BrokenTune

Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

T. Rex and the Crater of Doom

"T. rex" and the Crater of Doom (Princeton Science Library) - Walter Alvarez, Carl Zimmer

The story of research on the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction through the 1980s is complicated, because so many people played a part and so many scientific disciplines and kinds of evidence were involved. Anyone preparing to recount the events has to choose a way of organizing the material and deciding what to include and what to exclude.6 The story has been told several times,7 and it has usually been presented as a conflict between those convinced by the evidence for impact and those arguing the case for volcanism as the cause of the extinction. I prefer to tell it in a different way. I want to focus on the search for the crater which must have been excavated if the impact hypothesis was right, and to consider why finding that crater was so difficult.

Don't let the title of the book mislead you. This book is neither about T. rex nor is it a geologist's attempt at writing a fan-fiction Indiana Jones sequel. This book is specifically about the pre-historic event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and more so it is the record of the various scientific theories about that event. 

 

Alvarez goes to great lengths to explain how he researched the KT boundary from a geological perspective, how other scientists added their views to the topic, and how the discussion in the scientific community took place to examine different theories and find support or dismiss various ideas. 

 

What I have come away with from the book (apart from many details about geology) is that while Alvarez and his team may have every right to be credited with proving the merit of impact theory - i.e. that a huge asteroid or comet crashing into Earth caused the catastrophe that eventually killed of the dinosaurs (among many other species) - his work was supported by the efforts of the wider scientific community that helped to solve the puzzle. 

 

Even tho this book did not discuss dinosaurs, it was a fascinating read. And that is something I never thought I would say about a book on geology.

24 Festive Tasks: Door 7 - Mawlid - Tasks

Task 1:  Make two “prophesies” you think will come to fruition in 2019 in your personal or reading life.

 

Prophesy # 1: I will get a grip on my physical Mt. TBR. 

Prophesy # 2: I will finish the Dame Agatha reading project. 

 

There you have it. I'll not comment on the actual likelihood of either, one may be more likely than the other. 2019 will tell. ;D

 

Task 2: The Five Pillars of Islam include almsgiving and the pilgrimage to Mekka. Tell us: Have you ever donated books or rescued them from (horror of horrors) being trashed? Alternatively: Is there a book-related place that is a place of pilgrimage to you?

 

Absolutely! After I read physical books, I donate them to a couple of charity bookshops in town. I only keep very, very special books on my shelves. And of course, I also "rescue" books at library sales etc.

And bookish pilgrimages are the best!

 

Task 3: Prophets are messengers. Tell us: Which book characters are your favorite messengers (no matter whether humans, angels, (demi)gods, etc.)?

 

Messenger # 1 - Not a book character but I simply have to list him: The Metatron from the film Dogma.

 

Never has a Biblical figure been portrayed in a more entertaining manner.

 

Messenger # 2 - Sybill Trelawney, the great channeller of prophesies and Head of the Divination Workshop at Hogwarts School. 

 

Messenger # 3 - Seyton: His part in the play may be small, but to me he's the memorable character whose message starts Macbeth on his "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" speech, which is one of the highlights of the play. 

 

 

Task 4: Muhammad was a merchant before becoming a religious leader. List 5 books on your shelves in which a key character makes / undergoes a radical career change.

 

# 1: Murder on the Links (Arthur Hastings - Amateur sleuth to rancher)

# 2: Hogfather (Banjo - Thug to Keeper of the Tooth Fairy's Castle)

# 3: Our Man in Havana (James Wormold - vacuum cleaner salesman to spy)

# 4: Carol (Therese - sales clerk to set designer) 

# 5: The Pledge/Das Versprechen (Police inspector to gas station attendant)

 

Book:  If you can find a copy, read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.  Or read any book about a leader of a movement, nation, religion or large group, OR read a book with a green cover OR with a half moon on the cover.

 

(wip)

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 43%.

"T. rex" and the Crater of Doom (Princeton Science Library) - Walter Alvarez, Carl Zimmer

Even tho I know how this book is going to conclude, Alvarez' writing makes it sound like there could be other outcomes - it's quite thrilling to read. He does this by actually giving us an oversight of the scientific work at the time that either supported his idea or came forward to try and disprove it. 

I love the way he gives equal airtime to both his supporters and the colleagues who disagreed with him, and does so without any notions of one-up-man-ship. 

