And The Snow Fell Softly On ILB: What Are You Reading Now Winter 2017/18

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by le Carre

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:09 (one year ago) Permalink

In the previous WAYR thread (cited above) James Morrison said regarding my reading Voltaire in Love:

Had Voltaire in Love for ages, never read it--will be interested to hear what you think

I've read about 75% of it now. The first 70 or 80 pages are weak. Names are introduced, connected to perhaps a title or an occupation, they do nothing of note, then are never heard from again. The content is more a series of remarks than any kind of developed thesis or narrative history. It's all quite perfunctory and I almost gave up on it. Luckily, the pace picks up as the book continues, anecdotes appear, then more fully developed stories. Names become recurrent and have characters attached to them. It becomes interesting.

Mitford makes no real attempt to discuss Voltaire's thinking or writing, other than to paint him as extremely witty, while rarely citing any witticisms. His wit is taken as read. In her view he was motivated largely by a desire for fame and he achieved it through a gift for audacity and scandal. She grants him both loyalty and generosity and provides evidence of these traits. He was shrewd with money, which she admires.

I have no great opinion of her insight as a historian, but at least she has elevated her book to the level of pleasant entertainment, after a slow start.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:11 (one year ago) Permalink

That Le Carré is great, unsurprisingly.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:28 (one year ago) Permalink

it's what put him on the map, so i expect so; crackling start

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:34 (one year ago) Permalink

What did people make of the Cat Person phenomenon? I can't think of a piece of literature that has had that much impact (if that's the right word. Presence?), at least not in recent memory; that could just be my particular Twitter echo pod, though.

My bland opinion: I quite liked it, even if it felt zeitgeisty, and by extension, a bit didactic and earnest. I think some have confused 'affectless prose' for the fact that chunks of it simply didn't sing, but that might just be me.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:57 (one year ago) Permalink

Oops, just seen the thread.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Thursday, 21 December 2017 20:14 (one year ago) Permalink

don’t feel i want to add anything to the cat person thread, but i thought it was good, and great that it’s created widespread conversation, tho much of it does seem to be from people who find it difficult to parse (“most men aren’t really like this so what is its status”, or “who is the bad person here?” sort of thing).

finished This Little Art by Kate Briggs, which was rly good. particularly enjoyed the stuff that wasn’t immediately about translation - her approach to Barthes, the description of the relationship and correspondence between André Gide and his translator was incredible. I don’t want to spoil it for those who may read!

obv reading Chateaubriand’s Memoirs.

Going to start on another book i bought but didn’t get round to this year, Pierre Michon’s Winter Mythologies and Abbots translated by Ann Jefferson.

(I’m going to be assiduous in my acknowledgment of translators from now on after reading Briggs)

This translation got a v good review in the NYRB, which was what put me on to it. in fact translation has ended up being a minor leitmotif to the year.

Fizzles, Thursday, 21 December 2017 21:15 (one year ago) Permalink

Winter Mythologies is wonderful.

Thnaks for the Mitford info. I see she wrote a number of histories, all of which look POTENTIALLY interesting.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 21 December 2017 22:57 (one year ago) Permalink

I'm assisting in a Fantasy course in the coming term and just got my free copies of the books. About to attempt a deep dive into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I've never read before (was only an occasional fan of the films).

iCloudius (cryptosicko), Thursday, 21 December 2017 23:47 (one year ago) Permalink

(Do you guys know where I was going with the title of this thread?)

Burru Men Meet Burryman ina Wicker Man (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 21 December 2017 23:53 (one year ago) Permalink

The Dead?

iCloudius (cryptosicko), Thursday, 21 December 2017 23:56 (one year ago) Permalink

Yeah, exactly. Not quite the original language, but a paraphrase that I saw somewhere else.

Burru Men Meet Burryman ina Wicker Man (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 22 December 2017 00:02 (one year ago) Permalink

Seems like similar snow falls on the dying James Mason in Odd Man Out.

Burru Men Meet Burryman ina Wicker Man (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 22 December 2017 00:55 (one year ago) Permalink

Hi cryptosicko, when you get time, please post book list from Fantasy course here, or here:ThReads Must Roll: the new, improved rolling fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction &c. thread

dow, Friday, 22 December 2017 02:52 (one year ago) Permalink

Snow was general all over Ireland

Steely Rodin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 24 December 2017 16:43 (one year ago) Permalink

Bought the Bag I'm in yesterday since it was cheap in FOPP.
Also the book on Bowie Style cos it was £9.99 if bought with something else in HMV. Of course the 2 are the same company so may have some of the same deals going on. Bank charges have FOPP down as HMV.

& not sure how good the Bowie book is if it has a photo of the Seeds instead of the Nazz who it claims to be.

Think i'm mainly reading linernotes and the latest edition of Flashback! as well as the Bernard Sumner memoir in which he's just got Joy Division going but not yet got Stephen Morris on board.

Stevolende, Sunday, 24 December 2017 18:38 (one year ago) Permalink

Enjoying audio version of book recommended by, in no particular order, ilxor mark s and non-ilxor JLG.

