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.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, 4/5
This classic psychological thriller, with its unsettling, gothic atmosphere and ambiguously motivated characters, proves that “slow-burner” and “page-turner” are not mutually exclusive terms. Du Maurier knows how to reveal just enough to keep her readers hooked without letting them quite know what is going on. Ultimately, the characters seem a bit thin and the plot somewhat unsubstantial and uneven, but it’s the kind of book that will keep you up at night (reading, that is).
Why I read it: my mom watched the film versions, then got the book out of the library and enjoyed it.