A person gains attention on the internet mainly by talking about themselves. To that end: here are the books I read this week, and how I feel about them. Why would you be interested in this? I have absolutely no idea.
This Week I Read:
Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes – I really don't know why this guy isn't more famous. First, you've got the pedigree – so far as I can tell the only black crime writer during the golden age of noir, friend of James Baldin, etc. – which alone would get him a peek. And on that whole end of things, he holds up nicely, offering an unflinching, indeed brutal, view on racial politics in New York during the tumultuous years of the 1960's. Himes's is a world in which everyone is pretty terrible, white or black (though the blacks have a better excuse), in which greed and barbarity are the operating motivations behind virtually everyone's actions irrespective of race. Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones are Harlem's top cops, working to keep black Harlem from exploding in the face of the white power structures, and the white power structures from brutalizing its inhabitants as much as possible. There is a lot of pistol whipping in this novel, to put it another way.
But apart from the whole racial aspect of it, Himes just has a really interesting narrative style. Coffin and Gravedigger disappear for long portions of their books, and indeed Himes excels best when he is following around the criminals they are attempting to catch, in this case a two-big conman using the 'back to Africa' moment to try and dupe Harlemites out of their hard-earned money. The plot itself is more coherent than your average Chandler and less coherent than your average Ross McDonald, but it's fast and brutal and fun and even perhaps a bit more than that. Recommended.
Were there swords: No, but there's gunfights and fisticuffs of all sorts. Also, lots of sex.
Nuns and Soldiers by Iris Murdoch – So Iris Murdoch is a very well-regarded novelist, and I was excited to try her out, and she's got a pretty big oeuvre, and this isn't one of the more famous ones, and maybe I would have been better off starting somewhere else. Because this is kind of a crap book, I don't know what else to say. It's sappy and melodramatic but also really boring. There's a ton of description of how the characters are feeling, just page after page of exposition. The prose is not horrid, but it's not particularly noteworthy. Honestly I struggled to finish it. I'll give her another shot down the road, maybe this just wasn't for me.
Were there swords: This is very much not a sword-fighting book. Sorry.
Right now I am reading: Perfume, by Patrick Suskind