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STEVE JOBS

I took the last two days off and spent the better part of those two days reading Steve Jobs, the biography. It's a bit of a beast at 600 pages but I found it an easy read and zipped through it quickly. I didn't know that much about him but now I feel like I do. That is a fitting tribute to the author and I think it is the best book I have read this year.

Jobs was clearly a design and marketing genius and the author describes that aspect of the man very well. And he does a very good job of maintaining objectivity about his subject. Although there was plenty about Jobs personal life I would have liked to have seen even more since Jobs, like other geniuses, was an extraordinarily complex man seemingly filled with contradictions. Having said that I thought the author did a comprehensive and excellent job overall. And thankfully for me he did not write the story of Apple but a comprehensive story of Steve Jobs.

I found myself fascinated with the personal side of Steve Jobs and at times even emotionally affected when the author wrote about his last days. Perhaps that affected me because of the closeness of our ages. After reading nearly six hundred pages I was especially struck by Job's love letter to his wife as the end neared:

"We didn’t know much about each other twenty years ago. We were guided by our intuition; you swept me off my feet. It was snowing when we got married at the Ahwahnee. Years passed, kids came, good times, hard times, but never bad times. Our love and respect has endured and grown. We’ve been through so much together and here we are back to where we started 20 years ago—older, wiser—with wrinkles on our faces and hearts. We now know many of life’s joys, sufferings, secrets and wonders and we’re still here together. My feet have never returned to the ground."

A man who writes like that is to be admired. And it doesn't matter what he did for a living. Go read this book. It's a keeper.

By: Lewis Medlock on December 16, 2011 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

OXFORD AMERICAN'S LISTS

The Oxford American has their list out of the best southern novels of all time.  For some reason I thought I probably had read most of the top ten.  I haven't.  In fact not that many.

The list is heavy with Faulkner. For whatever reason he's never been big for me.  Of the top ten my favorite is To Kill A Mockingbird.  After the top ten I like Deliverance of course and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. 

The OA also lists it's best non-fiction.  Shelby Foote's Civil War narrative is there of course.  I haven't read all of the books but what he did was incredible in its scope.  In Cold Blood is there too.  I read that one in my twenties.

I can't comment on the list beyond that but at the very least it's a great reading list for the future.

By: Lewis Medlock on September 17, 2009 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

FATE AND DEATH, OF COURSE

Even when it should be obvious sometimes I can't see the simplest things in front of me.

I recently read a review of McCarthy's No Country for Old Men.  It's both one of my favorite books and movies.  The review was of the book and not the movie. 

The reviewer's interpretation of Anton Chirguh was that he was the symbol for Death and/or Fate and the embodiment of evil.  Why?  Because he was intensely scary.  And because he was one-dimensional.  A believable killer and nothing else.  One course of action.  No personality beyond being a relentless brutal murderer.  No emotions.  No straying from his task.  No remorse. 

I read that review and it was like the last few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle falling into place.  Of course Chirguh is Fate or Death.  And Llewelyn Ross is symbolic of the materialism that ultimately leads him to a bad end.  Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the observer of the dangerous dance between Chirguh and Ross and the everyman trying to make some sense of what he has witnessed.  His conclusion is that the country and our society have plunged terribly downward into something he no longer understands or to be a party to.  Thus no country for old men.

I know there are other interpretations but for me that one works perfectly.  How did I miss something so obvious? 

By: Lewis Medlock on August 25, 2009 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WHAT I'M READING

It's been a long time since I've posted about what I'm reading but I'm remedying that today. 

My reading tends to go in two directions. 

I'm either in a mood to read escapism, usually in the form of a imperfect American male who's tough as they come but has a conscience, knows what needs to be done and does it no matter what.  I think that may have its origin from my early years of reading Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer books.  Anyway that's why I like James Lee Burke whose alcoholic Dave Robicheaux is my favorite literary character.  I also like Michael Connelly's smart but flawed Harry Bosch. 

