Book Report

Noodle as Editor

I’ve finished five books of late, and I’m patting myself on the back.  So many periodicals arrive daily that I found I wasn’t finishing the books I’d purchased.  So I have made the effort and here is my report.

A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman:  This is an English translation of a current Swedish bestseller.  It’s a marvel of sweet and sour.  Ove is the sour.  His works are the sweet.  Very dark humor is pitched perfectly for some hilarious moments.  A woman friend recommended this and it got snatched away by my wife midway through my own reading.  I finally pulled hard enough to get it back, and it was worth the effort.

The book is pumped with warmth, infused like steam heat, perhaps because we are in cold Sweden.  It is not sentimental.  Every feeling is earned honestly.  But the book seems of a type with some other current bestsellers which are cooked with a lot of cream.  Rather than thin soup, we are fed a rich bisque.  Not something you would want to have every day, but which can mark off a fine experience.

I wonder at the irony of a story coming from such a PC culture, of a hero who is so anti-PC, swimming in a bisque of such creamy texture.  The feeling function is highly prized in this one.

https://www.amazon.com/Man-Called-Ove-Novel/dp/1476738025/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470935877&sr=1-1&keywords=a+man+called+ove+by+fredrik+backman

“Ralph Marlowe” by James Ball Naylor:  I was driving through the rural town of Malta, Ohio to the town of McConnelsville, Ohio just across the Muskingham River, to attend a concert by Marty Haggard (Merle’s son).  I noticed a small historical marker.  It marked the town of Malta as the home of the writer James Ball Naylor, who wrote this bestseller circa 1900.  The story takes place downriver in the town of Stockton and concerns a young man on the lam from a bad experience who takes up with the irascible town physician, first as the pharmacist and then as his partner physician.  There’s a lot of stock characters, (though they are ‘taken from life’), whose rustic tales leave one wanting.  But the narrative has drive and the lead character, as the whole menagerie admits, is a natural leader.  He’s a pretty stiff fellow though, a hair-splitting moralist – but by the books end, I closed it on good terms.

https://www.amazon.com/Ralph-Marlowe-Tribute-James-Naylor/dp/0983234272/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470935997&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Ralph+Marlowe+by+James+Ball+Naylor

“Excellent Women” by  Barbara Pym:  Her name keeps popping up here and there in my reading, so I decided I had to sample something.  This is a very low key but well written ‘comic’ treatment of the life of an unmarried clergyman’s daughter in immediate post WWII Britain.  The comedy is language prompted and reserved, and the intelligence behind it quite pronounced.  And the through line of the put-upon selfless personality is classic.  No good deed or good person goes unpunished.  If you enjoy hearing the ironic thoughts of a person ignored, even as her companions speak to her, this is your book.

https://www.amazon.com/Excellent-Women-Publisher-Penguin-Classics/dp/B004OYD1QI/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470936071&sr=1-2&keywords=excellent+women+by+barbara+pym

“The Mullah’s Storm” by Thomas W. Young:  Okay.  I kept sneaking back to this one when some of the non-fiction I’m plowing away on got too dry.  A plane goes down in Afghanistan with a high value prisoner aboard.  The second in command is left alive along with a female translator to get this Mullah to a safe place.  The Taliban though have other plans.  So has their prisoner.  It’s a hard marching narrative whose author knows those hills and defiles apparently.  The quiet relationship between the narrator and the female translator is the defining interest apart from survival.

https://www.amazon.com/Mullahs-Storm-Parson-Gold-Novel-ebook/dp/0399156925/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470936114&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Mullah%27s+Storm+by+Thomas+Young

“Hillbilly Elegy” by J. D. Vance:  After having moved to Appalachia from Seattle, I’ve been doing my due diligence.  This book is right up there, but it doesn’t need my good review.  It’s already made a lot of noise.  The culture he describes pretty much is as I’ve witnessed, save his background being a little further up the scale, over the top and down the other side.

Some local traits, which have particularly ground on me, look to be a culturally wide phenomena from what Vance relates.  Kinship ties trump everything, especially common sense.  And the child rearing is ‘free range’.  Vance relates the tale of one of his uncles when a child was asked to leave a store because he was unchaperoned and playing with the toys inside.  The grandfather and grandmother walked into the store, destroyed toys, trashed the shelves, and threatened the store employee with grievous harm – all because the man had disciplined their son to protect his wares.

This is further up the scale, but spot on in style from what I’ve witnessed.  And if you consider that a person’s closest family member is themselves – you might understand how stubborn and refractory to correction people around here can be.  It’s an ethos which travels across class lines.  You’re fur’ em or agin’ em first.  Later on, if pressed, they might consider an outside perspective – if only to argue against it and to suggest some previously unvocalized injury.  You couple this with gossip and intermingled family trees which span a multitude of generations – and you’ve got fertile grounds for simmering feuds and bad feeling all around.  It certainly doesn’t help fix things!

I’ve been working pretty hard at never meeting any of my son’s friends’ parents.  My son is pretty savvy at social navigating.  I’m not.  But I’m pretty big, 6’8”, and do best when I just keep my mouth shut.  One day my son said while leaving Home Depot, “Dad.  I think that they are afraid of you.”

I nodded.  We were off on the right foot.

https://www.amazon.com/Hillbilly-Elegy-Memoir-Family-Culture/dp/0062300547/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470936165&sr=1-1&keywords=hillbilly+elegy+by+j+d+vance

“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins:  Okay.  I’m only in five pages.  But my wife swears by it, says it‘s a great read.  And I’m hooked so far…

https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Train-Novel-Paula-Hawkins/dp/1594634025/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470936199&sr=1-1&keywords=the+girl+on+the+train+by+paula+hawkins

Meet you at the back cover.

For more ideas, visit:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

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