I have heard of the Book 50 Shades of Grey, but have not read it and will never read it. There are too many books that interest me to waste time on books that do not interest me and have a bad reputation.
Now, I am even-more convinced that I will never read this, because Dave Barry has been foolish enough to waste time reading it and writing a review. Fortunately, he is a talented humorist.
So, if you want to know what this famous, best-selling book is about, you can read his piece from Time...
One of my favorite authors is John Le Carré. Of his 21 (I think) novels, my favorite is Honourable Schoolboy, followed by Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People, which are also sold as a trilogy titled Karla versus Smiley (which is the publisher’s method to get people to buy the same book twice...which I did.).
I was reminded of this as I watched the British television adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Alec Guinness. This is an excellent and credible production. There has been a recent movie version, which prejudice tells me will not be as credible.
Perhaps, my liking is a generational thing. Young folks might not like these books as much, because they did not live through the times or have a connection with the events. The television adaptation was produced closer to the “actual” events, so the scenes were realistic or, at least, believable. I imagine that the movie folks would be less likely to capture the feel and look of the times, believing that audiences would not know the difference. After all, they filmed a Civil War movie in Romania.
This revulsion to lack of credibility explains my rejection of the new Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge, to name just two make-overs. Neither captured the feel of the period, as I interpret it from photos and books. I demand realism, plausibility, and credibility in books and films. Unless it’s a cartoon...
I just read an interesting book, Digital Vertigo, about the way the world has become/is heading. Basically, it is about social media and connectivity. The book predicts that everyone on the planet will be connected, somehow, in the future. If still alive, someone will have to place a gun to my head...
First conclusion: I am glad that I am retired! That is not my world. I use the internet (which supposedly will be replaced by social media), but do not want to join Facebook, Twitter, or their ilk (proliferation seems to be a potential problem). I am amazed at how much information people willingly make available to everyone. Aristotle, Konrad Lorenz, and others stated that “man is a social being”. All failed to reckon with the likes of people like me!
Next, I thought of the famous Apple commercial from the 80s, in which they portrayed IBM as Big Brother. I find it ironic, since Apple has taken over the role of Big Brother, because they “control/can spy on” anyone that purchases one of their products. This difference is that the drones the audience of today, as opposed to the actors in the IBM commercial audience, all volunteer to be watched.
Next, if everyone is connected everyone else on the planet, how many of those people will they actually know? The current definition of friend will no longer apply. I recall speaking with Russians, after the fall of the Soviet Union. They told me that a “friend” was someone you could trust with your life...because lives were lost and prisons filled because of non-friends. Connectivity cannot mean trust. I thought of a crowded London subway car, where people play with iPads, smart phones, etc. Many might be "connected" by some social media site, but are unaware to each other's proximity and actual existence. All remain mere "faces in a crowd", despite being connected. To me, this is "faux social".
Finally, I have another question. If connectivity means that people will “never be alone again”, what about jobs, salary, food...survival, which is the other (negative) trend of the future? I doubt that social media can solve society’s problems, nor do those companies want to. People running these businesses seem to be interested only in the money. If you read the book, you will notice how many times the author uses the term “multiple billionaire”.
After this brief foray into the real world, I will happily return to fiction...
I read a good book on vacation and started another.
I have been to Miami many times and passed through many more. I was pleased to discover that the airport has been renovated and modernized, because it was one of my least favorite (the list is long!). Although we spent more vacation in California, I find the beaches on the East Coast to be better and the water is much warmer.
Anyway, because I spent time helping Number One Son to find an apartment in Miami, I felt that I had a superficial knowledge of that city. I now know that almost everything I thought I knew was wrong or out-dated.
Anyone wishing to learn about Miami, as well as anyone looking for an entertaining story, should read Tom Wolfe’s Back To Blood. This novel provides a good picture of Miami and surrounding its environs and explains its place in the United States. The picture, which escapes the eye of the casual observer and tourist, is not all that pretty.
The information is packed into a fast-moving story, peopled with interesting characters. The novel might seem crude at times, but that adds color and credibility to the tale. I am certain that many citizens of Miami are not happy with the portrayal, but would have difficulty refuting the story. Being fiction, in which names are changed to protect the guilty, no one can bring charges against the talented author.
I have just finished reading Burmese Days, George Orwell’s first novel.(For those uneducated, unread, or forgetful, he is best known for 1984 and Animal Farm.) In this book, he provides a good picture of life in a British colony prior to World War Two, based upon his experiences as a policeman in Burma. His descriptions--of people, daily life, Empire--are not flattering and some thoughts foreshadow attitudes made famous in his latter masterpieces.
I have selected a few excerpts to display his opinions about his employer and fellow countrymen/women. Fictional characters are displaying Orwell’s sentiments and truths, which have become so evident.
