Whats everyone reading now and/or read lately

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 56554
Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow

This E. L. Doctorow effort is kinda sorta a trip through the first-three quarters of the 20th century seen through the eyes of two reclusive and wealthy brothers - one blind, who narrates, and one a WWI veteran with damaged lungs and a damaged psyche owing to enduring a gas attack in the trenches.

Homer and Langley Collyer are the sons of a well-to-do and socially prominent physician, but the loss of sight for teenage Homer, the aforementioned WWI scars for Langley and the early death of their parents left these two boys adrift and alienated in the world. Had they not inherited sufficient funds to free them from work, reality might have forced a normalcy on them, but instead, these two examples of the broken idle rich became, over time, quasi-reclusive hoarders.

From their Fifth Avenue mansion, we see these young men partake in the speakeasy party culture of the twenties, even meeting an up-and-coming gangster who rewards their friendship with a gift of champagne and hookers for the evening. The gifts, despite some compunction, were accepted. Blind Homer, in particular, deeply enjoyed the prostitute as he did his first sexual experience, years earlier, with the family's Irish maid.

During the Depression of the thirties, the boys see the labor protests and encampments of homeless men living in Central Park right outside their mansion's front door. After that, it's on to World War II where Homer, who has made a remarkable adjustment to his blindness, feels his disability greatly for one of the first times as he can make no contribution to the war effort. Conversely, his brother's always-present bitterness toward the world grows with the onset of another global war.

After the war, whose end provides hoarder Langley with an opportunity to stuff the house full of military surplus, the fifties finds the boys more isolated. In the funniest scene in the novel, these two oddballs become hostages to the gift-giving mobster of the twenties when he uses their house, by force, as a hideout for several days while he recovers from a bullet wound received in a failed hit attempt. After a day or so, the gangsters stop guarding the boys as they realize these nutjobs are no threat to them, so everyone goes about their days as if the mobsters and Collyer brothers just happen to be living together.

With Langley's hoarding increasing - he gets on jags for everything from typewriters to art supplies to a Model T and, always, newspapers - and with their bill paying further in arrears - owing to some quirky principle, not because of lack of funds - the house deteriorates to a state many would find unlivable. But the boys persevere into the sixties, even taking in several hippies during the Summer of Love in a quirky moment of Roaring Twenties outcasts meet Flower Power children.

After a sexual encounter for Homer with one of the free-love young-women guests, the coming cold weather sees the departure of their hippie friends.Then, it's the seventies, a further decline in the house, especially when the power and water are cut off as the boys continue to refuse, on principle, to pay their bills. A brief period of unwanted media notoriety follows, then finally, the inevitable passing of the brothers.

So what is it all about? On one level, as noted, it's a trip through the 20th century as seen through the eyes of two outcasts who are less-naive Forrest Gumps. It can also be seen as broken people being the ones who see the insanity of the world, but there's also a cheapness to this sentiment as we all are, for example, against war and hate to see young men (and women, today) die in battle, but sentiment won't stop the Hitlers and Stalins of the world.

More narrowly, it's a contrast of a man damaged by failing genes causing a loss of sight being more normal than his brother who was damaged physically and mentally in war. While it appears Langley is taking care of his blind brother, one feels blind Homer could have found a more-normal place in the world - a job (he's a talented pianist) and wife would have made him happy - but he knew his brother needed to take care of him. So, counterintuitively, it is the war-damaged brother who was emotionally dependent on the blind brother.

Maybe it's about hoarders as the junk collectors of our culture - or some such college-term-paper stuff. Or perhaps it simply adds up to a commentary on the absurdity of life. Doctorow is a talented enough author to pull this peculiar novel off, but he's written much better books.

I'll put this one on the list to be read, but it's going to be a bit down on the list! Got a lot of good books waiting on the bookshelves and calling my name...I can't believe I have five Baldacci books I have yet to read? In any event, thanks for another great and persuasive review. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I'll put this one on the list to be read, but it's going to be a bit down on the list! Got a lot of good books waiting on the bookshelves and calling my name...I can't believe I have five Baldacci books I have yet to read? In any event, thanks for another great and persuasive review. ;)

It's a peculiar book. I did enjoy it, but I get that it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. No reason to rush to read.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
9780593318232.jpg

Trio by William Boyd published in 2021

I make an effort to read a few newly published books each year as my lean is to older fiction, but I don't want to lose touch with the current vibe of publishing. Since William Boyd is one of my regular authors, this one was an easy choice.

The reviews and jacket snippets of Trio, which I skimmed to get a feel, but tried not to read in detail as I like to form my own opinion, billed this one as a trip back to Swinging '60s London seen through the interconnected lives of a movie producer, film star and novelist.

On the surface, sure it is, but otherwise, not really. The title is a more-accurate giveaway as the book comprises three character studies of the aforementioned producer, actress and writer whose lives overlap, but only in a meaningful way a few times.