Steely Rodin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 24 December 2017 18:41 (one year ago) Permalink

> Of course the 2 are the same company so may have some of the same deals going on

the £2.99 early electronic music comp i bought in fopp last week i saw in hmv yesterday for the same price

koogs, Sunday, 24 December 2017 19:21 (one year ago) Permalink

Last night I picked up Moontrap, the last historic novel in a series of three, set in Oregon and clustered around the years 1848-1852, by Don Berry. I read the first two earlier in 2017 and wanted to finish the set before the year ends, just for the tidiness of it.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 24 December 2017 19:31 (one year ago) Permalink

It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen

Steely Rodin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 24 December 2017 23:13 (one year ago) Permalink

Aimless, you've read Country of the Pointed Firs, right? Is it good?

dow, Monday, 25 December 2017 00:01 (one year ago) Permalink

Nope. Never read it. My mom liked it, though.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 25 December 2017 00:33 (one year ago) Permalink

and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.

Steely Rodin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 25 December 2017 01:24 (one year ago) Permalink

Country of the pointed firs is v good, kind of creepy

horseshoe, Monday, 25 December 2017 02:08 (one year ago) Permalink

damn, mr. joyce, well done, sir

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 25 December 2017 02:17 (one year ago) Permalink

"And the snow fell softly on Lil B"

I'm reading The Demolished Man and Deep Learning With Python, but I'm excited about starting Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, which I picked up because it was mentioned in a movie I liked. I also want to read Wind, Sand, and Stars before my vacation is over, because I'm seeking the headspace I think it'll put me in

Dan I., Monday, 25 December 2017 06:44 (one year ago) Permalink

Pointed Firs is great!

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 25 December 2017 09:01 (one year ago) Permalink

Gerald Durrell's first stab at this sort of book, My Family and Other Animals was the most enjoyable for me, but Birds, Beasts, and Relatives is fine stuff, too, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 25 December 2017 18:34 (one year ago) Permalink

Aimless, you've read Country of the Pointed Firs, right? Is it good?

― dow, Sunday, December 24, 2017

I can answer: it's terrific. I read in grad school years ago.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 25 December 2017 18:39 (one year ago) Permalink

All these endorsements (and now I recall Scott Seward really liked it too, after initially hesitating because of cute title)! Think I'll make it my next early (?) 20th Century mainstream etc. item on the bucket-list-go-round, even though I had almost decided on The Earl of Louisiana--real good too, right? Haven't read much Liebling.

dow, Monday, 25 December 2017 20:52 (one year ago) Permalink

My Family and Other Animals is quite a fest, yeah.

dow, Monday, 25 December 2017 20:54 (one year ago) Permalink

Ah, maybe I should get that one too and read it first.

Dan I., Monday, 25 December 2017 22:12 (one year ago) Permalink

Michon's Winter Mythologies are good so far. They're very short so you want to savour each one. They're also opaque in meaning, so you want to reflect on each one. The first three were commissioned by The Alliance Française of Ireland, and describe brief anecdotal or sacred moments in the early Irish engagement with Christianity. They're also attempts on the part of the people they describe to understand where Grace resides. Patrick, not yet saint, archbishop of Armagh, 'the founder', converts many of the tribal kings with simple 'conjuring tricks' and a well-rehearsed patter:

And perhaps because he is growing old, and his ardor and his malice are becoming blunted, Patrick regrets this facility as he walks along this road. He would like a real miracle to occur, just once, and for once in his lifetime, matter in all its opacity to be converted to Grace before his eyes.

These short texts mix the style of the fable - precise language in short sentences - and mystical texts, in that they stop short of complete meaning, leaving understand and meaning just out of reach. That seems appropriate to the matter of an early uncertain engagement with Christianity. These are not btw Christian apologetics or anything like them. Michon is cynical within the mysticism. His concern is with the *pagans*, and the uncertainty of the Christians, the He manages to 'cinvert' precise detail (I was going to say realism, but it's not that, not really) into intimations of Grace (to rephrase Patrick's desire).

I was reminded of the Kierkegaard line: Mysticism has not the patience to wait for God's revelation. It seems pertinent to each of the three stories, but they *are* patient and precise in their execution. Very good. Moving on to the Vendée stories now.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 12:20 (one year ago) Permalink

Oh and I loved this bit on reading. It's describing Saint Columba of Iona, 'who was still called Columbkill, Columbkill the Wolf':

... this wolf is also a monk in the manner of monks at that time, a manner that is inconceivable to our way of understanding. When he lays down his sword, he rides from monastery to monastery, where he reads: he reads standing up, tensed, moving his lips and frowning, in the violent manner of those times, which we cannot conceive of either. Columbkill the Wolf is a brutal reader.

