**spoiler alert** I have the bad habit of seeing a movie I like that's based on a book and then reading the book because I'm CERTAIN there must be mor...more**spoiler alert** I have the bad habit of seeing a movie I like that's based on a book and then reading the book because I'm CERTAIN there must be more and better in the book. It's rarely true, but always seems worth a try. Yes, I'm an idiot.
The movie follows the book fairly closely although there are a few differences: 1. The movie is narrated by Waldo Lydecker. The book is divided into five parts with four narrators. 2. The murder weapon in the book is a muzzle loading walking stick, in the movie it is a shotgun that is subsequently hidden in a grandfather clock in Laura's apartment. Caspary has the stick fire twice on the staircase at the denouement. It would seem that a simple muzzle loading stick would be capable of only one shot. 3. In the movie Waldo tries to retrieve the shotgun before it is found. 4. The movie gives Laura's aunt, Mrs. Treadwell a chance to explain why Shelby Carpenter is right for her, but wrong for Laura.
I thought the book would have enough space to add depth to the characters, especially Mrs. Treadwell whom I found rather interesting, but the movie added more depth than the book. Bummer.
Oh, there is one more difference. The movie stars Gene Tierney as Laura Hunt. The book stars Vera Caspary as Laura. Yep, she's just about perfect. So much so that the detective trying to solve her murder falls in love with her just by the impressions she has left on reality. Pretty special. Vera Caspary was indeed all the things Laura Hunt was in the book including finding her real man, Isidor "Igee" Goldsmith.
But it was a good read with workmanlike prose, good characters, a good plot, and innovative story telling. Just not quite as good as the movie, but after all it was the book that made the movie so good.(less)
As so many have said before me, an interesting 30 page essay whipped into a 300 page souffle.
Taleb is not mathematically sophisticated and dismisses...moreAs so many have said before me, an interesting 30 page essay whipped into a 300 page souffle.
Taleb is not mathematically sophisticated and dismisses such sophistication out of hand. Just a little mathematical sophistication would allow him to better make his case. I'm not talking about the full panoply of measure theoretic probability theory and stochastic processes here, just a more fundamental appreciation of probability theory, see Bruno De Finetti or Leonard Savage. Statistical theory has one foot in mathematics and the other in the real world. Forget about recipes for various statistical tests, it's the deeper theory behind it all that Taleb needs. The deeper concepts behind probability theory and statistical theory inform and infuse one another. Taleb consults every obscure philosopher and researcher in history but steadfastly refuses to acquaint himself sufficiently with the mathematics of uncertainty.
I know that this book was written for a general audience, but a chapter or two with a bit more mathematics would have been extremely beneficial. Taleb tries to fool the mathematically unsophisticated by suggesting they skip the more technical chapters or sections - it's just that there are no technical chapters or sections and therein lies the problem; he is incapable of writing them.
I would rather he had just told us in some detail how he made his money in 1987 and what his thinking was while he was doing it. That would do more for his thesis than all his nebulous philosophizing. (less)
For a long time after this I was called "Teruncius" Claudius at the Palace, instead of Tiberius Claudius. Teruncius is Latin for farthing. - Chapter 37
I, Claudius tells us as much about Robert Graves as it does about the Roman Emperor Claudius. Although of humbler origins, Graves always wanted to be a member of the aristocracy, a position he finally assured himself by his thorough going denial of ever wanting it and in perfect emulation of the the better elements of that class.
According to Graves, Claudius was an English gentleman who wrote his autobiography in English. And whenever we may fail to understand a word or two of Latin that might creep in here and there, Claudius obliges us with a translation. (And thus the quote above.) The Claudius of the 'autobiography' is Graves himself reading from the ancient texts and 'translating' into English.
I don't know if Graves was the last English gentleman, but I do know that he was a stellar example. He attended public (i.e. private) school, excelled in the standard curriculum of the time (the classics in Greek and Latin), was bisexual beginning with a schoolboy romance (a common occurrence), War Poet, Oxford graduate, and noted expatriate (Majorca).
Whenever you see a young student beavering feverishly away at the Classics in some exclusive private college (say, Bennington), you see the ghost of Robert Graves.
Ah, to be an English gentleman, passionate in his eccentricities.
Yeah, I gave it five stars - I would be willing to read it again.
