Sunday, October 25, 2015

Knopf 100--Day 7

Hollywood owes a ton to Knopf publishing. Even though the press is mostly thought of in terms of numbers of Nobel laureates and prestige, Alfred and the subsequent editors loved the dark and stormy nights. Since it's rained for two straight days in Austin, indulging in the noir seems appropriate today. (Note on the list: I've added numbers to Gianna's picks from yesterday, so we're now up to #21.)

21. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, originally published in 1931. No Knopf? No Hammett. No Humphrey Bogart (possibly a stretch). Dashiell Hammett was a house author for Knopf, so I just plucked one of his novels off the list. A bird statue with a fortune, a dead partner, cops, dames, and the wise cracking Sam Spade made The Maltese Falcon a huge hit. If you've seen the movie, read the book. It's exactly what you'd want it to be.

22. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, originally published in 2012. It hasn't made it to the silver screen yet, but I would love to see a film adaptation of Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Harkaway happens to be John LeCarre's son, and his second novel is a crazy send-up to spy thrillers and the Cold War era. An octogenarian granny super spy, the mob, a crazy serial killer with Buddhist ninja minions, and a hapless clock maker at the center of a global conspiracy are racing to locate the clockwork doomsday machine. Some are racing to trigger it, some are racing to keep it from destroying the world. At points Angelmaker is hilarious and so over the top, but it's too much fun to quit reading.

23. My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme, originally published in 2006. If you saw Julie & Julia, you quickly realized that Julie Powell was a self-consumed whiner and Julia Child is the mother of all culinary bad asses. The Julia Child parts of that film were based on My Life in France. Julia Child--tall woman, OSS spy, no nonsense destroyer of snooty sexist French chefs, and queen of the French/American kitchen--is larger than life, and one should read her stories of France directly from the star of the show.

24. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, originally published in 2008. As a faithful adaptation of the book, I recommend the Swedish film, but the US version with Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig (mmm...Daniel Craig) is none too shabby either. Larsson's thriller was titled Men Who Hate Women in Sweden and that title fits. Lisbeth Salander, the protagonist of Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, has been abused, raped, robbed, called insane, and abandoned by family and caretakers, but she's also the epitome of tough revenge-seekers. If you're lucky, she'll just hack your computer, steal your fortune, and provide evidence of your criminal activity to the authorities. Piss her off and expect much, much worse treatment. I love Lisbeth Salander for her anger and for being both damaged and fearless. She's one of the most compelling characters I've ever read.

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