Sunday, February 11, 2018

It's Raining Twins

A Comedy Of Errors – William Shakespeare, c. 1594
 (out of five)
Though I doubt many Shakespeare buffs put A Comedy Of Errors on their Bard Top Ten list, I have to ask: Does any comedy of his deliver the same measure of pure silly delight as this early farce? It’s not going to win anyone a Tony, no, but can you imagine an audience of youngsters having more fun watching another Shakespeare play?

Heck, I like it. More than that, I admire it. I said it, and now I’ll try to explain why I think you should, too.

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Star Is Born

Asterix The Gaul – Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo, 1961
 (out of five)
How does a comedy legend take flight? Well, if you are a certain wing-headed warrior of ancient Gaul, you do it by establishing a simple formula, developing a steady flow of bad puns and easy laughs, and saving the big guy for the sequel.

That’s the approach writer René Goscinny and illustrator Albert Uderzo took in 1959 when they launched their international cartoon superstar Asterix, first in the pages of French comic magazine Pilote and then in a series of books two years on, beginning with this.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Historian As Cheerleader

Truman – David McCullough, 1992
 (out of five)
When does an author’s enthusiasm for a subject bleed into full-blown boosterism while still holding together? I submit David McCullough’s Truman. It’s a fine history and marvelous narrative that nevertheless gets tinny and strained by giving Give-‘em-Hell Harry every break.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Death Visits The Nurses' Wing

Shroud For A Nightingale – P.D. James, 1971
½ (out of five)
A mystery can be too good to properly enjoy when one of two things get in the way: 1) Getting too invested in one possible outcome to the point of resenting another the author goes with instead, or 2) Being so caught up that you race through the final pages and miss key details.

I think Shroud For A Nightingale might have been for me an example of the first. I definitely did not rush the ending, but it still caught me short. I found myself more interested in the red herrings than the final solution.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Swapping The Man For The Legend

Clapton! – Ray Coleman, 1986
 (out of five)
There’s something to be said in favor of a biography of a living person. What you get is incomplete, but unless it’s a book about Hitler or someone like that, less depressing as you get to the end. Here, in the case of guitar hero Eric Clapton, you have the additional benefit of capturing the subject at a high point in his celebrity.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Great Title, Shame About The Book

Marco Polo, If You Can – William F. Buckley Jr., 1982
½ (out of five)
Can a capitalist lackey catch a break after crashing a spy plane in Khrushchev’s Russia? Will he effect a secret plot to tilt the balance of power for the free world, still reeling from Sputnik and the rise of the Iron Curtain? Or will ruthless interrogators wear him down?

I wish I could have cared more this time than the last time I read one of William F. Buckley Jr.’s spy novels starring his dashing alter-ego Blackford Oakes; that being The Story Of Henry Tod. Unfortunately, while the problems encountered this time were different, the end result was the same: a flat tale pocked by stale characters and coincidence.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Who Was Dutch Schultz?

Kill The Dutchman! – Paul Sann, 1971
½ (out of five)
The book sat in my father’s den cabinet for years; I knew its title back when Richard Scarry and Crayola were my reading companions. Forty-six years later I finally got around to reading Kill The Dutchman!, wondering after just one thing: What took me so long?