A collection of three Nero Wolfe stories that is better on second reading! I'd forgotten how funny Stout can be via the persona of Archie Goodwin. "BeA collection of three Nero Wolfe stories that is better on second reading! I'd forgotten how funny Stout can be via the persona of Archie Goodwin. "Before I Die" features a particularly funny chain of events hinging on whether Wolfe should accept a mobster for a client. The second story, "Help Wanted, Male" shows what happens when Wolfe receives a death threat and the third "Instead of Evidence" is simply explosive....more
Reading Wodehouse is like sitting around drinking iced-tea on a sunny day; so easy to do and so very relaxing and enjoyable. In this full-length novelReading Wodehouse is like sitting around drinking iced-tea on a sunny day; so easy to do and so very relaxing and enjoyable. In this full-length novel, Bertie Wooster is just returned from a holiday to France and wants time to recover. But his Aunt Dahlia wants him down at Brinkley Court, to give out prizes at the local grammar school. His old school chum, the newt-loving Gussy Finknottle, needs help winning over a girl. And his gentleman's gentleman, Jeeves, is displeased with the new dinner jacket. It's all very silly and nonsensical but it's also hilarious and irresistible. There's a spectacular scene involving a plate of sandwiches and another involving a skylight and an excitable chef. Wodehouse's writing has such verve and optimism - the funniest thing I've read in ages. ...more
I read this because I saw Colm Toibin was on TV and I was impressed by his review of Pride Prejudice, describing the way Jane Austen communicates theI read this because I saw Colm Toibin was on TV and I was impressed by his review of Pride Prejudice, describing the way Jane Austen communicates the thoughts of her characters. Toibin is a man who appreciates and talks well about fiction but unfortunately, he expresses himself rather more like a critic than a writer in Brooklyn as well.
Brooklyn is the story of Eilis, an Irish girl who leaves her family in the 1950s and goes to work in New York. Eilis is a passive protagonist - she is always looking out at the world but never quite participates in it. The conversations are cold and exchanges are menacing or conflicted. As a character, Ellis is hard to like - we should be able to read her mind but she comes across as emotionless and grey.
Toibin gives us exactly one reason to keep reading - to find out whether Eilis makes an active decision - and it is frustrating that we're cheated out of this too.
The highlight of this book is the ship voyage to New York. There are some nice subtle observations of people too, but they're not enough to sustain real interest. Sorry Mr Toibin but you're going on my blacklist. ...more
A book that purports to be about golf but instead is a collection of short, humorous tales about the odd ways in which the human species behaves. TheA book that purports to be about golf but instead is a collection of short, humorous tales about the odd ways in which the human species behaves. The stories are told by the golf club's Oldest Member to anyone willing, or reluctant, to listen. There's Wallace Chesney and his confidence boosting plus-fours, the high stakes rivalry between Bradbury Fisher and Gladstone Bott, and half a dozen romances gone askew. All are linked by the love of the sport of golf. Pure joy to read, even for those such as myself who can't tell a mashie from a niblick. ...more
This is one of the better novels inspired by the paintings of Vermeer. I say that because I've recently read 4 of them:
Tracey Chevalier's Girl with aThis is one of the better novels inspired by the paintings of Vermeer. I say that because I've recently read 4 of them:
Tracey Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring was undoubtedly the best of them, with a solid plotline, populated by recognisable characters and was sophisticated enough to involve thematic imagery.
This is followed by Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The writing is good in this but the book is not so much a novel but a series of short stories that are linked by one Vermeer painting, a fictional provenance. The characters and their stories are compelling.
There is a big quality gap before we come to Deborah Moggach's Tulip Fever. The plot is actually quite original with an unpredictable twist. Sadly the characters insipid and unlikeable, not to mention unbelievable. Read only if you must.
Katharine Weber's The Music Lesson is undoubatedly the worst. Half the book is spent moping around the Irish countryside. Nothing happens and the author is unfortunately not talented enough to make nothing work (unlike say, James Kellner who does exactly that in How Late It Was How Late). The main character is shallow and pathetic. This made it difficult to be convinced about her motives when it comes to the theft of a Vermeer. No matter how much you love Vermeer (or reading), don't waste your time on this one.
