20th Century


Author Rating: D

The Handmaid’s Tale (listened to audiobook read by Claire Danes, March 2017; not recommended)

This will be an unpopular opinion but this book is terrible. It’s boring. Twenty-five chapters in and I want to slap the main character, Offred. Just eat the fucking toast already.

I do not understand why this novel is recommended so glowingly by so many. Has anyone actually read it since they were 14, in 1985?  I don’t believe in the dull, gray world, and I have been given no reason to care about any of the characters, least of all the main character, Offred, who is as appealing as gray washwater.

It’s hard to find really good speculative fiction. This doesn’t even rise to the level of passable.   Claire Danes might be a good reader. It’s hard to say given how unremittingly dreary and uninspired this particular book is.

Advertisements

Author Rating: A

The Thirty-Nine Steps (read 9/6/2014)

First published as a magazine serial in the last half of 1915, this is the first of five novels featuring Richard Hannay, adventure hero.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is one of the earliest examples of the ‘man-on-the-run’ thriller archetype subsequently adopted by Hollywood as an often-used plot device. In The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan holds up Richard Hannay as an example to his readers of an ordinary man who puts his country’s interests before his own safety. The story was a great success with the men in the First World War trenches. One soldier wrote to Buchan, “The story is greatly appreciated in the midst of mud and rain and shells, and all that could make trench life depressing.”

Richard Hannay continued his adventures in four subsequent books. Two were set during the war when Hannay continued his undercover work against the Germans and their allies the Turks in Greenmantle and Mr Standfast. The other two stories, The Three Hostages and The Island of Sheep were set in the post war period when Hannay’s opponents were criminal gangs.

I listened to the Librivox recording read by Adrian Praetellis and enjoyed it very much. I will be on the lookout for Buchan’s other novels.

Author Rating: Not Yet Read

Charlie Pierce introduces an author new to us — Charles Portis, author of five novels:

  • 1966:  Norwood
  • 1968:  True Grit
  • 1979: The Dog of the South
  • 1985: Masters of Atlantis
  • 1991: Gringos

Additionally, a number of Portis’ essays and short fiction pieces have been published in one volume titled Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany.

You can read Portis’s The Forgotten River, one of the essays in Escape Velocity, here.

Author Rating: A

Bonecrack (read 3/20/2013) Recommended

What a wonderful quick read! Originally published in 1971, this terrific short novel of mystery and suspense has held up well. Before trying his hand at novel-writing, Dick Francis had a career as a jockey and he brings that inside knowledge to bear without becoming bogged down in the minutiae of the sport. The only disappointment comes from not wanting the story to an end.

Author Rating: C

1876 (read 3/24/2013) Not recommended

“Gore Vidal is a great writer.” You’ve heard that, right? If the rest of his works are of this caliber, he’s highly overrated. I threw it down after getting 1/3 of the way through. Nothing happens! A guy and his widowed daughter get off a boat in New York, they stay in a fancy hotel while he looks for work as a writer. Time goes by and he gets jobs, but we never see anything happen. Every other sentence is “I’m just like Rip Van Winkle, oh, I shouldn’t say that, it’s boring.” I was hoping to learn something about American history while being entertained but I was neither entertained nor enlightened.

Author Rating: C

Where I’m Calling From (read 4/14/2013) Meh

I wanted to like this, I really did. I was supposed to like this, I really was. While I found the writing engaging, the stories left me feeling that I neither liked nor cared about any of the characters.

Author Rating: A

Noon Wine (read 3/26/2013) Recommended

This is a wonderful short novel about life. Mr. Thompson is a not very successful dairy farmer in south Texas, barely eking out a living for his wife and three young sons. Just about every job needing to be done on the farm is beneath him, and the farm is decaying more and more until Mr. Helton, a Scandinavian from North Dakota, turns up looking for work. Initially unsettling to the family because he hardly says a word, Mr. Helton doesn’t have Thompson’s prejudice against doing any job that needs doing and turns the farm around. After nine years of quiet steady living, Mr. Helton’s past shows up.

Ship of Fools (read 1981)

Katherine Anne Porter has a wonderful ability to bring characters to life. This, her masterpiece, brings forth a boatload.

Next Page »