2018 Summer: A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine, and What Are You Reading?

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The Summer Solstice finds me reading Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope. What can I say? The man knew his craft.

For future reference, this thread supercedes 2018 Springtime For ILB: My Huggles. What Are You Reading Now?.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 23 June 2018 17:47 (two years ago) link

I'm on a Barbara Pym kick. I'm also reading Garrett Epps' superb Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 23 June 2018 17:55 (two years ago) link

I already believe the 14th amendment is the best thing America has ever done so that sounds appealing.

valorous wokelord (silby), Saturday, 23 June 2018 18:04 (two years ago) link

I just signed up for this course. In anticipation I'm reading Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography by David Reynolds. So far, excellent.

I'm listening to Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders on audiobook (a silby rec), and I'm enjoying it a lot, too. Good readers.

Recently, I finished Sy Montgomery's The Good Pig and Soul of an Octopus, both lovely and simple memoirs about the author's obsession with the titular animals.

For work, I'm steaming through a bunch of anthologies of by young American writers from culturally diverse backgrounds. Flying Lessons and Other Stories, by Ellen Oh, part of the #weneeddiversebooks movement had some good middle-grades pieces, and I'm working to get my hands on an advance copy of the same organization's new young adult anthology, 'Fresh Ink.' I also checked out of the library a half-dozen young adult anthologies by LGBTQ+ authors, but they're mostly fan-fic, and nearly all present queerness through either a deficit lens or in a way that is creepily erotic given the age of the intended audience.

rb (soda), Saturday, 23 June 2018 18:22 (two years ago) link

I really enjoyed Soul of an Octopus. I must get The Good Pig. And an actual pet pig.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Sunday, 24 June 2018 02:03 (two years ago) link

NYRB Classics one day sale right now from their web store. The more you buy the more you save.

devops mom (silby), Wednesday, 27 June 2018 00:13 (two years ago) link

I’m still reading Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

devops mom (silby), Wednesday, 27 June 2018 00:14 (two years ago) link

That NYRB sale is brilliant and I wish I lived in a country where the savings weren't more than destroyed by postage fees

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 27 June 2018 00:52 (two years ago) link

Just finished reading John Darnelle's Universal Harvester (which was fantastic and puzzling and a proper joy) and now I'm reading Ben Myers' The Gallows Pole set among the Cragg Valley coin clipping gangs . It's good so far!

My name is the Pope and in the 90s I smoked a lot of dope (dog latin), Wednesday, 27 June 2018 08:11 (two years ago) link

Natsume Soseki's Kusamakura. So far it seems like a treatise on Japanese aesthetics framed by a ghost story.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 27 June 2018 10:33 (two years ago) link

xp Have you read Wolf In White Van, dog latin? It's even better.

dow, Wednesday, 27 June 2018 22:43 (two years ago) link

Seems like a genius move, if anything is.

dow, Wednesday, 27 June 2018 22:44 (two years ago) link

Yeah I liked Wolf In White Van a lot!

My name is the Pope and in the 90s I smoked a lot of dope (dog latin), Thursday, 28 June 2018 08:39 (two years ago) link

I finished Light Years, which turned out to be not too skeevy after all. It was more of an homage to domesticity and dinner parties than a celebration of the phallus. In fact my main take-away from the book is that I should try to have more dinner parties. There were some things I didn't understand about the relationship between the central couple - they never have sex yet they also never fight - but perhaps we're not meant to understand it. The whole thing is bathed in this wonderfully elegiac burnished glow which probably inspired a lot of bad novels but somehow works beautifully here. If more people had read it, I'd think it might have had something to do with the decline in divorce rates that started a few years later. The sex is sexy but also kind of menacing, like the spread of the wife's father's cancer, eating away at the bubble of domestic bliss.

o. nate, Friday, 29 June 2018 02:04 (two years ago) link

finished Light Years, which turned out to be not too skeevy after all. It was more of an homage to domesticity and dinner parties than a celebration of the phallus. In fact my main take-away from the book is that I should try to have more dinner parties

Shrewdly put.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 June 2018 02:18 (two years ago) link

Bloodlands, Snyder: maybe not the best thing for my mood these days. learned quite a bit, the timing of events and sense of location for things I'd only understood disparately. and the post war stalinist ethnic cleansing of the satellite states, I'd never read anything about that.

