Posted in Book Reviews Literature

What I’ve Been Reading: John Barleycorn by Jack London

John Barleycorn is not only atypical of Jack London’s work, it’s different than most books about drinking or drug abuse. Assumed by most to be an autobiography, John Barleycorn also functions as an in-depth reflection on the lifestyle of a heavy drinker. London got drunk as early as five and seven years old, and that is where his drinking story begins.  London tells of his exploits throughout his teenage years and early adult life, including being an oyster pirate, deep-sea sealer, miner, student, and writer. London packed an incredible amount of action into a short life, and John Barleycorn tells…

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Posted in Book Reviews Literature

What I’ve Been Reading: South and West by Joan Didion

I am always impressed by writers who have the ability to record intricate details of their experiences while traveling. I don’t feel like I can write well when I’m on a vacation or some excursion far away. I’m always either doing my best to soak up the experience or resting from the exhaustion of doing just that.  I suspect that there are two major reasons that I have not developed the skill to thoroughly document any travel experiences: I’m probably more crunched for time versus writers who are on some kind of writing assignment or simply take longer trips than…

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What I’ve Been Reading: Rabbit Redux by John Updike

I am very much a fan of John Updike, becoming interested in his work first through his short stories and then extending my reading to his novels. In fact, I would rank him as one of my favorite novel writers, and I appreciate him more and more as I grow older. Reading some of his stuff here and there throughout the last couple decade, I learned that his “Rabbit” books are generally considered his best works. Or, at least, they’re pointed to as his works that best represent his style of writing and display some of his most personal explorations…

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What I’ve Been Reading: Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion

Play It as It Lays is an interesting title to me. As a golfer, I’ve long been familiar with the phrase “play it as it lies”. Going into the book, I didn’t know if the title was some kind of play on the golf phrase, something that a character said in the book, or just a phrase that I’d never heard before. As it turns out, it is the latter. Late in the book, the main character Maria recalls a time when her father was teaching her to play craps. His main piece of advice to her was that “it…

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Posted in Book Reviews Literature

What I’ve Been Reading: The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

As a pretty frequent reader, I’ve noticed something funny about myself over the years. I realize that I often read strange words or names for years and never really know for sure if the pronunciation in my head is actually correct. Unless I happen to discuss the book I’m reading with a friend, or the word/name comes up organically in a conversation, it can go on for a long time. This was especially true before the internet became such a part our lives and it wasn’t possible to just Google “how do I pronounce —–“. Somerset Maugham is a name…

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