George Will opining last week on Adam Garfinkle’s “The Erosion of Deep Literacy:”

Modernity’s greatest blessing — individualism: the celebration of individual agency — depends on a sense of one’s interior, of self-consciousness. This is facilitated by deep literacy that, unlike the oral communication of premodern groups, requires solitude for the reader’s private repose.

The Names of the Dead – Kevin Wignall. One of the recent Kindle First Reads or whatever they’re calling their promotional deally now. It was a solid pick, a jaunty story of a spy exacting his revenge. Characters are less two-dimensional than they could be. You know what, let’s just call it a perfect airplane read: the characters are likeable, the action is actiony, the read is quick and light and it’s not part one of a 300 book series.

Romanian Furrow – Donald Hall (still in progress). I started this, I’m interested in it, Hall’s descriptions are beautiful, but the descriptions are somewhat the point and I need more going on than him eating too much to move me forward in it. The book is set in 1933 and Mr. Hall is looking for some pastoralism and finds it in Romania. Side note: he does the same thing that Orwell did in Homage to Catalonia where he introduces and goes into great detail about characters that then disappear from the narrative almost immediately before setting into the primary content. Was this a fashionable thing in interwar English lit?

mexican sharpshooter

Tune in tomorrow.


Mostly textbooks. Except:

I’ve just finished the first book in the Jack Reacher series, Killing Floor by the pseudonymous Lee Child. Enjoyable, if very dark. I can see why it’s become such a successful franchise. (I think Child is on Reacher book 25 or 26 now.)

The only thing that is a mystery to me, is how in the hell did they think casting Tom Cruise* as this character was even remotely a good fit? I mean, Jack Reacher is supposed to be 6’5″ or so, blond, 225 pounds of muscle and 36 years old at the start of the series. All I can imagine is that Tom Cruise produced the films.

*Disclosure: Not a Tom Cruise fan at the best of times.



I’m not stuck at home, still working 80 hours a week. So not really much time for reading outside of books on polyol synthesis or ASTM standards. But there’s always the bathroom, and my bathroom book this week is one of the Heinlein juveniles, Farmer In The Sky. And it’s one of those kids’ books that really holds up well. It’s funny to reread stuff like this and see how my brain got bent the way it is- Heinlein taught me about Karens, obsession with redheads, self-reliance, the virtues of hard work, and the incomparable value of liberty and its concomitant responsibility. It is odd, though, to have a main character in his mid teens who isn’t wacking it at every available opportunity.



I’ve still been on a horror kick, reading mostly pre-Lovecraft short stories that he cited as an influence on his own work. There’s so much there, I’m going to spin it off as a separate post when I’m finished.

So mostly, we go back to Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix for another When Animals Attack story like the execrable The Crabs.

The Rats is James Herbert’s first published novel, but it is fairly well written, mostly just a 1950s monster movie in print form—the best way to do these in my opinion. Very hungry, very aggressive rats are eating the homeless of London, led by a small group of extra-large rats who seem far more intelligent than your average pizza rat. The big action set-piece is when the rats have run out of homeless and try to take over a primary school and eat all the cute little boys and girls. The hero fights them off with the help of bobbies, firemen, and good old fashion cricket bat bashing. It even sets itself up for the two sequels Herbert would write with the last few pages being the literary equivalent of a movie flashing THE END? before the credits roll.

(Filmed as Deadly Eyes in 1982. The movie is hilariously bad. They used weiner dogs in rat costumes, which sums up the whole affair.)



And I read another Graham Masterton novel, The Devils of D-Day. Patton consults with Roman Catholic authorizes that have held thirteen minor demons in magical stasis since the 1500s. They seal them into 13 black super-tanks and let them loose on the Germans on D-Day. One tank breaks down on the way black to the priests for decommissioning and rots in a Normandy field, souring milk and causing suicides until our dim protagonist opens it up to let the demon inside loose. The set-up is far more fun than the ending: It just falls apart into ex machina, murdered vicars, and sex with angels.