The Last Thursday Book Club

Summaries and Review Comments by the Members

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Summaries & Reviews from 2015-2016 Selections

    How Green Was My Valley    by Richard Llewellyn       January 2015

 Mr. Gruffydd approched us on the Last Thursday of the month and asked that we celebrate within the intellectual slag heap as it moves toward Albuquerque.  Some of the attending cattle spoke:    

Rob E:  I liked it a lot.  Beautiful descriptions covering many themes:  labor vs. management, boys and girls coming of age, etc.  I especially liked the music - "The voice of your brothers and sisters - baritone gold ..."  I liked the flowery descriptions:  humans creating music as part of what separates us from the animals.  Also, the camaraderie of meals:  the sound of plates and cutlery is second only to voices.  I liked the tension between Bron and Huw.  The book reminded me of Grapes of Wrath - these people were the salt of the earth, not slugs, they have dreams, and ethics.  A

Charlie:  I don't have much to add to Rob's comments.  This book was a long interpretation of family in a village - true humanity.  Beyond that theme, the writing was extraordinary.  What was there not to like?  A

Ken:  The book was good in the middle.  Some of the Welch based writing was confusing, as were some of the Welch words.  But the book was well-written, excellent character development.  Solid A

Jack:  A good portrait of a small mining town.  A coming of age story not unlike Bless Me, Ultima.  Poetry:  A

Tom:  For me, this was not an A book.  I liked it a lot, it held my interest.  I didn't feel preached to re the unions.  The Father provided an anti-union view.  A-

KeithThe problem with the beginning and the end:  way too far apart.  And a dearth of humor.  Thus I have collected some Welch jokes: 

    a) What do you call a Welshman with 40 wives?  A shepherd!  

    b) a Welshman was stranded with his dog and a sheep on a desert island.   After a long time, a beautiful woman washes ashore and asks him, “What can I do to make you happy?”  His answer:  “Take my dog for a walk!”  

Beautiful writing, a good B

Ron B:  A  Enjoyed the characters and the situations, such as the conflict with the miners.  Good description of the education system in a 100 inhabitant town.  The downside:  some slow parts.  But well written, clever, loved the difference descriptions of working with wood vs metal. 

Mike B:  Some personal problems:  The first section must have been written at a six-year old level; I truly felt the pain of my brothers with other books, trying to keep pushing through that low-level intro.  I was wondering if the “Books into Film” subtitle meant I did not get the ‘real’ book, only a screenplay.  And the approach at the Welsh language (with no dialect a la Mark Twain) reminded me of the weird Yoda in Star Wars, who expresses wisdom by backwards he is talking … and using an Ernie voice from the Muppets Bert and Ernie.  But sections such as the fight scene with Dai and Big Shoni, “six foot of him, solid, with muscles thick under fat” made it all worthwhile:  B+   And here it is where movies fail us: when I read the book, Dai Bando was built like Vince Wilfork of the Patriots; in the movie he was but a man.

Bob Woods:  I will certainly give it an A.  The author had a way of using vocabulary as a plastic to mold his telling of the story.  I had the opportunity to witness miners in a coastal town in Wales, and they were really serious.  The author captured this quite well.  A

Dick J:  My favorite book, which I hadn’t read for a long time.  I come from a mining family.  In my family, I learned of John L. Lewis and thought he was President of the United States.  A


and from well beyond the slag heap:

O my little ones, Thursday shall find me over the mountain in Taos for the annual Winter Wine Festival.  My soul aches to be with you but, following God's will, I am compelled to drink of the cup of plentitude of our Provider.

My grade for this book is A+, which puts it at the top of my list of books read along with "O Cry the Beloved Country".  A very good read there it be.
Sincerely,  Bob  

I will also be in Taos next Thursday…and perhaps partaking of the wine.  I am sorry to miss this meeting because I found the boook so exceptional.  I had read it as a teenager, but enjoyed it again even more.  He handled the voices of the Welch very well, and the plot and descriptions were very well writtenA strong A in my opinion.

