Abandoned Books

Reviews of books and authors not much discussed on the web.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Friday, September 19, 2008

Short takes on Various books

No, I’m not dead yet. Nor have I given up this blog. You know how it is, I just got busy, blah blah blah. Plus with things a little stressful at work, it was hard to reapportion my time properly.

I think I might be back more or less for good now, though. Part of the problem is that I have to read these things before I talk about ‘em to my satisfaction, and there’s always the bother of trying to accumulate the books first, of course. Next up to bat is Ira Levin, for instance, but I’m having a hell of a time finding A KISS BEFORE DYING and THIS PERFECT DAY and even SLIVER. So far. I will, though. Stubborn cuss, I am.

(After Levin comes Wouk: THE CAINE MUTINY and YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE for sure, after that? Probably MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR and DON’T STOP THE CARNIVAL, unless somebody somewhere can really give me some persuasive reasons why I should read the WW 2 duology.)

What I plan to do is come in here from time to time in between the big stuff and do a short take thing on what I’m reading now. These are not meant to be the more serious considerations of an author’s career ala the big stuff, frankly a lot of these authors I either already have opinions on or I don’t have much new to say outside of the consensus.


John Buchan -- Well, I’m halfway through my Buchan period, and I’ve read all the Hannay novels (THE 39 STEPS; GREENMANTLE; MR. STANDFAST; THE THREE HOSTAGES). Amusingly I was reading the big Godine collection on the Philly subway one day when a gentleman in a rather ridiculous looking safari hat and butterfly-hunting shorts complemented me on my reading choice. That doesn’t happen all the time, especially with guys who look like Pnin. Brothers in arms -- except I don’t look like Pnin (ahem).

But anyway. My take on Buchan to date is that he had great ideas, and wrote great books, but rarely in the same breath. Of those four novels, the two most interesting to modern sensibilities are certainly THE 39 STEPS and THE THREE HOSTAGES. 39 is the origin of the “innocent man sucked up in a conspiracy not of his own making and has to go on the run for it”, which is a clichéd trope in thriller fiction now but as far as I can tell Buchan invented it, and THREE, though far lesser-known nowadays, seems to me to be an early incarnation of the James Bond-style super villain, intent on taking over the world. (Yeah, I think that notion really begins with Moriarty, but after having read a lot of Fleming I really think the major influence on him, anyway, was Buchan. Note that Fleming’s bad guys are all freaks in some basic sort of way -- the same hold true for the bad guy here. Also, while Moriarty is a super villain, he doesn’t hold the same kind of apocalyptic ambitions that Buchan’s and Fleming’s do. Doyle‘s incarnation of this figure -- as seen by the popular fiction he probably read, ala Dumas and the like -- is semi-demonic, frankly, while Buchan‘s is, too, but in a more explicit political/global power sense.)

That said, those two books, while worthwhile, aren’t as well-rounded or complete feeling as GREENMANTLE (which presages recurrent jihads troubling the West) or MR STANDFAST (I think probably Buchan’s best Hannay novel considered as a novel, it marries the thriller form to a voyage of spiritual self-discovery while neatly presaging home front ‘distrubances’; both of these books are extremely interesting to read in light of current events today.) Still, neither of these, as satisfying as they are, have the zip of 39 or THREE.

And so it goes. A very interesting writer, Buchan, I have more to read before I make a final pronouncement on him (PRESTER JOHN, JOHN MCNAB, WITCH WOOD, and maybe one or two others, I think.)

Alexandre Dumas -- This guy fascinates me in many many ways, I think he’s as pure an example of a “writer” as you can pick, in fact, but one of the reasons he’s so interesting -- and one of the reasons so much of his stuff is out of print in the states, alas -- is that his work is so inconsistent.

The Musketeer saga ebbs and flows like the tides -- I actually think the second volume, TWENTY YEARS LATER is the best in the series, the most put together as a whole, but taken as a series it starts high, peaks, hits intermittent notes with VICOMTE DE BRAGGELONE (inexplicably a favorite of Robert Louis Stevenson’s), almost collapses with LOUISE DE LA VALLIERE -- then reaches it’s fascinating, tragic peak with the majestic THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, which unfortunately you really need the background of everything else in the series, yes, even the dreary LOUISE, to fully appreciate.

THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO similarly has passages which rank with some of the best sheer storytelling I’ve ever read, anywhere (this is in translation, too!) and passage of sheer unadulterated tedium. Yes, I understand Dumas was writing for serials and yeah, I understand how that would affect the work -- but so what? We need to see how Dumas reads now.