"Dewey and I had come to completely opposite views of the KT boundary, and our heated exchanges enlivened a few scientific meetings. But even as the evidence for impact at the KT boundary was building up, so was the evidence that Dewey McLean was right about the age of the Deccan Traps."

 

[...]

 

"Chuck Officer disagreed intensely and often—not only with me, but with almost everyone else who favored impact. Again and again he made us go back and test whether our arguments were really as strong as we thought. Even though it was frustrating not to find the crater for ten years, it was actually a blessing, for an early discovery of the impact site might have short-circuited the intense challenge to each bit of evidence that Chuck Officer compelled us to face."

Again, I'm probably still suffering from the effects of reading The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs ... ugh.

A Game for the Living

A Game for the Living: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Patricia Highsmith

"Theodore thought he was as happy as anyone logically could be in an age when atomic bombs and annihilation hung over everybody's head, though the world 'logically' troubled him in this context. Could one be logically happy?" 

I don't know, but I do know that this A Game for the Living certainly did not contribute to my happiness.

 

I am still confused as to what the story of this book was: was it a murder mystery, or an attempt to create an atmosphere of haunting guilt and haunting surveillance, while two of the main characters, Teo and Ramon, are trying to hunt down the killer of their ex-lover Lelia, while trying to decide whether the other is involved in her death.

 

This book just didn't work for me. There are rudimentary philosophical musings but Highsmith's atheist character, Theodore ("Teo"), was not well placed to discuss Ramon's Catholicism, and Teo's own attitude towards life is so detached that it is hard to empathise with him. There are, and I am probably biased from having read Sartre's Nausea only recently, some similarities between Highsmith's Teo and Sartre's Antoine, who both are outsiders and like to observe the people around them, never feeling part of the lives around them, and never really wanting to be.

As for Teo's Catholic counterpart Ramon, he was so guilt-ridden that he confesses to a murder he didn't commit, but instead of giving us an insight into why he feels this way, Highsmith doesn't go into much detail of Ramon's belief or frame of mind. There was a point in the story when I thought Highsmith might attempt a novel like Greene's The Power and the Glory (she was a fan of Greene's), exploring the different depths of the human condition, but this fizzled out into nothing as the murder mystery part of the plot took over.

 

 

It was all very unsatisfying.

 

At least, I am comforted by the fact that Highsmith knew this herself. When I took to Andrew Wilson's excellent biography of Highsmith to read up a little bit about the background to the book, I found this:

Later, Highsmith came to regard A Game for the Living, published in November 1958, as one of her worst novels. ‘The murderer is off-scene, mostly,’ she said, ‘so the book became a “mystery who-dunnit,” in a way – definitely not my forte.’46 She concluded that the book, which she said was ‘the only really dull book I have written’,47 lacked the elements which she thought were vital in her novels – ‘surprise, speed of action, the stretching of the reader’s credulity, and above all that intimacy with the murderer himself . . . The result was mediocrity.’

From Andrew Wilson's Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith (Bloomsbury Lives of Women)

 

In summary, this was probably the weakest Highsmith novel I have ever read (followed by Strangers on a Train) but I am glad I've read it, even if it is just to remind me how high a bar she set for her books and what high expectations I have come to approach her books with. 

Reading progress update: I've read 247 out of 278 pages.

A Game for the Living: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Patricia Highsmith

The murder mystery genre really was not Highsmith's forte. At least she knew it. 

I think this is the first of her books that I'm actually bored with in the second half of the book.

 

:(

BrokenTune's 24 Tasks of the Festive Season - Update Post

 

I have not thought of markers, yet, but just wanted to make a start on how I will keep track of this game. Tasks completed will be marked with a Jingle Sheep, additional tasks will be festive baubles. I'll re-post this post whenever there is an update, will list the tasks/books completed below, and will link to the relevant task/book post.

 

Points: 28

 

Day 1 - Día de los Muertos!:

Task 1:  Write a silly poem or limerick poking fun at the fiction character of your choice.

Task 2:  Share your favorite gravestone epitaph (you know you have one).

Task 3:  Create an altar (either digital or physical) for your favorite book, series, or book character, and post a picture of it.  Inclusion of book cover encouraged.

Task 4: If you like Mexican food, treat yourself to your favorite dish and share a photo of it.

Book:  Re-read an old favorite from a now-deceased author, a book from a finished (dead) series, or a book set in Mexico.

