The Khan Man Sometimes Reads

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TITLE AUTHOR FINIS MY THOUGHTS NEW WORDS SUMMARY
Catch-22 Joseph Heller August 14th 2010   6th reading  
Drunk with Love Ellen Gilchrist May 17 2010     Chick book
All the Pretty Horses Cormac McCarthy May 10 2010      
Sundog Jim Harrison May 4 2010 .

 

   
Gentlemen of the World Michael Chambon Apr 28 2010 .    
Can't You Get Along With Anyone? Alan Weisburger Aor 28 2010 .Riveting semi-contemporary fiction.  Phase-shift vogue, Ken Kesey like feel.  The author is a piece of work.    
Our Man in Havana Graham Greene Oct 01  2009 Laugh-out-loud funny, and my second reading.  It makes you think that Jean Le Carré almost intentionally remade this novel in The Tailor of Panama.  Absolutely must-read for any self-respecting ex-pat in need for an escape from the dour and melodramatic to dip into the comedic.  For years I held out for Greene to be awarded the Nobel, but when his death came in 1991, it was time to give up hope, since the award is never made posthumously.  I surely reached simply for the glass pipe during those dark, high-flying days so far from God. . . duenna, mantilla, missal, tictac, verger, provender Well worth the re-read
Memories of my Melancholy Whores Gabriel Garcia-Marquez Oct 28 2009 A disappointment.  Not sure what this is all about or why.  It is incredible on many levels and not because of any magical realism.  In fact it is as if the author were exploring the other side of his literary gift to the world, an alter-literary oeuvre we can call a kind of realism to strange for fiction but not strange enough to be magical. pianola, arcadia, stevedore, kohl, dewlaps, satrap, vinegary, graphologist, frieze, One novel too many; nothing redeeming here.
Of Love and Other Demons Gabriel Garcia-Marquez Sep 27 2009 Too dense to fully grasp on first read.  In the end more like a string of vignettes than a formal novel, but vignettes of opulent decadence.  The characters, some of them, are like caricatures, while others are like towers and still others like icons or symbols.  Still, the whole is more like a celebration of language than the fulfillment of a contract between a willing reader and a beholden author.  It reads like the boast of a man that has already gotten his Nobel prize and has little more to achieve and resorts therefore for florid imagery and outrageous corruption.  This book has more new words for me than any other I have ever read, displacing Tender is the Night. tulle, clew, pallium, theorbo, scapular, breviary, taffeta, canticle, canonical, chancel, locutory, diabolo, refectory, serge, hyssop, balsam, emendation, cruller, capstan, laggard, halberd, emetic, extirpate, eclogue, prebendary, catafalque, coffered,  sacristan, organza, flounce, saturnalia, calabash, skinflint,  
Strange Pilgrims Gabriel Garcia-Marquez Sep 24 2009 The strains of magical realism are indelible in this collection of short stories written within a few years of his being awared the Nobel in 1982.  But they all take place in Europe.  And they are strangely absent much story.  They are like long vignettes.  The title is eerily apropos   Strange pilgrim indeed
In the Land of Dreamy Dreams Ellen Gilchrist Sep 8 2009 Finally read Gilchrist and better off for it.  I can see the thing in New Orleans that Ann Rice wants to convey through all her ghouls and paranormal fiction.  Ellen Gilchrist wraps it all up in humanity, craziness, sickness, richness, decay, pretension, lust, all of it.. dirndl Deep and secretive like menstrual blood; the decadence and death stories are like ghost stories real life, somehow.
Out of Sight Elmore Leonard Aug 18 2009 The author takes a good picture, and he has snappy dialogue, but there was no story to this novel, and none of the characters were particularly interesting nor sympathetic.  The bad guys were uni-dimensional, and the good guys were . . . well, I don't think there were any.  The whole content was smarmy and subterranean, the presumed conflicts some bizarre kind of "what-if" a professional bank robber were to fall in love with a kidnapped US Federal marshal.  Genius content, the two of them in a trunk of a car following his prison break and her kidnapping, asking if perhaps had they met under different circumstances, like at a bar, if he might have had a chance with her . . . total inanity. taupe lamer.
