Books: Last Book You Read and Rate It

Discussion in 'Entertainment' started by Ceremony, Mar 12, 2017.

  1. Amerika Ye lyin'dog

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    Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934) - Miller's first, and from what I've read of his, his best. One of my favorite works. Funnily enough considering all the censorship this book had to go through, there is no way in hell this book would ever get published in 2020, in an era where legal censorship, especially in art, is essentially non-existent. No, this book would suffer from commercial censorship. 2020 editors and entire boards would probably resign in protest if a publisher wanted to go through with this - and without any credentials, as Miller had none, at the time of publication? There's one masterpiece never read. God knows how many others there are throughout the past couple of centuries, unseen for a variety of internal and external factors. Probably enough to make one weep and hate the world for forbidding them to us.

    Tropic of Cancer is a harsh, funny and distinct work. Just as Miller had desired before starting on the book (I start tommorow on the Paris book : First person, uncensored, formless - f*** everything!), the structure of it appears to me without any direct reference to other works, movements or schools of thoughts. It's completely untrained and the long, unconscious ramble of a sturdy, if not bitter, man who keeps looking for a few moments of rapture in a world he has long decided is, for lack of a better word, a gigantic turd with humanity as its maggots who feast upon it without joy, originality or reflection. None are cared for by Miller, even those he respects are described callously, which makes for funny descriptions, monologues and reflections. His lyrical digressions (which, to his credit, he stays in control of in his first novel, whereas, from my experience, he overdoes to the point of boredom in later works. I should read it again, but I remember Tropic of Capricorn bludgeons one with its flights of fancy) are a welcomed and skillful contrast compared to his somewhat more public house banter that soaks large portions of his plotless conveyances. Also, for all the talk of its eroticism, I didn't find the word that erotic, at least, not in any sort of consequential way, even if my favorite passage of the book is Miller discussing the virtue of prostitutes who aren't shy about letting themselves be watched as they wash in a bidet. He talks of sex and women in usually insulting words and even his desires for longing (sexual or emotional) are usually as fleeting as a dog's erection. He's quite open about it - a woman with a great mind is fine, sometimes great, but a woman who can offer or feign a passionate lay is much more rewarding and worthy. I suppose that's where my manhood and love of words and craft comes in. I just can't bring myself to feel offended over something written so long ago, in such an era, about what amounts to props in a fictionalized work of literature. Some would - Henry Miller would get Me too'd faster today than I can finish this sentence. And I can sympathize with the offense. Would I speak the same way if we were discussing slavery or racism (and Jews aren't spared in this book)? Probably not, I'll admit that. Nor do I know how to justify it. I guess the lack of direct/overt violence/abuse in Miller's words permits one to continue on. It's mostly shameless stereotyping.

    Regardless of his solipsism - or likely because - the book is an entirely private work whose voice could not be confused with another's, which is all (and the best) we can ask of an artist, whether we enjoy the work or not. It is equally important to enjoy oneself, but rude and impossible to order it of one, singular voice. This is one that works for me.

    Even typing this...I find myself shaking my head, chuckling at the lunacy of it. Henry Miller was certainly fortunate he was born in 1891 instead of 1991. Although, of course, his opinions wouldn't necessarily have been the same if he had come of age in a different era, a different world, with different expectations and social manners. How that would have affected his work is a entertaining thought to hold. Usually, I would note that it is the mark of an irresponsible and immature to reader to confuse the opinion of a character with that of its author, but when that character is named Henry Miller and the author puts an emphasis on the autobiographical nature of the work, well...
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2020
  2. ItsFineImFine Registered User

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    The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs #7) [2010] - 3/5

    Just an average mystery with too much repetition and sappiness which makes the actual mystery portion weaker. I really could care less about the life of the detective or their emotions and relations. Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot are machines, which is great because I'm reading them for the mystery not insights into their past or whatever. There is a bit of a decent historical mystery here but it felt resigned to the background and the character dialogue was pretty bland. Just okay.
     
