Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Carpetbaggers

This morning I decided to take a break from my normal morning reading project and instead chose to complete The Carpetbaggers, by Harold Robbins. I did that for two reasons: I wanted to get it wrapped up because I knew I would have time to blog about it today but I also really wanted to see how it ended. Yes, I liked it quite a lot. This is one that I picked up at a used book store years ago, not knowing anything about it. But I do like the time period...an awful lot of things changed in the world between the early 1900s and 1945 when the book ends, and so I made the purchase.

According to my research, at least one source lists this book as the 4th most read novel of all time. I don't know if that is really true but certainly it has been a widely read story for more than 40 years so obviously a lot of people have read it. The book apparently is somewhat notorious, largely for pushing the sexual boundaries of the time, right up to the edge. By today's standards it is relatively tame and, in fact, most of the sexual scenes occur offstage although there is a lot of innuendo. The book is fairly long; my paperback is almost 700 pages long with pretty small print.

The main story takes place over a 20 year period between the World Wars. The main character is a Howard Hughes type tycoon named Jonas Cord with all sorts of business interests but most especially aircraft development and Hollywood pictures. His is mostly a tragic story up until the very end when he finally realizes what makes him happy. It is interesting to note that Harold Robbins knew Howard Hughes fairly well but despite so many similarities to Hughes, Robbins claims the model for the Jonas Cord character was actually Bill Lear (developer of the Lear jet and the 8-track tape player). The backdrop for the novel is absorbing as well; we get to see the roaring 20s, the depression era 30's, the lead up to World War II as well as the war itself; all major impacts on the plot.

The intriguing thing about this book though is not so much the story but rather, how the story is told. It is divided into eight sections: four sections are Jonas Cord's life told in his own first person point of view and the other four sections are devoted to the backstories of four key people who Jonas interacts with during his life. One is a former gunfighter turned stuntman turned star of the silent movie era. One is a Hollywood actress (allegedly based on Jean Harlow). A third is a movie company executive and a fourth is a high-priced courtesan turned movie starlet. We get absorbed in their individual stories; they are very captivating all on their own. And it is really through them that we come to know Jonas himself. When you put the whole thing together you really get a great sense of the characters as well as the era itself. I have to say I really enjoyed the novel a lot more than I expected I would.

I've also completed the next entry in Stephen King's collection, Skeleton Crew. This one was just a short poem though, "For Owen" but unlike most of the other stories in this colllection, this poem was previously unpublished. It is only 34 lines long and concerns Mr King walking his young son to school. His son tells him how the students in the school are like fruit. That's about all I can tell you because as I have mentioned before, I really don't get poetry. I'm sure there are meanings here within deeper meanings but I am simply too obtuse to understand them. Perhaps I am overly sensitive to the poem because as a young student, one of my nicknames was "Banana-Head." Life goes on.

Next up: Undiscovered Gyrl as part of my obligations to the Amazon Vine program.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire