Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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City Boy by Herman Wouk published in 1948

I was never a boy of eleven growing up in the late '20s in the Bronx, but now I feel I had a front-row seat to the experience as eleven-year-old Herbie Bookbinder - like Edgar from E. L. Doctorow's World's Fair - provides a child-like freshness with sprinkles of adult-like perspective to his view of that world.

With Herbie, you get the childhood day-to-day: playing stick ball (Herbie is horrible at sports - as he notes, he just accepted that he'd be picked last for whatever team and in whatever sport) or begging a dime from your mom for a movie and soda. But also, you see Herbie's wise-beyond-his-years observations: he knows that talking about "The Place" (the Bookbinder Ice company - co-owned, in debt and threatened with a hostile takeover) was what animates his father or recognizing the little cheats the owner of the summer camp - that Herbie all but tricked his parents into sending him to - does to squeeze a little more out of each dollar.

Surprisingly driving the story, though, is "fat" little Herbie's growing interest in girls - most of whom he and, as he says, all eleven-year-old boys, all but, put in a class of untouchables. But to his surprise, he finds a few puzzlingly infatuating to the point of obsession. It's wanting to be with his current obsession - Lucille - that motivates Herbie to cadge summer camp from his cash-strapped parents despite Lucille's on-again-off-again callous treatment of Herbie's affections.

Wouk brings Herbie's 1928 summer-camp world alive to us as we see tightfisted owners trying to control kids and keep costs down while giving them enough fun to convince them and their parents it was all worth it. From the train ride up - singing camp songs - through the horrible meals, the morning bugle wake-ups and the oddly forced competitions, I enjoyed it as a window into the past but with a feeling of relief at not actually having to be there.

While the book is more of a slice-of-life than plot driven, the story does excitingly climax as lazy Herbie - inspired to action in a last desperate attempt to regain Lucille's affections, now directed at the camp's sports hero - concocts a crazy scheme to build an elaborate ride for the camp's annual fair. Herbie's beyond-his-years machinations include taking an unchaperoned trip to New York to execute on a complex crime scheme for an eleven year old trying to obtain money to build the fair's ride. It ends in some timeless lessons about right and wrong and - most importantly - learning about the grey of adult-world morals. It's all a bit nuts, but at that point, you're just along for the trip and rooting for the little "fat" kid to succeed.

And while the plot will surprisingly hold you, for us today - and I'd bet for Wouk's 1948 audience, also - the book is a time capsule where early radio shows, empty lots in the Bronx for kids to play, the aforementioned ice company, ten-cent chocolate "Frappes" and a harsh discipline in school that is stunning (at least to us today) provides an, overall, fun and enlightening window into an earlier time. Kids' worlds were never the "safe" or "innocent" places we sometimes believe they were - Herbie sees plenty of adult deceptions, and worries, and failings - but there was much more of a separation between the two worlds than we have today.

This was Wouk's second novel and, while not up there with his The Caine Mutiny or The Winds of War timeless bestsellers, for a trip back to childhood and back to the 1920s, it's held up very well.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Just recently finished reading David Baldacci's End Game, a book in his Will Robie Series. As some may recall, Will Robie and Jessica Reel are premiere government assassins employed by the CIA. In this present yarn they find themselves in Eastern Colorado searching for their first line supervisor, Blue Man, who seems to have disappeared on a vacation gone bad. They find themselves collaborating with an over sexed female sheriff and an undercover FBI agent as they battle against Neo Nazis, white supremacists, Hillbilly outlaws in their attempts to find Blue Man. Who would have known they would be battling to the death against a mad Cal Tech Chemist named Fitzsimmons who has converted an abandoned Atlas missile launch facility into perhaps the largest illicit and synthetic drug manufacturing operation in the world. In their final efforts to deal with Fitzsimmons and as his drug manufacturing operation self destructs around them, some might conclude..."thank gawd for the Israelis!" Read the book...it's good. :crazy:
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Build-Up Boys by Jeremy Kirk (a pen name for Richard Powell) originally published in 1951

Somewhere along the way, TV developed the formula for a good type of show: have ridiculously smart and pretty people work at a high level in some insanely competitive field (legal, medicine, law enforcement) by creating and executing incredibly complex long-term strategies for personal or professional gain while never missing an obscure piece of evidence or detail as they engage in speed dialogue with each other and their adversaries where no super-smart quip is ever missed, long philosophical speeches are spit out extemporaneously and no one ever wishes they had said the smart thing later as it's always said at the time.

