Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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100 Books while 40: THE AGE OF INNOCENCE

Title: The Age of Innocence
Author: Edith Wharton
Published: 1920

Robert Martin said The Age of Innocence was, “fundamentally about America and its failure to fulfill its own possibilities”. This resonates now more than ever. The ideal of this country and its execution in practice are at odds.

We proclaim freedom, meritocracy, and pioneering. But our social constructs suggest just the opposite. Just as Newland Archer is compelled to give up his true love for the social script that he’s been given, we are directed to follow the script of our parents. We are to get married, go to church, have children, and work at our uninspired jobs.

I threw the script away, and have been paying for it in big and small ways. I am alienated from my family. I am regularly reminded that I am not fulfilled because I don’t have children.

This was a sacrifice that Archer wasn’t willing to make. As one who has made it, I can say that there are enormous costs. But there are benefits that I cannot express. A few months ago I rode a motorcycle up the side of a volcano in Costa Rica. This experience was so sublime that I cannot capture with words how it felt. I have walked the streets of Manila, Prague, Newcastle, Paris, Tokyo, Panama City, Amsterdam, Vienna, and San Jose. I’ve worked with people all over the planet. I’ve learned that we are all the same, seeking fulfillment and life just in different languages and structures.

And I found love. I found it in places free of expectation and custom. I found it where people are truly free to give of themselves without social binding. Love, generosity when it is so freely given is precious, more so than any possible material wealth.

The yearnings of Newland Archer are both with us as individuals and with us as a nation. Looking through his eyes as his dreams move beyond his grasp, I see how so many of us are full of resentment. As we move forward together but apart the ties that bind will keep moving to hold us all down. But where the Newland Archers leave off, there will be the quiet marginalized pioneers wrestling down the spirit of life with all its dazzling energy and beauty.

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Correcting for Mistakes 2016

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I read the BBC’s best 100 books list over the last few years. I sum up the experience here. I enjoyed completing the list very much, but I made one mistake. I didn’t choose my list wisely.

I am aiming to correct for this mistake now. I am starting on a new list. This one is from Amazon, and seems to have a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction and an over-representation of American authors–the BBC list was very … British. While I am open to reading books by foreign authors, I would prefer to nail down some American classics first. Never fear. I have read all of Jane Austen’s and Charles Dickens’s works. Thanks BBC!

I will write about what I read just as I did the last one. And I am trying something a bit more ambitious. Amazon has two lists, one that’s suggested by the editors and one that’s readers choice (for some reason this link is broken on Amazon’s, no worries I have the list below). I am going to try and knock both of them out.

There is probably overlap in the lists, but that requires more Excel wizardry than I want to attempt right now. I will get to that, just not today. Pending reading total from both lists is exactly one hundred and twenty books. I am shooting to have these all read by my forty-third birthday. Basically, I am giving myself the same amount of time to finish one hundred and twenty books as I did a little over seventy books from my last list. Read, set, read!

Here’s the Amzon Editor’s list and what what I’ve already read marked. Twenty-nine down, seventy-one to go.

