan 1928 in New York City, died 1 Jan 2017 in Bethesda, MD. I read one of his books:
1215 The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty (read 24 Apr 1973) Words fail me! It is a horrid and horrifying book and utterly absorbing, also images unspeakably revolting. Regan Teresa McNeil is an 11-year-old girl possessed by the devil. The novel reminds me of Begone Satan, the pamphlet of the Earling possession case, but in this book all the obscenity--blasphemous in the extreme at times--is disgustingly spelled out. It is the most compelling book, I forced myself to go to bed about 11 P.M.last night. I slept poorly and finally got up at 5 A.M. to read the last section, when Father Merrin, S.J., comes to the exorcism. One wishes it were longer. It is so absorbing, so interesting, one is so dismayed it ends. There is one thing: the calmness (relatively) of the persons who know in the face of the overwhelming madness and strangeness--you know by this it is fiction. How could Clare (the mother), Sharon (the secretary), Karl & Willie (the housekeepers) go on--and not believe? They couldn't. St Joseph Convent, Earling, was a far better place for an exorcism, for the reasons Father Theophilus gave out at the beginning as the reason for bringing the possessed woman to Earling. I would like to read true studies of demonic possession. Sadly, the language and the incredible obscenity of this book make it non-recommendable to many. But gripping is a totally inadequate word for it. ( 5 stars)
Dead authors (175 new)
Dec 12, 2016 06:45AM

10168 Ken Hechler, who was born 20 Sept 1914 at Roslyn, N. Y., died on 10 Dec 2016 at Romney, West Virginia. I read one book by him:

3211. The Bridge at Remagen, by Ken Hechler (read 23 June 1999) I saw this at a rummage sale and it cost I think a dime. I remembered the author was a West Virginian congressman and so bought the book months ago and have finally read it. It tells a great story very well, and the book really caught me up. It is told in sort of official history language, since the author was a historian during the war when he was in the Army. This is a real 5-star book and I am glad I read it. (5 stars )
Dead authors (175 new)
Nov 22, 2016 07:51AM

10168 William Trevor, who was born 24 May 1928 at Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland, died 21 Nov 2016 at Somerset, England. I read one book of his:

3809. The Silence in the Garden, by William Trevor (read 2 Oct 2003) I have often heard of Trevor (born in Ireland in 1928) as a master of prose so I thought I would read something by him. This title is a 1988 novel telling of a high society Irish Protestant family and of Tom, their butler's illegitimate son, an eminently likable character, seen mostly as a boy. The story is so subtle I am not sure I caught the great secret the author gradually unfolds, with touches of humor and smooth prose. ( 3 and a half stars) )
Dead authors (175 new)
Sep 17, 2016 10:45AM

10168 W. P. Kinsella, who was born 25 May 1935, at Edmonton, Alberta, died on 16 Sept 2016 at Hope, British Columbia. I read three of his books:

4170 Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa Stories, by W. P. Kinsella (read 4 June 2006) I recently saw a list of novels by locale--two for each state. The two for Iowa were A Thousand Acres (which I read 8 Aug 1993) and Shoeless Joe. So I went to the library and this book was there and I thought it was the book listed. But it is a book of short stories. The eponymous story is the one which Kinsella later turned into a full-length novel. There are ten short stories, and as in most books of such the quality varied. Probably the best-liked was "The Grecian Urn," a story of a guy who turns himself and his girlfriend into a part of Keats' Grecian Urn: goofy but appealing. On balance I did not care for Kinsella. ( 2 stars )

4173 Shoeless Joe, by W. P. Kinsella (read 9 June 2006) THIS is the novel on the list of Iowa novels. It was published in 1982. It is a fantasy story, and I ordinarily have little interest in fantasy, but I remember being totally caught up by Conrad Richter's The Waters of Kronos (read 19 May 1999), which was sheer fantasy. Shoeless Joe is even weirder fantasy, and for quite a while I was unmoved by the impossible story. But the ballfield is built (near Iowa City, not near Dyersville) and the builder goes to get J.D. Salinger in Vermont and to Chisholm, Minn., to look up Moonlight Graham--who actually did play one inning for the Giants in 1905, and then to the Iowa ballfield and I found myself hoping the financial woes would work out, and the people with Shoeless Joe Jackson would be able to help. I was totally amazed how this fantasy affected me--Iowa and baseball make it different from other fantasy? (4 and a half stars)