Trio should have been broken into three novelettes, one for each character, where we see the interconnections in the separate novelettes in a cool, "ah, I get it way," versus one book where we expect a more integrated tale. But "A Study of Three Characters" would probably sell less books than a "Rollicking Romp through Swinging '60s London" (which it, pretty much, isn't), so we got a book and not three novelettes.

A late middle-aged film producer, Kyle Talbot, a conventional family man on the surface, lives a double life as a gay (maybe bi-sexual) man who maintains a "photography studio" for his separate life. Through him, we see how late-sixties England is adjusting to the end of the sodomy and indecency laws as gay bars open up and homosexuals begin to come out in the open.

We also see Talbot's struggles to raise the money for the movie he's making - a very of-the-moment '60s-crazy-drug-trip-metaphor film - and then deal with all the problems and ego clashes that come up during filming. This also introduces us to the second of the trio, young, lithe, pretty American film star Anny Viklund.

Viklund seems to have it all - looks, wealth, a rock-star boyfriend and a successful career - but no one in this book is close to whom they appear to be on the surface. Viklund is also an unreliable narrator of her life as we eventually learn, contrary to her telling, that her casual attitude masks an odd mix of radical sixties politics and drug use that leads her, as happened in that era, down a very dangerous legal road.

The last of our trio is the film director's wife, Elfrida Wing, who is all but unconnected to the main story. A former successful novelist, she hides her writer's block to herself with an impressively masked but devastating alcoholism. Funny at first as she tells it - vodka in her morning orange juice, "reinforcing" flasks always at hand and buried empty bottles - her descent into crippling alcoholism is frightening when we see she, too, has been lying to us all along.

Talbot, Viklund and Wing are all interesting characters with engaging story arcs that reflect the madness, social change, increasing personal freedom, extreme politics and excessive drug use of the period. They just don't come together in a particularly well-integrated narrative, which leaves the book feeling like less than the sum of its parts.

It's still an enjoyable effort by William Boyd who has always been more of a character-than-plot-driven author. For modern fiction, he, refreshingly, doesn't twist himself into knots trying to pay homage to every au courant political fetish. He has more of a post-'60s/pre-'90s view of individual freedom and responsibility; hence, every personal problem isn't the result of some victim-privilege construct that absolves almost everyone, except those deemed "privileged," of blame.

If you're new to Boyd, I'd recommended some of his earlier works first, but if you're a fan, Trio is a good, quick read with some fun '60s cultural references and singular characters to enjoy.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I tried a Ken Follet fictional work, but at 50% through, I gave up.

Started yesterday, H.W.Brands’ “The Zealot and the Emancipator”, lead up to Civil War, through story of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln.

My experience has been Follet is hit or miss. I've really enjoyed some of his books "Eye of the Needle," "Pillars of the Earth" and "Night over Water" for example, but others, l've struggled to get through.

He's such a big name and has written so many books, I wonder if he is a "brand" with other writers "helping" him as, as with Tom Clancy, when that starts to happen, the quality of the books often goes down.
 

Big T

Senior Member
I'll put this one on the list to be read, but it's going to be a bit down on the list! Got a lot of good books waiting on the bookshelves and calling my name...I can't believe I have five Baldacci books I have yet to read? In any event, thanks for another great and persuasive review. ;)

A few years back, I spent a summer reading through every Baldacci book I could lay my hands on. Then it ended!

As Phineas says to Ferb, "Ferb, I know what author we're putting on our summer reading list, again".

Thanks for the brain tickler, as I enjoyed Baldacci, as a fiction author!
 
Last edited:

Dr.Watson

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
91UTZn7TUjL.jpg


Reading Civilisation since I loved the old miniseries (all on youtube). This is essentially a transcript, but with some added Kenneth Clark "hot takes" that they couldn't fit into the program. Fun if you like this sort of thing.
 

some_dude

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Lately, I have been reading a lot of John O'Hara. I credit this website, since there was a reference to Appointment in Samarra in a thread I was reading, and I thought that sounded interesting, and now I've read a bunch of his books and stories. Just bought some more, in fact.

I prefer to read on the Kindle, and there aren't as many there as I would like, but I will probably end up buying some hardbacks as well.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Lately, I have been reading a lot of John O'Hara. I credit this website, since there was a reference to Appointment in Samarra in a thread I was reading, and I thought that sounded interesting, and now I've read a bunch of his books and stories. Just bought some more, in fact.

I prefer to read on the Kindle, and there aren't as many there as I would like, but I will probably end up buying some hardbacks as well.

I read one of his, "From the Terrace," a few years ago and commented on it here: #8196.
 

