What books have you read?

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King of Beggars
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Re: What books have you read?

Unread postby Masterofoneinchpunch » 20 Apr 2016, 19:51

Outland: The Complete Collection (2012) by Berkeley Breathed

I thought it would be fun after going through Academia Waltz to Outland which was Breathed’s Sunday-only comic strip after Bloom County. This is the same size as the Academia Waltz release, but luckily it keeps the pattern of the complete Bloom County books as well as has a nice ribbon bookmark. I bought and read the three Outland books*. The nice aspect of this is you get all of the comic strips released which some were missing from the three books (though if you collected the Bloom County books before this complete series, you see there are a lot more strips that were not initially released). Also, this is going from memory so I might be wrong, the first frame was missing from some of the strips in those releases (I need to check this.) But back to the strips: this was a fun series. It started off slow with too much emphasis on Ronald Ann and Mortimer Mouse (seriously check how much they are initially used and then become background characters), but then, maybe inevitable, the Bloom County characters like Steve Dallas, Cutter John, Oliver became more prevalent. Of course Opus was always there. There are some hilarious strips including the most infamous one on the front cover which cost him a lot of money. This cartoon series would later be followed by another Sunday-only strip Opus. I need to buy that complete volume.

* The three are: Politically, Fashionably, and Aerodynamically Incorrect: The First Outland Collection, His Kisses Are Dreamy-- But Those Hairballs Down My Cleavage--!: Another Tender Outland Collection, One Last Little Peek, 1980-1995: The Final Strips, the Special Hits, the Inside Tips. That last one is particularly worth having since he has stories in it that are not repeated elsewhere. If you like Bloom County/Outland, get that last one.

The Films of W.C. Fields (1966) by Donald Deschner, Introduction by Arthur Knight, includes essays by W.C. Fields.

If you go into a used bookstore and peruse the movie/cinema section (I always do), you probably have seen some of these Citadel books for sale. They are notebook large, either paperback or hardback (I always seem to find the paperbacks), have loads of pictures and with a few exceptions are probably only for the movie collector with monomania (which is everyone reading this. The format for most of the book is basic: order his films in chronological order and for each film list the cast (IMDB has made these sections superannuated), a description of the film which missed so many opportunities in explaining anything else about the movie instead of giving no information but the exact description, and if available have some quotes of movie reviews which was my favorite part of these selections. Now there is a brief bio and a few essays from Fields himself (the section I recommend the most.) I am a big W.C. Fields fan. This is only for the fan, with a few exceptions like his two essays “Speaking of Benefits” and “Anything for a Laugh” which is my favorite of the two.

Keaton (1966) by Rudi Blesh

There are a few issues with this book. There are some noticeable errors with plot descriptions and even pictures (Cheated on Amazon reviews writes about several of them.) It skimps a little too much on his later days, especially post silent-films. Now this may be not be in error given peoples memories, but I also noticed inconsistencies with what is written here and what Keaton and others had written about the Arbuckle trial, how he was fired from MGM, the days missed during his last film with MGM due to drinking and several other issues. Though this is a fun read and covers his early days rather well (though so does Keaton’s autobiography.) Blesh had interviewed Keaton and several of his relatives for this. The book had come out right after Buster had died. The back of the book cover has Blesh looking over Keaton’s shoulder as he is reading this. But it hilariously looks like someone had just snapped a picture of Buster reading a book while Blesh inserted himself into the picture without Keaton knowing it. It is a big of a hagiography, though I was expecting it to be. This book is OOP, though still relatively inexpensive. It is referenced in many books on Keaton including Buster Keaton: Tempest In A Flat Hat (2005) by Edward McPherson which I had read last year and constantly used references in this book.

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927) by Arthur Conan Doyle

I have finally finished the “canon” of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series of 56 short stories and four novellas. This last book was a collection of short stories to round out the Holmes series previously published from 1921 to 1927. This is not a bad lot, but one gets the feeling that Doyle was writing more for the money (which he was) than his interest in the series or his ever-growing fascination with the paranormal especially fairies (not kidding on this). There are a couple of singular facts about this book: it has one story told in a third person narrative (adapted by a stage play Doyle was going to do) and two told by Sherlock Holmes himself. A lot of it does take place in the past, though there is one story after his retirement (can anyone believe that Holmes actually retired to be a beekeeper.) This is best for those who have already read everything else from Doyle. It is a good read, just not as sagacious as the previous books.