4194 The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, by W. P. Kinsella (read 26 July 2006) I read Shoeless Joe last month and really liked it though it was fantasy--which usually turns me off (I have, e.g., NO desire to read Harry Potter). This Kinsella book is fantasy gone wild, with a 40 day baseball game beginning July 4, 1908 between the Chicago Cubs of Tinker to Evers to Chance fame and the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-stars which goes on for 2614 innings. I could not get caught up by it as I did by Shoeless Joe and the field of dreams, and it was so improbable and silly and pointless that I was glad when I got to the last page. (1 star)
Dead authors (175 new)
Sep 17, 2016 06:45AM

10168 Edward Albee, who was born in Virginia on 12 March 1928, died on 16 Sept 2016 at Montauk, NY. I read the book containing his play:

862. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A Play, by Edward Albee (read 26 Jul 1966)

My comment on the book (written on May 10, 2010) was:

I admit I remember the movie better than my reading of this. The movie was a 1966 movie and I don't recall if I saw the move before I read the play, but I suspect I did. I had an affirmative reaction to both the play and the movie. ( 4 stars )
Dead authors (175 new)
Sep 13, 2016 06:17AM

10168 Robert Timberg, who was born 16 June 1940, in Miami Beach, Fla., died 6 Sep 2016, In Annapolis, MD. I read one of his books:

3413. The Nightingale's Song, by Robert Timberg (read 3 Mar 2001) My comment on the book was: I know this book came out in 1995 and I should have read it earlier but I found it still an amazingly interesting book. It studies the careers of five Naval Academy graduates: John Poindexter and John McCain from the Class of 1958, John "Bud" MacFarlane from the Class of 1959, and James Webb and Oliver North from the Class of 1968. Though the events dealt with may seem like ancient history to us I found the accounts really absorbing and the book really easy to read. There are no footnotes, but source notes for each chapter are given. The nightingale in the title is Reagan, and the revealing portrayal of him and his style of operation alone would make the book worth reading. This book started my March 2001 reading off in great style. ((4 and a half stars)
Dead authors (175 new)
Sep 06, 2016 06:50AM

10168 Phyllis Schlafly who was born 15 Aug 1924, in St. Louis, Mo., died there on 5 Sep 2016. I read one book by her:

777. A Choice Not an Echo, by Phyllis Schlafly (read 31 Aug 1964) Every once in a while I read something I know is wrong and illogical but I want to see what it said. I read this and found it was filled with errors. (1/2 star)
Dead authors (175 new)
Jul 28, 2016 08:09AM

10168 James Alan McPheron, who was born 16 Sept 1943 in Savannah, Ga., died 27 July 2016 at iowa City, Iowa. I read one book by him:

1652 Elbow Room: Stories by James Alan McPherson (read 8 Aug 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1978) This book contains 12 short stories, and I have read it because I read all Pulitzer fiction winners. I was bored or bothered by everything in this book. All stories are about black people, and while they sound authentic I fail to see much sense in them or why one should read them. Many stories have no seeming point in the literal way I seek a point in a short story. I also object to the obscenities and know that they only detract from the work. I think it is a shame that crap like this can win a Pulitzer Prize. (1 Star)
Dead authors (175 new)
Jul 13, 2016 08:20AM

10168 Wiolliam H. McNeill, who was born 31 Oct 1017. at Vancouver, Canada, died 8 July 2016, at Torrington, Conn. I read two of his books:

1382 The Rise of the West A History of the Human Community, by William H. McNeill (read 23 Mar 1976) (National Book Award History prize for 1964) This is a sheerly fascinating book, beginning with the first days of man, and tracing the history of civilization to the present. I have been reading history all my life but much herein is totally new to me. The book has three parts: I - The Era of Middle Eastern Dominance to 500 B.C. II - Eurasian Cultural Balance 500 B.C. - 1500 A.D. III - The Era of Western Dominance 1500 A.D. to the Present. This gives an idea of the author's approach and so much of it was really great, since it showed the total picture, rather than merely what history usually shows - a segment. The footnotes are filled with references to books one should read. An extremely worthwhile book. (five stars)

3068 Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life, by William H. McNeill (read 22 Apr 1998) Toynbee was born 14 April 1889 in London. He was brilliant in school, avoided service in World War One, and wrote A Study of History in 10 volumes. He had an interesting and troubled personal life, and this book spends much time on it. Toynbee is out of fashion now, and his theories and prophecies have not proven overly valid. After reading this biography I concluded that I need not read anything by him--the only thing I have read emanating from him is the abridgment of the first six volumes of a Study of History, which I finished reading Feb 17, 1952. (3 stars )
Dead authors (175 new)
Jul 03, 2016 05:39AM

10168 Elie Wiesel, who was born 30 Sept 1928 at Signot, Romania, did 2 July 2016 ibn New York City. I read a book by him:

2878 Night, by Elie Wiesel translated from the French by Stella Rodway (read 15 Jun 1996) The author, his parents, and his three sisters were taken to Auschwitz where all but the author died. This is a searing book of his experiences, and there is a poignant introduction by Francois Mauriac. The account is so unrelievedly stark, that it makes little sense. It is hard to know why anyone survived at all if all were so evil. The book is more impressionistic than reportorial: a child who discovers absolute evil. (four stars)
Dead authors (175 new)
Jun 25, 2016 09:06AM

10168 Michael Herr, who was born in Syracuse, N.Y., on 13 Apr 1940, died in a hospital in Delaware County, N. Y. on 23 June 2016. I read one book by him:

3214. Dispatches, by Michael Herr (read July 6, 1999) This book was published in 1977, and is by a journalist in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. It reeks with the awful reality that was Vietnam in those years. I was bothered by his using dope, and his glory in literally transcribing the repulsive language, but the book conveys an immediacy and a horror better than I've ever encountered it in Vietnam writing. I notice Richard Schumacher, a German who studies and teaches re war writing uses this book as part of his course, along with classics like The Red Badge of Courage, All Quiet on the Western Front, etc. ( 4 stars )
Dead authors (175 new)
Jun 07, 2016 01:23PM

10168 David Lamb, who was born 8 March 1940, in Boston, MA, died in Alexandria, Va. on 5 June 2016. I read two books by him:

3617. The Africans, with a new Preface and Epilogue, by David Lamb (read 17 Aug 2002) The author was a journalist in Africa from 1976 to 1980, but the book is not too journalistic but attempts a broader view and succeeds quite well. He is quite pessimistic, though he accounts some successes in African nationdom. This was a good book though old. A more current book on the same subject is Out of Africa: A Black Man Confronts Africa, by Keith B. Richberg, which I read July 8, 1998.
(4 stars)

3575. Vietnam Now: A Reporter Returns, by David Lamb (read June 8 2003) The author spent the years 1968-1970 in Vietnam as a reporter, and went back from 1997 to 2000, and I thought this a very good and worthwhile read. It is up-to-date, and not fiction as is Nelson DeMille's Up Country (read 9 Sept 2002). He says things about the war which need to be said, e.g., drug use among U.S. troops was no higher than in the U.S., nor was the suicide rate; 12.5% of combat deaths in Vietnam were black, blacks of draft age being 13.5% of the U.S. population; 97% of Americans received honorable discharges, the same rate as in the prior ten years, etc. He says "in World War II several thousand Americans not only surrendered, they ended up fighting for the Germans"--but gives no footnote for the statement and I have not been able to get more detail of that to me astounding allegation. But this is a very good and informative book. (4 stars )
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Dead authors (175 new)
Mar 05, 2016 07:27AM

10168 Pat Conroy, who was born in Atlanta, Ga., on 26 Oct 1945, died 4 March 2016 at Beaufort, SC, on 4 March 2016, I read 9 of his books:

