Sunday, December 10, 2017

Behold My Greatest Treasure

The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1982 – Bill James, 1982
½ (out of five)
The Gutenberg Bible of my old book collection, it turns out, is not a first-edition Notes Of A War Correspondent (1898) by Richard Harding Davis, nor an autographed hardcover autobiography Minnie Pearl. Rather, it’s a slim paperback written by a cannery security guard turned baseball-numbers geek.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pulp Does As Pulp Is

Grifter's Game – Lawrence Block, 1961
 (out of five)
Paperback readers want simplicity. Never mind flowery titles; give ‘em a generic description with an author’s name up front. Call it Nelson DeMille’s Globetrotting With Guns V or Dan Brown’s Made-Up Historical Facts To Play With Your Head IV. Makes choosing easier.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Laffs On Every Page (Give Or Take A Hundred)

The Best Humor Annual – Edited by Louis Untermeyer & Ralph E. Shikes, 1952
 (out of five)
Read some old books, and you wonder what they ever did to deserve consignment to a quick obscurity. Other old books show Father Time tough but fair. Take this exhaustive but underwhelming compendium of humorous writings published in 1951-1952.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tintin Goes Long

The Blue Lotus – Hergé, 1936 [Revised 1946]
½ (out of five)
When Tintin fans talk about the greatness of the comic series, one oft-cited exhibit is The Blue Lotus, an ambitious tale set before World War II that sets the intrepid Belgian reporter against the international drug trade and Japan’s conquest of China.

For me, it’s a fairly meh reading experience. I see what admirers mean when they talk about Hergé’s emerging artistry and storycraft. But I have never really taken to the work the way I have to other, less-touted installments of the series.

Friday, November 24, 2017

John Galt In A Toga

Coriolanus – William Shakespeare, c. 1609
 (out of five)
Any Shakespeare play that leaves people with totally different interpretations regarding the nature of the lead character can’t be all bad.

The first time I read Coriolanus was in college. A kindly professor laid out the case for seeing Coriolanus as a kind of fascist strongman brought down by his contempt for the people. I went away comforted in my small-L liberalism. The next time I read it, it was hard not to see Coriolanus as something else entirely, a deserving member of the meritocracy brought down by an envious, parasitic mob moved by envy, not need. In short, John Galt in a toga.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Walking The Thin Blue Line

Target Blue: An Insider's View Of The NYPD – Robert Daley, 1973
½ (out of five)
You are the new liberal police commissioner of the biggest, toughest city in America, and want a fresh look for your scandal-ridden department. So you give a local reporter a gun and a badge and tell him he’s now your deputy commissioner. What do you think happens next?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Before Arnie Came

The Story Of American Golf: Its Champions And Its Championships – Herbert Warren Wind, 1956
(out of five)
Golf’s elitist tag is long out of date; it was back in 1980 when Caddyshack came out but lingers still. Yes, the sport can be expensive and there are clubs for rich golfers only, but so what? They have clubs like that for other sports like tennis and swimming; no one considers those pastimes “exclusive.”

Another ugly word may have more merit in its application: Stodgy. People associate golf with tradition, with a sense of personal honor bordering on rectitude, and with boring stories told by a crusty old-timer who rounds his vowels like John Houseman. If you were to imagine a book written by such a fellow, it might well resemble something like what’s before us today.