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GENERAL CONVERSATION > July-August 2011 chat

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Chat here about anything and everything

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Thanks for posting these, Sandi. I have The Dirty Life on reserve at the library and my system has the others except for Spoon Fed.

Some good reading ahead!

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Schmerguls | 257 comments What I Read in July 30 Years Ago (1981)

1642. Humboldt's Gift, by Saul Bellow (read 8 July 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1976) The only reason I read this book is because it won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1976. I read four of Bellow's books in 1976 because they were on a list of "20 best books written between 1945 and 1965," and I hated every one of them. Well, he is still impossible. There is nothing good about this book. It is extremely boring and on top of that the "hero" or main character is a stupid lecherous old man who nauseates me. The Watergate tapes at least had the expletives deleted, but this stupid book doesn't do its readers that favor. This book was one I had to force myself to read so I'd get it done. There were a few funny things: Mrs Henry Adams supposedly said Henry James chewed more than he bit off. This was an awful, awful book, and I can say nothing good about it.

1643. Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte (read 13 July 1981) This is the second Charlotte Bronte book published. The book tells of Caroline Helstone, who is in love with Robert Gerard Moore, a mill operator, and Shirley, in love with Louis Moore. It is not well done, and yet it has good things in it and I am glad I read it.

1644. English as Language: Backgrounds, Development, Usage, by Charlton Laird - Robert M. Garrell (read 16 July 1981) This discusses language and its proper use, etc. It had some interesting things in it.

1645. Lost Cities and Vanished Civilizations, by Robert Silverberg (read 16 July 1981) This is a kids' book on archeology; it tells very sketchingly the stories of Pompeii, Troy, Knossos, Babylon, Chichen Itza, and Angkor. It was interesting, and it is almost 28 years since I read Gods, Graves and Scholars--which is a much better book. This book was written in 1962 and is probably out of date. I wouldn't mind reading more in the field.

1646. Eleanor of Aquitaine, by Regine Pernaud translated by Peter Wiles (read 20 July 1981) I read a book about Eleanor on 16 Nov 1963. This book is also about her, and I found I have forgotten quite a bit of the prior book, always dismaying. This book is very sympathetic to Eleanor, and I rather like her, although I cannot condone her getting rid of Louis VII, her first husband. Eleanor was born in 1120 or 1122 and died Mar 31 or Apr 1, 1204. She is buried at Fontevrault--I'd like to go there.

1647. From Castlereigh to Gladstone 1815-1885, by Derek Beales (read 23 July 1981) This is really quite a good book. It is a survey type book and was published in 1969 as part of a series called The Norton Library History of England--I suppose I should read them all, but of course they are written by different persons and who can say they are all good. Sometimes I thought the book I just read was too general: after all, I have read quite a bit on the period in more detail. Yet I found the survey informative in some ways, and in "Books for Further Reading" are listed books I'd like to read [and I did read two of them].

1648. R. E. Lee A Biography Volume IV, by Douglas Southall Freeman (read 25 July 1981) (Pulitzer Biography prize for 1935) This is the final volume of Freeman's magisterial biography of Lee. This volume covers from 1865 to Oct. 12, 1870, the date of his death. It was extremely interesting, especially the great detail on April 9, 1865, the date of the surrender at Appomattox. Freeman is of course adulatory of Lee, but I believe he was a good man: certainly his attitude after the war was for the good. He became president of Washington College (named Washington & Lee upon Lee's death) at Lexington, Va. I am glad I read these volumes. Will I read Lee's Lieutenants? Not now, maybe some day. [As of 2008 I have not--yet.]

1649. Villette, by Charlotte Bronte (read 31 July 1981) I must say I was disappointed by this book. Much of it drug. The Protestant bias of the narrator really turned me off. The conclusion is very readable, but really the story is not much. Villette is the fictional name for Brussels, where the narrator, coming haphazardly from England, teaches. First she is about in love with Dr. John Bretton, but he falls in love with Pauline, so the narrator then falls in love with Paul Emanuel. The story implies they lived happily ever after. There is some powerful writing in the book, but to say it compares with Jane Eyre I cannot.

