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Of Human Bondage - W.Somerset Maugham.

His short stories are some of the best I've ever read, but for some reason I've always struggled with his novels. This is his longest one, over 700 pages long, and his "classic", published just before the 1WW and a sort of roman-a-clef. I remember when I was twenty something I tried it twice and couldn't finish it. Now I've absolutely loved it. It's a bit overwritten at the start, but once the story starts to flow it grows on you and only gets better and better. It's about everything really, a larger than life book in a philosophical sense, but also very detailed and domestic in the descriptions, from when Philip, the main character, is left an orphan in the care of his vicar uncle, to his miserable school days, his travels around Europe, his failed attempt to become an artist in Paris, at the height of impressionism, full of pathetic Monets in the making, unable to cope with the idea that they are not geniuses and living literally hand to mouth, his return to London, where he tries to become a doctor, and his following obsession with a waitress, the relentlessly obnoxious Mildred, one of the nastiest characters I've ever read, and which almost leads him to destitution and self-destruction (this part is very dark but wonderful, and predates the sordid glamour of the great "bedsitter" London novels of Patrick Hamilton and Norman Collins, Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sun and London Belongs To Me, with their lonely haunted characters, addictions and smoke filled dingy Soho nightclubs ) and his final personal redemption by the most unexpected and ordinary means, marriage, instead of travelling to the exotic Middle East of his imagination. In the end is about fate dictating life over personal choices.The club foot of Philip, which haunts him and for which he's mocked for through his life, I am sure is a metaphore for the author being gay. At some point he even has a surgery, but it cannot be "fixed".
 

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Story of the infamous Murder, Inc who were contract killers for the National Crime Syndicate. These guys worked mostly from the Brownsville-East New York section of Brooklyn where I grew up. Their headquarters was an innocuous looking candy store at the corner of Saratoga and Livonia Avenue. It is still functioning as a shop:





 

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Homage To Catalonia - George Orwell.

Great read so far. Painfully comic at times, lots of insight into trench warfare and a needed social perspective about a very unique place/time.
 

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Nearly finished with this one:
The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium by Paul Gottfried

The Strange Death of Marxism seeks to refute certain misconceptions about the current European Left and its relation to Marxist and Marxist-Leninist parties that existed in the recent past. Among the misconceptions that the book treats critically and in detail is that the Post-Marxist Left (a term the book uses to describe this phenomenon) springs from a distinctly Marxist tradition of thought and that it represents an unqualified rejection of American capitalist values and practices.

 
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