Saturday, June 16, 2018

Days Of Whine And Roses

Henry VI, Part I – William Shakespeare, c. 1592
½ (out of five)
If we can’t call this Shakespeare’s bitchiest play, that’s only because we don’t quite know how much of Henry VI, Part I is his. Otherwise, this is a bitchfest in two ways: A vast array of interchangeable characters bicker with one another from first scene to last; and you have one of Shakespeare’s most reprehensible female villains, Joan of Arc.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Remembering The Maine And More

The Little War Of Private Post – Charles Johnson Post, 1960
 (out of five)
When it comes to America’s forgotten battles, Vietnam and Korea have nothing on the Spanish-American War. Despite an unprecedented territorial yield, our country’s first multi-ocean conflict receded from memory long before its last acknowledged American veteran died in 1992. Fighting two world wars over the next 50 years can do that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Catholicism Made Deadly

Brighton Rock – Graham Greene, 1938
½ (out of five)
Tip for parents: Don’t have sex in front of your kids. You may think they’re too young to register anything, but they aren’t. Consider the protagonist of Brighton Rock, teen crime lord Pinkie Brown.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Who Shot John

High Treason – Robert J. Groden & Harrison Edward Livingstone, 1989
 (out of five)
Many books posit the idea of an high-level conspiracy in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, books with titles like Six Seconds In Dallas, Best Evidence, and Crossfire. High Treason is different in a way signaled by its title.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Chasing Cupid And Messerschmitts

Goodbye Mickey Mouse – Len Deighton, 1982
½ (out of five)
The difficulty of writing historical fiction often lies in getting facts straight. For Len Deighton, a former RAF pilot as well as an avid chronicler of World War II in both fiction and non-fiction form, authenticity was not a challenge for this tale of American Army Air Force fighter pilots in England. Goodbye Mickey Mouse is solid there.

But you need more than authenticity to make a novel click. You need an engaging plot and lively characters. It’s there the novel sagged for me.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Taking A MAD Look Back

MAD Strikes Back! – Harvey Kurtzman, 1955
½ (out of five)
Last month came further evidence of the Apocalypse: MAD magazine rebooted itself. After a run of 550 issues begun in 1952, the humor staple officially rehauled itself with a new Issue #1. Readers of the latest ish were greeted by new staff, new logo, and new overall design.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Leading Lives Of Unquiet Desperation

Bullet Park – John Cheever, 1969
 (out of five)
Was John Cheever an elegant miniaturist out of his depth when writing longer fiction? Or do I need to expand my reading horizons and allow for some suburban surrealism divorced from narrative constraint as long as it is ennobled by fine prose? I go back and forth after this, my latest venture into the tangled hollows of Bullet Park.