  3. ItsFineImFine Registered User

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    Crime and Punishment (1850s) - 4/5

    Exhausting read, took 13 hours. It's a good story, I just don't like the style of prose. At some parts, it's necessary because the whole human condition thing is being examined but for most of the book, it causes every character to sound far too exacerbated. I always feel more relieved to finish these long classics than I actually enjoy them so that'll be the last one of those, probably.
     
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  4. Amerika Ye lyin'dog

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    The Fall by Albert Camus (1955) - Perfect in every single way. An all-time favorite. I also believe it's also Camus' most memorable work and main character, even if the world has had its heart set on The Stranger and Meurseault for the past few decades. A lot of its appeal comes from its chosen subject: the self-awareness gained by a man through a few, gorgeously described events regarding the concentrated ball of hypocrisy which gleamed deep in his psyche as he lived the life of a flawless, virtuous Parisian lawyer, one who specializes in 'widow and orphans' cases, which is a euphemism for the downtrodden. By the start of the book, this lawyer, who calls himself Jean-Baptiste Clamence, is far removed from that life. He lives in Amsterdam (for very particular reasons which relate directly to his spiritual crisis) where he spends his nights lurking the streets or a bar named Mexico City waiting to pounce on someone, anyone, but preferably a bourgeois, to whom he can relate his asked-for downfall, turn himself into a mask, then reveal himself as a mirror, subsequently reaffirming his theory and satisfying the urge which led to his original downfall.

    In short, during the Parisian era of his life, every action took by Clamence was an exercise in self-indulgence where the rewards of virtue far surpassed that of any other earthly pleasure. And they were only for him to enjoy, allowing him, by his own words, to live far above the rest of the population - an affliction he is not rid of by the end of the story, but which is cleverly accentuated to even more impressive highs. He helps the blind cross the street, tipping his hat to them as he bids them goodbye. He regularly performs humanistic monologues in the courts of Paris and defends those who cannot legally defend themselves. He is a kind friend with good advice and a caring and rather generous lover. So humble is he about his good fortune that he never closes the door to his apartment nor his car in which he often leaves money in plain sight, deciding to leave his properties up to chance, considering them borderline vulgar. Slowly, his entire narrative crumbles - first, by an echoing laugh which he cannot shake. Two other substantial incidents send him on his wayward path: getting sucker punched at a red light in front of other citizens and freezing at the sound of a woman's suicidal jump from a bridge, quickly telling himself that it is too late before walking on. The first incident confirms to him that he is not as humble as he thought himself to be (he dreams of revenge upon the man who assaulted him, an incident in which he was genuinely not at fault, and feels embarassed that he got punched in public, even if he acknowledges that the incident was likely forgotten by all who witnessed it) and the second confirms that he is not as helpful, selfless as he imagined himself to be, fearful of what trying to save the woman could entail. Thus, slowly, Clamence struggles to reconcile his new reality with the life he leads, and slowly lets himself go, landing in Amsterdam where he conceives the aforementioned trick that he performs on a daily basis. And here's what I found particularly interesing about the book's conclusion: His life in Paris was, in my view, less offensive although certainly more ignorant in its philosophy. His enlightenement does not cure Clamence of his previous flaw. It only makes him conscious of it, which worsens it. He is still indulging himself, only by flagging himself while doing so, he can, in his twisted belief, believe that he can escape other men's judgement, which is what he fears most. Therefore, in his self-inclicted beating, he rises, again, high above all others on the Earth, including his old self, transcending the man that he used to be, but in the most extreme direction of what he desired not to be.

    I'm sure this sounds all very cynical, and it is, but this doesn't mean it's not a fun, joyful read. Camus was a funny man, and certain descriptions and the tone of his delivery had me smiling or laughing consistently. Despite its didacticism and philosphical themes, the book is an entertaining, compact story that doesn't leave one near the edge of the precipice. It's thoughtful, and in its own absurd way, pretty joyful. Encourages one to take a step back and not to take one's minor squabbles so seriously.
     