'inconceivable to our way of understanding' is something that Michon somehow manages to convey throughout this stories. Some job. And that image of the brutal reader, I never would have thought of, but it immediately brought to mind marginal illustrations of monks standing reading at lecterns, and also brought to mind that passage in St Augustine describing Ambrose Bishop of Milan, the first person to read without moving their lips. A tense unnatural (paradoxically) engagement with reading, which when Michon describes it, reflects on the reader themselves, and ties them in a bond of difference.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 12:29 (one year ago) Permalink

mistake, this second set of stories in Winter Mythologies are set in the Causses not Brittany - that’s where the stories in Abbots are set.

all translated by Ann Jefferson, as described in the NYRB article, which prompted me to buy it in the first place:

There is, however, excellent news on the Michon translation front: an exceptional translator has, at last, appeared. Ann Jefferson, a former professor of French at Oxford, has delivered Michon’s two books of short stories, Mythologies d’hiver (1997) and Abbés (2002), in a single slim volume. I read Jefferson’s versions in something close to shock: they feel as Michon feels in French. There is the velocity, the precision, the music, the compression, the singularity, the power.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 15:37 (one year ago) Permalink

foucault lectures, schopenhauer, allen wood on kant, laszlo foldenyi on melancholy, karen armstrong's history of god, books on cognitive therapy, epictetus' discourses, seneca's letters

seneca is pretty cool

j., Tuesday, 26 December 2017 20:17 (one year ago) Permalink

Now read the Nine Passages on the Causses by Pierre Michon, and even more impressed by these than the Three Miracles in Ireland. Nine anecdotal, elliptical stories which include matter about the nature of writing, the nature of transmission of belief and understanding.

The first is about a late 19th Century anthropologist who unearths an ossuary in a Causse.

The second is about an ex-bishop who has retired to a Causse as a hermit. He ventures out of his hermitage one day and feels full of energy and pride and life and then as he reflects is not sure whether this has been something which God or Satan has encouraged.

The third is a very simple vignette about a Merovingian episode where a 15-year-old girl, Éminie, daughter of King Clotaire of Paris, who, for pragmatic reasons, gets made Abbess of a distant abbey she will never visit. At the end the story says 'it is said she died of leprosy'.

The next, the fourth, is the story of monks many years later who decide to revive a ruined abbey, but are opposed by the local barons. One of the monks tells another to go and find a name, that will allow them to create a legal fiction in latin to justify their presence in the abbey. The other monk returns with the name of Eminia, as described in the previous story. Just a name in a ledger in a distant monastery, but they concoct a life about her, much as Michon fills these very peripheral barely detailed lives with his own fictions.

One of the monks sees a leper woman and decides to make Eminia a leper. Suddenly that phrase from the previous story 'she is said to have died from leprosy' recurs to you. Is the previous story true? Or has it been tainted by later interpretation? Just because a thing is said to have occurred early doesn't mean it is true. Later interpretation can provider the truth.

The fifth shows the full story of the Vita sancta Enimia (the life of Saint Enimia). This has elements of the first story and many embellishments such that it's not clear whether the person writing this has by god's grace seen a vision of Énimie's actual life, or whether the earlier story has taken on the aspects of later retellings of it. This feels like a profound enactment of how early modern history was created.

The sixth, again many years later, finds monks once again trying to preserve the legal ownership of the abbey. The bishop decides the Vita sancta Enimia into the vernacular Occitane, so that its story (its false story?) may be used as legal evidence for the local barons and as cultural evidence for the storytellers and jongleurs in the streets, creating a saintly myth.

This tale is full of sly allusions to the nature of writing, of doing what Michon himself is doing and what you as a reader are doing. About lies, translation, truth within lies (fiction) and original creation as a writer.

The seventh is about a warlord prince called Seguin. Much of Michon's stories are about the ambiguous qualities of violence.

The eighth, in 1793, is about a innate Republican, who is got drunk on wine by Monarchists and persuaded to march against the Republic.

The ninth is about the father of speleology, who has doubts, but takes a great pleasure in being a scribe of the wonders of the Underworld. He brings back up to the date of the first story.

Together they create a remarkable analysis of belief, knowledge and the transmission of the same, as well as a sly commentary on the sort of writing that Michon is doing. They're really great.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 21:41 (one year ago) Permalink

also sex and desire is an important part of the stories.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 22:06 (one year ago) Permalink

I finished At the Existentialist Cafe. It seems like no one talks about the existentialists that much any more, at least the French ones, so maybe it's a good time to think about them again. Interesting to think about how Beauvoir and Sartre became celebrities by simply trying to articulate and live a thoroughly atheist ethical ontology. Hard to think of anyone who makes philosophy sexy like that these days. Contemporary famous atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc.) seem light-weights by comparison.

o. nate, Wednesday, 27 December 2017 01:19 (one year ago) Permalink

I've read Much Ado About Nothing for the first time. Seen the Branagh film a couple of time, but never read the play. Claudio is an asshole. I've also re-read CA Bayly's The Birth of the Modern World for the first time since uni, which I should have done ages ago. A brilliant description of the 19th Century, wish I knew of more books as good as this on other periods. And I've finished the Quran. Which is really really repetitive, but some of the Surahs are very good.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 27 December 2017 14:02 (one year ago) Permalink

Today Fresh Air replayed the September interview of John Le Carre, on Legacy of Spies and much else related. What a presence. Will download so can catch some more; as I start to absorb what he's saying, he's on to something else, not that he rattles on, there's just a lot to take in, although I'd heard or read some of it.

dow, Friday, 29 December 2017 02:08 (one year ago) Permalink

Atlantic Hotel by João Gilberto Noll, after __xyzzzz’s enticing review in the last thread.

spare, attenuated sentences, moving towards ultimate dissolution. the main character, an ex soap-opera star, lacks affect and agency, drifts around brazil on a cold winter wind, accompanied by paranoia, death, mutilation and sex.