Vecchio Vespa

(aka TKI67)
Just finished the latest Charles Finch and jumped into the new Jaqueline Winspear. The latter, another in the Maisie Dobbs series, is wonderful as the author spins a wonderful and many layered story but also, over the span of many books, takes you into WWI and we are now in WWII. The former was a fascinating dive into the social systems of earlier years in New York and Newport, the staid Knickerbockers and the flashier followers.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Just a few days back I finished reading David Baldacci's "Long Road To Mercy," the first novel in his (Baldacci's) Altee Pine series. Atlee Pine is a young female FBI agent who is also the victim of a malevolent, but seriously intelligent serial killer who Pine believes is the man who came through her and her sister, Mercy's bedroom window when they were just six years old. The perpetrator fractured Atlee's skull and abducted Mercy who was never recovered and has never been seen since. Atlee chose the career she is in largely because of the guilt associated with those memories. She is now involved in an investigation involving international intrigue, a tactical nuclear bomb that was made in Russia, with tech plates indicating it is a North Korean weapon and it was subsequently secreted into an cave in the Grand Canyon by misdirected American agents. The long term intent is to fabricate justification for the US Govt to wipe North Korea off the map.

It is illegal immoral, unconscionable, and thank gawd, it does not happen because Atlee Pine is a good guy, smarter than the bad guys and she, an Amazonian throwback for sure, kicks their collective butts. Our government is cleansed of some of the bad characters therein; the Russians are chagrined that their plot to discredit the US Government has failed; the North Koreans whine about 'why's everybody always picking on us' and Atlee Pine gets to punch the crap out of a pedophile serial rapist she encounters on the trip back to her home office.

This book was so good and so hard to put down, before reading the last word, I bought the other two books in the series, A Minute Before Midnight and Daylight and have already begun reading A Minute To Midnight! I highly recommend any of David Baldacci's books. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
41Ub+a8kX0L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

The Disenchanted by Bud Schulberg originally published in 1950

In 1937, a dissipated F. Scott Fitzgerald facing, as always, financial troubles and fighting, as always, the bottle, came to Hollywood (MGM) to make money and revive his career. Often partnered with young writers, the result was a small amount of work that was, maybe, sometimes brilliant, but rarely usable screenwriting. Three years later, at the age of forty four, enervated Fitzgerald was dead of a heart attack.

One of the young writers that Fitzgerald was teamed up with is author Budd Schulberg (writer of the screenplay On The Waterfront amongst other notable movies). In The Disenchanted, Schulberg pens a roman a clef of his time with Fitzgerald in Hollywood, substituting young fictional screenwriter Shepard Stearn for himself and fictional author Manley Halliday and his wife-from-Pluto Jere for F. Scott and his wife-from-Pluto Zelda.

But Schulberg doesn't stop with just dissecting Fitzgerald's/Halliday's troubled time in Hollywood as, through flashbacks, he also recounts Fitzgerald's/Halliday's glory years and flameout with Zelda/Jere in the Roaring Twenties. If Fitzgerald's famous life and Hollywood's Golden Age in the thirties are your things, Schulberg's book is an enjoyable page-turner that weaves two fantastic early twentieth-century cultural narratives into one.

By the time Halliday/Fitzgerald hit Hollywood in 1937, his career, marriage and health were close to flatlining. While the studio's money was crazy good, $2000 per week (approximately $36,000 in 2021), Fitzgerald/Halliday's fragile ego and spirits, toggling back and forth between arrogance and insecurity, seemed to be further broken by Hollywood's unforgiving demand for "product." Authors were just another cog in the "studio system" that expected its writers to hit deadlines with assembly line regularity.

Schulberg excels at revealing the mindset and process of the studio system. In fictional studio head Victor Milgrim, subbing for MGM's head Louis B. Meyer, we meet a "self-made" man whose business talents include managing an insanely large organization and controlling, by alternating encouragement and threats, the sizable egos that report to him.

Milgrim is also trying to scrub the immigrant dirt off himself with custom-tailored suits, studied speech, over-stylized manners and, even, by hiring literary giants to write for him. Yet, all his new posh can slip away in a tense business conference where the old street fighter once again appears. Milgrim does have a respect for art and artists - that's partly why he all but pulled Manley/Fitzgerald out of the gutter - but he still wants to force art into his production schedule as, well, it's a business he's running after all.

Manley/Fitzgerald, drunk more than half the time, off kilter from poorly managing his insulin for diabetes and flipping from extreme egotism to extreme self doubt minute by minute, is not the writer to give Milgrim on-demand art. So Milgrim and the studio system continually bodycheck manic-depressive Manley/Fitzgerald into a further downward spiral.

How did the golden-boy writer of the Roaring Twenties end up financially broke, mentally broken and desperately hawking himself to one of the dream factories? Halliday/Fitzgerald's own analysis, as penned by Schulberg, avers that he and Jere/Zelda never grew up as the money and fame of his early success allowed them to ride the twenties' wave of wealth and irresponsibility without doing the hard work of maturing his prodigious talent or controlling his and Jere's/Zelda's many vices.

