Monday, March 26, 2007

The Good German

Beyond the obvious, I've found a really good reason to like secondhand bookstores. The Good German originally sold for $35.95 as a hardcover (which seems inconceivable in itself -- when did hardbacks get to be almost $40?). The copy I bought had been remaindered (with the ominous black mark along the bottom) and had an orange sticker of $20.95. By the time it appeared in front of me, it was only $4. Thank God that's all I paid for it. If I had paid nearly $40, I would not be happy.

I guess maybe I didn't know what I was getting with this book. I picked it up because of the commercials for the movie. It was shot in black and white, it looked kind of moody, there was clearly some kind of love story -- I guess I was expecting something more cerebral. I purposely did not read the book jacket before I started reading the book. I didn't want to have any more preconceived ideas about the plot.

The story starts with the Potsdam conference in Berlin just after the end of the war with Germany. Jacob Geismar has arrived to cover the conference for Collier's. But he has an ulterior motive as well: he used to live in Berlin before the war and he's looking for his long-lost love, Lena. Even before Jake finds Lena, a dead American soldier pops up and Jake gets mildly interested in the mystery. But then he finds Lena. And spends the whole first third (or more) of the book nursing her back to health; he seems to lose all interest in the dead soldier. So, I ask myself, why should I care about the dead soldier if the protagonist doesn't?

The second half of the book does pick up a bit in terms of action. Lena's story and that of the dead soldier intertwine, along with the Russians, the black market, the horror of the Holocaust, Nazi scientists, etc. There are a couple of false climaxes before the end. And what seemed to be an average thriller gets bogged down in philosophical arguments. After awhile, on nearly every page, characters have arguments about the "good" Germans. Were there any during the war? Are there any left? Isn't every German guilty of horrible crimes? Of course, it's not that simple. In the midst of such atrocities, there are no black and white arguments to be made. But having the discussion over and over and over again simply dilutes it. After awhile, I just wanted to get to the end.

And, quite frankly, it wasn't a very satisfying end. All the loose ends get tied up. But I sort of didn't really like any of the characters by the end. I was just glad to be finished.

I hesitate to say, "don't read it," because everyone's tastes are different. But if you're looking for a good thriller, you can do better than this.

Drum Roll, Please

Well, I've been MIA the last week because I've been working on my new blog. It seems like I get more comments about the T-shirts I post than anything else. So I've started a new blog called Chic Chemise. It's a roundup of cute, funny, interesting, thought-provoking T-shirts that I find on the Web. It's mostly for the girls, but for the guys, it might provide some gift ideas. Kirsty is not going to be happy with me; I'm going to make her spend more money!

I'll still be posting here about books. I finished The Good German last night, so I'll have a review of that coming up shortly.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Ides of March

Yes, I know it was last week. But here's the weird thing: I've been watching HBO's Rome on DVD from Netflix. I finished watching the first season last Thursday, March 15. And it's not exactly giving much away when I say the first season ended with Ceaser's assassination. And I watched that episode on March 15. Spooky! What's even weirder is that I didn't even realize it until a day later.

To all the ladies out there who love Ciaran Hinds (and we all know who we are), you've got to watch Rome. He is an amazing Ceaser: smart, calculating, just a little evil, and very sexy. A long, long way from Captain Wentworth!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Nice Place to Read

Nearly four years after moving into this house, I feel like I'm finally finishing. Over the holidays at the end of last year, I finally got my bedroom painted. And my sister and I finally made it to our (relatively) new local IKEA a couple of weeks ago.

Here's my Tylosand chaise and footstool. Very comfortable and inviting. The upstairs is usually nice and cozy in the winter, but even in the summer, I'll be able to waste spend lots of time up here.

The Ringum rugs are also from IKEA, and a steal at just $9.99 each.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Tennessee Williams

This is going to be rather an academic post for me, something I don't normally do. But I happened across this article from the Telegraph about Tennessee Williams.

The Glass Menagerie was the first play I read as an undergrad. And I got absolutely hooked on Tennessee Williams. I had a great professor who made the play so accessible. I started reading more of William's work and eventually did an independent study, with a very sexy title: Exhibitionism and Voyeurism in the Plays of Tennessee Williams.

Williams had an interesting, but rather sad, life. I highly recommend Lyle Leverich's biography, Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams. One of the most fascinating things I discovered while reading Williams is that he was much better at writing female characters than male characters. And even his female characters have such range: from the fierce Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to poor, fragile Blanche of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Williams' Notebooks are now available, edited and annotated by Margaret Bradham Thornton, from

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bad Blogger

Yes, I've been a bad blogger and haven't posted for awhile. I sort of have a reason, though. I've been flying through the Harry Potter books like crazy. And considering these have all been around awhile, and probably been blogged about endlessly, I doubt I could come up with anything original to say. I am very much enjoying them. I've just started the sixth book, so in a few days, I will be just like everyone else, anxiously awaiting the release of the final book in July.

I have to say, I'm enjoying them more than I thought I would. Rowling weaves a pretty complex, but very iconic, story. It reminds me of a quote from Joseph Campbell that one of my literature professors used often:
"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."
The quote is from The Hero With a Thousand Faces, a book I confess I did not finish. But it's probably going to have to go back on my TBR pile. Campbell's theory is that this iconic story is well-known to virtually all histories and cultures. So stories like Harry Potter, while new, strike a chord in all of us.

Update: Harry Potter and the massive print run

Friday, March 02, 2007


These journals from Ex Libris are adorable. They are made from actual books. Check out this one for Tomorrow in Our Hands. I just love the way those in the 1950s imagined the future. And this would be a great journal for someone.

There are lots of others to choose from, including a healthy selection of Dr. Seuss books.

Via Rare Bird Finds.