Skeleton Man Tony Hillerman Aug 14 2009 A terrible novel by a skill-less author.  Leap frog and Kimchee get dropped on the sidelines.  This is a story without a story, a narrative without heroes, without villains, without a plot, without any thematic undergirding.  There is a bit of pseudo-hocus pocus southwestern Indian mythology almost surely abysmally rendered for the American masses.  One of the key characters that slips away at the climax is never heard from again for the rest of the story, and his slipping away and absence is never explained.  I guess they could not find a baby-sitter for the proofreader, so he was never let out to get to work.    Lame.
The Winter of Our Discontent John Steinbeck July 20 2009 The corruption of the American Dream in the era of its fullest apogee.  This is the final commentary by a nobel laureate, a man with as fine and comprehensive an understanding of the American condition, arguably, as any has ever had.  A commoner, a Californian, and in Winter, he takes it to the very bounds of moral probity but comes back from self-annihilation to face the implicit demands of his progeny, even if they in part drove him to the brink of despair.  An unparalleled masterpiece of literary americana, published in the year of my birth, in the year of the suicide of Ernest Hemingway.  My favorite novel, for many years now, of all times.  There is a chapter that reverts to third person, whereas all the others are first person.  I am not sure what it means nor do I recall that being done by others.  My third reading. houri, newel, flug, cutworm, commensal, draggle-tail, surcease, sibyl, gorse, gaffer quintessential Americana.  There but for the grace of God. . .
Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck Jun 18 2009 Real drama happens in the close quarters of human contact. This story is like a play and allegory fused together into a novella. It is elegant. There is not a word out of place, not an opportunity missed, not a thought unformed, not a notion overstated. . . . and live offa da fat a da land. . .
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Tom Robbins Feb 23 2009 My first reading was in my teens.  I remember being in the bedroom in Noma's house that later became Grant's room and that I later first used before moving to the back room.  I have been a Tom Robbins fan perhaps from this first reading, but the return to the origins has not been exactly transcendental.  It seems dated, chronologically, philosophically, epistemologically, and stylistically.  It is a great fluorescent emu feather at a time when such things are passe or at best unconvincing   Whether a garland or an albatross, it shall forever grace Robbins' neck.
I know why the caged bird sings Maya Angelou Dec 04 Masterful with language.  Maybe the Nobel wasn't a bone to the outrage of racism.  I am looking forward to Precious.  Caged bird is too autobiographical to be judged in the sense of a novel, constrained as it apparently is to a reflection upon actual events rather than a whole rendering that is the novelist's real obligation to his readership.  The language, tone, voice, and expression of irrepressible chutzpah from a transcendental and towering twentieth century persona, it is a fine read. claque, skein, bedizened, Lucullan, didoes, piqué, ordurous, bier The autobiographical birthplace of a nobel laureate: 
Tender is the Night F. Scott Fitzgerald Nov 15 The rich and famous set in between the wars in Europe gallivant around pointlessly.  This blatantly semi-autobiographical portrait reeks of intellectual complacency and class envy.  It is the nihilistic account of the decay of a marriage that was poorly conceived in the first place and the suggestion of the ethical and personal decay of a man out of sheer insecurity.  The panoply of characters were largely unsympathetic, neither particularly cruel nor particularly generous nor bright nor dumb.  The cliches were thicker than offal in a kidney pie:  swiss psychiatrists, aristocrats lounging on the French Riviera, young starlets and their amoral mothers.  It is a bit startling to stumble through something so bad penned by a presumptive literary pillar. flotte, estaminet, chasuble, espadrille, glaucous, vinous, tanagra, celerity, funicular, stanchion, mistral, pousse, rarebit, ratiocination, paresis, guignol, missal, pennon, distaff, landaulet, harlequinade The narrative is one of decay, dissipation, defeat, and surrender.  It has nothing to offer by way of redemption, other than a colorful use of highbrow language.
Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck Nov 5 Thirty pages from the end I had to abandon the novel.  It was my second reading.  I was captivated by it, and it meant new things all over again, and I will seek it out to re-finish it.    
To a God Unknown John Steinbeck Oct 31 A rousing endorsement of paganism as the only practical spirituality in a savage and untamed land.  My second reading. quirt, surrey, hamadryad, maculate Steinbeck's second novel and one of my all-time favorites.