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Sandi (sandin954) | 211 comments Schmerguls wrote: "What I Read in July 30 Years Ago (1981)

1642. Humboldt's Gift, by Saul Bellow (read 8 July 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1976) The only reason I read this book is because it won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1976."

I remember trying to read Humboldt's Gift back when I was in high school and not getting very far. Never tried again.

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Schmerguls | 257 comments What I Read in July 2011

4837. Washington A Life, by Ron Chernow (read 6 Jul 2011) (Pulitzer Biography prize in 2011) I read Chernow's books The House of Morgan (on 14 June 1994) and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (on 22 Nov 1999) and Alexander Hamilton (on 27 Nov 2004) and found them all full of interest so when I saw this book on Washington won the Pulitzer Biography prize this year I knew I would read it, even though I read a seven-volume life of Washington (by Douglas Southall Freeman) in 1968. When I read that I figured I would not read any more on him, but 1968 is a long time ago and so I was glad to read this book. It is very detailed and some of the more trivial things are not too interesting, and much of what I read I knew, but still it is well put together and usually held my interest. It does not hesitate to show Washington's faults--he was not a brainy guy but had many good traits and was courageous and totally devoted to this country's interests. He did not win many battles but his steady role had much to do with the Revolution's success. He could be harsh, and of course had a slave-owner's mentality--though he did free his slaves in his will. I thought this a good book to read , and I am glad I read it, and it is as good a one-volume life of Washington as I bet there is.

4838. The "Double Indemnity" Murder Ruth Snyder, Judd Gray, and New York's Crime of the Century, by Landis MacKellar (read 10 Jul 2011) I was sheerly fascinated when on 21 May 1946 I read Frederick Lewis Allen's history of the 1920's, Only Yesterday, and I think that is when I first heard of the Snyder-Gray murder of Albert Snyder on March 19, 1927. This book on that murder was published in 2006 by a man who. while not a lawyer, did much research on the case. It was a very dumb murder, and the pair's effort to avoid liability collapsed very quickly and each gave detailed confessions quickly. The trial is well described with much quotation from the trial records. It took the twelve men 31 minutes to find both Snyder and Gray guilty. The trial ends when the book is only half done--the rest of the book tells of the events leading up to the electrocution of both Snyder and Gray on 12 Jan 1928. It is one of the three famous murder trials of the 1920's, the others being the Loeb-Leopold case (I read a book on that trail on 29 Dec 1957 and a good fictionalized treatment of it, Compulsion, on 12 Oct 1997. and the Hall-Mills case (I read a book on it by William Kunstler on 15 Feb 1966.) The publicity on the Snyder-Gray case is hard to understand, since there was little mystery about it and the guilt was obvious. But news coverage was insane. This book does a thorough workmanlike job on the case, though the author is no Truman Capote.

4839. David Balfour Being Memoirs of His Adventures at Home and Abroad, by Robert Louis Stevenson (read 12 Jul 2011) My daughter Sandy gave me this book published in 1907 of this novel, which was first published in 1893. It is a sequel to Kidnapped, which I read 8 April 1970. The hero of Kidnapped in this book is seeking to save his friend Alan and the first 265 pages of the novel tell of David traipsing around Scotland. The exact situation which he is seeking to have his friends cleared of is not very clear and these pages are of minimal interest--and there is much Scot dialect which is a pain to read and try to make sense of. But in the final third of the book David goes to Europe with the girl he smitten by and that part of the book is full of interest and a joy to read--partly because it is much better than the first 265 pages. It is great to read fiction where the characters are moral and which of course has a happy ending. The book is a good example of the wisdom of not quitting a book even though the first 265 pages do not grab one.