“...It’s so boring. Even those bloody fools might be better company if we weren’t all of us living a lie the whole time.”
“But, my dear friend, what lie are you living?”
“Why, of course, the lie that we’re here to uplift our poor black brothers instead of to rob them. I suppose it’s a natural enough lie. But it corrupts us, it corrupts us in ways you can’t imagine. There’s an everlasting sense of being a sneak and a liar that torments us and drives us to justify ourselves night and day. It’s at the bottom of half our beastliness to the natives. We could Anglos could be almost bearable if we’d only admit that we’re thieves and go on thieving without any humbug.”
“...the British Empire is simply a device for giving trade monopolies to the English--or rather to gangs of Jews and Scotsmen.”
...After all, natives were natives--interesting, no doubt, but finally only a ‘subject’ people, an inferior people with black faces.
...He had forgotten that most people can be at ease in a foreign country only when they are disparaging the inhabitants.
Much has changed in the world, since Orwell wrote this novel, but some aspects of life on this planet will always stay the same. The powerful will always increase their wealth at the expense of the weak, while considering themselves to be superior to and sneering at those they exploit.
Last night, I finished reading Casino Royale, Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. I bought this, not being inspired by the anniversary of the first Bond film, but because I had not read it and a recent review piqued my curiosity. I have read (and forgotten) most of the series and seen all the films. Those I have seen more that once (out of boredom or lack of appealing alternatives) have been mostly forgotten (although I do remember Sophie Marceau).
On the list of forgettable films (either due to creeping Alzheimer's or weak production) is the fairly recent rendition of Casino Royale. I can recall the scene in which an Aston Martin DB is wrecked, perhaps because Number One Son drives a similar model. Other than that, I remember only that my least-favorite Bond incarnation and Eva Green appeared in the movie.
Because I cannot remember the film, I cannot comment on how well they adapted the novel. Given the track record, I can only assume that little was used from Ian Fleming's output. As I wrote yesterday using Fleming's own words, the Bond character of film is extremely different from the man introduced in the printed Casino Royale. Like with many things in life, I find that the best practice is not to compare. Find enjoyment in each...if at all possible.
For those of you that remember Goldfinger, you will smile at my reading experience. Clever screenwriters demanded that the atom bomb, which was triggered to go off in the Ft. Knox gold vault, be stopped with 7 seconds remaining on the timer. This provided a nice visual of a digital display with 007. When I finished reading Casino Royal, I glanced at my bedside clock. I could not have planned this, and certainly did not ever think about such an outcome, but the clock showed...what else?...007...seven minutes after midnight. How's that for life imitating art?
Nb. To understand the title, one must read the book! Sorry.
If, by chance, anyone has the urge to buy and/or read J.K. Rowling’s new adult novel, then you should first read the Guardian’s Digested Read. Occasionally, the newspaper offers a clever, insightful précis of a book. One gets the gist of the story and an opinion about the book’s worth as a piece of literature.
After reading this, I will not waste my precious reading time budget or my money. I read the first Harry Potter book, because I felt obliged to see what caused such widespread interest. I did not read a second one.
And, as a special bonus, a Digested Read of a book that I will not read, but cannot avoid running across. According to headlines I have noticed, this book seems to sell a whole bunch of copies, apparently to women. I forced myself to read the Digested Read to gain an understanding for its appeal...I failed. This might be added proof of American addiction to sex...which is rather human, but has been suppressed since the Puritans landed. Perhaps, the veil of hypocrisy has been lifted a bit...
I read more book reviews than I read books. The good ones provide an excellent précis of the plot, for fiction, or basic detail of non-fiction tome. These are usually penned by an author, who appreciates the work required and takes time to understand the subject.
Bad ones tend to be shoddy, hateful, and self-aggrandizing. These are written by the kind of person that believes having an opinion makes him or her right. They pan the writing, not noticing that their writing is not much better, if at all.
I wonder why no one writes reviews of reviewers...
I have just finished an excellent book, which will probably not interest anyone that is not a Somerset Maugham fan.
Selena Hasting's biography is a well-written and enjoyable, but only for those interested in the man's life and background to his stories. He was not likable, and his behavior will appall many. Still, I like his writing.
If you have ever wondered about blatant differences between the US and Britain, two books by A.N. Wilson are a good place to find some explanations: The Victorians and After The Victorians. Beyond satisfying a possible curiosity, they are interesting and well-written histories of a time when “Britannia ruled the waves”.
Often, habits and practices of people, government, or institutions seemed curious to me, when compared to the land of my birth. When placed in context of their evolution, they became understandable, if not respected or found agreeable. For example, people that float easily into and out of bankruptcy in the US can thank the opposite experience suffered in England.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.