A Press Democrat Blog

Cohn Zohn

Lowell Cohn's pertinent and impertinent take on sports

Haruki Murakami

Reading “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle,” a novel by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Don’t often read books in translation, but this book is special in a mysterious, metaphorical way, and it’s hard for me to stay away from it. This is the first time I’ve read Murakami. Are you familiar with him? If so, what do you think?

Mike Tyson autobiography

This is about Mike Tyson, but I’ll start out with Charles Dickens. I am not a Dickens person — at universities they’re called Dickensians. In every Dickens novel too much crummy stuff mixes with the good stuff, for my taste. So I’m rereading Bleak House and keep begging Dickens to get on with it, and then I switched to Tyson’s autobiography, one hell of a book. It’s called Undisputed Truth. My friend Lawrence Epstein recommended it to me — Lawrence… Read More »

Winds of War

I’m reading “Winds of War” by Herman Wouk. It’s about 1,000 pages and it’s not as well-written as I’d like — maybe, I’m a book snob. But I can’t put it down. It’s one of Wouk’s WWII novels — about the prelude to the war. I’m learning a lot and I’m totally involved. Mrs. Cohn Zohn is reading it too. Have you read it? What do you think?

100 Things 49ers fans should know and do before they die

I don’t usually read sports books and I almost never recommend them. I’m making an exception. Dan Brown, the elegant writer for the SJ Merc, just published a book about the 49ers with the long title I already wrote in the headline to this blog. It’s a clever title and Dan is a clever writer and he has included the 100 essential Niners’ facts, vignettes, personalities, whatever you want to call them. Of course, he writes about Bill, Joe, Steve,… Read More »

On loving writers of the second rank

I can’t get the death of Elmore Leonard out of my mind. So please bear with me. As you know, I had a highfalutin education in the English novel at Lafayette and Stanford, an education I love and cherish. I was taught only A-list writers: Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Henry James, etc. I also was taught a particular way to read them: What are they saying? What does such-and-such mean? As I became a writer — a humble… Read More »

Elmore Leonard and Ricky

I’m lounging around the house feeling crummy — stuffed nose, a cough, the usual. When I feel crummy I read Elmore Leonard, a prose genius and a funny guy who cheers me up. So, I’m lying bed reading “Mr. Paradise” and I come across this bit. A crook hires a teenager named Ricky to keep watch on the female protagonist, a dangerous beauty. The crook says to Ricky, “You have my number — right?” “I got it somewhere,” Ricky says.… Read More »

Walter Mosley

I’m reading Walter Mosley for the first time in my life. Don’t know why it took so long. I just finished “Devil in a Blue Dress,” and now I’m reading “Black Betty.” These are both Easy Rawlins mysteries and I like them. My standard for mysteries these days is Elmore Leonard, and Mosley does not have near the prose style of Leonard, an electric style — it’s like putting your hand on the third rail. But Mosley is a more… Read More »

Literary quiz

I am reading John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” one very big novel. Can you tell the class where the phrase “east of Eden” comes from? No prize offered, just an atta boy or an atta girl. Just finished “A Perfect Spy” by John Le Carre, one very great novel.

Our Mutual Friend

I have certain reading gaps which I am trying to address before it’s too late. I never have read the Divine Comedy, for example, or Proust. And I haven’t read all of Dickens even though my field, when I had a field, was the history of the English novel. So I’m reading Our Mutual Friend. Finally. It’s about 900 pages and I’m a slow reader and it may take me the rest of my life. But I love it. I… Read More »

Lord Jim, the first paragraph

I am about to write my Sunday column on Buster Posey. Before I get started, here is the first paragraph of Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. I’ve been thinking of old Joe lately, something I do from time to time. I give you this paragraph because I love the words: He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under… Read More »