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  5. Amerika Ye lyin'dog

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    Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1912) - It left me rather weary, especially for such a short piece. The problem begin right from the start, whereas Mann takes the first 15-20% of the work to present, through his main character (who is also a famous author), his artistic philosophy and attached regimen. Other musings appear intermittently throughout the rest of the book, often in the middle of the story's movements, which was off-putting. Still, there are some very good moments, the set-up is excellent (but not fully executed) and the work is an intelligent one, but very tedious.
     
  6. ItsFineImFine Registered User

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    The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (2018) - 3.5/5

    It was an exhaustive read. Someone said it's Groundhog Day mixed with an English mystery but this was not the typical cozy English mystery. It played out much more like a modern action/suspense TV show. The concept was intriguing at the beginning but it got increasingly sloppy as it went on and the ending felt Hollywood.
     
  7. Amerika Ye lyin'dog

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    Some short stories by John Cheever.

    Goodbye, My Brother - An all-time favorite. A+

    The Common Day - C.

    The Enormous Radio - B+.

    O City of Broken Dreams - Phenomenal. Not quite dream-like but not quite realistic either. It just kind of perfectly blurs at the edges of a clear center. A.

    The Hartleys - Did not like it at all. D+.

    The Worm in the Apple - B+.
     
  8. ViktorBaeArvidsson Trying to be funny

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    upload_2020-5-27_12-31-30.jpeg

    Might be the most depressing manga I’ve ever read, however it was so addicting I just kept reading it through and through. 10/10
     
  9. Eisen Registered User

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    I just finished the Supernova Era by Cixin Liu. That was a bit of a letdown. So far, I have read everything that he released and I was very pleased by it, especially the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy but this one was not very gripping. The story seemed absurd to me and like a retelling of Lord of the Flies set in modern times. I consider him one of the best SF authors at the moment but that book doesn't show it.
     
  10. ItsFineImFine Registered User

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    Gaudy Night (193something) by Dorothy Sayers - 2/5

    Dorothy Sayers continues to write the most snobbish mystery novels I've come across, this is one of the highest rated of all time so I had to give it a go but it was a tedious read. Agatha Christie says more in half the length. The mystery was a bore, the lead character was an irritable woman of no conviction, and Sayers seemed to write this as an excuse to go on about college life and philosophy as the mystery itself was mediocre.
     
  11. kihei Registered User

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    Dog Years
    , by Gunter Grass

    Dog Years
    takes place near the German/Polish border from 1930 to 1950. The novel is in three parts and focuses on the lives of five children who grow up during this period, though two of them, Walter Matern and Eddi Amsel, represent the very heart of this novel. Eddi is half Jewish, fat and the target of bullies; Walter is big, strong and a potential bully, but for some reason decides to become Eddi's protector. Their lives and their surroundings undergo constant change. The Nazis are there but in the background; the focus is on the particular--this little slice of life near the city of Danzig--not the general picture. But the war influences everything, seeps into everything, degrades everything. The novel is on one level about German compliance, German inevitability, German guilt, and German forgetfulness. It is about five children, a life-long friendship, a long line of German Shepherds, an endless supply of scarecrows, an old mill, mealworms with an unerring gift of predicting the economic future, twelve beheaded Knights Templar and twelve beheaded nuns. eels in tall grass thirsting for milk, two forlorn snowmen, magical glasses that show children their parents' recent past, more scarecrows, the rise of the champions of industry (how quickly they adjust), a mine shaft to hell, 32 teeth, personal betrayal, necessary transformation, a troubled reunion, and 32 circles of Hell. It begins when Walter throws a Swiss Army knife that has been given to him by Eddi into the Vistula River for no good reason other than he couldn't find a stone. Dog Years is a condemnation of Hitler's Germany that could only have come from a German. Grass' writing here reminds me in one way of the artist Diego Valazquez who often used the impasto technique, thickness of paint, to convey his subjects. Grass uses words in the same way, making parts of the novel easy to read but other parts difficult because of the sheer volume and density of words he uses to describe this ultra-vivid, ultra-damned time and place. There is something almost homely or earthy about the approach but it is very powerful. I can't think of a better, deeper condemnation of not just Nazisim but of the people who supported it or turned a blind eye to it than Dog Years. Surely Dog Years is one of the commanding achievements of literature in the post-war years. I find it an even more impressive work than Grass' earlier The Tin Drum, as tightly controlled but even more angry and uncompromising.
     