From what I can gather from dipping into other Dumas volumes, what seperates the lesser works from the Musketeer saga and COUNT is that they’re even more inconsistent. Right now I’m reading CHICOT THE JESTER, the second volume of his “medieval” trilogy, and it seems to be holding up to the same level of quality of LA REINE MARGOT -- some passages of utmost jaw-dropping brilliance, some workmanlike passages, some hoohaw, some tedium.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that the system essentially worked with Dumas: I’ll continue reading him because I’m a fan, but I’m convinced his best work is his most famous work. I do question why we’re being graced with translations of minor Dumas efforts like THE WOMEN’S WAR and not, say, JOSEPH BALSALMO. Or even CHICOT THE JESTER.

(As a side note I also read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s THE CLUB DUMAS, solely because I was interested in how he would work in the Dumas references. In fact the first third or so of this is really good, an inventive mystery/thriller with some Dumas appreciation and some spooky occult references worked in. The second half…not so much. Too much in contextual horseplay around, and I detect the smell of Umberto Eco in the corner. And he smells like a fat old man who just got up.)

William Marshall -- I am not a big fan of police procedural novels -- I don’t really care much about the police per se, and am not really interested in either the details of their personal lives or the intricacies of “how crimes are really solved”. I think that after you’ve read a few Ed McBain novels and maybe Wambaugh’s THE BLACK MARBLE you’ve read basically the best this very limited subgenre has to offer.

The more interesting police procedural novelists are not really police procedural novelists either -- they don’t care much about the intricacies of the form themselves. Georges Simenon’s Maigret novels are “police procedurals” I guess, if you’d have to pigeonhole them, but essentially they’re about “being French” -- the point is the snapshot of French life in various locales, not the “mystery”. KC Constantine (who I suspect was heavily influenced by Simenon) is essentially doing the same thing -- albeit with him it’s Rocksburg PA (a stand-in for Greensburg PA, a town I’ve actually been in a few times).

My all-time favorite police procedural novelist is William Marshall, whose Yellowthread Street series of books are pretty indescribable…imagine, though, maybe, a novel that uses the police procedural as a kind of springboard for metaphysical speculation. That’s basically what they are, though even describing them as such seems to diminish them, to me. For one thing, they’re immensely entertaining: very tricky novels with a legitimate mystery at their heart; careening back and forth from the most outrageous sort of slapstick to heart wrenching pathos.
There’s usually an absurdity at their heart, too: in WAR MACHINE, the last one I read, ancient Japanese soldiers from WW2 emerge from underground in Hong Kong to finish off one last burst of violence. Just an eye-catching scenario on it’s face, and what’s better is that Marshall sells the absurdity. In FROGMOUTH a slaughter of animals at the zoo becomes one of the more heart wrenching tragedies I’ve ever read in the genre. In THIN AIR the seemingly inexplicable death of a vanful of people on a highway becomes a meditation on mortality and the inexplicability of fate itself.

Just great, great stuff. Grossly underrated writer -- much much better than most writers plowing this field, maybe because he doesn’t really care all that much about police procedure. Track down any William Marshall book you can find and read it.

John D. Macdonald -- One of my pet peeves in the mystery genre is this strange notion that while Macdonald was best known for his Travis McGee books, his real achievement is his non-McGee novels. This pov is promulgated all over the place, and is basically the consensus: I would recommend Ed Gorman and Dean Koontz as especially good exponents of it.

I think it’s a load of crap. Macdonald became famous for the McGee series because that’s the best thing he ever did. He wrote a lot of non-McGee novels, and they’re all over the map in terms of quality, but none of them, I assure you, hit the heights of, oh, THE DEEP BLUE GOODBYE, A DEADLY SHADE OF GOLD, PALE GREY FOR GUILT, or THE LONG LAVENDER LOOK.

Part of the reason was that Macdonald had real limitations as a writer -- the series format happily shut them out but outside of the series he was free to indulge them. Read enough Macdonald novels and you’ll run into all the same characters -- I just finished MURDER IN THE WIND and it’s as good an example as any: The Weak Man Who Puts Up a False Front of Machismo; The Failed Woman Redeemed by Sex; The Strong Man; The Strong Woman Who Will Subordinate Herself to the Strong Man; The Seemingly Low Class Wheeler Dealer Whose Sins Are Obvious; The Atavistic Throwback; The Slut Who’s Almost Childlike. He also relies on the stock scenario of The Crisis that Throws These Disparate Characters Together ala Grand Hotel. That doesn’t make the book bad, exactly, but it does make it rather pompous and not “good”.

In these early “classic” period books MacDonald tended not to have much compassion for his characters, either. That irked me in WIND. In Macdonald’s mind there’s just winners and losers, and if you’re not one you’re the other, full stop. Only later did his vision seem to expand to include the failures -- later novels like A FLASH OF GREEN and ONE MORE SUNDAY are much more rounded, and the better for it.