^ aims for 2018

Fizzles, Friday, 29 December 2017 13:21 (one year ago) Permalink

I'm reading The Demolished Man and Deep Learning With Python, but I'm excited about starting Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, which I picked up because it was mentioned in a movie I liked. I also want to read Wind, Sand, and Stars before my vacation is over, because I'm seeking the headspace I think it'll put me in

I begin to see the pattern.

drifts around brazil on a cold winter wind, accompanied by paranoia, death, mutilation and sex.

^ aims for 2018


Keen, Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis? No. Next question.

Chavchavadze, Museum of Matches

Sasha Chavchavadze is an artist living in Brooklyn and Cape Cod. She is the descendant of Georgian princes and a Russian grand duke. Her dad was in the CIA and also translated the memoirs of Stalin's daughter, who became a family friend. Chavchavadze's mom had an affair with JFK while he was in office, and Sasha got to ride on Air Force One as a little girl. Her Romanov grandmother had a romance with Nabokov in their student days in Cambridge. The weight of family history is like something out of Garcia Marquez.

Borges, The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory
Shirley, Turn up the Strobe

alimosina, Friday, 29 December 2017 18:21 (one year ago) Permalink

Recently started reading Vol. 3 of Knausgaard's My Struggle. It's been over a year since I finished Vol. 2 so I took a bit of a break. I wouldn't say it's exactly gripping so far. The "action" wanders a bit too much for that. But there are frequent moments of brilliance, when Knaugaard seems to open up a wormhole in the space-time continuum and channel directly into the mind of a young boy, enough to keep the reader's interest.

o. nate, Sunday, 31 December 2017 02:41 (one year ago) Permalink

Rosamond Lehmann's The Weather in the Streets. It's wild and inventive, and the centre of consciousness is as captivating as Invitation to the Waltz, but it's not gripping me quite in the same way. Something to do with the sprawl of it, I think, and the more episodic 'and then this happened' nature of it - compared to Waltz's relative hermetically sealed narrative. Intrigued by the title as, again, compared to ITTW, there's remarkably little weather in the book. Which may well be the point.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Sunday, 31 December 2017 14:45 (one year ago) Permalink

Grand Hotel Abyss > The Existentialist Cafe

I'm almost done with In the Spirit of Jazz: The Otis Ferguson Reader, which I've enjoyed even more than The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson ... this is the only detailed contemporary criticism I've read of 20s and 30s jazz, and it has put many things in a slightly different perspective for me, especially the transition from sheet music and vaudeville to the phonograph, radio, and film as it affected regional scenes and players.

Brad C., Sunday, 31 December 2017 16:27 (one year ago) Permalink


First became aware of Otis Ferguson as a film critic and then as a sort of hipster mentor to some famous literary critic, Alfred Kazin, I think

Dr. Winston ‘Merritone’ Blecch (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 31 December 2017 16:37 (one year ago) Permalink

He was constantly quoted by Leslie Halliwell, iirc

Dr. Winston ‘Merritone’ Blecch (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 31 December 2017 16:38 (one year ago) Permalink

That's nice, Fizzles! *looks at Lanchester thread* sorry you are reading crap now.

I am ending the year on a couple of memoirs. First up is Simone De Beauvoir's Force of Curcumstance (vol.3 of four), which starts as WWII ends - it ploughs through various intrigues, friendships and relationships and gives an account of the writing around The Second Sex. I started this in September, put it down, now a 1/3 in - reckon I'll finish although who knows when. Its a solid read whenever I pick it up. One of the things I find it amusing (to go back to o. nate's post around At the Existentialist Cafe) as a read on ppl who don't exactly matter to me. Malraux, Koestler, Leiris (whom I sorta want to read but don't think he will be good), Camus (who I think she calls on his bullshit, and is penetrating), Sartre too (can't quite work out how much leeway she is giving him, and how much she leaves out). Its very good on the anit-communist left (Beauvoir and Sartre could not exist within party structures), those old struggles that feel like coming back on the plate again in different forms. I am still thinking a lot of this through. In a similar vein I am finishing Franz Fuhmann's At The Burning Abyss: Experiencing the Georg Trakl Poem which is really good on its subject but also on his relation to it, as much as Nazism and Communism, which Fuhmann more than flirted with at various points - its never simply a confessional, both intellectual biography and crit are interwoven into each other in a way I haven't quite encountered before. I am really interested in reading Heiddeger's book on Holderlin (Fuhmann also draws on Holderlin, Rilke, Goethe and much else in German letters) at some point too - as someone who read and loved the same things as Fuhmann but did not apologise or turn back when those things got ugly.