Dick Arms


   A Higher Call  by  Adam Makos (and his little buddy Larry)      February 2015

Last Thursday we were welcomed to Duffy’s Tavern:  Hello, Duffy's Tavern where the elite meet to eat.  Archie, the manager speakin'.  Duffy ain’t here…  Oh, hello, Duffy …

Ken:  I thought it was fascinating book, well-researched, couldn’t put it down.  I thought the human behavior showed by Franz was eye-opening.  A

Dick A:  I didn’t have any knowledge of the Luftwaffe.  Probably the author constructed the conversations.  This was creative non-fiction.  Good to start the book with the post-war chapter, then back to chronological with seques of “4 hours later,” “6 hours later,” etc.  When I was growing up, I recall Tojo and Hitler billboards.  This book helps you to realize that our enemies were real people – especially the pilots.  Terrific job.  A-

Jack F:  First, some comments on NAZIs:  I never met a German who admitted belonging to the Party.  There is a proud history of the German military – and here we were reminded that it was the military who tried to kill Hitler, and the military who met with Goering to try to persuade him to resign.  This was a fascinating and informative story, written from the viewpoints of two WWII pilots.  Tremendous.  A

Bob S:  I enjoyed it very much; a page turner.  Enjoyable, luminating, and presenting an aspect I didn’t know before.  A-  Just great.

Bob W:  Engaging is the word.  First book in years that I couldn’t put down  I liked the way it was presented, with “1 month later,” “two hours later,” – it worked well.  The author was not perfect – but actually the flawed syntax made the story more authentic, better.  Unqualified A

Mike:  Restaurants can be graded on three qualities:  ambience, wait staff, food.  Perhaps non-fiction should be considered on story, facts, and presentation.  This story is a compelling one, one that needed to be told, one that needs to be learned by American audiences.  I learned quite a bit, and the account made me think about how Life is dealt, and how we humans deal with it.

Unfortunately, the telling of the story was quite uneven.  The first chapter especially, of Franz Stigler in post-war Germany, read like an account written by/for school age children.  Here are examples: 

Page 9:  Franz scurried through the town's massive square, Ludwig's Place, his black leather boots clopping along the frozen cobblestones.

Page 11:  He stopped in his tracks and gulped.

This was most distracting to me.  Yet when the author(s) told the story of the flying missions and the Dec 20th incident, it flowed beautifully.  Overall:  B+

Tom G:  Obviously a compelling story.  The writing was nothing to write home about, but at least competent.  When Franz was slogging his way through the end of the war, I just wanted to get it over, as I knew the punch line.  There are perhaps many good stories about these vets that will soon be for gotten.  Glad this one was captured.  A-

Keith:  German pilot Franz text to his wife:  “Olga:  I’m having one more beer with Hans.  If I’m not home in one hour, re-read this message.”  There was a problem with the book:  A crescendo of an incident, with the rest of the prose supporting.  B+

Charlie:  I give it a B+   The story was an A+   I have said before that we need to keep journalism and fiction separate.  (An example was the movie Selma where they show LBJ as being dragged into civil rights when he was actually the strong friend who got the legislation passed).

Ron B:  I give it an A   I liked it both times I read it.  I liked the way the story was sandwiched between the two pilots, gulping along.  I liked that he was telling a story, and I realize the authors needed to fill in the story.  Considering that Makos was a 32-year old journalist, I think it was well thought out.  A

... and from outside the war zone:

Hoch, Rüde, Hoch!

   A Canticle for Leibowitz  by  Walter M. Miller Jr.     March 2015

 A gaggle of seven recalcitrant bookleggers, clad only in burlap loin cloths, gathered at the monastery of St. Raul the Cyclopean to discuss the End Times and whether it would be worthwhile with the advent so close to disregard all health directives and consume a Wendy's Chocolate Medium Frosty.  It is critical to distribute these comments prior to The Age of Simplification - which may have been initiated Last Thursday.  Please memorize the following, then bury in a keg somewhere southwest of To'hajiillee.  Satanus Agape.

Bob W.  I think this is a tour de force – I give it an unqualified A.  Historic, literary, and it spoke of the times.  A contribution to the body of literature.