Jere/Zelda might have been his "one love," but he would have sincerely been better off had he settled for number two. Her excessive drinking, drug use, partying, spending, philandering (yup), obsessive-compulsive behaviour and stunning negligence (including horribly indifferent and inconsistent parenting of their one child) greatly exceeded and exacerbated Fitzgerald's similar weaknesses. This was a man who needed to marry a responsible woman to manage his career and life, but instead he married a super enabler.

When it all came crashing down with the stock market in 1929, Jere/Zelda ended up in a series of expensive asylums as Halliday/Fitzgerald, whose writing was now out of favor with the Depression-era zeitgeist, struggled to pay all the bills (and pay off their debt accumulated in the twenties). He spent a good part of the thirties hawking uneven short stories to popular magazines. Though, these stories would introduce a generation of high-school students to his work several decades later.

Halliday/Fitzgerald even avers that he and Zelda, both in body and memory, would have been better off dying with the end of the twenties. But they didn't, so by the second half of the thirties, the man who coined the term and symbolized the excesses of the Jazz Age was, out of desperation, working in Hollywood with author and newbie-screenwriter Schulberg.

Shulberg's alter ego, Shepard Stearn, goes from, initially, hero worship of Halliday/Fitzgerald to disgust at his immaturity and self absorption. Schulberg also begins to blame Halliday/Fitzgerald, as a representative of the twenties, for the woes of the thirties. This was part of a wider and understandable intergenerational war of that period pitting those raised in the depredation of the thirties against those who enjoyed the profligacy of the twenties.

Even when angry at Halliday/Fitzgerald - when Halliday/Fitzgerald is drunk, abusive and ignoring his screenwriting responsibilities - Stearn is still awestruck by Halliday/Fitzgerald's preternatural writing talent. Halliday/Fitzgerald can, off the cuff, pen a passage or create a realistic atmosphere for a scene that shows genius is still alive inside the devitalized famous author.

That's really what Schulberg leaves us with at the end. Halliday/Fitzgerald was a man already broken by the 1929 crash when desperation landed him in the movie capital in the late thirties. Busted or not, Halliday/Fitzgerald was a horrible fit for Hollywood's time-management approach to writing, which wanted the literary shine of a famous author, but also wanted him to punch a time clock with its carpenters and cafeteria workers.

It wasn't going to work and ended up angering the studio and further breaking Halliday/Fitzgerald. Schulberg avers that literary geniuses, like all special horses, need to be allowed to run free even if, as with Halliday/Fitzgerald, they ultimately destroy themselves. For whatever time they do run, the brilliance they create and share with us is the point of their existence.

Schulberg, writing before Fitzgerald was rediscovered in English classes in the sixties and seventies, was prescient in his assessment of Fitzgerald's lasting artistic contribution. Fitzgerald's work is brilliant, even if cancel/woke culture will, probably, during its benighted reign, remove Fitzgerald's Jazz-Age genius from school curriculums.

For Fitzgerald fans and fans of Hollywood's studio system at the pinnacle of its power, The Disenchanted is an entertaining trip through a moment when these two separate threads had a brief and inauspicious intersection.


P.S., Written in 1950 about the twenties and thirties, the casual racism and antisemitism of both those times is jarring and dispiriting to our modern ears. In particular, the anti-semitism in The Disenchanted, which is a much larger part of the book than its racism, while repugnant, isn't Nazism, but shows a culture with a generally accepted negative attitude toward Jewish people. It's odd because this antisemitism was inconsistent and amorphous as, sometimes, Jewish people were integrated and accepted in certain places and, then, viciously excluded and denounced in others and all by the same people.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
TFN-TRQ-2_900x900_3a47b346-22f9-4ed9-8df0-16bbccf4ead4.jpg

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote originally published in 1958

After decades of watching the movie and "hearing" the book is darker, I finally gave the original source material a read.

Yes, it is darker - the ending in particular - but the movie changed the story in a structural way that made its happier ending holistic to the movie's story and not just "slapped on" as many upbeat Hollywood endings are to darker books. Yet, the real surprise is that the one key change made for the movie's screenplay improved the story.

The broad outline of the story in both the book and movie are the same: "glamorous New York playgirl" Holly Golightly, really a reinvented "hillbilly," funds her outwardly expensive city lifestyle as, effectively, a high-priced courtesan. Additionally, she, somewhat obliviously, earns extra money masquerading as the niece of an incarcerated mob boss from whom she brings back "the weather report" to his "lawyer."

Holly keeps this fragile world together with a combination of innate guile, force of personality, looks and luck. She's somewhat helped in this effort by her new friend and upstairs neighbor Paul Varjak. Through Paul, we see that "free-spirit" Holy is really an emotionally struggling young woman looking to find a place for herself in the world.

When she was growing up, poor country-girl Holly's parents passed away early leaving her and her simpleton brother Fred to bounce in and out of a few abusive surrogate homes until fourteen-year-old Holly married a kindly, but much older man.