Why? Let's go down the checklist:
Theme: Yep, got that. Betrayal. And it's comprehensi...moreYeah, I gave it five stars - I would be willing to read it again.
Why? Let's go down the checklist:
Theme: Yep, got that. Betrayal. And it's comprehensive. Count them. It's Megan Abbott's cheerleader version of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.
Story: Plenty of story to embody the theme. Structured to keep our interest, to keep us guessing. Enough story to justify the page count.
World building: Yep, got that. Cheerleaders, high school girls, and the environment they swim in. But a noir world uniquely Abbott.
Characterization: Yep, got that. The whole story turns on character, that is to say every character's action is understood by the reader. If the story needs to take a turn to better embody the theme through the actions of a character then Abbott makes sure that we understand that character's motivation for that action. Everything seems natural, just the way we like it.
Pacing: Pacing can be a difficult thing. Though the story begins sooner than we think, it doesn't start in earnest for us until about a third of the way in. It is the central story that propels us along, links all the little scenes and episodes. I wanted it to begin a little sooner, but .... oh what the hell.
Prose: Wonderfully poetic. Forceful, ecstatic, apocalyptic, colorfully unrestrained. No Standard Prose for Megan Abbott. None of that stripped down, just the facts ma'am stuff for her. There were times when I just wanted to spread the book upside down and shake it to watch the glitter play in the sun. And this isn't necessarily a good thing. When the prose is just so strikingly wonderful, it can lift you out of the story, make you aware that you are reading, reading, reading. It took me three-fourths of the way in to begin to ignore the awesomeness of Abbott's prose and stay submersed in the story.
One last thing.
If you are looking for a YA novel, this probably isn't it. Yes it has young adult characters, but it is distinctly an adult transcription of a young adult experience for an adult audience. Don't be surprised if Megan Abbott's young adult characters speak in wonderfully adult ways about adult things.
If you are looking for a literary novel, you have found one.
Plenty of good things for the reader. Good characterization, sufficient world building, decent story, good prose.
But the pacing was slow, much too slow, and it nearly wiped out all of the good things. Too many words for the story to carry.
I will take a stab at the theme (assuming Kirino had one). After a while a marriage can fall apart and the woman is left to bear the burden of that failure...and she endures in that misery because there is some deep masochistic element in her psychological makeup. My apologies to Natsuo Kirino if I have gotten it wrong, but how else am I to interpret the 'torture porn' at the end?(less)
Two stars? Kinda harsh. After all, it's a first novel. More like 2.5 stars.
What went wrong? Characterization. You know the characterization in a novel...moreTwo stars? Kinda harsh. After all, it's a first novel. More like 2.5 stars.
What went wrong? Characterization. You know the characterization in a novel has been at least adequate when you understand the motivations for the actions of the characters. This is a bit different than being told after the fact why a character did something. Boulevard fails that test.
There is a lot of back story on the lead character, homicide detective Hayden Glass, and some decent insight into a few of the minor characters, but pretty skimpy on two major characters: the serial killer and Hayden's new girlfriend.
By the nature of the crimes, it is clear that the serial killer is performing for Hayden. In the denouement (do we still have those?) the killer tells Hayden why. Okay. The author did try to fill in the background on our killer, but only to make him creepy, not to provide any real insight. And then at the last minute, like taking a long overdue crap, the author has the killer un-ass this turd and expects the reader to buy into it. I don't think so.
It turns out that the serial killer knows something about Hayden that no one else on earth knew (I don't know how he found out) and this factoid somehow makes them psychological blood brothers...even though a good many words have been expended on Hayden's sex addiction and this factoid essentially has nothing to do with Hayden's addiction. (Okay, okay, related but in a very cheap way. Was his sex addiction caused by this or by his mother having been scared by a train? Know what I mean?)
And then there's the girlfriend. Hayden's new girlfriend finds out about Hayden's sex addiction in a very direct and sordid way even before she takes up with him. But then she's all over him. She apparently has issues of her own, but the author never goes there. This could have been interesting and taken the novel in a different direction. A bit of a lost opportunity there.
Stephen Jay Schwartz can write. He just needs to work a little on making his character's actions a bit more psychologically compelling. There is a second Hayden Glass novel, even less well received by the readers. I think I'll give it a pass. (less)
You can see the mature le Carré in this first effort. He uses good prose, knows the value of characterizati...moreJohn le Carré's first novel and I liked it.
