Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Brief Thoughts 20

A Treasury of Damon Runyon

I recently learned about Damon Runyon. He sounded interesting, being a popular writer of humorous in the 20s and 30s whose subject was gamblers, gangsters, and bootleggers. I decided this would be the best place to start with him.

The arrangement of this book is kind of off. You'd think that they'd put all the poems together. Instead there's a couple at the beginning and a couple at the end. I think the ones at the beginning were supposed to separate the stories that make up the basis for the Guys and Dolls musical from the other ones, but even then, it felt weird. There's also a separation of sections in the index but not the text itself. It made the thematic and stylistic changes towards the end jarring.

While I liked most of the stories towards the beginning, especially "Johnny One-Eye," toward the middle the stories started to blend together and feel dull. I honestly couldn't tell you what happened in the vast majority of these. Maybe because of how samey the Broadway stories are, they're better taken in one at a time rather than all at once. I couldn't get into most of the stories towards the end either. The Turp stories (about an older Brooklyn married couple) were cute, but I couldn't get into the stories based on Runyon's home town either. The longer, non-Broadway stories at the end felt like they came from an entirely different writer. I don't know if these were early works or what. They just felt stuck in there because they didn't fit anywhere else.

I thought the poems at the beginning were corny and lame but the poems towards the end were much more enjoyable.

Overall, I didn't really like this book much. I might give Runyon another chance, when I was able to get into the stories they were fun, but this one just didn't do it for me.

Buy A Treasury of Damon Runyon here. 

Road Dawgz by K'wan 

The previous books I'd read by K'wan, Black Lotus and Animal, were both fun, page-turner crime novels. I picked up this book which was an earlier effort, being only his second novel. 

Of the books I've read by K'wan, this one was shaping up to be the best. Not just a crime novel, but a portrait of how a its protagonist, K-Dawg, goes from an ambitious yet affable criminal to a true villain. 

The problem is, towards the end it became clear that K'wan was too attached to K-Dawg to allow him to do anything truly despicable. Even though it seems to be going in that direction, K-Dawg doesn't completely lose his moral center. The narrative ends up treating him completely like an anti-hero. As a result, we get an ending that feels like a complete cop-out. 

Despite that, it remains a fun read and I'll certainly be reading more of K'wan's work.

Buy Road Dawgz by K'wan here.  

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