EppsNet Archive: Books

2021: The Year in Books

 

These are the books I read in 2021, roughly in the order listed. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion. Books of the Year: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (fiction), Zeroville by Steve Erickson (contemporary fiction) and Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects by Bertrand Russell (non-fiction). My Library at LibraryThing Read more →

Hollywood 1969

 

“You’ve got people your age just coming into the business who will be running Paramount in five years, along with Warners and Columbia and Fox and MGM — all of which will be run by companies that have nothing to do with pictures — who have never heard of Minnelli or Preminger, or just might be erudite enough to think of Liza when you say her father’s name. Then you’ve got people like me who have been around long enough not to have much romance about any of it anymore and are just trying to find some cover because we have no idea what’s going on. Biker pictures are winning prizes at Cannes and pictures about cowboy hustlers in New York getting sucked off in the cheap seats are winning Oscars, so the execs upstairs who are old enough to be my grandfather — which means we’re talking Dawn of… Read more →

The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position. — Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

Débrouillard

 

Débrouillard is what every plongeur wants to be called. A débrouillard is a man who, even when he is told to do the impossible, will se débrouiller — get it done somehow. One of the kitchen plongeurs at the Hôtel X, a German, was well known as a débrouillard. One night an English lord came to the hotel, and the waiters were in despair, for the lord had asked for peaches, and there were none in stock; it was late at night, and the shops would be shut. “Leave it to me,” said the German. He went out, and in ten minutes he was back with four peaches. He had gone into a neighbouring restaurant and stolen them. That is what is meant by a débrouillard. The English lord paid for the peaches at twenty francs each. —George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London Read more →

Sad, Tumultuous Middle-Age Years

 

Divorce, abandonment, the unacceptable and the unattainable, ennui filled with action, sad. tumultuous middle-age years shaken by crashings, uprootings, coups, desperate renewals. — Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights Read more →

That Is the Way to Get Attention

 

Divorces and separation — that is the way to get attention. Everyone examines his own state and some say: Strange, they were much happier than we are. There are streets in the East 90’s where youngish couples on the wave of success buy town houses and do them over at great expense, uncovering old wood, taking off the stoop so that drunks cannot loiter, making a whole floor for the children to be quiet on. The strain and the cost and the house, a mausoleum with both names on it waiting for the dates to be filled in, drives the couple to separation. The streets are called Death Row. — Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights Read more →

But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind. — Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

EppsNet Book Reviews: Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

 

This book is terrible. It’s pretty well known and has a good reputation among fans of “experimental fiction” but it’s terrible. It’s so bad that there should be a law under which the author could be arrested and charged with subjecting readers to the endless meanderings of a mediocre mind. The book could be read aloud to terrorists as a torture device. I couldn’t come close to getting all the way through it and I hurled it into the garbage. Ironically, I found that I bought two copies of the book, I don’t know how. Maybe I bought one a while ago, forgot about it, and bought another one. Maybe I bought one online and one at a bookstore. So actually I threw both copies in the garbage. One star is a generous rating but it does take time and effort to write a book, even a bad one, and… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

 

This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war. Mission accomplished! Remarque was a German author born Eric Paul Remark, changed his last name to a French spelling and adopted his mother’s middle name, Maria, as his own. It says on the cover “The GREATEST WAR NOVEL of ALL TIME.” I can’t think of a better one. The Red Badge of Courage is really good. The Emigrants is remarkable but I’d have to put it in a different category, a post-war novel. Regeneration is very good. Catch-22 and From Here to Eternity I couldn’t even get all the way through either one of… Read more →

The Doors of Perception

 

We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. — Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception Read more →

Ban Dr. Seuss Before It’s Too Late

 

In Baltimore, there are 13 public high schools where zero percent of students can do math at grade level. There are six other city high schools where only 1 percent of students can do math at grade level. We must ban more Dr. Seuss books before these numbers get worse! Read more →

God Cannot Feel Disappointment or Pain

 

“Your god must feel a bit disappointed,” Doctor Colin said, “when he looks at this world of his.” “When you were a boy they can’t have taught you theology very well. God cannot feel disappointment or pain.” “Perhaps that’s why I don’t care to believe in him.” — Graham Greene, _A Burnt-Out Case_ Read more →

People I Thought Were Dead

 

Jean-Luc Godard, film director, screenwriter Earl Holliman, actor Tony Kubek, baseball player and broadcaster Steve Lawrence, singer John le Carré, novelist Jill St. John, actress Clarence Williams III, actor Updates John le Carré, died 12/12/2020 Read more →

Incompetents

 

Politics and political office are not and never have been the method and means by which we can govern ourselves in peace and dignity and honor and security, but instead are our national refuge for our incompetents who have failed at every other occupation by means of which they might make a living for themselves and their families; and which as a result we would have to feed and clothe and shelter out of our own private purses and means. — Faulkner, The Mansion Read more →

Traffic Stops and Swimming Pools

 

We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers. —Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow When I was younger (we’re all very well-behaved now 🙂 ), I had several friends and family members who had unpleasant run-ins with police, where they were cuffed or arrested or beaten, the common thread being not that they were black (they were all white), but they were all wise-asses who didn’t respect authority and couldn’t find it within themselves to be compliant to a police officer. One day my 9th-grade gym teacher told us (again, all white boys) to be excessively polite to police officers — yes sir, no sir — have your day in court if it came to that, but better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. In my experience, the narrative that only… Read more →

I Am in the Herd, and a Coward

 

And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul — don’t let him be proud of his ‘progressive’ views, don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, merited figure, or a general — let him say to himself: I am in the herd, and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and warm. — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Read more →

Orwell: “You Can’t Say I Didn’t Warn You F*ckers”

 

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building had been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. — George Orwell, 1984 According to KMOX radio in St. Louis, a petition has been started with hopes of changing the city’s name and — wait for it — taking down a statue of Saint Louis IX in Forest Park. The petition creators say the city’s name is “outright disrespect” to Jewish and Muslim residents. A statue of Christopher Columbus in Tower Grove Park was taken away last week. Read more →

Happy Mothers Day

 

I have so many dreams of my own, and I remember things from my childhood, from when I was a girl and a young woman, and I haven’t forgotten a thing. So why did we think of Mom as a mom from the very beginning? She didn’t have the opportunity to pursue her dreams, and all by herself, faced everything the era dealt her, poverty and sadness, and she couldn’t do anything about her very bad lot in life other than suffer through it and get beyond it and live her life to the very best of her ability, giving her body and her heart to it completely. Why did I never give a thought to Mom’s dreams? — Kyung-sook Shin, Please Look After Mom Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Faceless Killers

 

Faceless Killers is the first novel in the Kurt Wallander series by Henning Mankell, described as “Sweden’s greatest living crime writer” and “the dean of Scandianvian noir.” I love a good mystery novel — a good mystery novel — but most mystery novels are very bad. I can’t even finish them. Genre novels — mystery, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, etc. — have a built-in audience so the quality standard is well below the standard for a mainstream novel. I did finish Faceless Killers, so it’s better than most, but it’s still no more exciting than a Swedish meatball. If you’ve ever had an inkling to try writing a mystery novel, I encourage you to move forward with it. Your competition is mostly idiots. Rating: Read more →

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