Book Thread

Discussion in 'Media Central' started by RickDeckard, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. shootER

    shootER Insubordinate...and churlish Administrator

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    Not to drag the thread too far off-topic, but back when Ted Turner was all erect over colorization, I'd turn the chroma settings on my televisions to zero whenever a movie I wanted to see was on but had been molested by him.
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  2. Lanzman

    Lanzman Vast, Cool and Unsympathetic Formerly Important

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    Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution by Mark Puls

    A relatively thin 257 pages, this bio by Puls manages to pack in a lot of detail. If George Washington was the Father of his country, then Henry Knox is one of the main reasons for that title. Along with Alexander Hamilton, Knox was responsible for a lot of Washington's success during the Revolution. For example, altho it was Washington who planned and strategized the crossing of the Delaware to surprise the British and Hessians in the winter of 1776, it was Knox who actually arranged for it to get done. Knox started as a simple stationer and bookseller in colonial Boston but in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, he joined the Massachusetts militia and quickly rose to prominence. Entirely self-taught in the art and science of war in general and artillery in particular, Knox became a General at a young age and was ultimately responsible for almost all of the Continental Army's logistics and armaments. He was director of the artillery corps and after the war served as Secretary at War under the Articles of Confederation and then Secretary of War under the Constitution. Of interest, Knox was one of the early proponents of replacing the Articles of Confederation with a more robust national government and in fact drafted an early outline of what our Constitution should look like. He was one of the Federalists when that was a Thing.

    Sadly, Knox died at the relatively early age of fifty five. A chicken bone lodged in his throat and caused an infection that ultimately killed him. Such was the state of medical science in the early Nineteenth Century. Today remembered through Fort Knox, Kentucky, and many other place names throughout the states (including Knoxville), Knox is not someone most people think of in terms of "founding fathers" but without him there might not be a United States at all.
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  3. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    The Great Transformation: The Beginning of our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong

    Karen Armstrong is a prominent author on comparative religion and the history of same, so when I was looking for something to read about the Axial Age, a period covering several hundred years during the 1st millennium BC where several major new religions emerged, this book in her name jumped out.
    She covers four areas of the world during this time - Israel, India, China and Greece - in which major new religions and philosophies developed with radical departures from the old polytheistic tribal beliefs. These include Judaism, Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism and rationalism.
    The book narrates the development of each, alternating between them in turn. We find that Judaism solidified into a monotheistic religion very late, having gradually evolved out of traditional Caananite cults. An array of new beliefs arose in India and China focusing respectively on the self and the community also moving away from focus on old gods. And educated Greeks begun to regard the Olympian deities as mythological as they made great strides in mathematics, science and other areas.

    I was somewhat disappointed.
    While she works particularly hard to establish commonalities between these developments, insisting that they were all characterised by a sense of openness and freedom, that they tended not to be dogmatic, emphasise right action above right belief and had spiritual properties in common such as the insistence that the divine was transcendent and ineffable, I found it all rather forced. By the end she even tried to conscript Hinduism, Christianity and Islam to her cause, despite all of these arising hundreds of years later. And while she concedes that all have disgraceful episodes in their history, it seems that these are to be regarded as aberrations rather than intrinsic components of the belief systems.
    Unanswered is how or why philosophical revolutions happened at the same time in parts of the world that had little or no contact with each other. I'd have appreciated some sort of social, economic or environment context. I'd also have preferred if developments in Greece, which were obviously qualitatively different to those elsewhere, were recognised as such.

    I did learn quite a bit about eastern philosophy, although there are some criticisms I would make here too. Armstrong frequently reverts to using what is (to me at least) obscure terminology - samsara, li, nibanna, dharma and so forth. She does define these words - once - but the causal reader is then overloaded and has difficulty following.

    So it all comes across a a little bit too much of an exercise in the service of Armstrong's obvious inter-faith syncretism. It's much too uncritical and therefore a little flat.
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  4. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Continued my Agatha Christie streak with two others I know well from the film adaptations...

