Mr. Sammler’s Planet

sammler's planet

I started Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet February 6. Bellow’s one of my favorite writers and I was looking forward to a story I hadn’t read. I picked it up and put it down again after again. Often weeks went by when I didn’t pick it up.

Mr. Sammler survived the Holocaust and went on to become a fairly successful professor in New York. The novel’s a slice of life as he runs across a wide array of relatives and associates who aggravate him. He’s perceptive and erudite. The main plot involves him having to track down a colleague’s manuscript and he has to go from one person to the next and they all have messy lives. He muses a lot about all these people, whom he analyzes ad nauseam.

After months of trying to get into this book, I’ve given up. While I admit that Bellow always has good style, but I wasn’t drawn to any of the characters and their plight didn’t grab me. As I was half way through the book, I didn’t think it was worth spending more time on so I’ve abounded it.

If you want to try Saul Bellow, start with The Adventures of Augie March. That’s quite a ride.

Have you ever had trouble getting through a book by an author you love?

Another Kingdom

anotherk

I don’t usually read adventure or fantasy novels, but I enjoyed Andrew Klavan’s The Good Great Thing, so I thought since he made his name writing adventurous thrillers, I’d give his latest book a chance. In Another Kingdom, twenty-something Austin Lively’s screenwriting career is tanking. His parents are highly successful as is his older brother and Austin dreads spending time with them. He’s close with his sister Riley, a fragile, imaginative girl who’s big into conspiracy theories and needs a Catcher in the Rye.

Austin doesn’t have the time to moan about dinner with his successful family members because out of the blue Austin mysteriously finds himself in some fantastic medieval-type world. It’s all the more puzzling because in this land, called Galiana, Austin is on trial for murder. Totally disoriented, Austin has no idea what to do to escape prison so he can avoid torture followed most assuredly by a slow, excruciating death. Boom, he’s back in Tinseltown at the local hipster coffeeshop or the studio. All’s not safe in L.A. though because soon some goons employed by a maniacal billionaire who’s after the novel Another Kingdom, that Austin’s studio wanted him to cover before his boss mysteriously recalled the assignment. Nothing makes sense. Everything’s over the top. Danger’s everywhere and Austin’s life is a series of volley’s from Galiana to L.A.

Klavan’s style is sly and witty, full of wisecracks. The plot is brisk, full of twists and turns to keep you guessing. All in all, it’s a fun summer read. I haven’t been sold on thrillers or fantasy, but Another Kingdom entertains.

After Ashley

I just read Gina Gianfriddo’s play After Ashley. It’s a witty play with some strong content. It shares the story of Ashley Hammond a very unhappy woman who’s stuck in her marriage and discusses her troubles with Justin her 14 year old son. She doesn’t have a good sense of boundaries and goes to town on her husband to her son, who continually begs her to stop complaining about his dad.

When Aaron Hammond, Ashley’s husband, appears he announces that he’s hired a homeless man to work around the house and Ashley challenges him on this choice. Like Rapture, Blister, Burn, the lead female character is lost, strong and sexually experimental (you don’t see that side, you hear about it) and the male lead is more passive and seeks out a troubled person to come into his home to work against his wife’s wishes.

The play jumps ahead three years and Ashley’s had been raped and murdered by the homeless guy. Of course, that’s hard to take, but Gianfriddo does a better job than most writers with the topic. Readers or audiences see Justin and Aaron struggling to over how to cope with their loss. Justin is certainly critical of Aaron’s decision to cash in and gain fame by hosting a tasteless reality show about victimhood.

The play sounds like it’s so violent and bleak. I can’t recommend it because, while I liked the writing and the playwright presents us with her ideas from a comfortable distance while still making her point, I can see it’s not for everyone. Still, the play is smart and well paced. If you’re not sensitive to the subject matter, I think you’d enjoy After Ashley.