Robert McParland’s Best Seller provides a history of American best selling books during the last century. McParland moves from year to year identifying trends and commenting on key writers. McParland uses publishing and literary history to define what makes a book a best-seller and what best-sellers say about reading American tastes and societal changes. Despite all the research, I found McParland’s analysis is clear and concise. He presents the historical context for each year, describes the best-sellers and the reasons for their appeal. In addition, McParland supplies descriptions of the authors. From classic literary works to pulp fiction, from historical blockbusters to trendy diet books, McParland’s tour of 118 years of best sellers is a delight! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction: Reaching the Top of the Shelf: Discovering a Century of Bestsellers ix
Chapter One: Birth of the Bestseller: 1890s thru the 1930s 1
Chapter Two: 1940s: All the Books Fit to Sell 23
Chapter Three: 1950s: Cold War Anxiety: From Holden Caulfield to James Bond 53
Chapter Four: 1960s: New Frontiers: From Harper Lee to Kurt Vonnegut 83
Chapter Five: 1970s: The Age of Narcissism 109
Chapter Six: 1980s: The Rise of the Superstar Author 139
Chapter Seven: 1990s: Means of Ascent: Publisher Consolidation, Superstores, and the Internet 171
Chapter Eight: 2000s: E-Books and the New Millennium 211
Chapter Nine: 2010s: James Patterson, Inc. and The Soul of America 241
About the Author 307
The “Dark Phoenix” is an incredibly powerful mutant called Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner). Dark Phoenix traces the journey of Jean Grey from an 8-year-old-girl with strong but unreliable telepathic and telekinetic abilities. After a tragedy, Jean Grey decides to attend a school for mutant children run by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Then the movie fast-forwards 17 years to a daring rescue of the Space Shuttle when Jean Grey is needed to hold the disintegrating shuttle together. During the rescue, Jean Grey absorbs a cloud of strange cosmic energy that increases her powers geometrically. Of course, what would an X-Men movie be without some Bad Guys. In this case, it’s a band of eerie aliens led by Jessica Chastain who appears indestructible and plans to conquer the Earth. Given that Dark Phoenix is the last of the 21th Century Fox series (Disney now owns the rights to the X-Men franchise), Magneto (played by Michael Fassbender) had to show up to amp up the battle scenes.
My favorite X-Men movie character, the roguish Quicksilver (played brilliantly by Evan Peters), only appears in a couple cameos. Big mistake. Too much of Dark Phoenix is dark and turgid. The wit, humor, and speed of Quicksliver could have lighted the mood and added needed excitement. GRADE: B-
Just by chance, I stumbled across this 1976 Arkham House edition of L. Sprague de Camp’s wonderful Literary Swordsman and Socerers at my local public library. I immediately took it out and read it. De Camp’s informational essays on these fantasy writers made me want to drop everything and reread some of the great books by these authors. I’m a big fan of Lord Dunsany, but I haven’t read more than a fraction of his oeuvre. I’ve read most of Lovecraft, but I can always pick up one of his collections and find delight in its pages.
I’ve read all of Robert E. Howard’s CONAN tales, but Howard wrote a lot of other stuff that I haven’t read yet. I have the Night Shade Books editions of Clark Ashton Smith’s short stories, but I haven’t read them all. I’ve read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but little else by this fantasy giant. I have books by Morris, Eddison, and White on my shelves, but I haven’t opened them yet.
De Camp’s essays display a familiarity with the works of all these writers. My only quibble is that Fritz Leiber–who wrote the marvelous Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tales–only gets a few pages in “Conan’s Compeers” instead of an entire chapter which he deserves. The same for C. L. Moore who wrote the underrated Jirel of Joiry. Inexpensive reprints of LITERARY SWORDSMEN AND SORCERERS can be found online for reasonable prices. If you love heroic fantasy, you’ll love this book! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
“Introduction: Neomythology”, by Lin Carter xi
Chapter I. “The Swords of Faërie” 9
Chapter II “Jack of All Arts: William Morris” 31
Chapter III. “Two Men in One: Lord Dunsany” 48
Chapter IV. “Eldritch Yankee Gentleman: H. P. Lovecraft” 64
Chapter V. “Superman in a Bowler: E.R. Eddison” 114
Chapter VI. “The Miscast Barbarian: Robert E. Howard” 135
Chapter VII. “Parallel Worlds: Fletcher Pratt” 178
Chapter VIII. “Sierran Shaman: Clark Ashton Smith” 195
Chapter IX. “Merlin in Tweeds: J.R.R. Tolkien” 215
Chapter X. “The Architect of Camelot: T.H. White” 252
Chapter XI. “Conan’s Compeers” 270
Just by chance I found this slim copy of Darrell Schweitzer’s Borgo Press paperback, Conan’s World and Robert E. Howard. Published in 1978, Schweitzer discusses each of the Conan stories Robert E. Howard wrote. This 64-page gem delivers information and appreciation about one of greatest sword and sorcery heroes ever. If you’re a fan of Conan and Robert E. Howard, you’ll enjoy this appreciation for Howard’s work and the character he created. Are you a Conan fan? Do you have a favorite story? GRADE: A
Cape May, set in late September 1957, follows Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia down the rabbit hole of seduction and sex. The happy couple arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. Effie chose Cape May because she had vacation experiences there during summers as a child.