    Evil Under the Sun. Poirot vacations at a hotel on an island off the English coast, a prominent guest is murdered, and everyone seems to have an alibi. This very clever whodunnit turns on the murderer making a, uh, timely deception. I've always loved the Peter Ustinov film version, so there was no great mystery for me here (although the film makes a great many mostly minor changes), but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Murder on the Orient Express. A classic whodunnit that lives up to its reputation. Snowbound aboard the titular train, Poirot must discover which of his twelve fellow passengers committed a murder. An innovative resolution plays with the conventions of the genre. BTW, the 1974 film--which follows the book very closely--is superior to the recent Kenneth Branaugh outing. Superb.

    I'm currently reading Cards on the Table, another Poirot case, but the first I've read without any foreknowledge of the plot.
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  5. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Conversant in dark parables

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    The Innocence of Father Brown - G.K. Chesterton

    A series of short stories about Father Brown, an unassuming man of the cloth who often finds himself in proximity to criminal activity. Brown is probably even lower on the "suitable to be a detective" scale than Miss Marple, having little more on his side than a level head, a confessor's knowledge of human nature, and the ability to reason about details others overlook that all amateurs need. Chesterton again shows his talents for setting a scene and for inventing a wide variety of high-concept scenarios.

    Partway through, Brown sets a clever but principled thief back on the right side of the law through a few choice words. The thief then sets up as a private detective who serves as a Watson to Brown in several stories. My complaint is that we don't see this guy detect anything. He doesn't even do any spadework to produce clues, just drops his jaw at Brown's deductions like anyone could have done. It's poor form.
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  6. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories by William Gay

    I've previously enjoyed some short story collections of "southern" literature (the southern United States, that is) and had this recommended on that basis. I am disappointed to hear that the author has died since this collection was published in 2002.
    The stories are set mainly in rural Tennessee and focus largely on the old and downtrodden - an old man "escaped" from a nursing home, a woman with cancer, a teenager made pregnant by an older man, a husband who splits from his wife and goes on the run from the law over the divorce case. The prose is austere and enjoyable. The stories range in tone from funny to moving. Some of them work better than others, the quality is uneven. One thing I didn't like is that the stories very often involved a murder or some other kind of death. At times this felt forced and lent things a macabre, misanthropic vibe. But I might follow it up some time with one of Gay's full length works.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2020
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  7. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

    Winner of numerous awards a few years back, this one is written by a prominent oncologist. It feels like everyone these days is affected by cancer - directly or indirectly - but it is interesting that since it is usually a disease of old age and because lifespans were once much shorter, cancer was not always treated with the importance it now is.

    Mukherjee covers the entire history of cancer research - starting with the crude understandings and superstitions that surrounded it and progressing to the development of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, right down to emerging treatments that target specific genes. It is striking how little was known just a century ago and how quickly our understanding has grown, even if effective treatments have been slow to emerge from this. Of central import in the story is the "war on cancer" declared in the 1970s. This has eventually resulted in some success in chipping away at mortaility rates, but the goal of a cure seems to have been hopelessly naive given what we've since learned and given how limited the understanding was at the time.
    It turns out that cancer is so intimately connected with our nature and how our bodies are built - in terms of how they repair, how they grow and so forth - that it is orders of magnitude harder to destroy than any exogenous agent, such as a virus. (Which for a long time it was suspected cancer was in fact caused by.)
    The shocking role - which continues in the developing world - of the tobacco companies is covered. As are some key names in the history of oncology such as Syndey Farber and Mary Lasker, who surely deserve to be better known than they are. Front and centre too are the numerous patients that the author has dealt with. It is difficult to understand how one manages not to recoil from such suffering and become numb to it, but he manages to keep the human beings involved very much in focus as individuals.

    It's fairly long and detailed, although of course just scratching the surface in terms of the complexities involved in the science. Nonetheless it is consistently interesting and often very moving. And it holds out hope that cancer may during this century be something that is at least greatly mitigated - perhaps something one lives with - rather than a death sentence as it once was. Highly recommended.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2020
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  8. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    Jesus Before the Gospels by Bart Ehrman

