Waldo Gemio

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Waldo Gemio

Waldo Gemio’s book reviews

Early James tackling a theme familiar in his work: innocent Americans and their more experienced transatlantic cousins. The narrator overhears the conversation of two Americans who are also visiting London and takes an interest in the one whose health is failing. They coincide the following day at Hampton Court where they strike up a friendship. London, Hampton Court and Oxford are visited and admired; the relative merits of Englishness and American-ness are compared; and the sickly American half-heartedly lays claim to an old English estate not factoring in that he will fall in love with the lonely woman of the house. The ending is not quite as expected, and the way the Americans are charmed by certain parts of England is charming in itself, but non-Jamesians need not apply, so to speak.
Entertaining story about the problems besetting the eponymous couple when they decide to give 'a little dinner'. Thackeray provides a feast of unlikely names even for characters mentioned only in passing: '...(the late Prince of Schlippenschloppen)..', and there is a wonderful interlude in which the husband, Fitzroy, develops an infatuation for one of the 'angels' at Fubsby's and visits every day to flirt a little until discovered by the formidable Mrs Gashleigh, his mother-in-law, who henceforth has him in her grasp. Nothing new here, but there's compassion mixed in with the wit,and it's all in the way he tells them.
Very early Wodehouse, a school story that revolves around cricket, stolen money, and an embarrassing uncle (who happens to be younger than his nephew). Entire chapters are given over to descriptions of cricket matches, and aunts hardly get a mention. Still, his inimitable turn of phrase is already present, and true Wodehousians won't want to miss it.
White is one of the lesser-known noirists whose books were filmed by Kubrick and Godard ('Pierrot le Fou' was 'based on' 'Obsession') and were an influence on Tarantino. Despite the title, this is more of a character study, with a chilling portrayal of a cold-hearted manipulator called Flood and the men and women, good and bad, who follow his orders, however reluctantly. The attitudes to women are very much of its time (mid-fifties), i.e. three categories: good, bad, and married. There's humour, and violence, and a general sense of unease. Memorable pulp noir, a forgotten classic.
I came to this Conrad through Philip Roth's latest, "Exit Ghost". Nathan Zuckerman, old and incontinent, decides to reread the classic novels that impressed him as a young man and re-reads this one 'all in one go'. The novel is mentioned again, about a hundred pages in, because both protagonists, Zuckerman and the narrator of "Shadow Line" act recklessly at the beginning of their stories, doing something that will entirely change their way of life. But in Conrad's case it's a young man who takes his first command of a ship and feels old by the end of the story; in Roth's case it's an old man acting like a young one, wanting to be young again, but knowing that death is trying to intervene. I'm sure it's a good counterpoint to Roth's novel but in "Shadow" the ship refuses to move for most of its 126 pages and the story also doesn't move. I can see where someone might consider the difficult voyage a metaphor for the changes that occur to the main character's outlook, but it's too laboured. If you haven't read Conrad before, this is not the place to start. Try "Heart of Darkness" (among the short works) or the unforgettable "Lord Jim" (among the longer).
Perfectly readable but otherwise ordinary inheritance mystery with a Holmesian feel.
The first few pages, before the narrator speaks to the eponymous hero (whose surname is an anagram for 'derail'; this is no accident...) are the most entertaining as the narrator ruminates on abandoned letters, and how important it is not to strike up a friendship with strangers, even if you're staying at the same resort and see each other every day. The ending is a bit of a let-down, though.
Beautifully told story of a priest who falls in love with a beautiful woman at the very moment of taking his vows, and proceeds to lead a double life.

But she's dead.

Or is she?
Entertaining novella, a sort of 2001 A Space Odyssey in reverse: the apes don't become cleverer, but men turn into apes, as a punishment by Martians, no less. Written in 1941, there's even some satire about clipped-moustache heroes 'with murderous instincts'. The ending is a little pat, but it's never boring.