February 2021 books read

  • Making Shapely Fiction – Jerome Stern, 1991 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • Machines Like Me – Ian McEwan, 2019 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History – John M. Barry, 2004 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler (tr. Daphne Hardy), 1941 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • The Death of Ivan Illych – Leo Tolstoy (tr. Louis and Aylmer Maude), 1886 – I recall this being my father-in-law’s favorite book, which is what prompted me to read it originally. I think this was only my second go-through, prompted by a Forum for Philosophy discussion I heard about through the Amherst College group that read Anna Karenina. Wonderful but I only pulled two quotes so not worth a whole post:
    • “No one pitied him as he wished to be pitied. … He longed to be petted and comforted.”
    • “‘Maybe I did not live as I ought to have done,’ it suddenly occurred to him. ‘But how could that be, when I did everything properly?’ he replied, and immediately dismissed from his mind this, the sole solution of all the riddles of life and death, as something quite impossible.”
  • Philadelphia Here I Come – Brian Friel, 1965. Read for the Irish Writers book group. I usually don’t pull a lot of quotes from play scripts, but WOW, what a fantastic play. I watched two versions: a recording of a live production and the movie. The first had too many paraphrased lines, the second took too many liberties, and neither captured the play’s brilliance, especially the final scene. I would love to see a good production live! The conceit of the Public and Private Gars (same person, as seen by others and only to himself) is cool. I was amused enough to quote to Jonathan this exchange from when Public is fantasizing about his future in America, picking up a girl in his apartment building: “Mind if I walk you past the incinerator, to the elevator?” “You’re welcome, slick operator.”
  • Still Life – Louise Penny, 2005 – My kidney recipient recommended this series and I love reading other people’s favorite books as a way to get to know them better… figured I should start with the first one. I liked it quite a bit, and I’m on hold for the next in the series. I’m intrigued by Penny saying “Just as I created a community I would live in in Three Pines, and villagers I would choose as friends … I also intentionally created, in Armand, a man I would marry. Because, in many ways, I knew if¬†Still Life¬†spawned a series it would become like a marriage. And he needed to have the qualities I admire in a man. In anyone. The qualities I strive for, and so often fall short of, myself.”
  • The Best of Henry Kuttner – Henry Kuttner, 1965. I read most of these stories in anthologies multiple times, and this particular collection at least once many years ago. Jonathan was trying out some of the funny stories (“The Proud Robot” led him to a collection of “Gallegher” stories, which I’ll probably read at some point) so I picked this up again. Most of the humor has paled on me; I remember laughing out loud at “A Gnome There Was,” but now… not so much.
  • The Circus of Dr. Lao – Charles G. Finney, 1935. I’ve known of this for years but finally read it and I’m sorry I waited so long – it is cra-zy, way more out there than I realized. Not much of a novel per se, but a surreal and fantastical experience with a quintessentially middle-America vibe; apparently Bradbury loved it and it inspired his carnival-set Something Wicked This Way Comes (have read, don’t remember at all).

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