Just bringing this discussion over to ning...

What books are you reading right now that don't have a narrative driven by images as well as words?

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I just finished a couple of Discworld novels (The Color of Magic and Equal Rites), which I loved.  I'll definitely be reading more, and can't believe I waited so long. Now I'm reading 2001: A Space Odyssey. I've seen the movie several times, but never read the book. As Arthur C. Clarke mentions in the introductory material, the book was written before the movie script, but it was always intended to be filmed. A pretty unique genesis for a book, as far as I know. The interesting thing is that for the book Clarke had to spell out some things that are only implied in the movie. Right at the beginning, he explains exactly what is going on with the monolith. It occupies several chapters, much more than the few minutes I recall from the movie. I'll definitely have to see the film again after I finish reading.

Before Clarke wrote the sequels he wrote a book on the making of the film, The Lost Worlds of 2001. Wikipedia tells me this had "excerpts from the proto-novel and an early screenplay". I probably didn't read those bits: what I remember are a number of diary entries which had anecdotes about his collaboration with Kubrick. Such as, that after Kubrick watched Things to Come he rang Clarke up and told him he'd never watch another film he recommended.

I've just finished listening to the Librivox version of The Power-House, which is a pre-war thriller(1) by John Buchan that anticipates The Thirty-Nine Steps in a couple of ways. The hero is an MP and lawyer who learns through a series of coincidences in the existence of an underground conspiracy. At the climax its agents hunt him through the streets of London. The book is only short.

(1) It was published in book form during the war, but first appeared in Blackwood's Magazine in 1913.

My Kindle version is the "Millennial Edition," and some of those stories are related in Clarke's Foreward, including the film recommendation one. 

Luke Blanchard said:

Before Clarke wrote the sequels he wrote a book on the making of the film, The Lost Worlds of 2001. Wikipedia tells me this had "excerpts from the proto-novel and an early screenplay". I probably didn't read those bits: what I remember are a number of diary entries which had anecdotes about his collaboration with Kubrick. Such as, that after Kubrick watched Things to Come he rang Clarke up and told him he'd never watch another film he recommended.

...Am reading George Pelecanos's DRAMA CITY (crime novel) .

I took my time with Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City: His Way from The Fantasticks to Law and Order, by John Anthony Gilvey. It's a biography of the late, great, and much-missed actor. It's hard to believe he died 10 years ago. When he passed, I felt like I lost my favorite uncle -- the cool one who takes you to the pool hall and teaches you how to smoke cigars. Playing pool and cards were talents that kept the bills paid when he was between acting gigs.

Of course, he's well-known for Law & Order, but as the back cover of the book states, that represents only 12 years of a 50-year career. Born to a father who was a Sephardic Jewish immigrant from Germany and a mother who was a Polish-Lithuanian Roman Catholic from Pennsylvania, Jerry Orbach got the acting bug in elementary school, and performed all the way through high school. His parents couldn't talk him out of dropping out of college after his junior year to get going professionally.

From there, he had many highs and lows. Highs included long, acclaimed runs in such works as The Fantasticks (which won him a Tony award), the original production of Chicago, and the original production of 42nd Street. He had fitful success in movies in the '60s and '70s; casting agents thought he was too tall, too ethnic, too dark, too New York, too whatever-it-is-we-don't-like. Even when he got movies then, they either didn't do well or didn't do his career or reputation much good.

One was The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. He played "Kid Sally" Palumbo, a character modeled on mobster Joey Gallo. As it happened, Gallo had gotten out of prison the year before the movie's release, and wanted to meet Orbach and register his objections. My first (and second) thought would be, How do I get out of this?, but Orbach met Gallo, and they struck up a lifelong friendship. Gallo became the toast of New York high society, hanging out weekly at dinner parties in Orbach's home attended by Orbach's pals in the theater and publishing communities. Orbach's wife even worked up a deal to co-write Gallo's memoirs. They all thought "Hey, he's paid his debt to society," and it was all in good humor. However, people like Nicholas Pileggi, Gay Talese and Mario Puzo -- guys who have written books about mobsters -- never went to these events, because they knew hanging out with mobsters, even "reformed" mobsters, is a bad idea. Particularly because mobsters have enemies.

Gallo eventually began to keep his distance from the Orbachs; he kept ducking them when it came time to sign off on the book deal. One night, they went to see Don Rickles perform, and were surprised when Rickles acknowledged Gallo from the stage; they hadn't known Gallo was there. After the Orbachs went home, Gallo and his entourage went out for a late dinner -- and about 4 in the morning, a cohort of hoods burst in and shot him full of holes. Orbach's mother-in-law thought he shouldn't go to the funeral, but out of loyalty, he went.

After that, Orbach had to get his career on track. In the '80s, he tried to concentrate more on TV and movies, and racked up lots of character roles and voiceovers, but there were several dry spells, and only some of the roles made a mark. One was Gus Levy in Sidney Lumet's Prince of the City. Another was in F/X, which he almost lost because the director didn't like his audition and asked him to do it again, and he told the guy off. He got the role anyway, without a second audition. And his role as the father in Dirty Dancing did a lot to break him out of the box Prince of the City put him in, that of a tough New Yorker. Playing Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast also did him good; it introduced him to kids.

