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winter 2013-14 075

The great writer accomplishes the act of putting the hero in impossible situations that start out bad and get worse.  As the tension builds, we root for the character and hope that he or she will be able to overcome the trouble and win, or at least survive to fight another day.

In Telegraph Avenue (yes, Berkeley), Michael Chabon slams us into the life of Archy Stallings who half owns a record shop with a partner, Nat Jaffe, who is eccentric.  Archy’s wife, Gwen, is expecting a baby in four weeks.  Archy is a flawed hero, but I was always hoping for good things for him.  Gwen is a tornado whom I sympathized with completely.

The book is another tremendous wallop from Chabon, full of lively, infuriating people and a parrot named Fifty-eight.  Set in 2004, it moves faster than The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay which I also liked.  The overview I read at B&N did not do justice to the story, but I am not sure I can do it better without spoilers.  

Archy’s wife and Nat’s wife are midwives with all the attending worries and problems that can happen when babies or wombs do not cooperate.  Archy’s father was a  movie star back in the day who is dreaming of a comeback, and he is one step ahead of people who would like to have a “talk” with him.

Archy’s record store, Brokeland, is about to be finally broken by having to compete with a complex of stores going in a few blocks away that will have its own huge record store.  Ex-NFL superstar Gibson Goode, the owner of the new complex, spars with Archy, promising him a job if he gives up the whereabouts of his dad.  

It is a complex story of people who are larger than life.  This book would make a great movie.  Reading wikipedia about Chabon’s previous stories and Hollywood, I am not sure if this will happen, but it should.

In The Lord of the Rings we think of Frodo and Sam working their way through Mordor with Sauron’s eye blazing, the Nazguls flying, and Gollum stalking the pair.  

In The Way of Kings, Kaladin Stormblessed, is always in danger from betrayal by men who command him in the army.  He goes from one danger to a worse one over and over while we watch him try to solve problems and save his men.

In a true story, The Murrow Boys by Cloud and Olson, the broadcast journalists find themselves in danger during WW II a lot.  They want to tell the story and fight CBS to be allowed to do it.  Bad situations got worse for them over and over.

Cecil Brown was on the British Cruiser Repulse when it and another battle ship were sunk by the Japanese.  The British at the time did not believe the Japanese where much of a threat.  No one would listen to Brown about the threat to Singapore.  

Eric Severied had to bail out of a C-46 which was flying over the Hump of the Himalayas in northern Burma on his way to China.  He had never used a parachute before.  

Pgs. 178-179

Hysterical thoughts raced through his mind: How will I live?  Are there berries to eat?  Can I make it out of here alone?  No, that’s impossible! But won’t they search for the plane?  They might not think I’m important, but surely Stilwell will order a search for Davies!

…Moments later they heard a strange, rhythmic chanting.  Severeid grabbed a knife and watched as some twenty men, clad in black breech-cloths and armed with spears and knives, appeared from over a hill.  They formed a semicircle around the Americans, and the chanting ceased.  The silence was terrifying.  Severeid stepped forward…

The tribesmen, who were Nagas, decided Severied must be the American’s leader…

A plane had seen them go down and dropped supplies.  They also brought Lt. Colonel Donald Flickinger, a surgeon based in India, and two assistants.  He had plenty of things to treat.  All those aboard the C-46 were found alive except the co-pilot.

Pg. 180

…Under Flickinger’s command, the Americans moved half a mile from the village to a clearing, where the Nagas erected three huts for them.  The village chief wanted them out-for one thing, he was tired of all the parachute drops flattening his crops-and the men were just as glad to put a little distance between themselves and the villagers, who, it turned out, were among the fiercest head hunters in Asia.
Bill Shirer disobeyed commands so that he could watch the signing of the armistice between the Germans and the French.  Murrow and Larry LeSueur did not seek shelter during the bombing of London.  One time LeSueur left his flat because the sound of the bombs interrupted his writing.  He went across the street to a basement of the BBC to find some quiet.  His apartment house and others nearby were completely flattened.

In many stories, it is true evil doers who make the hero’s life difficult.

In Louise Penny’s mystery series there is a secret group with power to harm Inspector Gamache who stalk him and his team.  The story grows through the whole series which is why I think it is best to read them in order.

In some adventure books the question is how does the enemy keep finding the hero?

In Winter’s Tale, Pearly Soames and his gang never let up on Peter Lake.  They chase him from the first pages, never giving up.    

As we read these books, the suspense builds and the hero continues to fight back.

Francis Crawford of Lymond in the Lymond Chronicles is one of those fighters.  I am not sure if any hero in any book ever had as many troubles as Lymond.  Dunnett takes him through horrifying depths and we go with him.

Which books have you read where the hero is put into hot water and then it gets worse?

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Robert Fuller says:

The Rowan Tree postings are approaching the end of Book II -- Adam is just about ready to make his move.

The Kindle version of The Rowan Tree still free on Kindle:

My memoir Belonging still free via Smashwords:

Belonging: A Memoir
Paperback – October 24, 2013
by Robert W. Fuller


"How did you make the leap from Physics to Dignity?" This question arises at every Robert Fuller talk. Belonging traces Fuller’s personal evolution and suggests that taking one’s questions seriously will lead to a life of meaning and purpose. Accompany Fuller as he meets with “somebodies” like Robert Oppenheimer, Indira Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, David Bowie, John Denver, and President Jimmy Carter, and share in the wisdom he finds in people whom the world writes off as “nobodies.” Belonging shows how transformative quests await anyone willing to learn from somebodies and nobodies alike.”


Diana in NoVa says she has just published a new book:

It's called The Deer at Lammas Tide: Nine Sabbat Tales…it's at

"Between one Lammas tide and another, everyday practitioners of the Craft of the Wise encounter magick in their lives.

A young woman confronts her prejudices in a dramatic way; an archaeologist finds a key to his future by a glimpse into a 2,000-year-old past; at Samhain, the Witches' New Year, an attorney finds the courage to let go of her first love; and the members of a circle of Goddess women experience joy, regret, violence, and love through one turn of the Wheel of the Year."

Naturally, I'm already hard at work on my second, third, fourth and fifth books!

NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


Which is your favorite flawed character?

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