A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman (2015)

book398Pulled off the TBR shelf after watching a presentation given by Malcolm Gladwell one evening, this was a really disappointing read in the end. I was trying to read only from the TBR pile, and thought that this might scratch that Gladwell itch, but Grazer is nowhere near as good. Although billed as a book about curiosity, this read struggled mightily with that charge and veered more often than not into the world of the vanity project.

Grazer is a Hollywood producer who has put this flimsy book together based on a few conversations between him and his friends, all of whom apparently kept begging him to write this book about one of his main interests. I felt as though he somehow expected his readers to bow before him, grateful for his small nuggets of wisdom about nothing much in particular.

It wasn’t badly written, but there was not enough material here to develop into a book and the material that was there was more about the famous people Grazer had met or who he knew, much more so than the theme of curiosity. (I felt quite badly for Fishman, who, as his ghostwriter, probably got blamed for the whole thing in the end, even though he may not have been responsible for the actual content.)

So, a disappointing read but them’s the breaks. Another one off the TBR pile and just think of it this way: I’ve now saved you a few hours of reading it yourself. 🙂

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 187

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Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 137: Toothpaste box.

 

Background Note: Cowboy is one of our cats who showed up out of the blue one snowy January day seven years ago. Since then, she has made us her Forever Home (which works with us). She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (Olympic-level) and she eats a lot.

All of these points are helpful with this project that I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)

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Wanting to read something from the Lost Generation time period and having really enjoyed The Great Gatsby, I picked up this 1920 fiction book from F. Scott Fitzgerald. It follows the course of lead character Amory Blaine as he enjoys a privileged childhood of much traveling and little school, until, with the realization that college would be soon on the horizon, his mother enrolls him in his first middle school. This is rather a shock to the old bean of Amory, and as the novel progresses through his adolescence and young adulthood, it’s easy to see that his peripatetic childhood was fun but had not done him any favors in regard to his academics.

So Fitzgerald shows the reader how Amory’s life progresses (or doesn’t as the case may be), and how he is unmoored in life, not really understanding that academics are important (because they haven’t been up until this point in his life), fully aware that who he knows and who knows him is of utmost importance, and realizing he has very little intention of having a serious career of any type with not many consequences for him. His mum will always be able to rescue him.

This was written right after the Great War (WWI) had just ended (1918), and so Europe and the U.S. were still reeling from the high death count of their soldiers, the unrecognized PTSD (or shell shock, as it was called back then), and the large numbers of young men returning to an indifferent home after having survived the terrifying experiences of trench warfare. It’s around now that the U.S. has what’s termed the Gilded Age*, the “gilding” piece referring to something that is bright and shiny on the outside, but is shallow beneath the surface – just a superficial layer to cover deeper problems below.

Up until now, war had been rather a glorious thing for the returning soldiers (now free to live their own lives), and I would think that it must have been rather a let-down for them to return back to their home towns and try to pick up their lives from before the war. Another name for this time period is the Lost Generation which references back to the view that once the war was over, many did not know what would be next. For some young men, soldiering was all that they ever known, career-wise, and those skills didn’t always translate once they were demobbed. Thus, the idea of the Lost Generation – what would they do now that was peace?

So you have this idealistic young man, who had grown up in the earlier war time, who had few goals and even less structure in his life, and this rather aimless mooning around is cleverly reflected in the narrative structure – it reads as a collection of short paragraphs (almost notes) about different pieces of Amory’s life. It’s an unusual set up (especially for writing in the 1920’s) and is quite PoMo in some ways, It’s a narrative structure that works really well – the random jumping around from subject to subject, and the changes in perspective all echo the rapidly changing opinions and moods of Amory as an undergraduate finding his way through college life at Princeton.

Wiki reports that this spotty narrative structure comes from the fact that Fitzgerald only had some bits and pieces of writing put together when he first started to write the novel. The deadline for the novel came very quickly for him, and so he had to throw some writing pieces together to make a complete project. Thus, the short pieces (poems, essays, sometimes just thoughts) carry the reader along with Amory on his coming-of-age experiences as he starts the process to become an adult. (So, not sure whether Fitzgerald was structuring it like on purpose or whether it was just a lucky break for him. Either way, it worked for the most part.)

So a pretty fast read which mostly kept my attention. There were parts that you could tell were just thrown together and the ending gets very serious and philosophical (and a wee bit boring if I’m honest with you), so you can tell it’s a first novel effort. Overall, it was a pretty good read though.

