Tag Archives: Jack Ryan

Getting Rid of Books

It is like cutting off your arm sometimes, but it has to be done. I have too many books and no room for more shelves. Many of my shelves are double stacked. Something’s gotta give. I’m moving, and that also means getting rid of books. I’m pausing in the middle of the heartbreaking process of shelf-purging (Amom hates the purge word, sounds too much like bodily functions I think) to reflect on how I’ve been making decisions.

1. If I’m not going to read it again, it goes. I’ve been pretty severe with my fiction collection. I have collections of many of the works of some authors, and I decided I was going to select the ones I really liked from each author and keep those. Also, if I’ve recently decided not to re-read an author because I now think he/she is a waste of time, I am trying to get rid of all of that author’s works. Example: Tom Clancy. I recently re-read a Clancy book and thought this is a waste of time and shelf space. I found, though, when it came right down to it, there were four Clancy books I couldn’t yet put in the garage sale box. I think I’ll be ok eventually with dumping them, I need another day or so to make sure. The books I’m having a hard time with are the four I think I’ve re-read most often: Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot GamesDebt of Honor, and Executive Orders. I think that those four are the heart of the Jack Ryan set.

2. If I haven’t read it yet and I’ve moved it more than once, I need to consider carefully whether I should give up on this book and let it go. This applies to both fiction and non-fiction, but I’m more generous with the non-fiction because I’ve only begun a serious reading schedule in the last couple of years, and I’ve collected a lot of non-fiction to read — which is, of course, why I need a serious reading schedule. I do dump both fiction and non-fiction if I think I’ll never actually read the book.

3. Some books have sentimental value. I picked up an autobiography of Dick Francis to garage sale today. I like Dick Francis, he wrote interesting mysteries, but I haven’t yet read his autobiography, and I’m not sure it is up there in my list of really interesting things to read. I opened the book and found it was inscribed to my ADad from his sister, my aunt Nan. I’m keeping the book. I only have a few like this. I have a Byron collection inscribed as a wedding present to my great grandmother and some school books that belonged to my AMom and aunts.

4. Doubles. Ergh. I hate it when I find that a book so interests me that I acquire it twice. Oh well, one copy can go.

I’ve filled four boxes so far in this iteration of the purge. I had one box of books I knew I had to get rid of that’s been lurking since the spring, not quite making it out the door. I’m sure there are more boxes to be filled yet. I don’t know if I’ve any other criteria than above. What criteria do you use when getting rid of books?




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Clancy passes Bechdel Test

I’m re-reading a large Tom Clancy thriller because it has an olympic tie-in and I’m sort of a sucker for the Jack Ryan thrillers. These are NOT feminist books by any stretch of the imagination, and I think one could argue successfully that these books are anti-feminist in many ways.

But. Rainbow Six passes the Bechdel Test. WHAT? Yup, it does. In case you haven’t read Rainbow Six, let me just assure you that it is a typical Clancy thriller about spies and guns and terrorists and shooting people dead without a trial. The main characters are all men. The two main characters are familiar to people who read the Ryanverse books — John Clark and his son-in-law, Domingo Chavez. Back to how this book passes the Bechdel test.

1. There are at least two named women characters. There are far more than two named women characters in this book, but for now we’ll just mention Sandy Clark and Patricia Chavez, her daughter.

2. Who talk to each other. Sandy and Patricia do talk to each other in a dinner scene where both of their husbands are also present.

3. About something other than a man. Yes. Yes, they do talk to each other about work. Sandy is an ER nurse and Patricia is a medical doctor doing an OB/GYN residency.

This scene is a weird little slice of domesticity in the book. I’m not sure what its purpose is exactly, except to emotionally set up the next operation that John and Domingo have to go on, which involves rescuing children.

To be (slightly) fair, there are also named women who play a more central role in the plot, but none of these talk to other women, only to men. I am only half-way through this re-read, so if this changes I will let you know.

