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The Latest Book

THE LATEST READ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015

 

The Real Inspector Hound & After Magritte – Tom Stoppard (Plays)

Lindbergh: The Crime – Noel Behn
(Nonfiction)

The Girardian Origins of Generative Anthropology – Eric Gans (anthropology)

The Lessons from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – Scott David O’Reilly (cinema and current events)

Dostoevsky: Resurrection from the Underground – Rene Girard (literary criticism/anthropology)

Vegetation – Francis Ponge (prose poems)

A Train of Powder - Rebecca West (nonfiction)

Pictures From Brueghel and other poems – William Carlos Williams (poetry)

A World of Nothing But Nations – Tod Thiellman (poetry)

Candy – Terry Southern & Mason Hoffenberg (fiction)

Vectors and Smoothable Curves – William Bronk (essays)


Rock ‘n Roll – Tom Stoppard (plays)

 

 

 

A God Torn to Pieces: The Nietzsche Case – Giuseppe Fornali (theology, philosophy, anthropology)

Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present – Peter Bondanella (cinema)

You Can’t Say You Can’t Play – Vivian Gussin Paley (education)


Starting from San Francisco – Lawrence Ferlinghetti (poems)

The Path to the Spiders’ Nests – Italo Calvino (novel)

Collection of Sand – Italo Calvino (essays)

Decreation – Anne Carson (poetry, essays, opera)

Glass, Iron & God – Anne Carson (poetry, essay)

The One by Whom Scandal Comes – Rene Girard (philosophy; theology)

Gods Behaving Badly: Media, Religion, and Celebrity Culture – Peter Ward (Sociology)

 

Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness – Marcel Kuijsten, editor (Psychology, History) The 7 Possibilities for Train 23 Departing From Asuchwitz – Armand Gatti (play)
 

Lee Marvin: Point Blank – Dwayne Epstein (biography; film)

On the Abolition of Political Parties – Simone Weil (essay)

Conversations – Cesar Aira (fiction)

The Tale That Killed Emily Knorr – Milorad Pavic (novella)

The Aristocratic Temper of Greek Civilization – Chester G. Starr (history)

The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise – Georges Perec (fiction)

Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life – David Caute (Film; biography)

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thought – Malcolm Gladwell (Neuroscience & Psychology)

Beat Takeshi vs. Takeshi Kitano – Casio Abe (film studies)

Plays and Teleplays – Flann O’Brien (theatre)

Navel Gazing – Kim Holston (Film Entertainment)

Terry Gilliam – John Ashbrook (Film Analysis)

Where Europe Begins – Yoko Tawada (short fiction)

A Strange Commonplace – Gilbert Sorriento (novel)

Generations: A Historical Method – Julian Marias (History & Sociology)

A Question of Upbringing – Anthony Powell (Novel)

A Brief History of Portable Literature – Enrique Vila-Matas (Fiction)

The Awakening of the Greek Historical Spirit – Chester G. Starr (History)

Love-Lies-Bleeding – Don DeLillo (play)

A Buyer’s Market – Anthony Powell (novel)

The Other – Rzkzard Kapuscinski (current events)

Journey to the Lost City – Jonathan Aaron (poetry)

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes (novel)

The Acceptance World – Anthony Powell (novel)

Plays and Teleplays – Flann O’Brien

Radio Dialogues 2 – Arno Schmidt (literary criticism)

The Albertine Workout – Anne Carson (belles-lettres) 

At Lady Molly’s – Anthony Powell (novel)

The Enchanter – Vladimir Nabokov (novella)                

An Accidental Man – Iris Murdoch (novel)

A Word Child – Iris Murdoch (novel)

The Park – Philippe Sollers (novel)

A History of Sexuality, Volume one – Michel Foucault (sociology)

Saving History – Fanny Howe (novel)            

Travels with Herodotus – Ryzcard Kapuscinski (history)