While we rightly denounce such marriages today, Holly genuinely loves and respects her husband, who also took in and supports her brother. Yet, her youth and adventurism inspires her to run away to the "glamour" of New York where we meet her living in an empty apartment except for the expensive accoutrement of her trade - lacy underwear and champagne, yes; furniture or food in the fridge, no.

In both the book and the movie, Holly's past resurfaces as her confused-but-decent husband, clearly out of his depth with New York City Holly, tries to bring her back home. At the same time, Holly's attempts to marry money - a sexually confused scion or a Brazilian diplomat - both fall through.

Then, when the Feds and media come knocking as the mob-boss connection surfaces, Holly's paper-mache world crumbles. All that's left is her next act as neither returning to her husband nor her old New York City life are on the table for shattered Holly.

In the book, Holly Golightly's friend and upstairs neighbor, Paul, is simply a struggling author and, cloaked a bit, gay. In a stroke of inspired story improvement (forced, one assumes, by the Motion Picture Production Code), Paul's movie version is a gigolo. Like Holly, he supports himself in a posh nook of the sex trade where wealthy older New Yorkers pay young, struggling, good-looking New Yorkers for sex and to be arm candy.

This duality in the movie creates a wonderfully engaging dynamic and immediate bond between Holly and Paul that holds them together in a way that never fully develops in the book. Maybe, reading the book after the movie drives that view, but the book feels somewhat empty as, without a relationship to center it, the Holly Golightly story in the novel lacks the movie's more-compelling story arc.

At the end of the book, Holly appears further lost and speeding to embittered. But in the movie, as Paul and Holly hold a mirror up to each other, they both begin to see the corrosive effect the sex-for-money trade is having on their lives and self respect. They also start to see the benefits of genuinely caring for someone and having someone care for them, not just for sex or money.

Sure, it's a much-less-dark message and ending in the movie, but it's also a believable story of personal growth. Holly and Paul start as shallow "kids" looking for an easy route to money, but end up seeing the value of building something real even if it's harder and takes longer.

Away from the story itself, and as in the movie, the book has a very stereotypical period view of the mannerism and lifestyle of gays and lesbians. It's not one of rancor, anger or hate, that of course existed too, but sort of a de facto "their different and funny" view.

For these, mainly, decent in their day, liberal New York and Hollywood types, this view results in the casual use of derisive homosexual comments, but otherwise a passive acceptance of these "differences." While, rightfully, an unacceptable attitude by today's standards, it also reflects a grayer and more-nuanced societal view of the fifties than is often portrayed in modern period books and movies.

Not speaking to every single line or scene, but Mad Men was a modern period show that got this attitude more right than wrong as many of the characters had a flippancy toward homosexuals reflected in their mocking jokes and comments, but, beyond that, a live-and-let-live attitude, which is what one often sees and reads in books from the time.

There was violence against gays and homosexuality was a crime back then - all horrible things - but in books and movies like Breakfast at Tiffany's, you also see that many didn't have a hostile attitude toward homosexuals. Also tossed into this mix, in the book, Holly expresses some very forward-looking gender-bending views about women or men choosing to love people from the same or opposite sex if so inclined. Nothing was ever as black and white as our thumbnail history of a period suggests.

All these jumbled Breakfast at Tiffany's fifties' views on sexuality are confused, but honest in a way that isn't allowed today. Now, everyone is supposed to think about it all in one prescribed way, which is difficult to keep up with, in part, because the "approved" landing spot keeps moving.

Also, and there's nothing to say about this that we don't already sadly know and feel, but just an alert, the "N word" is used a few times in the book.

Despite being a rare example of a movie improving on the book, the book is still well worth the quick read for its more direct look at fifties sexuality and prejudices in a way that is tamped down, overall, in the movie. You also get a fuller view of Holly's background and motivation. Sadly, though, in the book, there's no Holly Golightly early morning visit - clad in evening gown with coffee and danish in hand - to Tiffany's windows.


N.B. How's this for an adumbration of social-media envy to come. This is how Holly's country husband explains to Paul why a young impressionable Holly left his decent home for the glamour of New York City: "We must've had a hundred dollars worth of magazines come into that house. And ask me, that's what done it. Looking at show-off pictures. Reading dreams. That's what started her walking down the road."
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Excellent writing as always and an interesting and very informative comparison/contrast between the film versus the written versions of the story. Adumbration: Truth be known...I had to look it up...I like that , learning something new every day! ;) Thank you, my friend.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
This past weekend I finished reading the second book in David Baldacci's Atlee Pine series, A Minute to midnioght. As you may recall, Atlee Pine is a female FBI agent whose twin sister had been kidnapped and probably killed when the girls were just six years old. After the stress of not knowing for sure happened to her sister contributes to her almost beating to death a child rapist and murderer that Atlee had apprehended, her FBI supervisor directed that Atlee take some time off and find the answers to those questions about her sister that are so clouding her judgement and get her personal "shit in a bucket," before it results in an abrupt and untimely end to her FBI career.