Charlie:  I really enjoyed this book.  I’m not usually a fan of Science Fiction but this is “what if” fiction.  Clever, humorous, well written.  A

Jack:  I would agree with Charlie.  I enjoyed this book, particularly Brother Francis in Part I and Abbot Zerchi in Part III.  The book was weaker in Part II.  Certainly spoke of the separation of Church and State, and the self-destructive nature of Man.  Seriously discussed important topics.  A-

Dick Arms:  I thought it was one of the most thought provoking books I have read.  I only finished it this afternoon, but I want to re-read it at leisure.  So many ideas, masterful.  Solid A

Mike:  I loved Fiat Homo.  I couldn’t believe it when they shot Good Brother Francis in the head.  And then “Eat! Eat! Eat!”  Fiat Lux was not my favorite book, but needed for the transition.  I was surprised how much I got into the arguments by Abbot Z in Part III.  A-

Bob Simon:  As most of you know, I have been deeply involved in another task.  I read the first 150 pages and the last three chapters.  I found this to be a chronicle of the Cold War Era.  I could not connect with it:  B

KeithOceans of depression with islands of humor.  Miller’s agony was the Catholic Church.  Writing was how he endured the pain.  Vultures started the book, and sharks were starving at the end.  The trip to Alpha Centauri would take 75,000 years – thus the only piece of Science Fiction presented was ridiculous.  I enjoyed the 3rd Fiat, the 2nd should have been left out.  B on balance.

 We accept the Study Guide on the Canticle.  And from well outside of St. Raul's ground zero: 

I am sorry that I missed last night's meeting.  I have a condition that flares up periodically where I become very dizzy and end up in bed for a couple of days.  I had not had an attack for months but had one a couple of days ago and it takes several days to get over it.
Here is my review:

I had a hard time getting through A Canticle for Leibowitz..  It was an interesting story but I did not find the book especially well written.  It did make me do some thinking.  I realized that the book really ran parallel to much of history.  It started just at the end of the dark ages when all knowledge was lost or was collected in monasteries, then there was a Renaissance when the knowledge was rediscovered, then an industrial age and an age of wonderful new inventions followed by a nuclear war.  We have yet to have the nuclear war but we had the other stages.  I didn't mention the Jewish messiah or prophet (Leibowitz).
The real flaw in the book to me was the fact that some people survived the first nuclear war in normal conditions as did many of the animals--there were people who had been affected but some seemed as though life went on with no effect on their physical or mental condition--I just did not find that believable.
I would give the book a B.
    -  Dick J


      Nemesis  by  Phillip Roth      April 1944

 Nine formerly nice Jewish kids from the East Side of Newark met on the playgrounds of Placitas. They knew little of classic Greek tragedies in three acts.  They knew, they thought they knew, that Nemesis, the Greek goddess of retribution, reverses excessive good fortune, but they didn't want to think about that.  They just wanted to choose up sides, play some ball, not  worry about bad stuff like polio.  Sure, Bucky was their hero, and now, finally, they had to speak out:


Ron B:  When a Philip Roth selection was made, I dreaded reading the book.  I knew his reputation as depressing.  Yet when I started reading this book, I was interested, pulled in, not depressed.  Perhaps polio occurs in clusters – was the book a B+, or an A-?  When I found out what happened to Bucky at the end, I thought it was a good twist, the story got better:  A   Unqualified recommendation.

Keith:  Have any of you read Horatio Alger?  That is the antithesis of this book.  Here the protagonist is toppled from his pedestal.  This is the Jewish mindset:  saturnine, gloomy, things can only get worse.  I did not find it uplifting.  I looked throughout the book and found not a morsel of humor.  I didn’t enjoy it, although it was excellent writing.  One of its best features was its brevity.  C

Dick J:  I bought a copy of this book and my wife read it first.  I heard her say, “Very depressing book – very depressing!”  So that was my mindset when I started reading it.  It brought back memories.  I didn’t like it when Bucky turned into  a wimp at the end.  I give it a B+ based on that.  Good read.