Lightning Bug Donald Harington Oct 28 The scribe of the Ozarks comes through with a huge novel.  Involves many of the characters from Newton County's famous Staymore as first presented in Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks but focuses on a love story among a subset of those characters.  Very touching and very like Arkansas. cincture, eventide, mullein` Well, as they say in this country, a virgin is an eight-year old girl that can outrun her daddy and all her brothers.
The Fall Albert Camus Oct 18 Terribly dreary.  Still no story.  A monologue by a thoroughly unlikable intellectually narcissistic protagonist.  I think that Europeans that lived through WWII emerged warped and fractured, bowed toward darkness, resolute in the bleak perfidy of man.  Perhaps okay for a college philosophy major, not recommended for anybody looking for a good story.  The protagonist coincidentally boasts about looking for historical figures whom he has outlived, a bit of an eerie note, given that I am the age at which Camus died--like Nathanael West--in a car accident. scud, sclerosis, faggot, Death is solitary; slavery is social
Timequake Kurt Vonnegut Oct 16 This is the third novel in a row without a story, and I am about tired of it.  Nevertheless if anyone can be forgiven it would have to be Vonnegut.  I think this marks the final one of his novels for me to complete.  It was perhaps more of an anecdotal writer's memoir, in defiance of a writer's presumptive nemesis, writer's block.  It is Vonnegut's analog of Hemingway's Across the River, and I guess he re-wrote it after the first version was deemed unworthy of print.  I am going to miss Vonnegut.  He was a hell of a creative force and a vital contemporary.  He amazingly used the word lumpenproletariat, surprising me with its appearance even more than Hemingway shocked me with such a bizarre word in Islands. appoggiatura, nonce, nonpareil, Occam's razor, petard, obsequy, raffish, bowdlerize, decorticate, Arguably the better appoggiatura of Vonnegut's storied career, although being a compulsive writer, I suppose, he could hardly resist reprising with Kevorkian.
Henderson the Rain King Saul Bellow Oct 14 The truth is normally stranger than fiction.  This book would appear to be an effort to demonstrate this to not be a universal truism.  There does not appear to be a story beyond a rambling account of what happened when a not completely empathetic character launches on an unlikely and nonsensical adventure consisting of little more than a bumbling advance onto the most unknowable possible thing in both the physical, geographical, cultural, and arguably personal senses, that being a march into the heart of darkest Africa.  The absence of a traditional story-line and the marginal interest-level of the character's conflicts and that sense of random advance makes this novel painful going.  Toward the end, it becomes briefly gripping, and by then it is inviting to strive toward a rationale for why the novel was written, but alas, such rewards are allocated with niggardly parsimony.  Why it is considered one of the hundred greatest American novels of the 20th Century eludes me. tabula rasa, epee, cruller, fulgor, gentian, rubric, aspergillian A frankly bizarre story of improbable redemption
Portnoy's Complaint Philip Roth Oct 6 This book works, I guess, if you're a New York Jew and pine, nostalgic, for all that lox and kippers Yiddish neurotic childhood guilt-embracing Oedipal reflective nonsense, or perhaps, for a goyische introduction to that demographic.  If this is any barometer of the Roth phenomenon, then one book would be quite enough, thank you.  This book and its author seem to revel in Jewish supremacy and is the opposite of anti-semitic, portraying the gentile goyim as brutish and dumb, its women as objects for personal gratification and as intrinsic whores.  A book written in this vein by a Christian would be considered intolerant rather than a hallmark of American literature as some view this novel.  One final indictment:  there is no story here, merely a repetitive rumination among the unchanging contents of the main character's navel.  neurasthenic, naif, ersatz, inchoate, badinage An introduction to the fettered navel of a neurotic Jew, only un-redemptively vulgar also.
God Bless you, Dr. Kevorkian Kurt Vonnegut Oct 3 You can see Vonnegut staring into his mortality, wistful and perhaps re-thinking atheism as this is a little afterlife allegory infused with a humanity loving humanism.    