Finally, Lazlo Krasznahorkai's War and War has those inflated sentences that anyone acuqinted with Germanic/Eastern Euro fiction would know well. Unfortunately I perceive a lack of control - an overabundance of description, taking 3-5 lines longer to say the thing just because you can, as flatly - whereas someone like Thomas Bernhard never feels this superfluous. Here its just not v cutting or funny, there isn't a lot to say and he's saying it, but I don't have to read it, so I stopped it 20 pages from the end.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 31 December 2017 17:47 (one year ago) Permalink


morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 12 March 2018 17:39 (one year ago) Permalink

I'm reading "The Hearing Trumpet" by Leonora Carrington. It's very brief and I had been finding it OK but slow going, have just started enjoying it after about 110 of its 150 pages. I could do with more weirdness or more of a romp, some element of both of those may be emerging.

I read this odd thing also: (in case the link expires, it's "The Injuries of Time - Desmond Wolfe and the Mulholland Archive") which is apparently a study of the archive of a missing academic who appears to have gone mad studying the archive of a missing academic who appears to have gone mad. It manages to achieve a genuinely eerie feeling, I liked it very much.

It's from the same mysterious person / people who made "This Wounded Island" which I mentioned here: ILB Gripped the Steps and Other Stories. What Are You Reading Now, Spring 2017

There seems to be virtually nothing about them on the internet.

Tim, Wednesday, 14 March 2018 10:50 (one year ago) Permalink

Very intriguing. Doesn't even seem to be a Monkbridge University. I'm def going to grab that book, thanks much.

Google Atheist (Le Bateau Ivre), Wednesday, 14 March 2018 12:17 (one year ago) Permalink

There is no such institution - I think it's a piece of semi-satirical world-building (certainly "This Wounded Island" is taking a (fond?) poke at both "psychogeography" as currently practiced, and at Brexitty Kentlands) but it's all done well enough to achieve an enjoyably spooked atmosphere.

More spooked Kentery to be found in "All The Devils Are Here" by David Seabrook, recently reprinted by Granta - went to a fun event re-launching it last week. It's a woozy and unsettling survey of selected Kentish monsters (and troubled souls) over the course of a few hundred years, from Charles Hawtrey to Lord Haw-Haw. I know I've banged on about that one also in the past, it's dead good although one suspects some of the author's own views may have been scabrous, perhaps sometimes straying into the dodgy. It's the closest I've ever found narrative non-fiction coming to the feeling of one of those hangovers that seems to be a howling tunnel of horror and self-loathing and it's the sort of narrative non-fiction that will hold conversations with ghosts.

Tim, Wednesday, 14 March 2018 12:31 (one year ago) Permalink

I'm reading Ishiguro's Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall. I like the first one, "Crooner," especially this bit:
We went through that song, full of travelling and goodbye. An American man leaving his woman. He keeps thinking of her as he passes through the towns one by one, verse by verse, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Oklahoma, driving down a long road, the way my mother never could. If only we could leave things behind like that---I guess that's what my mother would have thought. If only sadness could be like that.

The second one, "Come Rain Or Come Shine," immediately and for most of it seems even better, or different: a wild/precise dark comedy, going toward farce, then more poignant---but ending up too The Big Chill for me, off-putting and retrospectively reductive in some ways. But I def. get his range and depth, to some extent---other Ishiguro I should read---?

dow, Thursday, 15 March 2018 18:23 (one year ago) Permalink

No clear objections to the actual The Big Chill, far as I can recall, but subsequent arts reminders of it seem too auto-generational re middle-ageing etc. (not nec. Boomer).

dow, Thursday, 15 March 2018 18:28 (one year ago) Permalink

I finished A Nervous Splendor, Frederic Morton. Maybe it's because I spent 1600 pages living inside The Man Without Qualities last year, but my enjoyment of this was not as keen as that of other ILB'ers who've praised it in the past.

The larger point of the book was that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was faltering due to its habitually burying problems beneath impressive ritual, and distracting itself with superficialities, giving it a seductive gaiety that papered over its stasis, emptiness and futility. Ironically, it felt like the author's style mirrored the style he attributed to Viennese in general. It was just a bit too flashy, a bit too concerned with building up heroes while dismissively pointing at their feet of clay. In a way, this was the perfect style to deftly mirror his subject matter, but for me it embraced too much of the superficiality and emptiness he was trying to convey and it was oddly unsatisfying.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 15 March 2018 19:22 (one year ago) Permalink

other Ishiguro I should read---?

