What are you reading?

This topic contains 530 replies, has 60 voices, and was last updated by  Richard L. 3 weeks, 2 days ago.

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  • 07 Apr 2012 at 12:13 pm #725


    I’m about halfway through the O’Connor, just starting ‘The Lame…’ so will let you know how it hits me when I’m done but from everything else so far in it that I’ve read, it can’t miss. She’s even more wickedly funny in this whole collection, the dripping irony of the first & title story and her look at southern & class idiosyncrasies in ‘Greenleaf’. Her various ‘mother’ figures are dead on & I have to admit (based on my own personal experiences) to both squirming uncomfortably and laughing at the same time, especially during the title story. Sort of felt like she’d been looking over my shoulder while I was growing up and I like it when someone nails me like that although not always a good feeling.

    07 Apr 2012 at 8:26 pm #732


    The Transition: Lyndon Johnson and the events in Dallas by Robert Caro. Excellent article in The New Yorker from the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. Riveting stuff. Here’s an abstract of the piece:


    09 Apr 2012 at 10:07 pm #777

    Bunny McVane

    B O O K R E P O R T

    Just finished Big Questions or Asomatognosia: whose hand is it anyways? by Anders Nilsen–a 584 page comic (genre?) about birds. It says in the back of the book it took fifteen years to finish. Takes maybe an hour and a half to read if you savor the artwork. In the beginning the drawings are very simple. Indeed, the illustrations of birds are very simple throughout; at the same time, the framing and composition become increasingly complex to accommodate an idyllic world intruded upon by a bomb (which is mistaken for a special kind of egg), a downed fighter plane, and a hostile fighter pilot. One naturally assumes Nilsen’s craftsmanship improved over the years he worked on this, perhaps with some digital help. It follows that the landscape becomes richer and more intricate while the bird drawings remain charming and simple. Most of the story is a series of vignettes involving finches–at least that is how the blackbirds refer to them, you see they have their own taxonomy (doughnuts are called vegetables). Among the cast of characters are some squirrels who absolutely do not want you fucking with their nuts. There is a wandering imbecile who the birds begin to see as competition for food. Also, there are some finches who walk around in skeleton form–is the afterlife in this world different from our own? And further, there are “big questions”: “Is the world being drawn inexorably along a path of degradation and destruction? Is there hope for the future or are we doomed?” Some of the birds wax philosophical, however you McCarthy/Melville/Faulkner fans will not find this book the least bit engaging in that respect, nor will you be a smarter person at the end. I think the main themes of this work are altruism and standing up for the things in which you believe: standing guard over a mysterious egg, defending your friends from the blackbirds, protecting the imbecile that both killed you and brought you back to life, collecting worms for the giant “bird” that hatched from the down plane. These are the actions which may answer big questions like is the world doomed. Perhaps there are some superfluous scenes that go overboard with mystery and surrealism. This is the one downside to this work, but any comic artist who can spend a page showing an earthworm hypnotically crawling along in the grass and still be riveting is worth your time and money. And even though this is the Cormac McCarthy Forum, where I suspect more than one person may have lost their sense of humor (I think I read that once), I’d still recommend it.

    12 Apr 2012 at 1:40 am #802


    I just finished “The Man In The High Castle”. Really enjoyed the alternate history novel about the world in 1962 after the Axis powers won WWII, within which is a banned book that presents an alternate history about the world in which the Allied powers had won WWII. Set simply in San Francisco among antiquities dealers, jewelers, and their customers.

    I also just finished “The Guns Of August”, the Pulitizer Prize winning book by Barbara Tuchman about the events leading up to the start of WWI. It sets the stage of a world where most of the European monarchs are still blood relatives, and individual egos and ambitions drive the world to war. Great book!

    12 Apr 2012 at 12:24 pm #804

    HIGH CASTLE and GUNS OF AUGUST are great books.


    I wish Robert Caro–who is an excellent historian and a runner too–would devote himself to another time period. After all of the books I read on the Kennedy assassination last year, I have to pass on this one right now.

    Interesting news about Angelina playing Malkina, the cool attractive lady with long black hair. The lady with the cheetahs. I think she fits the part.

    Thanks, Ken, for dropping by my blog to comment on the Garry Wallace interview.

    After reading and posting about Betty Carey and her poker adventures, I’ve decided to read Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion’s World Series of Poker by James McManus. I think I’ve read part of it before, but for some reason put it back on the shelf. I’ll give it another go.

    12 Apr 2012 at 2:43 pm #805


    I’ve been waiting about a decade for the new Caro book, and I’m frankly thrilled to see it arrive. It’s high on my reading list, and I expect (were my reading list a literal stack of books) it will be massive enough to crush all the books beneath it.

    I’d bet that the assassination is only a small part of that book; Caro has a real knack for digging up the unexpected.

    Caro now admits to five volumes. Do you think he’ll make it six before he’s done with LBJ?

