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Jason, have you read Richard Stark? I've heard his work described as "dark" by a fan who likes dark fiction. Stark, in case you didn't know, is an alias of Donald E. Westlake's. I think Westlake wrote the more lighthearted crime capers under his own name and used the Stark nom de plume for more troubling material. I haven't been a big fan of Westlake's Dortmunder novels, as you know, so an online friend recommended I try some Stark. I'm hesitant.

EDIT: Oh, and I am reading Todd Kliman's The Wild Vine, about Virginia wine and the once and future rule of the Norton grape.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Jason, have you read Richard Stark? I've heard his work described as "dark" by a fan who likes dark fiction. Stark, in case you didn't know, is an alias of Donald E. Westlake's. I think Westlake wrote the more lighthearted crime capers under his own name and used the Stark nom de plume for more troubling material. I haven't been a big fan of Westlake's Dortmunder novels, as you know, so an online friend recommended I try some Stark. I'm hesitant.

I read Stark/Westlake's Lemon's Never Lie, one of the books reprinted under the Hard Case Crime imprint. It wasn't bad. It was dark in the sense that the protagonist was a grifter and kind of a jerk, but it didn't even come close to James M. Cain's moral bankrupt characters. It was certainly better than any Mickey Spillane novel I've read, that's for sure.

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No Stark audiobooks at the library today, but I grabbed Jonathan Safron Foer's Eating Animals, which I've been wanting to read, and a book about librarians that looked like it might be amusing. Can't remember the name of the latter; sometimes I grab something that looks interesting, knowing other titles might not work out. Backup choices. I'm all about backups.

In print, I'm reading The Wild Vine, which I posted about in the "Wine" thread. Next up, perhaps: My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big City Backyard Into a Farm

Jason: I was relieved to finish the main narrative of The Black Dahlia yesterday, then arrested by Ellroy's Afterword, which did more to make me reassess the work than any Afterword of any book ever has. I knew something of the origins of the book, and of why Ellroy wanted to write it, but it was long ago that I'd heard those details, which came across as fresh and revelatory. Honestly, I was reminded of movies like Vertigo (which I love) and The Crying Game (which I don't), both heralded as films that have late revelations that force viewers to rethink everything they've seen up to that point. The Afterword to The Black Dahlia had that effect on me. I won't be reading it again anytime soon, but I was so moved by the author's addition that I raised my GoodReads rating to 3 stars from 2. :)

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Baseball and Japanese film:

The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron, by Howard Bryant - Bryant so far excels at placing Aaron's life in its historical, regional context - Chapter One has Henry and his siblings hiding under the bed while the Klan parades down their Alabama street.

Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema, by Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto - Wish me luck; it's academic denseness (or perhaps my denseness) has led to a couple of false starts in the past.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I just finished Yann Martel's new novel BEATRICE & VIRGIL. Wow.

Martel lives in our home town of Saskatoon. About five years ago, my wife was talking with him at some literary event and he mentioned that his follow up to LIFE OF PI was about a howler monkey and donkey walking on a shirt. Yep, that's sorta what it's about. But I can see why this took him 9 years to write even though it's only 200 pp long. I'm impressed and still processing.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I just finished Yann Martel's new novel BEATRICE & VIRGIL. Wow.

Martel lives in our home town of Saskatoon. About five years ago, my wife was talking with him at some literary event and he mentioned that his follow up to LIFE OF PI was about a howler monkey and donkey walking on a shirt. Yep, that's sorta what it's about. But I can see why this took him 9 years to write even though it's only 200 pp long. I'm impressed and still processing.

I liked Life of Pi a lot, and Beatrice & Virgil sounded interesting when I first heard about, but I'd forgotten about it until now. I'll have to see if the library has it.

I'm halfway through Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist. He's a good writer and he's drawn several good characters, but I'm still waiting for something to happen. I think things will; he's just taking his time getting there. Udall had a session at this year's Calvin festival that sounded interesting, but I went to Kate DiCamillo instead.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I just finished "Ancient Highway" by Bret Lott.

I'm currently reading "Resurrection in May" by Lisa Sampson.

I'll probably start "Innocent Traitor" by Alison Weir and "Fireflies in December" by Jennifer Erin Valent over the weekend.

I like to say that I practice militant mysticism. I'm really absolutely sure of some things that I don't quite know.~~Rob Bell April/09 CT

http://whythewritingworks.com

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I just finished re-reading Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz (for Book Club #1) and reading Jim Belcher's Deep Church for the first time (for Book Club #2). I'm now about a hundred pages into Dickens' Barnaby Rudge, one of two Dickens novels I've yet to read (the other being Martin Chuzzlewit, which is waiting for me on the shelf). Those are for me, not for the book clubs.

