Sunday, August 08, 2021

Welcome To My Reading Week: Aug 1-8, 2021

 What I read:

None But The Lonely Heart - Richard Llewellyn. Novel. Published in 1943, this was Richard Llewellyn's follow up to his smash bestseller How Green was My Valley, one of my all-time favorites. None But The Lonely Heart was just...ok. Set in London and written in stream-of-consciousness except for conversations and making excellent use of Cockney English, the novel follows Ernie Mott who is "nineteen, nigh on twenty" and not sure about what he wants to do with his life. Then there's Ernie's Ma, who runs a furniture shop/pawnbroker business with shady dealings on the side, but she wants Ernie to be a solicitor or something respectable. She even buys him three new suits to better help him fake it till he makes it. Sadly, Ernie is not interested in anything that takes hard work. I liked Ernie and Ernie's Ma, but then Llewellyn dropped a staggering amount of Dickensian characters into the book, and I became lost and confused and finally bored. I could scarcely keep my mince pies (rhyming slang!) open. But I persisted and was satisfied with the end of the novel, because it was back to Ernie and Ma, then finally, Ernie. In spite of input from every possible quarter, he doesn't really learn or grow, but that's just how it is sometimes. I don't need my characters to Grow and Change in order for me to love them.

The Personal Librarian - Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. Novel. Audiobook. It's a hard-driving history lesson! It's a soap opera! I like to learn and I like my soaps, so it's all good, but what really drew me into The Personal Librarian was Belle daCosta Greene's big secret. The historical sections seemed really heavy on exposition, but perhaps that's an ongoing challenge with historical fiction. The writer(s) have to get that in somehow, but it seems so artificial to do it in conversation. If only there were some device with which you could get a perfect blend of historical and fiction without the abrupt shifts in tone. Even though I chafe a bit at this genre, I could not stop listening to The Personal Librarian. Robin Miles is an excellent narrator, and I enjoyed listening to both authors' insights in the afterword. I did like the novel, I'm glad to have experienced it, and I do recommend it to historical fiction fans, lovers of Gilded Age history, readers who are drawn to strong female characters as well as characters with secret lives.

What I'm reading now:

The Andy Warhol Diaries - Pat Hackett, editor. Over a period of eleven years (1976-1987), Andy Warhol kept a diary in a rather unconventional way. Every day or so, usually in the mornings, he would place a phone call to his secretary, Pat Hackett, and dictate the entry over the phone. Hackett would tape and transcribe the calls. She had to edit the entries down when she put a volume together in the interest of having a manageable tome. So far, the entries seem routine -- Where Warhol went (usually to a party) who he saw (a dazzling yet exhausting list of major and minor celebrities from all fields of endeavor) and how much he paid for cab fare or visits to a newsstand. Sometimes he goes to the doctor. Occasionally, he muses about a book he's read (usually a celebrity's tell-all). I'm dipping into the book a few entries at a time. 

What I want to read:

Paths of Glory - Humphrey Cobb. This 1935 novel is based on the 1957 Stanley Kubrick movie of the same name. I saw the movie about 30 years ago while I was in the hospital after a surgery. I remember seeing the movie and having the impression that it was great, but couldn't remember anything but one scene towards the end. I watched it again last week (awake, unmedicated) and yeah, I was right. It's a masterpiece. When I found out it was based on a novel, I set my intrepid library scout, The Spawn to finding it for me. So far, no luck. I'm even more drawn to the book since I recently discovered that when it came out, William Faulkner slammed it. If Faulkner didn't like it,  this is certainly the book for me. Plus, it was written and published in the 1930s, my very favorite time in American literature.

Finally, now that I'm finished with The Personal Librarian, I need a new audiobook for my commute to work. Tomorrow, during my day off, I'm going to wander over to the public library in Warrensburg where they have a tasty array of titles, both fiction and nonfiction. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Ruthiella said...

Info dumps are always a bit tricky in historical novels. Sometimes they bug me and sometimes they don't.