 

Day 2 - Guy Fawkes Night (November 5): 

Task 1:  Burn a book in effigy.  Not that anyone of us would do such a thing, but if you HAD to, which book would be the one you’d sacrifice to the flames (gleefully or not)?

Task 2:  List your top 3 treasonous crimes against books.  Not ones you’ve committed, but the ones you think are the worst.

Task 3:  Share your favorite / most memorable BBQ recollections or recipe, or your favorite recipe for food “flambé” (i.e., doused with alcohol which is then set aflame and allowed to burn off).

Task 4:  Find 5 uses of the word “gunpowder” in book titles in contexts other than for blowing up things or shooting people (e.g., Gunpowder Green by Laura Childs = tea).

Book:  Set in the UK, political thrillers, involving any monarchy or revolution; books about arson or related to burning.

 

Day 3 - Melbourne Cup Day (November 6):  

Task 1: Pick your ponies!  MbD has posted the horses scheduled to race; everyone picks the three they think will finish (in any order).  

Task 2:  Cup day is all about the hats.  Post a picture of your favorite hat, whether it’s one you own or not.

Task 3: The coloring of the “horse of a different color” in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz was created by rubbing the horse’s fur with jello. What’s the weirdest use of jello you’ve ever come across?

Task 4: Have you ever been to or participated in a competition involving horses (racing, jumping, dressage, whatever)? Tell us about it. Photos welcome, too!

Book: about horses or a horse on the cover.  Books with roses on the cover or about gardening; anything set in Australia.

 

Day 4 - Diwali (November 7):  

Task 1:  Share a picture of your favorite light display.

Task 2:  Cleaning is a big part of this holiday; choose one of your shelves, real or virtual, and tidy / organise it.  Give us the before and after photos.  OR Tidy up 5 of the books on your BookLikes shelves by adding the CORRECT cover, and/or any other missing information. (If in doubt, see here: http://jenn.booklikes.com/post/1782687/state-of-the-database-booklikes-database-halloween-bingo-and-a-mini-rant-with-pictures).

Task 3: Eating sweets is also a big part of Diwali. Either select a recipe for a traditional sweet, or make a family favorite and share a picture with us.

Task 4: During Diwali, people pray to the goddess Lakhshmi, who is typically depicted as a beautiful young woman holding a lotus flower. Find 5 books on your shelves (either physical or virtual) whose covers show a young woman holding a flower and share their cover images.

Book: Read a book with candles on the cover or the word “candle” or “light” in the title; OR a book that is the latest in a series; OR set in India; OR any non-fiction book that is ‘illuminating’ (Diwali is Sanskrit for light/knowledge and row, line or series)

 

Door 5:  Veterans' / Armistice Day (November 11)

Task 1:  Using book covers (real or virtual), create a close approximation of your country’s flag (either of residence or birth), OR a close approximation of a poppy.  Take a pic of your efforts and post.

Task 2: Make an offer of peace (letter, gift, whatever) to a book character who has particularly annoyed you this year.

Task 3: Tell us: What author’s books would you consider yourself a veteran of (i.e., by which author have you read particularly many books – or maybe even all of them)?

Task 4: Treat yourself to a slice of poppy seedcake and post a photo. If you want to make it yourself, try out this recipe: https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/poppy-seed-cake/ … or this one: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1629633/lemon-and-poppy-seed-cake

Book:  Read any book involving wars, battles, where characters are active military or veterans, or with poppies on the cover.

 

Door 6 - International Day for Tolerance (November 16):  

Task 1:  Find some redeeming quality in the book you liked least this year and post about it.

Task 2: Tell us: What are the tropes (up to 5) that you are not willing to live with in any book (i.e., which are absolutely beyond your capacity for tolerance) and which make that book an automatic DNF for you? (Insta-love? Love triangles? First person present narrative voice? Talking animals? The dog dies? What else?) 

Task 3: The International Day for Tolerance is a holiday declared by an international organization (UNESCO). Create a charter (humorous, serious, whatever strikes your fancy) for an international organization of readers.

Task 4: UNESCO is based in Paris. Paris is known for its pastries and its breads: Either find a baker that specializes in pastries and bring home an assortment for your family, or make your own pastries using real butter and share a photo with us.

Book:  Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone.  (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.

 

Door 7 - Mawlid - Tasks

Task 1:  Make two “prophesies” you think will come to fruition in 2019 in your personal or reading life. 

