Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammet
OK, OK – I’ve heard a million times how wonderful Hammet’s books are, and I’ve certainly been a big fan of his work translated to screen, but for one reason or another I just never got around to reading any of them. I finally rectified that situation and picked up a copy of Maltese Falcon at a used bookstore. I’ve seen the movie a half dozen times and was worried that it would interfere with my enjoyment of the book. Actually, the reverse was true – somehow, my knowledge of the movie and the various actors helped the prose bounce along beautifully. What a great read – wonderful dialogue and a great cast of characters. Of course, I kept hearing the voices of Bogart, Greenstreet and Lorre in my head but that was more than fine by me. I think whomever cast the film should be given an Oscar. Next stop – the Thin Man.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick
What kind of a nerd am I? I've never read a book by this legend. I bought a stack of 'em from a used bookstore and figured I'd start in familiar territory. Much like the Maltese Falcon, I was worried that my repeated viewings of Blade Runner would much up my enjoyment. It didn't at all. The book is soooo different in scope, setting and overall vibe. I really enjoyed the sense of despair mixed with practicality in Dick's future - somehow people are both nihilistic and optimistic. Mercerism is really quite an ingenious shallow creation, and I was constantly reminded of the great reveal in the Wizard of Oz. His terse, economic prose took some getting used to but ultimately I got into the flow of things.
The Sportswriter - Richard Ford
I did this one if the wrong order, too. I read Independence Day several years ago and was just blown away by Ford's writing. Hauting, raw and beautiful are the words that come to mind. In the interim, I read a couple of other of Ford's non-Bascombe books and they just didn't measure up (I wonder if anything could). I finally tracked down a used copy of the Sportwriter and got to explore Frank Bascombe's first mid-life crisis. Of course, these books invite immediate comparison to Updike's Rabbit series, but that's really only at a superficial level. Ford's writing is slow, dense and deliberate - flowing like a lazy river. I cannot think of a book that I've enjoyed more in the last few years.