Why Must There Be A Reader’s Guide?

I realize it may seem that I read books primarily under the categories: India.  And Jews.  Those interest me but it’s not always those I write comments about.  And if it seems that way, I shall widen the scope.

Caveat:  When a book includes a “Reader’s Guide” in the back – my advice is to ignore it.  Pass. Seriously.  Their Q&A’s astonish me.  I tend to avoid groups like the plague, but when it comes to “Reading Groups”, I think Ebola and  Spanish Flu.  Do folks really gather to discuss Oprah’s Book Club selections?  Why?  A lot of folks need Oprah to enhance their lives.  I am not one. And while I really don’t care for Jonathan Franzen after his books   The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion( these he wrote before ).  He is just too adored for reasons I cannot figure out. (Donna Tartt too).  But when he became exercised over the Oprah Seal of Approval –  on the cover of The Connections, I had to approve his ire. I read for pleasure.  I  like to form my own opinions and I find reading a solitary pleasure.

Some of the RG questions beggar belief.  I recently read a novel entitled A Bollywood Affair – a debut by a new voice in India and discovered a bodice ripper writ large (and well writ) that I read in full and wished I hadn’t.  No shade thrown on the author – I just was not prepared.  Neither did I notice the “Reading Group Guide”  mentioned on the back cover.  I promise the book deserved better.  None of the questions would have been sustained in any court. I was about to show you what I meant and could not do it.  All I can say is – dumbed down.  If it’s your drink of choice, by all means, read and respond, but I find they insult many reader’s intelligence.

Tarun J. Tejpal, an author new to me but clearly one who is respected by his readers in India.   The Story of My Assassins just arrived.  The story is true, slightly confusing but what a book.  No helpful glossary and his use of Hindi words and curses did indeed inspire me to look them up.  My own confusion arises from a belief on the author’s part, that the reader has some knowledge of Indian history and politics.  I have more than when I began and caught on to the rhythm as soon as my prior reading recall kicked in.. The event that prompted the book is factual but the layers of the events before and after are woven into a tight fabric set in Haryana, Delhi and other areas of Northern India.  Descriptions of the air in Delhi in previous books have stayed with me and I suspect much coughing and wheezing – and Delhi is not a favorite locale.but this book is a lulu. Political, parochial, authentic and alarming – highly recommended for the story and the writing. Lots of sex, violence, cursing, Hindi and unshuttered windows for closer looks at the India between now and then. (It has been compared to the White Tiger and Slumdog Millionaire*;  I find this book far more intricately delivered and much larger in scope.  (Tejpal is also the founder of the Indian news magazine Tehelka.)  It does have a damn reader’s guide but I am not certain why.  I realize however that I must read the Mahabharata and the Gita.  One hopes there are versions for each in the category of “For Idiots”.

Because I have Lubavitchers as close friends and know their daughters from birth to their marriages and children, Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers by Stephanie Levine was truly a joy and allowed me to answer questions I would not feel comfortable asking even these women so close to me. Within this community; so many personalities and viewpoints. Much like the six girls of my friend.  I saw each one in the profiles and it added to the pleasure of this book.  Well cited and indexed (I love indices) and within the cites – other titles to explore

Fire and Fury remains infuriating.  And still best in small servings. Looking forward to picking up yet another look at the man In the White House as measured by over two dozen mental health pros. And no, I did not watch the SOTU.

 

Comments welcome.  Share.  Thanks

 

  • *I read Slumdog as “Q&A” before it was renamed

I Just Can’t Seem to Stop.

Oh I have read and read and read some more. After this last depressing year of being a native born, US citizen and watching that grow scary;  I stayed warm and read til my eyes crossed.  I believe I mentioned my read of Sleeping Beauties and it still is on my mind. Read it.  You may weep; but the Kings kicked some ass.  I read an Alex Cross because I like the character – Patterson – feh.   And then there was The Rooster Bar.  It is not quite his direction and of course was well written but personally I wanted to beat the three main characters like a gong. Mr. Grisham  – I hope you will abandon this type of silliness.  You are better than the Rooster Bar.

I may have mentioned my casual interest in diamonds – when in need of a best friendsthey can work quite well.  I had read a galley of a book on the subject in the early part of the ‘aughts and  it stayed with me.  I found the final edition  recently and oh what a nasty business it is to discover  Greedy, ruthless, competitive and utterly fascinating.  The players are first and foremost deBeers who struggle more to continue to be the biggy.  And the baddy and the monopolists; something that is changing rapidly.

I know quite a lot more than I ever expected to know and it is a fascinating enterprise.  The Oppenheimer’s hold it tightly, wheel and deal and sadly were very instrumental in supporting apartheid for cheap labor and because they could.  The tech end is fascinating and I was so damn fascinated I have another title to expand my ken.  I wear little jewelry – but a bit of sparkle can be enticing and what I do have is a very little sparkler. Diamond by Matt Hart reads like a whodunit.  Check it out.

Between the gems and Grisham , I found a James Ellroy I hadn’t read – ‘Because the Night“.  All the expected L.A. police, bad guys, the grift and the graft – but it was step well away from precious stones.and a good little break .  Ellroy has always been a favorite – a flawed man and a damn good writer. He gets down and dirty because what he writes takes him to some very down and dirty places. I like the opium beds of another era in Chinatown. They showed up a lot in Perfidia.  Just a damn good book to use for a break.

Which brings us to the strangest book I have read in a long time.  My lasting fascination with the Black Dahlia is not a secret and I have read quite a few, well written books of theories and man hunts and of course it is still unsolved. And still fascinating.

Piu Eatwell, another theorist enters with Black Dahlia, Red Rose.  The crime is not a news flash but each author’s take on it fills in gaps that add allure and ideas that are newer or more creative than the last ones  Eatwell has done her homework and gives us lots of information – not exactly new info, but presented well and worth taking it in.  But she does make mistakes, some of which seem to reflect the American idioms she gets wrong.  Irritating minutiae that creates a little itch and a tendency to look for more. This is distracting to me. She may have edited the book herself because a competent editor would indeed have caught them.  None of this would really be bothersome but she has embraced the asterisk and the annotated footnotes passionately and it is truly annoying.  Truly.  One can see ways the info could easily have been part of the text and it is driving me bananas.  She has notes as well and a quick glance at those was not a treat.  But she was published by a reputable house – WW Norton;  but I still would love to know who her editor was.  They need a stern chat.  All this filigree and distraction make the book harder to read, but the entire story is such an interest of mine – I shall go the distance.  If it turns out okay – those of you who like old true noir  should check back.

Christmas and New Year are upon us.  Packages have arrived and I know there will be books.  I can’t wait. I wish all of you who check out this blog a wonderful time in the next week and a better, happier, calmer 2018.I promise my new inventory next week.

I should also mention that very few on the “Best Books of 2017” appealed to me and would not have been on my list. And I am getting less enthusiastic about the NY Sunday Times Book Review – after all these years.  And exception is Marilyn Stasio whom I look forward seeing every two weeks.  She is the crime lady.

Enjoy your holidays and wish for 2018 to be an improvement.  I know I do.