Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quick Book Reviews

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.

3 comments:

Benday-Dot (aka Craig) said...

Scott... I just wanted to say that only yesterday did I finish up Independence Day. I've had the book for a while, but was so behind on my reading (I'm always alternating my comic book world reading with my "other" world reading)that I only got to it in the last bit. It pulls off the feat of being both dry n' gust busting funny, and of being immensely moving and hear breaking in places. Like you I loved it. I have to read Sportswriter now, and more Ford. Have you ever read any of James Salter's short stories or novels? They are like an Alex Toth strip. Cut to perfection, with not a word that is unnecessary.

Scott M said...

Hey Craig

Thanks for the comments - I am glad you enjoyed Independence Day. It's a book that was passed around my entire family and every seemed to enjoy it. I have not read any Salter - I'll try to check him out.

Anonymous said...

If you thought the big reveal in Wizard of Oz was a stunner, try the big reveal in the end of Zardoz! Talk about an obvious clue! You've got to see it to believe it. You'll especially like the women's reaction to the striped naked Sean Conrey's groin!