The Bedside Companion to Sherlock Holmes (1998) by Dick Riley, Pam McAllister

There are a lot of supplemental books on Sherlock Holmes out there. There are a vast amount of books that deal with Sherlock Holmes whether as pastiche, homage, new stories featuring the detective or ones like this that serve as sort of a reference to the Doyle books. The term Sherlockian refers to the fans of this character and his multitude of forms. This book goes over the author, movies, radio, tv shows, other books, the time period of the books and a hodge podge of topics that might be of interest to the budding Sherlockian. A fun read though only for a particular group who are interested in the detective. Now unlike other books on Holmes, there Is not a lot of spoilers here so you can read it concurrently with the novels if you like (the Sherlock Holmes FAQ do not read unless you have read everything or do not mind spoilers). Did you know Holmes was based on Doctor Joseph Bell?

The Films of Errol Flynn (1969) by Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer, Clifford McCarty, Intro by Greer Garson

This is another one of those Citadel big paperback movie books that are out-of-print but you can find often in a used books bookstore. With Rudy Behlmer (how many DVD extras and commentaries is this guy in?) you get a bit more credibility with the information. Flynn is a complicated figure and while I have most of his major works I have not seen his earliest career as a minor actor (it was not for long) and his last films when his wait increased and his looks became more distressed from too much drinking, drugs and his long sicknesses over the years (though he did not look bad, somewhat Tom Selleck like). I have joked before that he had Three Stooges syndrome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmBj8r1-fDo. He was not a happy man. He carried an anger with his Mother all of his life, he had too many affairs (in like Flynn) and in many ways was probably could be considered a misogynist in ways, though really he was more aloof than anything else (often preferring the company of men, who doesn’t – yes another Simpsons reference). But back to the book: there are lots of nice pictures as with all of the Citadel books. It is interesting to see his career in film from the humble beginnings, to the fame started with Captain Blood, to the fall from grace which really was not slow, but one semi-failure after another (did not help when he blew his money on trying to make William Tell.) He will be remembered for his successes, but he was a much more complicated man (though you would get that information more from his autobiography My Wicked Wicked Ways (the first half if less truthful than the later-half of Jackie Chan’s autobiography, though that is the point, Flynn is being a storyteller first; he always had wanted to be a successful writer).

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King of Beggars
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Re: What books have you read?

Unread postby Masterofoneinchpunch » 31 May 2016, 23:29

Opus: 25 Years of His Sunday Best (2004) by Berkeley Breathed

This is the hardback release of this. Collectors of Breathed will want this, though all the cartoons are in the newer editions (and most of them are in the previously released editions though sometimes missing part of the top of the Sunday strip) which puts out all of his comic-strips, though they are expensive to collect them all. Breathed is known to be reclusive and aloof in interviews and public, but collecting these you do get to know a little more about him (as well as there are many autobiographical factors to his strips.) This covers three strips: Bloom County, Outland and his latest at the time Opus with his favorite strips featuring Opus. You can see quickly how Opus changed in appearance (not uncommon, look at the earliest Garfield strips for example), but Breathed’s artistic style gets better and better as the years go on. But look how nice the strips look in color (most of the older releases of these were in black and white).

The Food of the Gods (1904) by H.G. Wells

In many ways Wells reminds me of Michael Crichton. He has a penchant for science gone awry, his characterizations tend to be weak and often the dialogue superfluous. But his best books like The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon are entertaining, sometimes thought provoking page turners. This book is not. While there is something in the idea of creating a substance which can aide growth leading to giant bugs, weeds and ultimately humans it is not well written. The ideas are scattershot, often too heavy-handed in it’s almost anti-scientific glee. At its best is early on when the results of the bugs/weeds by this formula are attacked by humans, but then delves into a snail’s pace with quite an uninteresting story of exploiting giants and their somewhat comeuppance in the last half of the book.