Oh, and all these good-looking people have sex with each other if their show runs long enough. "The Practice" might have been the first one of these shows that I ever saw, but there are many shows like it as it's a proven formula that's kept series like Grey's Anatomygoing for seventy five seasons.

The only problem is if they don't humanize the characters - don't give them faults and traits we recognize in ourselves and others, don't have them fail at big and small things now and then and act stupid and petty at times - after a season or two (or less), the shows can feel soulless. This is why so many of those characters are given drug or alcohol addictions or the inability to sustain loving relationships as, otherwise, they just become big, boring successful brains sitting on the shoulders of very attractive people.

Okay, that's a long TV-inspired introduction to a book from 1951 when most of TV was, well, not good at all other than, for us today, in a cultural curio way. But this book anticipated all those "smart" shows that were coming decades later. In The Build-Up Boys, we see a handsome public relations man, Clint Lortimer, take an obscure and insecure head of a small dairy company and turn him into a "Captain of Industry" in charge of one of the largest dairy consortiums in the country who, now, is being considered to lead a major government war-recovery program.

Back then, public relations was seen as an offshoot of advertising where you "built up" a client by creating an incredible public image for him or her, while also boosting his or her self confidence. Think of it as combining the flummery of advertising with the cynicism of false flattery. It's all that, but as we saw in Mad Men, it's also a cutthroat business that - when fictionalized, as it is here - has super-smart people hyper competing ruthlessly for clients, copy, connections and power.

Clint jousts with both his ex-boss - an "old pro" who would sooner give up one of his children than an account and who, effectively, exiles Clint from New York (where "anyone who is anyone works") - and his new boss - a (sexually smoldering) middling female ad exec whom Clint builds-up (sleeps with) and then can't control. Along the way, newspaper stories are fabricated (as Clint schmoozes or seduces women reporters), promotional contests are created out of whole cloth and congressional appearances are turned into victories through back-dated stock certificates and brazen lies.

It all happens because the "winners" create incredibly sophisticated long-term strategies that - contrary to the real world - work most of the time. Simultaneously, they engage in rapid-fire conversation that never misses a beat as every brickbat that could be said is while some life-philosophy is mixed in on the fly - and, of course, they all sleep with each other.

In the end, the characters - Clint, his old and new boss and the female reporter he seduced (discarded and brought back, who, then, turned the tables on him) - are, like the reader, exhausted. Yes, similarly to the lead character from the TV show House, these people live for "the game," but occasionally come up for air to see that their lives are missing something - anything - truly soul satisfying. But these brief moment of personal reflection are not enough to make them fully humanized / to make them regular people with faults and foibles / to make them three-dimensional characters.

It's a quick enough read that it's almost, but not quite, over before you end up hating all of them - usually something that leaves me cold to a book. But like the TV shows noted earlier, it is an, overall, entertaining ride and, for us today, interesting to see as an antecedent to an entire genre of TV shows. And if you hate business - especially advertising and public relations - and politicians, you'll feel right at home.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Lady Be Good by Amber Brock, published 2018

A friend passed this one on to me as a "good beach read with some fun '50s time travel to New York, Miami and Cuba," (that hooked me) and, to be fair, that's not a bad description as it is a reasonable page turner that's not challenging, but isn't boring either. And, yes, I've fallen behind on my "beach reads;" hence, the January start date.

The young and pretty daughter - Kitty Tessler - of a self-made hotel magnate partakes in the social life of New York City while looking for a "from the best of families" society husband to scrub clean her Russian immigrant roots so that she can join her - in her mind - proper place at the top of '50s New York's social strata.