1 1984 George Orwell
2 A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle
3 Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret Judy Blume
4 Catch-22 Joseph Heller – Read
5 Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 Jeff Kinney
6 Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown
7 Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri
8 Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder
9 Me Talk Pretty One Day David Sedaris – Read
10 On the Road Jack Kerouac – Read
11 Silent Spring Rachel Carson
12 The Autobiography of Malcolm X Malcolm X and Alex Haley
13 The Corrections Jonathan Franzen
14 The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials Philip Pullman – Read
15 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
16 The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Lawrence Wright
17 The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel Barbara Kingsolver Read
18 The Shining Stephen King
19 The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame – Read
20 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Read
21 A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking
22 Alice Munro: Selected Stories Alice Munro
23 Bel Canto Ann Patchett
24 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl – Read
25 Dune Frank Herbert Read
26 Great Expectations Charles Dickens – Read
27 Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
28 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
29 Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides – Read
30 Out of Africa Isak Dinesen
31 Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut – Read
32 The Book Thief Markus Zusak
33 The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America Erik Larson
34 The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald – Read
35 The Liars’ Club: A Memoir Mary Karr
36 The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien – Read
37 The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York Robert A. Caro
38 The Stranger Albert Camus
39 The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel Haruki Murakami
40 Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Laura Hillenbrand
41 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers – Read
42 Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll – Read
43 Beloved Toni Morrison – Read
44 Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
45 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
46 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared M. Diamond
47 Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth Chris Ware
48 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Read
49 Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie – Read
50 Persepolis Marjane Satrapi
51 Team of Rivals Doris Kearns Goodwin
52 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz
53 The Diary of Anne Frank Anne Frank
54 The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
55 The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) Rick Riordan
56 The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales Oliver Sacks
57 The Right Stuff Tom Wolfe
58 The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway
59 The World According to Garp John Irving
60 Valley of the Dolls Jacqueline Susann
61 A Long Way Gone Ishmael Beah
62 All the President’s Men Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
63 Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Christopher McDougall
64 Cutting For Stone Abraham Verghese
65 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream Hunter S. Thompson
66 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone J.K. Rowling – Read
67 Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain
68 Love Medicine Louise Erdrich
69 Moneyball Michael Lewis
70 Portnoy’s Complaint Philip Roth
71 The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton
72 The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger – Read
73 The Fault in Our Stars John Green
74 The House At Pooh Corner A. A. Milne – Read
75 The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
76 The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Michael Pollan – Read
77 The Road Cormac McCarthy
78 The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien
79 The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion
80 Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein
81 A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition Lemony Snicket
82 Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir Frank McCourt
83 Breath, Eyes, Memory Edwidge Danticat
84 Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead Brene Brown – Read
85 Gone Girl Gillian Flynn – Read
86 In Cold Blood Truman Capote – Read
87 Life After Life Kate Atkinson
88 Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl
89 Of Human Bondage W. Somerset Maugham
90 Pride & Prejudice Jane Austen – Read
91 The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Michael Chabon
92 The Color of Water James McBride
93 The Giver Lois Lowry
94 The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins – Read
95 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler
96 The Phantom Tollbooth Norton Juster
97 The Secret History Donna Tartt – Read
98 Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
99 The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle
100 Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak

Here’s the reader’s choice list. Fifty-one down, forty-nine to go.

1 To Kill a Mockingbird – Read
2 Pride and Prejudice – Read
3 The Diary of a Young Girl
4 1984 George Orwell
5 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book #1) – Read
6 The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings #1-3) – Read
7 The Great Gatsby – Read
8 Charlotte’s Web
9 The Hobbit – Read
10 Little Women (Little Women #1) – Read
11 Fahrenheit 451 – Read
12 Jane Eyre – Read
13 Animal Farm
14 Gone with the Wind – Read
15 The Catcher in the Rye – Read
16 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
17 The Book Thief
18 The Help – Read
19 The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) – Read
20 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Read
21 The Grapes of Wrath – Read
22 Lord of the Flies – Read
23 The Kite Runner
24 Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)
25 Hamlet
26 A Wrinkle in Time
27 A Tale of Two Cities – Read
28 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Read
29 Of Mice and Men – Read
30 Romeo and Juliet [New Folger Edition)
31 The Secret Garden – Read
32 A Christmas Carol – Read
33 The Little Prince
34 Brave New World
35 Where the Sidewalk Ends
36 The Handmaid’s Tale
37 The Giver (The Giver #1)
38 Wuthering Heights – Read
39 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (HP #7) – Read
40 The Fault in Our Stars
41 Anne of Green Gables – Read
42 Macbeth
43 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
44 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Read
45 Frankenstein
46 Holy Bible: King James Version too many humans
47 The Color Purple
48 The Count of Monte Cristo – Read
49 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
50 East of Eden
51 Alice in Wonderland – Read
52 In Cold Blood – Read
53 Catch-22 (Catch-22, #1) – Read
54 Outlander (Outlander, #1)
55 The Stand – Read
56 Anna Karenina – Read
57 Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet #1)
58 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (#3) – Read
59 Memoirs of a Geisha
60 Watership Down – Read
61 Great Expectations – Read
62 Rebecca – Read
63 A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1)
64 The Old Man and the Sea
65 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #3)
66 Les Misérables – Read
67 Celebrating Silence: Excerpts from Five Years of Weekly Knowledge 1995-2000
68 Life of Pi
69 Harry Potter and the Half-Blook Prince (HP #6) – Read
70 The Scarlet Letter – Read
71 The Pillars of the Earth (#1) – Read
72 The Chronicles of Narnia (#1-7) – Read
73 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Read
74 Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) – Read
75 The Princess Bride
76 Water for Elephants
77 Dracula – Read
78 The Secret Life of Bees
79 The Raven – Read
80 The Poisonwood Bible – Read
81 One Hundred Years of Solitude
82 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Read
83 The Odyssey
84 The Good Earth (House of Earth #1)
85 And Then There Were None
86 Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) – Read
87 The Thorn Birds – Read
88 A Prayer for Owen Meany – Read
89 The Glass Castle
90 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
91 The Road
92 The Things They Carried
93 Crime and Punishment – Read
94 Siddhartha
95 Beloved (Toni Morrison Trilogy #1) – Read
96 The Story of My Life
97 The Phantom Tollbooth
98 Cutting for Stone
99 The Brothers Karamazov
100 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler


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100 Books by 40: KANE AND ABEL

Book: Kane and Abel
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Published: 1979

Passing 10 hours of time can be done in many more pleasant ways than reading this book, like reading most of the other books further up in this list. Putting Jack Kerouac close to this title makes me seriously doubt The BBC’s understanding of American Literature. Let’s hope the end of this list was put together by a summer intern. And really, this conjecture seems reasonable considering The Princess Diaries is next on my reading list.

The book follows the lives of two successful men, Kane and Abel, naturally. One man is born into luxury, the other poverty. Due to an unfortunate turn of events, the characters feud for most of their lives.

The feud would have been considerably more interesting if Kane had dimensions rather than a dimension. William Kane always makes the right decisions. He is a successful banker. When Kane is shot in the face in WWII, all the scars heal, and he escapes permanent disfigurement. Of course he does. His wife is as beautiful at fifty-four as she was at twenty. Of course she is. Their children and beautiful and geniuses. Of course they are. See how tiresome this is? Now consider one thousand pages of it.

Partially due to the one dimension of William Kane, the foreshadowing could have only been more ham-fisted if the author provided a book summary at the end of every chapter. The plot was as predictable as the plot of an American rom-com. To round out this list of shame, the Biblical reference to Cain and Able fails to apply in significant ways.

Abel is developed further, but only slightly. The standard hard-working, successful immigrant story is trotted out. He occasionally makes poor choices, which make him slightly more interesting. Good stories never start off with, “I drank a nice herbal tea and went to bed early.”

Here’s the thing. Mark Twain didn’t try to write novels about Brits… set in England… a place he did not live. Jeffrey Archer is British. He’s lived in England his entire life. Here’s a theory. Perhaps the characters fall flat because these American archetypes are so tired to me. The archetypes succeed with foreigners because they reinforce their misconceptions of opportunity in America.

Are you an American? DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. If you want a easy summer read about immigrants, for god’s sake, pick-up The Godfather instead.


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100 Books by 40: NIGHT WATCH

Book: Night Watch
Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 2002

It’s an accident that I finished Night Watch a few days after Terry Pratchett passed away earlier this month. But I will call it a happy accident. Because I can’t think of a better way to celebrate him and his life. While I’m sorry that I didn’t get turned on to his books earlier in my life, I am thankful that I found them at all.

In the same way that I cannot resist any combination of chocolate and peanut butter, dry British humor in any form will delight me. The humor obscures the science fiction elements of the plot; since I am not a fan of sci-fi, that works for me. This is an excellent outcome considering that time travel is often a lazy plot device, a device that this book uses. Although, I don’t think time travel is used in a lazy manner in this particular book. This was a dazzling, funny whirlwind. Read it.

Time for an update on my list.