Indignation – Philip Roth (novel)

Clouds and Eclipses – Gore Vidal (short stories)

Them: Adventures with Extremists – Jon Ronson (sociology/politics)

Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant – Anthony Powell (novel)

TUNC – Lawrence Durrell (novel)

The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom – Martin Amis (essays)

Levels of Life – Julian Barnes (memoir)

The Fourth Turning – William Strauss & Neil Howe (History)

The Kindly Ones – Anthony Powell (novel)

A Man Without a Country – Kurt Vonnegut (essays)

The Summer Before the Dark – Doris Lessing (novel)

Nohow On – Samuel Beckett (novellas)

Valley of the Bones – Anthony Powell (novel)

Slowness – Milan Kundera (novel)

The Military Philosophers – Anthony Powell (novel)

Venusberg – Anthony Powell (novel)

Kubrick’s Total Cinema – Philip Kuberski (cinema studies)

The Shining Revealed – Paul Whittington (cinema Studies)

Books Furnish a Room – Anthony Powell (novel)

                       

2016 

War and the Iliad – Simone Weil; Rachel Bespaloff (essays)

The Soldier’s Art – Anthony Powell (novel)

The Age of Reason – Jean-Paul Sartre (novel)

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho – Anne Carson (poetry)

The Humbling – Philip Roth (novel)

Inside Mr Enderby – Anthony Burgess (novel)

Under Glass Bell – Anais Nin (short stories)

The Military Philosophers – Anthony Powell (novel)

Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust, and War – Richard A. Koenigsberg (history)

Identity – Milan Kundera (novel)

Films Without Images – Blaise Cendrars (Radio plays)

The Gardens of Adonis Spices in Greek Mythology – Marcel Detienne (myth)

Get Your Tongue out of my Mouth, I’m Kissing You Goodbye – Cynthia Heimel (humor)

Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire – Matt Taibbi (political reporting)

Temporary Kings – Antony Powell (novel)

Hearing Secret Harmonies – Anthony Powell (novel) [end of A Dance to the Music of Time]

City Life – Donald Barthelme (short stories)

The Minds of the Bible: Speculations on the Cultural Evolution of Human Consciousness – Rabbi James Cohn                                                                                                                                                             (psychology; history; religion)

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia – (Film analysis)

Donnie Darko – Geoff King (Cinema Studies)

Idiot America – Charles P. Pierce (social commentary)

Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The theories of Julian Jaynes – ed. Marcel Kuijsten (human mind)

Detours and Lost Highways: A Map of Neo-Noir – Foster Hirsch (cinema studies)

Corn on Macabre – Norman Conquest (Fiction)

Anti-Twitter – Harold Jaffe (microfiction)

The Thanatos Syndrome – Walker Percy (novel)

SPECTRE – Laurence A. Rickels (cinema studies’ psychoanalysis)

Zero K – Don DeLillo (novel)

False Positive – Harold Jaffe (Fiction)

On the Shores of the Khazar Sea – Jasmina Mihajlovic (nonfiction)

Lion’s Honey: The Myth of Samson – David Grossman (Mythology)

Forever and a Day: A Theatre Menu – Milorad Pavic (play)

An Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett (Novella)

Horizons West: Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, and Sam Peckinpah – Jim Kitses (film studies)

Blood, Tears and Folly: An Objective Look at World War II – Len Deighton (History)

 

2017

God Bless You, Dr, Kevorkian – Kurt Vonnegut (fiction essay)

The Battle of Austerlitz – Trevor N. Dupuy (history)

The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood (novel)

The Key – Junichiro Tanizaki (novel)

Understanding Spain – Julian Marias (History/philosophy)

Weight – Jeanette Winterton (novel)

Where Three Roads Meet – Salley Vickers (novel)

Time Travel – James Gleick (science)

The Elephant in the Room – Jon Ronson (politics)

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson (current affairs)

