What are you reading?

That’s great and true advice.


I’ve watched the movie a dozen times but never read the book, so I finally picked up a copy of LA Confidential last weekend. Just finished it.

I know I can’t look at it objectively having loved the movie for so long, but I found the book to be a bit of a mess. There’s plenty of good in there, and it’s a true page-turner. But in the end, the conspiracy(/ies) the plot revolves around are just so damn convoluted.

It’s amazing how well the adaptation turned out: the screenwriters took a scalpel to the book (heh), cut the bulk and a lot of the outlandish parts, kept everything that made the three detectives great characters, and tied it all up with a Hollywood ending.

That makes me want to see the movie again. I’m a fan of Ellroy and have read most of his books upon release since the late 80s. I had read L.A. Confidential before several years before the movie came out and was pleased with the movie although I thought it ended wrong with Dudley Smith being killed. Most everything Ellroy writes is so damn convoluted. You should check out American Tabloid. I thought it was amazing but it too, is very convoluted. But it’s also great story telling.

L.A. Confidential was the third book in Ellroy’s first L.A. Quartet, It stands fine on its own but makes a little more sense if The Big Nowhere was read before it. And White Jazz is a good follow up companion.

I just finished The Fraud by Zadie Smith and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, which I’d never read.

Was totally charmed by most of Finn but the ending was so tedious and cruel and ridiculous it almost ruined the whole thing for me. I am referring to the saga of Tom Sawyer’s masterminding a ludicrous and unnecessary plan to spring Jim from house arrest, which the heretofore practically-minded and endlessly resourceful Huck absurdly submits to. I know that it’s frequently considered the great American novel. I was frequently taken aback by Twain’s depiction of the south–a place of casual brutality and squalor and public drunkenness and almost total moral blindness. Was about to write: “of course the past is a different country,” but considered the previous sentence and thought: Is it?

My homework assignment is to research how the book was received at the time. I’m aware of Twain’s reputation as a satirist. Was the absurd conclusion of the book a metaphor for southern romanticism re: slavery? For overcomplicating such a simple thing as emancipation?

It was published in 1884, which is about the time Arthur Orton was getting out of jail in London. Orton was a Wapping butcher who’d been imprisoned for lots of things-- perjury mostly–pertaining to his campaign to be acknowledged as the rightful Sir Roger Tichborne, believed by all but his delusional mother to have been lost at sea many years before. Apparently just before she died she recognized him as her recovered son, albeit 100 pounds in the plus and having shed completely his education and his French fluency and having taken on fully the character of a butcher from Wapping.

The past is a different country, sure, but countries repeat themselves. Or so suggests the brilliant Zadie Smith. The Tichborne scandal is unmistakably Trumpian. Here is a transparently pathological amoral buffoon riding a wave of blind devotion from the working class into a campaign against the posh. In his attempt to breach that castle and that castle’s rebuffing of him, he becomes one of them–a working class bloke. Never mind he’s pretending to have been an aristocrat to begin with. The convolutions his devotees adopt to justify their beliefs are cheerfully insane.

Really cool book that is about much much more than Orton / Tichborne / Trump. Recommended if you’re into period lit, books about the literary set, Jamaica, suffrage, etc.

Also read this year The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. Was inspired to read this not by Oppenheimer but by an article read in the NYT concerning an especially gloomy AI start-up in Silicon Valley that had made this book (about an epochal scientific discovery that would permanently change the world, and how the powers that were bungled its deployment) required reading for its staff. I loved this book through and through, so much so that I invested in a chemistry for dummies book to understand it better. High school Knox did not see that coming.


The Oppenheimer book (American Prometheus) won the Pulitzer and is great.


My memory may be spotty since this was 35 years ago, but I recall the same discussion/critique of the conclusion of Huck Finn that you raise.

Part of bringing Tom back was to juxtapose Huck’s growth and maturation to Tom’s never ending self indulgent boyhood. But it slipped into pathos.

Anyway you would have passed my 11th grade English class.

Hell, was it 11th grade? Now all my English teachers are flashing thru my mind.

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11th Grade is typically US Lit (Scarlet Letter, Huck Finn, Great Gasby)
12th Grade was English LIt - Beowolf, Romeo and Juliet, and Animal Farm

My 12th grade year, my class had an intern from Auburn, who apparently was on a mission of some kind. He wanted to have us read A Clockwork Orange instead of Animal Farm. The parents of about half the class pitched a holy fit. So the principal said the regualar teacher would take those whose parents didn’t want them to read Clockwork to another room and the intern could teach A Clockwork Orange. My parents let me decide for myself since I was almost 18 and would be making decisions on my own soon enough. I read Clockwork. Most of the violence went over my head due to my innocents at the time. I did watch the movie during the summer to see what all the fuss was about. Glad I read the book. I have thought about the themes in it many times since then. Still need to read Animal Farm.


Animal Farm is worth it.

ETA: But it’s no 1984.


My senior lit class was in 1984. When we read 1984.

On a side note, I got into a huge argument with my 12th grade lit teacher over A Tale of Two Cities and whether or not Charles Darnay and Sidney Carton were doppelgängers. She insisted they had to be. I argued they weren’t and it didn’t matter, which was the entire point of the French Revolution.

I’m doing this now, by the way, in case anyone’s interested. (Hope this doesn’t violate any site rules. I won’t mention it no more.)


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Coach & I read the Magna Carta for the same reason.

I was the teacher then.



Just read Ellroy’s “Widespread Panic.” Full on 50’s LA noir.

I just ordered it.