I just got an email from GoodReads telling me that this one is opening in a “theater near me” this weekend. It is based on a true, but little known, part of Hemingway’s life that perfectly fits the man and the “character” he came to be known as. Definitely a man’s man, was Ernest Hemingway.
Unfortunately, I can only find this in three Houston-area theaters and none are within 30 miles of me – and we are expecting another storm late Friday night and Saturday. But I’m still hoping to catch it at some point because this trailer looks good.
Movies for Readers No. 24
I was going to post a book review today (and still might) since I do that every Monday, but then I noticed something on a reading list I keep and decided to make note on Book Chase of a major milestone I’ve just reached.
Way back on February 18, 1970 I started a list keeping track of every book I read – and today I reached one of those nice, round numbers that stand out: 3,000 books read. The 3,000 books listed do not include several dozen audiobooks that I completed during the same period, but they probably total another 100 or 150 books.
With everything going on in my world these last few days, I had kind of lost track of how close I was to reaching that point. As it turns out, number 3,000 was written by one of my favorite British authors, Gerald Seymour. His Vagabond is a political/espionage thriller having to do with a rogue group in Northern Ireland that still believes violence is the only way to fight their British “occupiers.” It’s a good book that I will be reviewing in a couple of weeks.
I admit to being a numbers freak, so if statistics bore you, it’s time to tune out:
I’m pretty much exhausted at the moment and I’m doing some serious thinking about taking a nap. This is the eleventh day that I’ve been taking care of my father, a period that began with an emergency room phone call, moved on to a hospital stay for testing, the insertion of a pacemaker, and four days of him recuperating at my home. Sleep has been a catch-as-catch-can novelty for me during all of this, and there were only two or three times that I got more than three consecutive hours in.
But this is what I want to tell you about.
I took Dad back to his assisted living facility a couple of days ago and stayed with him in his apartment there for three days. There is no public wi-fi in the building, but they have a nice little computer room set up on the second floor that is open to residents and those staying with them on a temporary basis. While dad was in a rare deep sleep, I decided to sneak upstairs for a few minutes to use one of the computers. I went up and down the stairs every 15 minutes checking on my dad’s sleep, but still managed to get in 90 solid minutes of computer time during which I wrote a review of Matt Gallagher’s Youngblood (a new novel set in Iraq just before American troops were officially pulled from that country).
One problem: I forgot to bring my flash drive upstairs with me, and that meant another trip downstairs. As I was leaving, I mentioned to the elderly woman who was coming into the room that I was using the computer on the end of the row, and I asked her to keep an eye on it for me until I got back upstairs. It took me an extra few minutes to remember where the drive was, but still I was back in the computer room in less than ten minutes.
The old woman was nowhere in sight when I returned – and neither was my review. Apparently, she sat right down at my computer and deleted the word document…then she proceeded to empty the recycle bin, leaving no trace of the document anywhere on the computer hard drive. Then she disappeared.
The lesson here? Never, never turn your back on spiteful old lady who thinks she is too old to be held accountable for her meanness. The smartest thing she did was run for her life before I got back…she did us both a favor by doing that.
I realize that I’m going to offend some people when I say this, but here it comes: Kindle Unlimited is pretty much a garbage service. Hell, let’s take it a step further: So many of the e-books being sold by Amazon are self-published crap that browsing the site for new, unknown e-books is largely a waste of time. In fact, I quit browsing through Amazon for new books a long time ago because the experience, even on a good day, is frustrating…and don’t ask me what word I would use to describe it on a bad day.
So now I use Kindle Books only to go through the back catalogs of authors I’m already familiar with or to buy titles I already know about. That’s not good for me, for authors, or for Amazon. But this story from BoingBoing tells me that the situation is even worse than I imagined:
So now we have idiots uploading 3,000-page “books” and tricking people into downloading them from Kindle Unlimited. Then through more trickery they manage to get people to click over to the last page of the book so that it appears that the entire book has been read. Bingo: that means a nice little payday from Amazon of $15 for every crapbook unwittingly downloaded by a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.
I like e-books and I read a lot of them. But I hate shopping or searching for e-book titles amid the huge mound of garbage that Amazon is content to dump on top of the real books for sale. Self-publishing can be a good thing, but more often than not, it is just the opposite. Most unpublished books are unpublished for good reasons, and they deserve to stay unpublished – they are that bad – and I don’t need them polluting the haystack I have to search through every time I want to buy an e-book.
But as long as Amazon is willing to pay scammers to puff up its own sales figures, that’s the world we live in. And I’m sick of it. I’m looking at you, Mr. Amazon.
I finished up Ruth Rendell’s final novel, Dark Corners, in near darkness this morning as another major thunderstorm cell sat over me. We lost power (for the third time in four days as the area continues to battle major flooding) about ten this morning, so I settled in near the window offering the most light to read the final 25 pages of the book.
I was pleased to see that the final sentence of the crime novel is this one: “And now, now it’s all over.”