Ada, or Ardor: a Family Chronicle – Vladimir Nabokov (novel)

The Fire Gospels – Michel Faber (novel)

Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams – Alexander McCall Smith (novel)

I, Said the Sparrow – Paul West (memoir)

A Fairly Honourable Defeat – Iris Murdoch (novel)

Bela Lugosi’s White Christmas – Paul West (novel)

The First Person and other stories – Ali Smith (short stories)

Caliban’s Filibuster – Paul West (novel)

Bottom Dogs – Edward Dahlberg (novel)

The Extraordinary Image: Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and the Reimagining of Cinema (film studies)

Edward Dahlberg – Fred Moramarco (Literary studies)

The Spirit of Terrorism – Jean Baudrillard (sociology; current events)

Making Time in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon: Art, History, and Empire – Maria Pramaggiore (Cinema Studies)

Edward Dahlberg: A Tribute – Edited by Jonathan Williams (Literary Studies)

Plexus (The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy #2) – Henry Miller (novel)

On Us – Douglas Woolf (novel)

Girls Meets Boy – Ali Smith (novel)

Colonel Mint – Paul West (novel)

Track – Norman Finklestein (poetry)

Columns: Track Volume 2 – Norman Finklestein (poetry)

Powers: Track Volume 3 – Norman Finklestein (poetry)

The Greek Islands – Lawrence Durrell (travel)

The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch (novel)

The Paris Kiss – Jasmina Mihajlovic (fiction)

The World is Ever Changing – Nicolas Roeg (memoir; cinema studies)

The Battle for History: Re-Fightiing World War II – John Keegan (History)

American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America – David O. Stewart (history)

The Missing of the Somme – Geoff Dyer (memoir; history)

Peckinpah’s Tragic Westerns: A Critical Study – John L. Simons & Robert Merrill (Cinema Studies)

On Media and Culture – Chuck Klosterman (contemporary society and culture)

Second Body – Milorad Pavic (novel)

Pictures of Fidelman – Bernard Malamud (novel)

The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick (novel)


 

2018

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History – Kurt Andersen (history)

Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ‘70s – Charles Taylor (Cinema Studies)

But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past – Chuck Klosterman (contemporary society and culture)                

The Stranger – Albert Camus (novel)                                          Vintage

Fritz Lang in America – Peter Bogdanovich (cinema studies)

Movie of the Week: 52 Classic Films for One Full Year – Peter Bogdanovich (Cinema Studies)

The Last Novel – David Markson (novel)                                    Dalkey Archive

Getting Away with It or: The Further Adventures of the Luckiest Bastard You Ever Saw – Steven Soderbergh with Richard Lester (Cinema Studies)

Collected Poems – David Markson (poetry)

This is Not a Novel – David Markson (Novel)                              Dalkey Archive

Between Fantoine and Agapa – Robert Pinget (Fiction)            Red Dust

Graal Flibuste – Robert Pinget (Fiction)                                         Dalkey Archive

Vanishing Point – Antonio Tabucchi (novella)

Before Nature – W. G. Sebald (prose poem)                                  Vintage

Dialogue with Death – Arthur Koestler (autobiography)

Baga – Robert Pinget (novel)                                                             Faber

Mahu, or the Material – Robert Pinget (Fiction)                             Faber

Architruc – Robert Pinget (play)                                                          Hill & Wang

Why Nothing Works: Anthropology of Everyday Life – Marvin Harris (Anthropology)

Theo, or the New Era – Robert Pinget (Fiction)                                Red Dust

The Hypothesis – Robert Pinget (play)                                               Red Dust

Voices in the Night – Steven Millhauser (short stories)                  Vintage

Chike and the River – Chinua Achebe (novella)

Be Brave – Robert Pinget (Fiction)                                                      Red Dust

Vertigo – W.G. Sebald (Fiction)                                                            Vintage

Traces of Ink – Robert Pinget (Fiction)                                              Red Dust

