Two New Books

I just started two new books: ‘Jacqueline Kennedy – Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy’, Interviews with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and ‘The Other Mexico: Critique of the Pyramid’ by Octavio Paz.

I haven’t yet decided which will be my morning book and which will be my afternoon book, but the process is simple.

Example. I just finished ‘Brown Dog: Novellas’ by Jim Harrison and I have to agree with whatever critic said ‘…Brown Dog was the modern day Huck Finn.’ It was a delightful read about a delightfully irresponsible character living in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. A quartet of stories about a middle aged goof who just liked to fish, drink, and generally be a free man living in the big outdoors. He has some hilarious encounters with women who find him attractive because he is rugged and mostly uncomplicated.

It was my morning book because there was something on just about every single page that made me laugh out loud and consequently was a great way to start the day from the hammock on my sunny fifth floor rooftop terrace.

My afternoon read was Thomas McGuane’s, ‘Nobody’s Angel’; a reread (the third time over 25 years) that I hated to finish because it was [still] so damned good. One passage that especially shines is where our hero upon emerging from a tavern, a smidgen sour and more than a tad drunk, encounters ‘a great malamut-German shepherd crossbreed cur’ that roared at him; the ferocity and suddenness of which about stopped his heart. He was in that particular poisoned frame of mind where it seemed perfectly natural for him to climb on the hood of the car and then provoke the dog into savagely destroying the entirety of the interior of the car.

‘Patrick clambered over the car until the beast’s eyes were rolling; then he went inside to buy a six-pack…’ He sat on the curb drinking. ‘In a moment an extraordinary well groomed couple came out with one bag and a magazine, the man in the lead, and went straight to the car. He opened it , yelled “MY GOD” and quickly shut it. The beast arose once again in the windshield, revealing a vast expanse of whitening gum, and sized up his owners.’
“Are you sure that’s your car?” Patrick called out in a friendly voice. The husband whirled. “Absolutely!” he shouted. His magazine fluttered to the pavement.
“I’d let that old boy simmer down,” Patrick suggested unoffendably. The wife pertly noted that sled dogs were a little on the high-octane side.
“I can see that!” Patrick cried like a simpleton.
Something about that challenged the husband, and he pulled open the door of the car. The rabid sled dog shot between the two and landed huge and spraddled in front of Patrick, gargling vicious spit through his big, pointed white teeth.’

The dog story goes on for another page or two in classic McGuane style and I won’t say any more other than to say Patrick spends a night in jail after commenting “That fucker needs a sled.”
“He’s got one,’ the owner shot back.
“I mean your wife.”

PS – I am just a dozen or so pages into ‘The Other Mexico: Critique of the Pyramid’ and once again I am admiring Octavio Paz’s erudite powers of observation where he noted that ‘Progress has peopled history with the marvels and monsters of technology but it has depopulated the life of man. It has given us more things but not more being.’
This book was published in 1969 and he said is ‘a reflection of what has taken place in Mexico since I wrote ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude’ [one of my favorite books of all time.]

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