That sentence fits the main character’s final decision perfectly, but it also reminds readers that there will never be another new book from the brilliant Ruth Rendell…because now it really is all over for her and for her fans.
Of course, the sentence could have been added by a clever editor at the publishing house. But if that is the case, I really don’t want to know. I would much prefer to believe that it’s Ruth’s way of capping her own career. Call it serendipity or call it premonition, it really doesn’t matter.
I will miss Ruth Rendell.
I have been practically living in a chair inside an uncomfortably cold hospital room for the past four days. It all started Wednesday morning when I got a phone call at the barber shop telling me that my father was on his way to the emergency room because he had had another of his fainting episodes – this one, luckily, while seated in a church pew. So now he’s been poked and prodded so much that it’s almost certain he’s had every kind of general diagnostic test available to modern medicine.
At the advice of a cardiologist, we made the decision together that he have a pacemaker placed in his chest to regulate his heartbeat in hope that his fainting problem would be solved. That was done yesterday afternoon. And this morning, we found out that there is a problem with one of the pacemaker leads going to his heart, so the entire procedure will have to be repeated Monday morning. Throw in the long night we had trying to control dad’s confusion and hallucinating caused by the sleep medication given to him last night, and it’s been a bit of a struggle – during which I have slept something like five hours in the last forty-eight. (So please don’t deduct any points for grammar and spelling this time around.) I’m going to get some sleep tonight before heading back to the hospital early in the morning to relieve my son-in-law who has graciously volunteered to take a shift in my place.
I know you are wondering why am I writing all this here on a book blog. One simple reason: if I had not had four or five books in that freezing room to keep me company for the last few days, I would have probably lost my mind. The books allowed me to forget where I was – and why I was there- for at least a few minutes at a time. Tired and sleepy as I’ve been, they kept me awake, they entertained me, and they reminded me of why I am such a reading advocate. I cannot imagine a life without books and reading, and I am ever thankful to the small town librarian who encouraged me to keep reading, and who trusted me with books that were probably way over my head when I first read them. Thankfully, she took a chance on me even though she was breaking library policy that way. That woman (who seemed ancient to me at the time but was probably only about 70) opened up the world to me in just the right way and at just the right time in my life. And it stuck.
I will never forget what she did.
Librarians, your enthusiasm is contagious, and if you treat young readers with respect, you just might permanently change a few lives for the good. You may never even know that it happened, but if you are lucky, it will.
Thanks, too, to the following authors for these books (the books I’m living with this week):
Matt Gallagher – Youngblood (a war novel with a mystery embedded in it that is set in Iraq)
Ruth Rendell – Dark Corners (her very last psychological crime novel, one that I suspect would have been a “Barbara Vine” novel if she had not recently died)
Gerald Seymour – Vagabond (new thriller set in Norther Ireland; a what if the Troubles start-up again novel)
Skip Hollandsworth – The Midnight Assassin (true crime book about an 1885 serial killer who terrorized Austin, Texas)
Andrea Valdez – How to Be a Texan (a how-to manual that reminds me just how fantastic a place Texas still is)
So it’s back at it tomorrow…hoping to post again soon.
What a great idea! Every baby born in St. Louis County is going to leave the hospital with a brand new library card of their own. It’s all part of the St. Louis County Library’s “Born to Read” program.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, each baby goes home with a little gift bag that contains, a book, a toy, and their new library card:
The child will also be invited to celebrate his or her first birthday at the library and receive another free book.
There is no doubt that children should be read to from an early age. And even before kids are able to read by themselves, they should have chunky books to play with and to help them learn to look at pictures and turn pages.
The Born to Read program began last year with support from the St. Louis County Library Foundation. More than 15,000 families are expected to receive a bag from the program this year.
The purpose of the program is, of course, to get parents to read to their children as often, and as soon, as possible, in the process exposing the kids to language, story-telling, and the whole wide world of books and learning. As library director Kristen Sorth says, “Studies show that when children start behind, they stay behind.” Kids, on the other hand, who grow up around books (theirs and those of their peers and parents) are more likely to become readers at an early age – and to do well in school.
Congratulations to the St. Louis County Library system for making the effort to get kids there off to a good start.
|Jen A. Miller|
This week’s Movie for Readers is called A Hologram for the King and is based on a Dave Eggers 2012 novel of the same name that was a National Book Award Finalist. It stars the always likable Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, and Ben Whishaw. The movie will be released on April 22.
I have to tell you that the movie seems to have become the target of Saudis all over the world who claim that it is an unfair representation of their country. I also have to tell you that I doubt that a National Book Award Finalist book would be subject to the same charges unless perhaps the book were a deliberate farce or satire that offended those searching for a reason to be offended. I have not read the book, so I can’t speak to how closely the movie script follows the plot of the novel, but I’m definitely interested now in seeing the movie so that I can judge for myself whether the unhappy Saudis have a real gripe, or are simply embarrassed about certain aspects of their culture and country being exposed via a more liberal point of view than their own. We’ll see.