    Filling in some of the gaps in Bart Ehrman's back catalogue, this seemed to have some promise.
    Ehrman notes that the gospels were written decades after Jesus was alive and that the stories they contain would have been transmitted orally before that. He sets out to examine what might have happened to the stories along the way. He stretches it out for a couple of hundred pages but there isn't really much material here to work with. Ehrman examines oral transmission in different parts of the world and studies of memory that have been concluded over the years and concludes unsurprisingly that oral traditions are unreliable, with a tendency to become distorted to reflect the interests of the individuals and communities involved.
    He then reviews some early Christian material - including Mark, John, Thomas and others with a view to analysing how this process might have affected them, which parts are likely to be reliable and which not. But there are no particularly new insights generated and it feels like he's repeating what he and others have covered a good deal elsewhere.
    It's understandable that in this field there may not be much that's new to write about so perhaps I would prefer a little more depth and will seek out some of the more advanced writings on the subject next time. This felt much too facile.
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  9. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    Long since drowned under a couple of centuries of movie versions and popular caricature, it is a pleasant surprise that a return to Shelley's original Frankenstein novel reveals a fast-moving, entertaining and deeply tragic story that thoroughly justifies its influence on the creation of entire genres of literature - including that of science fiction and horror.
    It is told - in gorgeous prose - from multiple first person perspectives including those of the monster and his creator. The monster (never actually given a name, which is part of it) is brutalised and rejected by society and turns to a killing spree. Frankenstein grows to hate him and develops an obsession to destroy him. But while taking responsibility for his uncanny creation, he seems entirely myopic of any responsibility that he might have towards him. Thus I am led to the conclusion that the tragedy suffered by the monster is the greater of the two.
    Allusions within the text are made to Milton's Satan, to Adam and to Prometheus and it cannot be denied that - as was the case with those characters - something archetypal has been captured here.
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  10. Lanzman

    Lanzman Vast, Cool and Unsympathetic Formerly Important

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    There's a pretty decent movie about Mary Shelley available on one of the streaming services right now. If it's accurate, the book is largely based on her own life and feelings of abandonment.
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  11. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Read more Agatha Christie lately...

    Crooked House. One of Christie's best-regarded "standalone" books (no Poirot or Miss Marple in this one). Well-executed whodunit where all the suspects are from the same family (the murder victim is the family's patriarch), and the detectives are a young man outsider who hopes to marry into the family and a teen girl member of the family who seems to be keeping tabs on everyone. Lots of interesting family dynamics in this one. Although I was slightly disappointed by the revelation of the murderer (I thought a truly wicked alternative plot twist was coming), the ending gets bonus points for being shocking; I imagine this totally killed back in the day. As it is, I still call it a pretty damned good read.

    The A.B.C Murders. My favorite Christie novel yet. A madman is killing people at random, in a sequence determined by the order of the alphabet: Alice Ascher in Andover, Betty Barnard in Bexhill, Carmichael Clarke in Churston, etc. The killer announces the pending murder (without specifics beyond date and city) in taunting letters to famed detective Hercule Poirot, who assists the police in finding the pattern that connects the murders and in uncovering the psychology of the person committing them. The plot device employed here (which I won't describe) is quite clever, but has been copied in several films so will probably seem less inventive to modern reader. Still, this is excellent. Excellent, page-turning entertainment.

    Cards on the Table. This is a favorite of a Christie reviewer on YouTube, so I decided to check it out. The mysterious Mr. Shaitana invites four sleuths--including renowned detective Hercule Poirot--and four others to a dinner party. The partygoers split into two groups--the sleuths are in a group together--to play bridge, watched over by Mr. Shaitana. At the end of the evening, Mr. Shaitana, sitting in plain view of the non-sleuths, has been found to have been murdered. The sleuths know that one of the four is guilty, but which one? Were they all murderers who were being threatened with exposure by Shaitana? And why does Poirot obsess over the bridge scores and the details in the room? There's a nifty fake-out to prompt the confession of Shaitain's murderer and an exciting last minute rush to prevent...something bad. Another very good book, and, like The A.B.C. Murders, one which turns greatly on Poirot's psychological analysis of the crime.

    I expect most of these Christie books I'm reading will be received very positively by me: I've chosen the top dozen or so books that reviewers (near) unanimously claim are her best. I probably won't be reading her (by near universal denunciation) turkeys like Passenger to Frankfurt or Elephants Can Remember.

    I'm working on Murder in the Vicarage (the first Miss Marple novel!) and have several more in the cue...

