Thursday, March 16, 2017

An Offer I Can't Refuse

Oh my gosh. If it seems like I forgot all about the Bestseller Puzzle Reading Challenge, I did. The blogging bit, I mean. I've been reading steadily, and have gone from one-third-complete to one-half. All in five little books!

Let's start on a high note: Mario Puzo's The Godfather is an entertaining book. Every bit as good as the movie, and reading it makes me want to pop the DVD in the player. Between The Godfather and Elf, James Caan really doesn't need to make another movie to ensure immortality.

This book has aged well and unapologetically. Women are "broads" and almost irrelevant; racial slurs get thrown around; there's lots of sex and alcohol and violence. Five stars. I liked knowing more of the thoughts going on in people's heads, and there are a couple sub-plotty moments left out of the movie that are worth hearing about.

The Godfather is the only one of the books covered today that gets its very own allusion in the animated film Zootopia, so how's that for an homage?

Moving down the line, I also liked my second H. G. Wells foray:

This was a fun and suspenseful novella. Wells does such a good job of making the science plausible and thinking through the what-ifs. To become invisible seals Griffin's fate as an isolated individual, out of touch with the world. Wells does pacing, well, well. 4 solid stars.

Then there was the three-star bucket, of which I probably liked The Color Purple the best.

"So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see." - from THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston

Alice Walker, of course, had a lot to do with Hurston's resurrection as an author, and this quote has a lot to do with THE COLOR PURPLE. Walker's main character Celie spends much of her life as her father's mule, husband's mule, stepchildren's mule, only to find love and self-worth as she grows older.

I loved the parts of the story told from Celie's perspective, as well as the characters' development and the author's sympathy for even the most ill-behaved of them. The timeline confused me a little, once Nettie's letters were interspersed, and the missionaries-to-Africa bit interested me less, but all in all a good read. 

One imponderable: were there really Chinese restaurants in the rural south around WWII, and could the fortune cookie possibly have been a common sight then???

And, finally, a tie between Return to Peyton Place and Catch-22. I'd say Catch-22 was the more interesting, more ambitious novel, and parts of it were clever and funny, but it was way too long, and I couldn't help thinking, as some of Yossarian's "superiors" did that, if everyone felt about WWII the way Yossarian did, we'd all be speaking German or Japanese now, and there wouldn't be a single Jewish person left on earth. Yes, war is horrible and absurd and even insane, but as long as folks are folks there will be war in the world. And thank you to those WWII veterans who fought in it! (Note: the rape and underage sex jokes in the book have not aged well. Unlike in The Godfather, there is no moral tsk-tsking over them, making them just icky.)

Did I say the last two books tied? Actually I've changed my mind. My hands-down least-favorite this go-round was Return to Peyton Place. Seriously it was just trashy. If not for the Bestseller Puzzle Reading Challenge and my commitment to read this book, I would have abandoned it because I remembered not being crazy about the original PEYTON PLACE when my book club read it.

Don't let the demure cover fool you

In fact, that was one of only two things I recalled about the original PEYTON PLACE:

1. That the teenagers played Spin the Bottle; and
2. That is was soap-opera-y and trashy and I didn't like it.

RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE picks up where the original left off, and I had to read a plot summary to remind me of the characters and their over-the-top situations. Yes, I know the first book blew the lid off small New England town life when it was published, much in the way the town gets turned upside down in THE HELP (another non-favorite of mine), but I can't help thinking Metalious kept a paper bag full of Horrible Things People Do or Have Done to Them beside her typewriter, and she would just reach in when inspiration was required. RETURN has the added detraction of having character Alison become, like Metalious herself, a successful bestselling author whose book causes a stir and gets made into a movie. Which means we have to trek through all the behind-the-scenes of the publishing biz and Hollywood and the author's disillusionment. Might have been interesting to readers in the '50s, but pretty cliche now, down to Alison's tiresome love affairs. Bleh. And if you like '50s witty repartee, prepare yourself for a healthy dose. All the "smart" characters speak it like a regional dialect. Double bleh.

On the plus side, Metalious is lovely with the setting and seasons of her sorta-fictional town, and I enjoyed those bits. If only the town had been unpopulated!

Whew! We're up to date now. Nine books to go, and I'm tramping through one of the Sherlock Holmes books. Join me?

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