4840. K. by Mary Roberts Rinehart (read 14 Jul 2011) When I was a freshman in high school I was much taken by mysteries by Mary Roberts Rinehart and read six books by her. So when Sandy gave me this 1915 book by her I was very glad and I was eager to see what I would think of it. But it is a syrupy novel laid in about 1913, revolving around a street and doctors and nurses. Sydney is an 18-year-old girl who rejects Joe and K. LeMoyse comes to room at her home. Sydney takes up nursing, becomes engaged to a philandering doctor, and finally on the last few pages sees that K., who is actually a doctor, is the man for her. The book was No. 5 on the 1915 best seller list! I felt the writing was unbelievably bad and plot creaky and predictable.

4841. The Storm of War A New History of the Second World War. by Andrew Roberts (read 22 Jul 2011) This book does a good job telling of World War II, although he does discuss some things more as you would expect an English author to, and some things less than one than one would expect an American author would. But I think his views are balanced and fair. He convincingly sets out the errors of Hitler: letting Dunkirk happen; invading Russia before conquering England; declaring war on the US; refusing to allow German retreats at Stalingrad and elsewhere, etc. His final chapter summing up the war and why it went the way it did is masterful. It is a good book to read, even though I I have read so much similar work (A World at Arms on 31 Dec 2006, Delivered from Evil on 4 Feb 1989, The Good War on 8 Mar 2002). But it is good to read again of the greatest event in my lifetime and to be grateful it turned out as well as it did.

4842. Looking Far North The Harriman Expedition To Alaska 1899, by William H. Goetzmann and Kay Sloan (read 24 Jul 2011) This is a 1982 book about an expedition to Alaska organized and funded by E. H. Harriman, father of Averell Harriman (who was 8 and went along on the ship, as did his 2-year-old brother). They left from Seattle, went up to Wrangell and Sitka and along the south coast of Alaska and even across to Siberia. Many specimens of birds, etc., were collected The book was better than I expected, though it was amazing how blithely some of the people on the trip shot and killed birds and animals.

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Shannon | 43 comments Turn of Mind by Alice LePlante is a great mystery novel about a surgeon with Alzheimer's. She's retired, and her best friend is dead, and why is she on the list of suspects?

Has anyone else read "Room"? Very spooky/sad.

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Libyrinths | 57 comments Schmerguls said: Lost Cities and Vanished Civilizations, by Robert Silverberg

I read this book in high school and absolutely adored it. I was totally in awe of Schliemann, the German archaeologist who found Troy. I found it at a used bookstore a number of years ago and bought it just for sentimental reasons. I looked through it and agree it was a YA book, especially having read much about those topics in the many intervening years. But that book stayed with me for many years.

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Libyrinths wrote: "

I read this book in high school and absolutely adored it. I was totally in awe of Schliemann, the German archaeologist..."

My family thinks that I was an archaeologist in another life.....the topic just fascinates me. They suggested that I join a local dig a few years ago.....But I do not like to get my hands dirty. Or sweat.

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Schmerguls | 257 comments What I Read in August 30 Years Ago (1981)

1650. Unquiet Soul: A Biography of Charlotte Bronte, by Margot Peters (read 4 Aug 1981) This is an excellent biography. I think it is one of that genre of biographies which are almost perfect. It was published in 1975. The life of Charlotte Bronte, as set out in this book, seems highly dramatic, even though it was short and superficially narrow. How I thrilled to the simple paragraph which ends Chapter 13:"Exclamations swelled to a chorus that surged to a roar. Currer Bell's Jane Eyre had taken Victorian England by storm." And how satisfying to read a biography of an author which spends little time on money--how much or how little she had. Charlotte Bronte did not become an extravagant spender--in fact, her manner of living at Haworth changed very little after she became famous. And what a life--in some ways, the life was one of squalor. E.g. "Thus in eight months, Sept 14 to May 28, Branwell, Emily, and Anne were all swept away. Branwell was only 31, Emily 30, and Anne 29. Brief as their lives were, all three had bettered the 25.8 years average life expectancy of Haworth residents." A very well-written book.