But Henry and Effie only to find the town deserted–it’s off season. They meet a glamorous set of wealthy people from the cottage next door who will change their lives. Clara, a rich and beautiful socialite, is having an affair with Max, a playboy with plenty of money. Henry finds himself attracted to Alma, Max’s young, aloof half-sister. Clara draws Henry and Effie–who are naive and unexperienced–into a web of drinking and seductive behavior. Yes, there’s a lot of sex in Cape May. And, as you might suspect, things spiral out of control. If you’re in the mood for a book that traces the slippery path from innocence to lust, Cape May delivers. GRADE: B
I was a big fan of John Hughes’s movies about teenagers–Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, The Breakfast Club, etc.–so Booksmart took me back to an era where movies about young people were common. Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart features two High School friends who studied and worked hard for years in order to get into elite colleges. And, they do! Amy gets accepted into Columbia University and Molly gets into Yale University.
Kaitlyn Dever plays Amy–a shy, gay, lonely teen who harbors a secret. Molly (played by Beanie Feldstein) is the Class of 2019 valedictorian. Molly has compulsive grammarian tendencies: she uses a felt-tip pen to correct graffiti on a unisex bathroom wall. Molly’s abrasiveness is both her greatest strength and greatest weakness. Other students dismiss her, while Molly’s intensity produced stellar SAT scores. Both girls speak Mandarin as a private language to communicate while other people surround them.
Booksmart was written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman. The movie follows Amy and Molly on their frantic search to find a wild party on the night before Graduation. Much comedy and some sadness result. Well worth seeing! GRADE: B+
It’s been 13 years since Thomas Harris’s last book and the rust shows in Cari Mora. Cari is a Columbian refugee living in stealth mode from ICE with Temporary Protected Status. She works several jobs to survive in Miami. The novel opens in Biscayne Bay at a mansion once owned by the late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. After being rented by playboys, filmmakers, and investors, Escobar’s house now becomes the focal point of two groups: one led by Hans-Peter Schneider–who dabbles in selling human organs–and the other a South American group led by ancient Don Ernesto. And who is the caretaker of Pablo Escobar’s mansion? Cari Mora, of course.
Why all the interest in Escobar’s empty house? Because $25 million in gold is hidden there. The search for the gold is tedious. However, there’s a crocodile to liven things up. Hans-Peter becomes obsessed with taking Cari Mora’s organs and selling them to an eccentric billionaire. You can imagine the final confrontation between Cari and Hans-Peter. I predict Cari Mora will be a wonderful thriller movie in a couple of years. Many copies of Cori Mora will show up on beaches all over the world. It’s a quick read. But don’t expect another Silence of the Lambs. GRADE: B-
In addition to our new Bosch dishwasher, Diane and I also bought a new Frigidaire Above the Range microwave and a new Frigidaire range. Our General Electric stove is 26 years old. One burner on the glass top doesn’t work. Diane worries about the oven because the temperature can suddenly jump from 350 degrees to 500 degrees!
Our Sharp Above the Range microwave is 20 years old. It still works, but there’s a crack in the front near the viewing window that I don’t like the looks of. The appliance store offered a deal if we bought both a range and a microwave of the same brand. Since most of the stoves and microwaves they carried ranked closely in Consumer Reports, it was a no-brainer to buy the combo and save a few hundred dollars. Do you like your stove and microwave? Are you thinking of buying new ones?
With the Recession just around the corner, we decided to purchase a Bosch 800 Series Top Control Tall Tub Pocket Handle Dishwasher in White with Stainless Steel Tub and Easy Glide Rack. Our old Whirlpool dishwasher was 20 years old. It was still working, but Diane noticed the glasses were not as clean as she would like.
I did my research with Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports ranked various Bosch dishwashers for their top five picks. We went to our local appliance store and checked out the Bosch dishwashers. Diane liked the 800 series best so that’s what we bought. Our new Bosch dishwasher arrives on Monday. What brand of dishwasher do you have? Are you thinking about a new dishwasher?