Along the way, she tries to break up her best friend's engagement to a cheating, but "from one of those top families," boyfriend while batting away her father's desire to marry her off to his first-generation-Russian hotel manager - a good man lacking any of the polish or social cachet our heroine desires - so that his daughter "will be set for life with a decent man who can also oversee her business interests when he passes."

It's fluffy and saponaceous enough for a beach read, the trouble is, as with so many writers today, the author is so anxious to aver her modern political beliefs in the middle of her period novel that she destroy both the story and its period verisimilitude.

When we meet Kitty, she is smart, spoiled and selfish in an unaware way, conniving in an aware way and ignorant of - to softly indifferent to - the prejudices of the time: It's hard to be sensitive to others when you're plotting a massive social coup. But then Kitty meets a couple of the band members - a Cuban singer, Sebastian, and Jewish trumpet player, Max - at one of her father's hotel's clubs and continues to intersect with their lives on a trip to Miami and, then, Cuba. There, a soft romance develops between Kitty and Max that Kitty allows as a safe indulgence ("nothing will come of it") and because it fits into her scheme to dissuade her father's husband candidate - the burly Russian.

All's fun and good with the story so far - with some neat '50s details popping up along the way - but, then, shallow and narcissistic Kitty morphs into a super-modern and "woke" woman when her selfishness destroys both her best friendship and her relationship with Max. In the blink of an eye, she's apologizing to everyone, has given up her goal of social conquest, is demurely trying to get Max back (the "Jewish thing" no long matters to her) and is joining her dad at work where she miraculously has a preternatural talent for business.

Oh, and this is my favorite one, in a rage against some obnoxious club patrons who insult Sebastian's ethnicity, she jumps into a fight and smashes a chair over the back of one of the antagonists. A silly tick of modern TV and movies is having 120-ish pound, small-frame women beat up over-six-feet tall, 200-plus pound men in fist fights (I'm sure it's happened once in the history of the world, but come on). Here at least, slim Kitty, who's never thrown a punch in her life, uses a chair, but still.

So, a good beach read that could have shown Kitty becoming realistically more enlightened in a way consistent with the period; instead, transmogrifies in a virtue-signaling exercise for the author willing to burn down any realism in her fun story in an embarrassment of political pieties.

And here's the thing - I shared ninety-plus percent of the author's views; but that's besides the point as 1950s' women didn't (ever and spontaneously) change into modern heroines with out-sized physical strength whose morals and values perfectly align to 2018's ideals. What a better story it would have been had Kitty grown - via experience and embarrassment, as real people do - into an imperfect '50s-style feminist (plenty existed), but that, I guess, wouldn't have been as satisfying to the desperate-to-score-modern-political-points author.
 

Oldsarge

Moderator and Bon Vivant
Now that I have perfected sourdough pancakes for one person (and a poodle) I am breaking out The Italian Baker and investigate the possibilities of long sponge sourdough bread. Then I'll go back to Land of Rice and Fish.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Our local book clubs selection for this month is Kristan Hannah's "The Great Alone," a title that stands as a very accurate representation of life in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness. The Allbright family; mother, father and pre-teen daughter Leni, emigrate from Seattle to The great Alaskan Wilderness to escape the realities of a toxic love relationship between the two adults and the reluctant acquiescence of an 11 year old child. It is a sick and twisted effort to escape the societal condemnation of a violent drunk, allegedly suffering from chronic alcoholism and a severe case of PTSD. and the wife and child who serve as his victims. Interestingly, in the isolation of the Alaskan wilderness, when the domestic violence reaches it's zenith and it appears that Leni, now a 17 year old, will be beaten to death by her drunk and anger crazed old man, Mama grows a set and takes a hunting rifle, putting two rounds into the human monster she calls her soul mate and Leni calls dad.