I totally loved When We Were Orphans, which I don't hear anyone talk about much; I think I strongly identified with the narrator's status as an immigrant who thinks he's assimilated much more than he actually has. Remains Of The Day is good too, as you may have heard. Both feature sad unreliable narrators.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 15 March 2018 22:25 (one year ago) Permalink

Tired of unreliable narrators, esp. sad, but whaddayagonnado, sigh. Will check, thanks. Also curious about his allegorical fantasy novel or straight-up fantasy novel or whatever it is.

dow, Friday, 16 March 2018 00:37 (one year ago) Permalink

the three body problem

any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a fantasy novel

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Friday, 16 March 2018 01:24 (one year ago) Permalink

I am also reading that, and enjoying it immensely, despite some reservations about weird dialogue, but there had best be some good explanations, even if they are handwavy, in the 100p I have left.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 16 March 2018 05:39 (one year ago) Permalink

i thought its pacing and general appeal slipped quite badly towards the end unfortunately. still think the first half / two thirds was excellent.

reading the second in the trilogy, the dark forest, now. it’s a bit hard going and is more about the grind of preparing for an alien encounter 4.25 light years and multiple generations away, with modelled social implications. i quite like the way liu cixin (劉慈欣) is happy to let societal models play out almost as if they were characters an author allows to make their own decisions rather than forcing them down preconceived plotlines. but it’s not *really* a compelling basis for a novel.

also *lots* of characters who in strugglijg to distinguish.

on the advanced technology / fantasy point thomp, i think i agree. but the retention of scientistic language provides framework linking current day science and plausible future science to “fantasy science”. i’d also ask whether you’d include something that uses a scientific paradigm jump as its basic principle - like teleportation in The Stars My Destination - in that category.

there’s also a consideration, which is also too dull to consider, that much actual physics can feel fantastic, or requiring of a certain amount of faith, if you don’t properly understand the mechanics (as i don’t). tho as i say it’s a pub bore point.

Fizzles, Friday, 16 March 2018 07:50 (one year ago) Permalink

oh different translator too. noticeable i think. and not in a good way. i liked the manner of ken liu’s translation.

Fizzles, Friday, 16 March 2018 07:51 (one year ago) Permalink

Tired of unreliable narrators, esp. sad, but whaddayagonnado, sigh. Will check, thanks. Also curious about his allegorical fantasy novel or straight-up fantasy novel or whatever it is.

I fear unreliable narrators are kinda Ishiguro's thing? I read his fantasy novel - The Buried Giant - recently and thought it was just ok. Reminded me a lot of T.H. White.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 16 March 2018 09:09 (one year ago) Permalink

Here's my book news:

Glass shelf failure! They’d been good for 15 years...

— The Half Pint Press (@halfpintpress) March 16, 2018


Tim, Friday, 16 March 2018 09:40 (one year ago) Permalink

Jesus Tim I'm sorry.

In my early twenties I had some cheap shelves that I didn't secure too properly and I threw a big party. They collapsed in the middle of a SingStar karaoke session, dozens and dozens of CDs and books flying directly at us.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 16 March 2018 09:55 (one year ago) Permalink

Calamity! Quite a graceful failure though. Were you home, was it loud?

I keep on meaning to write on the Ishiguro thread about why the Buried Giant is conceptually hugely flawed and bad, and The Unconsoled is a bona fide masterpiece. But not today.

lana del boy (ledge), Friday, 16 March 2018 10:00 (one year ago) Permalink

amazing photo!

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Friday, 16 March 2018 10:46 (one year ago) Permalink

We weren't home; I wish I'd heard it. It was remarkably civilised of the books to fall downwards rather than outwards. The glass mostly broke very cleanly also, thank goodness.

Not sure what material to use to replace, it's gotta be thin and v strong and not v bendy. Reinforced glass would be perfect but is I think rather expensive.

Tim, Friday, 16 March 2018 11:03 (one year ago) Permalink

I'm reading Robert Remini's doorstop bio of Daniel Webster cuz why not. I finished John Kenneth Galbraith's rather forgotten novel A Tenured Professor and hope to start Alan Hollinghurst's latest and Under the Udala Trees, both recommendations after posting my list of my favorite queer fiction.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 16 March 2018 12:04 (one year ago) Permalink

Carlo Emilio Gadda's The Experience of Pain will be one of the best reads of the year. It's akin to Kafka's America (this pure invention of a place) (which is of course not solely confined to that book, although they were possibly written around at the same time) and, in its misanthropy and general auto-fictional framework brings to mind Celine's Death on the Installment Plan. Its not really written like either and seems like a hodgepodge of styles for its first part, then settles to something more stable and addictive in the second (I do need to go back to part I) and some very powerful pages.

Carrying on the undercover modernism theme I am now giving Tsvetaeva's diaries Earthly Signs - Moscow Diaries: 1917-1922 a once over. I love her prose (Russian prose by poets was a thing) so I am glad to have more of it.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 16 March 2018 15:29 (one year ago) Permalink

Many xps but the hearing trumpet does indeed take a bit of a swerve toward the end

scotti pruitti (wins), Friday, 16 March 2018 16:15 (one year ago) Permalink

Starting to notice what could be called a musical effect/approach in some of the xpost Nocturnes: "Crooner"'s (apparently reliable and not too sad)narrator is a young-seeming guitarist from an unnamed, formerly "communist country," as he and other Euros ( def.incl. the trash-talking two-faced gondolier) always refer to it, culturally deprived category being more important than name. He's regarded as an anachronistic but necessary evil by anxious cafe etc. owners around the Venetian plaza: they're afraid the tourists won't see a guitar as traditional enough, even though it's antique-y as possible and the various little folk etc. ensembles sound better with it judging by wine sales etc. One day he spots an American crooner, the one his sad Mom loved from afar, wearing out his records way back in that communist country.