Mike:  Roth (in this book) is such a quiet writer.  He doesn’t yell at you, doesn’t get too excited, just calmly tells his story.  I thought it was a clever choice of (semi-hidden) narrator – Arnie being a polio victim who met Bucky again later in life.  The book was a B+ for me until the very last few pages.  Roth captured the beauty, the exquisite preparation, the mindset of the Olympic athlete in Arnie’s description of Bucky demonstrating the javelin.  Beautiful!  This section was the epitaph, the lasting memory for Mr. Cantor, our once and future hero.  A-

Ken:  I agree with much of what has been said:  depressing, an easy read, well written.  Brought back memories of the 50s, but I don’t have memories of fears of polio.  The plot was reasonable, worth the short time to read.  B+

Dick Arms:  As a sometime author, I think when I read a book: “How did he do it?”  I was quite bothered by the abrupt change about 2/3 of the way through:  suddenly Bucky is gone, Marcia is out, we’re in the hospital.  The author let me down on our unwritten pact of trust, I no longer believed his story.  I am not bothered by tragedy in a story – Shakespeare made a living on tragedy – and there is no place for humor in such a story.  But it fell down for me in the last third:  B-

Charlie:  Not much to add; well crafted story.  I was a bit bothered by the way Bucky dealt with his fate.  B+

Bob S:  At the end of our meeting I realized that the Greek God/Goddess named Nemesis was the key to the book's plot structure. 

I apologize to the group for my failure to recognize the book was a cleverly structured Greek tragedy, with the "We" being the chorus, the narrator being the kid, and Bucky being the protagonist whose fate lies in the hands of the Gods.  It is a perfect Greek tragedy. 

I wish to belatedly change my grade to an A- which is my standard grade for a well written, solid book and apologize to Jack and Ron for not seeing how the trees amounted to a forest sooner. 

I also beg the forgiveness of Nemesis for succumbing to a moment of hubris in indulging my Jewish holocaust history that blinded me momentarily from being fully aware of Greek mythology and drama. May my belated knowledge save me from some awful fate dealt me by the Goddess.

Jack:  It must be the German and Irish in me.  I found Nemesis to be a poerful and serious novel – applied as a portrayal of Life as a struggle – a physical and psychological multi-faceted struggle.  I see this novella as a Greek tragedy in three acts.  We witness the downfall of a good man in trying to find reason in this epidemic – like God himself.  I liked this style of short sentences and the point of view by “We” as community.  I would recommend to my friends and (learned) colleagues.  A

 ... and from well outside of Newark:

Well, as you might imagine, I'm not too keen right now to read about stealth diseases picking seemingly random targets.  Neither Susie or I are into Why me, God? sorts of issues.  I thought Roth might provide some new insights to this age-old question, but I'm afraid I didn't find any.  I suspected early on that Cantor was going to get polio.  When he decided to go to camp and teach swimming in a mountain lake, I was certain.  So, I read the rest of the book with a sense of dread.  Hard to enjoy that.  Sad to see what Cantor became.  I give the book a B.   I look forward to reading the meeting minutes.
A couple of statistical side stories about polio:  in some areas the wealthy got hit harder than average - exposure at country club swimming pools. 
When the trial of the Salk vaccine was being planned, initially they were going to let parents decide whether their children got the vaccine or not.  That would have biased the results in unknown ways.  So, thanks no doubt to an alert statistician, the trial was double-blinded: neither doctor or patient knew who got the vaccine and who got sugar-water, or whatever form the placebo took. The assignment was randomized. (I'm writing from memory, which may be faulty.)

   - Rob

      The Boys in the Boat   by  Daniel James Brown      May 2015

Is there another sport that requires the trust and the integration of the team as does 8-man crew?  Consider 12-man book clubs: 

Rob E:  First, I wanted to mention that Susan and I appreciated the plants that the Club sent – they are now in Clovis with our son, a better home during this month or so of getting Susie’s strength to max for the surgery.  Thank you all so much.  On the book:  I enjoyed reading it a lot – I read the iTunes iBook version.  I liked the mysticism of eight guys in sync – it had a romantic feel.  I would like to know more about the eight than just Joe in the Crew – but the book was long enough as it was.  I didn’t worry if the author made it up, I liked the excitement of the races.  A

Charlie:  I didn’t like the creative non-fiction.  The book was way too long.  An interesting subject and story that should have been told in about 150 pages.  B-

Tom:  it was a little too long.  Writing was far superior to Laura Hillenbrand (Unbroken).  This story had three parts:  the rowing, Germany (a part paid short shrift), and the Rantz family.  Joe was abandoned, yet remained loyal to his father, and Joyce showed loyalty to that family as well.  This was a remarkable adjunct to the rowing story.  A-