While most might conclude the actions of mom to be in self defense and an effort to save her young daughter from being beaten to death, no one could consider what happened next to be legal, as they drug dads lifeless body out to the sled attached to a snow machine, added six 80 pound bear traps and hauled the body out to the middle of the lake. After drilling a hole in the ice with an auger , then enlarging same with a chainsaw, they clamped the bear traps on the body and dropped it through the ice to forever conceal it. Then it was time to enlist the aid of helpful neighbors to engineer their escape from Alaska and hide for the next decade from the authorities that were assuming dear old dad had killed the family in a drunken rage and gone into hiding. After Mom, a heavy smoker, dies of lung cancer, Leni sees fit to return to Alaska and turn herself in. I won't tell you how it happens, but it all works out and Leni, her (eventual) three children and her beloved husband Michael live long and happy lives in a small town, nestled in the wilderness of Alaska! It is a great read...so read it! ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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Forsaking All Others A Novel in Verse by Alice Duer Miller published in 1931

I avoid reading verse for the same reason I avoid eating fish, while it can occasionally be wonderful, most of the time it has an off-putting smell and an offensive taste.

Okay, that's a harsh assessment of poetry/verse (and maybe, even, of fish) and not really fair, as I love some poems so much that I still think about them decades after I first read them (A Great Hope Fell by Dickinson and the Tomorrow and Tomorrow... soliloquy by Shakespeare are two). But those were "picked out" for me by the wobbly 1970's educational system of Central New Jersey; on my own, I just don't read poetry to find the rare good-tasting piece of fish.

So it was with trepidation that I opened Alice Duer Miller's Forsaking All Others A Novel in Verse. Heck, it was only because one of her novels was made into a B-movie I enjoyed (And One was Beautiful) that I even looked her work up - note the lowbrow way that I found myself in highbrow verse.

And here's where I'm supposed to tell you how the verse in this quite good - and very short - novel spoke to me / made me more of a fan of verse / blah, blah, blah - but, well, while the rhyming was neat and I occasionally fell into the rhythm, in truth, I enjoyed the novel for the story with the verse serving as an all but ignored sideshow. You can take the boy out of Jersey, but....

That said, it is a darn good story about a man, his wife and the woman with whom he has an affair. The characters are drawn in an almost The Twilight Zone manner where only necessary details of their lives are given: he's older (50s, my guess), New York successful and handsome; the wife is doughy, dowdy and devoted in a "first wife" way; and the mistress is youngish, but not for a single woman of that time (she's in her early 30s in, about, 1930 when the novel takes place), striking in appearance and embraces her role as mistress until she kinda doesn't.

To be sure, they all embrace their roles early on: the man genuinely avoids the mistress-to-be as he's been down this path before and doesn't want to hurt his suffering wife again; the wife knows it's going to happen (from the second she sees her husband and the woman meet) and is almost relieved when it starts; and the mistress is, well, hell bent on making it happen as she - unusual for the time - acknowledges her feral physical desire for the man and, call it what it is, stalks him.

The affair starts and sails along as expected - secret mid-day rendezvous, weekend romps when he's "away on business," fun gifts, little inside jokes, plenty of slap and tickle - while the wife suffers in silence. Yes, you want her to stand up and fight or leave or do something, but she is not a stand-up-and-fight-or-leave-or-do-something wife; she's been down this path before and believes her best strategy is to ignore it and let it burn out as, then, he'll return to her.

And she's not wrong until she is. After the early perfect, the seams in the affair start to pull apart a bit. When one or the other breaks an assignation, the ugly head of jealously rears up followed by recriminations, anger, explanations, forgiveness and resumption, but with a little less joy each time. Just when it looks as if the affair is about to wind down or, conversely, blow up the marriage - yup, it could either way - a surprising third path appears and changes everything. That I'll leave for those who want to read it.

It didn't change my opinion about verse, nor is it really a novel - a long short story à la The Saturday Evening Post is more accurate - but it is an interesting approach to, and twist on, the sadly timeless story of married boy meets single girl while wife suffers.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
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Forsaking All Others A Novel in Verse by Alice Duer Miller published in 1931

I avoid reading verse for the same reason I avoid eating fish, while it can occasionally be wonderful, most of the time it has an off-putting smell and an offensive taste.