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  12. Amerika Ye lyin'dog

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    Two more short stories by Cheever.

    The Sutton Place Story - C+

    The Summer Farmer - B+
     
  13. halincandenza Registered User

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    I had high hopes for this one after seeing it on a couple of lists , but was quickly disappointed when I realized I’ve been had - this book is not about the east India company taking over India, but instead it’s about the military history of India, 300 years ago! Very different from what I was expecting . Once I figured out I’d been taken for a ride - roughly the 30% mark - I was no longer enjoying it and by the end I was skimming it .

    Damn you Obama.
     
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  14. heatnikki Registered User

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    The last book I read was Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett. It's my first foray into the Discworld series. Equal Rites is not one of the strongest books of the series, but I also really enjoyed it. I'm working on essay about best books right now and I think it could be one of them. Hope with a little help of the writing service here I'll finish my essay in the near future.
     
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  15. brokeu91 HFBoards Sponsor Sponsor

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    Discworld is genius. Terry Pratchett, in my opinion, is one of the greatest fantasy/satire writers of all time.
     
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  16. kihei Registered User

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    The Innocents Abroad
    , by Mark Twain

    Nothing better ever happened to American literature than the emergence of Mark Twain. Over the years, Twain, or Samuel Clemens to be more precise, created a persona that became beloved for generations upon generations. Twain was part rapscallion, part curmudgeon, part jester, whose droll and often self-deprecating wit occasionally distracted our attention away from a writer who possessed a seemingly effortless style and was incisively perceptive, fair-minded, and willing to challenge sacred cows wherever he found them. The Innocents Abroad was only Twain's second published work, but his persona was already confident and in full force. Using his gift for descriptions and his talent to telling yarns and tall tales at the drop of a hat, Twain writes an early travelogue about an excursion to Europe and the Holy Lands that he took in 1869, four years after the conclusion of the American Civil War. At this time, European travel for Americans was not at all commonplace, so in many ways The Innocents Abroad introduced Twain's readers to a concept of travel that they had never experienced. From Paris to Palestine, Twain's lively prose expertly describes the sites, but he also comments on all the wonders and peculiarities that he sees, as well. If he can be rough on Arabs in the Holy Land (for starters, he hates how badly they treat their horses), he can be equally rough with his relic-seeking, site-desecrating, bombastic fellow passengers and their uncouth ways. The book is a comic masterpiece with numerous laugh out loud moments, but there are no shortage of brilliant perceptions in the text either. He closes with a good example: "It would be well if such an excursion could be gotten up every year and the system regularly inaugurated. Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.and many of our people need it solely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
     
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  17. kihei Registered User

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    Love in the Time of Cholera
    , by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Though One Hundred Years of Solitude is generally regarded as Marquez's masterpiece, he wrote a number of brilliant novels and short stories. Love in the Time of Cholera is a unique romance involving one of the strangest menage a trois in literary history. Beginning in the late 19th century in a central American country bordering on the Caribbean Sea, haughty Fermina and impoverished Florentino, both little more than children, fall madly in love. Fermina's parents are aghast at this development and send her away for several months, and though she still declares eternal fidelity to Florentino, when she returns she quickly realizes that the spell has been broken. While she completely rejects her former attachment, he remains completely smitten even after she marries Dr. Urbino, both a good man and a good match for her. Florentino waits for his chance, though, and it finally comes 51 years later when Urbino finally dies. The question is how will he, now rich and worldly, ever be able to rekindle the flame when even its embers have longed turned to ash? Love in the Time of Cholera is a lovely character study of three very distinct but likeable people. I don't think that Marquez gets compared to Henry James much, but I see a similarity in how deeply both writers can handle the nuances and depths of character that are displayed in their novels. In the end, the central characters end up possessing the detailed psychological and emotional complexity that brings with it a kind of familiarity that makes me feel like I know exactly how these people think and why they hurt as badly as they do. While there is less magic realism here than in some of Marquez's other works, Love in the Time of Cholera remains a work of great imagination and immense humanity--certainly among the best novels of the 20th century.
     
