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May 07, 2023

Sunday Morning Book Thread - 05-07-2023 ["Perfessor" Squirrel]


Welcome to the prestigious, internationally acclaimed, stately, and illustrious Sunday Morning Book Thread! The place where all readers are welcome, regardless of whatever guilty pleasure we feel like reading. Here is where we can discuss, argue, bicker, quibble, consider, debate, confabulate, converse, and jaw about our latest fancy in reading material. As always, pants are required, especially if you are wearing these pants...(ht: Sharon(willow's apprentice) who sent me an awesome link with lots of neat pants!)

So relax, find yourself a warm kitty (or warm puppy--I won't judge) to curl up in your lap, take joy in the warm spring sunshine, and dive into a new book. What are YOU reading this fine morning?


Not all libraries are set up for human consumption. Dolls need books too! Today we are looking at Queen Mary's doll house library. As you would expect of a doll house fit for a British monarch--in this case, the consort to King George V--it's an absolute masterpiece of elegant craftsmanship. More than 170 authors are featured in handwritten books contained in the tiny library.


Although noir fiction can be seen as its own subgenre of crime fiction, or even a genre unto itself, I typically seem to encounter it as a stylistic layer wrapping a different genre underneath. Commonly, this is indeed the hardboiled detective fiction stories, such as those by Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. However, nowadays it's common to include a lot of noir tropes in both science fiction and fantasy, as well as continuing the long tradition of overlaying crime dramas with a patina of noir.

What makes a "noir" story? According to that font of wisdom, Wikipedia, noir stories feature a bleak and nihilistic outlook on life in general. There are NO real heroes, or even anti-heroes. All of the protagonists are morally questionable at best, and usually seriously flawed in some way. Don't look for a happy ending here. This is in contrast to a hardboiled detective story which may have som e of the elements of noir, such as a crime-ridden, corrupt city, where everyone is out to get everyone else, but the main protagonist does believe that there is justice to be found and will try to do the right thing when pushed to do so by circumstances.

Note that I'm specifically talking about literary noir fiction, rather than film noir. This is a Book Thread, after all. Most of the elements of film noir are taken from the literary tradition, probably because it looks "good" on film, establishing the mood and tone exceptionally well in a visual medium.

I enjoy noir stories from time to time, when the mood strikes me, though much of what I read is either science fiction noir (e.g., cyberpunk) or fantasy noir (e.g., the urban fantasy investigator, like Harry Dresden). But I'll happily read just about any noir story, if the writing is good. It's the tone and the mood that are interesting to me, the dark, seedy side of life explored through the eyes of a character struggling not only against the darkness around him, but also within himself. Though I do like characters who have some redeeming characteristic that keeps them from being a total nihilistic asshole.

Noir is also frequently parodied in comedies because it can be hilarious to overlay noir onto a humorous situation. It's showed up in Calvin and Hobbes as well as The Far Side on more than one occasion. Walt Kelly's Pogo even parodied noir detective fiction in one storyline.

I know we have some detective fiction fans among the Horde...Why is "noir" so well-suited to that genre? What would "noir" look like when applied to other genres, such as westerns or romance? (I'd argue that Gothic romance includes quite a few noirish elements already...)





chivalry - n. - referring the qualities of the ideal knight, such as honor, generosity, courtesy.

Comment: One way in which hardboiled detective fiction differs from pure noir fiction is that the protagonist often exhibits some chivalric traits. A common trope is the damsel in distress who shows up in the detective's office with a case for him to solve. He reluctantly agrees because he adheres to a chivalric code, even though he's pretty sure he'll wind up over his head through some form of treachery. Them's the breaks, kid.

abyss - n. - any unfathomable or seemingly unfathomable cavity, chasm, or void extending below.

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you." -- Frederick Nietzsche

Comment: Since today's theme seems to be noir fiction, I thought this word is appropriate. The idea behind Nietzsche's quote is that once you start down the path towards darkness, forever will it dominate your destiny. Wait, that's from Yoda. Anyway, noirish fiction concerns itself with the corruption of the spirit, something we all wrestle with on a daily basis, especially in these dark times.