Okay, that's a harsh assessment of poetry/verse (and maybe, even, of fish) and not really fair, as I love some poems so much that I still think about them decades after I first read them (A Great Hope Fell by Dickinson and the Tomorrow and Tomorrow... soliloquy by Shakespeare are two). But those were "picked out" for me by the wobbly 1970's educational system of Central New Jersey; on my own, I just don't read poetry to find the rare good-tasting piece of fish.

So it was with trepidation that I opened Alice Duer Miller's Forsaking All Others A Novel in Verse. Heck, it was only because one of her novels was made into a B-movie I enjoyed (And One was Beautiful) that I even looked her work up - note the lowbrow way that I found myself in highbrow verse.

And here's where I'm supposed to tell you how the verse in this quite good - and very short - novel spoke to me / made me more of a fan of verse / blah, blah, blah - but, well, while the rhyming was neat and I occasionally fell into the rhythm, in truth, I enjoyed the novel for the story with the verse serving as an all but ignored sideshow. You can take the boy out of Jersey, but....

That said, it is a darn good story about a man, his wife and the woman with whom he has an affair. The characters are drawn in an almost The Twilight Zone manner where only necessary details of their lives are given: he's older (50s, my guess), New York successful and handsome; the wife is doughy, dowdy and devoted in a "first wife" way; and the mistress is youngish, but not for a single woman of that time (she's in her early 30s in, about, 1930 when the novel takes place), striking in appearance and embraces her role as mistress until she kinda doesn't.

To be sure, they all embrace their roles early on: the man genuinely avoids the mistress-to-be as he's been down this path before and doesn't want to hurt his suffering wife again; the wife knows it's going to happen (from the second she sees her husband and the woman meet) and is almost relieved when it starts; and the mistress is, well, hell bent on making it happen as she - unusual for the time - acknowledges her feral physical desire for the man and, call it what it is, stalks him.

The affair starts and sails along as expected - secret mid-day rendezvous, weekend romps when he's "away on business," fun gifts, little inside jokes, plenty of slap and tickle - while the wife suffers in silence. Yes, you want her to stand up and fight or leave or do something, but she is not a stand-up-and-fight-or-leave-or-do-something wife; she's been down this path before and believes her best strategy is to ignore it and let it burn out as, then, he'll return to her.

And she's not wrong until she is. After the early perfect, the seams in the affair start to pull apart a bit. When one or the other breaks an assignation, the ugly head of jealously rears up followed by recriminations, anger, explanations, forgiveness and resumption, but with a little less joy each time. Just when it looks as if the affair is about to wind down or, conversely, blow up the marriage - yup, it could either way - a surprising third path appears and changes everything. That I'll leave for those who want to read it.

It didn't change my opinion about verse, nor is it really a novel - a long short story à la The Saturday Evening Post is more accurate - but it is an interesting approach to, and twist on, the sadly timeless story of married boy meets single girl while wife suffers.
Poetry...an intriguing way to script a novel! How on earth did you happen to discover this literary treasure? I suspect I will be on the hunt to discover a local copy and give this one a read. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Poetry...an intriguing way to script a novel! How on earth did you happen to discover this literary treasure? I suspect I will be on the hunt to discover a local copy and give this one a read. ;)
I backed into it by accident only because I liked the movie "And One Was Beautiful." So, I looked it up on IMDB.com and found out that the author of the novel that the movie was based on is Alice Duer Miller. After that, it was all Googling and then to one of my favorite old book sites:


I just did a search for the book there (use this link ⇩):


Plenty of good copies available for less than $10.

Take a look at this copy ⇩ ($8.89 all in with shipping):


I've been buying books from ABE for (wild guess) about two decades now and have almost never been disappointed with the condition of the book versus its description - 99% of the time, the description is accurate.

Good luck - it's a quick but interesting read.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
I backed into it by accident only because I liked the movie "And One Was Beautiful." So, I looked it up on IMDB.com and found out that the author of the novel that the movie was based on is Alice Duer Miller. After that, it was all Googling and then to one of my favorite old book sites:


I just did a search for the book there (use this link ⇩):


Plenty of good copies available for less than $10.