  18. ItsFineImFine Registered User

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    Three Act Tragedy (Hercule Poirot #10) by Agatha Christie - 3.5/5

    She delivers again in a quick read that took just over a few hours. Unfortunately, not as interesting or exciting as some of her other stuff, partly because Poirot isn't in it as much as he should be and there's no Hastings either. But it still wipes the floor clean with most other non-Christie 20th century classic mysteries that I've read.
     
  19. sr edler mystique

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    Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Melville – 3/4


    Gosh, this guy is a real whale nerd. I think if Wikipedia had been around around the 1840s or 1850s Herman Melville probably would have engaged himself in heated editing conflicts regarding whether the whale is actually a mammal or a fish.

    (cur | prev) 19:05, 17 September 1848 h_melville (talk | contribs) . . 50,017 bytes (+101)‎ (lol, per new research it has been concluded that the whale is actually a fish, linnaeus is out to lunch)​

    At least the guy driving the narrative in this book claims it's a fish. :dunno: I read this book in my native language. I had heard it could be a rough read, and since I get enough of a headache reading the posts on this forum in English, I decided against it.

    I found it pretty easy to read though. The language flew by pretty neatly, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter. And this despite a lot of technical terms regarding whaling and the ship and everything. A lot of the "chapters" are really short though, which probably helps.

    The book changes its style of writing at places, and at a certain part of the story I guess you can even say that the whole tone of it changes a bit. But even though some passages or chapters could be boring to you, because of subject or taste or interest or whatever, I still didn't find the language any harder to get by.

    I actually didn't have any problem with the more encyclopedic passages. The stuff that I liked the least was the religious/philosophical symbolism. Especially when delivered in long-ish unrealistic monologues while out in the boats physically fighting whales. For whatever reason that didn't hit home with me. Perhaps I'm just a bit too Queequeg-ish myself. It also felt a bit over explicit. It could have been more effective, I think, if it had been delivered in a more seeping and/or backdrop-ish manner.

    Overall it was a positive read though. I think at places, it's really good. You can tell this guy really liked his whales, and the overall subject of whaling, with the enthusiasm. There was a funny place, I think when the ship had entered the waters around Indonesia, where the narrator described how female whales stick together while attacked while male whales just leave each other behind. Such details. There were a few other such sequences.

    I would recommend this book. It's a good one.
     
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  20. Osprey Registered User

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    The Turn of the Screw (Henry James, 1898)

    A governess believes that the grounds are haunted by entities trying to get at the two young children that she's looking after. The story is interesting, but I found it very tedious to read. First, it's literally hard to read. Here's an example:
    I'm guilty of writing in long sentences and using lots of commas and other punctuation, too, and don't mind reading it in other forms, but a story of fiction read for entertainment shouldn't be a chore similar to a scientific paper. Second, pretty much the whole story is written in this first person, diary-like point of view. There's more explanation of how the narrator feels about things than descriptions of actual events. So much internal monologue was boring to read and my mind tended to wander until she got back to the story. Anyways, this is a classic horror story and I wanted to like it, but its style just didn't age well, IMO.
     