Task 2: The Five Pillars of Islam include almsgiving and the pilgrimage to Mekka. Tell us: Have you ever donated books or rescued them from (horror of horrors) being trashed? Alternatively: Is there a book-related place that is a place of pilgrimage to you? 

Task 3: Prophets are messengers. Tell us: Which book characters are your favorite messengers (no matter whether humans, angels, (demi)gods, etc.)?

Task 4: Muhammad was a merchant before becoming a religious leader. List 5 books on your shelves in which a key character makes / undergoes a radical career change. 

Book:  If you can find a copy, read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.  Or read any book about a leader of a movement, nation, religion or large group, OR read a book with a green cover OR with a half moon on the cover.

 

...

 

Day 18 - Winter Solstice / Yuletide (December 21): 

Task 1:

Task 2:

Task 3:

Task 4:

Book: Read any book that takes place in December OR with ice or snow on the cover OR that revolves around the (summer or winter) equinox OR a collection of poetry by Hafez.

Day 19 - Festivus (December 23): 

Task 1:

Task 2:

Task 3:

Task 4:

Book: Read any comedy, parody, or satire.

Day 20 - Christmas (December 25): 

Task 1:

Task 2:

Task 3:

Task 4:

Book: Read any Christmas book.

Day 21 - Kwanzaa (December 26 - January 1): 

Task 1:

Task 2:

Task 3:

Task 4:

Book: Read a book set in Africa or the Caribbean OR by an African, Caribbean, or African-American author OR a book with a green, red, or black cover.

Day 22 - New Year's Eve (December 31): 

Task 1:

Task 2:

Task 3:

Task 4:

Book: Read a book about endings, new starts, or books where things go BOOM!

Day 23 - Hogswatch (December 32)*: 

Task 1:

Task 2:

Task 3:

Task 4:

Book: Read anything by Terry Pratchett. 

Day 24 - Epiphany (January 6): 

Task 1:

Task 2:

Task 3:

Task 4:

Book: Read a book with three main characters OR a book about traveling on a journey to a faraway place OR a book that’s part of a trilogy OR with a star on the cover OR with the word “twelve” or “night” in the title OR or concerning kings or spices.

24 Tasks: Door 6 - International Day for Tolerance (November 16)

Task 1:  Find some redeeming quality in the book you liked least this year and post about it.

 

Is there any one book I liked least this year? There may be a handful, not just one. However, if I have to think of one with a redeeming feature, I need to mention Steve Brusatte's The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. I thought the book was pretty awful. The redeeming feature, tho, was that Brusatte makes mention of Walter Alvarez who also wrote about what caused the dinosaurs to disappear. So, I picked up Alvarez' book T. Rex and the Crater of Doom and have been enjoying it since. I'm not sure I would have found the book if Brusatte had not mentioned it.

 

Task 2: Tell us: What are the tropes (up to 5) that you are not willing to live with in any book (i.e., which are absolutely beyond your capacity for tolerance) and which make that book an automatic DNF for you? (Insta-love? Love triangles? First person present narrative voice? Talking animals? The dog dies? What else?) 

 

Insta-love and love triangles are definitely off-putting but I don't read a lot of books that have a focus on romantic entanglements so these aren't my two top peeves when it comes to reading.

 

What puts me off, is when:

 

- the author comes across as an arrogant or self-indulgent;

- the book contains a lot generalisations/cliche/stereotypes;

- the book contains a lot of inaccuracies;

- the author plays fast and loose with the historical facts.

 

I would have listed that I DNF when the MC is TSTL but sometimes it is just too much fun rooting for the MC to go down.

 

 

Task 3: The International Day for Tolerance is a holiday declared by an international organization (UNESCO). Create a charter (humorous, serious, whatever strikes your fancy) for an international organization of readers.

 

Readers shall read what they want, when they want, and how they want, for how long they want, in any location they want, in any position they want, for any reason they want, making of their reads what they want, taking breaks when they want, putting books back if they want, or reading several things at once if they want.

But most of all,

Readers shall read! 

 

Task 4: UNESCO is based in Paris. Paris is known for its pastries and its breads: Either find a baker that specializes in pastries and bring home an assortment for your family, or make your own pastries using real butter and share a photo with us.

 

Do Parisian butter cookies and macaroons count?