2587. The Water Is Wide, by Pat Conroy (read 3 Mar 1994) When I saw an item in the paper a few weeks ago that said President Clinton's favorite books were The Last of the Mohicans and The Prince of Tides, I heard for the first time of Pat Conroy. So I read this 1972 book by him. I found it on the fiction shelf at the library, but it is written as a narrative of the author's year teaching black kids on Yamacrow Island in Beaufort County, S. C. I can't find such an island on the map, so it might be fictionalized. This is quite a book, and shows a change is coming--as long ago as 1972. Conroy portrays himself as a typical racist in his youth, now cured. "Conrack" is the movie made from the book. (4 stars )

2757. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy (read 13 Jun 1995) This is a tremendously powerful book. The excessive use of four-letter words repels, but the story of the Wingo family--Henry, the abusive father, Lila, the devilish mother, Luke, the loyal able and believing older brother, Savannah and Tom, twins born Oct 4,1944, in a hurricane--is told with awesome grandiloquence. This book has been a searing read, surely as well-written as a novel can be in this era. Aspects of the story jar, of course, but his description of joyful football games and bizarre successes like the recapture of a white porpoise or his faith-filled grandfather's forty mile water-ski are a joy to read. Some events are a horror to read: the triple rape avenged by Caesar, the Bengal tiger, etc. It is all far larger than life, and rather overwhelming. It is clearly one of the greatest novel I have read. I only wish I could recommend it unreservedly, but of course I cannot. The New York scenes resonate with unbelievable power, and one can't help but believe Conroy is a great writer. The South Carolina scenes sometimes seem too lush and overdone, but maybe if I was Southern I'd not think so. This has been an awesome reading experience.(4 and a half stars)

2762. The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy (read 25 Jun 1995) This 1976 novel tells of Bull Meachem, a Marine lieutenant colonel fighter pilot, and a year in the life of his family (Lillian, his wife, Ben, his 18-year-old son, Mary Anne and Karen, his daughters, and Matt), the year being 1962-1863. Bull is awful, but even I as well as his family were devastated by the denouement! The language used in the book is repellant--a locker room account is just repulsive, though probably all too true-to-life. There were times reading this book was not really enjoyable. Ben is no doubt autobiographical, though apparently Pat Conroy's colonel of the Marines aviator father was still alive when the book was published. The book if full of fantastic unthinkable things. All in all, it has more pluses than minuses. (3 stars)

2961. The Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy (read 26 Feb 1997)
The author attended The Citadel from 1963 to 1967, as does "I" in this book. The account of things inflicted on plebes is horrendous, and, if it has any basis in fact, it is shocking. The book is filled with filthy language and this is annoying but one gets used to it. The story is a powerful one, and ends in the grand tradition of powerful great novels. I have read three other books by Conroy, and I believe this is the best of the ones I have read. All in all, I have to say this was a tremendous reading experience. (5 stars)

3918. My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy (read 26 Oct 2003) This book is autobiographical but concentrates on the year 1966-1967 when Conroy was point guard on The Citadel's basketball team. His coach, Mel Thompson, was as bad as Conroy's father--said father died May 11, 1998, sort of reconciled to his son. But it is not pleasant to read of guys like the coach--and Conroy's father is unbelievably despicable, at least the way Conroy depicts him. The accounts of basketball games are written with typical Conroy dash, and I suppose are hyped up. This is a powerful book which will be easy to long remember--though Conroy is verbose. All in all the book was great reading. It is good to know that The Citadel has given Conroy an honorary degree--and that there are some forty female cadets at The Citadel now. The season was a losing one, but Conroy makes it memorable. (4 and a half stars)

4223. The Boo, by Pat Conroy (read 29 Oct 2006) This is nonfiction and tells of a character at The Citadel, from which Conroy graduated in 1967. Lt. Col. Nugent Courvoisie is a tough though kindly figure much responsible for cadet discipline from 1961 to 1968. Many of the stories told are so "inside" that one who did not go to the school has trouble appreciating them. His novel The Lords of Discipline, which I read with keen appreciation 26 Feb 1997, is a much more compelling read. (1 and a half stars)

