Showing posts from August, 2023

Post Captain (Aubrey & Maturin #2) (1972)

by Patrick O'Brian Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin have  an eventful time during a brief lull in the Napoleonic Wars.   Jack becomes a fugitive debtor, Stephen becomes a spy, both become rivals in love, and, of course, they periodically find themselves in exciting naval battles.   Patrick O’Brian continues to prove himself a masterful novelist.   Although this series is most famous as a naval epic, O’Brian writes a wonderful comedy of manners in the same vein as Jane Austen, one of his favorite novelists.   Whether our heroes are bantering with ladies in country houses or battling the French and Spanish on the high seas, their story is full of penetrating insights into the human condition, fascinating historical detail, and, very often, laugh-out-loud comedy.   "Frigate Captain" (Czech) I am loving this series, and I am dying to see whether O’Brian maintained this level of quality until the end. Patrick O'Brian "Captain of the First Rank" (Russia

The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

by Oscar Wilde The road to matrimony for two young upper-class  Englishmen contains a few potholes in the form of mistaken identities and family secrets.  This one is going to have to go on the list of works that are widely held in high regard but which don’t particularly speak to me.   I can appreciate it as a quick read with some witty lines in it but little more.   The reliance on deception, the silly coincidences, and the contrivance that wraps everything up with a neat bow make it read like a template for the modern sitcom.   As I listened to an audio version (shout out to B.J. Harrison’s excellent Classic Tales podcast), I couldn’t help but be reminded of the type of upper-class British twit immortalized by Monty Python.   However, since plays are meant to be seen rather than read (or heard), perhaps I should reserve judgment until I see a good production of it.   Oscar Wilde "It Matters to Be Consistent" (French) "The Importance of Being Called Earnest" (Span

Tom Sawyer Abroad (Adventures of Tom and Huck #3) (1894)

by Mark Twain Tom, Huck, and Jim are swept up in a futuristic air  balloon and whisked across the ocean to Arabia, where they tour the Sahara.   This book is a complete break from "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn," two great works whose stature as literary milestones doesn't prevent them from being vastly entertaining.  This sequel begins very well but goes off the rails just about the time the boys go up in the air.  Mark Twain's great humor peeks through often, most notably in some entertaining debates among the boys, but this remains a forgettable juvenile adventure that appears to have been hastily written and pales in comparison to its predecessors. Mark Twain "Tom Sawyer's Great Journey" (Polish) "Tom Sawyer's World Tour" (Telugu) "Astronaut Tom Sawyer" (Bengali) "Tom Sawyer Abroad" (Spanish)

Spider-Man (2002)

Director: Sam Raimi Writers: David Koepp, based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Stars: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons Director Sam Raimi and screenwriter David Koepp got  it just about right.   The story of high school nerd Peter Parker's (Toby Maguire) transformation into the powerful, crime-fighting Spider-Man is light, humorous, and filled with action and thrills.   The major characters from the comic are brought to life by the fine cast.   Unlike many, I thought that the CGI effects worked well.  The one disappointment in this film--and it was a big one--was the design of the Green Goblin's costume.  Why did they put that blank Power Rangers-type helmet on him when they had such a fine actor playing the role?  The Goblin's mask should have been malleable, just as it is in the comics so that we could have seen Willem Dafoe's acting.   As he demonstrated in the laboratory sc

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) (1887)

by Arthur Conan Doyle This book tells the story of how Sherlock Holmes and  Dr. Watson came to be partners and details their first murder case.   Virtually every conscious person in the Western world has heard of Holmes, and it is gratifying that his titanic status in our popular culture rests on the foundation of a solid mystery tale and character study.   It's very entertaining to follow as A. Conan Doyle introduces the various facets of the Holmes legend: we meet Gregson and Lestrade, watch Holmes and Watson take up lodgings at 221B Baker Street, and are introduced to Holmes' violin playing, pipe smoking, snuff addiction, and, of course, his incredible powers of deduction, which are a marvel to all.   Arthur Conan Doyle Watson's musings on Holmes' nature are often quite humorous as he attempts to figure out this eccentric individual.   The mystery itself is quite good.   Many have remarked on how the story derails with its lengthy digression to the back story of the