2019 reading list

  1. Chandler, The Little Sister
  2. West, A Cool Million
  3. Dostoevsky, The Karamazov Brothers (Avsey translation)
  4. Weiner, Legacy of Ashes
  5. Beevor, Ardennes 1944
  6. Ford, Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance
  7. Anonymous, Lazarillo de Tormes (Stavans translation)
  8. Thomson, Why Acting Matters
  9. Boullosa & Wallace, A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the “Mexican Drug War”
  10. Quammen, The Chimp and the River
  11. Sabatini, Captain Blood
  12. Conrad, The Arrow of Gold
  13. Lawton, Black Out
  14. Sayers, Gaudy Night
  15. Radiguet, The Devil in the Flesh (Moncrieff translation)
  16. Simenon, Maigret Afraid (Duff translation)
  17. Naipaul, Among the Believers
  18. Thomson, Sleeping with Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire
  19. Dunne, Monster: Living Off the Big Screen
  20. Hanson, The Case for Trump
  21. Keefe, Say Nothing
  22. Murray, Bloody Sunday
  23. Naipaul, S., Journey to Nowhere
  24. Mailer, The Fight
  25. Naipaul, S. North of South
  26. DeLillo, Falling Man
  27. Dworkin, Last Days at Hot Slit
  28. Mann, Joseph and His Brothers (Lowe-Porter and Woods translations)
  29. Kipling, Kim
  30. Sayers, Strong Poison
  31. Harris, Cari Mora
  32. Kipling, Captains Courageous
  33. Rooney, Conversations with Friends
  34. Priest, An American Story
  35. Beevor, The Battle of Arnhem
  36. Hersh, The Samson Option
  37. Sayers, Have His Carcase
  38. Orner, Am I Alone Here?
  39. Updike, The Coup
  40. Benfey, If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years
  41. Brandt, I Heard You Paint Houses
  42. Maugham, Ashenden
  43. Stone, Outerbridge Reach
  44. Pynchon, Against the Day
  45. Schwartz, Off the Map: Freedom, Control, and the Future in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies
  46. Hazzard, The Transit of Venus
  47. Zink, Doxology
  48. Greene, The Heart of the Matter
  49. Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station
  50. DeLillo, The Body Artist
  51. French, The Witch Elm
  52. Lerner, The Topeka School
  53. le Carre, Agent Running in the Field
  54. Dexter, Death is Now My Neighbor
  55. Connelly, The Night Fire
  56. Dexter, Last Bus to Woodstock
  57. Dexter, Last Seen Wearing
  58. Houellebecq, Serotonin (Whiteside translation)
  59. le Carre, The Honourable Schoolboy
  60. Sherry, Conrad’s Eastern World

(updated 2 December 2019)

Mason & Dixon — chapter notes

  1. Wicks intro, the children and rumpus room
  2. Letters between Mason and Dixon
  3. A drinking night out with the pair as they encounter the Learned English Dog who imparts some wisdom and nonsense, a crew is established, fortunes told and fates warned.
  4. departing the channel their ship the Seahorse encounters a French enemy and a battle ensues, the English ship gets pummeled, 30+ casualties. Mason and Dixon work below assisting Wicks with surgery, and the ship returns to port mend itself and presumably bring on additional crew. M&D end the adventure by getting pissed.
  5. The damaged lick their wounds, and send word of their battle to the Royal Society. Who is not impressed.
  6. Repaired with a new Capt. Grant the Seahorse sets out once again, crew full of nonsense (especially Veevle) and preparations are made to fete Mason, Dixon, and the Rev Wicks as they cross the equator for the first time.
  7. Arrival at the Cape, Mason and Dixon shack up with the Vroom family, and the three pretty and pretty horny daughters therein. After messing about with Mason, the girls leave off and M is ambushed in the sack by a slave girl. They try to figure out how to see the Transit of Venus with all the bad Cape weather.
  8. The boys do everything they can to avoid eating at the foul Vroom table. Of course they’re pestered by the V daughters. They stagger out into the night and the chapter ends with a feasting of mangoes.
  9. Mason gets caught fussing with Mrs. Vroom while a Vroom daughter also makes a move. Of course he falls escapes out a window, ass over tea kettle. The Vroom girls and the slave girl trek over the the boys’ observatory and pester the men, cruel young beauties ev’ry one.
  10. At last the Transit begins, and the boys take their marks and measurements and time-stamps of the event. Much of the town and Vroom contingent gets involved with the astronomy. Afterwards the men wait idle until the winds return, and they leave the Cape headed for St. Helena.
  11. The boys arrive at St. Helena and Mason spots an old flame, one Florinda, whom he met at the Tybrun hangings long ago, after the death of his wife. They joked and flirted and now she’s here–with a grim-reaper looking fiance in tow.
  12. The boys get shitfaced in a bar with Nevil Maskelyne and they talk with a clock. Yes a clock. Dixon is ordered back to the Cape.
  13. Mason on St. Helena sans Dixon. He tolerates the company of Maskelyne, and they try to keep sane while creating each other’s astrology charts.
  14. Dixon and Vroom visit a Cape whorehouse and can’t tell what happens. Ennui sets in, not sure the point of the chapter.
  15. Mason and Maskelyne continue to bug the crap out of each other, and the ghost of Mason’s dead wife shows up to pester him. Dixon returns and hears of this apparition.
  16. We learn of the first meeting between Mason and his wife Rebekah, a cheese rolling festival. Mason was nearly flattened by a 10-foot cheese wheel, until Bekah shoved him out of the way.
  17. Mason talks to a pickled ear and asks for Dixon to return, and lo-behold, they set off back to England. They talk of a plan to survey some land in America; Maskelyne doesn’t want the gig so they can take it.
  18. More of Mason’s past, a remembrance of family time and Rebekah.
  19. Another bar room chapter, talk of time and Jesuits and nonsense.
  20. Mason informs his family of his upcoming trip to America. His sons and others are afraid of him. His father (Charles Sr) laments that he will continue to pay for their upkeep. Ends with a long treatise on bread, the kneading and baking.
  21. Another flashback with Rebekah, and Mason dawdles around London preparing to leave for America.
  22. Some Dixon backstory on his surveying education w/ William Emerson, and an intro to Father Maire, SJ. who attempts to bring Dixon into the Society before he departs for America.
  23. Dixon and Emerson and the Jesuit head to the pub to get pissed. Fr. Maire reflects on a pizza he once ate, and he makes one anew, the first in Brattain. The full moon turns a pubgoer into a song-and-dance werewolf.
  24. Good background on Dixon and his family.
  25. At long last the boys head off for America. Yes, America.
  26. The boys arrive in America and find all sorts of wares being hawked along the shore. They enter Philadelphia.
  27. They meet one Benjamin Franklin in an apothecary shop and immediately decide on a pub visit with the famous founder. Ben talks women and electricity and later they are joined by some of Ben’s female fans.
  28. The boys meet up with one Colonel George Washington and smoke a few bowls of hemp with him, as Martha Wa. arrives with a tray of sweet munchies to sate the smokers. Washington’s black Jewish slave tells a bunch of jokes, and perhaps a Chinese-Jesuit plot is discovered.
  29. More putzing around Philly, visits to pubs, chance meetings of secret societies, wha?


