I don't understand anything about baseball. I just know that there's someone who throws a ball and another one who tries to hit it with a bat. Behind t...moreI don't understand anything about baseball. I just know that there's someone who throws a ball and another one who tries to hit it with a bat. Behind the guy with a bat there's a third man with a helmet. And that's all, of course, ignoring that there are members of two teams in the pitch with those typical baseball caps.
I don't understand anyting about baseball, yes. Well, this novel speaks about the adventures of a baseball ball, a famous one. All the owners of the precious ball are like the cracks of the bat during a baseball match: similar and different at the same time. Each of them is like a part of this american mosaic called Underworld.
I've read this novel when I was just 14. It's one of the books we had to read in my class to discuss them afterwards.
Madame Bovary has been one of the...moreI've read this novel when I was just 14. It's one of the books we had to read in my class to discuss them afterwards.
Madame Bovary has been one of the few books I've been obliged to read that I really appreciated. At that time I didn't understand anything about love, passion and betrayals because I was still a child, and yet I had the impression that Flaubert had written a masterpiece.
I remember so clearly that when we chatted about the novel in my classroom, my literature professor joked about one of my classmates referring at her as "our Emma Bovary". The "bovarized" girl began to weep desperately accusing the professor to have called her a bitch and a whore. (Actually she wasn't, but she really had something of Emma in her own).
In the following ten years I've never read this novel again neither I've learnt that much about love, passion and betrayals. Then, days ago, I've heard a programme at the radio which was about Madame Bovary's character. The host and his guests were speculating on what would ever happened if Emma had met Sigmund Freud and so on.
That has made me recall the novel. And suddenly I've understood that I've met some Emmas in my life. I'm kind of a romantic and anachronistic guy who has always thought that there are few possibilities that a "true love" is reciprocal. But I've never considered "love" like something to avoid being just suffering, pain and fears. At the opposite I do believe that this feeling could have a positive meaning if only some people would be able to accept it like it comes, without looking at it like a cancer.
Let's take Madame Bovary: she commits suicide because of too many failures. Her castles in the air are all fallen down. Her lovers have all abandoned her. Emma has always misunderstood what love should be, pretending to find romanticism in the worst and less romantic men around her while leaving behind the only one who really loved her.
I had just read "In Cold Blood" appreciating it a lot and I was looking for other Truman Capote's books in the huge library of my parents. There I've...moreI had just read "In Cold Blood" appreciating it a lot and I was looking for other Truman Capote's books in the huge library of my parents. There I've found this novel.
When I've begun "Other Voices, Other Rooms" I was optimistic about it, but I've lost this sensation pretty soon. We're talking about a novel which seems to aim too high for its novelist possibilities. This book has remembered me a lot the Nabokov obsession for detailed descriptions of every apparently meaningless thing.
The same fact that I'm not able to remember properly what happens in this novel, is not a good sign. On the opposite side what it comes to me when I think to Other Voices Other Rooms is just sweat.(less)
Fall and fall of a Jewish shopkeeper in New York City. No, it's not a typo. There is no top-bottom syndrome here. No heydays to be remembered and miss...moreFall and fall of a Jewish shopkeeper in New York City. No, it's not a typo. There is no top-bottom syndrome here. No heydays to be remembered and missed.
For at the beginning of this novel poor Morris Bober was already on the streets. Metaphorically and literally. And page after page his local business comes more and more a cropper.
He doesn't care that much. He gets by. He complains but not too much. After all, Morris is a conservative fellow who has already made a mistake deciding to get a deli counter. And now he's just waiting for being thrown off from the shopkeeping business by his younger competitors.
This novel is about Morris and his family. It's a book about dignity and fairness, both qualities that unfortunately don't really help in selling goods. I liked what Malamud wrote and found it still up-to-date with the ongoing disappearance of local shops, eaten up by outlets and shopping malls. This is a good book to be kept and read beyond a counter, I think.
What I like the most in Graham Greene it's his capacity to take a snapshot of certain historical periods and milieu in the exact place and moment in w...moreWhat I like the most in Graham Greene it's his capacity to take a snapshot of certain historical periods and milieu in the exact place and moment in which they were taking shape.
Come on, make up your choice. You can pick "Brighton Rock" (England immediately before WWII) and "The Third Man" (Vienna immediately after WWII) or "The Ministry of Fear" and "The End of The Affair" (both London during WWII) and you will always get a thrilling plot, a masterful writing style and a convincing setting.
Let's face it: Greene had the gift of being there "live". He had the right timing from the very beginning of his process of artistic creation. I mean, Greene was of not only writing about things he knew quite well in first person, but had the talent to put them on paper exactly when and where they could have likely happened. And this process required an extraordinary and almost journalistic ability in setting the scene for realistic and contemporary stories. It's no coincidence that most of Greene's novels or so called "entertainments" were already on the big screen in a few years time.
Moreover, what Greene wrote have not lost its power today. Language and countries could have changed in the meantime (people are rather "busy" than "engaged"), but when I pick up a book by GG I know that it's going to carry me backwards in a specific time and place. I'm not reading a story or history, I'm in that story and history. To cut it short: Mr Greene was the greatest reporter of fiction. What this author wrote sixty years or seventy years ago will never be outworn.