    My rankings thus far:
    1. The A.B.C. Murders
    2. And Then There Were None
    3. Evil Under the Sun
    4. Murder on the Orient Express
    5. Crooked House
    6. Cards on the Table
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  12. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Conversant in dark parables

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    I have read soooo much Christie

    Passenger to Frankfurt is an example of her trying a suspense/spy sort of novel, those don't generally tend to work as well as her detective stuff

    Elephants is Tommy and Tuppence, somehow they just don't work as well as her other repeated detectives, it's disappointing

    Evil Under the Sun I think I remember as solid, but if it's the one I think it is I'm surprised it's rated so highly, nothing bad to say against it though

    The others in the top five deserve to be there for sure

    I will totally baba-bombard you with more titles if you stop at 12 :P
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  13. shootER

    shootER Insubordinate...and churlish Administrator

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  14. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Books I have in my possession but have not yet read:
    The Mysterious Affair at Styles
    Five Little Pigs
    Peril at End House
    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
    Appointment with Death
    Curtain
    The Moving Finger
    A Murder is Announced
    The Body in the Library
    Sleeping Murder
    Endless Night
    The Mousetrap

    On the way:
    Death Comes as the End

    Hardcover retro edition coming next month:
    Death on the Nile

    Any must-reads I'm missing?

    If I wanted to read one Tommy and Tuppence, is there one you'd recommend (or, at least, could say is the best in that series)?
  15. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Conversant in dark parables

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    Definitely I'd have a short story collection or two. Double Sin has a couple of her best shorts. You already have The Mousetrap. I presume that's the collection and not just the play.

    The Hollow is a must.

    Towards Zero is my favorite Battle, worth a read.

    You have probably my three favorite Marples, I think you're set there.

    Parker Pyne and Mysterious Mr. Quin are worth mentioning. Both unique short story collections. Pyne is a clerk turned private consultant who sometimes solves mysteries as he fixes up the lives of ordinary people in unorthodox ways. Quin is a mysterious man who helps solve romantic crimes. I'd recommend Pyne.

    Tommy and Tuppence . . . I haven't reread them much, but I think I enjoyed the first one the best. Secret Adversary.

    Also wiki says Elephants is Poirot, that tells you how poorly I remember it despite a great cover. I was thinking of the plot of By The Pricking of My Thumbs.

    I think that plus your list actually covers Christie's best pretty well. I have a very strong fondness for the humor in Mrs. McGinty's Dead so I have to mention that book too.
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  16. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Finished another Agatha Christie novel...

    The Murder at the Vicarage. A wealthy and much-disdained magistrate in the quiet village of St. Mary Mead is murdered in the study of the vicarage and the authorities are having trouble identifying the killer. Maybe the watchful spinster Miss Marple--who seems to notice everything--can help. Very solid story, though a little overloaded with subplots, and the denouement is a bit unsatisfyingly succinct. Still, a terrific read and another Christie novel that earns its reputation.

    My rankings thus far:
    1. The A.B.C. Murders
    2. And Then There Were None
    3. Evil Under the Sun
    4. Murder on the Orient Express
    5. Crooked House
    6. The Murder at the Vicarage
    7. Cards on the Table

    Next up: the first Poirot novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
  17. Lanzman

    Lanzman Vast, Cool and Unsympathetic Formerly Important

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    Singularity Point by Brian J. Smith

    The first novel by new author Brian Smith, Singularity Point tells the story of the first interplanetary war. However, it's not what you might think. An overreaching industrialist breaks the law to build a massive AI computer. thinking it will give him a business advantage while also advancing the Crandall Foundation's goal of manned interstellar spaceflight. At first it looks as though the AI, dubbed "Ourania," is doing just that as physics and propulsion advances are immense. But it quickly develops that this AI has gone full Skynet and decided that humanity has got to go. Lots of intrigue, lots of hard SF military action, lots of contemporary jargon overlaid on space combat action. The book reads a lot like Red Storm Rising, except all the wet-navy action is replaced with space navy action. There are also notes harking back to Battlestar Galactica and even BattleTech. Despite this, character development is decent enough and anyone who's been active duty military will recognize the way military relationships are handled. Once the story fires up and gets going it's a pretty good ride.