And I think that’s because of McGee. McGee taught him compassion, not the other way around. By restricting him to one viewpoint and one pov, McGee forced him to inculcate differentiating viewpoints and the ups and downs of life in a way that the other books simply didn’t. Read a lot of Macdonald’s non-McGee’s and the constantly shifting povs start to seem neurotic, a case of a man not willing to really test his assumptions about people and see where they go. Or, maybe, a man with the end clear in sight, and no truth will obstruct him from that flow. Read a lot of McGees and you’ll see that the requirement to stick to a single forced him to create -- hello! -- a genuinely real, felt life.

Look, there’s no question that Macdonald will be remembered for the McGee books, full stop. There are good things to be found in the rest of the oeuvre -- and loads of puh, too. Thou hast been warned.


Blogger oakleyses said...

nike outlet, polo outlet, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, prada outlet, michael kors outlet, nike free, tory burch outlet, michael kors outlet store, uggs outlet, christian louboutin outlet, jordan shoes, oakley sunglasses wholesale, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, nike air max, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet, prada handbags, polo ralph lauren outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, christian louboutin, burberry outlet, louis vuitton outlet, ugg boots, gucci handbags, nike air max, michael kors outlet online, louis vuitton, tiffany and co, louis vuitton, christian louboutin shoes, uggs on sale, replica watches, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, replica watches, christian louboutin uk, burberry handbags, michael kors outlet online, tiffany jewelry, uggs outlet

11:18 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

coach outlet, sac hermes, nike tn, louboutin pas cher, jordan pas cher, new balance, sac longchamp pas cher, true religion outlet, hogan outlet, michael kors pas cher, hollister pas cher, air max, nike roshe, longchamp pas cher, timberland pas cher, hollister uk, burberry pas cher, coach outlet, lululemon canada, nike blazer pas cher, true religion outlet, polo lacoste, ray ban pas cher, coach outlet store online, north face, michael kors outlet, nike air max, guess pas cher, kate spade, chanel handbags, ray ban uk, nike free run, kate spade outlet, true religion outlet, oakley pas cher, true religion jeans, north face uk, sac vanessa bruno, michael kors, converse pas cher, nike air force, coach purses, michael kors, vans pas cher, polo ralph lauren

11:21 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

polo lacoste, sac vanessa bruno, ray ban pas cher, hollister pas cher, nike free run, nike air force, michael kors, north face, hogan outlet, coach purses, oakley pas cher, new balance, sac longchamp pas cher, nike air max, coach outlet, true religion jeans, chanel handbags, north face uk, polo ralph lauren, kate spade, longchamp pas cher, michael kors, coach outlet, timberland pas cher, nike blazer pas cher, burberry pas cher, true religion outlet, louboutin pas cher, nike tn, nike roshe, sac hermes, air max, lululemon canada, jordan pas cher, guess pas cher, vans pas cher, true religion outlet, converse pas cher, true religion outlet, kate spade outlet, michael kors outlet, ray ban uk, coach outlet store online, michael kors pas cher, hollister uk

11:29 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

hollister, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, pandora jewelry, links of london, louis vuitton, thomas sabo, lancel, louis vuitton, coach outlet, louboutin, hollister, replica watches, nike air max, converse, vans, doke gabbana, michael kors outlet, ugg, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, supra shoes, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, pandora uk, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, ralph lauren, swarovski crystal, swarovski, karen millen uk, juicy couture outlet, oakley, ray ban, converse outlet, ugg pas cher, louis vuitton, michael kors outlet online, gucci, michael kors handbags, ugg uk, iphone 6 cases, juicy couture outlet, timberland boots, pandora charms, wedding dresses, toms shoes, marc jacobs

11:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Lerbron James Shoes For Sale
michael kors uk
louis vuitton outlet online
Michael Kors Handbags Outlet
Abercrombie and Fitch Outlet
Christian Louboutin Outlet Authentic sneakers
Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet
coach outlet
ray-ban sunglasses,ray ban sunglasses,ray bans,rayban,ray ban wayfarer,raybans,ray ban glasses,ray ban aviators,ray ban clubmaster,ray ban eyeglasses,cheap ray bans,ray bans sunglasses,ray ban aviator,ray bands,fake ray bans,ray ban prescription glasses,ray ban outlet,ray ban canada,ray ban sunglasses sale,ray ban sale
michael kors uk
ugg boots sale
nike trainers
Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet Stores
louis vuitton handbags
uggs sale
cheap ugg boots
canada goose jackets
Ralph Lauren UK
hollister uk sale
Hollister Cheap Hollister Clothing Outlet Store
Mont Blanc Pens
Louis Vuitton Handbags Discount
michael kors outlet
ugg outlet
Coach Outlet Discount Sale

2:10 AM  
Blogger 艾丰 said...

