Saturday, November 04, 2006


Little Sister, Raymond Chandler, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1949, 214 pp
This was good because Chandler can't be bad, but it had some new stylistic oddities about Marlowe's state of mind. The PI was more dreary than usual and the mystery itself was hard to follow.

This time it is Hollywood people mixed up with criminals and the little sister is a sanctimonious mid-western young woman who of course turns out to be not so pure after all.

O Shepard Speak, Upton Sinclair, The Viking Press, 1949, 579 pp
This is the final and tenth book in the World's End Series. The series has been an adventure in learning and understanding the history of the two world wars, Europe, economics and politics. In this volume, the second world war ends and Lanny starts a "peace program" with money left to him by an old friend of his mother's.

Sinclair ties up all the loose ends about the various people who have been with Lanny all along. Roosevelt dies, Truman takes over, the bomb is dropped, the UN founded and the Cold War begins with the Soviet Union.

I still have plenty to learn about what happened next and I wonder who will take Sinclair's place. I read this book in three days. It was intense.

Knight's Gambit, William Faulkner, Random House Inc, 1949, 246 pp
I read this off and on over several months. It was not gripping. It is a set of short stories and one novella, all about the lawyer Gavin Stevens, who was a main character in Intruder in the Dust, which I read for 1948. Steven's wisdom and tolerance for the ways of his local people are the theme or thread that runs through the stories.

When a crime is involved, as it is in each of these tales, Stevens is the man who can suss out the perpetrator. It is never what it seems and his ability to follow a data trail is prodigious, but he has a certain sympathy or empathy for the criminal. At times though, even the reader can't see how he figured it out.

The Season of Comfort, Gore Vidal, EP Dutton & Co Inc, 1949, 253 pp
This is a family story, which culminates in Bill breaking free of an overbearing and slightly crazy mother, only to go off to fight in World War II. The head of this family is a Virginia politician who was once a Vice President when Wilson was President, although it is fiction. Yes, a little confusing. You learn all this in the back story, but this man is now out of office. The daughter is Bill's mother.

The story goes back and forth in time until Bill is old enough to be the main character. I was not thrilled or enlightened in any way but the story pulled me along and was interesting as a story. I think Williwaw, his first novel, was the most powerful so far.

The Plum Tree, Mary Ellen Chase, The Macmillan Company, 1949, 98 pp
This short little book would more acurately be called a novella. It takes place in a Home for Aged Women. Three of the residents have suddenly gone bonkers and will have to be moved to different facilities for the mentally ill.

Miss Emma Davis, nurse and co-owner of the home, uses all her wit, caring and energy to ensure a smooth transition for these women and the remaining residents. It is a wonderfully told story and meant a lot to me because of my dad's experiences in a modern "home" for aged people. If only all such facilities handled people with that much sensitivity and in such a personal manner.

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