I brought home some of both of them from my trip, tho ... there was only one macaroon left when I took this picture yesterday.

 

 

Book:  Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone.  (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.

 

I read Irene Nemirovsky's The Fires of Autum earlier this month, which is set in Paris. 

The Sunday Post

Good evening,

 

I can't believe it is Sunday night already. Not that I have been so busy that I didn't even notice the weekend flying by, on the contrary, but it flew by all the same. 

I spent most of the last two days decompressing from last week: I returned from my trip to Paris late on Tuesday night and spend much longer days at work than anticipated for the rest of the week. By Friday night I was exhausted.

So, apart from pottering about and sleeping and unpacking, I have done as little as possible.

 

This included reading. We've started our buddy read of Patricia Highsmith's A Game for the Living yesterday, but I didn't even have enough focus to manage to make a real dent into the book until this afternoon, after I had cleared my head with something a little lighter yesterday. And even this was only possible because of extra reading fuel.

 

 

Oh, and I also picked up a book in Paris. Shocking, I know, but look at the restraint!

 

 

Actually, I was looking for a copy of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, but the bookshop I was in only had a the latest translations (which apparently suffers from some translation issues) and then I spotted this one, proudly took it to the desk, and the bookseller even commented that she really enjoyed the book. To say that I'm excited about the book is putting it mildly.

 

My only real break from sleeping, reading, and pottering about came last night when I attended a panel discussion about women in politics, where local councillors, MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament), and MPs (Members of Parliament) of  various political persuasions discussed ways to get involved in local politics and what differences women might face to men when doing so. This was organised by a local group that has been running events throughout the year to commemorate Women's Suffrage in the UK. 

 

It was a fascinating debate and I'm glad I went: not only because I thought it was great of the politicians who attended to take part, but also because there don't seem to be a lot such open and collaborative discussions across parties.

 

I must admit that I also liked the setting. The Town House is a rather nice venue. 

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 175 out of 278 pages.

A Game for the Living: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Patricia Highsmith

‘Iguana, señor! Five pesos! Make a fine belt!’

‘No – no, thank you,’ Theodore said, leaning away from the horribly grinning face of the thing. He moved the car slowly.

‘Four pesos!’ The boy held it by its fat throat and its tail and walked along beside the car. The iguana looked straight into Theodore’s eye, and, like something out of hell, it seemed to say: ‘Buy me and I’ll fix you!’

‘Three pesos!’

‘I can’t use an iguana!’

I don't know why, but this made me laugh.

Reading progress update: I've read 130 out of 278 pages.

A Game for the Living: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Patricia Highsmith

‘So now Ramón is staying with you.’

‘Yes.’

‘Tsch-tsch. It is scandalous, Teo.’

‘What is scandalous?’

‘Our courts of justice. Our police force and their psychiatrists.’ Her large dark eyes, full of feminine wisdom and quite devoid of logic, glanced around the room impatiently.

 

Ouch. Is this Highsmith writing or Theodor? If it's "Teo", it kinda fits in with his other preconceptions, I still can't quite make him out.

 

Incidentally, I took to Andrew Wilson's biography of Highsmith to read up a little bit about the background to the book and found this:

Later, Highsmith came to regard A Game for the Living, published in November 1958, as one of her worst novels. ‘The murderer is off-scene, mostly,’ she said, ‘so the book became a “mystery who-dunnit,” in a way – definitely not my forte.’46 She concluded that the book, which she said was ‘the only really dull book I have written’,47 lacked the elements which she thought were vital in her novels – ‘surprise, speed of action, the stretching of the reader’s credulity, and above all that intimacy with the murderer himself . . . The result was mediocrity.’

From Andrew Wilson's Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith (Bloomsbury Lives of Women)

 

I'm intrigued how this book will end, and what will happen to Teo and Ramon in between now and the end, but I can see that this book presents some difficulties that other Highsmith books haven't got (apart from Stangers on a Train). 

 

I did, however, like the way that Teo interacts with his cat, Leo, and imagines the following dialogue:

There was a pen-and-ink drawing of himself hectically feeding Leo in the kitchen, setting a broiled and split lobster before the cat with one hand and with the other pouring melted butter from a pitcher, and below it their dialogue:

 

LEO: Where have you been, damn you! Don’t you know it’s after midnight?

T: I told you I’d be late coming home, and I’m sure Inocenza gave you a little something at five o’clock.

LEO: She did not.