Take a look at this copy ⇩ ($8.89 all in with shipping):


I've been buying books from ABE for (wild guess) about two decades now and have almost never been disappointed with the condition of the book versus its description - 99% of the time, the description is accurate.

Good luck - it's a quick but interesting read.
Thanks for the leads...that will save me a lot of looking and the prices are pleasantly reasonable. I willl provide a report after reading the book! Take care and have a great day.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Two days back I finished reading David Baldacci's novel, The Hit, another mission for CIA assassin's Will Robie and Jessica Reel. Interestingly, in this present yarn, Will Robie is assigned to take out Jessica Reel, a fellow CIA assassin who has apparently gone rogue. Two senior CIA managers have been killed by a supremely skilled assassin and Reel is the apparent suspect. Robie has his doubts and elects not to pull the trigger when he has her in his gun sights and elects to work with her on something bigger than the obvious!

As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that there is a Deep State conspiracy to eliminate a litany of world leaders, in the absence of sanction and in a misguided effort to change the balance of power around the globe, for the foreseeable future. The two gentlemen taken out by Agent Reel were just two of what turned out to be a collection of eight traitors, including the man who sits at the left hand of the President of the United States, acting more in their own, rather than in the State's best interests. Thank gawd, Will Robie and Jessica Reel saved our collective posteriors once again! A fast and excellent read...Baldacci never disappoints. ;)
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
This past weekend I read David Baldacci's The Innocent, the Will Robie yarn published by Baldacci just prior to The Hit. Robie, just back from an assignment to kill a terrorist who is an oil rich distant relative of the Saudi Royal family, is assigned to carry out the assassination of a reported traitor within the US Government. After he stands at the foot of the bed of this sleeping alleged traitor and realizing the facts are not falling into alignment, he refuses to take the shot and in that instance a back-up shooter takes the shot and Will Robi, the hunter, becomes the hunted. Teaming up with a 14 year old, who has been orphaned by the assassins targeting Robie and Super FBI Agent Julie Vance, he manages to stay one step, or should that be one gun shot. ahead of the bad guys , as one by one they wipe out an entire squad of Army Gulf War veterans. However, Robie, as he always does, unravels the mystery of the subterfuge and brings the bad guys to heel! A good read, I slept well last night and so will you...read the book. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
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The Hucksters by Fred Wakeman published in 1946

"My Theory on making friends," Vic said, "I am a man of many friends. They get me railroad reservations, hotel rooms, steak, scotch, all sorts of friendly things. But is it because of my personalty? Because they like me? No, I just give them money. The cleanest, simplest basis of friendship you can find."

And with that early cynical quote from Vic Norman, a senior advertising account executive, The Hucksters is off and running: a book that can narrowly be seen as an indictment of the advertising and radio businesses in the mid 1940s. But it can also be seen as an indictment of all business; however, that's only on the surface, as this is also the story of a flawed Ayn Rand character trying to find himself spiritually who discovers he is in the wrong business.

It's 1945 and Vic is a thirty-five-year-old bachelor and returning desk-jockey war vet trying to reestablish himself in the advertising business after his time in Washington and overseas (all far from the front). Broke, but confident, he talks himself into a senior role at a thriving advertising partnership as the account executive for its principal account, "Beautee Soap" owned and actively managed by the tyrannical (and wonderfully named) Evan Llewellyn Evans.

Evans wields his huge radio-sponsoring and advertising-buying dollars as a massive hammer that he smashes down on anything and anyone in his way or anyone who simply bothers him. The quick-and-dirty is that Vic's firm needs Evans' business to thrive; Evans knows this and uses it to hammer Vic to give him all his attention and to twist and shape the radio shows he sponsors to his whims. Evans is part Ayn Rand villain - he takes pleasure in torturing those whom depend on his business - and part carnival barker who believes sales pitches are best if loud and grating.

Nothing here about advertising or radio is pretty - the sponsors (like Evans) support the programs; the advertising companies, effectively, act as producers creating both the shows and the commercials supporting the shows to meet the desires of the sponsors; and everyone in it - including all the Hollywood writers, actors, directors and talent agents - make a lot of money, but hate it as they believe they are peddling pablum to the masses.

