All reviews copyright 1984-2018 Evelyn C. Leeper.
"My Stephen King Problem: A Snob's Notes" by Dwight Allen:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 07/27/2012]
In THE LA REVIEW OF BOOKS, Dwight Allen wrote an article, "My Stephen King Problem: A Snob's Notes", in which he says:
"King coddles his readers, all nice, good, ordinary, likeable people (just like the heroes of his books), though this doesn't completely explain why these readers are so tolerant of the bloat in these novels, why they will let King go on for a couple hundred pages about some matter that has no vital connection to the subject of the book."
Oh, yes, God forbid we should have bloat about some matter that has no vital connection to the subject of the book, such as the sewers of Paris, or the Battle of Waterloo, or the taxonomy of whales.
MY AFRICAN MILLIONAIRE by Grant Allen:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 04/09/2010]
My copy of AN AFRICAN MILLIONAIRE by Grant Allen (ISBN-13 978-1-6164-6014-3) is one of those books for which Dover used to be known: a facsimile edition of an older mystery long out of print. In this case, the original publication was in 1897, and the Dover price in 1980 was $4.50. (Now it costs $12.95 from Coachwhip Publications; Dover no longer publishes it.)
This is a collection of twelve stories, which really form a continuous story (so I guess this might be considered a fix-up novel, though this was no fixing up involved). The stories are narrated by Seymour Wentworth, secretary to Sir Charles Vandrift. Vandrift is the title character, and he is the target of confidence trickster Colonel Cuthbert Clay, which appears in the stories under different names and with different disguises. After a while, the stories become predictable and the reader can figure out what is going on well before Vandrift--in fact, soon enough that the reader begins to think that for a millionaire, Vandrift is pretty dense.
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THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dostoesky:
IN THE DEVIL'S GARDEN: A SINFUL HISTORY OF FORBIDDEN FOOD by Stewart Lee Allen:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/29/2018]
I have written about synchronicity before and, okay, you are sick of hearing about it, but this is too good to pass up.
The other day I was listening to the podcast "Classical Stuff You Should Know", in particular, the episode about "The Grand Inquisitor" segment of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dostoesky (ISBN 978-0-140-44924-2). Because the three podcasters are teachers at a Christian academy, they delved into the theology fairly deeply. One claimed that the temptations offered to Jesus by Satan were the ability to provide the necessities of life to his followers, miracles to prove his claims, and the unity of fellowship for the world. A discussion of whether Christianity had achieved this unity ensued, in which it was observed that though there are a lot of Christians, they are divided into larger and smaller denominations. As an example, one cited the final split between the Eastern and Western churches in 1054 over the correct content and method of baking the Communion bread. (I bet you did not know that was the final straw!)
Then, not an hour later, I picked up IN THE DEVIL'S GARDEN: A SINFUL HISTORY OF FORBIDDEN FOOD by Stewart Lee Allen (ISBN 978-0-345-44016-7), a book about food taboos. I was reading the chapter on foods that supposedly generate anger (and hence were often forbidden), and got to a section on cannibalism, when what should I run into but a long explanation of the symbolism of Communion, and an explanation of the dispute between the Eastern and Western churches over the Communion bread?!
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To order In the Devil's Garden from amazon.com, click here.
SIDE EFFECTS by Woody Allen:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 03/21/2008]
SIDE EFFECTS by Woody Allen (ISBN-13 978-0-345-34335-2, ISBN-10 0-345-34335-2) was this month's discussion group pick. At first it seemed like a tough book to review, or discuss, because the first few pieces were primarily one-liners strung together. They were supposedly "stories", but had very little plot or characterization. In his movies, Allen manages to have a plot, because he does not have the other actors delivering the jokes--he saves those for himself. So these were like taking a movie and removing everyone except Allen from them. Even one short story at a time could be too much of a good thing.
But then some of the later pieces were stories, and fairly interesting ones, though often for strange reasons. For example, "The Kugelmass Episode" could very well have been the inspiration for Jasper Fforde's THE EYRE AFFAIR: in both, characters use a machine to propel themselves into the world of a classic novel. (It was a jolt, however, to realize that when Emma Bovary says to Kugelmass, "Tell me again about O. J. Simpson," she means as a football player and actor--the book was published in 1979.) "The Diet" is a parody of Franz Kafka's THE TRIAL. So while some pieces are fairly non-descript, there is also some content here.
To order Side Effects from amazon.com, click here.
THREE ONE-ACT PLAYS by Woody Allen:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 03/11/2005]
Woody Allen's THREE ONE-ACT PLAYS (ISBN 0-812-97244-9) was published only recently (2004) but the plays seemed older. "Riverside Drive", for example, seemed to be a work that he later expanded into one of his movies. (I won't say which one, though I suspect you'll recognize it about a third of the way through.) Well, checking on it, I discovered that "Riverside Drive" was apparently written after the movie, and could be considered a condensation of it--not the usual direction a writer takes. "Old Saybrook" is an Escher-esque sort of work that examines whether life reflects art, or art reflects life, or maybe neither. And rounding out the set is "Central Park West".
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