Reader’s Notebook, 5/30/18

My reading pace has come to a nearly complete stop over the past few weeks. That’s a shame, because I’m pretty sure I was on pace to have my best reading year ever. George Brett didn’t hit .400 the entire summer of 1980, so I guess I was due for a slump.


Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan.
I read this three weeks ago, so I’m not sure how much justice I can do to it. It was much hyped and lauded, but as with some of Egan’s previous books, I liked it but did not love it.

Egan goes back to World War II-era New York, for the most part, to follow Anna Kerrigan, a single woman in her 20s who, dissatisfied with the drudgery of inspecting parts at a arms production facility, talks her way into the navy’s diving program. Despite being mocked by her superiors and often treated as a joke, she not only earns her way into the program, but becomes one of its brightest students.

Surrounding Kerrigan’s story are the connected stories of two men that played profound roles in her life. Her father, Eddie, was a bit of a bag-man and small-time fixer for the local mob until his sudden disappearance in the early 1930s. Dexter Styles is a made man in the New York mob, connected to the crime world by occupation and the power elite of the east coast by marriage. He and Anna strike up an odd friendship that becomes more, only to be destroyed when Anna learns Styles has knowledge of her father’s disappearance.

Egan zips back and forth through the Depression era mob, the War era life of New Yorkers, and the life of a man who has run away and carved out a new identity for himself. She wraps things up in a manner that will likely be satisfying for many people. I just never fully connected with the story, or understood how the various parts fit together.


Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story – Chris Nashawaty. I linked to an excerpt of this a month or so back, and at the same time immediately put a hold on this book at my library. I believe I was the first person to check out my library’s copy. Sadly, that excerpt sucked up many of the book’s best parts.

Nashawaty spends as much time setting up the making of Caddyshack as he does breaking it down. We learn about the history of the National Lampoon and the various artistic venues that spun out from it as we do about the movie. Many of his revelations about Caddyshack will likely be familiar to anyone who has read even a little about the movie.

For children of 1980s comedy, this book will be enjoyable. But it was a disappointment to me, as I was hoping it would be filled with dozens of things I had never heard about before.