But here's the thing - author Wakeman, through Vic, tries to convince us that this is all sinister, but is it? The goal of the sponsor, the advertising agency and the Hollywood talent is to get the highest "Hooper" ratings (think Nielson ratings) for their shows, meaning to get the most people possible to listen to those shows. So, the goal is to please the most people. Is that bad? Or is it elitist arrogance that looks down on shows that "the masses" like because everyone involved believes his or her taste in entertainment is "better," is more "highbrow," is more "intellectual?" A narcissistic system effectively devotes itself to creating shows that it hates, but a large number of people enjoy.

In creating these shows and commercials for Beautee Soap, Vic navigates his way with Evans early by, like a Randian hero, being straight with Evans and telling him when he disagrees with him or when he thinks Evans has a bad idea. Evans, use to a surround of sycophants, is initial amused and bemused by Vic - a feeling boosted by Vic's early Beautee Soap campaign successes - but it all feels tenuous as even Vic knows you can't play it straight with Evans all the time as Evans' ego couldn't take it.

Vic tries to decide how much flattery he can tolerate doling out and still look in the mirror (Howard Roark in Rand's The Fountainhead quit a career in architecture to work in a stone quarry when he hit his limit). While doing so, Vic also tries to reshape his love life from casual sex (yup, forget '40s movies, in '40s books, people have causal sex and handsome Vic gets more than his share) to a serious relationship.

But here too, Vic draws a hard assignment as - on a train trip to Hollywood - he meets a beautiful married woman (Katherine) with two children and a husband away at war. They form a quick, platonic bond, but with plenty of sexual verve pinging between them. At the same time that Katherine is making it clear that no hanky-panky is going to happen, Vic is swatting away the sexual advances of a young attractive woman on the train and, back in New York, the "I want to get married" lament of one of his regular dalliances.

Once in Hollywood - there to sign a second-rate talent that Evans wants - everything heats up for Vic. Vic knows that Evans' choice for the star of the new show will not work; so, while trying to put the pieces of the show together, Vic also tries to find a way to get Evans to cancel the show, but of course, that idea has to appear to Evans to be all his. Simultaneously, Vic - who contrives to be at the same hotel as Katherine and her kids - continues his soft romancing until it heats up; which means, Vic ends up sleeping with a married woman whose husband is away at war. They both know it's wrong, but the heart and libido want, what the heart and libido want.

Of course, in an Ayn Rand novel - Vic just tells Evans the star won't work and he also doesn't sleep with the married woman - well, maybe he would have slept with the married woman as Rand liked her sex and there was plenty of extra marital funny business, even between the heroes, in her novels. However, in The Hucksters, the denouement of the two threads in Vic's life - Evans and Katherine - is more complicated than in a black-and-white morality tale, but it holds your attention in this page-turner right to the end.

And here's the thing about that opening quote on money and friendship - Vic doesn't believe a word of it. Here's Vic on what really means something to him [emphasis is mine in bold]:

That was one good thing about New York business - at least the bluechip, Wall Street kind of people the the big advertising agencies dealt with. There was a tradition and an ethic in their world of mass production and mass selling. When a man gave you the nod, that was it. The contracts could come later. Not that these well-bred men could not clip you as hard, or harder, than the sharp ones. But the wouldn't renege, once they gave you the nod. Old Man Evans spoke for them when he told Vic, 'A contract is a contract. A man's word is his word. That's how Beautee Soap Company operates. It's not that way with talent and their agents. A contract, or a spoken pledge, is something they try to weasel out of the minute they find it not to their liking.'

A man who believes that, is not a man who believes money buys friendships; that is a complex man living in a messy world trying to hold himself up to a Randian ideal. That is a man who wants to live in a world of "your word is your bond" and "your reputation is everything." Rand saw money as nothing more than a symbol of value whose value came from personal integrity, talent and effort - not some cynical view of everything being "for sale."

