Book Chat December 2015

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trump

Note — this review does get a bit political. If you’re liberal, feel free to skip over it (as I do when I see a liberal post. I just don’t need the frustration!).

So, we’re less than a year from electing a new president. I like to know all I can about my options. I’ve read (and reviewed) Ben Carson’s biography, Gifted Hands. When a friend loaned me Donald Trump’s book, Time to Get Tough: Make America Great Again!, I was happy to read it.

This isn’t Trump’s autobiography; it’s more his thoughts on various political topics. It was written in 2011, when he briefly ran for president, so things have probably changed a bit since then, but I feel like it’s still a good basic look at the policies he espouses.

Starting out, I wasn’t sure what to think. I respect Trump as a businessman, but he seemed a bit grandiose and perhaps more like an entertainer than a president. After reading the book, I’m more impressed with him. We’ll see how things go, but I’d definitely vote for him. I have a few reservations, but when those creep in, I just have to think about how the presidency is going currently. Honestly, I don’t think we could do worse. As the book states, “Obama was a leftist experiment that has failed and gone horribly wrong.” I do think a dramatic change is needed to get America back on course.

His views on immigration, foreign policy, entitlement spending, etc. seem on-target to me. It’s refreshing as well to read someone speak to the issues we face in a commanding, no-nonsense way that makes it sound like we actually COULD emerge from our current troubles.

Many things in the book were interesting — one being that Trump outlines how differently Canada deals with immigration from how we do. Canadians start by asking potential immigrants how they would support the development of a strong, prosperous Canadian economy. They are awarded points based on how they’ll add to the economy. Contrast that with the US system, where a large part of someone’s eligibility is based on whether they’re related to someone currently in the country. No wonder we are expending so much on immigrants — and the ones we’re discussing are the *legal* ones. There are many, many more who are here illegally.

Apart from the book, I watched Trump and his family interviewed recently on 20/20. I have to say that I was really impressed with him in the interview. Melania came across well, and his kids are just WOW. Very impressive, smart, and not seeming entitled (as they could easily be in their situation).

 

*****

right

As I told you all earlier, two of the girls blew off a school class recently to attend a Greg Gutfeld book signing (as a parent, I deemed this an acceptable reason for missing an hour or two of school). How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct is the book he was promoting, and we ended up buying 4 copies — one for each of the girls and one for a friend.

I just finished reading the book. It’s full of Gutfeld’s smart, humorous, quirky observations. Just a few —

  • “This is Obama’s gaping flaw. Every terrorist act is either random workplace violence or the fault of insensitive filmmaking. He’s not a president at this point; he’s a guidance counselor covering for a favorite student.”
  • “One can be a liberal only in periods of calm. But when the going gets rough, every … conservative value becomes necessary: security, suspicion, safety, guns, a distrust of kale. It was amazing how many liberals sounded like conservatives when Ebola or ISIS arrived. Liberals, aware that their ideology is fundamentally flawed, switch when it matters. There were very few “progressive” matters in Congress on 9/12.”
  • What makes a good prank: “A prank, to prove its worth, must be directed against something that simultaneously has more power than you but is potentially dangerous. Pranking Christians? Please. Try drawing Muhammad, then start bragging.”

Overall, I have to say that I prefer Gutfeld as a TV commentator rather than as an author. The book read like a transcript of some of his TV monologues, and while it was fine, I just think he works better on TV.

*****

living

Okay, enough of the political. How about a novel with just some really excellent writing that draws you in? That’s what I found in All the Living. I began reading this by accident, when I was in the backseat as my daughter began a 5-hour drive back to college. A seminar college class of hers was reading the book, so it gave me something to do.

Not a lot of action in this book, but that is beside the point because of the writing. The characters and the setting stay with you. The writing reminds me a bit of Cormac McCarthy, with the spare use of punctuation, and Flannery O’Connor with the religious themes and style.

Aloma, an orphan, has moved to a tobacco farm with Orren, whose entire family has recently been killed in an auto wreck. Neither is really prepared for a healthy chance at adult life, and to watch as they try is frustrating, heartbreaking, and yet realistic.

The book has many passages either poignant or full of multiple meanings — all well-written:

* “That was what she (Aloma) wanted. That more than family, that more than friendship, that more than love. Just the kind of day that couldn’t be recalled into premature darkness by the land.”

* “She (Aloma) suddenly desired the betterment of everything, for herself and Orren and every single thing that had ever died, or would.”

* “She (Aloma) couldn’t trust the world to make her happy for more than a minute at a time, and generally less than that, but her life had to be borne.”

There’s more, involving pianos, music, and church, and it was all relevant to me. There’s profanity and adult situations, but in this book they felt necessary to the characters. Wonderful writing — recommended.