Ancillary Sword, Leckie: in the middle of this one. idk it's ok. her ideas are interesting but i don't think i like her as a writer. all of the tedious etiquette stuff plus the constant overlay of personal data, you're losing me a little bit.

Harry Potter. I managed to avoid this stuff totally until now. and you know what, they're... fine. they breeze right by. i get some of the same energy i got from d&d: a bunch of folklore and myth put together into a sort of coherent, inviting world. but the plots all rest on lying to or negligence toward children so the cheery nostalgia is lost on me tbh

Memoirs, US Grant: not far into this. pretty dry with occasional dad jokes.

goole, Friday, 29 June 2018 03:32 (two years ago) link

the plots all rest on lying to or negligence toward children

Yes! There is definitely agree to which these novels lean heavily on the Idiot Plot: how much time is wasted with Harry, Hermione and Ron scrambling, usually at great personal risk, to solve some mystery that Dumbledore could have easily cleared up from the very beginning?

I'm currently reading Mackenzi Lee's The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue which, despite a bisexual protagonist and an 18th century setting, has a very Potter-ish makeup. It's a lot of fun.

Police, Academy (cryptosicko), Friday, 29 June 2018 04:09 (two years ago) link

solve some mystery that Dumbledore could have easily cleared up from the very beginning

In the world of Potter, the adults all seem determined to keep children in the dark about many highly important matters. This has the ring of truth to it for young readers.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 29 June 2018 04:13 (two years ago) link

Yeah, and kids investigating and uncovering what adults don't think they're ready to know is a children's literature wish-fulfillment standard, c.f. kid detectives and such.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 29 June 2018 08:43 (two years ago) link

I'm on a Barbara Pym kick

Where's good to start? I have No Fond Return of Love and Excellent Women, but haven't opened either

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 29 June 2018 13:02 (two years ago) link

Excellent Women will do.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 June 2018 13:34 (two years ago) link


Agreed that the lies of adults make both generic and emotional sense but the formula stops making much logical sense after a few HP books.

A colleague of mine is crazy about Pym, so I’ve been curious about her for a while. I think I’ll start with the gay themed one that Alfred wrote about on his blog.

Police, Academy (cryptosicko), Friday, 29 June 2018 17:27 (two years ago) link

To call it gay-themed is to suggest it's explicit. Like I wrote, if you're not paying full attention, it may slip past you.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 June 2018 17:39 (two years ago) link

i am reading james' twitter

mookieproof, Friday, 29 June 2018 20:50 (two years ago) link

working so much I have no chance to read : /

||||||||, Friday, 29 June 2018 21:34 (two years ago) link

Finishing up Helen DeWitt's short story collection, then the new Rachel Cusk.

The DeWitt is an enigma at times in that I'm not always certain what she's trying to do with a story, but you definitely get the sense that there's some sort of specific conceptual motivation at play.

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 29 June 2018 21:40 (two years ago) link

I interrupted my reading of Barchester Towers and took a detour through Kitchen Confidential. I needed something that would be fast and undemanding.

I can see why KC was very popular and made Bourdain into a celebrity. It has a lot of sensational stories, told with touches of Hunter S. Thompson's style, but also a very friendly and unassuming authorial voice throughout.

Soon, back to the vicars of Christ and their hijinks.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 29 June 2018 21:47 (two years ago) link

re-reading Pale Fire thx to Raymond jogging my memory

good stuff

sleeve, Friday, 29 June 2018 21:49 (two years ago) link

I read a few things this month.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 30 June 2018 19:56 (two years ago) link

Further into Kusamakura - not a ghost story as it turns out, it's just the female character the protagonist fancies is very elusive.

The stuff on aesthetics is still interesting, though also a bit windbag-y. Very chauvinistic towards Western art (fair enough, we can take it) and also Chinese art (dodgier). Can't quite tell if Soseki means the protagonist to be an idiot or not - he's a young student, so I think he is supposed to be a bit pompous and naive, but you never know. Meiji era authors often split between adoration of Westerns forms/urges to "modernize" Japanese arts and letters and a (very understandable) backlash against that and militancy in valuing Japanese traditions.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 2 July 2018 09:41 (two years ago) link

Reading Elmore Leonard's The Switch. It's fun. I'm starting to think late 70s is my favourite era for Leonard. They're just as strong as the 80s/90s classics but tighter, shorter, more exciting, and after Swag he finally figures out to how to relax with the dialog thing.

