This is a terrific collection of some of the very best of James M. Cain's fiction. I really enjoyed rereading The Postman Always Rings Twice and DoublThis is a terrific collection of some of the very best of James M. Cain's fiction. I really enjoyed rereading The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, but it was my first-time reading of Mildred Pierce that really made an impression on me. Mildred Pierce is a novel of high quality and an extraordinary character study of a woman trying to make something of herself in Los Angeles in the 1930s. Mildred felt like a real person to me, I rooted for her and wanted her to succeed, but it was her dangerously dysfunctional relationship with her eldest daughter, Veda, that was the heart and soul of the novel and was fascinating to watch it unfold over the years. At times reading this book kind of felt like what it must be to stand by watching two cars in a high-speed head-on collision. This was novel that I know I will read again and again. It really is that good!
I would give the entire collection 4.5 stars of 5, but Mildred Pierce gets a solid 5 stars!...more
This may be nearly one of the last Edith Wharton novels that I had not yet read. This was, all in all, a fascinating novel too. It is much more of a 'This may be nearly one of the last Edith Wharton novels that I had not yet read. This was, all in all, a fascinating novel too. It is much more of a 'social conditions' novel than many that Wharton has written; as it describes the working conditions in the clothing mills in New England in the late-19th century. Wharton also spends much of the novel dealing with the issue of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. I need to go back to Hermione Lee's great biography and see if I can ferret out the backstory, or impetus, for this novel.
I love anything that Ms. Wharton has written and this was no exception. Was it as good as The Reef, or The House of Mirth, or The Age of Innocence? No, but it was well worth reading, and quite thought-provoking particularly in light of the social discussions that we are having about issues associated with the quality of end-of-life. My mother died several years ago from ALS (i.e., 'Lou Gehrig's Disease) and it was a miserable, miserable experience for all of us--this novel meant a lot to me personally.
The Fruit of the Tree is a solid 4 of 5 stars for me. ...more
I've already reviewed Revolutionary Road previously. This brief review is focused on Yates' novel, The Easter Parade. This is the story of two sistersI've already reviewed Revolutionary Road previously. This brief review is focused on Yates' novel, The Easter Parade. This is the story of two sisters and their lives in an odd, somewhat dysfunctional family. A novel, in three parts, that revolves around the feelings of loneliness, despair, denial, and even the love between Sarah and Emily Grimes. Sometimes painful, sometimes grim, reading this novel always felt real. There's something about this novel that just sticks with the reader long after you've set the book down. This is a solid 4 of 5 stars for me....more
This is the second volume of a collection of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe mysteries, and it is superb reading. I love "LA Noir," and Chandler isThis is the second volume of a collection of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe mysteries, and it is superb reading. I love "LA Noir," and Chandler is arguably the father of this genre. Being an Angeleno, it is great fun reading about Marlowe visiting various locations from San Diego to Santa Barbara and knowing exactly where he is. While all of the novels in this collection are terrific, my favorite Chandler novel of them all is The Long Goodbye, and if you read that then you simply must read Playback for the twist at the end.
I would love to see some new film adaptations of these novels. Chandler is ever so adept at peering into the deep and dark recesses of human psychology. Great stuff!
This collection gets a solid 4 of 5 stars from me, and maybe 4.5 stars of 5 for The Long Goodbye....more
Relentless from page one, Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road is the tale of a young couple of my parent's generation and their quest to find the meaniRelentless from page one, Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road is the tale of a young couple of my parent's generation and their quest to find the meaning in their lives, both individually and collectively as a married couple. I view Yates's fiction as something like "modern naturalism" as I do think he is remarkably accurate in his portrayal of the real feelings, hopes and fears that haunted and even obsessed Americans following the horror and trauma of World War II.
Certainly the relationship between Frank and April Wheeler is dysfunctional, but is it really abnormal? Maybe just a little bit, but I'm guessing that most of us can think of couples who while on the surface exhibit success and happiness in achieving the American Dream with children, money and careers, are internally roiling with self-doubt and discontent. There is no such thing as a perfect life or marriage; it is what a person does with the ups and downs that brings a person and marriage the full measure of success and contentment. It is this inability to modulate Life that Richard Yates describes in his story about Frank and April, Shep and Milly, and even the Givingses. The ending of the novel was such a punch-in-the-gut to me; I simply didn't see it coming, but at least it made sense.
Revolutionary Road is a very good novel. Through this novel, Richard Yates grabs his reader by the throat and says, "Pay attention, take care, or this could happen to you too." Toward this end, I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare's Polonius,
"This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not be then false to any man."
Revolutionary Road is 4 of 5 stars for me, and I am very much looking forward to reading more of the fiction of Richard Yates.
I picked up my first novel by 2014 Nobel prize winner, Patrick Modiano, the other day in Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California. Modiano's After tI picked up my first novel by 2014 Nobel prize winner, Patrick Modiano, the other day in Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California. Modiano's After the Circus is a short novella that is absolutely enchanting, and can be easily read in one sitting over an hour or so. While it is translated from French (by Mark Polizzotti), it is a brilliant little tale of first love couched in a mystery. The story takes place over a few days in Paris--the City of Light--during the 1960s. The characters of Jean, Gisele, Henri Grabley, and even Gisele's black lab are so well drawn that you can easily find yourself sitting in a cafe with them, or walking across one of the bridges over the Seine. This is the story of the hope of youth and its collision with the reality of Life. A truly beautiful little love story, with an almost noir-ish feel to it! Time to find some more Modiano to read!
