Of millionaires and Martians (aka Currently reading…)

Rockefeller and Heinlein

Surprised ya, didn’t I, throwing some nonfiction in there??

I think the last nonfiction I read was Caro’s biographical series on Lyndon Johnson. That was three years ago. It’s high time I had more history in me.

Thoroughly enjoying Ron Chernow’s Titan and living out John D. Rockefeller’s life from my porch.

Sixty pages in and points of interest…

♠ 7-year-old Rockefeller bought candy in bulk, divided it up and resold it to his siblings at a profit.

♠ His father was a mountebank with a paramour and a second life who also had a soft spot for music and bailed a violin virtuoso out of jail in exchange for his violin. He wore loud suits and would come roaring back into town with gold from God knows where to pay off debts incurred by his long-suffering actual wife (who also for a time put up with two illegitimate children of his by the housekeeper).

♠ By 13, John D. was loaning money to a farmer at 7 percent interest and had decided that rather than be a slave to money he’d prefer money to be slave to him.

♠ Shortly after saving his church from foreclosure by fundraising $2000 (about $56,000 today) at age 17, Rockefeller had decided it was best to save when you could instead of when you had to.

♠ Two years later, at age 19 and after biding his time at the failing Hewitt and Tuttle, he saw the economy was turning from bear to bull and became founding partner in a start-up commission house.

I’ve also started Heinlein’s classic Stranger in a Strange Land, a favorite sci fi of my friend’s and one I’ve been meaning to read for a few years now. Valentine Michael Smith, human raised by Martians and freshly retrieved to planet Earth, is endearing and sounds like Dobby the house elf at times (if you can grok that, my water brother). And Jubal Harshaw is hilarious; he’d have found a bro in Hugh Heffner.

What are you reading?

A savage sentience: Roberto Bolaño

I came across this bit by Seth Riley over at The Millions, and boy…he gets it. I’d like to buy the guy a drink because who else is going to talk desert murders, prison violence and fetishized torment with me (and endure all the fevers and all the kicks and punches only to laud the cause of them afterward)? As Riley knows, Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 is a book that splits you open and tears you up. I’m still turning the thing this way and that long after reviewing it late in 2017 and giving Bolaño top marks for ingenuity.

Since then I’ve added his Third Reich and The Insufferable Goucho to my collection. I guess I don’t hold a grudge for pain inflicted.

 

Addendum/Edited to add…from the comments to Riley’s piece:

Both books [2666 and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian] are kind of like moral tests, and if you keep reading through the dead babies hung on trees and sequences of rapes and murders, it’s almost like you’ve failed the test. I keep on failing. It’s gruesome, it’s horrific, but I can’t turn away.

…I think this John Fox guy gets it, too.

 

 

Currently reading: Grass and VanderMeer

Reading two very different books…

currently reading Grass Vandermeer

The first, The Tin Drum by German writer Günter Grass, is a narrative march that thrums out a steady mea culpa for a nation caught up in ideology, temptation and grisly vision – and one torn apart time and time again. Part one of Grass’ Danzig Trilogy, it rips to shreds our understanding of interwar Germany and Hitler’s Putsch. It raises Poland, that first peon of ’39, to main battleground.

Oskar is Grass’ stunted protagonist whose two presumptive fathers (because of Mutti’s infidelity) go separate ways over the questions of Polish nationalism and German duty. His perspective is one of looking back, told from young Oskar’s eyes but with the nervy candor of an adult’s mental patient mind and the added help of a fabulist’s exaggeration. Grass is dropping little hints about his Oskar and why he is the way he is, and he’s leading me on by degrees.

At the other end of things, I’m nearly finished with Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, a biological sci fi that traipses across eco literature and the weird grotesque hand in hand with Lovecraft and Sartre. Think of it as a book that raises some fundamental questions while it offers an artist’s rendering, done in globbed and glossy oil paint, of the workings of ecology. It’s beautiful and maggoty, and I’ve not read anything like it before! It’s been growing on me like the never-ending script of its Crawler, a creature that is at the center of Annihilation and is either symbiotic with or parasitic on the mysterious Area X where the novel takes place. Getting curiouser and curiouser…

Happy reading!

– EMH

New books: December

new books december

When every purchase gives you a bounce-back coupon…!

Garth Risk Hallberg, City on Fire
Omar El Akkad, American War
Emily Fridlund, History of Wolves

Fridlund’s chilly Minnesota novel is likely going to be my next book. History of Wolves was a finalist for the 2017 Man Booker – and it’s Fridlund’s first novel. I can get behind a MN girl who writes good stuff 😉

I’ve been thinking of picking up the Hallberg for a verrry long time. Read a few pages here and there and know it gave the author a sizeable advance: a healthy $2 mil. The same guy who recommended American War to me (and who knows my reading tastes) seconded City on Fire as being more than worth my time. So…I bought it!

Currently reading: Donna Tartt, Chigozie Obioma and a note on exposition

I’ll have reviews for Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend and Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen up in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime I’ve been thinking about the importance of exposition. It was Tartt’s novel that got me thinking about it because she wrote it with such inventiveness in The Little Friend. Continue reading