So, I’m trying to read more. I need to do it for several reasons, but part of it is I want to write more consistently over here and having a weekly post where I write about what I read each week will help with that. So this will be a weekly thing, not necessarily replacing the normal posts, but perhaps a little more consistently published.

This week I finished three books– JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, and 826DC’s You Will Be Able To Say A Thousand Words.

The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger)

If I had one word that seemed to stick out the most when I was reading this, it was ‘phony’. Holden Caulfield is almost obsessed with the phony-ness of the world around him, and is desperate for a human connection that is substantive. In truth, I probably would have liked this book better if I’d read it 5 or 6 years ago when I was actually a teenager. Holden, between the misanthropic, cynical attitude and the people hunting hat, is crafted to remind adults about what they were like when they were teenagers, which is probably why many adults dislike it. I have to say that I was more impressed with the wordcraft and the construction of the thing than the final product. I’m not sure that wasn’t intentional. I also find it absolutely unsurprising that this book hasn’t been adapted into a film– it’s not just Holden’s distaste for films (he compares his older brother writing screenplays to prostitution), but the book’s most important lines and passages (“He’s dead now”, “That kind of stuff has happened to me about 20 times since I was a kid”, etc.) almost exclusively happen in the narration, which really makes up a great deal of the character of the novel.

Rating: 3/5 — A good, solid piece of literature, well-crafted, but if you don’t like Holden Caulfield, you’re in for a rough ride.

Casino Royale (Ian Fleming)

This is not the first time I’ve read Casino Royale, nor, I suspect, will it be the last. This is actually the first book in the James Bond series, the world’s introduction to 007, and as such there are things that are just a bit off from what people expect. His signature martini is there (though served in a Champagne goblet, not a martini glass), but his iconic Walther PPK isn’t– instead he wields a Beretta 418 that Fleming himself used during his service in WWII. If you saw the Daniel Craig film of the book, he played an intense game of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. In the book, his game is a European variant of baccarat called chemin de fur, which actually appears in the film of Dr. No. Also, I tried reading Dr. No, but there were a few things that just put me off of it. Also, best line of the book: “Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles.”

Rating: 5/5 — Bond’s a classic for a reason, and there are relatively few moments where you remember “Oh yeah, this was written in the 1950’s”, so it has that going for it.

You Will Be Able To Say A Thousand Words (Edited by 826DC)

826DC is a non-profit organization based in Washington DC that aims to bring creative writing programs to elementary and secondary aged children. You Will Be Able To Say A Thousand Words is an anthology of some of the writings that their students have produced. One of the trends I noticed, as many others have noticed before me, is that as the kids get older, the writing gets more “realistic”, and in fact many of the pieces in the anthology are Creative Non-Fiction– a genre of writing that includes memoir and personal essay. It’s a genre I struggle with, but I admire its writers. Some of my favorite pieces: “Dear Freshman Self” by Ivan A., which is where the title comes from; “The sky is the limit, sorry kid who wants to be an astronaut, the sky is the limit” by Tessa T., which has a title that’s a poem unto itself; “Summer” by Naomi, which has the essence of a Kerouac haiku; “Absence” by Aneshia W., which starts with “The absence of you is gone.” which is an incredibly profound and poetic thought; “I Been Here Since I Been Born” by Danielle B., which reminds me of Langston Hughes; “First Writing Since…” by Asia A., which gives the poet’s take on the first Obama inaguration; “Untitled” by Ylan, which is five sentences that capture Douglas Adams better than I could; and “The Tiger” by Nael, which was the poem that brought the project to my attention and made me buy the book in the first place.

Rating: 5/5 — Writers need to read more young people’s writings. “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” – Pablo Picasso


Next week: GoldfingerVainity Fair (no, not that one), and perhaps some Philip K. Dick…


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