"The Quiet American" makes no exception to this pattern. Here we have Vietnam in the 1950s when Frenchmen were still struggling to save their colony from the advance of the Vietminh. Paris was actually fighthing that conflict with a strong contribution of black people (Senegalese forces) not despising the occasional napalm over villages and bragging about victories to the foreign press. Later on, the Americans would have followed pretty much the same scheme having to cope with the more challenging Vietcong guerrilla.
In this early Vietnamese war, Greene puts Fowler, an expert and disillusioned British war correspondent, and Pyle, a younger apple pie-bred American leading an unclear business on behalf of the US government. These two will make the story. With Phuong, a Vietnamese girl perpetually offering pipes to her two eligible men, acting as tapestry and plunder. Pyle claims to love her. Fowler simply claims her.
But nothing is what it seems with Graham Greene. And the sentimental, idealistic, apparently innocuous, Quiet American Pyle who keeps on quoting his favourite book, dreaming about democracy and walking his dog will bring hard cheese on Saigon and the Briton, prefiguring the US involvement on a far larger scale. Which is something that Greene was able to smell in the Indochinese air already in 1955.
"The Quiet American" has its soft spots, of course, but they are not going to be mentioned here: too irrelevant they are. This novel made me think and wonder as no other book recently did and I will risk no harm to it.(less)
There seems to be a whole business about "The Third Man" which is still going on in Vienna long after the release of Carol Reed's movie based on a scr...moreThere seems to be a whole business about "The Third Man" which is still going on in Vienna long after the release of Carol Reed's movie based on a script by Graham Greene. A very peculiar sort of script: this novella.
If you walk around the majestic Viennese Ring or through the polished, Charlotte Russe-like Innere Stadt of today, you will come across a "Third Man Museum", could join a "Third Man Tour - in the footsteps of Harry Lime", get the chance of watching the actual movie at the Burg Kino and will certainly meet a busker guitarist, playing the Harry Lime Theme at some corner. Not to mention the merchandising of t-shirts, teacups, dishes, key-rings with the face of Orson Welles or his silhouette at the end of a dark tunnel printed on them popping up from many souvenirs shops.
I've been there myself quite recently and somehow managed to resist to The Third Man's call. The greatest temptation I renounced to was the purchase of dusty old copy of "The Dritte Man", the German translation of what Graham Greene wrote. I don't read German and I guess I guess I will never do it. But, look, a dusty old, apparently neglected book to nurse and cradle in my hands is always a stroke of love.
Anyway, a few months later this last Viennese trip and back to the UK, I bought a copy of "The Third Man / The Fallen Idol" in one of those ubiquitous charity shop of Oxford and surroundings. May Calliope, Clio and Erato bless them! And here we are with this Third Man (I'm sorry for you fans of "The Fallen Idol", but there is no room in this review for it).
Graham Greene wrote a brilliant spy story with a perceivable coldness and discomfort feeling in it. Vienna looks stunning here in a way that is completely forgotten nowadays. It's a grim, hunger-striken Vienna still divided into four powers: Britain, France, the US and the Soviet Union. It's a Vienna where it's easier (and cheaper) spending half an hour with a tart than with a slice of Sachertorte, a dark town where everything felt apart, rubble fills the streets and the blackened tumbledown façades of the Augsburg-age palaces hang on the bystanders and the racketeers. To put into Greene's words:
"The Danube was a grey flat muddy river a long way across the Second Bezirk, the Russian zone where the Prater lay smashed and desolate and full of weeds, only the Great Wheel revolving slowly over the foundations of merry-go-round like abandoned millstones, the rusting iron of smashed tanks which nobody had cleared away, the frost-nipped weeds where the snow was thin".
Well, what a contrast with contemporary wealthy and greeny Vienna, I say! This is a Vienna caught at the end of World War Two and looking like London during the Blitz (a beloved novel set for Greene) or Berlin during the same period: a town on its knees where the local currency has no value and only foreigners can get goods and commodities thanks to their status.
The mysterious disappearance of Harry Lime - a British spy - and his chasing through Vienna by a childhood friend, Rollo Martins (Holly in the movie) makes a good plot with a pleasantly noir touch, but what I liked and sympathised with here is actually the city of Vienna rather than the characters. Personally, I do think that Greene was far more talented a novelist than a screenplay writer (all the things he changed from the original novel for the first movie adaptation of "Brighton Rock" are a black spot in his literary career) and although "The Third Man" is technically a novella, there is something missing here. However, this book stands out as an important and clever one among its author huge literary production. I would just say that there are better examples of Greene's mastery around. (less)
A bunch of the most hilarious Sedaris short stories ever including some with him trying to learn French in France. It's hard to believe that he has bee...moreA bunch of the most hilarious Sedaris short stories ever including some with him trying to learn French in France. It's hard to believe that he has been underrated for such a long time. Not a 5 star piece just because a couple of stories at the end of the book are a bit too childish. (less)