Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Norman Mailer Incident

When I was 18 or 19, I routinely read 1,000 plus page books. A Thousand Days and Robert Kennedy and his Times by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to name just two. So book length has never intimidated me. I was assistant coaching debate for a local high school and we took the kids to Stanford University for a debate tournament. Naturally, I made my way to the campus book store. Instead of buying a sweatshirt of other Stanford gear, I bought a copy of Harlot’s Ghost by Norman Mailer. I had read The Executioner’s Song a few years prior and since I had a fascination with the CIA and Harlot’s Ghost was about the CIA, I got it.

I immediately started reading. It was a monster of a book. 1,282 pages of text. That’s not counting the notes at the end. I looked at the last page to get a page count, but I deliberately did not look at the end because I didn’t want to ruin anything. Had I done so, I probably would have thought twice about reading the book at all.

While Harlot’s Ghost was touted as a “history of the CIA,” no one mentioned how long it was. Or that it ended with three words you never, ever want to see at the end of a 1,282 page book – “To Be Continued.” When I read those three words, I closed the book and hurled it across the room. It is the only time I have ever thrown a book. I was so mad. I invested so much time into reading this book and following its convoluted plot, I thought I was being punished with the end. And, as it turns out, it was not continued because Mailer died before he wrote a squeal, though I am not convinced he ever intended to.

Because of that no fun surprise at the end of the book, I ALWAYS read the last paragraph of the book I am starting. Most of the time, it makes no sense, but at least I know what’s going to happen. And I will never get to the end of a book that says, “To Be Continued” and be surprised.

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Agent in Place

Due to an unfortunate incident with Normal Mailer in college, I always read the last page of a book first. No surprises. So. That having been said, I read the last page of Agent in Place first. So I knew, very vaguely, the end. Even having done that, this book kept me on the edge of my seat from page 1 to page 507. Since I started the Gray Man series, my favorite books have been Back Blast and The Gray Man. But I think Agent in Place might be number 1 now.

Court is not working for the CIA in this one. He’s on his own and he takes a contract from two Syrian ex-pats in France to prevent the mistress of the Syrian dictator from returning to Syria. When Court sees that he was set up, he gets mad. But he, for reasons that I won’t discuss here, decides to see the mission through. Which means going to Syria, working for mercenaries, running into U.S. Special Forces, and attempting to assassinate the Syrian dictator.

I honestly don’t understand how Mark Greaney comes up with these books. He puts Court into all kinds of situations that seem impossible to get him out of. And he gets Court out – in ways that are believable. At least, they are to me, not having been a soldier or spy.

I like Court. He’s trying to do what he thinks is right -even though his idea of right isn’t always what most of us would consider right. The things that I wish were different for Court – having a life outside of what he does – are the things that would probably get him killed in his. I like that he realizes that about himself. I like that he’s flawed and human.

If you haven’t been reading The Gray Man books, you should be.

I won this book and have received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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TBR in Perpetuity

My To Be Read pile of books is a little out of control. Actually, it’s more like multiple piles and a book case. Two of the piles are shown below. Most of the books in these piles are books I have won and need to read and review. Some are ones I have bought. Some I have been given. No matter what, I have finally gotten to the age where I think I have more books than I can possibly read.

I love to read. I always have. I can remember the first book I ever read on my own – The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. I remember Don and Donna Go to Bat, the ultimate 70s feminist children’s book. I remember my dad taking Robert Blair Kaiser’s RFK Must Die away from me because he didn’t think I should read it. (I was 11 or 12.) My mom warned me about Helter Skelter, which I read anyway (and had nightmare about Charles Manson for the better part of a year). And I like having books in the house I haven’t read. It gives me goals. But I think I have now created a monster I may never slay.

I need to figure out a way to get a handle on all this. The only solutions I have come up with are: (1) don’t buy more books (NOT going to happen), (2) don’t enter to win any new books (“As if” to quote Cher from Clueless), (3) learn to read faster (possible, maybe, but I read pretty fast now as it is [about 100 pages an hour]), (4) find a job where I get paid to read books. So far, number four is, by far, the best option. I just haven’t figured out how to make that happen yet. I will let you know if I do. In the mean time, I will keep reading. And my TBR piles will continue to grow.

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How Democracies Die

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have written a book that, like On Tyranny, everyone should read. They trace the death of liberal democracies around the world and ask: Is our democracy in danger? I will not tell you their answer, but suffice it to say, they do an excellent job of showing why they reached their conclusion.

This book is full of historical analysis and examples of what happens when democratic institutions die. It discusses the signs of authoritarianism, and threats to the Constitutional system. This book is important because it talks about the subtle things that are done to undermine democracy – things that even the smartest people may not notice until it’s too late.

Please read this book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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