Sherlock Holmes FAQ (2014) by Dave Thompson

While there is much to learn about Holmes and Sherlockians from this book, it is full of spoilers and should not be read unless you have read the canon (56 shorts and 5 novellas) or do not care about spoilers. He goes, sometimes too much, into plot detail and he is not shy of his opinions of the stories he likes and dislikes, but his wealth of knowledge into the subject is vast and written specifically for hard-core Sherlockians. There is a good amount of information on Doyle himself, along with some comments on his other writings, the era itself and various esoterica that might interest fans. My favorite later chapters deal with the vast amount of movies and TV series. He is a fan of many of the Holmes portrayals especially Jeremy Brett and Peter Cushing (a vastly underrated Holmes in my opinion.) He has good words to say about the two Guy Ritchie films, though he prefers the first while I prefer the second. But there are so many series that I am not that familiar with that are listed here. I have hours and hours of future watches in this wonderful sub-genre.

The Jungle Book (1894) by Rudyard Kipling

I had seen the Disney cartoon version of this several times and I had just recently watched the new live (well mostly CGI) version which I liked (Matt Zoller Steiz gave it four stars at rogerebert.com). So I thought it was about time I read the original source. What I found interesting is that the book is several stories and that the Disney films just take from the first part of the book (possibly some from the The Second Jungle Book but I have not read that). While the differences in the source material are vast it did not annoy me as much as J.M. Barries brilliant Peter Pan versus the watered down Disney version. Adapting a short story has the advantages of being able to add more if necessary while novels will usually have to cut to fit to the medium. Like with Barries book this one is much more violent than the resulting Disney films. But it is a fun read taking place in India during the authors time (though The White Seal takes place over a vast amount of watery territory.)

In the Days of the Comet (1906) by H.G. Wells

Do you ever read a book or watch a movie because it is the last one left in the set? While with a movie you lose a few hours, a bad book can make you lose a lot of time. I like Wellss early science fiction books like The Time Machine and The Invisible Man which like Michael Crichton deals with science gone awry. But when Wells became more interested in political platitudes and pushed them into his writings much to detriment to the story he becomes less fun to read. He is a socialist and he will beat that into you with a didactic tone that reaches its nadir when his narrator pontificates that private property was worse than war. Now I wrote that in the past tense, for the book is about the narrators writings on the events leading to and after a comet passes through the Earth. The book is structured as such. The first part is the story of the narrators life, shortcomings and lost love who puts his life into strife (when he is not arguing or reading about socialism). The second main part is the events after the comet which changes humankind into a much more rational (according to Wells) figure and then he explains the modifications (or the Change as he writes) into this happier existence. Of course when reading his it comes to mind that one persons Utopia is anothers Dystopia. Technically better written but more didactic than The Food of the Gods which I had previously read and written a capsule review on.

My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Autobiography of Errol Flynn (1959) by Errol Flynn, Intro by Jeffrey Meyers

Oh this is a fun read. Those who like their autobiographies to be bigger than life, full of boasting and bigger than life characters then this is definitely recommended. A certain percentage of this is true, with it becoming more truthful in the later day events (where he could have a better chance of being sued.) Now Flynn always fancied himself a storyteller, so the story comes first. This usually means that items that almost happened, happened to someone else or were slightly exaggerated whether by memory or by purpose are pushed if it serves the story. Regardless of what exactly was the truth he did live an exciting life. You gleam that he adored his dad, disliked his mother, had trouble with women with his Lothario style of life, had trouble with alcohol (while he does admit to certain drug uses, he leaves out a good chunk of his addictions especially to morphine, he would also leave out his last love with his infamous underage companion at the end of his life.) He can be quite bitter, especially when he is covering the early 1940s rape trial that somewhat made his name a joke, though did not hurt him at the box office. That event, like his anger with his mother and his first wife, he never got over. Those interested in Golden Age Hollywood will especially like his comments on actresses (especially those he dated) and actors such as Charles Chaplin.

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