1651. The Brontes, by Brian Wilks (read 5 Aug 1981) This is a shallow illustrated book. Much of it was repetitious for me, since I had just read Margot Peters' stunning biography of Charlotte, except this book had good things to say of Charlotte's father, and spent time on his early life. I am inclined to think there must have been good things in him, to have produced and reared such exceptional children. Some of the pictures in the book are very good--apparently Haworth today is very different from the 1840's.

1652. Elbow Room: Stories by James Alan McPherson (read 8 Aug 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1978) This book contains 12 short stories, and I have read it because I read all Pulitzer fiction winners. I was bored or bothered by everything in this book. All stories are about black people, and while they sound authentic I fail to see much sense in them or why one should read them. Many stories have no seeming point in the literal way I seek a point in a short story. I also object to the obscenities and know that they only detract from the work. I think it is a shame that stuff like this can win a Pulitzer Prize.

1653. The Stories of John Cheever (read 17 Aug 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1979) (National Book Award fiction prize in 1981) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 1978) There are 61 short "stories" in this book, which I read only because I read all Pulitzer fiction winners. I am sure glad to be done with this book. I hate reading short story collections anyway--it is like starting a new book every half hour or so--but this book is awful. Boring, boring, boring. People I despised, people so stupid and living lives so alien and repulsive to me! The rich suburban commuter--drinking, adultery, all so matter of fact, as if human beings cannot help but behaving like moronic animals. To make things worse, towards the end the stories become obscene. I don't believe I'll ever read any more John Cheever. He has nothing to say to me.

1654. How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion, by August Bernhard Hasler translated by Peter Heinegg (read 21 Aug 1981) This is a "popularized" book by an author who died 1 July 1980. He apparently was a priest though it seems clear to me he had no interest in the formation of faith or the Faith. I found this book sloppily written, hopelessly biased, with utterly no effort to present a balanced, judicial view of his subject, and with no effort to present matters so his readers could themselves judge the issues he raises. Undoubtedly the pressures put on bishops in Vatican I were heavy, but that they were such as to be unbearable simply is not proved by this book. Even the gossip the book retails is given so sketchingly that one assumes the author merely wants to influence the reader adversely to the Church. Reading this book was a waste of time.

1655. Congressional Elections, by Barbara Hinckley (read 22 Aug 1981) This is an analytical political science book that discusses why incumbents get reelected, etc. I found it boring because it spoke so little about politicians and so much about statistics.

1656. Cathedral Heritage 1867-1967, by Rev. Laurence L. McCarty (read 22 Aug 1981) This is a little book published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the church which is now the Cathedral of the Epiphany here in Sioux City. I enjoyed it greatly and it told me some things I had not known, such as that Lawrence Welk was married on Apr 18, 1931, at the Cathedral. It is a nice book, though not exceptionally well written.

1657. The Origins of the Great Schism: A study in fourteenth century ecclesiastical history, by Walter Ullmann (read 24 Aug 1981) This is an excellent book The author conclusively proved to me that Urban VI was the true Pope. This is really a masterful treatment of an extremely interesting subject.

1658. The Antipope (Peter de Luna, 1342-1423) A study in obstinacy, by Alex Glasfurd (read 27 Aug 1981)
This is a most unusual book. It is a somewhat fictionalized or imaginative account of Peter de Luna (1342-1423), who was Benedict XIII, the second "Avignon obedience" anti-pope of the Great Schism. The book is pro-de Luna, and was a little hard to take after reading Walter Ullman's masterful exposition of the rightfulness of Urban VI's claim to be the true Pope. This book is packed with human interest, though the author's views are questionable in some respects. I have really enjoyed the reading of this book and of Walter Ullman's The Origins of the Great Schism and would like to read more on the subject, such as The Great Schism of the West by. Salenbier (Kegan Paul 1907) and The Inner History of the Great Schism by G. J. Jordan (1930). Fascinating era, though distressful.

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Schmerguls, your reading 30 years ago this week was certainly of much higher quality than the best-seller list!

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Study says spoilers do not ruin stories:

what do you think?

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Sandi (sandin954) | 211 comments JoAnn/QuAppelle wrote: "Study says spoilers do not ruin stories:

what do you think?"

