literature


"Your future's all used up." The line doesn't go with this scene, but neither that line nor this scene are in the original novel. All that great work comes from Welles.

“Your future’s all used up.” The line doesn’t go with this scene, but neither that line nor this scene are in the original novel. All that great work comes from Welles.

My Top 10:

  1. Touch of Evil
  2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  3. Separate Tables
  4. The Horse’s Mouth
  5. Vertigo
  6. Therese Raquin
  7. The Last Hurrah
  8. The Bravados
  9. The Horror of Dracula
  10. The Brothers Karamazov

Note:  There are 13 films on my list.  Me and the Colonel is reviewed because its was a WGA nominee and the other two are listed down below. (more…)

I, Claudius

  • Roman depravity, decay and decadence in all its literary glory.

    Roman depravity, decay and decadence in all its literary glory.

    Author:  Robert Graves

  • Published:  1934
  • Publisher:  Arthur Barker
  • Pages:  432
  • First Line:  “I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as ‘Claudius the Idiot,’ or ‘That Claudius’, or ‘Claudius the Stammerer’, or ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’ or at best as ‘Poor Uncle Claudius’, am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach that fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the ‘golden predicament’ from which I have never since become disentangled.”
  • Last Lines:  “What a miraculous fate for a historian!  And as you will have seen, I took full advantage of my opportunities.  Even the mature historian’s privilege of setting forth conversations of which he knows only the gist is one that I have availed myself of hardly at all.”
  • ML Edition:  #20; tan cover
  • Acclaim:  ML Top 100 English Language Novels of the 20th Century #14; TIME 100 Best Novels Since 1923 List; James Tait Black Memorial Prize
  • Film Version:  1937 (aborted); 1976  (TV – ****)
  • First Read:  Late 1998

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highfidelityHigh Fidelity

  • Author:  Nick Hornby
  • Published:  1995
  • Publisher:  Victor Gollancz LTD
  • Pages:  323
  • First Line:  “My desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups, in chronological order.”
  • Last Lines:  “When Laura hears the opening bars she spins round and grins and makes several thumbs-up signs, and I start to compile in my head a compilation tape for her, something that’s full of stuff she’s heard of, and full of stuff she’d play.  Tonight, for the first time ever, I can sort of see how it’s done.”
  • Film:  2000 (****)
  • First Read:  Spring 2000

The Novel:  In the book, Barry is the one who is first obsessed with lists, who introduces them to the other two in the store.  But it’s Rob who’s narrating, Rob who can’t stop making lists, who, in fact, begins the novel with a list.  I read this book because the trailer was out and it looked great and Veronica and I were going to go see it (she owned the book).  And suddenly, for the first time since Catcher in the Rye, I felt like I was reading about myself. (more…)

" 'My God,' the Colonel suddenly yelled, 'the bridge has been mined, Colonel Saito. Those damn things I saw against the piles were explosives! And this wire . . .' " (p 174)

” ‘My God,’ the Colonel suddenly yelled, ‘the bridge has been mined, Colonel Saito. Those damn things I saw against the piles were explosives! And this wire . . .’ ” (p 174)

My Top 10:

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. Sweet Smell of Success
  4. 12 Angry Men
  5. Witness for the Prosecution
  6. Rififi
  7. The Good Soldier Schweik
  8. A Face in the Crowd
  9. A Hatful of Rain
  10. Heaven Knows Mr Allison

Note:  There are 12 films on my list.  The last two are listed down at the bottom. (more…)

The ending of The Killing isn't in the original novel at all.

The ending of The Killing isn’t in the original novel at all.  But damn is it brilliant.

My Top 10:

  1. The Killing
  2. Baby Doll
  3. Diabolique
  4. The Trouble with Harry
  5. The Searchers
  6. Richard III
  7. Anastasia
  8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  9. Written on the Wind
  10. Wuthering Heights

Note:  The list once again exceeds 10; the rest of the list is down at the bottom except my #11 (Lust for Life), which is reviewed as an Oscar nominee. (more…)

They may have passed up my recommendations, but they got it right.

They may have passed up my recommendations, but they got it right.

I have been asked by several people for my reaction to Bob Dylan’s recent Nobel Prize for Literature.  Part of that is because I have written about the Nobel Prize before.  Part of that is because I am a fan of Bob Dylan.  Part of that is because I write a lot about literature and know even more because I’ve read my way through all the great books lists and have made my own lists.  Part of it is just because I’m really opinionated (“the most opinionated of my children” my mother says on days when she forgets that this description also fits three of my four siblings). (more…)

bernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette

  • Author:  Maria Semple
  • Published:  2012
  • Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
  • Pages:  326
  • First Lines:  “The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says, ‘What’s important is for you to understand it’s not your fault.’”
  • Last Lines:  “Say yes.  And know I’m always, Mom.”
  • Film:  none
  • First Read:  Spring 2014

Old fashioned letter writing might be disappearing but the epistolary novel is still surviving.  In fact, the two novels over the last few years that I have enjoyed more than almost any other have both been epistolary novels.  (One of them, Dear Committee Members, is even still keeping letters alive, though not the kind of letters you necessarily want to read.)  Where’d You Go, Bernadette isn’t a complete epistolary novel – our valiant teenager, Bee, provides us with linking narratives that help explain some of the things.  But that’s necessary in this case, because she helps us sort through some of the e-mails, memos, faxes and vital documents that make up one of the funniest books of the last decade. (more…)

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