Nostromo notes

There’s a neat use of telling (not showing) in part one, The Silver of the Mine. The character Nostromo is considered by Mitchell and Sir John (a visiting Brit dignitary) and all of the native citizens as a great man, a “one man in a thousand” who is to be trusted and relied upon without question. But he isn’t shown doing anything noble or enlightened in part one, other than escorting Sir John across the mountain into Sulaco. It’s a strange choice Conrad makes, to make Nostromo in the eyes and words of others. When we do learn of him it is from his intimate friends, the Viola family and a woman he fancies. Old Viola thinks of him as his dead son reincarnated, Mrs Viola sees him as a selfish braggart yet not without qualities. The two Viola daughters are too young to have opinions of their fellow Italian.

2018 reading list

  1. Kadare, Broken April (unknown trans.)
  2. Dreiser, Sister Carrie
  3. Tosches, Dino
  4. Eliot, Middlemarch
  5. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Creighton trans.)
  6. Nolte, Rebel
  7. Le Guin, Rocannon’s World
  8. Silber, Improvement
  9. Anderson, Green Sun
  10. Anderson, Night Dogs
  11. Anderson, Sympathy for the Devil
  12. Yokoyama, Six Four (Lloyd-Davies trans.)
  13. Frank, Dostoevsky Vol. 1
  14. Dostoevsky, The Idiot (McDuff trans.)
  15. Vlautin, Lean on Pete
  16. Itzkoff, Robin
  17. Dinesen, The Immortal Story
  18. Carreyrou, Bad Blood
  19. Pease, Secret Cargo
  20. Jones, The Thin Red Line
  21. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War
  22. Hersh, Reporter
  23. Malamud, The Assistant
  24. Eca de Queiros, Alves & Co. (Jull Costa trans.)
  25. Holiday, Conspiracy
  26. Cather, My Mortal Enemy
  27. Epstein, The Ideal of Culture
  28. Woolrich, It Had to be Murder
  29. Rollins, Get in the Van
  30. Dostoevsky, Demons (Maguire trans.)
  31. Capek, War with the Newts (Osers trans.)
  32. Murdoch, The Nice and the Good
  33. Halliday, Asymmetry
  34. Waugh, The Loved One
  35. Conrad, The Secret Agent
  36. Kadare, The Traitor’s Niche (Hodgson trans.)
  37. Young, All Gates Open: The Story of Can
  38. Ballard, Cocaine Nights
  39. Conan Doyle, The Lost World
  40. Connelly, Dark Sacred Night
  41. le Carre, The Secret Pilgrim
  42. Schnitzler, Dream Story (JMQ Davies trans.)
  43. Blake, Bring it on Home: Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin and Beyond
  44. Bloodworth, The Myth of Meritocracy
  45. Benedict & Keteyian, Tiger Woods
  46. Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  47. Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely
  48. Fowler, The King’s English

(last updated 29 December 2018)


Mann again

Buddenbrooks is one of my favorite novels, one of the great novels about young people and family. I found a nice copy of The Magic Mountain (translated by John E. Woods) and bought it and find it just as moving, funny, insightful, and essential as Buddenbrooks.

Proust is on pause once again.

Forster break

On a Proust break and picked up my favorite Forster novel The Longest Journey, one of the great novels about young people. It’s the Forster book few Forster fans have read, and yet to me it remains his great achievement, a great small tale of a young man’s life and times as an undergraduate and then set free from school. Rickie Elliott is a vibrant character, a sharp, club-footed, and cautious young man who is entranced by philosophy and art and aims to have a go as a writer. He’s in love with Agnes, who is engaged to Gerald, but Gerald dies in a soccer match and Rickie steps in (and up). Here’s blunt Forster informing us of Gerald’s death (Chapter 5):

Gerald died that afternoon. He was broken up in the football match. Rickie and Mr. Pembroke were on the ground when the accident took place. It was no good torturing him by a drive to the hospital, and he was merely carried to the little pavilion and laid upon the floor. A doctor came, and so did a clergyman, but it seemed better to leave him for the last few minutes with Agnes, who had ridden down on her bicycle.

Chapter 9 is epistolary and worth a read. Note how Forster voices the differing youthful intelligence. Writing this good is not found in YA novels.