Going over my Christmas books


February 9, 2016

I’ve done quite a bit of reading during the last few months, starting with a stack of books I bought in Salt Lake City in November when my wife and I had to travel there for medical reasons. And then I got my usual bunch of books over Christmas. Those who give me Christmas gifts have learned that all I really want for Christmas are books.

I’ll start with some comments. In an earlier column I wrote about the superb writing of Jhumpa Lahiri, an Indian-American woman whose first book won the Pulitzer Prize. Other books also received great acclaim. Just a few weeks ago, though, I came across a piece by Ms Lahiri in the New Yorker. She said she had moved to Italy and was only writing in Italian; this short article had been translated from Italian to English by another person. It wasn’t nearly as good as Lahiri’s usual writings. She expressed dissatisfaction with the fame she’d received and said she was happier writing in Italian. Of course, only she knows what she needs from life, but I still felt great disappointment that this exceptional writer is apparently removing her wonderful talent from the world of English authors.

In previous columns I’ve said good things about a recent book by John Grisham and negative things about a recent book by Stephen King. I’ve continued to read both of these authors, though, and my recent experience has been more positive as to Mr. King and more negative as to Mr. Grisham. Grisham’s latest book is “Rogue Lawyer,” and it’s not bad, but it’s not up to the quality of the previous Grisham book I read, “Sycamore Row.” In “Rogue Lawyer,” Grisham presents a violent, chaotic world of a criminal defense attorney which, from my experience, is much overdone; the book simply doesn’t ring right.

As to Mr. King, I took another look at his latest book, “Revival,” and I’ve revised my opinion. I don’t know exactly why, but this time I found virtually every piece (ranging from short stories to short novels) to be interesting and well-written, showing deep insight into the characters. And all the stories were capped by King’s wonderful sense of the bizarre. Maybe my opinion of King was heightened when I learned he has sold some 350 million books (about 350 million more than me), but this time I recommend “Revival.”

Another book I recommend is John Kelly’s book about France in May, 1940, titled “Never Surrender.” Kelly does a good job showing the chaos of France in the month when Germany invaded and conquered France. France’s collapse put Britain in an appalling position, having to face Nazi Germany alone. Kelly talks at length about the great dispute in England, when the country debated whether to respond to the French capitulation by working out a deal with Germany or to continue the fight. Actually, I think the author overstates the debate; given Winston Churchill’s character, it was always highly likely that Britain would never surrender. Still, this is a well-done history, presented well and showing excellent research.

And speaking of Winston Churchill, I re-read his “History of the English-Speaking Peoples.” He is such a vibrant writer that anything Churchill presents becomes interesting, but especially here, where he has this huge, exciting, sweeping story of the English and their progeny. In 1953, Churchill was awarded a Nobel Prize, not for his work as a statesman, but in literature, and I think it was richly deserved.

I’ll close out this column with a comment about a book scheduled to be issued by the University of Oklahoma Press on March 15, and, of course, I’m referring to my book, “The Trial of Tom Horn.” The Spring 2016 catalogue of the University of Oklahoma Press carries a page declaring what a great book this is and their argument is uncannily persuasive. Since the catalogue came out I’ve agreed to 10 different presentations to discuss the book. Their locations range from Cody to Cheyenne to Fort Collins, but my first talk will be at the Washakie Museum on April 9.

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961.

John began practicing law here in 1973 and is mostly retired. He is the author of several books.


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