The first chapter of My
Name is Aram is a haunting yet breezy (is that possible?)
magic story about Aram's cousin who "borrows" a white horse and shares
it with him for night rides. Get My
Name is Aram for the first chapter. You will never forget it.
Saroyan's writing style is deceptively simple. You think to
"Shoot, I could write like this." Somehow, Saroyan's stories often
the level of magic. I'm mystified by how he does it.
Human Comedy is a nice novel that will take you back to the languid
summer days of a small town in the 40's--yet the war is going on and
are scenes like a telegraph boy having to bicycle over to a woman's
to notify her that her son was killed in the war. This novel, too, has
a style that is deceptively simple.
Time of Your Life appeared on Broadway around 1938 and it won the
Prize. Why? Well, critics are not quite sure. Some believe it was due
the fine actor who played the leading role. By the way, Gene Kelly
the part of the dancer.
One lonely Christmas Eve, I saw the
video of the play starring James Cagney. He spent 90% of the play
down in the middle of a bar which is kind of interesting for a man who
could dance so well. Cagney and his sister bought the rights to the
and made a movie
out of it so they could feel good about having brought some real
to the screen. But the
movie lost a lot of money. I fell asleep before I saw the end. Ten
years later I found it on video
and I was able to watch the whole thing. Cagney completely changed the
final scene but this was OK with Saroyan. How could that be? How could
Saroyan have given his approval? Even though Cagney dumbed it down and
made it less dark, it still lost money.
The Broadway play-goers loved it but this might have been the
New Clothes Syndrome. Unpretentious film-goers, even with the
ending, left the theater with one thought: "Huh?"
Nothing much happens and the Cagney character defies category.
Cagney just wasn't as good as the original actor. Maybe Cagney wanted
receive the tremendous adulation that the lead character got on
and thought it was just a matter of getting the part. I don't know.
But I did find the
movie fascinating, though I can't tell you exactly why. I bought the
play and read it and I wasn't disappointed. The
movie follows the
play word for word--except for the ending. Guess how much the
movie costs? Just $4.95. Amazing.
We recommend books by Primo
Levi, especially Survival in Auschwitz, The Reawakening and Moments
of Reprieve. Those three books should be read in that order. They're
three chapters in a long book.
We've read all of the major Holocaust books and they just don't
Levi. It's amazing that he isn't better known. Steven Spielberg
have made a movie about Primo
Levi--but then he wouldn't be Steven Speilberg, would he?
There are some books we read when times are tough. The books by Primo
Levi fit the bill.
We recommend a short story by Jack Finney, "Of
Missing Persons." It was once titled "Verna." It is a
you'll never forget. This story can be an obsession.
We have mixed feelings about The
Story Bible by Pearl S. Buck. Sometimes we are excited about it
and sometimes we feel it misses the mark. Some things from the Bible
to life here--like the character of John the Baptist. If you ever wish
the Bible read more like a novel instead of cryptic collection of
stuff, read what Pearl S. Buck did. It's not a bad job.
Faithful Elephants will make you cry. How many books can you say that
It looks like a child's book but it could traumatize a young person
under the age of 12.
How about Matilda
by Roald Dahl -- the Spanish language edition. Some books, like
Alice in Wonderland, are actually better in Spanish. You don't don't
it? We don't blame you. But we say it's true
We recommend books by J.
D. Salinger like Raise
High the Roofbeam, Carpenters. Raise High is probably our favorite
and yet it isn't one of his bestsellers. It's an excellent book to read
if/when you're depressed.
If you can, get ahold of what Nabokov wrote about Salinger's A
Day for Bananafish. He says it is one of America's best stories.
If you are tempted to have Salinger as an obsession, or if you know
somebody who is obsessed by Salinger, we say don't worry. But John
after all, is dead.
Though Salinger continues to be well liked, his writing is
and Zooey can be a chore to get through but the ending makes it
it. You know that book that Franny was obsessed with? It's a real book,
and thanks to Salinger, it's still in print. It's The
Way of A Pilgrim. You can learn all about the Jesus Prayer and how
to pray incessantly.
The new Hapworth
16, 1924 story which was actually published by the New Yorker in
mid-sixties is the only thing by Salinger which falls short. Hapworth
a joke of a story. It's like when Dylan tested his adoring fans by
to sound like a Vegas act.
We took the time to write a reader review for Amazon.com on
If you go there, you'll see it.
Stories are all pretty good. Bananafish, though one of the best, is
the least consistent with the rest of the Glass myth.
Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes (is that the title?) goes overboard
style but it's quite a story. The Laughing Man is a favorite. Uncle
in Connecticut will seem like the most part just two middle aged women
sitting around drinking but it's a good story. Down at the Dinghy is
and Teddie might not have any value at all. For Esme with Love and
is many readers' favorite. The art school one that has a character
Bambi Kramer is one of our favorites and the only story that was first
rejected by a magazine before it was published. Imagine that!
