Sunday!

I can’t believe the fall season has started. I never got to write my monster post about Arrow/Flash over the summer as I had intended.

John Grisham is a talented writer. Though I tend to prefer Turow’s novels because I have a special appreciation for his building of Kindle County, Grisham’s work over the years has proven to be very versatile. The last two audiobooks I’ve read are his and they outline this.

The Confession is a soapbox novel. Grisham wants to rail against the death penalty (no politics), so he sets up a classic (Probably) Innocent Man On Death Row story. Grisham is more interested in preaching than telling an interesting story, which is a fault to be sure, but given the constraints of what he is trying to accomplish, he does it pretty well. A better example of Grisham’s talents here are The Appeal and King of Torts, wherein Grisham takes on elected judiciaries and class action lawsuits respectively. At its worst it does get preachy, but remains engaging throughout (in part because his stories don’t actually guarantee a happy ending.

The Confession was particularly dark, and by the time I was done with it, I was really in the mood for something different. Unfortunately, circumstances left me needing to go straight to his next book, which was The Litigators, which was a breath of fresh air. Right after a dark book about the dark side of our judicial system, he put out a fun and engaging book about a dysfunctional law firm inadvertently absorbing a Big Law associate who cracked. It seemed that Grisham needed the same mental shower after his previous book that I did. He’s had other books in this vein as well, such as The Brethren about three disgraced judges-turn-conmen who inadvertently get dirt on the next President of the United States.

Not all of his books are great, for sure. He’s hit-and-miss. But he rather unfairly has a reputation for being a one-note Charlie.

Relatedly, while I prefer Scott Turow’s Kindle series, I’m a bit bummed at the infrequency of his books. I sort of feel like if he doesn’t write more about Kindle County, I wish he would let someone else.

What are you reading and/or watching?


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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24 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. Tonight I read The Paper Bag Princess, Grasshopper on the Road, There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon, the 2nd half of a Frog and Toad book, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves, Sleeping Dragons All Around, and Mercer Mayer’s East of the Sun and West of the Moon. All out loud, to my 6 year old niece (her mum and dad are out on a date so we blew off bedtime).

    I’m rereading Libriomancer (when I have 2 minutes to spare) because I started reading the sequel and then realized I’d read the first one during a particularly rough grad school time, and as such, remembered almost nothing about it.

    I’m kind of rewatching Glee while I exercise, mostly because it’s such a mix of fun and awful that it’s entertaining to take it apart. Plus I like singing while I’m on the stationary bike. Plus my brain doesn’t have much left over.

    Listened to a bunch of Midnight in Karachi and The Coode Street Podcast while cleaning this week. They are my favorites.

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    • I just read Frog and Toad All Year, which I think we missed when the kids were small; it was in the house because my daughter reads it to a child she takes care of. My favorite part is where Frog is struggling to get Toad’s winter clothes on so they can go sledding, and Toad yells “Help! My best friend is trying to kill me.”

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      • My kids still laugh about and repeat that line a lot.

        About 2/3 through Bone Clocks; I like it, but am starting to wonder if the plot will EVER come together, or if some sort of po-mo trick is being pulled on me (yes, I’ve read Mitchell before).

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        • @mike-schilling My sister (niece’s mum) and I actually dressed up as Frog and Toad to help my mom for a school project once, and acted out several scenes. We were off-book before she even thought up the project :D.

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          • Inspired, I pulled Frog & Toad All Year off the shelf last night at bedtime, and my daughter cackled both at “Help! My Best Friend Is Trying To Kill Me!” and the chocolate-ice-cream-coated Toad-Monster bits.

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  2. A really well written anti-death penalty novel would novel somebody guilty as hell with no mitigating factors. It would focus on the cruelty of inflicting death as punishment itself rather than the possibility that an innocent person might get executed. The Murdoch Mysteries had an anti-death penalty episode of sorts, its set in the late 19th and early 20th century so its a bit inconsistent with how it treats hanging, that focused on an overly zealous prosecutor rather than the guilt or innocence of the condemned.

    Right now, I’m reading the Doll by Boleslaw Prius. Its a late 19th century Polish novel in the style of Dickensian panorama. The primary plot is about a middle aged business man that falls in love hard with a beautiful young woman from the Polish aristocracy who was reduced to genteel poverty, the titular Doll of the story.

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    • Without delving into politics, such a book would suffer from something similar to what happened with A Few Good Men and/or Glengary Glen Ross: people leaving the entertainment saying “heck, yeah!”

      There were a significant number of people who walked away from Colonel Jessup’s speech saying “He was right.” Even more who walked away from… he didn’t have a name, I don’t think… Baldwin’s character… his speech saying “I need to get into sales.”

      I’m pretty confident that there are a lot of people who would read a story about someone guilty as sin who received a particularly barbaric death penalty and who would walk away from that story saying “good, guy had it coming.”

      How many of our entertainments (the violent ones) have the Established Bad Guy getting killed? How many cheers are there for this sort of thing?

      Are there any among us who didn’t sigh with relief when Geoffrey had too much to drink at his wedding?

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  3. I downloaded a cheap edition of the original Conan the Barbarian stories. This had been one of those odd gaps in my reading. This was partly because so much pulp fiction from that era is, no matter how beloved, nearly unreadable. (H.P. Lovecraft, I am looking at you: take that octopus off your head!) Demotic prose style rarely holds up over the decades. The Conan stories do pretty well in that regard. They are sexist as all get-out, with a dollop casual racism, but that is pretty much a given under the circumstances. The homoerotic undercurrent is slightly more surprising, but I have seen enough films from that era to be prepared. (“Public Enemy” has a very weird scene where Jimmy Cagney, as an up and coming gangster, is taken to a tailor so that he can be dressed properly. The tailor is obviously gay, with over the top stereotyped mannerisms as he fawns over Cagney. No one seems to think anything of it, and it is just this one random scene in the film.)

    I was expecting to read just a few of the Conan stories, partly as a period piece but mostly because they are so influential in later fantasy and gaming culture. They are turning out enjoyable enough that I might read them all.

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    • HP Lovecraft was a twisted bastard, full of little mental illnesses that we don’t really grok anymore (yay us!), but I still found his works perfectly readable…

      He’s a master of the slow build, of the creeping things that dwell just to the edge of your eye, the voices in the darkness that you know aren’t there.

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  4. Woke up to find that the Mac laptop can’t see its SSD, so I’m reduced to trying to read my phone’s tiny little screen. The laptop is exactly 2 years and four days old; I’m betting I know how long the warranty is good for.

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  5. Just finished Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon on Sunday, which, if you don’t know anything about it, is basically like a cyberpunk transhuman Raymond Chandler novel (thus hitting several of my buttons at once). I highly recommend it to anyone intrigued by that description, although fair warning, the book is graphic in pretty much every sense of that word. If it were a movie, it would be X-rated, for a bunch of reasons, or at least hard R.

    Today I got about 60 pages into Use of Weapons, yet another Culture book by Iain M. Banks I’ve acquired recently. I always find the Culture novels weirdly frustrating because they’re literally the only sci-fi setting I’ve experienced where I constantly think, Dammit, why can’t I live there?

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