Thanks for posting. I found the article very interesting. I am in the camp that does not worry too much about spoilers. While I never read book jackets anymore it does not bother me to the extent that I would not read a particular book if spoiled and agree that sometimes it makes it more enjoyable if I know how things work out. I figure it is just one of those trade-offs of being on the internet.

The only time I really regret being spoiled was for the movie The Crying Game though it was entirely inadvertent. I was reading a review of a Goo Goo Dolls concert in Rolling Stone (This was a few years before they became really big and they were opening for Soul Asylum and I wanted to know whether it would be worth getting there early to see them) and dropped the magazine and it opened up to an article on the movie and the picture and the caption spoiled me. I always wonder how I would have reacted while watching the movie if I had not known the twist.

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Sandi (sandin954) | 211 comments JoAnn/QuAppelle wrote: "Schmerguls, your reading 30 years ago this week was certainly of much higher quality than the best-seller list!"

I had forgotten about Andrew M. Greeley and Cardinal Sins. I remember thinking it was great and going on to read a couple of his other works. Of course I had just entered high school back in August of 1981.

In the last few years I listened to the audio version of Gorky Park and found it very good.

The only others from the list that I have read were Cujo, which was my first Stephen King(and almost my last), and The Lord God Made Them All which I bought in hardcover as soon as it came out. I loved James Herriot back then.

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
I loved James Herriot too, Sandi. We have photos of ourselves in front of his vet practice in the little town of Thirsk.

I read some Greeley books back then too.

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Sandi wrote: "

Thanks for posting. I found the article very interesting..."

I have never really been bothered by spoilers either, Sandi. In fact, when you read books that are part of a series, you pretty much know that most of the main characters are going to survive if you read about the upcoming books....

At this point of my life, if I read a spoiler I would probably forget it anyway!

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Alias Reader (aliasreader) One factor in their finding may be that the survey readers were reading short stories. So a spoiler is not really a big deal as the reader will finish the story quickly.

Then there is the question of what is a spoiler. Some don't want to know a single thing, other's, like me, only consider a spoiler as the ending of a book, someone dies or who done it type thing.

I don't mind spoilers. Perhaps if it was a mystery "who done it" I might want to avoid a spoiler. But as the article noted, knowing the ending would relax me and let me follow along and pick up on a lot of things that I otherwise would miss.

message 18: by Schmerguls (new)

Schmerguls | 257 comments Well, spoilers do spoil for me. I still remember when a freshman in college I was reading Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and my roommate looked at the ending and told me what it was. I was determined to finish the book, but it was spoiled for me.

I sometimes find the captions to illustrations in a book to be spoilers. That is why illustrations should illustrate what has already been covered by the book, not events yet to come.

Carolyn (in SC) C234D | 123 comments JoAnn/QuAppelle wrote: "Schmerguls, your reading 30 years ago this week was certainly of much higher quality than the best-seller list!"

Let's see--in August 1981 I was pregnant with my fourth child. Of those best sellers, I've only read GORKY PARK, and it was probably years later. I've read one Jim Herriot book, but I don't think it was that one. I liked it a lot, but "so many books, so little time". I enjoy looking at the old lists, thanks.

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
I like those old lists too, Carolyn. I have quite a few hardcovers from that era on my playroom bookshelves. I must have belonged to the Literary Guild back then!

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Libyrinths | 57 comments JoAnn says: They suggested that I join a local dig a few years ago.....But I do not like to get my hands dirty. Or sweat.

Yes, I'm an armchair archaeologist myself. Food, drink, clean surroundings, no months of grubbiness in some god-forsaken place. Besides, they don't pay you enough for the distress.


I don't like spoilers on anything I read, even non-fiction. I like the joy of discovery when I read. There have been occasions, though, when a book is a classic and I generally know what happens, that the book isn't spoiled by knowing generally what happens. And I do reread some books, but they have more than plot which sparks my interest.

I also agree with Alias that a short story may be a different kind of thing because you don't have the time investment in it that you do in a book.

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