Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for December 9th, 2006

The World Is Flat

Posted by nliakos on December 9, 2006

by Thomas L. Friedman

This book is wonderful! Like John McPhee, Friedman makes his subject interesting and memorable by writing in an informal style and including much dialogue from people he interviewed as well as his own personal experiences researching the book. As with The Lexus and the Olive Tree, I was immediately drawn in, as one would be with a good novel.

Since this is this year’s First Year Book at the University of Maryland, I had the opportunity to hear Thomas Friedman speak at the university in October. Friedman basically summarized the main points of the first half of the book, but since I had put the book down for a while and didn’t remember them so clearly, this was just what I needed to hear. He’s a very dynamic and convincing speaker.

December 26: I finished the book!  Despite taking so long to finish it, I really liked it and would recommend it to all.  The ideas are fresh and very thought-provoking.  It is somewhat repetitious and could probably have been edited down (it is almost 600 pages as it is), but is otherwise very well written–I like Friedman’s use of metaphor and his many examples of actual people and businesses.  Reading the book feels like having a conversation with the author.  The most challenging thing for me is trying to keep all the arguments straight.  As soon as I finished the book, I felt like I should start it all over again and read it with a highlighter, or take notes.

Posted in Non-fiction | 1 Comment »

Larry McMurtry

Posted by nliakos on December 9, 2006

I’ve been reading a lot of Larry McMurtry lately, mostly on audiobook. I recently finished Lonesome Dove. What a great read! What memorable characters! My favorite is Augustus McCrae. He combines, in one character, a macho self-reliant Texas Ranger with a modern feminist guy who loves deeply and isn’t afraid to admit it. Maybe this isn’t a very likely combination, but I liked him and was saddened by his demise. By the way, as I was listening to the part when Gus and Pea Eye are attacked by a band of Indians and take refuge in a cave in a riverbank, I realized that it all sounded very familiar. I had read of a startlingly similar event on a website about the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail (http://www.net.westhost.com/loving.shtml). Oliver Loving and a man named Wilson were cornered by Indians in exactly the same way. I went to the website and reread the account, then continued reading Lonesome Dove. It followed the historical event almost exactly, which made me wonder how many of the other unlikely happenings in the book may have been based on real events! I was interested to observe that Charles Goodnight makes a cameo appearance in the novel when Captain Call encounters him as he is taking Gus’ body back to Texas (just as the historical Goodnight did for Loving). Another character I liked very much is Clara, Gus’ true love. But the book is replete with memorable characters: Lorena Wood, Woodrow Call, Call’s illegimitate son Newt, Sheriff July Johnson and his horrible wife, “Dish” Boggett and the other cowboys, Bolivar and Po Campo…. the list goes on and on. I am now curious about the TV miniseries, which got such good reviews when it came out, but which I never saw. I wonder if it can possibly do the book justice.

The first McMurtry book I ever read was not a novel: it was his biography of Crazy Horse. I found it very well-written and also very interesting. After that, I tried Anything for Billy on audiobook and enjoyed it immensely. I was surprised when I realized that he also wrote Terms of Endearment (which I am reading now), the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, and The Last Picture Show. He’s incredibly prolific.

So far, Terms of Endearment is not my favorite. I need to like a character, and Aurora Greenway is very off-putting…. but I will reserve judgment, because I am only on tape 3. [Dec. 26: I finished Terms of Endearment. I did enjoy it, and I even came to like Aurora! However, the second part of the book, which focused on Aurora’s daughter Emma Horton, seemed like an after-thought–a hurried overview of Emma’s life and death after the main events of the novel. Imagine my surprise when I learned, from listening to an afterword by the author, that it was Emma who was one of his favorites among all the characters he has created! If he liked Emma so much, why did he give her such short shrift in this book, and then kill her off? I didn’t think Emma was given much depth as a character.]
I plan to read the others in the Lonesome Dove series soon: prequels Dead Man’s Walk and Streets of Laredo, and sequel Comanche Moon. By the way, Wolfram Kandinsky’s reading of Lonesome Dove is awesome.

Posted in Fiction | 1 Comment »