The only thing we'll say about The
Catcher in the Rye is that it's a "must read." Many writers like
book but we know several readers who have returned to it a second and
time only to be disappointed.
Did you like The Perfect Storm and Into Thin Air? Lost
at Sea by Pat
is better. Dillon is a far better writer.
Reinventing Government by David
Osborne is a revolutionary book. Nobody used the term "reinventing"
before Osborne popularized it. I hope Bartlett's Quotations will
that someday. It's by far the best of it's kind. Any other book with
word "reinventing" is just ripping off Osborne. Shame on them. Read the
real thing. The guy is a genius. And a revolutionary. Too bad Gore
him off. Oh well.
If you want to go beyond laughing at Dilbert, read this book.
We recommend books by Nelson
S. Bond. He's the father of American science fiction. He's the
who gave Bradbury his start. If you're serious about science fiction,
already know all about Nelson S. Bond. If you are a TV watcher, keep
eyes open for his work soon appearing there.
We recommend everything by Raymond
Chandler except Poodle Springs which was his last book. He
out of creative steam before he wrote it. Gosh, but Chandler is fun to
read. And since it's literature, you won't feel hung over.
wrote literature. And his metaphors will make you ignore the plot.
smells and it's not Wild Lilac." "She was a blonde. She would have made
a bishop kick his foot through a stained glass window."
When you read Chandler,
hold a pencil. You'll want to go back and read lines over. They're too
good to be true.
Try to get ahold of Chandler's essay on the detective story. It's
well written. And read about his life before you marry an older woman.
We like Hemingway.Death
in the Afternoon is shocking. We love the way he introduced an
imaginary interlocutor and though he doesn't really understand bull
nobody really needs to know that.
Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is one we return to time and
again. It is just a plain fun book. Light and uplifting. It's one of
Hemingway's best book, we believe, is The
Sun Also Rises. (Can you believe it sells for under $4.00?) The
grabs you by the shoulder and won't let you go. It's conversational and
fascinating--though he uses a couple of words in strange ways. This is
the best beginning of any book we've ever read. We were surprised to
that the book had a different beginning and his editor just make him
if off. Hats off to his editor!
Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan is another version
Hemingway in Paris which is probably a lot closer to the truth. If you
need to know the truth, read this book. Hemingway sure made a seductive
myth about himself. We don't fault him for improving on the truth. We
fun reading this book and we couldn't put it down. By the way,
wrote an outstanding short story called Luke Baldwin's Vow.
in Your Eye and High
Time by Mary Lasswell are delightful books. Terribly dated, but
delightful. She was a pretty good writer. It's too bad she isn't better
known. These books are out of print but they're worth tracking down.
Suds is back in print!) They make excellent gifts and they warm the
We remember seeing Steal
This Book by Abbie Hoffman in our local drug store.
was quite a few years ago. We didn't buy it or steal it but we did get
my hands on a stolen copy. We had to clean out the apartment of a local
radical and he left all of his books behind. Did you know that the
of California had its own HUAC? Abbie Hoffman could write and he was
too. Steal This Book influenced our philosophy of education a lot more
than John Dewey.
Story Teller's Story by Sherwood Anderson is a real
It's a treasure. Strange that it's not well known. We like it better
to Play With Your Food by Penn & Teller is a book
you might love. We found that it makes for an excellent gift. We've
this book and given it to everybody we know. The first chapter is
quite serious and it's quite good. We saw Penn & Teller in San
when they first started out. We guess that's kind of like name
We mean, we have no point.
Another book that we've given to everybody we know is Nicaragua
by William Gentile. Do you like good photography? This is
one of the best portrait books published in America. Our favorite is
cover photo. Gentile used to be exploited by Newsweek Magazine.
Speaking of Nicaragua, Stryker McGuire, also of Newsweek, wrote
With No Names. We don't really recommend it but we like the title.
Who was that woman he traveled with? We could never figure that out.
Should we mention The
Prophet by Kahlil Gibran? We have to. It's one of the most
given books and usually to only special friends or step-parents.
It's been much maligned. But we're brave.
Prophet is really a lot like Koran and who can put down the Koran?
Lots of wisdom in the Koran. Now, the language of the Prophet has the
charm of one whose native language is not English and therefore wants
choose each word carefully. It's like how the Bible probably should
been written and how your Swedish grandmother told you fairy tales.
friends are your needs answered. OK, so it sounds a little like a
Card. It is like a Hallmark Card, but better. Stand close together, yet
not too close together, for the pillars of the temple stand apart. And
the oak tree and the cypress grow, not in each other's shadow. And the
mountain is clearer to the climber from the plain. Another book you
consider by Gibran is The
Madman. "You ask me how I became a Madman? It happened thus...."