Atlee and her assistant, Carol Blume set off for the small Arkansas town where she lived with her mother, father and twinn sister when her twin sister, Mercy, was abducted and taken away. As Atlee opens her personal investigation into a crime that occurred 32 years ago Atlee and Carol run head-on into a series of apparent serial killings that are taking place present day, in that small Arkansas town.. By the time the story ends, the 'thought-to-be' serial;murders are solved and the bad guys either killed or caught, Atlee has discovewred that her father was not her father, her mother had been a world class madel at the age of 16 and after tiring of modeling had become a mole for law enforcement investigating the New York based mob/Mafia. She and her husband had come to Arkansas through the US Marshall's Service Witness Protection Program and they apparently blew it. Atlee is left still holding the bag and she and Carol on their way to New Jersey on the trail of the mob enforcer who apparently committed this unthinkable crime against SA Agent Pine and her family!

Now it's on to the Novel "Daylight" ...the next volume in this series. Can I hear a yahoo foe Baldacci? ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
the-pat-hobby-stories.jpg

The Pat Hobby Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald originally published as serialized short stories from 1939-1942

After reading the excellent roman a clef of F. Scott Fitzgerald's time in Hollywood, The Disenchanted (comments here: #898 ), I needed to read something by Fitzgerald himself. The Pat Hobby Stories were written in a hybrid format during Fitzgerald's time in Hollywood. I learned this reading the introduction after I finished the book, as I usually do, because I like to form my own impressions.

Fitzgerald started writing these short stories simply for money. The man made a ton in the twenties, yet, by the thirties, he had spent even more and was struggling to pay off debt and meet his wife's hospital bills, so he was always "short." Despite this motive and pressure, by the second or third Pat Hobby story, Fitzgerald began to see these tales and the character of Pat Hobby as a continuous "portrait" of a man he wanted to explore artistically, beyond simply grinding them out for a buck.

Unfortunately, while Fitzgerald was creating a holistic view of Pat Hobby, time pressure (he was working his studio job during the week) and his premature death prevented him from finishing the effort. Still, read in one collection, as in The Pat Hobby Stories, they are an engaging and different way to "meet" a character and see a narrow sleeve of thirties Hollywood.

Consistent with the style of the time, each story has a "twist" or "surprise" ending, which can feel modestly hokey today. These were, in a way, TV episodes in a pre-TV age. A tired worker could sit down at night with a magazine, read a short story, get a laugh, turn the TV off, um, put the magazine down, and go to bed.

In The Pat Hobby Stories, not only do you meet Pat Hobby, an all but failed script writer for the studios, but you also get a glance inside Hollywood in the thirties. Fitzgerald's talent at seeing the nuances, contradictions and emotions behind the facade of business and personal relationships is on full display.

Pat Hobby, once a reasonably successful writer during the silent era of filmmaking, owing more to being in the right place at the right time than having any great talent, is now, by the late thirties, struggling to stay employed, find a place to flop at night and keep the repo man at bay from his dilapidated car.

Pat is not a likable or honest guy. Part of the fun in these stories is seeing a low-rent grifter try to steal an idea from a fellow writer, take credit for someone else's work after the fact, cage liquor from anyone (he's good at it), borrow money, also, from anyone, even people he just met, hit on younger women who have no interest in him and, the best of all, be sincerely offended when he's called out, as he often is, doing any of these things. Pat only gets away with all this as he appears more harmless than meanspirited.

Along the way, you watch Pat try to keep a toe-hold in the studio system where, even in his diminished state, he can still get paid decent money if they'll only "put him on salary for a few weeks." Of course, once they do, he finds a way to offend his bosses and coworkers by not doing his job, showing up late and/or drunk and, in general, pushing people's buttons. So why do they kinda keep helping him?

If you came into the workplace after the 1980s, it will be hard to appreciate that there was a time when some companies took an uneven paternalistic view of their long-time employees, even the lazy and disgruntled ones. So, from story to story, you watch Pat play a sort of emotional blackmail on the few old-time bosses around from his better days. While they know he's doing it, they still cave in now and then, only to regret it not much later.

As all of this is going on, a picture of a Hollywood studio in the 1930s emerges. Even in the Depression, it's a successful business, but less so than in the twenties, which has everyone nervous about his or her job, all the time. Writers feel unappreciated by directors, who feel unappreciated by producers, who feel unappreciated by the "New York Money" that is the real power behind Hollywood.

Actors are seen more as aliens to the system. They are respected and feared when on top, while laughed at behind their backs, or worse, when in decline. The "studio's bookie" acts as an éminence grise who serves as a payday lender, the nexus of the studio's grapevine and, yes, a way to get some money down on Wild Night in the fifth at Santa Anita for everyone from the cafeteria worker to the top executive in gambling-crazed Hollywood.

