Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bucket of Books Challenge

I was “challenged” by a good, well-meaning soul to dump a bucket of books over my head for reasons I cannot fathom. I think that was it. I lose track of the fads. This one involved listing ten books that “stuck with me”, which I take to mean (at my age) I am capable of remembering the title of. Contrary to and in spite of my incurably deep-seated superstition about chain letters, I decided this would be a fun exercise (struggle) for my dwindling mental capacities. Here they are, only vaguely in the order I might have read them.

Timothy Hurley's favorite books:
Huckleberry Finn  Twain
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway  E. Hemingway
The Complete Short Stories of O. Henry  O. Henry
The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe
Catcher in the Rye  Salinger
The Trial  Kafka
City  Simak
Animal Farm  Orwell
Lord of the Flies Golding
1984  Orwell
Hawaii  Michener
On the Beach Schute
Schlesinger and Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease
Edgar Allen Poe: A Critical Biography  Quinn
The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind  Jaynes
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life  Isaacson
Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist  Desmond and Moore
Generations  Strauss and Howe
Shock Doctrine  Klein
Sarum  Rutherford
London  Rutherford
New York  Rutherford
The Great Bridge  McCoullogh
1776  McCoullogh
Up in the Old Hotel  Mitchell
A Meaningful Life  Davis
Motherless Brooklyn  Lethem

Okay, that’s more than ten. What do you want from me? I’m an old man. Even this list will change with my mood and capacity to remember.
Actually, every book, every short story, every magazine article I read creates a new me in my head. And provides me with seemingly unconscious material when I write. I am as grateful to all those writings and writers in my unremembered past as I am to the authors of the books above.

As I said, I do not participate in chain letters (I think it was nuns who put me off them.) so in lieu of a list of names, I’ll invite anyone who reads books to list their favorites. With the exception it would give an old man pleasure to annoy Buzz Malone, author of Silence of Centerville, raiser of Iowa goats and mules, bon vivant with the dare he take time from his busy schedule to list his favorite books.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Review of Motherless Brooklyn

My review of Motherless Brooklyn by Johnathan Lethem, a Brooklyn author who grew up  in Gowanus, until gentrification gave it the name Boreum Hill. You can read my review here and on Goodreads.

Lethem is one of the contemporary A-list authors. He moved to California's drought lands and currently holds the professor's chair once occupied by David Foster Wallace at Pomona College. His Fortress of Solitude is said to be one of the great autobiographical stories of 70s Brooklyn when New York didn't know if it was coming or going.
I found his brave, bold style inspiring for my own writing.

Motherless Brooklyn by Johnathan Lethem, 5 stars
This is a well written, well told story about 70s 80s and 90s Brooklyn lower society. Lionel is an orphan raised to the level of inept detective, only not so inept. Three other orphans and an assortment of low lifes make up the cast. When Lionel's benefactor and father figure is murdered the mystery begins. Lethem is a recognized A-list Brooklyn literary figure, currently enjoying California drought weather at Pomona College, where he is a chaired professor in the slot once occupied by David Foster Wallace. Even if Lethem does not himself have Tourettes, he appears to be quite well versed--he must have done prodigious research. His protagonist does and this adds a dimension (and an education into Tourettes) of considerable complexity and interest, one I've never seen in any other book. It also adds to the humor and makes one realize Monty Python were experts at Tourettic humor.
My only hesitancy, where I would be inclined to remove a half a star, came at the 90% wrap up phase of the book. Much of the dangling mystery and plot is revealed in a section in which Lionel and a woman sit on the Maine coast and explain all the plot threads and loose ends. It reminded me of television detective/mystery shows with Raymond Burr, etc etc where a room full of characters stand or sit with coffee or cigarettes and explain the story we just watched. This section of the book reads like a plot outline--an excellent plot, but an outline/treatment nonetheless. Over all, as a writer myself, I love Lethem's style, his boldness, his voice. I will definitely read more Lethem and hope to learn from him.