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  21. Osprey Registered User

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    The Pit and the Pendulum (Edgar Allan Poe, 1842)

    A man wakes up in darkness in a dungeon cell during the Spanish Inquisition. Poe didn't disappoint. I really enjoyed this. Like a lot of his stories, it's really short and took less than half an hour to read. It's short but sweet. Also, it was much easier to read than The Turning of the Screw, despite having been written a half of a century earlier. Finally, it's interesting and a little funny how unlike some of the film adaptations it is. Hollywood took a story that takes 30 minutes to read and would probably translate to 10 minutes of screen time and added 80 minutes of made-up characters and situations before it to make it feature length. Anyways, I quite enjoyed it and, especially because it's so short, certainly recommend it to those who like horror stories.
     
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  22. Amerika Ye lyin'dog

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    Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski (1982) - I had completely forgotten to review this as my reading as been spare in the past month. Very good work, likely his best (I remember adoring Hollywood but it must have been five years since I read it) but I don't feel as strongly about it as I did before so I think it goes down a peg or two, IMO. It's very funny, strong and touching in many places but there's a few times where the angst came across as a little too facile. His prose is rarely explosive as it can be too and I think I often get fooled by Bukowski's eloquence in interviews as opposed to his writing. While he is very effective in terms of cadence and rhythm, he's rarely electric with his words and he rarely reaches impressive heights with his use of minimal language. Still, he's a great comic and a young Hank Chinaski as an exaggerated pulp hero and sad-sack misfit is consistently effective for good content. It is humorous to watch Chinaski going from a smart but helpless child to a booze swilling teenager whose first response to his mother's begging for flight instead of facing his abusive father (he's found his short story and is none too pleased) is 'So what? He knows I can whip his ass.' both pulls and humors. As does one of the last passage, where Chinaski and his aspiring writer friend Becker are having a drink before the country stands still and then panics with rage and violent euphoria the minute after Pearl Harbor is attacked. Their separation at the forefront of this attack is quite a testament to Bukowski's skill and humane interior under his thorny facade. Like all Bukowski books besides Pulp, Ham on Rye is worthy, funny, consistent and offers a great return of investment for the unchallenging prose. It's not a surprise he's so popular with readers who are only peripherally aware of American literature and are not consistent, rigorous readers. He's not difficult to follow or get into and he offers genuine artistic satisfaction.
     
  23. kihei Registered User

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    Smiley's People
    , by John le Carre

    George Smiley is the last person one would think of as a hero. Once head of British Intelligence, he is called out of retirement because of a case that may have a direct connection to him and may enable him finally, after a lifetime of frustration and failure, to bring his old nemesis in the Soviet Union to justice. Smiley would hardly seem up to the task. Other than being portly, he has no distinguishing features to speak of. One of his advantages is that nobody notices him. He speaks seldom and, generally, keeps his cards very close to his vest. Such an unprepossessing specimen, though, can make an ideal spy, and none of his colleagues question his craft which is immense. He begins an intricate game of cat and mouse with Karla, his Moscow Circus opposite. And, for once, he might have the power to bring the Russian down. But that's not a certainty unless he figures out an amazingly complex puzzle and manages to accept the losses that the chase will entail along the way. Le Carre has written several spy thrillers that qualify as masterpieces and this is one of them.
     
  24. Chili Registered User

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    40+ years of letters to many different close friends, acquaintances & family. So much wit and wisdom within.

    'I have whomped a small talent into a large volume of work'.

    'You only try to prove what you're not sure of'.

    On winning the Nobel prize-'This prize is more negotiable than the America's Cup, although both are the product of wind'.

    He had a cottage on Long Island in his later years and built a small enclosure to write in. When mice managed to penetrate the building, he put out some goodies for them as well as a sign- 'Welcome visiting mice-Register Here'.

    His signoff to a letter to Jackie Kennedy, a few months after Nov 1963- 'Yours with admiration but never with pity'. (They had been discussing him writing a book on JFK which was eventually abandoned).

    A great deal of background to his books included in the letters, very few of which he had confidence in. A long passion was to modernize Le Morte d'Arthur, which he was only able to partially complete (published posthumously).

    Enjoy books of letters, this was one of the best.
     
  25. End of Line Registered User

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    The Room Where it Happened - John Bolton (2020)

    7.5/10
     

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