From the cluttered desk and deteriorating mind of Paul Levine...
Some people read one book straight through, then go on to the next. ">Maybe it's my Attention Deficit Disorder, but I hop from one book to another and back again. I sample writers' work by reading a few chapters, sometimes for pleasure and sometimes to learn.
How far into the story is the inciting incident? How many characters does the writer crowd into one scene? Where does Act I end? Is the story fresh? Are the characters distinctive and real? Are the plot twists logical? In crime fiction, has the writer played fair with the reader? Is there any glimmer of humor? Is character development woven smoothly into plot (and vice versa)? Do the characters talk like real people? How's the pacing? Does the writing pack punch? And of course, how are the sex scenes?
So, here's what's on my desk and nightstand:
BOOKS I'M READING AGAIN: "Thy Neighbor's Wife" by Gay Talese; and "On Writing" by Stephen King.
BOOKS I'M READING FOR RESEARCH: "Havana Nocturne" by T.J. English; "Sins of South Beach" by Alex Daoud; "Cuban Miami" by Robert Levine and Moises Asis; "Tough Jews" by Rich Cohen; and "Tropical Deco" by Laura Cerwinske.
BOOKS I'M READING FOR PLEASURE: "Blue Heaven" by C.J. Box; "The Winter of Frankie Machine" by Don Winslow; "Between Meals" by A.J. Liebling; and "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin.
BOOKS I'M DYING TO READ: "The Human Disguise" by James O'Neal, so titled apparently because his alter ego James Born is in the Witness Protection Program; "Strong Enough to Die" by Jon Land; and "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
So what are you guys reading, or have just read, or must read before you die?
IN OTHER LITERARY NEWS: Alaskan stud muffin Levi Johnson, the unemployed high school dropout who is the father of Bristol Palin's love child, has hired a lawyer to shop his memoirs.
ARE WE A NATION OF FATTIES OR WHAT? On this week's New York Times "advice and how-to" bestsellers, six of the top ten are diet books, including number one: "Cook Yourself Thin" by the staff of Lifetime Television. Yummy.
IS JAMES BORN "INTRIGUING?" In the current issue of Florida Magazine, our James Born was selected as one of the 21 Most Intriguing Floridians. I know what you're thinking. Florida must be a very boring state. At least the magazine didn't try to tell us that Jim is:
THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD: That title belongs to the suave gent in the Dos Equis commercials.
STAY THIRSTY MY FRIENDS
All joking aside, it's a great honor for our Jim, who, like the Don Equis man, leads a life so interesting, he lives vicariously through himself.