It's a shame Fitzgerald didn't live long enough to give reasonably benign scammer Pat Hobby a fuller treatment as he's a heck of a thirties kinda-sorta antihero or stock character (think Runyonesque). For fan's of the era's comic strip Gasoline Alley, Pat Hobby is an aging Wilmer who's still scamming, but with less asperity and conviction. Possibly, time and life grinds down the sharp edges of even the office miscreant.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
WFSR SSize.jpg

What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg originally published in 1941

Sammy Glick is the ultimate corporate political animal who gets ahead by any means possible. People, relationships, deals, projects, ideas, friendships and his personal life are all just transactions to be leveraged or discarded to advance his career.

What makes Budd Schulberg's fictional Sammy Glick particularly exhausting and successful is he's also smart and hard working. Many Glicks are lazy and, basically, stupid, but have enough craftiness to achieve some initial success. Eventually, though, their lack of effort, brains and knowledge stop their advance and, when the gods are smiling, can even end their careers.

But if a Glick does the work and has the brains, combined with his do-say-and-screw-anyone ethics, we're faced with the makings of a truly successful sociopath. Sammy Glick, in Schulberg's page-turner, over-the-top novel about a young Hollywood executive phenom, is a sociopath.

Glick's amoral singular focus on success was forged in the early twentieth century's Lower East Side Jewish ghetto of his youth. He saw "weak" and honest men like his father made into suckers by crooks and politicians, while Glick himself was bullied in school by the stronger boys who succeeded by ignoring the rules.

By the time teenager Glick, now a newspaper office boy, meets the smug conscience of the book (and, probably, author Schulberg's fictional doppelganger), columnist Al Manhein, he's already thinking three steps ahead as he sees the senior newspaper men as "suckers" for working for years to make $50 a week.

Manhein is, at first, amused and bemused by this boy tornado, but when Glick somehow pushes his way into writing a column that cuts into Manhein's column's space, he realizes this kid is something malevolently unusual.

Glick, using friends and colleagues, spinning yarns and, pretty much, stealing a buddy's manuscript, jumps from New York columnist to Hollywood screenwriter in a giant leap, despite having limited story-writing talent. It's a move that also jumps his pay by about five-hundred percent, meaning five times what a newspaper man makes - score one for Glick.

Manhein, shortly afterwards, follows Sammy to Hollywood where the boy genius is learning the "picture" game of self promotion while leveraging other writers' work. Along the way, Glick has also left a few broken hearts as his promises to women are just more empty Glick sophistry.

Anyone who has worked in a corporation will recognize Hollywood Sammy Glick. He learns the lingo and the key players while managing up with energy and precision. He also befriends a few lower-level, talented employees who have no people or self-promotional skills - people whose work he can take credit for. He leverages that mix into a quick ascent of the corporate ladder. His only belief and care is himself, but one of his talents is manipulating others to believe he cares about them.

While Manhein sanctimoniously huffs and puffs his displeasure, Glick shoots to the top. From writer, to producer of B movies, to assistant to the studio head - whom Glick stabs in the back in only months - to studio head himself, it's a dizzyingly quick ride fueled by lies, deceptions, self promotion, cunning and plenty of hard work and some talent.

It is enjoyably frightening to see Glick gain confidence, prestige, money, possessions (cars, houses, a manservant, etc.) and women, while honest and reasonably talented Manhein struggles to produce quality work inside the studio "system."

Along the way, we get a pretty good peek inside that system, which is, basically, Hollywood companies backed by New York money that are trying to spit out movies with widget-like regularity by pushing writers to produce screenplays, not literature, on demand.

To be sure, that's a writer's (author Schulberg's) view, as the other angle is if the "machine" didn't spit out profitable movies regularly, there would be no out-sized paycheck for writers like Manheim (Schulberg).

While Manheim is confident that all evil springs forth from the Glicks of the world, a less self-righteous author might see them as just another challenge in a world full of struggles. Sometimes a Sammy Glick succeeds; sometimes one doesn't - so what?

The Manheims/Schulbergs of the world are so confident in their moral superiority, they never stop to see their own hypocrisy. Yes, they want Hollywood's better pay (than newspaper work), but then pompously denounce the hand that feeds them for wanting scripts that put bodies in movie-theater seats instead of art for art's sake.

Schulberg is a talented writer who understands the sinews of Hollywood and human nature. In What Makes Sammy Run?, he limns a frighteningly wonderful portrait of a man on a mission to advance himself at all costs. He also reveals a bit more about his own jealousies and elitism than he probably intended.


N.B. What Makes Sammy Run? also provides a brief insider's look at the newspaper business in the forties when it was a good solid career where one didn't need a college degree. Many reporters, even those with their own bylines, had worked themselves up from office boy. Today, you probably need a degree in journalism just to get a foot in the door to a field I'd advise any sane person to run away from.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 58639
What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg originally published in 1941

Sammy Glick is the ultimate corporate political animal who gets ahead by any means possible. People, relationships, deals, projects, ideas, friendships and his personal life are all just transactions to be leveraged or discarded to advance his career.