Reading now:
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel

Finished reading:
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen – only 99 cents for Kindle edition
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens – have on Kindle
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy – have on Kindle
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo

Pending reading:
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie


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100 books by 40: BLEAK HOUSE

Book: Bleak House
Author: Charles Dickens
Published: 1853

Bleak is an accurate description of how I felt when I started this book. The gray Cincinnati winter seems the most suitable companion for slogging through this enormous book. I was cheered by the fact that this is the last Charles Dickens book in my list. All of my earlier struggles with The Bronte Sisters and Jane Austen have paid out in how quickly I jumped back into Dickens.

Of the many things to object to with this book, the obsession with 1800’s British legal system was most irritating. Long passages are devoted to the courts. I skimmed over those passages without guilt.

Fortune has put this book toward the end of my list. There are twenty books standing between me and my goal of finishing The BBC’s 100 Best Books list. The momentum of eighty books down and twenty to go carried me to the end of this book.

The sheer number of side characters in this book is overwhelming. I can’t say that the subplots add that much to the book. Actually, scratch that. I can’t say anything about the book added that much to my life. Great Expectations and David Copperfield deserved to be on this list. Bleak House, not so much. If you want to get into Dickens, steer clear of this one.


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100 Books by 40: THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS

Book: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
Author: Robert Tressell
Published: 1955

The past comments on our present.

It may be objected that, considering the number of books dealing with these subjects already existing, such a work as this was uncalled for. The answer is that not only are the majority of people opposed to Socialism, but a very brief conversation with an average anti-socialist is sufficient to show that he does not know what Socialism means. – Robert Tressell, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

I worked at Starbucks in the late 90’s. Memorable patrons abounded; I served as caffeine bartender to many jittery addicts. I continue to count myself among them. Socialist Rick was among a colorful list that included Iced Venti Americano Rick and Double Tall Latte Patti.
Rick came in most afternoons and stayed for an hour or two. He was polite, and his drip coffee couldn’t have been easier to prepare. Unlike Grande 2 pump Sugar Free Vanilla Skim Extra Hot Latte Hair Plugs for Men, his drink never seemed to be right. It was always one of the following: too hot, not hot enough, not enough vanilla, too much vanilla, or was more generally bad. He would bark this at me after having flung the lid off his 220 degree latte and taken two impossibly huge gulps of it. It’s a wonder the interior of his mouth had sensations at all given that it must be dead scar tissue in there. After bad drink number 50, I started keeping his drink behind the bar and offered him a baristas choice on his first go. I was vaguely gratified when one morning my choice happened to be a cast off Americano. Those are blistering hot due to the fact that they are comprised of espresso shots and 280 degree filtered water. His eyes watered just a bit when he took his pulls. I wasn’t sorry. He returned his drink less often after that.

In comparison, Rick was an easy customer. Overbearing isn’t an accurate word to describe Rick. My coworkers, already familiar with him, warned me of his fringe beliefs. But a coherent picture of Rick’s views didn’t develop until I had poured him at least thirty cups of coffee across weeks. My coworkers’ warnings looked to be unwarranted, as Rick wasn’t over-eager to discuss his views, but he certainly wouldn’t hold back should discussion wander into economics or politics.

Hindsight demonstrates that I was responding to Rick with indoctrination from history class and our capitalist culture. Going to a conservative Christian school, we were told ghoulish stories of all the martyrs sacrificed to the steely god of socialism. Innocent Russian boys and girls were thrown into the gaping maw of atheism only to be rended limb from limb by satan in the afterlife. (I realize that The USSR was a communist country, but communism and socialist were both painted with the same sloppy brush, so I didn’t perceive a difference between the two.) You should think I use hyperbole, but I don’t. I was raised to be terrified of socialism.

Terrified, I was. When my coworkers told me that Rick was a socialist; they might as well said that we molested children. I coolly responded to Rick’s polite small talk. You can’t let your gaurd down when something so sinister approaches.