Patrick Modiano's After the Circus gets 4 of 5 stars from me....more
What is there to say about this magnificent novella that millions of readers haven't already said? I have read this book many times over the course ofWhat is there to say about this magnificent novella that millions of readers haven't already said? I have read this book many times over the course of my life, and it is always such a terrific and new experience. I've never fully understood why some middle or even high schools have students read this, as I truly believe that this is a novel for more mature readers who are, on a daily basis, experiencing the "struggle" of Life....more
I'd forgotten what an interesting novel this is, as it has probably been at least thirty-five or forty years since I last read it. The Sun Also RisesI'd forgotten what an interesting novel this is, as it has probably been at least thirty-five or forty years since I last read it. The Sun Also Rises impacts me on a couple of levels. First, there is an almost travel-log aspect to it. I mean, after all, this is the story of a group of friends starting out in the Bohemian quarter of Paris and then making their way down to Spain to attend a bullfighting fiesta, with a very cool trout-fishing interlude in the Basque countryside. Hemingway is great at putting the reader in each every scene--you can feel the sultry heat of the day and sweat on your skin; experiencing the motorcars puttering down the dry, dusty roads; experience the swaying of the train cars; thrill with the crowds as the toreadors duel with the bulls, and so on and so forth. I suppose that it is really no wonder that so many people make the pilgrimage to Pamplona and "run with the bulls" even to this day!
The second aspect of this book that I really could relate to was the camaraderie of Hemingway's fictional characters. Sure, there was probably too much alcohol abuse, and some bullying, but really this was not a lot different than some of the times and experiences I shared with my gang of friends when I was in my early 20s and in the military. Also, I think a subtle point that Hemingway was endeavoring to make to his readers was that the First World War influenced not only his writing of the novel, but also the experiences of the characters in the novel. The whole psychology of friendship, as well as platonic, romantic, and sexual love is seen and experienced by the novel's characters, and all of those relationships are tinged with the taint of the War.
I think that The Sun Also Rises is a novel that should, in all likelihood be read many times over the course of a person's life. I think there is so much to get out of this novel, and the reader is only able to peel back the layers with increasing maturity, life experiences and wisdom. Even crafting this review has been a very thought-provoking exercise for me.
I am glad to have revisited Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and do look forward to reading it again sometime soon. Four out of five stars for me....more
This is another Hemingway novel that I read at least 40+ years ago. I loved it then, and I still think it is one hell of a good novel! I read Mark HelThis is another Hemingway novel that I read at least 40+ years ago. I loved it then, and I still think it is one hell of a good novel! I read Mark Helprin's A Soldier of the Great War within the last six months and thought it an amazing book; and upon rereading Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, I think they are 'kissing cousins' in many ways. Hemingway is certainly a terse and spartan writer compared to the more elegant and sophisticated Helprin, but there are more than a few similarities.
I know that a lot of readers consider this to be one of the great American "anti-war" novels, and maybe it is. I, on the other hand, tend to view it, first and foremost, as a great love story that takes place on the Italian Front during the First World War. Like encountering an old friend after many, many years apart, I simply loved reading this novel again. This novel may really be Ernest Hemingway at his absolute best. Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is 4.5 stars of 5 for me....more
Edith Wharton's novella, Summer (1917), while still very Ethan Frome-ish, is the antithesis of the frosty and wintry characters and landscape of EthanEdith Wharton's novella, Summer (1917), while still very Ethan Frome-ish, is the antithesis of the frosty and wintry characters and landscape of Ethan Frome. Summer is charged with an erotic undercurrent that runs through it. The novella starts in the Spring with young Charity Royall daydreaming in a meadow full of wildflowers, buzzing insects, birds singing, and the sap coursing through the branches of the trees with new leaves unfurling. Her world has just emerged from the cold grip of winter, just as she is emerging from the cocoon of girlhood to becoming a young woman, vibrant and alive.
Charity is hopelessly trapped in a small, quiet and very rural Massachusetts village near the New Hampshire border, living with 'Lawyer' Royall, her guardian. Charity has lived with Lawyer Royall and his late-wife ever since she was a little girl and brought down from the mountain where she had been born to alcoholic mother and a father that was serving prison time. Charity, in an effort to try and better herself, has wangled a job as a part-time librarian at the small musty library in town. Mr. Royall is much older than Charity, and while he does genuinely care about Charity, is definitely a creepy guy in an 'older man, younger woman' kind of way.
The story takes right off though with the arrival of young Lucius Harney, an architect conducting a survey of home styles in rural Massachusetts. Charity shows him around the area as he sketches the houses he's interested in. Naturally, a young woman and man spending time together, day in and day out, things will happen. Charity begins to fall in love with Lucius, and sees him as her way out of her current life and into respectable society. Young Master Harney reciprocates her feelings, and in a shower of glorious fireworks on the Fourth of July, the relationship becomes physical.
As the summer wears on, the young lovers find an old abandoned house where they meet each day and spend time together. Eventually, the unthinkable but inevitable happens and Charity becomes pregnant with Lucius's child. Lucius leaves and returns to the big city and his life--we even learn that he is to be married to 'Anabel Balch'--leaving vague promises to return to Charity.
Wharton, through the eyes and actions of young Charity, guides the reader through what many young women went through then, and still do today, in bearing a child out of wedlock. Charity's world comes crashing down upon her as she realizes that she really has no choices or options left her; and that responsibility in a situation like this weighs very differently for a man than for a woman.
This is a beautifully written story, with wonderfully developed characters in a pastoral setting. I must say that upon my second read of this novella, I was able to more fully experience and appreciate Wharton's honest portrayal of the double-standard placed upon women at all levels in society. Wharton comes back to this theme, time and again, in her novels and short stories. For example, Wharton's brilliant novels The Reef, and The House of Mirth, and her novellas like Bunner Sisters and of course the aforementioned Ethan Frome also look at the double-standard in relation to the consequences of our actions and Society's reaction. Summer is a solid 4 of 5 stars for me....more