In "Malvern Hills," the narrator is also a young guitarist, who has left school with his little old acoustic, is unable to find work with London band, none of whom want anyone without equipment and pref. transport, especially "one of those wankers who go 'round writing songs, " which he is. He goes to stay with his sister and brother-in-law in their Malvern Hills cafe--they live upstairs, it's actually in the hills, mostly serving locals, they can't afford to pay him, but the idea is he's working for his room and board, the brother-in-law, especially, seems torn between reproaching him for not working harder and feeling guilty for expecting/depending on him to work at all (hey, he's a guest, he's a volunteer, he's family, he's working on songs dammit). Then he meets an older couple from the Continent, who are travelling musicians---pref. experimenting with Swiss folk music, but very often expected by cafe etc.owners to play and dress trad., also to play the Beatles, Carpenters, ABBA (the often loudly positive hubbie looks like Bjorn or Benny might in later middle age). They came after seeing a documentary about Elgar riding these hills on his bicycle (hub loves the look, more mercurial wife later says the area is like a little park).

dow, Friday, 16 March 2018 16:51 (one year ago) Permalink

So the ?musical" part I meant is the way he repeats, varies, recombines elements of characterization and setting and plotting.

dow, Friday, 16 March 2018 16:52 (one year ago) Permalink

Also the phrasing, pacing etc. are fluid enough without every getting gushy.

dow, Friday, 16 March 2018 16:58 (one year ago) Permalink

Finished The Crucible of War, which was an interesting look at a period of history that I haven't read much about since high school. Looking for something a bit lighter now, so I think I'll try Alan Furst's Night Soldiers, which has been lying around the house since my wife bought it, and since I've read some positive things about him on the board.

o. nate, Saturday, 17 March 2018 02:13 (one year ago) Permalink

We went through that song, full of travelling and goodbye. An American man leaving his woman. He keeps thinking of her as he passes through the towns one by one, verse by verse, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Oklahoma, driving down a long road, the way my mother never could. If only we could leave things behind like that---I guess that's what my mother would have thought. If only sadness could be like that.

I hate when novelists do this

"that song"

Number None, Saturday, 17 March 2018 15:13 (one year ago) Permalink

All night long
We would sing that stupid song

Whiney On The Moog (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 17 March 2018 17:14 (one year ago) Permalink

"that song" in reference to a title he had just mentioned, had mentioned several times.
I like the way his narrators never tell me too much. Why, for instance, after the security guard flips the lights on in the hotel ballroom about 3 a.m. to see what the ruckus is, does the LAPD cop not more extensively question the man and woman standing on stage? They tell him they've been looking for munchies, and he does wonder aloud why room service isn't good enough for them, judging by his own experience---he's a guest too; maybe he's off duty and on vacation, just wearing a suit and carrying his badge when the guard calls, but wanting to get back to his plush room (how can a cop afford this ritzy place?) The lady he's interviewing is wearing a very fine bathrobe, the fact that she and the gentleman are wearing bandages that cover their whole heads, except for mouths and eyes, evidently working in there somewhere, are further indications of status, which he may take into account (LAPD prob knows about the context). Better to back off, for now anyway.
And maybe the guy who sees them on another night, and comes up with his own tentative explanation in the form of a question, also knows when to go about his business, in this town of endless business permutations. The co-stars of "Nocturne" mean to stay on point too, but they just have to take the scenic route, especially when they get to the "go back to cover our tracks" fallacy (not so far from "spend money to make money," a given here). But there's much more to it---not too much, just typically spare and graceful and energetically generating textured details all along, for the right number of pages, although I hope the last story won't go to a downtempo ending, as usual----its titled "Cellists," so not expecting fireworks finale.

dow, Saturday, 17 March 2018 19:09 (one year ago) Permalink

Finished A Room With A View. It does indeed feature a stronger positive female character than anything in Forster so far; it's also interesting that the book is actually quite affectionate towards the deadly Suburbs that Forster so despised in his previous two novels (all three written more or less at the same time, to be sure); Cecil, with his disdain for the family and high aspirations towards Art, is almost a dark version of Ansel from The Longest Journey. I repped for that book so long that now it's creaking a bit under the weight - and the breezy feeling of A Room With A View feels superior, which I guess lands me back into conventional wisdom. Howards End and A Passage To India should arrive at my local bookshop Monday. My first new purchases - I'd not read Room With A View before but had it laying around for years.