Too, I also plan to find a copy of the Dave Eggers novel for my TBR stack, so this is a twofer.
Movies for Readers No. 23
Philip Marlowe is the granddaddy of all the fictional detectives working the streets today, and Raymond Chandler deserves to be read and appreciated for his tremendous contribution to what is still one of the most popular literary genres in publishing.
I suppose it’s a bit ironic to begin celebrating National Library Week 2016 on Sunday, a day my own local library system no longer opens its doors because of ever constant budgetary constraint…but I’m doing it anyway.
I have to say, too, that I’m a little bit surprised (and disappointed) that the Harris County Public Library does not seem to be celebrating the event at all – at least for now. There’s nothing on the library’s webpage acknowledging the celebratory week…yet. Maybe when the doors open tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 (Monday hours were shortened at the same time that Sunday closings began) that will change.
Anyway, it really is National Library Week…someone tell the HCPL system for me.
On the positive side, I see that my local branch will start handling U.S. passport applications this week and that Overdrive is offering library downloads of magazines now – and those magazine copies can be kept on your reading devices for as long as you want to have them, even forever.
I had an absolutely brilliant time at the Lone Star Book Festival today, and now I really wish I had been able to attend the Friday sessions as well as today’s. The festival was so well run that no one would have guessed that it’s a first-time event for the Kingwood campus.
I already knew which of the early sessions I wanted to attend when I arrived at the school, but I left the afternoon wide open to see what surprises I might find – and I’m happy I did because the last session of the day was one I’ll never forget. In that one, thriller writer Jon Land set a new standard for author presentations that I doubt I’ll see matched anytime soon. He set the bar just that high.
|Hipolito Acosta, Bill Crider, Stephanie Evans|
First up, was a session that included the prolific Bill Crider, mystery writer Stephanie Evans, and true crime writer Hipolito Acosta. I’m a longtime fan of Crider’s writing, especially the two westerns he wrote in the nineties, but I was relatively unfamiliar with Acosta and Evans when the session began. Stephanie Evans, as it turns out, writes a series of mysteries set in Sugar Land, a little town just outside Houston that is home to most of the city’s professional athletes, because as she says, “a lot of people in Sugar Land need killing.”
As it turns out, the biggest surprise of the session was Acosta who is one of the most decorated border agents in the history of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Acosta has turned his extraordinary memory into two true crime books already, with a third one coming soon. The man’s personal exploits as a border agent were astounding, and he uses a first person narrative in his books.
|University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne|
After wandering around the Brazos Bookstore book tent, I headed over to my second session, this one featuring Jerry Coyne in a discussion of his 2015 book Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. This one was interesting because, frankly, it takes guts to come to East Texas to discuss a book about atheism and “what it means to think scientifically, showing that honest doubts of science are better – and more noble – than the false certainties of religion.” Before Coyne arrived, an elderly gentleman I met in the first session promised out loud that he was going to challenge the author’s premise and “exchange” books with him after the session. The man (and I failed to catch his name) is an ex-minister and university professor who has authored several books in his time, so I was anticipating some fireworks. It didn’t happen because Coyne politely listened to his questions before effortlessly batting away each of his arguments. One or two others in the audience did try to “preach” a little (as Coyne asked them not to do), but because Coyne had already previewed their arguments and his rebuttals as part of his presentation, they, too, got nowhere.
|Emily Fox Gordon, Ann McCutchen|
Emily Fox Gordon, Ann McCutchen, and poet Rich Levy shared a session called “Truth Telling in Autobiographic Writing” that delved into the question of just how much a right authors have to tell someone else’s story – even if their own overlaps with those stories. Gordon and McCutchen are essayists and memoirists, but everything they had to say about their formats applied equally to Rich Levy’s poetry. I have to admit that I’m no fan of poetry, mainly because, for me, reading poetry is like reading a foreign language, but all five poems that Levy read appealed to me like no poetry ever has before – perhaps because his poems are so autobiographical and full of familiar situations and emotions.
My last session of the day was the biggest surprise to me because of how much fun author Jon Land made it. Land was originally scheduled to share the session with Texas author Skip Hollandsworth (author of the brand new true crime book The Midnight Assassin) who had to cancel his participation. Land, most recently author of seven Caitlin Strong crime thrillers, is a dynamic speaker who seems to have as much fun as his audience. Because he was flying solo today, Land changed the focus of the session a little to present “ten reasons we all love thrillers.” I have to tell you, if you ever get a chance to attend a Jon Land reading, jump at it. The guy is a great impersonator, knows the history of his genre intimately, and is as familiar with every aspect of today’s pop culture as anyone out there. That combination guarantees there will be no dull moments when Jon Land has the floor. He is another of those guys I knew little about before today (even though 17 of his 28 novels have been bestsellers), but he’s made me very curious about his Caitlin Strong books, especially since Strong is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger – an interesting job choice for his main character from a Rhode Island yankee like Jon Land.
So that’s two book festivals in two weekends…and now that I’m spoiled, there are no more festivals in sight. Just my luck.
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