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 2 July 2018 09:54 (two years ago) link

Sōseki spent some time in the West, London specifically, and HATED IT: had the most miserable time

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Tuesday, 3 July 2018 00:10 (two years ago) link

Haha! This is also true of Stefan Zweig and Portuguese realist novelist Eça de Queirós, off the top of my head.

I like it ok myself ftr.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 3 July 2018 11:08 (two years ago) link

Slays two. Found gassed. Thinks of cat.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Tuesday, 3 July 2018 14:21 (two years ago) link

Sure, it's no Maidenhead.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 4 July 2018 00:07 (two years ago) link

I'm reading Angel by Elizabeth Taylor. It's lovely for so many reasons: how dialogue reveals character, the furnishings, the gentle (and not so gentle) sneering, the sheer depth of self-loathing. I need to read everything she has written.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 4 July 2018 09:15 (two years ago) link

I didn't mention finishing Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness. I found it oddly muddled in places (deliberate ambiguity of the narrative voice makes absolute sense in the circumstances, but still) but the last 100 pages, on the ice, are some of the most sublime I've read in the last few years.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 4 July 2018 09:16 (two years ago) link

Ben Myers' The Gallows Pole

Let me know how you like this - it's been sitting in my 'to-read' pile for months. I think I liked the cover?

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Wednesday, 4 July 2018 09:42 (two years ago) link

I bought it because I really liked the cover tbh. But it's good. I haven't read George R R Martin, but it's written in a way that I would imagine is Martin-esque crossed with a folk-horror/Quietus/Ben Wheatley aesthetic. Lots of good descriptions of the Yorkshire Vales, very atmospheric. Strong characters and doses of ribald humour and creative swearing. I'm enjoying it so far. It's a surprisingly easy read too.

Gâteau Superstar (dog latin), Wednesday, 4 July 2018 09:45 (two years ago) link

"I'm reading Angel by Elizabeth Taylor. It's lovely for so many reasons: how dialogue reveals character, the furnishings, the gentle (and not so gentle) sneering, the sheer depth of self-loathing. I need to read everything she has written."

It's a long time since I read it, but Angel is pretty untypical Taylor. It's a kind of pastiche (a sardonic take on a certain type of "womens' fiction)", whereas most of her work is solidly in the realist tradition. I like it less than the best of her more characteristic stuff but for some people it's her best work; if you're one of those the rest might be something of a disappointment.

frankiemachine, Thursday, 5 July 2018 18:21 (two years ago) link

I finished Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, volume 3 of 4 of Elena Ferrante's "Neapolitan Novels". I started Brideshead Revisited. The first 30 pages have totally sold me, I love Sebastian Flyte already.

devops mom (silby), Thursday, 5 July 2018 18:35 (two years ago) link

the first section of BR is by far the best iirc, steep drop off after Sebastian (who, yeah)

flopson, Friday, 6 July 2018 03:02 (two years ago) link

Maigret On Holiday and so am I.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 6 July 2018 08:47 (two years ago) link

Shirley Collins All In The Downs.
She's in London and already introduced to the library at cecil Sharpe house while working as a waitress/counterstaff at the cafe upstairs at the Troubadour and doing solo spots in the folk club downstairs.
Nice book as was America Over the Water.

Stevolende, Friday, 6 July 2018 09:05 (two years ago) link

Maigret and the Informer: Closet crims build up lavish bourgeois overlays of custom and properties, but/and eventually just have to kill/be killed, disrupting the routines of others, incl. cops, but that's also customary, so of course we have Maigret pulled from his bed and table and even city, but I shall say no more tonight (click).

dow, Friday, 6 July 2018 19:29 (two years ago) link

I'm about 3/4 done with Barchester Towers. It has an impressively nuanced grip on the role of communication and miscommunication in human affairs and happiness. But perhaps even more impressive is the good nature and generosity with which the author views the failings and foibles of all his characters, even those who play the role of villains. Trollope has a similar penetration into human nature as Jane Austen did, while being less acerbic, less witty, but warmer in his sympathy.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 6 July 2018 20:10 (two years ago) link