    13 Apr 2012 at 2:42 am #807


    Well I have to demur from the general praise for Caro. I also read the New Yorker excerpt, and, like Peter/Glass, found much of it riveting. I felt Caro was spot-on in his exploration of LBJ’s possible cognitive dissonance in the aftermath of the assassination – the description of the phone call to Robert Kennedy is brilliant. Why? Well, we will never know fully why LBJ made that call. However, Caro ruins it all, in my opinion, with his uncritical description of how observers, Lady Bird, in particular, began to witness a transformation in LBJ’s mien the closer he came to investiture. Suddenly,we are led to believe, the gravity and solemnity of the occasion started to fill LBJ up with that most tiresome of cliches: presidential gravitas. Inference? The dissonance has dissapeared. You know, it’s also possible that what they were seeing was a recurrence of LBJ’s well-known indigestion problems. Since Tricky-Dicky we should be wary of such hypostatisations of character.
    A much more psychologically nuanced treatment of that terrible day can be found in Madmen,Season Three.

    14 Apr 2012 at 12:50 am #822

    Candy Minx

    Good reviews here. I am on a reading rampage. I just picked up E.O. Wilsons new book…and I’ve almost finished Marilynne robinsons essays in “When I was A Child I Read Boooks.

    Holy Buddha…what a contrasting pair of books. She has a substantial chapter on the book trend about dismissing the Bible and I assume she means Dennet, Hitchens, Dawkins…and E.O. Wilson is writing that introspection and religion will never answer the big questions about the human condition (oops paraphrasing sorry…but its damn close to what hes saying.) His book is called “The Social Conquest of Earth”.

    I am very moved to read Robinsons feelings and ideas about how it feels with the Christian faith being contested…many times she conveys how much loss she feels. I feel a lot of compassion for her views…

    These are both big ideas books and exciting to read. Its almost as if the publishers conspired to print them on purpose at the same time as they are both new releases. They would be incredible group reads for discussion.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by  Candy Minx.
    14 Apr 2012 at 10:26 am #834

    Reading Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion’s World Series of Poker by James McManus. I don’t know if McCarthy read this one, but it certainly could be source material for his new movie.

    Jimmy Chagra is in here too, along with some of the other people who populated Sally Denton’s Bluegrass Conspiracy. It was Jimmy Chagra who, having been fleeced a couple of times in poker games by Amarillo Slim, backed Betty Carey in an effort to get even and to take Slim down a notch. Amarillo Slim says he figured out her tell and called her bluff in the crucial game.

    Chigurh makes a good symbol for the collective drug cartels. It’s good that Javier Bardem is in the upcoming movie, but they should make him into a similar character, sort of a continuing sequel. McCarthy’s spect script would seem fluid enough.

    Cheetahs was the actual name of a famous brothel and some women who formerly worked there figure into this story. How appropo for Malkina to have a trinity of cheetahs. The cat woman, with cat having the meaning for McCarthy and Joseph Conrad and Walter Van Tilburg Clark et, al, of that animal part of our nature.

    The epigraphs for the first chapter are:

    “Sex is a Nazi. The students all knew
    this at your school. To it, everyone’s subhuman
    for parts of their lives. Some are all their lives.
    You’ll be one of those if these things worry you.
    –Les Murray “Rock Music”

    Come, you spirits,
    That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here…
    Shakespeare, Lady MacBeth

    The title for the first chapter is “The End,” after Jim Morrison’s “The End,” featured in Apocalypse Now and played to open the funeral of Ted Binion, who hosted the World Series of Poker at his Horseshow Casino, before he was murdered by one of the former Cheetah girls and her lover, with heroin.

    The name, Chigurh, has been parodied in other movies, including an episode of South Park according to Wikipedia. I recall many stalking off, swearing off Cormac McCarthy because they thought he had sold out, saying that NCFOM was over the top pulp and earmarked for cheap Hollywood.

    Addiction is addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, gambling, power, or sex. Somehow the real drug kingpin stories make the action in NCFOM seem understated, and more valuable for the parable that it is.

    14 Apr 2012 at 11:31 pm #873


    Jim: Very interesting take/critique of the Caro.
    Candy: Saw tha interview with Wilson on Charlie Rose. Always interesting.

    Reading what’s available online about Fremont Landing, Calif., a place the kid visited in BM. Some parallels between this place and various points in BM. In one history, which I will link to, the author offers an account of the Indians who left no memory of their presence, and he even contrasts this with the Indians of the Southwest who left monuments behind. Definitely reminiscent of Holden’s talk of the “old ones” in BM and the contrast he made between them and those who vanish without a trace. Not so dead.

    Also interesting in the two-year history of the town was the murder of a soldier by a gambler, the gambler, following the crime, saying, “This is a very solemn occasion, boys; let’s take a drink.” The author added to this, writing “That ended the matter. In fact, taking a drink seemed to be the cheerful manner of ending disagreeable matters in those philosophical days of ’49.”

    Put me in mind of the judge in the bar after taking down the Rev. Greene, and also Glanton after the murder of Owens.

    Here’s a link to one history. Scroll to Ch. III for the account of the Indians disappearing with no legacy — “California Red People That Passed and Left No Memory.”


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