Dick Arms:  I have no problem with Creative Non-Fiction.  The author made an interesting story to read regardless of the reader knowing the ending.  Good job – how he filled in the story, with the Germans and Americans – helped me to realize how different the times were.  The author knew how to end the story.  A

Dick Jensen:  I enjoyed reading this book a lot.  The characters were interesting.  I knew nothing about rowing before, and now I know more than I wanted.  I noted in the story that Joe Rantz was able to buy a lot on Lake Washington for $2,000.  Actually, my wife is from Seattle, and that lot would go for well over a million today.  Two things bothered me in the story:  a) The German section was not developed; and b) the author making up the dialogue.  I’ll give it an A-

Jack F:  I thoroughly enjoyed this book – it was emotional and heart-warming.  It provided an excellent portrayal of the times and the heroes.  Brown’s style was to create excitement and suspense, regardless that we knew the ending.  I’ll give it an A.

Keith:  In spite of the vomitarium of words, I didn’t need to look in the dictionary for any of them so that’s a plus for me.  The book inspired me to investigate the physics of rowing.  Most intriguing – similar to birds flying in formation.  B

Mike:  The author structured this story well.  When I read the subtitle, l was sure that he would take us through the bios of the nine boys, but he did not.  It was not until page 122 that we learned of anyone else in the boat other than Joe Rantz, his buddy, and the coxswain.  In a very real way, this was The Joe Rantz Story.  The book carried me along, and I couldn’t put it down for the last 1/3.  Despite some book club members who never questioned the wooden boat hanging at U of W, when book ended with the orientation for freshmen pointing out the famous boat that won it all, I was in tears.  The book earned an A.

Ron B:  I enjoyed the family, its Horatio Alger aspects, but I found myself waiting and waiting for the story to move to Germany.  I appreciated everything in rowing, but I wanted Germany.  I was not disappointed when the story moved there.  I knew the summary of the races.  I felt the author was in a quandary – he had done so much research and interviews – he probably felt he had to incorporate it all into his thesis.  I would give it an A+ as a thesis, but as a reader I’d give it a B or B+.  He couldn’t edit his material.

Bob Woods:  I’d give it an A-.  It could have been much improved with the application of a blue pencil.  The bio was not that interesting; what was interesting to me was to see the world (America, Germany) at the time of the 1936 Olympics.  I have been interested in Leni Riefenstahl for years.  I don’t see the mystique in rowing – but shouldn’t these young men have been studying at the university?  Rowing seemed to be full-time.  Overall:  A-  Heck of a lot of research; good job of describing the race scenes – suspenseful and colorful. 

Ken Gillen:  I enjoyed reading this book the second time as much as the first.  The Depression, the struggles, Nazi Germany – a solid A.

And from off the water:
 I will not be joining the crew in the boat
I will be in the plane, not the boat, soon for a two week visit to Paris and Normandy, including D Day on Omaha Beach on D Day plus 71 years. 
Bob S.    

      109 East Palace  by  Jennet Conant      June 2015

In view of the nature of the reading on which they were engaged, the knowledge of it which is possessed by them and the dependence which rests upon them for its successful accomplishment, it seemed necessary to ask the members to take certain practical precautions with respect to their personal safety.
The members were requested to proceed approximately 105 miles due South of Los Alamos, to arrive on or about 1900 hours.  It was requested that in the process of arriving at the desired location at the desired time:
     (a) The members refrain from flying in airplanes of any description on this trip; the time saved is not worth the risk.
     (b) The members refrain from driving an automobile for any appreciable distance (above a few miles) and from being without suitable protection on any lonely road, such as the road from Placitas to Four Hills.  On such trips they should be accompanied by a competent, able bodied, semi-literate armed guard.  There is no objection to the guard serving as chauffeur.
     (c)  Each car is to be driven with due regard to safety and that in driving about town a guard of some kind should be used, particularly during the hours before darkness.  
I realize that some of these precautions may be personally burdensome and that they may appear to you to be unduly restrictive but I am asking you to bear with them until our reading is successfully completed.   What have you crackpots to say about this?

