Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis

By Max Shulman

A collection of short stories featuring the many incarnations of Dobie Gillis, a young college fellow with money problems and girl problems who, finagle though he may, usually ends up paying the price of his own stupidity. A really funny trip back to 1940s and 1950s middle America and still amusing decades later.

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man

By Fannie Flagg

Daisy Fay is eleven years old in 1952 when her parents moved them to Shell Beach, Mississippi, a small resort community where her parents will be running a little malt shop. Too bad the philandering, alcoholic father is incapable of running a business profitably. Being in a resort community, the malt shop is only open during the summer months but after the first summer running the shop, the father not only didn't make a profit, but is in debt. So he sets fire to the malt shop only to find out too late that the insurance is inadequate. The mother finally gets fed up and walks out and Daisy Fay elects to stay with her father. But despite all the family drama and disaster, she still stays optimistic, energetic and a lot of fun to read about.

Probably not the best thing of Flagg's that I have read. I kept waiting for the "miracle man" of the story to appear and it wasn't until the end that I guessed that the drunken father is the miracle man. To me, though, it was a miracle that Daisy Fay managed to survive her father's inept care. But even though I found both parents unsympathetic, it was still an enjoyable and entertaining read.


By Arthur Hailey

A few days in the life of a privately-owned hotel in New Orleans in the early 1960s. Due to the ineptitude or indifference of the owner, an elderly man who lives at the hotel, it is experiencing difficulties including graft, criminal activity, and a dilapidated air conditioning system and faltering elevators. The owner is also in trouble since he can't find a lender who is willing to refinance the $2 million note on the hotel which is due in a few days. Meanwhile trouble is brewing among the guests with some upset about the hotel's refusal to allow a black man to stay at the hotel and a sneak thief at work in the hotel and a couple of guests who are guilty of a hit and run accident. Mix in employees on the take doing their best to enrich themselves at the hotel's expense, elderly employees who are set in their ways and maids walking out of the hotel with expensive beef steaks strapped to their thighs and you have a hotel in serious trouble.

This was a pretty good story if a little predictable. The characters are interesting even if the situations they find themselves in are not all that unexpected or different. I suppose at the time it was written the book was a lot more surprising and exciting than it is more than fifty years later. But it was still a good read with a nice bit of local color thrown in.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

There's a war brewing in America between the old gods who came to America with the immigrants from all over the world and the new gods of technology, entertainment, finance, etc. Caught in the middle of it all is Shadow, a guy with a history of bad luck who has just gotten out of prison and lost his wife in car crash.
He has been brought into the god war by Odin as a kind of protege of his and in the process of Odin's trying to organize his fellow old timers to take a stand against the pushy new American gods, Shadow finds himself up to his neck in various human incarnations of these old timey gods, helped out on occasion by his dead wife that Shadow accidentally reanimated when he tossed a magic coin into her grave.

This was a very interesting story with lots of old mythology and strange old gods and creepy new gods and poor Shadow trying to land on his feet in the midst of all the tumult. A very engrossing story and an enjoyable read.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor

By Matt Latimer

Even though Matt was raised by liberal, Democrat parents who, according to him, loved and treated him well, he turned against his upbringing and became a conservative Republican. He eventually ended up as a speechwriter to Donald Rumsfeld and then for George W. Bush in the White House. This book is the story of his experiences and his eventual disenchantment with politicians and their cronies.
As he discovered, a lot of the power in politics lies not with elected officials but with their handlers, their entourages. The handlers decide who gets in and who gets ignored, filtering even communications and leaving out anything that doesn't conform with their agenda.
After dealing with these types of people for years and seeing how much influence they wield over their patrons, Latimer has this to say about his party:

Professional Republicans no longer cared, it seemed, about supporting candidates who believed in our ideals. They were more interested in keeping their cushy houses in Georgetown or Cleveland Park, and their contracts with the revolving door of Republican bigwigs. It was all about being close to power for the sake of power. The Republican Party I believed in -- smaller, smarter government -- was unidentifiable. We'd thrown it all away amid excessive spending, corruption, dishonesty, and petty partisanship.

Of course, the same most likely holds true for the Democratic Party.

This was a really interesting book, often amusing, very informative and a true insider look at the real life of the talking heads of politics. I enjoyed it tremendously.