    Took me a lot longer to read than it should have due to various real life stuff getting in the way. I just can't power through novels like I used to. This one clocks in at around 406 pages, plus some supplementary material. Pretty decent first effort, all told.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2020
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  18. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha Christie's first published novel, an intricately crafted whodunit that introduces us to Hercule Poirot. Hastings is spending the summer at a country estate with an old friend, when the family matriarch dies from evident poisoning, leaving a brood of suspects with things to hide; luckily, Hastings' old ami Poirot is on hand to help sort things out. This one is quite complex, as there is not only the usual misdirection, but simultaneously occurring misdeeds that confound the investigation. I'm not sure mere mortals could figure this one out before Poirot--at a minimum, you'd need to have a really good understanding of chemistry--but the solution is satisfying. This is another highly ranked novel, and I totally agree with that assessment.

    My rankings thus far:
    1. The A.B.C. Murders
    2. And Then There Were None
    3. Evil Under the Sun
    4. Murder on the Orient Express
    5. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
    6. Crooked House
    7. The Murder at the Vicarage
    8. Cards on the Table

    Next up: another standalone, Endless Night.
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  19. Damar

    Damar Liberal Elitist

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    How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer

    Growing up in the States I played basketball and watched a lot of American football. It wasn’t until 2004/2005 that I really got into European football (soccer). This is the same time this book was published and it drew me back to why I became interested in soccer. The author’s main premise is that while the game has become globalized, the local cultures, passions, and grudges remain dominant and integral to being a fan.

    Often times the author stretches to connect the dots, and other times he fails to connect the dots. This is not heavy reading about globalization or economic theory. But as a fan of the game this was an enjoyable read. I particularly liked the chapters about Red Star Belgrade (a team I knew nothing about) and the Rangers/Celtic rivalry.
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  20. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603 - 1714 by Mark A. Kishlansky

    There's a lot to cover in a book about the reign of the Stuart monarchs from James I to Anne, from the gunpowder plot to the the civil war, the Protectorate, restoration & Glorious Revolution. I had a fairly basic understanding of these events going into this but was hoping to round it out.

    17th century England was one of the most explosively creative societies in all of history, producing Shakespeare, Newton, Locke, Hobbes, Milton, the King James Bible and much else. Unfortunately though he includes a brief opening chapter noting this and covering some of the social background, Kishlansky rarely refers to any of it in the main narrative and instead the transformation of Tudor England into a major world power with the financial and cultural resources that would come to dominate the globe is addressed mainly in terms of the machinations of its monarchs and other political figures. As such, when in the latter part of the period, a previously perennially broke England begins to demonstrate some ability to economically and military match the French, it seems very sudden and unexplained.

    But I appreciate that this is primarily a political history, and taking it on those terms, I emerged somewhat better informed. For example, my understanding had been that (conflict with Parliament notwithtanding) after the Restoration, the King was established as a constitutional monarch. The truth seems to be that this was much more gradual, the process toward this starting before and continuing after this for a very long time. Landmarks such as the Bill of Rights were important but regarding them as decisive is an imposition of later historians.
    Other things such as the development of the political party system of Tories and Whigs and the anti-Catholic hysteria of the period are also explained quite well.
    Even so, there are also quibbles to be found in how Kishlansky treats the Civil War. Quite thorough in describing what happened, there is little explanation as to why. The proximate causes of conflict were about money and property - however I would have liked more information on the development of the gentry and the bourgeoisie - and how these gained the heft to be able to challenge the crown at all.

    From the reluctance to include much about this or about the impact of broader social development, one is left with the conclusion that there's some descendant of the "Great Man Theory" at work here, where powerful people make history and the rest of us are bystanders. Although maybe I'm just expecting too much and it might take a larger work or several to get what I'm looking for.
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  21. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    Wow. Just scrolled up and noticed this. Complete coincidence that I read the same one...
  22. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Conversant in dark parables

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    "She Stoops To Conquer" - Oliver Goldsmith

    A 1773 play that's sort of a comedy of manners as I understand the term, set in a British manor in the British countryside. The home's family, the Hardcastles, consists of a stuffy father, a credulous but opinionated mother, a couple of daughters, and the mother's son by her first husband. Mother wants one of the daughters to marry the son, neither daughter nor son want this match but pretend at kissy-face to keep her happy. This is 1773, and maybe the daughter was by a prior wife for the husband, I don't recall. Anyway, visiting today will be the father's preferred match for the other daughter, with neither she nor her prospective beau having seen each other before. Unbeknownst to anyone in the house, the beau is coming with the first daughter's preferred man, whom the parents have no idea exists but who intends to run off with her and her jewels this very night.