Dick Arms:  I thought the book was very interesting – I was not put off by the trivia.  Although the book was a little long, it was well written.  A

Keith:  I found most interesting that this book was a Project Management Case Study.  The story demonstrated many good elements of excellence:  Oppenheimer chose young people, established tangible goals, and isolated the group under a security blanket.  He demonstrated very strong leadership and they universally respected him.  Groves ran interference and took care of the paperwork.  An unparalleled case of Project Management – perhaps equaled only by the US going to the Moon.  A superb example of people pulling together. Solid A

Ron Bousek:  I enjoyed the book from two viewpoints:  a look behind the scenes, and insight into the main characters:  Oppie and Dorothy.  I liked Dorothy’s story, she kept the project going.  I’ve been to White Sands, Los Alamos, Test facilities.  This was well written.  There are a lot of books about Los Alamos, but this was an A

CharlieA.  The definitive telling of a contemporary historic story.  Extraordinary.

Kenny G:  I read this book 8 or 9 years ago. I re-read this long book and often found myself bored!  First time I read it, it was an A.  But the 2nd time, I knew what was happening – it was ingrained in my memory.  A from 8 years ago.

Bob Woods:  Brilliant research produced a great piece of work with heart.  Whoever put Groves in charge of this project should get more credit [Stimson?].  Groves showed general-type decision making skills. A

Mike:  Great to hear [from Bob Woods] a validation of Oppenheimer’s charismatic energy.  The stress on this man had to be incredible; thank goodness he had super players like Hans Bethe to lean on.  I loved almost all of it – the author ‘stayed out of the story’ and carried the reader on a moving trajectory up to Trinity, and down with Lewis Strauss.  A

Dick Jensen:  As one of the few non-scientists in the group, I enjoyed this book.  Even though I knew what was to happen, Conant built the tension.  A   I can now go home.

Bob Simon:  I enjoyed this book for all of the reasons Jack did not.  I love the story of Santa Fe, back when everyone knew everyone.  Dorothy was right in the middle of it.  The crescendo of activity was justified in that it ended the war.  I had a distinct feeling that she was privy to sources we could not have accessed.  A

Rob E:  I came closer to Jack.  I found myself skimming the first 200 pages on housekeeping.  I admire her research, but my vision is that like most researchers, all this info was gathered on 3x5 index cards, and once categorized, the author wants to put it all in the book.  I found myself more caught up in the story once we moved closer to Trinity.  I did not want a physics text; I liked the last half of the book.  B+

Tom:  I was a little surprised that not more of the group would be turned off by the trivial personal stories.  I myself thought there would be more science.  That fact that the Trinity experiment worked, and three weeks later it was weaponized is flabbergasting.  I thought of Charlie – the author avoided writing an historical novel.  Excellent scholarship:  A-

and from just south of Los Alamos:
I'm sorry I won't be able to attend tonight--had a couple minor surgical procedures day before yesterday and just don't feel up to the drive.  Thought I'd be able to do it.  I would like to have taken part in the discussion.  My comments follow:
Jennet Conant's 109 East Palace describes a fascinating period of our history and depicts a captivating personality who played a major role in the outcome of WWII.  She provided insight into the challenging work and political environments in which the scientists pursued their mandate.  Conant obviously did her homework, but in my opinion shared too much trivia she gathered in the course of her research.  I enjoyed all I could read about Oppenheimer and some of the other major players, but was not really interested in who designed and built Dorothy's porch, nor in the hundreds of names she dropped assuming I knew who they were.  Found a plethora of typos in my edition as well.  Where have all the editors gone?  Madison, Wisconsin?    B
Any of you fans of J. Robert Oppenheimer and drama, I would highly recommend Heinar Kipphardt's play, The Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer.  It is a German play which debuted in Berlin in 1964, but has played all over the world and has been translated into 15 languages.
A recuperating member,
      The Catcher in the Rye  by  J.D. Salinger      July 2015

Ten prep school dropouts gathered in Four Hills, Long Island.  They discussed the question, "Is Holden Caulfield obnoxious?"  And how familiar are we with the Glass Family?  The lousy dropouts had a few crumby remarks to make:

Mike:  I recall Frank McCourt talking about how pleased he was once he ‘found’ the correct voice for his narrator in Angela’s Ashes (viz. a young Frank McCourt), and I was quite impressed with how Salinger captured the narration by Holden, and maintained it throughout the book, true and honest to the character.  Carried the reader right on through this string of often humorous, always depressing events.  Solid A. 