 

*****

remains

Years ago, I loved the movie “The Remains of the Day.” I’ve always meant to read the book the film was based on, and finally this month it happened.

Stevens, butler at the grand and formerly-even-grander Darlington Hall, is the perfect butler. Imagine Downton Abbey’s Carson on steroids. As he tells us, in view of the prestigious Hayes Society (of which he is a member), ‘the most crucial criterion is that the applicant be possessed of a dignity in keeping with his position.’ Stevens has spent his life endeavoring to be a ‘great’ butler to his employer, Lord Darlington.

“One could recognize a great butler as such only after one had seen him perform under some severe test,” writes Stevens. For Stevens, one of these tests came as he was exposed to many of Europe and America’s ‘movers and shakers’ during the 1930s, as they came to visit and consort with Lord Darlington.

Stevens, now an older man, reflects on his service as he takes a rare few days off to make a car journey. During this journey, he sees many scenes from the English countryside, and realizes how it is rapidly changing from the world he knew as a younger man. He also reflects on the beliefs of his beloved Lord Darlington, who was apparently a Nazi sympathizer. As butler, Stevens has always stood steadfastly by Lord Darlington. Now, he begins to wonder if he was right in doing this.

The real reason for his trip, however, is to visit with Miss Kenton, a housekeeper who had worked with him at Darlington House back in the ’30s. We learn, as we read through Stevens’ extremely understated memories, that he and Miss Kenton had a wonderful friendship. She tried to force him out of his butler-stern demeanor, once demanding, “Mr. Stevens, why why WHY do you always have to pretend?” Miss Kenton left to get married (a marriage that sounds less than satisfying), and this is the first time in decades the two have met. After a predictably tame set of recollections, Miss Kenton mentions that she and Mr. Stevens might have had a lovely life together. Stevens, though admitting that “my heart was breaking,” only tells her that “… it is too late to turn back the clock … we must each of us … be grateful for what we do have.”

Then he heads back to Darlington Hall, having maintained “a dignity in keeping with my position.”

Wonderful read for those who enjoy contemplating the deeper, often unseen/unspoken things of life …

8 thoughts on “Book Chat December 2015

  1. The Remains Of the Day sounds very intriguing. I do like to contemplate the deeper and often unseen of life. But I also like to have hope, does this book leave you with hope or one of his regret?

  2. I enjoyed reading all of your reviews today! For once, I was familiar with three of them, which made it even better. Also, I concur with your take on the political ones. The two that I have not read sound very interesting, so keep up the good work on reporting your readings and reviews for all to enjoy!

  3. My recommendations of books I have discovered this year (not all of them new) are all completely different and two of the three from genres I rarely if ever read. THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern is an incredibly interesting “phantasmagorical” story with the most delicious descriptions that stimulate all your senses. HANNAH COULTER by Wendell Berry, is an endearing, homespun story of characters you’d be proud to call your parents or grandparents…..full of the most wonderful insights and words of wisdom. STATION ELEVEN is a super quick read, a dystopian story set in modern day Toronto as a world flu pandemic makes its way around the world to change all cultures, institutions, infrastructures and basically life as we know it. It lends itself to a wonderful discussion. My imagination ran wild with the possibilities of how cultures/life would regroup.

  4. Barbara — I too enjoyed Night Circus — I learned about it when my daughters’ band did their 2013 marching show based on the book’s theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBz7D-FpQ9M Thanks for the recommendations — I always appreciate more recommended titles!
    ibeeg — Remains of the Day left me feeling sad for the protagonist, but hopeful because one of the great things about books is that they allow us to learn and grow from the characters’ mistakes 🙂

  5. If it came down to Hillary or Trump, I’d vote Trump. There are some things he says that I like, others I am not sure of. But I think his style and confidence do inspire hope in people. I enjoyed Remains of the Day years ago but have never read the book yet – hopefully some day!

  6. Kudos to you for being open-minded in your reading about presidential candidates. It’s funny because just today I read the sample of Obama’s book, “Dreams from My Father” and it made me like him more. I’ll hold off on reading Trump’s book in case he doesn’t make president. ha. (But perhaps reading it now would make me like him more? All I know now of him is what I see on the media and it’s not very flattering.)

  7. I should probably read the one on Trump. While I agree with his positions on some things, I find him to be incredibly rude. Why would we want a man who is so rude to represent us around the world. Sadly, he may be our best choice, whether I like it or not.

  8. I find your positive feelings on the Donald Trump book good to know. I guess listening to the media, who nearly always is bashing him, has rubbed off on me, too. I know he would be better than what we now have.
    Keep reading!

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