The evolution of P.G. Wodehouse

I am a huge fan of author P.G. Wodehouse and have read and re-read a large fraction of his oeuvre, a not insignificant feat considering how prolific he was. I am particularly partial to his Blandings Castle series and his Jeeves and Wooster series. While the books are self-contained, they do contain recurring characters so the author provides enough explanatory details from other books to fill in the reader of the state of affairs so that one does not necessarily need to read them in order to follow the plots.
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Harry and Hermione (Harry Potter spoiler alert!)

When I was reading the Harry Potter books, although J. K. Rowling told a good yarn and plotted her stories well, the romance between Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley never seemed to me to be plausible. It seemed like the author was trying to avoid the obvious narrative device of the leading man and leading woman getting together at the end and was going for the slightly counter-intuitive relationship. It just did not work for me. Harry’s romance and marriage to what’s-her-name was also implausible as can be seen from the fact that I can’t even recall her name (or her face from the films) and remember anything about her except that she was Ron’s sister.
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Trying to solve a puzzle for which there is no solution

I grew up voraciously reading mystery novels, with Agatha Christie being my author of choice, with other mystery writers thrown in from time to time. She was a prolific writer and I suspect that I have read at least 90% of her output. Hence my ideas about the conventions of that genre have largely been shaped by her books. [Read more…]

Book review: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013) by Lawrence Wright

Reader Norm kindly sent me a copy of the above book and said that he had enjoyed it and I must say that it was a real page-turner. I had intended to write a full review but I came across a good one by Diane Johnson in the New York Review of Books, along with a review of a memoir by Jenna Miscavige Hill (the niece of the current Scientology leader David Miscavige) who defected from the church, that captured much of what I wanted to say so I will just refer you to that review and add some thoughts of my own. [Read more…]

Book review: Dirty Wars (2013) by Jeremy Scahill

The book came out earlier this year and a documentary film with the same name was released in June and is available on demand on Netflix. Both cover the same ground but in different ways and are invaluable for anyone who wants to understand how the war of terror has evolved and where it is heading. In short, it is headed in the direction in which ‘the world is a battlefield’ (the subtitle of the book) and the US is now engaged in fighting eruptions of what it sees as terrorism in over 70 countries around the globe. [Read more…]

Charles Knowlton and the golden age of freethought

If you asked me to list the names of 19th century American atheists, I would have said Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899) and stopped. He is clearly the most famous but it turns out that there is another person who preceded him, and that was Dr. Charles Knowlton. I became aware of him because of a new biography titled An Infidel Body-Snatcher and the Fruits of His Philosophy by Dan Allosso. [Read more…]