Miss Lonelihearts Nathanael West Oct 2 A montage of moral ambiguity and willing ethical turpitude in a parade of grotesquely marching caricatures in a world gone mad, where nobody cares and the advice columnist is dragged through the muck and deposited in the stairwell, a bullet in the heart, rumpled, and reeking of rye whiskey. thomistic, tropism, privet Very disturbing, queerly intellectual, reminiscent vaguely of Burroughs
The Day of the Locust Nathanael West Sept 30 Glitter and fatuous vacuity intersect as a graphic incarnation of the American Dream at the portals of hell:  one of my favorite novels this year.  cuirassier; charwoman A Boschian vivisection of the American Dream
Bridges of Madison County Robert James Waller Sept 29 A little too poignant and mushy for me, not anywhere near up to the satisfaction level of Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, but still, good writing    
Islands in the Stream Ernest Hemingway Sept 27 In this third reading, the commonplace takes on a nearly magical sequence of detail and the persona of the towering author, perhaps his internal conflict over the relationships in his life bight, lumpenproletariat,
Flit (insect repellant, not slut); grapnel
In a second take on Across the River after its dismal reception, Hem caresses his soul but perhaps insecurely, as it is not published in his lifetime.
Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller In Progress It gets less bad each time I try to re-read it. lenitent  
When the Rivers Run Dry Fred Pearce Sept 19 A nonfiction traipse around the world to examine hydrologic hot spots and the consequences of poor management, particularly focusing on rivers.  An appeal to reverse civil engineering contemporary think to provide greater accommodation of natural cycles and processes. barrage (a dam), qanat (a water-carrying tunnel) A Rachel Carson style hydrology treatise.
Across the River and Into the Trees Ernest Hemingway August 5 Renata will forever be remembered as a great writer's testimony to an inability to present a character of the opposite sex.  Beyond the contrived and unbelievable love affair, the whole novel is both unbelievable and unredeeming.  A bad novel, and upon the second reading still a major disappointment.    Chronicle of a death foretold, with no tears, no regrets
Nature Girl Carl Hiassen July 31 Not worth it.  This author is often witty and fun to read, but his villains are invariably uni-dimensional, set up simply for the satisfaction of killing them off in absurd ways   The talking dead guys are pretty cute, but Nature Girl is a total ditz.
The Hawkline Monster:  A Gothic Western Richard Brautigan May 24 Sentient chemicals?  Promiscuous twins?  Ice caves?  Hired guns?  This is a bubblegum farce entirely too casual with the use of the verb "fuck."   Horndog writes fiction instead of gets laid but still produces a gooey mess
The Day of the Locust Nathanael West May 15 Lost the book somewhere    
Catcher in the Rye JD Salinger April 4 The saga of Holden Caulfields' ignominious retreat from the millionth prep school he's been kicked out of is infused with a deep and abiding love for humanity standing in stark counterpoint to the effort to be a tough guy when old Holden is just a big old sweetheart and pushover with a healthy distaste for perverty things and how the more you look the more you see "fuck you" scrawled on the walls of places. flit Once you've read the goddamn book once you might as well have read it about a million times.   Really, I'm not kidding.
The Winter of Our Discontent John Steinbeck April 3 Possibly my favorite novel of all time, though it is disturbing to admit, given the disturbing theme of the novel and the suicide of the sympathetic protagonist, whose fall is driven by a sense of false entitlement cemented to deep and expectant family roots    
Tracking Jim Harrison April 2 An autobiographical essay posing as a novella.  Very visual standoffish portrait of himself in the context of his calling as not just a writer but as a writer of literature among the canons of the creed:  Joyce, Dostoevsky, Rimbaud, Turgenev, Faulkner and the philosophers Kierkegaard and Nietzche and bunches of others.  A deep pool for a skinny dip of the soul casein; senescence; fey; mythography the otiose delamination of the artist as boy, young man, and old geezer
Republican Wives Jim Harrison April 1 Three rich biches meet to salvage the future of one of them who has just tried to murder their cad literary lothario that has bedded and humiliated the three of them.  There is a great joke about the he man writer that not just tries to portray a woman (a task at which Hemingway never succeeded) but here Harrison does not just one, but three different female characters, all in first person, an absolute tour de literary force of fornication and glee (novella). captious; sisal Wisteria Lane on trust funds.
The Summer He Didn't Die Jim Harrison April 1 More Brown Dog the half-breed Ojiway, (Chippewa; Anishinabe), this time the story of escaping with Berry the fetal alcohol syndrome step daughter to Canada to escape the clutches of institutionalization (novella) doggerel It's hard to get your fill of Jim Harrison.
For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway March 31 Second reading abandoned with 400 pages to go.  Not enough time to finish library book in advance of my April 2 departure to Costa Rica.  Love story a little too pat in opening.    Hot sex erases the scars of rape in the self-referential mind of tough he-man protagonist.  How convenient.