I have more detailed reviews under each of these books.
I wonder if there are any more Vermeer-related novels out there. It's a good thing painters are still judged by their paintings. ...more
"Junk takes everything and gives nothing but insurance against junk sickness." Junky is is William S. Burroughs' semi-autobiographic account of heroin"Junk takes everything and gives nothing but insurance against junk sickness." Junky is is William S. Burroughs' semi-autobiographic account of heroin addiction, first published in 1953. As a story in the 21st century, there's not much in it that we haven't heard already. This would make a good textbook for students studying addiction: it describes the frequent episodes of using without addiction, the highs associated with use and the disgusting lows of withdrawal. Then there's the external consequences of becoming a pusher, of the lack of money, of pickpocketing and other scams to help feed the habit. What is refreshing is the openness of the first person narrative and a certain aloofness from all things unrelated to junk....more
This is a book about naps and why you should take them. Naps don't work for me because I tend to oversleep and wake up groggy and nauseous. That howevThis is a book about naps and why you should take them. Naps don't work for me because I tend to oversleep and wake up groggy and nauseous. That however doesn't take away from the science behind napping, and why it's a brilliant strategy for some. The author of this book, Sara Mednick, is a sleep researcher who promotes her research into napping with customary American confidence and enthusiasm. I, on the other hand, am a curmudgeonly researcher who thinks there ought to be a little discussion the other side of the coin, why naps may be bad for you (as some studies have shown). The best bit of this slim volume is the handy spinning wheel on the front cover - a clever way both to show the concepts behind napping and to individualise when one should nap....more
I bought this with intention to speed-read and up my read-in-2009 list. This turned out to be good idea as it's the stylistic equivalent of the diaryI bought this with intention to speed-read and up my read-in-2009 list. This turned out to be good idea as it's the stylistic equivalent of the diary of a 13-year old girl. Only it's written by an Ivy League English graduate who should know better.
Once I'd accommodated to the voice (by reading fast and thereby skipping unnecessary words) the book was decent, even genuine. Weisberger has created a goodhearted, sympathetic protagonist in Andy Sachs. She encapsulates the university graduate who is smart and hard-working but resents the lowly jobs she is tasked with, and without which it is impossible to progress. The novel is surprisingly light on fashion and heavy on the stresses of work. The popularity of the book is probably not due so much to its portrait of high fashion, but rather because everybody hates their boss.
Introduction to literary symbolism and reading between the lines and beyond. Interesting introduction or fun reminder for casual readers but may be toIntroduction to literary symbolism and reading between the lines and beyond. Interesting introduction or fun reminder for casual readers but may be too shallow for university-level students. ...more
This isn't really about Richard Feynman, renowned physicist. It's about Leonard Mlodinow, post-doctoral researcher. I admit it was the title's referenThis isn't really about Richard Feynman, renowned physicist. It's about Leonard Mlodinow, post-doctoral researcher. I admit it was the title's reference to Feynman that got my attention but it was Mlodinow's story of his experience as a new Caltech research fellow that makes this a great read. In 1973, Mlodinow arrives in Pasadena and finds to his amazement that he can work on whatever physics problem he wants. He has no clue what that is, so spends some time trying to get to know the rest of the faculty and seeing if they can give him a push in the right direction. "I suddenly understood why Caltech had one of the highest suicide rates of any college in the country" Mlodinow writes, and it's easy to identify with Mlodinow, shitting himself at the thought of being over his head, while at the same time experiencing huge amounts of pressures to produce good work.
Feynman and another physics giant, Murray Gell-Mann, are just down the hall from Mlodinow. From Feynman he gets some encouragement and some interesting thoughts on life. From Gell-Mann, Mlodinow learns not to be so irritable. With three outstanding physicists and a mathematician roommate, there is surprisingly little technical detail. Mlodinow's account is funny and thoughtful - a highlight is his lunch with an old teacher - it's no wonder that he is now a writer as well as a scientist. As a graduate student who felt exactly the same way Mlodinow felt, I'd recommend it to others in the same poshish. But it's only a slim volume, so even if you're not a grad student, read it if you can....more