Across weeks of interaction, I started to relax. Rick was pleasant. He treated us like people. For those that haven’t worked in the service industry, it’s not uncommon for people to bark orders at you and wholly ignore you otherwise. The most common response to good morning or how are you was GRANDE LOW FAT LATTE with no eye contact or any other non-verbal acknowledgement. This was the case prior to smart phones. I can only imagine that this behavior grows more frequent with each passing day.

This is when the cognative dissonance started. Rick was pleasant and warm. Our interactions only occasionally touched on politics or economics, but when they did he said reasonable things. How can a socialist be kind and say sensible things while simultaneously being Satan’s child molester in chief? HOW?

I opted for the intellectually lazy path forward. I put Rick in the crazy box in my head, and responded to him as such regardless of his kind behavior and reasonable criticisms of the capitalist system. Occasionally, he would say something that would break out of the crazy box. But my discomfort at questioning my indoctrination, caused me to quickly push this away.

I have regrets. I regret that I closed myself off to Rick. Mostly because in the intervening decade I have become disillusioned with the glories of capitalism. I have come to believe that an egalitarian society needs labor to be valued more than capital. And it’s mystifying that of the seventy bucks that are spent on GAP jeans only pennies go to the Vietnamese laborers who made them. WHERE THE HELL DOES THE OTHER $69.96 GO? And more importantly, why does this arrangement make sense?

The Ragged Trousered Philantropists is a socialism text book masquerading as a novel. Typically I am annoyed with this dress-up game, but I appreciate that this book provided the most thorough argument for socialism I have ever read. I bet my indoctrination regarding socialism is representative of most Americans’ indoctrination, mostly lies sprinkled with threats of ruthless dictators. Which is to say that Americans don’t actually know what socialism is. The way the word was bandied about in the last presidential election cycle supports my point.

At other times the meeting resolved itself into a number of quarrelsome disputes between the Liberals and Tories that formed the crowd, which split itself up into a lot of little groups and whatever the original subject might have been they soon drifted to a hundred other things, for most of the supporters of the present system semed incapable of pursuing any one subject to its logical conclusion. A discussion would be started about something or other; presently an unimportant side issue would crop up, then the original subject would be left unfinished, and they would argue and shout about the side issue. In a little while another side issue would arise, and then the first side issue would be abandoned also unfinished, and an angry wrangle about the second issue would ensue, the original subject being altogether forgotten.

They did not seem to really desire to discover the truth or to find out the best way to bring about and improvement in their condition, their only object seemed to me to score off their opponents. – Robert Tressell, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

I won’t be waving the socialist flag just yet. But this book was excellent. There are valid criticisms of how we choose to organize ourselves economically. And if the data is right, and we are headed into another guilded age, shit is only starting to hit the fan.

Here’s where I am in my list.
Reading Now
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Books that have been read
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.

Pending reading:
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie


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100 Books by 40: Perfume

Book: Perfume
Author: Patrick Suskind
Published: 1985 (Originally published in German)

I was riding the elevator at the office when I was transported to my twelve year-old self feeling the Formica of the table under neither my finger tips. I can hear the lite hits of the 70’s coming across the AM radio station; I smell the cornmeal mush that my dad is frying and the dry metallic pervasive scent of hot forced air coming from the belly of the furnace. I can taste the salty, crispy mush slick with butter and sweetened with Karo syrup. This journey was due to the gentleman stepping on the elevator wearing the aftershave that my dad wore most of my adolescent years.

Smells unlock rooms of memories that I didn’t know existed in my mind. Perfume is two hundred and fifty pages of smell. It’s set in Medieval France. The decadent language used to bring scents to life is vibrant. I’m stunned to learn that this book was originally written in German. The language is so lush, I had no sense that the thoughts were originally conceived in a different language.

The plot is unremarkable aside from the surprise ending, but does not detract from the delicious descriptions of sensory information. I have focused on smells since starting the book. I have remembered my favorite smells and why I have fond associations with them. I loved this book, not because the plot was revealing but because it opened a part of my daily sensory experience that I had lost touch with.

Be warned, the ending of this book is surprising. It neatly closes up the plot, so it’s satisfying in that way. But it does leave you feeling uneasy with scent, and how it can effect our emotions.