Just recently I've discovered Lee Child and his guy Jack Reacher.  He may be the best author that I've found for meeting my escapist needs since I discovered Burke.  As you can tell I lean toward authors who have a series based on a character or characters.  Currently I'm into Child's Bad Luck and Trouble.  It's my first time for him but based on that book I'll be going through the whole series.  I believe Mr. Child, in literary form, will be accompanying me to Hilton Head in August for R & R.  Other candidates include The Signal and  All That I Have.  Sooner or later I'll read both of those.

When I'm not in the mood for escapism I'm like Jack.  As in Webb.  I just want the facts.  Well, not just the facts but also written in an appropriate literary manner. I finished The Bin Ladens a while back and now I've got my eye on this account of the Bataan Death march.  I actually had a professor in college who was a survivor of that and for some reason I think I may have met another survivor at some point in my life.  I'm also interested in The Forever War and Crazy for the Storm.  The latter is a memoir which I usually avoid but that one looks interesting.

By: Lewis Medlock on June 24, 2009 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A NEW DAVE ROBICHEAUX BOOK (AND MOVIE)

This is great news. 

I await the latest Robicheaux books like a child waiting on Christmas.  51oltx4z7l_ss500_It's a little bit of bad timing for me though.  The book is coming out in July and I leave for Hilton Head and vacation week after next.  I usually read the latest book while on vacation.  It's a habit of mine--so much so that I've actually held a new book for months before reading it because I like to read James Lee Burke when the routine of daily life isn't interfering.   Unless I take another trip later in the year I guess I'll have to break that habit this time.

For any other JLB fans out there the movie of In the Electric Mist is due out in late fall or perhaps early Spring of 2009.  I think the casting in that movie is great with Tommy Lee Jones as Dave.  One of my favorite new actresses Kelly MacDonald, also from No Country for Old Men, is in it too.  Sadly there's no Clete Purcel in the book so I won't get to see him visually on the screen.  I always had NIck Nolte in mind to play him.  Although I can't see him in a porkpie hat he's got the edginess needed to play that role.  Clete is just a hair away from being as good a character as Dave.  A noble mon.  Indeed.

By: Lewis Medlock on May 30, 2008 in Books | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

BOOKS GALORE

Is it just me or is there an abnormal amount of interesting books out recently?

I just finished Walter Mosely's latest--Blond Faith.  I was already in the midst of reading The Places In Between.  Then the library called today and I picked up Clapton: The Autobiography and Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson both of which I had on reserve.  The former is self-explanatory.  The  latter is a lengthy tome of the Vietnam War. 

Yesterday The Professor told me about Plainsong which looks good.  And I still have Down River on reserve. 

It's a good thing I'm retired.  I wouldn't have time to read all these books otherwise.

By: Lewis Medlock on November 5, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MY 2007 WANT TO READ LIST

Every year about this time I sit down and make out a list of books that I'm interested in reading.  I'll usually glean the "Best Books" lists of the year before and/or books of the new year that look good.  Then over the course of the next twelve months I'll try to read them.  Sometimes I get all of them read and sometimes I don't.  That's because I still read for pleasure other authors I like, etc.  The books on my list have to catch my interest fast and hold it or I just close them and forget them.  For some reason I have yet to fathom they tend to be non-fiction books.  Here's my 2007 list with some comments but in no particular order.  I'm currently reading number 9.

1. Game of Shadows.  Barry Bonds, Balco, etc and creating better superstars through better chemistry.

2. Sweet and Low: A Family Story.  Family business creates fortune.  It also creates squabbles, greed, jealously, FDA involvement--you get the idea.

3. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.  Nora Ephron on aging.  Ain't it the truth.

4. The Emperor's Children.  Trumpeted as a NYC 9/11 novel and "contemporary comedy of manners."

5. The Places In Between.  The author walked across Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban was deposed.  How could you not want to read about that?

