Gilgamesh and Enkidu, translated by N. K. Sandars. I need to point out that this book is about the size of an index card and thinner than a cell phone. So I’m not counting it as a book, per se. Only 55 pages long. From a used bookstore for only fifty cents. I’m no math whiz, but that’s about a penny a page. I love myths, legends, and folk lore, so I had to grab it, even if it took only half an hour to read.
I’ll Always Have Paris, A Memoir, by Art Buchwald. Having heard this author’s name tossed around most of my life, I finally decided to probe the hubbub. Buchwald knew just about every celebrity alive at the height of his career as a newspaperman for the Herald Tribune in
. He traveled extensively, interviewed the rich and famous, ate with powerful people at the most expensive French restaurants, and like Hemingway, he, too, went on safari (only for Art it was precisely because Hemingway had; Art refused to shoot an animal). It’s a bland book with a few amusing episodes and plenty of dull reporting (essentially, and not surprisingly, like a newspaper). I realize gossip sells but who had an affair with whom just didn’t appeal to me. If only the writing were as engaging as the dirty laundry. Not recommended unless you’re paparazzi, only substitute the camera for reading glasses. Paris
His last chapter was dedicated to skeptics at Cal Tech. He hoped to address CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), and he prepared a speech outlining the limitations science suffers when dealing with these things. He also hoped his speech would further encourage open-mindedness. He was never invited. My primary complaint is that Travels lacks focus.
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner. In an interview, when asked whether this was his best novel, Faulkner said it was certainly his favorite. Since it’s considered a classic, I wanted to like it. I did, barely. Passages are downright extraordinary, reminiscent of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint; other portions are utterly unintelligible – reams without punctuation (sometimes several pages' worth), stream-of-consciousness – deliberately confusing points of view, ideas that neither belong nor remove an already confusing narrative plus hints at psychological turmoil sans significance I think you see what I’m doing here by demonstration.
The format is frustrating, with the first ‘chapter’ dealing with one group of characters, the next chapter taking place eighteen years prior with a different set of characters altogether, then yet another chapter jumping ahead eighteen years but the very day before the first chapter, etc. In short, it was a mess. The appendix, which I enjoyed more than I did the novel, belonged in the novel itself and would’ve gone a long way to illuminate things in the story. I don't know why Faulkner would want to deliberately confuse the reader. This, to my mind, is the epitome of self-indulgence, and I can’t recommend it, except as exhibit Z to my long-held view that many classics don’t deserve the label.
The Winter of our Discontent, by John Steinbeck. Here, Steinbeck paints the wealthy as compromised souls: no one climbs without digging his heels into the backs of others – a ubiquitous (and flawed) concept among liberals but forgivable here in lieu of the superb writing. I’m rarely moved anymore by what I read (I tend to be overly analytical), but the end made me crunch my face and spill a tear. Curiously, Steinbeck and his protagonist, Ethan Allen Hawley, trade off telling the story throughout the novel. The author takes the first few chapters (third person perspective). Then Ethan narrates a few chapters (first person point of view). This wasn’t necessary, but it wasn’t distracting, either. So I didn’t mind. Highly recommended.