I Forgot to Go to Spain Jim Harrison March 27 Like all of Harrison's materials, this one spans so many elements of contemporary male existence as to be page-turning in a philosophical sense, but nevertheless by no means one of his better pieces boyenne  
Westward Ho Jim Harrison March 26 The same proto-character as Donald, the Lou Gehrig's half breed in Returning to Earth, this time named Brown Dog is the protagonist of a madcap romp through Hollywood on the lam as he recovers a bear rug that is part of his on again off again personal and private religion that has been stolen by his thieving half-breed con man buddy.  Great Story!  (novella)    
In Dubious Battle John Steinbeck March 28 Scary, scary, scary.  I always knew I couldn't stand commies, and I am again reminded why.  When the protagonist gets his face blown off, it comes as a bit of relief, even though by the morals and ethos of the novel, he is an unblemished and toweringly heroic figure. tonsure, baldric, Wobblies, bindle-stiff, gillopy, croton oil, prophylaxis Workers of the world, unite, indeed.
The Beast that God Forgot to Invent Jim Harrison March 25 Absolutely wonderful portrait of a wild man made that way by a head wound suffered in a motorcycle accident and a metaphor for the man that cannot live within the conventions of mankind and civilization yet exists in a plane that is in some ways more exalted (novella) otiose, desuetude, etiolate, mons veneris, insouciance  
The Red Badge of Courage Steven Crane March 23 Boy disavows mother's wishes and goes to war, talks big, runs away as a coward from first battle, then shows his mettle in the next battle by scooping up the colors from the fallen standard-bearer.  The red badge refers to a sucking chest wound. . . well, maybe it does not have to be a sucking chest wound, but it does seek to dignify act of being wounded in war.    
The Idiot Fyodor Dostoevsky March 22 No redeeming qualities whatsoever.  Part I is a brisk and enjoyable read and then the whole thing falls apart.  Obviously the guy was cranking this out to pay off gambling debts or something.  I keep longing for something like the Brothers Karamazov, but I guess you should only look for a single magnum opus per writer, and the Bros K was his.   Title intended to describe the reader.
In Our Time Ernest Hemingway March 12 A re-read of Hemingway's first collection of short stories.  Love old Krebbs's fessing up to his mother that he does not love her then getting down on his knees to accompany her while she prays.  Too rich.    
Returning to Earth Jim Harrison March 11 A sequel to True North and a vivid and enjoyable read continuing the saga of David . . ., this time revolving around the end of days of his brother in law, the half-Chippewa (Anishinabe) that succumbs to Lou Gehrig's Disease and has a religion of his own.  In the end his family accompanies him to his grave site where they dig a hole and shoot him up with barbiturates in a mercy killing / suicide made to seem natural    
The Hamlet William Faulkner abandoned
March 8
Given up two thirds of the way through.  Faulkner is just too much, too dense, too thick-throated and self-absorbed.   Much ado about nothing.
Tortilla Flat John Steinbeck February 29 Title chapters done in same style as Don Quijote de la Mancha.  Almost exactly like Cannery Row, which he wrote nearly a decade later, only much more primitive and less well thought out.  The entire novel revolves around the resources used by a growing number of paisano bums to obtain wine (first) and food (as needed) with as little personal industry or commitment as possible.   Roll another one, just like the other one
True North Jim Harrison February 28 Mesmerizing in typical Harrison fashion.  Portrayal of familial dysfunction and guilt by association.    The father's sins bevisited upon the son
Return of the King JR Tolkien February 26 A let down next to the first two of the trilogy.  You never get a real taste of Sauron, and the final battle is never one at all, purely anticlimactic after so much troop movement and so much buildup through three novels.  The denouement goes on and on and on, and the final comeuppance of Saruman and Worm-Tongue is too pat.  The exile of the fellowship on a ship across the sea, however, is poignant and evocative, perhaps a suggestion of the geopolitical shift of power to the New World from Europe, even though the whole trilogy is an archetypal and global struggle, suggesting the Cold War.  Tolkien is South African and was a philologist and etymologist by trade.    
The Accidental Tourist Ann Tyler February 19 Bizarre.  None of the characters are sympathetic, yet there is a perverse fascination that builds.   Miss Lonelihearts redux

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