T: Don’t lie, Leo. And here’s a fine broiled lobster. Smell it!

LEO: R-row! If you think this makes up for waiting six hours!

T: I promise not to do it again.

LEO: You will. You’re lucky I stay around at all, because you don’t deserve me.

Reading progress update: I've read 92 out of 278 pages.

A Game for the Living: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Patricia Highsmith

The smell of the Cathedral irked Theodore – candle wax, incense, the hollow, stale smell of a tomb without even the virtues of coolness and privacy, the smell of old cloth and old wood, the sweaty sweetness of crumpled peso notes, and, bringing it all out and binding it like salt, the smell of human bodies and breaths. Theodore supposed that Ramón reacted like Pavlov’s dog to this particular smell and its variations in other churches. Sanctity. Genuflect. Cross yourself. Tread lightly. This is a holy place. The air has not been changed in four hundred years – or however old the place might be. This Cathedral was nearly four hundred years old. And now to bring his barbarity in here with him and spill it all out! With the bland certainty, too, that some invisible yet all-powerful thing was going to forgive him!

   Theodore squirmed on the hard wooden seat. Ramón’s sins were only different in degree, after all. People came in sometimes scheming how to pick somebody’s pocket. A sign on the front of the door warned people in Spanish and in English to beware of pickpockets within the Cathedral. It was impossible to get one’s mind off money. Wooden alms boxes on pedestals everywhere pleaded in printed notices for money for the children, for the poor, for the upkeep of the church; and each had a huge padlock on it to keep those very poor from taking what was as much theirs as anybody else’s.

This story is dripping with nihilism. Maybe that's why all the characters feel so detached?

 

Reading progress update: I've read 56 out of 278 pages.

A Game for the Living: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Patricia Highsmith

He walked to his bed and lay down slowly, as unrelaxed as a figure of stone on a tomb. No more conversations with Lelia, no more happiness shared with her when she sold a picture, or when a reviewer wrote a word of praise. As a painter, Lelia was going to be judged by what she had done up until yesterday at the age of thirty years and one month. Theodore’s blood began to stir with thoughts of revenge. Whoever had done it would pay with his life. He would see to that, even if there were no capital punishment in Mexico.

So far, this book is quite different from other Highsmith books. I'm not complaining. 

 

We're straight into the action, but there is more visual cruelty in this one. This is unusual for Highsmith. There is also more deliberation about the concepts of art and character, which reminds me of The Tremor of Forgery in that we follow a character who is an ex-pat in a society that is foreign to him. He tries to blend in, but he just can't overcome standing at least a little aside from the rest of the people he interacts with. 

The Fires of Autumn

The Fires of Autumn - Irène Némirovsky

THE NEGOTIATIONS FOR the aeroplane parts that had begun in 1936 were only concluded two years later: the engineers had stated that the American parts were not suitable for French planes. The question was discussed in Parliament. ‘I’ll deal with Parliament,’ Raymond Détang had said. ‘We’ll sort it out one morning when the benches are empty. We won’t allow those troublemakers to prevent us from making a pretty packet. Why should I worry about the engineers? They’re specialists, and specialists only ever see their side of a problem. This is much greater, on a much bigger scale than they could imagine.

I have not read Nermirovsky's Suite Francaise. To be honest, the hype around the book put me off. However, I did watch the movie (because, erm, Kristin Scott Thomas...) and have been intrigued by Nemirovsky's writing ever since. Just not about Suite Francaise, which by now would be rather pointless because the plot no longer holds any interest for me.

 

Anyway. I picked up The Fires of Autumn from the library and once I started reading, I was drawn deeply into the world of Nemirovsky's Paris of the early part of the 20th century. The book started out as a family saga and a portrait of Paris society but then the plot turned into the war years (WWI) and we saw the characters develop by having to deal with the war and the emergence of the inter-war society with its decadence and thrills, and yet, the undercurrent of doom. 

Eventually, the characters are thrown into the next war. And this is where I found the book utterly gripping. 

The book was written in 1940 and, as we know, Nemirovsky never saw the end of the war. So, her descriptions of the life in France during the war, her descriptions of the war from the perspective of the soldiers are written by someone who didn't know which way the war was going to end. There is no all-knowing perspective and no hindsight, and this makes the writing very, very tense in the final chapters. Tense but not hopeless.

