What I’ve been reading

Just like it says on the label. I’m going to say a few things about what I read more often. I’ll keep the longer book reviews for the ones I have a bit more to share from or say about.
1. Too Big to Fail. This a great, great book that offers a minute-to-minute, blow-by-blow account of the financial crisis: meetings, phone calls, petty rivalries, bullying, groveling, panic. It’s to be expected that the people at highest levels of any industry will be fairly well-connected to each other. It’s also a little terrifying.

2. We’ll Always Have Paris. I think I need to give up on Ray Bradbury. I really liked Something Wicked This Way Comes and loved The Illustrated Man back in the day. Dandelion Wine and The Martian Chronicles were good, too. But nothing has hit the spot since.

3. Pride and Prejudice. Quite simply one of the best books I’ve ever read. One thing I appreciated was the characterization. When a new character comes in, they usually get some description, a good bit of dialogue to get the shape of their personality, and then the rest of the story assumes you remember that. Like that windbag Mr. Collins. You see his flowery speeches early, but later it’s summarized that Collins praised this and commended that. For all the 19th-century wordiness, it’s a pretty efficient little story. And it’s got all that suspense and miscommunication and false assumptions.

4. The Big Sleep. I expected to enjoy this one a lot, and I did indeed. I didn’t expect Chandler to be such a colorful writer. But there didn’t seem to be many wasted words. It’s all of a certain mood, a certain tone, a certain tightness. Great story.

5. Self-Made Man. Author Norah Vincent spent a year dressing as a man–dating, working, socializing, etc.–and reports on here experience. It’s pretty insightful. Here’s a great bit from when she meets some new guys, on the awesomeness of handshakes:

As he extended his arm to shake my hand, I extended mine, too, in a sweeping motion. Our palms met with a soft pop, and I squeezed assertively the way I’d seen men do at parties when they gathered in someone’s living room to watch a football game. From outside, this ritual had always seemed overdone to me. Why all the macho ceremony? But from the inside it was completely different. There was something so warm and bonded in this handshake. Receiving it was a rush, an instant inclusion in a camaraderie that felt very old and practiced.

Though some of her chosen research venues (bowling team, strip joints, monastery, high-pressure sales team, male retreat) are a little fringe, it’s a pretty sensitive account.

  • “If women are trapped by the whore/Madonna complex, men are equally trapped by this warrior/minstrel complex.”
  • “Every man’s armor is borrowed and ten sizes too big, and beneath it, he’s naked and insecure and hoping you won’t see.”
  • “After he told me the raw story, I said, ‘Ivan, how many women have you slept with?’
    ‘Seventy-four,’ he said without hesitation.
    Again, probably a giant lie, but who knew? Ivan also claimed to have an IQ of 180 and a nine-inch dick. But don’t they all, at least to each other.”

And she’s still plenty aware of the issues of sympathizing with The Man. Very thoughtful.

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