6.  What Is the What.  Fictional recreation of a true story of a Sudanese refugee's life.

7. Imperial Life in the Emerald City.  Fun, games and incompetence inside Iraq's Green Zone.

8.  My Life in the Rough.  Golfer Long John Daly grips it and rips it about his life on and off the course.

9.  Heat.  Behind the scenes in Mario Batali's kitchen.   Along the lines of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.

10. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in IraqRumsfeld, Feith and Wolfowitz and their war plans and management.

11.  The Works: Anatomy of a City.  The Big Apple's innards revealed for all the world to see.

By: Lewis Medlock on January 9, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A CLASSIC BOOK

I used to be a voracious reader.  It wasn't unusual for me to devour more than a book a week or start and finish a book in one day.  I tended toward non-fiction.  For whatever reason I've always had an interest in how things worked or how events happened or who did what and when. 

But that has changed as I've aged.  More family and work responsibilities, Internet availability and other assorted things have squeezed my available time for reading.  And frankly I don't find that many books that are really worth my time anymore.  Sure I enjoy every Dave Robicheaux book that Burke puts out.  They're well-written with good plots and his imagery and writing is amazing but they aren't books that truly emotionally affect me down deep.  I'm talking about books that really make you think, alter your view of things or even change your life a little bit.  For me that really narrows things down.

If you asked me what the most influential books I ever read were I would say that there are two that really stand out in my mind.  And I read both many years ago.  But I still re-read them from time to time.  I consider both classics--setting a standard of excellence that other books can be measured against.  The first one was Deliverance by James Dickey and yes it's the origin of the name of this blog.  There's a reason for that of course.

The book was published in 1970 and to the best of my knowledge that's when I first read it.  I can distinctly remember being intrigued by its title.  What did it mean and why use that word for its title?  I don't remember the exact place and time when I sat down and began reading but I do remember being completely absorbed by what I was reading.

On the surface the book tells a terrifying story of four suburban buddies who take a weekend to explore and revel in nature before it is flooded by dam-building.  But the reveling turns out to be much more than they expected.  That story is told in beautiful but terrifying detail that only a poet like James Dickey could do (Dickey was known primarily as a poet until this book):

I knelt down.  As my knees hit, I heard a sound, a snap-slap in the woods, a sound like a rubber band popping or a sickle-blade cutting quick.  The older man was standing with the gun barrel in his hand and no change in the stupid, advantage-taking expression of his face, and a foot and a half of bright red arrow was shoved forward from the middle of his chest.  It was there so suddenly it seemed to have come from within him.

On a much deeper layer it's a story of human conflict at its most basic level.  Courage, manhood and ultimately survival are required of everyday individuals placed in an extraordinary circumstance.   Rarely has a book combined such a compelling story and allegory.  I soon found myself understanding why the book was titled with only one word.

In some ways, Dickey's book was overshadowed by the making of the movie Deliverance a few years later.  The movie was so beautiful, powerful and gripping that its artistry seemed to put the book in background.  That's unfortunate because Dickey's work was of course the genius on which the movie was built.  Nearly forty years later it remains a classic.

By: Lewis Medlock on October 24, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

PEGASUS DESCENDING

I just discovered that James Lee Burke's newest, Pegasus Descending, will be released July 18.  It's the fifteenth and latest in his Dave Robicheaux series.  If you're a fan of Southern descriptive, gritty writing with great character development, do yourself a favor and read any of the Robicheaux books.  Then savor every line.  My favorite:  Black Cherry Blues.  So go and enjoy.  I told you life was good...you just weren't listening.

By: Lewis Medlock on July 11, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GUESTS OF THE AYATOLLAH

Mark Bowden, of Blackhawk Down fame,  has a new book coming out this week. 

It's called Guests of the Ayatollah and it's the story of the Iran hostage crisis that occurred in 1979.  It's subtitled The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam.  It's also being excerpted in The Atlantic this month.  The excerpt is about the failed rescue mission by Delta Force and as you might expect from  Bowden it's a great read.  Check it out.  Also at that site there are related stories about the crisis--including an update on the Iranian hostage takers and where they are now. 

By: Lewis Medlock on April 21, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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