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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Friday, December 29, 2006
Stuff I've Read Since July
I just finished one of the greatest books of all time - The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck - and I was sad when it was over. I have not been so touched by a book in a long time, perhaps since All Quiet On The Western Front, which must have been at least a couple of years ago.

The Good Earth was the best-selling book of 1931 and 1932. It is the story of Wang Lung, a Chinese farmer. I won't say one more thing about it, because you should read it for yourself. Go to your library or book store today and get your hands on a copy. Read at least through Chapter 3. If you aren't interested after the first three chapters, then you can let it go, but not until then. I attempted The Good Earth years ago (my wife highly recommended it) and made the mistake of giving up before I had completed the first chapter.

I went to the One Book List to read the reviews and I was astonished that The Good Earth is not mentioned.

I read other books, and some were quite good, but nothing in the recent past compares to The Good Earth. Have I raved enough? I'll move on.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, was surprisingly, unexpectedly good. It gets a little wild and disjointed at the end, but the strengths of the story - the intensity and the imagery - win out.

Stag: A Story About Coming of Age - In a Bar, by Tim Relf was also a pleasant surprise. I picked this one at random from the library shelves because I liked the cover (a plastic man falling into a pint of beer) and it was just a couple minutes until closing time at the library. It was Stag or nothing to read that night, and I have to read. This one is about a likable young British guy who drinks too much because he never wants to grow up and he's got inadequacy issues. I found him a sympathetic character. The author is a good storyteller. I think this is his first book, and it came out just last year.

Numbered Account, by Christopher Reich, is another first book. The protagonist, an ex-special forces guy who is searching for his father's murderer, goes to work in a Swiss bank and deals with shady characters. I thought the setting - a secretive Swiss bank - would be a lot more interesting than it turned out to be. I had hoped for more.

Not a Day Goes By, by E. Lynn Harris, was entertaining enough, and another of my random selections. It's the story of an African American bisexual former football player and his diva girlfriend. I'll leave it at that.

Now go out and get The Good Earth.
I recently re-read *A Confederacy of Dunces* and found it both hilarious and poignant -- brilliantly written. Its author --John Kennedy Toole -- committed suicide when he could not get his book published. Somehow his mother got it published after his death. It's about a weird and lonely guy in New Orleans and I'm sure it's partly autobiographical. I first read the book quite a few years ago. Re-reading it now when the old New Orleans hardly exists anymore added to the poignance, but mainly you should read it for the laughs.

I read *The Good Earth* when I was much too young but now cannot bring myself to read it again. I remember nothing of the plot but the tone and mood I do remember: sad, unbearably sad. Also I remember that the sentences were short and choppy, written in Engish but in a style meant to suggest a slight foreignness, as if the book had been written in Chinese and then translated.

I am glad, by the way, that you do sometimes stop by the coffeehouse. Who knows why, I like this place, sad to see it so empty though.
I loved The Good Earth, but couldn't bring myself to discuss it with anyone, because it's just so sad.
I have just finished reading it a second time, because I enjoyed it so much. It is sad, but in an enigmatic way that makes you wonder why it's sad. The protagonist gets everything he ever wanted, and then some. Everybody pretty much gets what they deserve. So why is it sad?

I agree that the book sounds deliberately foreign. I like the frequent use of "hither and thither" and "How now?"
Hey there, it was good of you to be nice about my book. I'm really pleased you enjoyed it. Yes, it was my first novel - it was published in America in 2005, a year after it came out here in London. I'm going to take your advice and get hold of a copy of The Good Earth!
Tim, thank you for leaving a comment. What a pleasant surprise to hear from the author. I certainly did enjoy your novel and I look forward to the next one. Keep up the good work!
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