"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Midnight in Europe

TITLE: Midnight in Europe
AUTHOR: Alan Furst

This historical spy novel is set mostly in Paris from late-1937 through much of 1938. The protagonist, Cristian Ferrar, a Spanish emigre living in Paris, is a lawyer for an international firm and travels often for his job, spending time at the main office in New York, where he has a lover, and in Paris. But he also is a supporter of the Republican forces in Spain fighting Franco's fascist army. Unlike most of Furst's novels that I've read, which focus on spying against Germany, in this book, Nazi Germany's actions form a backdrop for the conflict in Spain when Ferrar is enlisted by the Republic's diplomats in Paris to help supply arms to the Republic's army. Since most countries won't ship arms directly to Spain, Ferrar and Max de Lyon, a diplomat/arms dealer, engage in dangerous clandestine operations.

The usual Furst thrills are on display, with Cristian becoming involved with a woman who likely is more than she seems, close calls in enemy territory, and even appearances of characters from other of Furst's novels, especially Count Polanyi. As always, I felt like I was part of the time and place, thanks to Furst's impeccable research and attention to detail. His books might not be compulsive pageturners, but they are engrossing, filled with wonderful, fully realized characters. Now, on to the next one!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cat's Cradle

TITLE: Cat's Cradle
AUTHOR: Kurt Vonnegut

Here's another book I wish I'd read years ago but am finally getting around to. Vonnegut's genius is how he can convey so much in such simple prose. In this satirical tale, the narrator is writing a book about one of the father's of the atomic bomb. His research leads him to the man's three grown children, a mysterious substance called ice-nine, and the ultimate end of times, at least for Earth. I suppose I would have had a stronger reaction to the message contained in the book's pages had I read this in my teens or twenties, but it does still resonate. The world might end in a cataclysmic war, or it might end in a totally banal fashion due to the arrogance and carelessness of humanity. Into that mix, Vonnegut threw in a fake religion created by a calypso singer, something that doesn't sound at all strange in today's world.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Dystopian Literature

So many people and publications come up with booklists. Best Books of the Year. 100 Works of Literature Everyone Should Read. How Many of these Classics Have You Read? Etc. I enjoy them, generally, but this list of Best Dystopian Books is right up my alley. And I've read the following from the list:

Erewhon by Butler
We by Zamyatin (I read this for a college course on Utopian and Dystopian lit, but it was an earlier translation. I have a later, better translation -- it was written in Russian -- that I hope to read someday.)
Brave New World by Huxley
1984 by Orwell
Lord of the Flies by Golding
The Stars My Destination by Bester (I didn't think of this as a dystopian novel when I read it.)
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Miller
Cat's Cradle by Vonnegut (Currently reading this!)
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Wilhelm
Neuromancer by Gibson
The Postman by Brin
Moxyland by Beukes
The Hunger Games by Collins
Bitch Planet by DeConnick (Yeah, graphic novels/comic books are on the list! This one is ongoing.)

That's not a large percentage, but I do have a lot of others from the list sitting on my shelves, waiting patiently for me to get to them. I'll be adding some others from the list, too. But I wish Roth's The Plot Against America had been included.