My family had a set of Durant's Story of Civilization series, and that was my secret weapon through high school history. I read the whole series a couple of times, and some volumes again and again. Great stuff.

It does show its age, though. Not just in the sense of being at odds with current intellectual fashions -- that's a feature, not a flaw -- but (especially regarding the earlier periods) new discoveries have changed our understanding of what actually happened.

It's still worth reading, and I don't know of a better introduction to the history of Western Civilization.

Posted by: Trimegistus at April 30, 2023 09:43 AM (QZxDR)

Comment: Sometimes just getting a basic grasp of the fundamentals is important, even if certain aspects may have moved on from when the book was originally written. I was watching a video of a chemistry professor not that long ago and he was describing the basic structure of the atom. Most of what he was showing was wrong, but it's still worth pointing out the usefulness of the model most people use when attempting to visualize an atom. Despite the butchering of history by Leftists, historians HAVE uncovered more about Western Civilization in the past 50 years due to archeological digs and translations of recently discovered historical documents. A basic introduction of a subject gives you at least a foundation upon which you can then converse reasonably intelligibly with experts on the subject.


The highlight of my reading this week was On the Incarnation by Saint Athanasius. This edition has an introduction by CS Lewis and information from Sister Penelope Lawson who did the translation in the early 1940s.

I am beyond bowled over by this book. Athanasius, writing in the 4th century AD, explains Christianity and its importance in such clear, positive tones. If the translation is faithful in approach to the original Greek, the book must have had a huge impact on the still forming church and traditions. That tone reminds me of some of the works of CS Lewis and Chesterton about 1,700 years later. (That is praise for all concerned.)

Part of the value for me was learning more about the philosophy, and variations, within the early church. Athanasius is fighting for what he believes to be the true meaning of Christianity in the face of other interpretations. It also makes me want to learn more about the early writings of Christianity, starting with the Ten Commandments and what they were intended to provide.

Posted by: JTB at April 30, 2023 10:16 AM (7EjX1)

Comment: Early Christianity was a weird time. There were lots of competing ideologies out there from people just trying to understand what Christianity really meant. We are still struggling to understand it today, if the competing sects and factions of Christianity are anything to go by. At some point Christianity was codified into the Biblical teachings we generally know today. Again, those are still hotly debated among scholars, theologians, and people who attempt to twist the words of God for their own purposes.


Reading Bismarck by Edward Crankshaw, who takes a very dim view of him.

His great years were between 1861 and 1870, where he overcame an abdication crisis, defeated Denmark in the War for Schleswig-Holstein, threw Austria out of German affairs in 1866 and united Germany under Wilhelm I after defeating France in 1870. But even here his conduct and diplomacy alternated between bullying and duplicitousness.

After that, he had 20 years left to run in his chancellorship, which was almost wholly negative and largely devoted to keeping himself in power.

Like Churchill, he was bored by domestic affairs. The constitution he set up worked only so long as he was chancellor with a pliant Emperor. He devoted a great deal of futile energy to beating the Catholics into submission. He completely failed to grow a political class capable of governing without him. His diplomacy after 1870 kept the peace in Europe, but was so devious and intricate that his successors ended up angering everyone when they had to unwind them. Bismarck in the portrait drawn by Crankshaw is a strange, brilliant, neurotic man whose legacy eventually was the destruction of the Prussian state he created.

Posted by: Hadrian the Seventh at April 30, 2023 10:32 AM (MoZTd)

Comment: Both the Left and Right seem perfectly keen on having a strong hand at the helm of their political leadership. Unfortunately, the dirty little secret about strong men is that they don't always plan for a future *without* their leadership. This is true even in industry. A man (or woman) creates a business empire, but his or her heirs have no real interest or stake in keeping the business strong. So after a few generations, you get the chaotic corporate atmosphere we see now, where a business like AB hires someone who has NO real interest in the company in order to promote her own political ideology. That didn't work out so well. It's only a matter of time before Walt Disney's frozen head comes back to life to wreak havoc on his own company...