Some of his contemporaneous fans found The Way We Live Now too dark and disturbing. I thought it was great. Justice is a fairly rare form of good nature and generosity in this our life.

dow, Saturday, 7 July 2018 00:42 (two years ago) link

Justice, justice you shall pursue

devops mom (silby), Saturday, 7 July 2018 01:20 (two years ago) link

I spent 2011-2016 reading a Trollope novel every semester. I never read BT -- I read every one of the Palliser books. They're shallow but deep, if that makes sense. They're Balzac novels w/out the interest in character. Boy, do they understand politics, power, and money.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 7 July 2018 03:23 (two years ago) link

TWWLN got interest in character as well as understanding p, p, and m. Haven't read any of his others yet. (They're all long as fuck apparently, and now I'm stuck in the 20th Century.)

dow, Saturday, 7 July 2018 04:01 (two years ago) link

on Belle Sauvage, I think it's a common problem with high episodic narratives – one thing happens then another thing happens then another thing happens and then it stops. the fact they don't get anywhere or complete anything is peculiar I agree. very hurried.

the book has been very insistently trailed as a part of a trilogy, including the cover where the title of the book is confusingly beneath the 'Book of Dust' wider work, and with the heavy-handed 'to be continued' at the end, that I wonder whether this was something that was also noted by the publisher. or whether the publisher insisted a larger work be chopped up and released in more books. or something like that anyway.

Fizzles, Sunday, 9 September 2018 14:30 (one year ago) link

There's something so unsettling about the way it fails to provide resolution to many of the plot strands (especially the part about Malcolm being used as a honeytrap) that it's hard not to think it's deliberate. But then we get that very rushed final chapter that's all a bit "[throws up shoulders] fuck, here's some plot to finish it off". So I came out unsure whether I'd felt unsettled by the deliberate, Aickman-esque choice to avoid resolution, or if, like you say, it was just clumsy packaging.

Mostly I found it very engrossing and relievedly easy work after Amber Spyglass.

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 9 September 2018 14:51 (one year ago) link

Not sure if I'm completely remembering, but I think in an NYTimes interview around the publication he said that the next book was already finished, but the third one wasn't. Ah, here we go:

"Now he is rejuvenated, though there remains more work to do. Before it can be published, the second volume of “The Book of Dust” requires what he calls “carpentry.” The structure needs to be sawed up and reassembled, the sentences sanded smooth. The third book then needs to find its way out of his head and onto his two-holed paper. He warned there would be a delay, just as there was before the last volume of “His Dark Materials.”"


toby, Sunday, 9 September 2018 19:28 (one year ago) link

new shteyngart

||||||||, Sunday, 9 September 2018 20:14 (one year ago) link

there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.

dow, Sunday, 9 September 2018 20:41 (one year ago) link

I finished CHRONIC CITY again.

the pinefox, Monday, 10 September 2018 15:28 (one year ago) link

[SPOILERS re: Belle Sauvage]

The thing that really bothered me was the total lack of follow-up to the implied sexual assault of a major character right near the end - for a book that was so deliberate, and that took into account the more commonplace work that was foisted on the female characters, it seemed really off.

JoeStork, Monday, 10 September 2018 15:40 (one year ago) link

I’ve had Patrick O’Brien’s Master & Commander on my shelf for a few years. I did not suspect that the wholly delightful first chapter would be followed by 400+ pages of impenetrable naval architecture porn, inc. long discussions of the relative merits of grommets to pulleys in sail maintenance. I’ve read easier pages of Gravity’s Rainbow.

I still dug it though. Has anyone read the sequels? Do they get any more plotty and less, er, shippy?

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 13 September 2018 21:50 (one year ago) link

The fanfic is all shippy

faculty w1fe (silby), Friday, 14 September 2018 00:10 (one year ago) link

You don't need to understand much, if any, of the nautical jargoning to read the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brien. Just skate past it and you won't lose a thing.

All that shippy stuff mostly gives you a sense of how complex a sailing ship was and how important it was for the crew to 'know the ropes'. The characters who spend a lot of time gabbing about this nautical minutiae have worked on ships for the great majority of their lives, and by contrast, know almost nothing about life on land. They are just as lost and "at sea" when ashore as the landsmen are when aboard ship.

