Friday, January 8, 2010

Book Reports

I haven't been reading as much as usual lately.  I read almost nothing while Adam and I were watching Battlestar Galactica from start to finish because it utterly consumed me.  I bought a couple of light fiction books right before I went in for the D&C because that usually helps when I'm down, but I ended up not doing much reading during that period, either.  And most of my reading has been light fiction because I've not been in the right mind-set for anything serious.

However, I do want to continue to record my reading here on the blog, so I'll try to recall what I've read since my last report.  Let's start with the good stuff, eh?

Chantecler, by Edmond Rostand, (translated by Kay Nolte Smith):  (I believe Kay Nolte Smith was an admirer of Ayn Rand and had some relationship with her, but I can't recall the details.  Her introduction to this book is wonderful.)  This play is the best thing I've read in quite a while.  If you like Cyrano, you might like this book, although it is not as focused as Cyrano and its theme is a bit more confused.  But I loved it.  Chantecler was an intelligent, passionate idealist, and also, yes, a rooster!  The characters are all barnyard animals, which is what turned me off from this play for years, but trust me, its theme is as human as Animal Farm's.  Any fan of Rostand will recognize the witty dialog - it's just so darned clever!  I wish I knew French so that I could read the original because, even in translation, the language and wit was amazing.  I'm not sure why this play is not more popular.  There were a few scenes where Rostand took the joke too far and it became tiresome (how many pages of peacock-analogy-satire do I really want to read?), but overall, I think it deserves to be a classic.  Read it!

Speaking of classics and tiresome passages, I also tried to re-read Victor Hugo's Ninety Three recently.  I'm just not in a place to deal with an author who includes so much extraneous information in his fiction.  Although I was fascinated with the plot, I gave it up after about a month of effort.  (I was also able to recognize Hugo's stylistic influence on Ayn Rand, elements of which I've picked up in my own style.)  I'm sure that I'll read this book again someday, but I'll have to be capable of more patience.  Maybe after my child(ren) are all grown up.

I read Montessori Read and Write, by Lynn Lawrence.  I'm still torn about whether or not to buy this book.  I read it quickly from the library and it seemed to have a lot of great exercises.  Actually, now that I write this, I realize that most of the pre-reading exercises that I do with Sammy are from this book, so I probably should go buy a copy.  It's definitely a worthwhile addition to any Montessori fan's reading list.

I read two good books by an author new to me, John D. MacDonald.  I read A Purple Place for Dying, and One Fearful Yellow Eye, both of which are part of his Travis McGee series.  It's detective-fiction, and MacDonald is a cynic, but he's the kind of cynic you like because he's just misguided, not nihilistic.  He writes great stories with a biting style that really fits with his cynical view.  I'll never forget his description of Chicago in "Yellow Eye."  It was such a witty, scathing condemnation that I heard Dennis Miller's "rant" voice in my head as I read it.  Even if you don't "feel it" as a sense of life experience, you've got to appreciate MacDonald's skill.  I plan to read every one of his books.

And now on to the junk.

I read a terrible book called The Water's Lovely, by Ruth Rendell.  I was intrigued by the plot, but by the end, I found that it was just a cheap, TV-drama-style trick, and worse:  all the good characters suffered and all the bad characters won in the end.  Totally nihilistic.  Do not read this book.

I read The Street Lawyer, by John Grisham.  God, I'm so sick of John Grisham, but this book was given to me and I needed mindless reading.  The book itself was worse than mediocre - it was banal, sloppy, and the main character was not likable at all.  But I did get something important out of it.  Ayn Rand suggested in The Art of Fiction that, as an aspiring fiction-writer, in your reading you should always be asking yourself how you could make a dull story better.  Good premises (in plot-situations, not philosophy) are a dime-a-dozen, but how many times have you been suckered into a movie or book based on a clever "what-if" idea that collapsed into nothing after the basic situation had been presented?  Ayn Rand said that thinking about how those dull plots could have been great is a good exercise for a writer, and might lead to original plot ideas.  I took that advice to heart while reading this otherwise worthless book, and it led to my initial idea for my own novel.  I hate to admit it, but it's true.

I read Extreme Measures, by Vince Flynn.  I've read at least one Vince Flynn book that I liked, but after this book, I can't imagine how that is possible.  This book was juvenile, predictable, and corny.  It read like a parody of what the angry left might imagine as George W. Bush's wet dream, but it was serious.  As much as I despise the angry left, I can't take this kind of garbage seriously.

1 comment:

  1. Re: John D. MacDonald. I like the Travis McGee series also, but I should warn you that he trashes Ayn Rand in one of them. I can't remember which, but I do remember throwing it across the room when I read that paragraph.