Blackbeard – Max Frisch (novel)

Screwball Comedy and Film Noir: Unexpected Connections – Thomas C. Renzi (Cinema Studies)

The Emigrants – W. G. Sebald (Fiction)

The Sacred and Profane Love Machine – Iris Murdoch (novel)

The Scapegoat – Rene Girard (Anthropology/Theology)

Mexico: A History in Art

The Phantom Empire – Geoffrey O’Brien (Cinema Studies)

The Castle of Crossed Destinies – Italo Calvino (fiction)

Caesars and Civilization – Michael J Starr (history)

We’ll Meet Again: Musical Designs in the Films of Stanley Kubrick – Kate McQuiston (Cinema Studies)

A Bizarre Will and other plays – Robert Pinget (Drama)

Philosophy in Don Quixote – Oswald Sobrino (philosophy)

Wisteria Cottage – Robert M. Coates (novel)

Then These Things Begin: Conversations with Michel Treguer – Rene Girard (theology; anthropology)

Fritz Lang – Robert A. Armour (Cinema Studies)

The Farther Shore – Robert M. Coates (Novel)

Passacaglia – Robert Pinget (Fiction)

Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows – Geoffrey O’Brien (Cinema Studies)

Luis Bunuel – Virginia Higganbotham (Cinema Studies)

The Rings of Saturn – W. G. Sebald (Fiction)

Yesterday’s Burdens – Robert M. Coates (Novel)

Plays: The Old Tune, Clope, & Dead Letter – Robert Pinget (Plays)

Fritz Lang: The Image and the Look – Edited byStephen Jenkins (Film Studies)

The Eater of Darkness – Robert M. Coates (Novel)

Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump - -Aaron James (Psychology)

Why Hitler Came to Power – Theodore Abel (Sociology; history)

The Big Heat – Colin McArthur (Cinema Studies)                                                            BFI

The Mission of the University – Jose Ortega y Gasset (Philosophy; Education)         Norton

The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock taught America to Love Murder – David Thomson (cinema studies)

The Exterminating Angel – Luis Bunuel (screenplay)                                                    Green Integer

Movie Man – David Thomson (Cinema Studies)


 

2019 

First Words – Douglas Messerli (poetry) Green Integer

The 480 – Eugene Burdick (novel) Dell

Metropolis – Antonio Porta (poetry) Green Integer

Historical Reason – Jose Ortega y Gasset (Philosophy) Norton

Television: A Biography – David Thomson (Media Studies) Thames & Hudson

A Fine Figure of a Girl – Eugene Burdick (short stories) Signet

My Year 2002: Love, Death, and Transfiguration – Douglas Messerli (essays and memoir) Green Integer

The Deatherians – John O’Keefe (play) Green Integer

Myron – Gore Vidal (novel) Vintage Contemporaries

Wartime Lies – Louis Begley (novel) Ballantine

Three Plays – Alan Ayckbourn Grove Press Absurd Person Singular Absent Friends Bedroom Farce

Last Stands from the Alamo to Benghazi: How Hollywood Turns Military Defeats into Moral Victories Frank J. Wetta & Martin A Novelli (Cinema Studies) Routledge

A Chorus of Disapproval – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

A Small Family Business – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

The End of the Road – John Barth (novel) Bantam Books

A Place in the Country – W. G. Sebald (essays) Penguin

The “Other” Psychology of Julian Jaynes – Brian J. McVeigh (psychology) Imprint Academic

Metaphysical Anthropology: The Empirical Structure of Human Life – Julian Marias (philosophy) Pennsylvani State University Press

Watt – Samuel Beckett (novel) Grove Press

Henceforward. . . . – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

Morphine – Mikhail Bulgakov (novella) New Directions

Man of the Moment – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico (novella) New Directions

Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

Rat Man of Paris – Paul West (novel) Overlook Press

Invisible Friends – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

On Booze – F. Scott Fitzgerald (memoir) New Directions

Some Late Poems – Warren Hope (poetry) self-published

This is Where We Came In – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

Haunting Julia – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

The Walk – Robert Walser (Fiction) New Directions

Sugar Daddies – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

When I Was Mortal – Javier Marias (short stories) The Harvill Pressures

Drowning on Dry Land – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

Taken From Him – Joseph McElroy (novella) Kindle Single-bullet

The Champion of Paribonou – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

(Alan Ayckbourn Plays 2)

The Development – John Barth (Stories) Mariner Books (Hought-Mif)

Dark Mirrors – Arno Schmidt (novella) Dalkey Archive

Private Fears in Public Places – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber Plays Volume 3

The Noise of Time – Julian Barne (novel) Vintage

The Frolic of the Beasts – Yukio Mishima (novel) Vintage International

The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head, Franz Kafka: Atlas & Co. A Biographical Essay – Louis Begley (Biography)

Medium Cool: The Movies the Sixties – Ethan Mordden (Cinema Studies) Alfred A. Knopf

Flaubert’s Parrot – Julian Barnes (novel) Vintage International

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis – Jared Diamond (Social Science) Little, Brown

The Revengers’ Comedies – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

Every Third Thought – John Barth (novel) Counterpoint

Suspects – David Thomson (novel) Vintage

Things We Do For Love – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

Dog’s Mercury – Corey Harrison (novel) Dr. Cicero Books

House & Garden – Alan Ayckbourn (plays) faber & faber

Snake in the Grass – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

If I Were You – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

The Agony of Power – Jean Baudrilard (essays) Semiotext(e)


 

2020

Pulse – Julian Barnes (short stories) Vintage

Killing Time – Paul Feyerabend (autobiography) Univ. of Chicago Press

God Bless You, Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut (novel) Delacorte Press

On the Natural History of Destruction – W. G. Sebald (essays) Random House

Trotsky in Exile – Peter Weiss (play) Pocket Books

Life and Beth – Alan Ayckbourn (play) faber & faber

 

Rare Books

Between September, 1983, and October, 1987, I purchased 21 books through Rare and Out-of-Print Book agencies. The books cost between $35 and $80. The process allowed me to send the agencies on a hunt for the book, then they mailed me a price quotation once the book was found, and I chose whether to buy it or not. It appears cumbersome today compared to the near instantaneous quotations one can get from Amazon.com. I stopped purchasing books this way ten years before I bought a computer, partly for lack of money, not that I had very much when I was buying them.

I found an inventory of the books in an old personal journal. These were books I had seriously wanted and had sought them after having exhausted my closest resources: several bookstores in New York City and Philadelphia and many bookstores on or near several college campuses I visited.

 

My first purchase was Reasons of the Heart by Edward Dahlberg. Dahlberg interested me, among other reasons, because I collected books of aphorisms: E.M. Cioren, the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, Nicolas Chamfort, etc. My passion for this form of writing had previously led me to try to complete an MFA at Columbia by writing a book of aphorisms. The project never got beyond one class where we discussed fifty or sixty of them (I had written five hundred), but the teacher, Frank MacShane, received them coldly, despite his having written on Dahlberg’s aphorisms.

 

As described in Jonathan Lethem’s Harper’s article in 2003, Dahlberg adopted a severe persona inside and outside of his books. His writing style is one of the most demanding in American letters. No less intensely does he judge the work of his contemporaries and classics. For instance, Henry James was plainly unreadable (I read this at the time I was trying to get through The Ambassadors and couldn’t have agreed with Dahlberg more). Apparently, Dahlberg damned student writing in classes at Columbia University just as severely, advising the fragile egos in writing classes to give up trying to write. His aphorisms continue the assault on those who expect life to relax for a moment and allow the horse’s ass to pass by.