    The action proper begins with the two beaux asking for directions to the Hardcastle residence at the town tavern. The son, a crass drunkard with his own sense of humor, gives them the run-around before directing them to the manor, representing it as an inn from which they can set out to find the real Hardcastle home the next day. With all the misunderstandings and class differences set up, the dominoes begin to fall, with impersonations and insults and escape attempts, and most everyone has egg on their face by the time the play is over.

    I was entertained enough. I was puzzled by the intro, in which someone comes out onstage and speaks for the author, calling this a last-ditch attempt to bring the humor back into comedy. It was weird and didn't reflect well on the playwright, I thought. But Wikipedia says that comedies at this time tended to be more "sentimental" than humorous.
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  23. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Found a hardcover in new condition and ordered it.
    I got the collection and have read the first couple. Quite enjoyable, and easily readable in a single sitting. As I was reading it, I realized...this might be the inspiration for Fantasy Island. Sorta.

    I was amused when Ariadne Oliver showed up in the second story.
    Another hardcover incoming.
    Obtained.

    I figured I'd read the 5 most significant tales/collections from Christie's lesser known sleuths:
    Towards Zero (Superintendent Battle)
    Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence)
    Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective (Parker Pyne)
    The Mysterious Mr. Quin (Harley Quin)
    Sparkling Cyanide (Colonel Race)

    I'm well into Endless Night now and am enjoying it, but I'd say it's less of a page-turner than the ones I've ranked highest. Ir's among five of her most well-regarded standalones I've chosen to read:
    And Then There Were None (read)
    Crooked House (read)
    Death Comes as the End (obtained, but unread)
    Endless Night (in process)
    Ordeal by Innocent (not yet obtained)

    This plus 10 Poirots, 5 Marples, and a play should give me my fill. I just realized if I read all of these, Agatha Christie will be the author from whom I've read the most books, easily outpacing Stephen King, David Weber, and Martin Cruz Smith.
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  24. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Conversant in dark parables

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    I was wondering whether you'd pick up on her!
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  25. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Second time I've run across her; she's got a pretty big role in Cards on the Table.
  26. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Conversant in dark parables

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    I've only read Cards once, completely forgot she was in there.
  27. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Cards also has Superintendent Battle and Colonel Race (both participants at the bridge game on the fateful night).
  28. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Parker Pyne, Detective by Agatha Christie

    This collection of short stories featuring the titular Pyne, a Christie creation far less known than her legendary Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, were all quick and entertaining reads, though Pyne is only a detective (in the conventional sense) for the second half of them.

    I think I preferred the first half of the book where Pyne is more like Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island, helping unhappy people who respond to his newspaper ad find happiness, in ways they (and we) don't expect. I especially enjoyed the one tale ("The Case of the Rich Woman") that was reminiscent of Total Recall and The Game, where Pyne's "customer' is brought to doubt her own sanity and reality as she knows it.

    The last tale ("The Oracle of Delphi") was fun because it really played with the reader's expectations, though the story turns on a coincidence so astronomically unlikely I had to smile at Christie's audacity in using it.

    This one sneaked in during my read of Endless Night, and it was quick and fun so finished quickly. I wouldn't rank this collection on par with the Christie novels I've read, but it's a worthwhile diversion.

    Thanks @NAHTMMM for the suggestion!
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  29. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Conversant in dark parables

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    The rich woman and the discontented soldier are my favorites, the archaeology story probably is at the bottom just because one has to be. And the ending of the book, as you say, wow! I know what's coming and the last line gets me every time.

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  30. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    I loved it. Yes, I, too realized what was coming as soon as "Mr. Thomas" begins explaining, but it's a testament to how on-board I was that I got a big smile as I reached that last line.

    I suppose I can't begrudge Christie her coincidences. After all, she made a career out of building stories where a dozen people randomly drawn together managed to have some connection to and/or motive for killing the victim. Of course, you don't have a story if there aren't all those possible killers to weed through. I think the subversion of this trope is what makes
    such a classic.

    Not sure what's next after Endless Night (which I should finish this evening)...it's probably going to be Five Little Pigs.

    BTW, here's the Christie collection as it stands now. Books to the left are the ones I've finished, to the right ones that are coming up! I've got a few more (Marples, Poirots, Ordeal by Innocence) coming.

    PSX_20200913_181733_copy_2016x1134.jpg
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2020
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