4665. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy (read 28 Jan 2010) As usual, Pat Conroy displays a rabidly dysfunctional family, based in Waterford, South Carolina. Jack McCall born to a drunken father and a weird mother, who had a horrid childhood, has four brothers,one of whom is crazy at times. Conroy weaves a tale about these people and those who come in touch with them, which manages to say much about the Vietnam divisions in the US, and the Holocaust horror--based on fact or imagination? The book is 800 pages and frankly I think is too long, and a lot of the hagiographical stuff about Leah, Jack's daughter, could have been spared the reader. There are episodes whch are of high interest, but there is an excess of foul language at times and it is hard to believe the events as described could have happened. I know they did not but even in fiction one should be able to believe the events could have happened. (3 and a half stars)

4860. My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy (read 13 Sep 2011) This is more about Conroy's writing life than his reading life, but it has the customary Conroy exuberance and some of it is good reading. I wish he had named more names in regard to his reading, but his object I suppose is to get us to read HIM rather than others. He has good chapters on Gone With the Wind, War and Peace, James Dickey, Thomas Wolfe, and how he (Conroy) goes about getting himself hyped up to a sufficient stage of exuberance to write the exultant stuff he writes. I have read eight of his nine books, many with much appreciation. I do think The Lords of Discipline is the book of his which most caught me up. (4 stars)

5270. The Death of Santini The Story of a Father and His Son, by Pat Conroy (read 3 May 2015) So, the book is plainly labeled fiction, and has all the trappings of biography of the author's family, including family pictures, details as to the actual happenings (including the author's three marriages, an exemplar of the author's own dysfunctional family so far as his kids are concerned) and a soaring eulogy which I presume he actually read at his father's funeral in May, 1998, at St Peter's Catholic Church on Lady's Island, S.C. So what is true and what is fiction? It is annoying not to know. Much of the book is irritating, as he tape-recorder-like spews the filhy language supposedly spouted by family members including his priest uncle and his nun aunt. If that is fictional it is not fun to read. If fact it is deplorable . But the closing chapters did induce me to appreciate the book more than I did some times as I was reading. (3 stars)
Dead authors (175 new)
Feb 20, 2016 06:42AM

10168 Umbertp Eco, who was born 5 Jan 1932 in Alessandria, Italy, died 19 Feb 2016 in Milan, Italy. I read his The Name of the Rose on 19 May 1985 My comment thereon was follows:

This has the guise of a detective story but is laid in 1327 in a monastery in Italy, and is filled with philosophy and medieval learning. I did not enjoy the book.

I gave it one star.
Dead authors (175 new)
Feb 19, 2016 08:30AM

10168 Harper Lee, who was born 28 April 1926 in Monroeville, Ala., died there on or about 18 Feb 2016. I read her book To Kill A Mockingbird on 8 May 1961 and while I did no post-reading note the "review" i posted on LibraryThing reads as follows: ""This is a great book and it is one of the best novels I have ever read." and I gave it five stars.
Dead authors (175 new)
Jan 03, 2016 06:34AM

10168 Dale Bumpers, who was born 12 Aug 1925, in Charleston, Ark., died 1 Jan 2016 in Little Rock, Ark. I read his book and said of it:

3914. The Best Lawyer in a One-Lawyer Town A Memoir, by Dale Bumpers (read 27 July 2004) This is an exceptionally excellent book, and reading it was a delight. The author, US senator from Arkansas for 24 years--till Jan 3, 1999--has snatches of humor throughout the book, together with wise and poignant thoughts. It is indeed a memoir rather than an autobiography, since he does not dwell greatly on what he did as Governor for four years and as Senator. The culminating chapter pertains to his role in Clinton's impeachment, with an appendix setting out his speech in that event--an exceptionally able exposition of why Clinton should not be convicted. I found this book tremendously satisfying and evocative of much admiration for its self-deprecating author. ( 5 stars)
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