 

A writer whose path crossed mine in one such writing class at Columbia, was William Bronk, a friend of my teacher, Richard Elman. Bronk read passages from The New World, a book rhapsodizing Mayan and Incan civilizations (a topic Dahlberg touches in The Gold of Ophir). I was so impressed that ten years later I ordered The World, The Worldless by Bronk, a book of poetry. I seldom bought books of poetry, but these poems lived up to my anticipation. Several years later I joined a group which met weekly where one of us brought a poem into to discuss for thirty to forty-five minutes. I chose Bronk’s “A Postcard To Send To Sumer”:

 

Something you said--I found it written down--

and your picture yesterday, brought back old times.

We are here in another country now. It’s hard.

(When was it ever different?) The language is odd;

we have to grope for words for what we mean.

And we hardly ever really feel at home

as though we might be happier somewhere else.

Companion, brother, (this funny) I look

for you among the faces as if I might find

you here, or find you somewhere, and problems would then

be solved.  What problems are ever solved?

Brother, the stars are almost the same

and in good weathers--here it is summer now--

when the airs are kind, it seems the world and we

might last unchanged forever. Brother, I think

you would like it here in spite of everything.

I don’t know where to send this to you. Perhaps

I’ll be able to find it before the mails have closed.

 

I was impressed by the poem’s melancholy stemming from the sense of fatal brotherhood with a past civilization and, simultaneously, our mutually expecting to never find final comfort with what we have become. It is why we read, breathe, and write.

 

I also purchased six works of fiction:

 

The Blue Flowers -- Raymond Queneau           Mahu, or the Material -- Robert Pinget

 

The Axe -- Ludvik Vaculik                            To the End of the World -- Blaise Cendrars

 

Sutter’s Gold -- Blaise Cendrars                      Brave African Huntress -- Amos Tutuola

 

These books were written by authors I had read intensively the previous decade, most of them first encountered in several Comparative Literature classes taught by Paul West. I had wanted to read all of their novels, especially Pinget’s, whose nuances and narrative devices I had tried often in my own work. The title of my first novel was taken from Mahu’s first line: “This is a story I can’t make head nor tail of it....” Overall, Queneau may have influenced me more greatly. I have described my novel, Berthcut & Sons (formerly known as Head Nor Tail, in queries to editors, as being “Ameriqueneau.”

The other thirteen books comprised various works of nonfiction – philosophy, history, memoir – from influential authors. A Cendrars memoir of World War I, Lice, complemented another work about the French soldiers in the trenches, Humphrey Cobb’s Paths of Glory. T. Harry Williams’ P.G.T. Beauregard: Napoleon in Gray I acquired because of my interest Southern Civil War Generals, especially Beauregard, who participated in many battles and campaigns: Fort Sumter, First Mannasas, Shiloh and the southern retreat into Mississippi, and the defense against Sherman’s drive through South Carolina at the end of the war. After reading it I was more amazed by the organized chaos of battles in the Civil War (and probably all wars), especially the apparently arbitrary factors which allowed one side to carry the day (Battles of Bull Run and Shiloh) and how generals could make or break battles with decisions made in an instant with little or scattered bits of information with which to work.

 

Invertebrate Spain and Meditations on Hunting by José Ortega y Gasset added to my already large collection of the Spanish philosopher’s book, as Ortega was and remains the single strongest influence on my ideas and direction in life. My aforesaid novel began with an epigraph from Ortega. Invertebrate Spain proved to be a necessary prelude to his most famous work, The Revolt of the Masses.

The remaining purchases:

The Outlook for Intelligence – Paul Valery                                       

The Greek Tyrants – A. Andrews

Language: Its Nature, Development, and Origin – Otto Jespersen

Terrorism – Walter Lacqueur

The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes – Arthur Waley

War and Human Progress – John Nef

History of Rome – Thomas Mommsen

Idols of the Tribe – Harold R. Isaacs

The End of Our Time – Nicolas Berdyaev

Only one or two of the twenty-one books I didn’t finish: The Greek Tyrants and War and Human Progress.