Daniel_Rf, Saturday, 17 March 2018 21:55 (one year ago) Permalink

I just read the Life of Alfred the Great by the contemporary monk named Asser. It was hardly scintillating narrative prose, really very flat, barren even, but it has the virtue of brevity and does throw some light on a very unfamiliar period of English history, when the Vikings were about as powerful as the Saxons and ruled a good swath of now-English territory. I read a translation by Simon Keynes that was in a larger Penguin Classics volume about Alfred.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 17 March 2018 22:33 (one year ago) Permalink

It's hard to commission this shit when you're still alive, and I worried about kids reading it.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 17 March 2018 22:41 (one year ago) Permalink

Tore through a handful of books the last couple of weeks: lidia yuknavitch the book of Joan, Jennifer Egan look at me, chris petit the butchers of Berlin, trey ellis platitudes - all diverting and interesting and I might work up something half intelligent to say about some of them at some point but not today (I will say that platitudes has some of the funniest bits I've read in awhile); and now I'm on page 8 of correction and I feel like I'm wading through tar

scotti pruitti (wins), Sunday, 18 March 2018 18:42 (one year ago) Permalink

So "Cellists," the last story in xpost Nocturnes, turns out to be a strong finish. Continuing the recombinant flow, we go back to the opening "Crooner"'s setting, the Venetian Piazza San Marco, with the hopeful cafe managers and tourists and pigeons and musos. "The big Czech guy with the alto sax," mentioned by the "Crooner" guitarist-narrator, tells this one, and an American lady appears, with a secret, a talent, a calling, none of them quite the same, keep thinking she's also from a story by Elizabeth Bowen, Katherine Mansfield, even, vibe-wise, Jane Bowen---but mainly she's another driving, veering, purposeful, impulsive, compulsive, improvising self-projecting muse-agents in the winter of discontent, racing the clock or feeling it, at least, one of the ones in all these stories (one's in two).
Good stuff. Could be quite different from the novels in some ways, at least judging by descriptions in the endpages of this Vintage International trade pb: grafs re An Artist of the Floating World, Never Let Me Go, A Pale View of Hills,The Remains of the Day, The Unconsoled, and When We Were Orphans.

dow, Tuesday, 20 March 2018 16:22 (one year ago) Permalink

Jane Bowles, not Bowen, of course! Sorry, Jane!

dow, Tuesday, 20 March 2018 16:27 (one year ago) Permalink

Just to confuse things further - there's an English photographer named Jane Bown. Here's a picture Bown took of Bowen:

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 20 March 2018 16:38 (one year ago) Permalink

After dipping into James Baldwin's essays on Sunday night, last night I switched over to start one of his novels, Another Country, Lord Alfred's relative estimations of Baldwin as a great essayist and mediocre novelist notwithstanding.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 20 March 2018 19:26 (one year ago) Permalink

Ooof. That's harsh - Another Country may not cohere, precisely, but goddamn the constituent parts are extraordinary.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Tuesday, 20 March 2018 19:38 (one year ago) Permalink

Gillian Rose - Love's Work. Reflections on death, medicine (western or otherwise), love, relationships and philosophy as the author approaches the end game in her battle with cancer. I loved the last 10 pages (they were a strange experience - how is she going to end this? It felt like the middle of the book), in the manner which she turned the density of philosophical reflection into an 'ending' that was one and yet didn't feel like one - of life and learning, with the willingness to learn and live and love - and to the last second. You are sure it carried on until the last breath, beyond the last page of the book in which you are holding.

Now more love - onto The Letters of Abelard and Heloise

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 20 March 2018 21:54 (one year ago) Permalink

You'll find the letters are rather more chaste and philosophical than ardent. The infamous consequence of their relationship for Peter Abelard doesn't get much play in the letters. Or at least, it used to be infamous. Lots of these old iconic stories are getting buried under the onslaught of contemporary media.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 20 March 2018 22:13 (one year ago) Permalink

I know about it cos it was in The Sopranos :)

Number None, Tuesday, 20 March 2018 22:43 (one year ago) Permalink

the sexy version is rousseau's julie

adam, Wednesday, 21 March 2018 15:35 (one year ago) Permalink

Eudora Welty: The Ponder Heart -- objectively this is pretty good, but not sure that my own tolerance for the endless blather of a folksy racist hasn't been exceeded by p35

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 22 March 2018 00:04 (one year ago) Permalink

I felt the same way - I pressed on and was pleased I did but I haven’t gone back to Welty.

Tim, Thursday, 22 March 2018 06:48 (one year ago) Permalink

Haven't read the novels or novellas, but much enjoyed what I've read in The Collected Stories(1982 edition); reliable sources have encouraged me to read One Writer's Beginnings and On Writing, also
collection of correspondence w William Maxwell, ditto Kenneth Millar AKA Ross MacDonald (reliables have also endorsed the longer fiction, but I may not get to any that, or any more of hers). Oh and I liked a collection of her photography and an exhibition of same, with some pix not in the book, but related to stories, views of the Natchez Trace etc.

dow, Thursday, 22 March 2018 19:17 (one year ago) Permalink

Her short stories and photos are definitely great. I think I just have an allergy to the sort of Southern whimsy 'Ponder Heart' is strong in.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 22 March 2018 23:58 (one year ago) Permalink

I love this photo she took of Katherine Anne Porter, who i also read some of and loved recently

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 22 March 2018 23:59 (one year ago) Permalink

Wow. Reminds me: where should I start with her writing?

dow, Friday, 23 March 2018 02:36 (one year ago) Permalink

'Pale Horse, Pale Rider' is a set of 3 novellas you can't go wrong with. The last one is set during the outbreak of the 1918 'Spanish' flu.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 23 March 2018 02:58 (one year ago) Permalink

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.