 

While I love a book that thrives on plot, this is not the case with The Fires of Autumn. The book thrives on the characters and the description of the changing times that the characters act within, and still, it was a fascinating read.

THE ARMY WAS beaten in Flanders, beaten at Dunkirk, beaten on the banks of the Aisne. There were no supplies left. It was only the civilians who clung to insurmountable hope in their hearts; in the cafés in the Lot-et-Garonne, they even tried to establish an imaginary line of defence south of the Loire, but the soldiers no longer had any illusions. The soldiers knew that the army had lost; they could even see the day approaching when there would be no more army, when amid the mass of an entire population in flight, soldiers would disappear, just as the debris of a ship sinks to the bottom of the sea during a storm.

Reading progress update: I've read 4 out of 278 pages.

A Game for the Living: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Patricia Highsmith

There was an awkward silence, in which Theodore could think of nothing to say. The two men began to talk to each other again. Theodore was reminded of other moments at parties and dinners when something he said – granted, not of much importance – had been completely ignored as if it had been either inaudible or an unspeakable obscenity. He wondered if it happened to other people as often as it happened to him.

More insignificant-looking men than he were listened to, no matter how stupid their remarks were, he thought. Now the two men were talking about somebody Theodore did not know, and it occurred to Theodore too late that Ortiz y Guzman B. might have been interested to know that he had been asked to show four paintings in a group show in May at one of the I.N.B.A. galleries. After a moment, Theodore drifted away and stood by a wall. Perhaps being ignored did not happen more often to him than anybody else.

Social gathering awkwardness. I hear you, Theo. 

 

Just starting our new Highsmith buddy read with Isanythingopen and Lillelara, which I am really looking forward to. It's always fun to explore the ... erm ... messed-up-ness of Highsmith's characters and plots with others. 

Not that I already know that the characters in A Game for the Living is going to be messed up, I really don't know anything about the book (and haven't even read the blurb). I'm merely prepared for messed up characters as this is Highsmith's trademark. We'll see how this one goes. 

 

Btw, apparently this story is set in Mexico City, so it would qualify for the Dia de los Muertos book task. 

24 Tasks: Door 5 - Veterans' / Armistice Day - Tasks

Update - 16.Nov.: Tasks 1 & 2 completed

 

Task 1:  Using book covers (real or virtual), create a close approximation of your country’s flag (either of residence or birth), OR a close approximation of a poppy.  Take a pic of your efforts and post.

 

With a little bit of improvisation...

 

 

 

Task 2: Make an offer of peace (letter, gift, whatever) to a book character who has particularly annoyed you this year.

 

Dear Vic,

 

It has taken some time to come to terms with your decision to run off with the man in the brown suit, but, in the end, it's your call. Entirely. 

I still think you have a lot more going for you, and maybe someday you'll see that, too.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this peculiar adventure.

 

BT

 

 

 

Task 3: Tell us: What author’s books would you consider yourself a veteran of (i.e., by which author have you read particularly many books – or maybe even all of them)?

 

I guess there is a small number of authors that I think I can consider myself a veteran of: Agatha Christie, Carson McCullers and Patricia Highsmith come to mind, but there is also Ian Fleming - the task didn't specify that we needed to like the author. ;D

 

However, I'm going to go with Graham Greene for this task. As some of you might remember, I dedicated a reading project to Greene in 2014/15 with the goal of reading all of his novels. It was such a fun and enlightening journey to travel in Greene-land. I really miss reading his books for the first time. 

 

 

Task 4: Treat yourself to a slice of poppy seedcake and post a photo. If you want to make it yourself, try out this recipe: https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/poppy-seed-cake/ … or this one: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1629633/lemon-and-poppy-seed-cake

 

(Not going to happen. I'm not a fan of poppy seedcake.)

 

Book:  Read any book involving wars, battles, where characters are active military or veterans, or with poppies on the cover.

 

I'm going to claim this task for reading The Road Back last week.

 

 

Bookish Post

It arrived. That is, I finally made it to the Post Office to pick it up.

Thank you so much Markk!

 

Currently reading

Die Känguru-Apokryphen: Live und ungekürzt by HörbucHHamburg HHV GmbH, Marc-Uwe Kling, Marc-Uwe Kling
Teller Of Tales: The Life Of Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Stashower
Progress: 9/472pages
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry
Progress: 79%
Im Auto durch zwei Welten by Clärenore Stinnes