Early Reading: Keeping an Account of What Has Been Read

I remember logging the books I read in high school, especially during the summer. In 1966, I had started my summer reading by taking on William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of Third Reich. My first thousand page book. I wanted to finish it in two weeks. 14 into 1062 pages (more or less) came out to 80+ per day. I finished it in two weeks.

During the ten weeks that summer, I read over thirty books. For the year, I racked up nearly 90. This was a period when I was reading Agatha Christie mysteries: Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, And Then There Were None, and her play The Mousetrap. It was in 1966 that I first joined The Book of the Month Club – on my father’s dime! – although I forget what my introductory choices were. However, my first month’s selection was a pair of Christie mysteries: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and At Bertram’s Hotel. The most memorable selection that year, something that has interested me to this day, was Simon Wiesenthal’s The Murderers Among Us, detailing his hunt for Nazis who had fled Germany in 1945.

My reading obsession was fueled by a competition I created and chronicled in notebooks. Every book had meaning from a strictly statistical perspective. The competitions included:

1) Letters of the alphabet: Authors whose names began with A, B, C, etc were added up. In my high school years, I read Leon Uris or Irving Wallace. Wallace long novels gave the W’s a boost against the names of authors that began with a C, an M, or an S. Uris may have been the only author I read whose name began with a U. But his books: Battle Cry, Exodus, The Angry Hills, Mila 18, Armageddon, and Topaz added up to over 1000 pages. I haven’t read anything of his after Topaz. Likewise, I feasted on Irving Wallace’s The Chapman Report, The Prize, The Man, and The Plot, the last over 900 pages. But The Plot must have exhausted me. I only read his The Twenty-Seventh Wife, dealing with Brigham Young’s “a wife too far”.

2) Simultaneously, publishers competed against one another. This was a marvelous era with a plethora of paperback publishers. Dell, Signet, Avon, Crest, Grove Press, New Directions. My reading choices were often determined by the Press. Dell had the largest stable of authors, and it was impossible to avoid them. But if could, I would search out Grove Press and Avon.

3) Then there my favorite authors. I had a special place for Eugene Burdick, who seemd to co-write many books. At age twelve, the first serious book I had read was Fail-Safe, with Harvey Wheeler as the co-author. Never read anything else of his. Whereas Burdick teamed up with Richard Lederer to write The Ugly American, perhaps one of the most influential books on my young mind. They followed it up with the less successful Sarkhan, but it was the latter that inspired the first work of fiction I wrote called “Our Own Worst Enemy” which summed up Burdick and Lederer’s view of American involvement in Southeast Asia. His other books – The Blue of Capricorn, Nina’s Book, and The 480 – I read but found only The 480 interesting.

4) Before taking on The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in high school, I tackled three difficult and long works of history. In 8th grade, I read Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August, which set up my desire to read everything about World War I. Guns was compelling reading, in part because I was just learning about World War I, almost as if I didn’t know what was going to happen! The furious diplomatic activity after Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination gave one the impression the war could have been prevented. I don’t think the same now. The fighting in August 1914 was fluid with an army advancing toward Paris, while on the Eastern Front, the Germans delivered massive twin defeats of the Russian army. Later, I would read extensively about Verdun and the Battle of the Somme.

The second book was The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. Ancient wars attracted me as much as had World War I. Hannibal, Caesar, Athens and Sparta, Persia. The Pass of Thermopylae in the Second Persian War was my favorite. But Sparta vs. Athens equally interested me. A thirty year war. Sparta winning – I favored it not because I subscribed to the conscription of 7-year olds for 30 years, but the fact that Spartans, the 300, were the heroes holding more than 100,000 Persians. (I prefer the clunky The 300 Spartans (1963) starring Richard Egan over Gerard Butler and 300 (2004).

 

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