nike soccer shoes
coach outlet,coach outlet online,coach outlet store
true religion jeans,cheap true religion jeans,true religion jeans wholesale,true religion outlet,true religion sale,true religion outlet online
oakley sunglasses wholesale
michael kors handbags sale
ugg boots
oakley sunglasses cheap
ray ban sunglasses outlet,ray ban usa,ray ban sunglasses,ray ban,rayban,ray bans,rayban sunglasses,cheap ray ban,ray ban outlet,ray-ban,raybans,ray ban wayfarer,ray-ban sunglasses
barbour clothing
nba jerseys wholesale
oakland raiders
hollister shirts
michael kors handbags clearance
michael kors handbags wholesale
michael kors uk
canada goose outlet
true religion jeans
ysl outlet online
chanel outlet store online
pittsburgh steelers
san antonio spurs
louis vuitton bags on sale
longchamp outlet online
cheap ray ban sunglasses
canada goose sale
calvin klein,calvin klein outlet online,calvin klein wholesale,calvin klein shoes,calvin klein underwear,calvin klein coats,calvin klein handbags
michael kors outlet sale
tory burch handbags
prada handbags
puma shoes
michael kors handbags wholesale

1:00 AM  
Blogger mmjiaxin said...

true religion jeans outlet
celine outlet
tiffany and co
ralph lauren outlet
oakley sunglasses wholesale
michael kors handbags
swarovski crystal
swarovski jewelry
true religion outlet
supra shoes
true religion uk outlet
herve leger dresses
tiffany and co
kobe bryants shoes
michael kors outlet
kate spade uk
winter jackets
mlb jerseys
cheap jordan shoes
abercrombie and fitch

1:22 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am returning to your web site for more soon

4:24 AM  
Blogger almostakbl said...

شركة صيانة مكيفات بالرياض
تواجه مشاكل مع مكيف الهواء الخاص بك؟ العديد من المشاكل التي لديك مع مكيف الهواء الخاص بك قد تحل ببساطة تفعل ذلك بنفسك خطوات الصيانة التي يمكنك اتخاذها. القول المأثور "يبقيه بسيط غبي" يقطع شوطا طويلا. قبل افتراض أن لديك مشكلة تقنية الرئيسية التي يتطلب اصلاح مكيف لإصلاحها بعد اتهام لك ثروة، تبدأ من خلال القيام ببعض الخطوات البسيطة صيانة أجهزة تكييف الهواء وفحص بعض المشاكل واضحة.
شركة صيانة مكيفات بالرياض
شركة صيانة مكيفات سبليت
أولا عليك دائما أن تكون على يقين لديك فلتر الهواء النقي في النظام الخاص بك. إذا كنت وحدة لم التبريد وهل لاحظت تراكم الجليد أو حول وحدتك في الأماكن المغلقة أو في الهواء الطلق يجب إيقاف مكيف الهواء وإيقاف المروحة على لمدة 6-8 ساعات للسماح الجليد لذوبان الجليد. تذكر الجليد ترى من خارج النظام الخاص بك ليست سوى جزء صغير منه. معظم البناء الجليد حتى على المبخر أو لفائف داخل عمل القناة الخاص بك ان كنت لا تستطيع رؤية ذلك تأكد من السماح لها ذوبان الجليد لمدة 6-8 ساعات قبل ان يتحول حدتك مرة أخرى. بمجرد تحويله يعود على يقين الفلتر نظيف، جميع سجلات مفتوحة، والمنطقة المحيطة عن العرض والعودة السجلات هو واضح. إذا كان النظام يتجمد مرة أخرى بمجرد تشغيله سوف تحتاج إلى استدعاء المؤهلين اصلاح مكيف الهواء. يمكن أن النظام الخاص بك تكون منخفضة على الفريون. إذا يضيف الفريون ولكن غير قادر على تحديد موقع تسرب يمكنك محاولة "الفريون طقم إصلاح تسرب" تباع عبر الإنترنت التي هي سهلة لوضعها في النظام الخاص بك.
شركة تنظيف مكيفات
شركة تنظيف مكيفات بالرياض
شركة تنظيف مكيفات اسبليت

11:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

michael kors factory outlet
cheap jordans
new england patriots jersey
yeezy shoes
lebron 14
adidas online shop
longchamp bags
yeezy boost 350
longchamp bags
kobe shoes

10:09 PM  
Blogger lamiss ibrahim said...

I definitely love this site.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Pengobatan Penyakit Kanker Payudara Tanpa Operasi said...

Continue to Perbiki his blog to get a good blog !!

Cara Mengobati Penyakit Gula Darah
Cara Mengobati Jamur Mulut
Cara Mengobati Telinga Berair
Pengobatan Epilepsi Dengan Bahan Alami
Cara Mengobati Rematik
Pengobatan Berbagai Macam Luka Sampai Tuntas

3:33 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home