Finishing all those books in November
I'm working on that pile! Here are three of my pile books, plus two quick reads I stuck in around the edges.
Junk Film: Why Bad Movies Matter, by Katharine Coldiron -- This book was just a delight to me, but then it was written by somebody who likes many of the same terrible movies I do but is much more knowledgeable than I am. The first third of the book is dedicated to a monograph of Plan 9 From Outer Space and what makes it so interesting as a terrible movie. Wonderful! She talks about a failed TV show called Cop Rock in which somebody mashed a serious procedural cop show with a musical -- "I promise this is true." Coldiron gets into literature and compares Irene Iddesleigh with Sean Penn's novels. She explains why a low-budget 70s horror film called Death Bed is actually pretty good. I loved it.
If you like bad movies, this is a great book for you. Others possibly not so much.
How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt -- This was kind of a hard one to read, because, obviously, a lot democracies are weakening across the globe, and we're one of them. Levitsky and Ziblatt wrote their treatise way back in 2017-18, five+ years ago, and here they charted four indications of authoritarian behavior: rejection of democratic norms, denial of legitimacy of political opponents, toleration/encouragement of violence, and readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents. Then they describe these indications and how they played out in Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Germany, Italy, and other places where democratic governments have fallen to authoritarianism of various kinds.
Unable to permanently defeat each other and unwilling to compromise, Chilean parties threw their democracy into a death spiral.The last part of the book goes through American history and describes the fortunes of democratic norms -- where they were strengthened, and where they were weakened. The last 40+ years get the most analysis, of course. When we ignore those long-established norms and play 'hardball,' we threaten our own future.
This was my final book on Adam's TBR Challenge list!
I Served the King of England, by Bohumil Hrabal -- I'd been meaning to read this and a beautiful pristine copy showed up on the donation table. It was fate! I have read a couple of Hrabal's novels before, and he writes long, run-on sentences and chapters that frequently venture into absurdism. Here we have Ditie, a young busboy in a Prague hotel before World War II. He is very ambitious and wants to rise in the ranks to become a headwaiter and finally, the owner of his own hotel. When he asks the greatest headwaiter how he knows everything (where any customer is from and what he will order), he replies, "I served the King of England." And Ditie gets his chance to learn waiterly wisdom when he serves the Emperor of Ethiopia. We follow him through several hotels and adventures, through the war and its aftermath, and finally to the realization of his ambition -- only for everything to fall under Communist rule. What then?
This was a very engaging read, replete with subtle (and unsubtle) satire of European politics and the human condition.
Thornhedge, by T. Kingfisher: I continue my reading of Kingfisher novellas with this latest one, which turns out to be the first she wrote for this publisher; the others came later. This is Sleeping Beauty's castle, after centuries: covered in brambles, virtually invisible and ignored, watched over by a small creature who lives in fear that someone will take an interest and disturb the enchantment. And then Halim, a knight, arrives and doesn't leave. He sees Toadling, and asks her questions....and while Toadling is terrified that the curse might be broken, she also finds that Halim offers hope of freedom.
I'm not too sure about the cover; I think it's too 80s. You?
Absolutely lovely, highly recommended, this is great stuff. Short enough to read in one sitting, which I did -- I recommend that too.
The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon: Evidently, once a decade, I need to read this book. I looked up the last time I read it and it was exactly 10 years ago. And that blog post was pretty good, too! In fact I recommend you read it, because I'm not sure I have much new to say.