Appointment in Samarra

rye Brilliant book. You will want to go to the Club for a ginger and rye as you read along in this story of the force of society rules and keeping up appearances in a 1930’s moderate-sized town Pennsylvania. One impulsive, trivial act sends an esteemed Gibbstown prince down the path of self-destruction and it is marvelously described. The author’s own internal struggle with his place in America’s caste ignites a superb outcome in this novel. Pound the table buy.

The Stranger

stranger The first question right out of the box amongst a group of confident, well-hung, independent thinkers like the Nutmeg Illuminado is “Is this truly the greatest book of all-time?” Eff no, but it is an incredible discussion book. Meursault…you gotta love him, or not. It doesn’t matter. It’s starting to annoy me. It’s getting on my nerves. I was tired. I was a little bored. I didn’t feel like it. None of it really mattered. It didn’t make any difference to me. I gave up the idea out of laziness. I felt kind of annoyed…yet this Mousier takes some conclusive action when the sun hits him like a slap in the face.

As low key as the extremes were, they were fantastic. Meursault’s indifference, the little woman at Celeste’s exactness, Marie’s nonsensicality, Salamo’s meanness (both in terms of nastiness and dependency), Meursault lawyer’s hopeless assurance and the prosecutor’s fixation on the absence of remorse, they were all fun to discuss. How did Meursault even survive into young adulthood? He was so sensitive to the beauty of the sky and to upticks in temperature, yet he is completely oblivious to the trouble you can get in by emptying a revolver into another person. Was he on the autism spectrum? Did Maman keep him out of trouble all these years before she went to the old folks home? Who knows?

Today it wouldn’t only be in front of the old people that he would get the ridiculous feeling that he was being judged. He backs up a guy who plans on, then goes Ray Rice on his girlfriends. He stands by while a guy beats an animal. He only cares about his girlfriend’s body (free pass.) He swings at a priest. He kills an indigenous person. The P.C. Police would be pulling some serious OT pay tuning him up time and again. Amazing.

Going against the recent trend, we wouldn’t cut a word out of The Stranger. It was an absorbing read from start to finish. No nonsense. No tangents. Also, the single narrator worked in this one. Camus did a great job of framing up what the other characters thought of Meursault. Theon Greyjoy needn’t be consulted. Fun book. It’s short. Go read it.

Room

room A freaky Fritzl-esque story narrated by a 5-year old boy born to a captive mother in an 11’ x 11’ shed. Interesting and intensely gripping leading up to the escape attempt, but it peters out after that. It’s well documented that readers eventually turn on the boy narrator, and the author should have predicted that and offered other POVs like Old Nick, an old boyfriend who married someone else or Theon Greyjoy.

Unbelievably, in the second half of the book you will even start to lose patience with Ma, the brilliant heroine who raised Jack in such a balanced fashion within an astonishingly stunted environment. Just because you were abducted and abused for 7-years, that doesn’t give you the right to be so snippy with everyone!

As has become a theme on this blog, this book could have withstood a 100-page haircut with no damage done. If you are curious, go for it. Otherwise, there are better things to read out there.

Side Piece – Case Histories

case What is wrong with Netflix? You would think you can order anything but the very latest TV to be streamed into you domicile. Nope, you need to rent the DVD for Case Histories? With that kind of service, they could be the next MySpace or Friendster.

The actual book is engaging. Enter caricature private eye with a soft spot for damsels. His bread and butter is tailing potentially philandering wives, but now he will be investigating some rather cold, rather sad cases. Unsurprisingly, via some massive strokes of luck and without much wasted effort, he solves them. The reader isn’t given too much to go on as you advance, so you will have to wait for Mr. Brodie to have his breakthroughs.

It’s likely that you will only care for 2 of the 3-cases presented, one is really brutal, but as the fat man waving and squeezing a handful of scarves said…don’t be sad, because 2 outta 3 ain’t bad. Beach read for the CSI, CSI-LA, CSI-NY, CSI-New Orleans and CSI-Ottumwa, Iowa set. Enjoy, and send Netflix an email entreating them to actually become Netflix.