Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming, 2/5
A strange little story, with a spindly plot and uneven tone that is sometimes fanciful and sometimes much too serious for the children that are presumably its audience. I did like the playful illustrations by John Burningham, which are quintessentially 1960s. Surprisingly, there is very little resemblance to the 1968 film, which I love (though it turns out that what I love about it is probably Roald Dahl’s influence, not Fleming’s inspiration).
Why I read it: my sister thought I might enjoy it.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 4/5
This is a bittersweet little story, written with the refined yet melodramatic style (and casual racism) that characterizes a lot of literature from the early 1900s. Like most people, I was already familiar with the characters and story line, but I recognized very little of pop culture Tarzan in this original tale.
The edition is noteworthy because it is printed in landscape format, supposedly making it easier to read in bed. I really enjoyed the novelty, but didn’t think it was any easier to read lying down than a normal book.
Why I read it: A lovely birthday gift from one of my brothers and his family.
The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great by Henry Fielding, 2/5
This peculiarly depressing little satire flips traditional concepts of morality on its head by recasting infamous 18th-century thief Jonathan Wild as a “Great Man,” deriding all honest men as “that pitiful order of mortals who are in contempt called good-natured; being indeed sent into the world by nature with the same design with which men put little fish into a pike-pond in order to be devoured by that voracious water-hero” (73). There are a few hilarious moments but overall Fielding’s satirical style is a bit strained and tedious.
Why I read it: I can’t remember where I picked this book up from, but it probably ended up in the pile beside my bed because I really enjoyed Fielding’s Tom Jones.
Four Novels of the 1970s: Fifty-Two Pickup, Swag, Unknown Man No. 89 and The Switch by Elmore Leonard, 1/5
I made it most of the way through the first novel in this collection and, while I admired the film-noir mood and punchy dialogue, eventually gave up because it was just too R-rated for me. Given that I enjoy watching a lot of R-rated movies, this might seem strange, but there’s just something about books–I get a bad feeling from reading things in print that wouldn’t phase me to watch on film.
I suspect that Fifty-Two Pickup might be one of Leonard’s roughest books and I might have had better luck with some of his more comedic works, but I just don’t feel motivated to give them a try at this point.
Why I read it: Got a batch of Elmore Leonard books out of the library to read, starting with his 10 Rules of Writing.
Mr. Majestyk by Elmore Leonard, 3/5
This is no literary masterpiece, but it’s got a likeable good guy, a hot girl, a selection of mean bad guys and plenty of gun play, so it seems petty to complain.
Why I read it: I needed a break from some of Leonard’s darker work and I enjoyed the Charles Bronson movie which served as inspiration for this short novel.
The Works of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde, 5/5
Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite authors and I have read (and re-read) his major works, such as the entrancing novella, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the impossibly witty play The Importance of Being Earnest. However, there were a few of his short stories, plays and poems that I’d never encountered before, so this collection was a delightful mix of old favourites and new discoveries.
Why I read it: this collection was a birthday present from my dad.
Fire in the Hole and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard, 4/5
I enjoyed Leonard’s punchy, no-nonsense writing style (distinctly American, somehow) and entertaining tales full of cool-as-ice characters, though much of it was more R-rated than I’m comfortable with.
Why I read it: I really liked the TV series Justified and wanted to check out the short story that inspired it.