Tag Archives: Norman Mailer

Crack for the (Literary) Soul

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When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.

(Therefore, I read Sidney Sheldon with reckless abandon.)

When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

(Ergo, I switched over to Lee Child.)

Thank godness (sic) for Corinthians! Like many readers, I have fond memories of reading as a youngster. When I wasn’t dining on chicken noodle soup to fortify my soul, I was either playing hockey or video games, reading, or volunteering my time at one of 23 nursing homes/shelters/soup kitchens in the pre-GTA (i.e. Toronto Toronto).

I read Watership Down, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the Hardy Boys, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and…get ready…Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. (“Hey, Mom,” I’d later say, “I thought a period ended a sentence.”)

But it was Sidney Sheldon whom I fell in love with as a young teen and consumed like cotton candy dipped in a sumptuous 151 proof rum & crack sauce. (“Whoa,” I’d later think – but not verbalize because it sounded sacrilegious, “You can put creams down there to do that?!?!?)

As I grew older, school MADE ME read novels about boring subjects like communism and totalitarianism as seen through the eyes of farm animals, orphans who like hanging around graveyards, and teenagers in a pre-Survivor scenario who kill instead of show off their naked upper bodies, etc.

Aside from a few girly rags in between during this academic period of my life (Hey, man, Stephen King publishes in Playboy! So does Margaret Atwood, Murakami Haruki, Norman Mailer and Ray Bradbury – so back off!), I didn’t have much of a chance to read anything except what was prescribed to me by all my Doctors of Literature.

Once I got out of school, though, I started reading what I wanted to read once again, and soon my literary boundaries began growing in leaps and bounds. I started my first book club in 2004 and my current one in 2009. Whether fiction or non-fiction, whether written in English or translated, whether a male or female/young or old author – I didn’t care. Soon I was slurping away on literature like a kid attacking a Slush Puppy after a hockey game. (Or Alberto Manguel walking around a library with a grocery cart big enough to hold all the books of Alexandria.)

Although I tend to read more serious literature these days most of the time (because I lost my sense of humour somewhere around Yonge and Lawrence a while ago, I’m told), I still succumb to the Lee Child virus every now and then. Which is what I did last week. Which is why I feel a bit lighter in the brain, but a bit sturdier in the happiness index.

I don’t read a lot of thrillers, but something about Mr. Don’t-Call-Me-a-Child, Asshole! resonates with me like, oh, I don’t know, how certain people feel upon getting a little blue box from Tiffany’s for Christmas or someone else being handed the keys to a muscle car and told to drive it hard into the ground.

Jack Reacher is not remotely human, a perfect soul in many ways yet has no sense of commitment. But still.

But still I can’t get enough of him. If you’ve only seen the recent Tom Cruise Jack Reacher series movies, do yourself a favour. Go to a hospital and get a brain scrub. Have those memories completely erased from your brain and then start at square one: pick up ANY Jack Reacher novel (there’s no real thread through them except the brother who comes and goes and a few other small details), find a comfortable place to read, and strap yourself in for a wild ride. You won’t regret it.

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Quote of the Day

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“The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.”

Gore Vidal

I’m having one of those “I-told-you-so” days, so thought this Quote of the Day was particularly apropos. It all started when I went to the post office to return some merchandise the S.O. bought a couple of weeks ago after being assured in an online ad (i.e. scam) that the beauty products were FREE! FREE! FREE! as long as you filled out a short survey (i.e. you provided your phone number, email and mailing address).

To which I replied, “Nothing in this world is free.”

To which the S.O. replied, “No, no, no. This time it really is free. I swear.”

To which I so wittily and handily replied, “Indeed, you do have a potty mouth, but it doesn’t change the price of tea in China, nor does it make these things free.”

After numerous phone calls to a “No Caller ID” with a P.O. Box as an address, and of course the requisite $30 in postage, the matter is now settled.

I’ll shorten the above witticism to three words: Told ya so.

But back to Gore Vidal, one of those rare – like, really rare – writers that intimidated fellow authors, pundits, critics and politicians back in his day because of his pedigree, breadth of knowledge, Transatlantic accent (ha ha ha), and overall confidence (i.e. smugness) that was perpetuated as much by myth as it was by a shocking understanding of what appeared at times to be everything and everyone. If you’ve ever read Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, Gore Vidal was pretty much the real-life version of Elliott Templeton.

Personally, my favourite book by Mr. Vidal was The Golden Age,  a novel that offers readers the same kind of inside look into a fascinating period of world history/World War II as Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead; with the former, we’re taken inside the White House and the inner sanctum of FDR; in the case of the latter, we have a firsthand look into how generals plotted the insanely complicated island-hopping battles against the Japanese during the Pacific Campaign.

If you have yet to read anything by Gore Vidal, there’s a ton of material online, from essays and articles to brilliant one-liners and general observances, so go and check him out. Then I can tell you, I told you so!

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Quote of the Day

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Unless they’re out of a novel by writers like Leo Tolstoy or Norman Mailer, or from the herculean efforts of scholars like Barbara Tuchman or Margaret MacMillan, military commanders aren’t often known for their mellifluous oratory skills. Nor, for the most part, are they known for their prose.

That made Dwight D. Eisenhower all the more unique. He remains one of only a handful of five-star American generals and was supreme commander of Allied Forces on D-Day for the largest seaborne invasion in history.

In freaking history!

As if that weren’t enough, he went la de dah into the White House and served two terms as president.

No bigs. Just a walk in the park.

Ike was so much more than just the sum total of his accolades and battlefield victories, though. He was a gifted speaker, respected as much by his servicemen as he was by statesmen around the world.

Now, on the eve of the second presidential debate, I feel that General Eisenhower not only had his finger on the pulse of society at the time, but was far more prescient than perhaps we give him credit for today.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

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