Peter Dexter’s novel “Train” from 2003

A great read is Train by Pete Dexter from 2003. It is a novel set in California with two main characters, Lionel “Train” Walk and Miller Packard. It is a story about race and golf, sex and murder, work and play, love and hatred, dogs and flamingos. Supporting the main two is a host of memorable personalities. There is a character called “Plural” and another called “Sweet” and a woman photographic artist called “susan” with no capital “S” and no last name. And then there is Nora and much of the story turns around her. This is an American story that deals with a lot of elements: trust, talent, potential, betrayal but mostly it deals with how to  hope, how to discover its limits and its cracks. How to see them, how to ignore them. Dexter is a phenomenally gifted writer. To be sure, read this book or The Paper Boy, Deadwood, or Paris Trout.

Pete Dexter’s novel, The Paper Boy, 1995

I stayed up last night all night to finish reading Pete Dexter’s fine novel, The Paper Boy. Set in Florida it is an exceptional study of characters turning out the only way they can. The story is backdropped against the correction of a miscarriage of justice, a small town newspaper family, poor white folk living in Florida swamps, and the mechanics and ethics of investigative journalism. But mostly it is a clear view of a handful of fascinating characters. I will never eat vanilla ice cream again without thinking of the Van Wetters. HIghly recommended. The third of Dexter’s novels that I have read, Deadwood and Paris Trout, are also fine books.

Tawni O’Dell – Coal Run – great novel

Just finished reading Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell. Treat yourself. Get this book and read it. It made me think about my family, childhood, adulthood and a million memories. Made me think of two old friends both sports stars who hurt their legs before reaching their full potential. It is a novel about families and coal mining country.

It is probably the best novel I have read in the past 7 years. Wish I could have written it.

I will be looking for the rest of her work.

see her website

Pete Dexter’s Deadwood (1986)

treat yourself to a great reading experience and seek out a copy of Deadwood by Pete Dexter, published in 1986. I just finished reading it and I enjoyed every page.

My interest in all things Deadwood began with the HBO series. Dexter had nothing to do with that production. The hero of his novel is Charlie Utter. He has become one of my favourite characters of all time. Having read Dexter’s book I feel like I spent the time in the nineteenth century. I think the only other writer who has taken me back in time to that depth of feeling is Patrick O’Brian in the Aubrey-Maturin series.

If you watched HBO Deadwood you will find it interesting to compare and contrast the characters of Bullock, Hickok, Star, Swearingen, and Calamity Jane. Jack McCall, the cat man, and killer of Hickok receives an interesting “life” in Dexter’s novel.

A must read.

Mary Magdalene – reading

In my recent reading, I have encountered plots that involve directly or indirectly Mary Magdelene. When I was a kid and paying some attention to the question should women be ordained, I always thought the answer should be yes. What came to mind was the simple fact that there were two people standing at the foot of the cross, Mary, the mother of Christ, and Mary Magdalene. All those brave apostles were hiding. Peter denied Christ three times. Quite a rock.

the most recent book to have MM in it, The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra translated by Alberto Manguel…..I have been working my way through Manguel’s work this winter.

A recent item I found about him, referred to his personal library, a collection of 30,000 books. I don’t have his problems, since I read only English. Although I am tempted to consider seriously the study of Spanish to read in the original the wonderful literature in that language

Alberto Manguel – two books you would enjoy

Alberto Manguel was born in Buenos Aires in 1948, was educated there, and was a friend of Jorge Luis Borges late in Borges’s life. He was raised in Israel where his father was the Argentine ambassador. In 1984 he became a Canadian citizen. Manguel is a gifted anthologist, translator, editor, and occasional novelist. He now lives in France

I just finished reading The Library at Night and felt compelled to see if my local small town library had any other books by him. Found A History of Reading on a bottom shelf, unfortunately covered in dust. I am part way through it and plan to keep searching out his books.

I have been remembering my early history of reading and sat down and made a list of libraries I have studied in or at least visited. My current library is about 3000 books. It includes some old leather bound volumes that belonged to my grandfather, Dr. William Gibson, of Kingston. These include poetry by Coleridge, novels by Stevenson. Books that I inherited from my parents include many of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin mysteries. I still have a book I requested as the only gift I wanted for a birthday when I was about 12, A History of Warfare by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. I still have it. One book I still value very much although it is in tatters and is marked up in several colours of ink, is a paperback edition from Faber and Faber of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

If you have an interest in reading, in collecting books, in libraries, in the magic of words then by all means available, go find these two titles and enjoy them.

Pat Barker, Regeneration Trilogy

I am part way through rereading this exceptional trilogy set in World War One. I have read Regeneration and am just started The Eye in the Door. For those who have not read these three novels (The Ghost Road, winner of the 1995 Booker Prize, is the final novel), you should. Regeneration begins with the Declaration that the war must stop – made by Siegfried Sassoon, decorated army officer and poet and his treatment for psychological damage from his time in combat. Dr. Rivers, like Sassoon a real-life figure, is another central character, who struggles with the Army and its attitudes, the difficulty of treatment, the moral question of treating men in order to help them and then to send them back in many cases to combat. Barker’s style is lean, effective, emotion-based. I am glad I hung on to my copies of her three novels and that I am now re-reading them. One detail that has always stuck in my brain, the yellow complexions of the young and old women working in the munitions plants.  I suppose it has something to do with the memory of my mother telling me that she worked in a munitions plant in Montreal making 20mm shells during the Second World War.