Edited by Andy Whitman
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I'm reading R. K. Narayan. I just finished his superb and moving collection of tales, Malgudi Days. Now I've started his novel The Guide. Most of his fiction seems to revolve around the normal lives of residents of Malgudi, an Indian region of Narayan's invention.

So far Narayan is not what you might call a very political writer. He is not necessarily interested in the political pertubations and social commentary which Western readers sometimes seem to demand from non-Western fiction. Not to say that such interests cannot exist in great literature; I only mean to say Narayan is more like Chekhov than, say, Chinua Achebe. From what I can tell he is not a reform-minded social critic so much as an observer. His tone is quiet, subtle, gentle, sometimes aching, sometimes compassionate, sometimes brutal, sometimes ironic and witty. His simplicity of style only underscores the sense of emotional complexity in which his characters live. They are normal people caught up in life. He lets them breathe. Narayan is very much like the narrator of The Guide: "the panorama of life enchanted me."

Edited by du Garbandier
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I just finished Into the quick of life - The Rwandan genocide: the survivors speak by Jean Hatzfeld.

As you might expect, it's deeply harrowing, but at the same time the tone is fairly muted, and matter-of-fact. I can't yet find a way to describe the experience of reading about this stuff, but the book is clearly a very significant achievement. I'm halfway through one of the other books Hatzfeld wrote following his interviews: The strategy of antelopes - Rwanda after the genocide which is incredibly thought-provoking. It raises the question of whether what we search for under the name 'justice' is really a possibility at all.

I don't know if I recommend it, but certainly, if anyone chose to read it, they would be significantly altered.

Edited by stu
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About halfway through Madelon Sprengnether's Crying at the Movies: A Film Memoir. Sprengnether, an English prof, recounts how various films - including 'Solaris,''Blue,' 'Fearless,''Pather Pachali' - helped her grieve the death of her father and unstick her emotions from that childhood loss. Quite affecting and insightful.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Just finished reading Dexter Filkin's The Forever War. Goes right up there with Band of Brothers, Fatal Voyage and A Bridge Too Far as one of my favorite books on the military, although this also delves fairly deep into the mindset of the Afghans and various factions in Iraq. Definitely worth the read, and definitely deserved its Pulitzer.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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I finished Nicholas Carr's The Shallows recently. Very thought provoking. I know I've been afflicted with a bad case of "the shallows," but I trace it back to before the Internet -- to when my daily diet was heavy with TV watching. That lasted for years, and I'm sure its effects were a net negative, although not entirely negative.

LaVonne Neff zeroes in on a particularly interesting finding from the book.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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- LOTS of Kurosawa-related material, so I can stay on track to get my chapter to Ken Morefield by the December deadline.

- Just finished Volume 6 of the Scott Pilgrim saga - an excellent conclusion

- And just to keep up with what the kids read from time to time, Suzanne Collins' 'Hunger Games' trilogy

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I've been recently reading lots of pulpy sci-fi/fantasy novels, and I'm surprised at how much I'm loving them.

-George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones — LOVED it, can't wait to start the second book in the series.

-Jim Butcher's Storm Front — LOVED it, can't wait to start the next Dresden Files novel.

-Christine Golden's Vampire of the Mists, the first book set in the Dungeons & Dragons gothic horror setting Ravenloft...really enjoying it so far. It's not as terrible as I thought it was going to be. Most of the books in this series are long out of print, but I was happy to find a ton of them at the local Half Price Books. (For what it's worth, I've always been fascinated by Ravenloft, which combines typical sword & sorcery with classic horror atmospherics, usually to good effect.)

-I'm still wading through Neal Stephenson's The Confusion, the second part of his Baroque Cycle. It's ginormous, and Stephenson often gets so meticulous with his descriptions of all things economic (or whatever else interests him at the time) that it's hard to make heads or tails of what's going on. But I love his writing regardless.

-On the non-fiction front, I finished Richard Mouw's When the Kings Come Marching In and loved it as well.

Currently on deck:

-the Ravenloft novel I mentioned

-the Stephenson novel I mentioned

-Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm, about the hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas in 1900.

-Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, a steampunk novel set in Seattle in the late 1800s. There are airships, zombies and mad scientists. I think I'll be in love.

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I had to read through O'Connor's complete works for a class and discovered that O'Connor's work is much better encountered in small doses than all at once. I had little love for O'Connor in the months immediately following.

Maybe it was because you read it for class? I know lots of students that have said similar things. (Or, maybe they just don't dig her unless in small doses! :) )

It's always been the opposite for me: the more O'Connor I read in one sitting, the more O'Connor-crazed I am.

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Maybe it was because you read it for class?

No. I don't mind assigned reading. I also had to read the bulk of the work of Walker Percy for that same class, and came away from the class loving Percy.

I would venture to say that O'Connor's weaknesses as a writer, which are considerable, are tolerable in small doses, but are irritating, even wearying, in large ones.

Edited by Ryan H.
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