You can see the mature le Carré in this first effort. He uses good prose, knows the value of characterization, has sufficient story to carry the word count, and uses the George Smiley plot device.
Good prose is the mark of a good writer and le Carré always delivers: forceful, fresh, and concise.
At 150 pages, Call for the Dead is short and the story is not overly elaborate. Finding the clues could have been a little more subtle, with a little more misdirection, a little more elaborate and with a little more trade craft thrown in; le Carré could have added another 50-100 pages of story really without too much trouble.
One of the best things about le Carré is his attention to characterization; it's important to understand the characters well enough to understand why they do the things they do. He introduces us to George Smiley with an introductory chapter before he takes us into the story. This is a little clunky, but he pulls it off, mostly. He gives Peter Guillam and Mendel rather short shrift by comparison. He's good with Elsa Fennan as well and it's rather important. A smoother and more complete characterization for all of his characters (in proportion to their importance) would have added another 50-100 pages.
And he uses the George Smiley plot device here that he will use again and again in his later novels. George never seems to be quite on track in interpreting the facts in the first half of a le Carré novel. He develops a couple of plausible theories, but they don't quite match the facts or provide convincing motivation. But then George has an aha moment and sends his associates (usually Guillam and Mendel) into action without explaining to the reader his new (and correct) theory. When all the action is completed and the desired end is (mostly) reached, George enlightens us with an explanation of the correct interpretation of the facts.
Well worth the read and not just for George Smiley completists.(less)
I gave it three stars, but it's really more like 2.5. Why?
The story turns out to be rather disappointing, there are unforgivable lapses in characteriz...moreI gave it three stars, but it's really more like 2.5. Why?
The story turns out to be rather disappointing, there are unforgivable lapses in characterization (e.g. Laurie), and there is too much padding (The Black Freighter and various prose sections).
The story starts out as a mystery. Who's killing costumed heroes and why? This allows Moore to examine the nature of the genre. What kind of idiot would dress up in an outlandish costume and act as a vigilante? Good question and there is no way the answer could be flattering. Moore capitalizes on this insight.
Alan Moore discovered he only had enough material for six comics, but he was contracted for twelve. This drove him to provide back stories for his costumed heroes and enhance characterization. A very good thing to do, but he was not as successful at it as this reader would have wished.
Ozymandias is the smartest man in the world, but he is merely a cypher. His back story is rushed, his motives are simplistic at best. He knows (somehow) that his desperate ploy for peace will work and that we will see the parallels with Truman's decision to drop the A-bomb on Japan. Hmmm.
However, the only entity really capable of that decision is Dr. Manhattan because he actually knows the future (give or take some convenient tachionic interference). And I must say that the way Moore reveals/describes Dr Manhattan's simultaneous existence in the past, present, and future was masterful. But Dr Manhattan is himself a cypher. He loses interest in humanity because people wrongly think he causes cancer and then teleports himself to Mars. Doesn't he know that it is Ozymandias behind it all? Arrgh. And then Laurie convinces him (by crying, throwing up, who knows really?) that humanity does matter. So off they go to rescue humanity from some ghastly vision foreseen by Dr Manhattan. But by the time Dr. Manhattan figures everything out, he has become bored by humanity and wants to go play god in a galaxy far, far away. Go figure.
And don't mention Laurie whose only purpose is to be weepy and feminine. She fails utterly to convince anyone that she could be a costumed heroine.
For Rorsach, Moore uses the kid from a broken home cliche. Yawn.
I kind of liked The Comedian who makes a rather ambiguous hero, but who knows what could have motivated him.
And so it goes.
And the padding. The Black Freighter is entirely superfluous. It is told with constant interruptions by the newsstand guy whose comments themselves are largely superfluous to the story.
About halfway through, I was getting bored. The last half was a bit of an effort. And then to get this unbelievable/inconsistent storyline centering on Ozymandias. Ay carumba!
But.... Moore made his characters human with all the flaws that entails and the first half was a bit grittier than typical comic book fare (from my own meager knowledge of the genre). So, 2.5 stars. A bit overrated.
