2020 reading list

  1. Greene, Our Man in Havana
  2. le Carre, Call For the Dead
  3. Woodward, Wired
  4. Coetzee, The Childhood of Jesus
  5. Caldwell, The Age of Entitlement
  6. Coetzee, The Schooldays of Jesus
  7. Coetzee, The Death of Jesus
  8. Christie, The Pale Horse
  9. Baker, John
  10. Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends
  11. Spiegel, Sidney Lumet
  12. Cohen, Witz
  13. Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

(updated 24 February 2020)

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. Quammen, The Chimp and the River
  10. Sabatini, Captain Blood
  11. Conrad, The Arrow of Gold
  12. Sayers, Gaudy Night
  13. Radiguet, The Devil in the Flesh (Moncrieff translation)
  14. Naipaul, Among the Believers
  15. Thomson, Sleeping with Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire
  16. Dunne, Monster: Living Off the Big Screen
  17. Hanson, The Case for Trump
  18. Keefe, Say Nothing
  19. Murray, Bloody Sunday
  20. Naipaul, S., Journey to Nowhere
  21. Mailer, The Fight
  22. Naipaul, S. North of South
  23. DeLillo, Falling Man
  24. Mann, Joseph and His Brothers (Lowe-Porter and Woods translations)
  25. Kipling, Kim
  26. Sayers, Strong Poison
  27. Harris, Cari Mora
  28. Kipling, Captains Courageous
  29. Rooney, Conversations with Friends
  30. Priest, An American Story
  31. Beevor, The Battle of Arnhem
  32. Hersh, The Samson Option
  33. Sayers, Have His Carcase
  34. Updike, The Coup
  35. Benfey, If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years
  36. Brandt, I Heard You Paint Houses
  37. Stone, Outerbridge Reach
  38. Pynchon, Against the Day
  39. Zink, Doxology
  40. Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station
  41. DeLillo, The Body Artist
  42. French, The Witch Elm
  43. Lerner, The Topeka School
  44. le Carre, Agent Running in the Field
  45. Dexter, Death is Now My Neighbor
  46. Connelly, The Night Fire
  47. Dexter, Last Bus to Woodstock
  48. Dexter, Last Seen Wearing
  49. Houellebecq, Serotonin (Whiteside translation)
  50. le Carre, The Honourable Schoolboy
  51. Sherry, Conrad’s Eastern World
  52. Kadare, The Concert (Bray translation)

(updated 15 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)


Proust notes — The Guermantes Way

The family has moved to a new apartment in Paris, the Guermantes Hotel. It’s a courtyard apt. with some trade at the ground floor. Francoise flirts with the waistcoat maker Jupien.

Good long section on the role of servants, and Francoise’s relationship to our narrator. He knows he’s a softie and needs their support.

Narrator visits Saint Loup at his barracks in Doncieres and has many thoughts on sleep and prostitutes and the lives of small town folk. Narrator has made an ass of himself trying to get Mme Guermantes to notice him in Paris, and asks Saint Loup (Mme Guermantes’s nephew) to help him get in good with her.

Proust notes — Seascape, with Frieze of Girls

This part contains my favorite bit of writing, and it concerns a group of young seaside girls, and one girl in particular, who takes a running jump over a seated old man, her foot brushing his cap.

The wife of an elderly banker, after hesitating between various possible exposures for her husband, had settled him on a folding chair, facing the ‘front,’ sheltered from wind and sun by the band-stand. Having seen him comfortably installed there, she had gone to buy a newspaper which she would read aloud to him, to distract him — one of her little absences which she never prolonged for more than five minutes, which seemed long enough to him but which she repeated at frequent intervals so that this old husband on whom she lavished an attention that she took care to conceal, should have the impression that he was still quite alive and like other people and was in no need of protection. The platform of the band-stand provided, above his head, a natural and tempting springboard, across which, without a moment’s hesitation, the eldest of the little band began to run; she jumped over the terrified old man, whose yachting cap was brushed by the nimble feet, to the great delight of the other girls, especially of a pair of green eyes in a ‘dashing’ face, which expressed, for that bold act, an admiration and a merriment in which I seemed to discern a trace of timidity, a shamefaced and blustering timidity which did not exist in the others. “Oh, the poor old man; he makes me sick; he looks half dead;” said a girl with a croaking voice, but with more sarcasm than sympathy. They walked on a little way, then stopped for a moment in the middle of the road, with no thought whether they were impeding the passage of other people, and held a council, a solid body of irregular shape, compact, unusual and shrill, like birds that gather on the ground at the moment of flight; then they resumed their leisurely stroll along the ‘front,’ against a background of sea.