Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Some Books

Dirty Snow - Simenon. Probably his best book. Extremely black. Takes place in WWII France and describes the response of a petty crook to the occupation. When read in conjunction with Alan Furst's books, gives another view of occupation France.

An End to Suffering; The Buddha in the World - Pankaj Mishra. Really an excellent book even if Mishra is unable to fully account for modern belief in Buddhism. It is full of personal reminisces and is complimentary to his earlier book, The Romantics. It very much confronts the misunderstanding that the West has for the East, including Buddhism. Anyone with an interest in India should read this.

A Coffin for Dimitrios - Eric Ambler. This is a spy thriller set in the 1920's. It is a little dated and it is hard to get into the mood, things have changed so much. It is historically interesting. Do we still remember that the Greeks and Turks slaughtered one another?

Visa for Avalon - Bryher. This is a very unusual book. It is, I suppose, a fable. Bryher is the pen name for a less known novelist. The setting is the takeover of England by a probable fascism. Its mood is a little like the Aerodrome by Rex Warner. What would you really do if your country was going fascist?

Saturday - Ian McEwan. McEwan writes well. Here we follow a neurosurgeon in February, 2003, a month before the Iraq War begins. On the day described, there was the big march in London. There is a lot of neurosurgery and science, described lovingly and adoringly but the most interesting bits are the asides and premonitions about the War. McEwan is a man trying hard to be a writer. I am not sure he succeeds.

To Each His Own and The Day of the Owl - Leonardo Sciascia. I am not sure why I have started reading so many books set in north India and now these set in Sicily. They really are quite excellent. Looming behind both of them is the silent evil of the Mafia. Is there no place free from people like this?

Troubles and The Singapore Grip - J.G. Farrell. I read these two books because I thought Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur was so good. The one about Singapore is probably better and gives one an incredible picture of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese at the outset of WWII. Troubles is, well, a troubled book. It is set in Ireland at the beginning of the Civil War there in the early 1920's. Being of Irish extraction (and Farrell being staunchly British) it was a little hard to take some of the patronizing. But, all in all it was an interesting read.

The Sinister Pig - Tony Hillerman. I have to face it, if I know Jim Chee is on the loose again, I'll read it. But, unfortunately, Hillerman is losing his touch. He had a formula for a while, but I think he lost it. He lived behind my boss/colleague when I lived in Albuquerque but he was a recluse. I got stopped for speeding once zooming across the Res in Arizona one dark night. It was all I could do not to say "Yes sir, Officer Chee." (Oh, Joe Leaphorn makes an appearance, too. What more could you want. I know, Janet Pete.)

Basket Case and Skinny Dip - Carl Hiaasen. Face it, the guy is good. For unadulterated (wrong choice of words) fun you can't beat him. The cool, older, burnt out guy gets the cool, saucy younger, and always smarter chick. Much mayhem along the way. South Florida crazy; you can't beat it. He mops the floor with Travis McGee. On the other hand Tim Dorsey (Florida Roadkill, Hammerhead Ranch Motel, Singray Shuffle, Triggerfish Twist, Orange Crush) comes in a close second. Serge Storms is a depraved lunatic who is totally unhinged. I'd rather Jim Chee.

Rat King, Dead Lagoon, Blood Rain, And Then You Die, Cosi Fan Tutti - Aurelio Zen Mysteries – Michael Dibdin. I have some Italian blood in me so I have been attracted to these mysteries since I first read Dead Lagoon a few years ago. Aurelio Zen, the protagonist, is a fairly interesting and complex character. There is some sex, a lot of violence, but alos a lot about Italy which interests me.

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