Keely has a great five star review of Watchmen. If I understand him correctly he makes the case that is revolutionary for the genre considering what had gone before. On that basis, I can only conclude that what had gone before must have been very unsatisfying indeed.(less)
Goodreads currently has two entries for this book. This one and this one. The associated description given in this entry correctly describes the book...moreGoodreads currently has two entries for this book. This one and this one. The associated description given in this entry correctly describes the book by Martin Luis Guzman as being published in Spanish in 1951 with the English translation by Barbara Taylor published by the University of Texas Press in 1965.
Two stars is too harsh, but three stars is too generous.
Martin Luis Guzman (1887-1976) was a journalist and novelist who participated (as a young lawyer) in the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Sometime in the late forties Guzman came into possession of notebooks whose contents appeared to have been dictated by Pancho Villa. Guzman had the notebooks published and thus having done his duty to history and historians, he constructed this 'autobiography' of Villa.
The Memoirs are neither fish nor fowl. Insufficient as a history and too shallow as a novel, it consists entirely as a running account of Villa's comings and goings, battles fought, people spoken to, and all very, very briefly. Hardly anything gets more than a paragraph. There is little or no context, e.g. Madero is assassinated and it is only mentioned briefly and much later. There is no attempt to get into the motivations of Villa or any of the principals of the Revolution. And the Memoirs end abruptly after Villa's defeat at Celaya in 1915.(less)
I refer you to Wikipedia for the basics. Honestly, it's worth a look.
This is a deeply subversive novel as witnessed by the acts of the senior British...moreI refer you to Wikipedia for the basics. Honestly, it's worth a look.
This is a deeply subversive novel as witnessed by the acts of the senior British officers.
Written in good clean prose that takes a back seat to characterization and story. In fact, as you might suspect, this novel is all about character and characterization. Clavell succeeds brilliantly.(less)
This is the first Tom Piccirilli I've read. The more knowledgeable Goodreads reviewers haven't been as enthusiastic about November Mourns; I bow to th...moreThis is the first Tom Piccirilli I've read. The more knowledgeable Goodreads reviewers haven't been as enthusiastic about November Mourns; I bow to their superior wisdom, but...
Reading is an intensely personal thing and somehow for me this was just the right book at just the right time. Good prose, good characterization where needed, good atmosphere, good story, and a wonderful ambiguity to it all.
What does it all mean? I ask myself that every night between drinks. I'm not likely to find out; just pass the moon.
I would/will read November Mourns again and that gets it five stars any day of the week.(less)
I went into this one having never read Hurston at all, but was interested in the sections on Hoodoo and...moreThis is a compendium of Hurston's non-fiction.
I went into this one having never read Hurston at all, but was interested in the sections on Hoodoo and Voodoo. I anticipated reading those sections and sampling a few other things. I ended up reading the entire 900+ pages and quite a bit on the internet as well.
I had to go to the internet to bone up on the Harlem Renaissance, the philanthropist Charlotte Osgood Mason, the poet Langston Hughes, the anthropologist Franz Boas, the novelist Fannie Hurst, the philosopher Alain Locke, 1930's Haiti, Marie Laveau (both mother and daughter), Uncle Remus, James Weldon Johnson and all manner of people and history of whom and of which I had only slight acquaintance.
Perhaps I should have begun with a good biography of Hurston. But when you know so little it's hard to know where to start and, what the hell, it all becomes part of the magical journey anyway. Besides, I started out to just read a little 1930's voodoo.
Zora Hurston is what happened. From reading her and from reading about her, it seemed that if Zora Neale Hurston wanted you to like her, you were going to like her whether you were initially inclined to or not. We have all met people like this. She had a genuine exuberance for life and her writing is steeped in it.
If you're looking for a dreary read about the Children of Slavery, this isn't it. Hurston was no Pollyanna, but she was an original thinker on Race and had no time for the Victim Mentality. She didn't toe the then party line on Race and she suffered a bit for it, but she didn't care.
If you're looking for a Feminist Manifesto, look elsewhere. For Hurston, it wasn't so much the hand that you were dealt, but how well you played the cards. And she played her cards well. Being a woman never slowed her down; she carried a pearl handled revolver, went everywhere and did everything.
One last thing. Zora Hurston died old, broke and alone. But don't you dare feel sorry for her. She didn't feel sorry for herself and she doesn't need you or me to do it for her. She lived her life and had no regrets. I can only hope to say the same.
Hurston relates a story wherein a man is being told he needed to do this or that and the man replies, "I don't gotta do nothin' but stay black and die." Hurston did that and so much more. She was an American original.(less)