Charlie:  I was prepared not to like it.  A tragic story about a pathetic fellow.  Yet I found the telling consistent, and was surprised to find I very much enjoyed it.  A

Bob W:  Very good story, a little dated.  Life in a dormitory was one of many descriptions well done.  A-

Jack Ferrell:  Only 40 years ago, I picked up this book upon coming back from VietNam.  I enjoyed it, and this time I saw it from a completely different angle.  I liked that consistency in the telling of a story that, like a train wreck, you couldn’t turn away from.  You hope that things will change.  The ending really brought you back to the beginning, and one fears the cycle will continue.  A

Dick Arms:  I chose the book, and thus I already liked it.  The Point of View the author chose is so interesting – these characters sound like kids I went to school with.  Only point I would argue with is the timeline:  I don’t see how Holden could do so much in one night – saw old Sally, Maurice the elevator pimp, etc.  But this was a beautifully written book, one we can relate to today.  Everyone goes through some of the alienation that Holden suffered.  The author’s first person narration for his writing style captivated me.  I wrote a short story using his style and had a great time.  I’m enthusiastic about this novel – perhaps not the GAN but it struck a chord in people’s minds.  A

Keith:  three word summary:  nattering nabob of negativism.  Holden had a short temper; probably today he would be diagnosed as bipolar, clinical depression, put on pills to treat.  The book was well written, and we’ve all aged since our first reading.  I asked some of my grandchildren to give me their reviews and they all found Holden to be a whiney, sniveling teenager.  I don’t think this book will continue as the GAN.  B-

Bob S:  I  share some of Keith’s feeling.  I was not sympathetic to the characters.  I ultimately have to enjoy the book.  On balance, I will give it my passing grade of A-.

Tom G:  A bad character does not necessarily mean a bad characterization.  I liked this book a lot.  There was a sad tone from the first paragraph but it did not keep me from enjoying the experience, in fact it kept me going, wanting to jump into the next chapter as quickly as I could.  From this year’s book selections, I enjoyed this and Shane the most:  short, well crafted.  A

Ken G:  If I had read it 50-60 years ago, I might have enjoyed it more.  I found it tedious, and did not really enjoy it.  Overall:  B-

Dick Jensen:  I sat down Monday afternoon thinking I would get started reading Catcher again, and wham!  I read it straight through!  Each time I have read this book (4 or 5 times), I have found it more interesting.  A dormitory of misfits (misflits?) of the world – coming from a small town in Utah, we don’t have many characters like Holden Caulfield.  Great book:  A

... and from well outside Pencey Prep:
Catcher in the Rye.  Hmm, I thought with eager anticipation, about time for another baseball book.  Oops.  Big surprise! 
Actually, the big surprise was that this "classic" would bum me out.  I don't think it warrants that label.  We've read several books with unappealing narrators, but his potty-mouthed, sullen, unreliable teenager stands out.  I kept waiting for a twist or turn that would justify the "classic" label, but it didn't happen for me. 
Why, I wondered, is this book on many  reading lists, HS and college?  Must be the hope that its raunchiness would get a teenager to actually read a book.  As for me, I'll take Huck Finn, or Uncle Tom, or the Joads.
Grade: B-
Incidentally, I got a Houston library card and checked Catcher out at the nearby Stella Link library.  Just wondering if Mike or Charlie knew Stella.
July weather in Houston is about what you'd expect.
Hope to see you all in August.  Susie's progressing, but not in traveling condition yet.  Appointments with surgical team this week and next should establish our homecoming schedule.
   -  Rob

Sorry to miss the meeting. Family duty calls in St Louis for funeral of a dear cousin.

I first read this book as a freshman in college-- 55 yrs ago! I remembered only some general ideas from the book. I enjoyed reading it again. It kept my interest. It reminded me of some of the weird fellow college freshmen I encountered. Some made it, some didn't-- I could have gone either way but for benevolent fate and the grace of God.
Where are they today? Where is Holden today? Is he in a book club?  A-
  -  Ron

King Lear  by  Billy Shakespeare      August 2015


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[January 2015- December 2016]

This LTBC Book Reviews Page  last updated:
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