Thursday, April 12, 2012

The bookshelf

Haven't done one of these in a long time, so I've forgotten a good bit of reading. Not that it matters. Anyway:

Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove series: I read these in story order, not publication order. They're page-turners, though I question whether I'll read any of them again. No, I never saw the mini-series.

Ross Macdonald, Lew Archer series: found a good many of these at Choctaw Books and have been consuming them like potato chips. Macdonald may be more clever at plotting than Chandler, but Chandler is the better stylist and Marlowe is the more memorable character. OTOH I'm only on, what, book # 7.

Michael Grant, Saint Peter: picked this up re: the class on Acts that I'm trying to lead. No one should ever have high expectations from Grant, but the book was weak even from that limited perspective. I'm sufficiently aware of some of the debates around the history of the early church and of the New Testament's composition to catch Grant when he simply takes some fact for granted (heh) without mentioning that anyone might think differently.

A.N. Wilson, Paul: The Mind of the Apostle: thus far a much better book than Grant's. Written from the same relentlessly secular perspective, but with a richer appreciation of the debates and the context - lots of context (what did Paul's near-contemporaries write about Tarsus? etc.). The only thing I've wondered about is Wilson's assumption that Paul really did study under Gamaliel the Elder, which I recall Garry Wills' being unconvinced of ... for some reason ... that I'll have to go back and check ....

Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest, The Glass Key, The Dain Curse: these are books I'd read a long while back but had forgotten in large part. It would be interesting to think about how each novel fails in some respect, though Red Harvest, the best of the three, may not. Ned in The Glass Key never quite comes together as a character in the way that, say, Sam Spade does. And The Dain Curse is just an implausible mess. But bad Hammett is still better than good lots-of-other-people.

J.E. Neale, Queen Elizabeth I: presumably not the title it bore when published in 1934? The classic biography, judicious and never dull.

Peter Longerich, Heinrich Himmler: everything you will ever want to know about Himmler, for whom the tidying-up of Europe's Jews was simply a preliminary to the wonderful future Germania, an empire defended by stalwart, micro-managed SS knights. In a better universe, Himmler would've been the slightly nuts proprietor of the health-food store down the street, who would detain unwary or like-minded shoppers with his theories about "ice people" and the Pyramids. As it turned out, he became the most feared man in Europe and one of the darkest criminals ever. History's a bitch.

1 comment:

  1. I just read something which seems right up your alley, if you haven't picked up a copy: David Dorsen's new biography of Henry Friendly. It's a good portrait of the man and and an excellent tour de force of the federal jurisprudence of the era. Worth the $25 or so.