TV was getting harder to crack in the '80s. Now the thing was the Q rating, a measure of how well-known you are and how well-liked you are. With a rating in the 20s, Orbach was losing roles to people with higher scores, which is a Catch-22 -- your scores don't rise if you don't get roles, and you don't get roles if your scores are low. But Angela Lansbury brought him aboard for a recurring role on Murder, She Wrote -- a Broadway baby herself, she and her producer actually wanted Broadway actors, when the rest of Hollywood thought of them as foreigners. This led to his own series, The Law and Harry McGraw, which unfortunately came and went in one season, although it did bump his Q rating into the 90s.

After that came a stroke of luck: Paul Sorvino quit Law & Order -- he was afraid the outdoor winter location shooting was hurting his singing voice -- and Dick Wolf offered Orbach the job. The rest is history. He pledged to Chris Noth, "You might not be my last partner, but I'm your last partner."

Unfortunately, though, the cancer that ultimately killed him first surfaced at the end of his first year with the show. He went for radiation therapy, and it went away -- and came back six months later. He spent the next 10 years doing his radiation treatments around his shooting schedule, and the news never leaked until they moved him over from the main Law & Order to spinoff Law & Order: Trial by Jury to lighten his workload. By then, the cancer had spread, the radiation treatment was no longer effective, and switching to chemotherapy was battering his body.

The last scene he did, he was so weak he couldn't speak above a whisper. But the director made it work; they had him do that conversation in the hallway outside a courtroom, a place where you naturally would try to keep people from overhearing what you're saying.

The book is a great read. It's well-researched, with interviews from Orbach's mother, two sons, and second wife, as well as comments from Orbach himself, pulled from various articles. (It's a little sloppy on the copy editing side, but such is life.)

Thanks for the review, Clark: I found it interesting. Orbach's performance as Harry McGraw resembled the way Sam Spade was played in the radio show The Adventures of Sam Spade, which, unlike the novel The Maltese Falcon, had a strong helping of comedy. Many episodes of the show can be found at Internet Archive. I don't know if Orbach was directly imitating the show's version of Spade, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Thanks. I enjoyed reading Jerry Orbach's story. He was an endlessly fascinating guy.

I was striking to me about his career that he was a king on Broadway, and that almost didn't count in Hollywood. The older he got, the more he wanted to do movies and TV because he'd done it all in theater, and there's not much security unless you're with a show that runs for four or five years or more. But that hurt his family life; his first marriage fell apart and it took a long time for his sons to warm up to his second wife.

He also was ambitious; he said several times he was hoping for a showy, scenery-chewing scene on Law & Order where one of his partners would die in his arms and he could emote the daylights out of it and win an Emmy (like Dennis Franz over on NYPD Blue). But Law & Order just wasn't that kind of show, and when they did deviate from the formula and kill Claire Kincaid in the car accident -- Lenny was in the car and staggered out alive -- it didn't do Orbach much good.

But by all accounts, even if he never got to be another Hollywood leading man, he was gracious and grateful to his fans. There's a story in the book where he was walking down the street, and a mother spotted him and told her 10-year-old son that Orbach had played Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. The boy didn't believe her, so Orbach came over, told the kid to close his eyes, and sang "Be Our Guest." The kid's eyes got as big as saucers, and he said, "How did you do that?"

ClarkKent_DC said:

I was striking to me about his career that he was a king on Broadway, and that almost didn't count in Hollywood.

Unfortunately the Hollywood studios had a pattern of replacing the originators of roles in hit Broadway plays with well-known movie stars. They were probably uncomfortable that most of the movie-goers wouldn't know their names and wouldn't buy tickets. Today it seems to be getting a little better, with actors crossing over between movies, TV, and the stage.

I've just finished reading The Dark World by Henry Kuttner. This is a fantasy novel that struck me as written as an imitation of the work of Abraham Merritt. I read an old Ace edition (with a Gray Morrow cover; he did a lot of book cover and magazine work), but the book was republished a few years ago by Paizo Publishing.

In the novel a man is drawn to an alternative world where he learns he is really Ganelon, a member of a ruling group of sorcerers called the Coven. The most powerful being in the world is Llyr, who has the character of a demonic god and to whom he has been linked by a ceremony of sealing. The Coven betrays Ganelon and he undertakes to destroy it and Llyr in order that he might become the tyrant of the Dark World himself. He is assisted by a band of good guy forest rebels his Earth double has taught while he was on Earth. Although they are functionally magical, the novel represents the story's fantastic elements as based in scientific forces.

Kuttner often collaborated with his wife C.L. Moore, who had also written solo fantasies. I don't know if this work is wholly his or one of their collaborations. Comments at Paizo's website here say it was an influence on Roger Zelazny's Amber books. I didn't guess that, but I can see how it could be. Another of the comments calls it an imitation of Merritt's Dwellers in the Mirage; I haven't read that one, and the parallels I noted were to other Merritt books. It was one of the works named (paired with the same author's The Valley of the Flame, which I haven't read) in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books by James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock, but I doubt it deserves the accolade. It doesn't best Merritt's work, and it reads as if it was written fairly quickly.

The first version of this post displaced the thread The Baron Re-Reads a Bunch of Amalgam Comics (SPOILERS) from the home page.

I've been reading The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemmingway, the history book I was reading gets pretty dry, and I needed a break from it.

Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I am only a couple of chapters in, but man, talk about a man's man book!

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