If Tom Clancy can pass the Bechdel test, surely it shows that this is a very minimal standard. Yet, there are many books and movies that don’t pass the test, meaning they really ignore half the world’s population in the stories. Things that make you go hmmm.

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Sequels, Series, or Sets

can be for Sequels, Series, or Sets. So many choiceS

I like reading sets of books that have overlapping characters. There are a various ways that sets relate to one another. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels all have overlapping characters, and I think that there is some character development over time, but each novel tells a separate episode in the story and has a clear ending. Some of the “Ryanverse” novels don’t have Jack Ryan as the main character — but all the novels in this set tell stories set in Clancy’s alternate universe. The later books also refer to events in the history of the Ryanverse, so it is easier on the reader to have some knowledge of that history, though it isn’t strictly necessary.

Sometimes a “series” is actually all one book. I would say that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually all one book. Similarly, George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Ice books are very closely linked and I think they just make up one long story. Sets don’t always do this — see on Clancy above. At the moment, I’m reading a trilogy by Robertson Davies, commonly referred to as the Deptford trilogy. The three novels that make up this trilogy have overlapping characters, but they stand on their own as individual works. Though I’m reading the three novels bound together in one volume, I don’t think that these books cry out to be bound together as much as The Lord of the Rings does.

Then there is the mystery series. In a mystery series, the detectives stay the same, but the cases change. There is usually some kind of personal development in the detective from book to book, but the main point of each book is the case, not the detective. Oh wait, maybe part of the point is the detective and his or her personal story as well.

What series or sets do you read? Do you always need to rush out and get the sequel? Do tell.

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Tom Clancy’s Ryanverse

If I’d had a smartphone and been on a social network Sept 11, 2001 I’d have tweeted something like “I feel like I’m in a #TomClancy novel.” (Yes, I know, smartphones and social networks didn’t exist in 2001, but go with me here.) Fans of Clancy’s will know that the novel that most came to life that Tuesday was Debt of Honor. (I won’t tell you how the book was so similar to 9/11 in the way it ends because when I was reading it for the first time, someone told me the ending. And I was quite annoyed. But that is another story.) Clancy’s books featuring Jack Ryan somehow managed to capture a little twist on the present and near future all through the 1980s and 1990s. Since 9/11, the one Ryan book to be published didn’t have the same edge. As history actually unfolded and both collided with and diverged from Clancy’s imagined world, the Ryanverse couldn’t keep up. Clancy has begun a new series featuring Jack Ryan Jr., who was born in Patriot Games, but I wasn’t impressed by the first of this set published in 2003. Possibly the next will be better if Clancy took the time to integrate the reality of our world and the crazy way it collided with his imagined world in 2001.

The first of the Ryanverse books, published in 1984 (ancient history!), is The Hunt for Red October. I listed Red October as the Clancy book I’ve read more than 3 times, but I’ve actually read many of the Ryanverse books 3 or more times. Debt of Honor is the one I’ve read most often (5 times). I’ve only read Red Rabbit, Teeth of the Tiger (both post 9/11 publications), and Without Remorse once. (My friend the Biologist likes Without Remorse the best and is always shocked when I say I haven’t re-read it.) Red October is actually the book that hooked me on Clancy, thus I thought it would be best to list it as representative. Plus, I first read it long before I started keeping track of my reading in 1993, so I don’t know how many times I’ve read it.

I’m not sure I think Clancy is great literature. I’ve re-read his books a few times, and I think they do interesting things. He builds a very believable parallel universe populated with characters that are consistent through the 12 books. This is very impressive and difficult to do. He does some interesting things with ethics and ethical arguments. Jack Ryan is Roman Catholic and so the ethics of the books are very Catholic. The problem is that the ethical lectures in Clancy are too obviously ethical lectures, handily placed in the mouths of characters. Better to show not tell, or so I’ve heard. I think someone could do an interesting thesis on Catholic ethics in the Ryanverse. Clancy tries hard not to be anti-women. I’m afraid he just doesn’t make it there. His female characters are interesting, but ultimately they always need the protection of the men in their lives. Sigh.

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