I just finished Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac. The main character, Ned Begay, is telling the story of his life to his "grandchildren," as an elder of a tribe instructing the youth. Ned begins with his education at a Mission Boarding School, where the students are shorn (literally) of their Navajo identity and punished for speaking their native language. When Ned is 16, a Marine recruiter comes to his high school, looking for volunteers for a special project. Ned is too young and must wait a year before enlisting. The rest of his story is about island-hopping in the Pacific.

Code Talker is a YA novel, so the horrors of war and jungle fighting are mentioned, but not graphically described. Mr. Bruchac includes information and stories about real people and situations, including the prejudice the Navajo faced within their units (until they proved themselves in combat) and stateside after the War. But the point is not belabored and Ned retains his inherent dignity throughout the novel. The existence of Code Talkers was classified until 1968, so it is still relatively unknown.

I would recommend for middle-school & older, especially boys.

Posted by: March Hare at April 30, 2023 11:54 AM (WOU9P)

Comment: The idea behind Navajo "code talkers" is pretty interesting, having them speak in a language that the Japanese couldn't understand or crack. To the Navajo people, it was a way of keeping a vestige of their heritage and culture alive. To the Allies, it was a key element in communicating secretly to prevent the Japanese from understanding the Allies' battle strategies. I'm always a big fan of promoting books for middle-school boys. Anything that get them interested in reading is a plus.

More Moron-recommended reading material can be found HERE! (763 Moron-recommended books so far!)



  • Grimoir Chronicles 1 - Hard Magic by Larry Correia -- Noir urban fantasy
  • Grimoir Chronicles 2 - Spellbound by Larry Correia -- More noir urban fantasy
  • The Runelords by David Farland
  • Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts
  • Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts
  • City of Jade by Dennis L. McKiernan
  • The Honorable Barbarian by L. Sprague de Camp
  • A Phule and His Money by Robert Asprin with Peter J. Heck
  • Phule's Paradise by Robert Asprin
  • Thieves' World Book 5 - The Face of Chaos edited by Robert Lynn Asprin & Lynn Abbey
  • Thieves' World Book 6 - Wings of Omen edited by Robert Lynn Asprin & Lynn Abbey
  • Thieves' World Book 7 - The Dead of Winter edited by Robert Lynn Asprin & Lynn Abbey


  • The Banned and the Banished Book 3 - Wit'ch War by James Clemens -- Elena comes into her own as a wit'ch of extraordinary power and determination. She and her allies storm the island of A'loa Glen to free the Blood Diary from the evil clutches of the Dark Lord.
  • Daybreak Book 1 - Directive 51 by John Barnes -- A terrifying look at the breakdown of society in the near future (October 28, 2024, to be exact). Ecoterrorists unleash devastating biological and technological plagues on humankind to break the Big System. Now society must rebuild from the ashes of ruin. All too plausible, given what we know about the WEF and their avowed goals.
  • Daybreak Book 2 - Daybreak Zero by John Barnes -- The truth about Daybreak is even more terrifying than the survivors of the initial event initially thought...It's not even close to being over as the shattered remains of the United States of America struggle to reassemble a functioning Constitutional republic.

That's about all I have for this week. Thank you for all of your kind words regarding the Sunday Morning Book Thread. This is a very special place. You are very special people (in all the best ways!). The kindness, generosity, and wisdom of the Moron Horde knows no bounds. Let's keep reading!

If you have any suggestions for improvement, reading recommendations, or discussion topics that you'd like to see on the Sunday Morning Book Thread, you can send them to perfessor dot squirrel at-sign gmail dot com. Your feedback is always appreciated! You can also take a virtual tour of OUR library at libib.com/u/perfessorsquirrel. Since I added sections for AoSHQ, I now consider it OUR library, rather than my own personal fiefdom...

PREVIOUS SUNDAY MORNING BOOK THREAD - 04-30-23 (NOTE: Do NOT comment on old threads!)

(Can the United States of America be reborn from the ashes of ruin?)

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