Vic grows into understanding himself as, essentially, wanting to be a Randian hero in a not-Radian world, which is much harder than being a fictional hero in a Rand novel. So, for Vic, no more meaningless sex with women looking for him to boost their careers or to cash out; no more pandering to small men with big egos; no more cynical meaninglessness, period - but what is next for Vic? He now has his personal compass set to true north - a hard step in and of itself - but as the novel closes, he's just starting his new journey.

One final thing (if anyone has read this far), author Wakeman's description, through Vic, of the feel and atmosphere of the 20th Century Limited and the Super Chief (that period's go-to luxury train combo for cross-country travelers) - the way the train's gentle rocking and tilting and numerous sounds and noises affects one's circadian rhythms and emotions, and the way the environment/ambiance of a train changes from car to car and as day turns to night - surpasses all the "travel writer" paeans to train travel that this rail fan has read. Which proves something I've always felt - most "travel writers" (not all) are "travel writers" because their writing abilities are limited.

N.B. The titillating blurb on the book's cover (at top) isn't subtle, but it isn't wrong, as a lot of the "bom chicka wah wah" from the book - Vic and Katherine basically spend a long weekend going at it (she fobs the kids off to a maid as they hightail it off to a hotel) - is expurgated from the movie. Unfortunately, this diminishes the movie as the story loses some of its logic and consistency without it. Thoughts on the movie here (second one down): #293
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Newt Gingrich, the 50th Speaker of the House of Representatives, a male Republican version of Nancy Pelosi, has never allowed much moss to grow under his vocational moccasins. A long time politition, a historian, a college professor, a keystone speaker of note and now an author, Newt collaborated with Jounnalist Pete Earley to write a novel, titled Treason. The book is an arguably spell binding yarn about international and domestic terrorism in this beloved Country we call home. An Islamic extremist bad guy calling himself "The falcon," is orchestrating acts of domestic terrorism in the US of A, through the efforts of another Islamic extremist Jihadist calling himself Viper, who is a highly placed mole in the the DC political apparatus. Attempts are made on the Presidents life, The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff takes a shot to the head in an assassination attempt, eight young school girls and two instructors in a ritzy Virginia private school are murdered and two other girls , one the daughter of a congressman and the other the ward of a distinguished, highly decorated female member of our military, are kidnapped and will be murdered unless the USA agrees to release 100+ Islamic Terrorists from GITMO.

Newt Gingrich is one who understands our Federal Government and has a solid understanding of International and Domestic Terrorism and that understanding shows through in the telling of his first novel. The book will secure your attention and hold it firmly from the first to the last pages. It is a good read! ;)
 

Big T

Senior Member
Newt Gingrich, the 50th Speaker of the House of Representatives, a male Republican version of Nancy Pelosi, has never allowed much moss to grow under his vocational moccasins. A long time politition, a historian, a college professor, a keystone speaker of note and now an author, Newt collaborated with Jounnalist Pete Earley to write a novel, titled Treason. The book is an arguably spell binding yarn about international and domestic terrorism in this beloved Country we call home. An Islamic extremist bad guy calling himself "The falcon," is orchestrating acts of domestic terrorism in the US of A, through the efforts of another Islamic extremist Jihadist calling himself Viper, who is a highly placed mole in the the DC political apparatus. Attempts are made on the Presidents life, The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff takes a shot to the head in an assassination attempt, eight young school girls and two instructors in a ritzy Virginia private school are murdered and two other girls , one the daughter of a congressman and the other the ward of a distinguished, highly decorated female member of our military, are kidnapped and will be murdered unless the USA agrees to release 100+ Islamic Terrorists from GITMO.

Newt Gingrich is one who understands our Federal Government and has a solid understanding of International and Domestic Terrorism and that understanding shows through in the telling of his first novel. The book will secure your attention and hold it firmly from the first to the last pages. It is a good read! ;)
Newt wrote a series of "what if" books on the Civil War-all excellent reads. Anyhow, the point of my reply was that I met Newt about 15 years or so ago, and had a brief, but very engaging discussion (more a lecture!) with/from him, concerning politics. My view was that of a conservative Republican, and I made a generalized statement against Democrats. Newt proceeded to lecture me about the absolute need for a two-party system in this country, along with respect between the parties.
 
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