If you are between the ages of 6 months and 7 years old, you'll like
Night, Gorilla read to you. Yup, it's one of the best children's
we've ever seen. It's almost like Good Night Moon but less Piagetian.
Why aren't be recommending To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper
Lee? It's one heck of a book but the
movie is better. The pacing is excellent and the sound and music
to be exceptional. We can't say enough about this film. Dill looks like
Truman Capote. And he probably wrote the book, anyway. Sorry, Harper.
The Atlantic says that Bob Dylan now sounds like Gabby Hayes
doing Bob Dylan around a campfire for the amusement of his cowpoke
We don't quite agree. Have you heard Dark Eyes? It's worth the price of
Burlesque. (Warning: the rest of the album is garbage.) His Royal
Albert Hall bootleg album wasn't recorded at Albert Hall. Isn't
just like Dylan?
If we are going to mention Bob Dylan, we may as well say a kind word
DeMent. Iris DeMent is nice.
You might like Mrs.
Dalloway and you might like To
The Lighthouse, but you ain't read nothing if you haven't read The
Waves. Boy, what a book. We wonder if Hemingway ever read it? We
Bell's bio of Virginia Woolf.
Do you remember when Norman Cousins said you could laugh
to good health? Well, we think he's dead. But no matter. The Marx
is one of the reasons that Woody Allen chooses not to kill himself. We
Night at The Opera (everybody does) and Cocoanuts,
but our favorite is Duck
Soup. They're doing a revival of Animal
Crackers, so that might be worth checking out too. If you haven't
to terms with the Marx Brothers, you're leading the unexamined life. In
case you wanted to know.
James Clavell wrote Shogun
. We liked the video and we understand the book was pretty good. But it
was also pretty thick. We don't like thick books. Anyways, we got home
from work early one day, turned on the TV and saw an
Children's Story. What a great story! James Clavell wrote it one
after he found out that his little daughter was reciting the Pledge of
Alliance at school and didn't have any idea what it meant. Clavell's
grew up and appeared as the main character in the video. The
video has been very difficult to find. We contacted three actors in the
production and even they don't know where it can be purchased and I've
never seen it on eBay but I did learn of one guy who actually has a
copy of the reel-to-reel film. But thanks to Chrissy Fenton (does she
still go by Chrissy?) and Vanessa Biery, I got a copy of a video that
one of their mothers recorded off the TV when it was broadcast. I
passed my copy over to Patience who uses it in her classroom and she
passed it along to Robert who preserverd it on DVD. If you would
like to borrow Robert's copy, I think he'll mail it to you for a small
shipping and handling fee. I imagine around $10. Here's
the info on how to get your hands on a copy. One more
thing. Vanessa, I think, used to work in the
World Trade Center. One more thing, Ms. Fenton has a lot of interesting
memories of what it was like behind the scenes when the movie was made.
I found her stories very interesting and she was very sweet to take the
time to tell me about them. I love this little film--and everybody who
was in it has been very gracioius toward me. ) Roy Blount, Jr. is a genius though he's an uneven genius. He
wrote a piece about John Wayne in The Atlantic that was
He was frequently compared to Mark Twain. Why? Because Twain
humor which was also literature. Blount hasn't written his Huck Finn
Men Don't Tell Woman had us laughing long, loud and hard.
Brautigan a good writer? Well, no, but we liked him. Brautigan must
have been fun to know before he got successful. His friends at the time
said he always had complete confidence that he would make it as a
But a lot of people are like that in Washington Park, drinking cheap
Fishing in America is not a good book, but it was an early one and
for some reason it sold well. Our favorite is
The Abortion. (Gosh, Amazon says it's "The Abortion." I had thought
it was "An Abortion.".) Too bad he didn't have a better editor. It
have been much better. If you put it down after the first 100 pages,
OK. A couple of his short stories are nice. His later books are simply
Watermelon Sugar is his most conventional and it's pretty good.
are a number of versions of that book with key wording different. I
wondered about that. One of his poems is especially nice; it's called
Chinese Checker Players." After he became a well known writer, he
pretty obnoxious. He lost just about every friend he had including Peter
Fonda. He shot himself at his place in Bolinas but by that time he
didn't have any friends who noticed his absence. The police discovered
him because neighbors complained about the smell of his decomposing
If you liked Trout Fishing in America (and we didn't), you probably
won't like Nets
of Awareness by Francis Pritchett. True, there's no fish,
no fish that we could find, but it's a great book to read at the
especially if you happen to be flying to Pakistan.
Harry Farrell wrote a great book about the last lynching in the United
States. It happened in San Jose. One of the nice things about Swift
Justice is that Farrell writes elegantly.
A Midnight Carol is historical fiction about the
of the Christmas Carol. Patricia K. Davis wrote it and it knocked our
off. This woman can write!
Toni Morrison wrote a children't book called In The
It makes a great gift for anybody, any age.