An interesting book available from project gutenberg or via Librivox. Kind of like reading a Bill Bryson book, only written in the early 1910s. Worth...moreAn interesting book available from project gutenberg or via Librivox. Kind of like reading a Bill Bryson book, only written in the early 1910s. Worth a read (or listen).(less)
A funny book that, like the cover-blurb says, rings of David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell. I would put the writing closer to Sedaris, though, as it lacks...moreA funny book that, like the cover-blurb says, rings of David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell. I would put the writing closer to Sedaris, though, as it lacks the broad historical perspective or bigger lessons that much of Vowell's more recent writing yields.
Crosley strikes me as remarkably honest about her own foibles, sort of like we imagine Elaine Bennis (J.L. Dreyfus from Seinfeld) would be.(less)
An interesting kinda-mystery that isn’t actually a mystery. The novel tells the story of a lazy vicar who enjoys his peaceful parish until a wealthy w...moreAn interesting kinda-mystery that isn’t actually a mystery. The novel tells the story of a lazy vicar who enjoys his peaceful parish until a wealthy widow latches onto him and makes his life hell. So, about a quarter of the way through the book, he murders her. The story continues from there, with the narration oscillating between the vicar, the widow’s cat, and a local dog (both of the pets end up living with the vicar).
This book is even-keeled and interesting, if not all that engrossing. Maurice, the cat, is particularly funny in his haughty evaluation of the dog and the vicar; the dog is this opposite, loving and jubilant. The 1950s diction and attitudes give the story a jaunty, polished feeling.
While I liked the book, I couldn’t help but notice how empty the vicar was of any feeling about the crime he’d committed. It’s not all that strange to see a novel where you’re just fine with the murderer getting the chop (c.f. the M.C. Beaton Death of a Cad series), but it is weird to be in on the murder, to see the murder proceed without much guilt or thought, and not to mind.
Overall, worth a read, but if you don’t like it after 50 pages, you won’t like it any better as it goes on.(less)
This book is one of the more up and down memoirs I've encountered. Alda tells stories well, and his anecdotes shine throughout the book. His stories a...moreThis book is one of the more up and down memoirs I've encountered. Alda tells stories well, and his anecdotes shine throughout the book. His stories about working with Osse Davis on Broadway or meeting his business manager crackle with detail and zip along nicely. At the same time, the organizing principle behind this book is a set of speeches he's given to various groups and venues over the past thirty years or so. In most cases, the speeches themselves have kernels of truth but they weigh heavily like aphoristic speeches usually do, and they're the least interesting part of the book.
I like his approach to autographing -- namely that he offers to shake peoples' hands instead of signing autographs. This tidbit comes from the chapter on celebrity, which is one of the most interesting.
I also really liked the story about giving a speech about Jefferson to a group of historians and trustees at Monticello. He decided that there was nothing he could say about Jefferson that would be news to them, so he used a very Ulmer-ian method to find his speech topic. He decided that someone on his upcoming trip to China would tell him something about Jefferson that he didn't know. He ended up meeting and talking to a scientist who'd come up with a way of crossbreeding rice that resulted in higher yields around the world. This man, self-educated and fighting the establishment throughout his life, was one of the only people in China who knew Jefferson. Then Alda reveals that Jefferson also risked his life for rice, smuggling an Italian strain of rice out of Italy at a time when doing so carried a death penalty.
Another great story comes from his early theatre days, when Alda had to bring his infant daughter to rehearsal because his wife had the flu. His daughter started crying while he was on stage, stuck at the top of a telephone pole. The director--most of the time a total hard-ass--asked Alda if that was his daughter. When Alda affirmed that it was, he said "Why don't you come down and attend to her, and we'll work on something else?"(less)
Mike Resnick's Stalking the Vampire tells the tale of hard-boiled detective John Justin Mallory, a real-world P.I. who has been transported (in a prev...moreMike Resnick's Stalking the Vampire tells the tale of hard-boiled detective John Justin Mallory, a real-world P.I. who has been transported (in a previous novel) into an alternate-world Manhattan in which Goblins roam the streets and all manner of fantastical beings inhabit the land. The story makes hyperbole of the hard-boiled story type, poking fun at both mythologies of fantasy and at the pulp detective novels in which the archetype grew up.
Like the premise and cover of the novel, the author holds great promise. I haven't read other work by Resnick, but apparently he's published dozens of books and won five Hugos, so you'd expect the writing to be excellent and the storytelling to sparkle.
Alas, neither expectation came to pass. There are a few clever bits in the novel, but for the most part it fails to be funny where it should be, is has no action at all, and most of the narrative advances through banter that's supposed to be witty but doesn't quite get there. Most annoying is Mallory's continued and banal arguing with his cat, who's always hungry. The novel also constructs a world where everything from our world has an analog, but it's all a little different. They visit Madison Round Garden. He meets P.J. Morgan and a magnate named Stonefeller. When these jokes fall flat, and they do often, it feels like Resnick decided to try and write a Discworld novel, but did it in a couple of long afternoons and then shipped the book off to his publisher. And in so doing, forgot that he isn't Terry Pratchett.
I'm sure his other books are great, and I look forward to reading something else by him, but Stalking the Vampire is just dull.(less)