* (Actually, just found out that the Gilded Age phrase was actually referring to the last 20 years or so of the nineteenth century, but only came into common knowledge about 1920 or so. Thought to be coined by Mark Twain. Huh. Now you know…)

Related Reading:

What I’ve Been Reading….

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So, my last post was all about everything going on without actually talking about books, but I promise there has been reading (naturellement), but it’s not been stupendous with any titles yearning for a long chatty blog post.

As part of the ongoing Century of Books, I picked up a Miss Read (Friends at Thrush Green) which fit in perfectly with the year 1991. (That’s pretty late in life for Miss Read to be still publishing, but it worked and also encompasses fairly modern issues such as alcoholism and senility for some of the characters. People have criticized this title for being darker than her other titles, but it worked for me. This was a thoroughly enjoyable romp full of bubbles and light, and was actually a perfect antidote to the current world situation. A good palate cleanser.

I picked up and put back down two more titles, and then came across an older F. Scott Fitzgerald title, This Side of Paradise, which is his first novel and published in 1920. It follows the life and times of college student Amory Blaine and his relationships with others as he goes through life. Not particularly gleeful to read at times, but a good solid read.

Fitzgerald had just broken up with Zelda earlier the summer that he wrote this novel, and, convinced that he would win Zelda’s heart back if it got published, he sent it to New York publisher Maxwell Perkins. Perkins reluctantly published it, and bingo, Zelda takes back Fitzgerald the spring that the book comes out. Barely a week after the book is published, Zelda and Fitzgerald get married. (Just found out that the title, “This Side of Paradise” comes from a line in a Rupert Brooke’s poem. Huh.)

I’m only about halfway through this read, but am really enjoying it for the most part. (In a bit of slow patch right now, but I bet it picks up.) More to come, I’m sure.

Swabbing the Decks…

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So, as sometimes happens in life, things have become a little busy with work and life, and thus, I feel the need to swab the decks a bit, so to speak, and round up what I’ve been reading and doing etc.

Work tends to be rather busy during the Spring months with various projects coming due around the same time, so I’ve been occupied with getting those documents written, edited, approved (and then repeating the same process several times with several different authors). I’m making progress though so I’m satisfied with all that.

Life: we went to a Garth Brooks/Trisha Yearwood concert the other day when they arrived in town, and wow. That was a great concert (except for the opening act which was misogynistic in every song he chose to sing for us. The only way that this opening act could have made it on to the list must have been he’s a close family friend or Garth Brooks lost a bet.) However, Garth was excellent, Trisha was excellent, and Garth hung around the stage for an hour once the concert has officially “finished” and took requests from some of the 13,000 people who had filled the arena. This was truly one of the best concerts that I’ve been lucky to attend, and recommend you get tickets if they come through your area. Totally worth it (even if you’re not huge in C/W.)

Garth Brooks In Concert - New York, New York

Tonight, I’ve got tickets to see NYT best-selling author, Malcolm Gladwell, give a lecture in a town just west of here. It’s two hours’ drive each way, so it will be a long night, but Gladwell is worth it (I hope).

sunset_blvdMovies – the best movie I’ve seen in ages was the one we watched the other day called Sunset Boulevard (1950) which stars Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a has-been movie star but who’s not been told that her work is no longer wanted by directors. She had been a star in the silent movie era, and had not made the transition to the “talkies”, but to keep life easier, those who surround her have said nothing so she just keeps waiting for the phone call from the next director. A young writer down on his luck happens to break into her mansion during a big storm and a police chase, and thus the two people meet. She has drafted a new movie script and asks (commands) the young writer to put it together to pitch to the industry. The drama goes on from there… Lots of lovely melodrama, great fashion, and lines you’ll probably recognize…

(If you’ve seen Seinfeld on a fairly regular basis, you’ll recognize scenes from Sunset Boulevard from when Kramer moves to LA and lives in a run-down boarding house… and other small Easter eggs through the seasons.)

Reading – yes. I’ll update you with the goods in the next post!

“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up…”

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 139

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Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 139: Easter bunny ears.

Background Note: Cowboy is one of our cats who showed up out of the blue one snowy January day seven years ago. Since then, she has made us her Forever Home (which works with us). She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (Olympic-level) and she eats a lot.

All of these points are helpful with this project that I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 138

cowboy_cotton_balls

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 138: Cotton balls.

Background Note: Cowboy is one of our cats who showed up out of the blue one snowy January day six years ago. Since then, she has made us her Forever Home (which works with us). She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (Olympic-level) and she eats a lot.

All of these points are helpful with this project that I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)