What makes Budd Schulberg's fictional Sammy Glick particularly exhausting and successful is he's also smart and hard working. Many Glicks are lazy and, basically, stupid, but have enough craftiness to achieve some initial success. Eventually, though, their lack of effort, brains and knowledge stop their advance and, when the gods are smiling, can even end their careers.

But if a Glick does the work and has the brains, combined with his do-say-and-screw-anyone ethics, we're faced with the makings of a truly successful sociopath. Sammy Glick, in Schulberg's page-turner, over-the-top novel about a young Hollywood executive phenom, is a sociopath.

Glick's amoral singular focus on success was forged in the early twentieth century's Lower East Side Jewish ghetto of his youth. He saw "weak" and honest men like his father made into suckers by crooks and politicians, while Glick himself was bullied in school by the stronger boys who succeeded by ignoring the rules.

By the time teenager Glick, now a newspaper office boy, meets the smug conscience of the book (and, probably, author Schulberg's fictional doppelganger), columnist Al Manhein, he's already thinking three steps ahead as he sees the senior newspaper men as "suckers" for working for years to make $50 a week.

Manhein is, at first, amused and bemused by this boy tornado, but when Glick somehow pushes his way into writing a column that cuts into Manhein's column's space, he realizes this kid is something malevolently unusual.

Glick, using friends and colleagues, spinning yarns and, pretty much, stealing a buddy's manuscript, jumps from New York columnist to Hollywood screenwriter in a giant leap, despite having limited story-writing talent. It's a move that also jumps his pay by about five-hundred percent, meaning five times what a newspaper man makes - score one for Glick.

Manhein, shortly afterwards, follows Sammy to Hollywood where the boy genius is learning the "picture" game of self promotion while leveraging other writers' work. Along the way, Glick has also left a few broken hearts as his promises to women are just more empty Glick sophistry.

Anyone who has worked in a corporation will recognize Hollywood Sammy Glick. He learns the lingo and the key players while managing up with energy and precision. He also befriends a few lower-level, talented employees who have no people or self-promotional skills - people whose work he can take credit for. He leverages that mix into a quick ascent of the corporate ladder. His only belief and care is himself, but one of his talents is manipulating others to believe he cares about them.

While Manhein sanctimoniously huffs and puffs his displeasure, Glick shoots to the top. From writer, to producer of B movies, to assistant to the studio head - whom Glick stabs in the back in only months - to studio head himself, it's a dizzyingly quick ride fueled by lies, deceptions, self promotion, cunning and plenty of hard work and some talent.

It is enjoyably frightening to see Glick gain confidence, prestige, money, possessions (cars, houses, a manservant, etc.) and women, while honest and reasonably talented Manhein struggles to produce quality work inside the studio "system."

Along the way, we get a pretty good peek inside that system, which is, basically, Hollywood companies backed by New York money that are trying to spit out movies with widget-like regularity by pushing writers to produce screenplays, not literature, on demand.

To be sure, that's a writer's (author Schulberg's) view, as the other angle is if the "machine" didn't spit out profitable movies regularly, there would be no out-sized paycheck for writers like Manheim (Schulberg).

While Manheim is confident that all evil springs forth from the Glicks of the world, a less self-righteous author might see them as just another challenge in a world full of struggles. Sometimes a Sammy Glick succeeds; sometimes one doesn't - so what?

The Manheims/Schulbergs of the world are so confident in their moral superiority, they never stop to see their own hypocrisy. Yes, they want Hollywood's better pay (than newspaper work), but then pompously denounce the hand that feeds them for wanting scripts that put bodies in movie-theater seats instead of art for art's sake.

Schulberg is a talented writer who understands the sinews of Hollywood and human nature. In What Makes Sammy Run?, he limns a frighteningly wonderful portrait of a man on a mission to advance himself at all costs. He also reveals a bit more about his own jealousies and elitism than he probably intended.


N.B. What Makes Sammy Run? also provides a brief insider's look at the newspaper business in the forties when it was a good solid career where one didn't need a college degree. Many reporters, even those with their own bylines, had worked themselves up from office boy. Today, you probably need a degree in journalism just to get a foot in the door to a field I'd advise any sane person to run away from.

Another great review. I'm going to have to follow up on this one. Amazon offers it in both book and four star DVD version(s). Having read the book, do you have an opinion on whether reading the book and/or watching the movie would be preferable in this instance? ;)
 
Your email address will not be publicly visible. We will only use it to contact you to confirm your post.

IMPORTANT: BEFORE POSTING PLEASE CHECK THE DATE OF THE LAST POST OF THIS THREAD. IF IT'S VERY OLD, PLEASE CONSIDER REGISTERING FIRST, AND STARTING A NEW THREAD ABOUT THIS TOPIC.

Deals/Steals

Trad Store Exchange