Have you read any good books lately?

Have you read any good books lately is supposed to be kind of a lame small talk cliche, but if anyone ever tries it on me, they better be prepared for an onslaught of verbiage, a veritable barrage of language. It would be like if you asked Al Roker about the weather. He would probably poop his pants and then once he got going (talking about the weather) he would be impossible to stop.

About 10 books ago I read The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I guess I am the over achiever in my book club, because I am still waiting for the other members to finish that one. Don’t want to be the spoiler and reveal the ending. I hope I can still remember it by the time they do finish. It was good, anyway. I can at least say that much about it.

I am in the Vine Program at Amazon. For laughs I wrote reviews on Amazon. Other readers vote on whether your reviews are ‘helpful.’ After writing about 500 reviews I still wasn’t ranked very high, because not a lot of people found my reviews ‘helpful,’ but guess what? I didn’t find their opinions of my writing very ‘helpful’ either. In spite of my low ranking after over 500 reviews I was asked to join the Vine Program. They give you free books as long as you write reviews of them. I read 4 books but then I just went on a reading binge and didn’t feel like writing reviews but just kept reading. One of the books was by Francine Prose and I got some more of her books at the library. Her latest book was called Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. That one was pretty good, but then I got 2 more of her books at the library. Blue Angel and Goldengrove. Those were both great. Francine Prose was born on April 1st, 1947–but she’s nobody’s fool. Blue Angel and Goldengrove both just about bowled me over. Blue Angel was a Marlene Dietrich movie from the 30’s, and Goldengrove is a quote from a poem by Gerrard Manley Hopkins. It is one of my favorite poems, and it is about a woman named Margaret. Whenever I meet someone named Margaret I always wonder if they are familiar with that poem. When I saw the title of the book, Goldengrove, I wondered if it was a reference to the poem. It was, and there were also references to the Rodgers and Hart song, “My Funny Valentine,” Billie Holiday, Lester Young, and the movies Casablanca and The Red Shoes. It was uncanny how much the things obsessed over in the prose of Francine Prose were the things I also obsessed over. I read 2 more novellas by Francine Prose, combined into one book. The second one I read first was longer. It was called 3 Pigs in 5 Days. It was about this guy called Leo who had a travel magazine about Paris. It was kind of a scam so he could take a lot of trips to Paris, and the story was written by his assistant, who was in love with him, but also liked to visit Paris. Of course, the story kind of hints that the third pig is Leo, but there are actual pigs also, so she never has to say that Leo is a pig. The reader will probably draw their own conclusion.. Leo is kind of manipulative. There is also a Billie Holiday song involved. And the movie The Red Shoes. The other novella is called A Guided Tour of Hell, and like Woody Allen’s character’s lovemaking in Annie Hall, it can be described as Kafkaesque. It was only 68 pages, for some reason. 68? Don’t you owe me one?

Speaking of IOU’s I am going to call my review of Reading Lolita in Tehran “I Still Owe You That Paper on Gatsby.” This is kind of an inside joke, something one of the people in the book says to the author. She is a English Literature Professor teaching in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, and as it gets harder and harder to teach under the oppression of the Ayatollahs, she goes underground and teaches a group of 7 female students in her home. Along with the works of Nabakov, they also discuss F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and Henry James. James was the only author that I was not yet familiar with, but I will no doubt rectify that situation soon. When they discussed Gatsby, they actually held a mock trial, putting the book itself on trial. This was quite interesting, but I felt that there was so much about the book that they were missing. I wanted to jump into the book and join the debate. I wanted to bring up numerous things that they were missing about it. So, that is my private meaning for the title, “I Still Owe You That Paper on Gatsby,” though it comes up as a quote in the book with a different context.

I read a book by Yukio Mishima called The Sound of Waves. Wrote a short review of it on Goodreads.

I also read A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans, and Big Little Man by Alex Tizon. I owe Amazon the review on Big Little Man, so will probably have to cut this blog short so I can write it. The book I am reading now is called 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It is about 900 pages, but he is my favorite writer and I’ll be finished in no time. This book is somehow related to 1984 by George Orwell. Haruki Murakami is my favorite author, but that Francine Prose is next in line. A good place to start with Murakami is the book Norwegian Wood. The main character of Norwegian Wood is a college student who likes to read The Great Gatsby. And the catharsis is complete.

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