Friday, August 24, 2007

Sam He Is!

NOW READING: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Simply put, Sam Spade is the shit. He's so all-knowing, so understatedly feisty, so blithely unafraid. He also seems to have something going on with every female character so far introduced. (I'm a few chapters in.) My statement on the matter remains that I am glad to be finally reading a Dashiell Hammett book. Since mysteries aren't really my thing, it will be interesting to see whether I am inspired to read more upon completion of this one.

I'm sure a lot of people have seen the movie. I, however, have not, and am glad for this since I always do like to read the book first. (But you better believe it's in my Netflix queue.)

Sam Spade is so matter-of-fact about things that shock others: Oh, we didn't believe your story, you just paid us enough for that to be all right....that sort of thing. But I think my favorite line so far comes when he describes a man's sudden disappearance: "He went like that,' Spade said, 'like a fist when you open your hand.'''

Also, you know how some people devour mysteries and fancy themselves some kind of amateur sleuth and imagine themselves solving crimes with the greatest of ease? Yeah, that's so not me. But this book does make me reminisce about San Francisco; I haven't been there in years.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cervantes, Wilson, & Hammett

Hmm, that doesn't really have a law firm ring to it, as so many last name last name ampersand last name groupings do. I am totally thinking about law school again, excitedly so, and I am also excited about being excited, so it's just a big ol' barrel of law school preparation fun 'round these parts, but I am still reading my summer books for the moment, and here's what I have to say about that.

Don Quixote: On Monday I received much validation from my friend Carrie, who has also read many good things in her day but finds herself unable to get through Don Q. We agreed that Cervanted needs an editor and that it is a one-joke book. Said joke is hilarious the first 100 or so pages, but 500 pages in I'm yawning way more than chuckling. Of course it's understandable if he didn't have an editor, what with it being "the first modern novel" and all. But I'm just saying.

Apart from the noncommittal murmurings of a few, I've received basically one strong vote for finishing the book and one strong vote against. So, no mandate. Oh, and I've also received the response from another friend (who loves her some Don Q), "You're reading the wrong translation!" That's kind of like the Ralph Nader vote. What to do, what to do.

The Able McLaughlins: Meanwhile, the other week as I waited for Brian to be ready to read Dashiell Hammett I picked up an old Pulitzer Prize-winner (love me some Pulitzer-winning books), The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson. I will probably take that with me to New York this week, along with the Q, and see how I feel.

Because the book I'm actually reading - today, tomorrow, and surely to finish this weekend - is The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Hurrah! I am so excited to be reading this. It goes quickly and is not long. Sam hear this name so much ambling through our society, but you may have never read him. As promised, so far the prose is clean and sparse and I can see where he's quite the hard-boiled detective fiction legend with his "That's the stuff" etc. Sam Spade himself so far seems complicated, despite his surface simplicity. Would he have really killed his partner so that he could marry his Iva? I'm doubting it. But we shall see how it all unfolds.

My edition of The Maltese Falcon: 0679-722645

Saturday, August 18, 2007


OK, for those of you breathlessly awaiting an update (oh, it's so fun to tell myself that) I have in fact been sticking with Don Quixote, if by "sticking with" you mean "haven't thrown across the room but read fewer than a dozen pages a day and somehow suddenly discover a pressing need to read every unfinished issue of The Economist that has sat on the coffee table for weeks."

But the thing is, every time I talk about Don Q, then I find myself wanting to finish it. And, I might add, I find myself fitting into some of my friends' definitions of "literary snob" because I do kind of want to be able to say I stuck with it and didn't quit and I will fully confess that I like it when people look at the gigantic book and raise an eyebrow or two.

And yes, yes, I know I have yet to post my literary snob report. I have to do that, too.

And I really didn't want to be reading Don Q when law school year two starts. But it's apparently going to be that way.

Last night I was watching M*A*S*H Season 7 on DVD and when Hawkeye goes running off to the Panmunjeom peace talks Colonel Potter or BJ or someone refers to him as being "off playing Don Quixote."

Furthermore, there was a most intriguing bit in the book when they're hanging out with the Moor-who-wants-to-be-a-Christian lady where I see the origins of the term "Al Qaeda"...creepy. I'll post that next. I don't have the book with me at the moment. And I have to run to go catch the commuter rail.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Well, Don, I guess we're stuck together for a little while...

My friend Kim said the following. She did not post it here as a comment, but I believe that is because she forgot her Blogger password or something. Anyway, she said:

"1. It is the first modern Western novel - and by that I don't mean the genre put forth by Louis L'Amour. 2. It is the cornerstone of Spanish literature - which only matters if you're reading it in Spanish, I suppose...are you? Finish the fucker. Regards, Kim"

All righty then.
For what it's worth, I'm on page four hundred something, and it's getting a little better again.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Quixote Query

NOW FINISHED: Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
ANNUAL BIG BOOK I'M NOW READING(!): Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
NEXT UP FOR A-TO-Z PROJECT(someday): The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

So I'm on page 368 of Don Quixote and here's the thing. I'm not really sure I like it. It's long, and long-winded. And, it's kind of a one-joke book. That joke was really, really funny for the first 90 or so pages. Laugh-out-loud-on-the-bus funny. But now it's really dragging along. This is true even when I read 125 pages in one day, such as yesterday while I worked my stupefyingly boring convention temp job.

I don't like giving up on a book before I finish it. I really don't. (Take that, Harry Potter!) But I'm kind of over it, and there's so much else I want to read. I always give a normal book at least 100 pages, so maybe with a monster such as this giving it 368 pages counts.

But what I really want to count is this: your votes. Should I keep reading it, or not?

And for those of you who like Don Q - without spoiling, just in case - why? And how long do I have to wait to love it?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Is he - one of us?

NOW FINISHED: One of Ours by Willa Cather
NEXT UP FOR A-TO-Z PROJECT: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
ANNUAL BIG BOOK I'M BLOWING OFF: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

So I finished One of Ours, and I am happy to report that once I got past page 100 it started to get really good, so I am glad I stuck with it. Not that I could have done otherwise, because Pulitzer=I read it. However, it really was kind of blah-blah-blah on the prairie and got exciting only once Claude married his silly Prohibition-thumpin' prairie girlfriend and then set off for France to be a soldier in World War I. There was a lot of grappling with the meaning of life, death, war and the like. The end, though, was strange. So my overall report is that it's a great book from about pages 120-365. (out of 371)

And by the way, no, I'm not entirely sure the answer to "one of our" - what, exactly? Quick, somebody call Umberto!

Coming soon -- very soon: my Official Literary Snob Report!