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One Sentence Reviews Of Last Five Novels I Have Read

Here are one sentence reviews for the last five novels I have read along with a link to each book—

Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow—Too much testosterone for my tastes and not as good as its reputation.

The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud—First-rate story of the shortcomings of literary and Ivy League elite in days leading up to the exploiting of America’s larger vulnerabilities on 9/11.      

Augustus by John Williams—National Book Award winner from 1973 is story of first Roman emperor told by the well-researched imagining of personal and official correspondences.   

The End Of The Affair by Graham Greene–At first I thought nothing would happen in this book, but in the end it read like a thriller. 

Malgudi Days by R.K Narayan–A collection of short stories, it is an account of India that matches your best concepts of that country while remaining surprising and original.

I found The Emperor’s Children the best of this group. Though I would strongly recommend any of the above books with the exception of Henderson.

March 31, 2008 Posted by | Books, Reading Lists | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding The Time And Discipline Needed To Figure Out What Is Important

The following is from Graham Greene’s The End Of The Affair. The starting point is a meeting between a private detective and a novelist. The Mr. Savage in this excerpt is the detective—

” ‘And if there’s anything more you could tell me that would be relevant?’  I remember Mr. Savage had said—a detective must find it as important as a novelist to amass his trivial materials before picking out the right clue. But how difficult that picking out is–the release of the real subject. The enormous pressure of the real world weighs down on us like a peine forte et dure…..How can I disinter the human character from the heavy scene—the daily newspaper, the daily meal, the traffic grinding toward Battersea, the gulls coming up from the Thames looking for bread, and the early summer of 1939 glinting on the park where the children sailed their boats—one of those bright condemned pre-war summers?”  ( Please see the bottom of the post for what peine forte et dure means and where Battersea is located.)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the time to sit and think— or maybe take a walk and think— and to be able to sift out what’s important from what’s not important or not as important? 

I recall the Japanese Tea Garden (picture below) in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco as a place where I felt I could think. But I’ve only been there once and may never go again.

The time and effort to think things through, must, when all is said and done, be summoned as act of personal discipline and good use of time.

( I’ve looked up what peine forte et dure means–It was a form of punishment for a defendant who refused to plead one way or another to a crime. Heavier and heavier stones would be placed on his chest until he either made a plea or died. Battersea is a section of London running along the River Thames—I had to look that up as well.)

February 4, 2008 Posted by | Books, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Man Has Places In His Heart Which Do Not Yet Exist…

Last night I began reading Graham Greene’s The End Of The Affair. On the title page is the following written by a French author named Leon Bloy

“Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering in order that they may have existence.”

This reminded me of Robert Kennedy’s words after the assassination of Martin Luther King—

“My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Books | , , , , , | 2 Comments