If you read many of the novels, you'll start to see many of the same jokes reappear multiple times, but that, too, is probably authentic. Old jokes get handed down in small isolated communities, just as playground games get passed down by children.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 14 September 2018 00:23 (one year ago) link

The Fire and the Fury Michael Wolff
Funny that people with both the male and female versions of this name were causing the White House discomfort at roughly the same time.
I just got around to reading this when the Bob Woodward book came out. Wondering what of the books on the current regime are still worth reading.
Also saw Active Measures this week which was good.

Stevolende, Friday, 14 September 2018 07:37 (one year ago) link

Philip Roth - "Portnoy's Complaint"

. (Michael B), Friday, 14 September 2018 10:56 (one year ago) link

A few pages in and I feel this is going to be a lot more Freudian than the other Roth books I've read

. (Michael B), Friday, 14 September 2018 10:56 (one year ago) link

lol well you aren’t wrong

faculty w1fe (silby), Friday, 14 September 2018 11:06 (one year ago) link

Getting into Howards End (someone was talking Forster upthread I think) and it’s remarkable so far. It’s impossible for me to read the Miss Schlegels as other than Jewish, which may yet turn out to be contrary to the text but no matter. Seems like it will be an instructive contrast to Brideshead Revisited, in some ways. Nice to read something of this ilk with no barons in it (so far)

faculty w1fe (silby), Friday, 14 September 2018 13:18 (one year ago) link

I don't think they're supposed to be Jewish, just German - but I don't remember anything in particular in the novel that would state clearly they're not.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 14 September 2018 13:25 (one year ago) link

Certainly they could be German liberal aesthetes and be gentiles but as a descendant of German Jewish liberal aesthetes I’m predisposed to read that type as a Jewish one

faculty w1fe (silby), Friday, 14 September 2018 13:30 (one year ago) link

Joseph Lelyveld. Move your shadow: South Africa, black and white. Picked this up in a box of books on the pavement on the walk to work on Wednesday morning. Good appalled account of apartheid South Africa written in the early 80s by the NYT correspondent who had been expelled from South Africa in the 60s after a year by the South African government for his reporting and allowed back in 1980, staying for 3 years.

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Friday, 14 September 2018 20:32 (one year ago) link

is it worth continuing with the trilogy if i wasn’t totally blown away by Three Body Problem?

flopson, Friday, 14 September 2018 21:20 (one year ago) link

I finished Troilus and Criseyde last night. It was a confusing work for a modern reader, because nothing added up to an integral whole. Chaucer took an older story and reworked it, but he failed to rework it into a shape that was satisfying, because he kept elements of the story that glaringly didn't fit with the direction he wanted to take it.

The result was kind of a mess. He spent the first four books making the two main characters fit the mold of chivalric romance, then in the fifth book they fail entirely to live up to the ideals they have lengthily and poetically declared they believed with all their hearts and souls. I can't begin to count how often they invoked their willingness to die for love, then when push comes to shove, Criseyde changes her mind in the most perfunctory way imaginable and takes another lover. Afterwards, Troilus, the paragon of princely virtue declares he will seek honorable death in battle to satisfy his vows of perfect service to love, but as the story peters out, Chaucer mentions briefly in passing that he failed both to die or to get his revenge on his rival.

One is left with a parable of courtly love that conflicts with itself and an author who shrugs and sidesteps the glaring issues no reader can fail to notice. This dangling conclusion is not meant as irony or as cynicism; it is just a problem Chaucer doesn't know how to resolve, so he punts.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 14 September 2018 21:24 (one year ago) link

chaucer sonned by an aimless in epic poem beef

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Friday, 14 September 2018 21:47 (one year ago) link

T & C doesn't seem like something I'd be interested in, but I appreciate your take, Aimless. Cheers for sticking with it even though you found it confusing.

I finished Slaves of Solitude. It was good. It reminded me a bit of Skylark (another NYRB reissue) in the way it's psychological acuity and careful rendering of aspects of small town life made it relatable to a modern reader, though admittedly 1940s England is already a bit closer to modern times than Belle Epoque Hungary. The rendering of civilian life during the long days before Normandy as stretches of anxious dreariness punctuated by the odd boozy bacchanalia seemed believable. And its portrayal of the boarding house boor, Mr. Thwaites, was devastatingly acute, even though the author's deployment of much felicitous prose to take down an annoying dunderhead did seem a bit like a bazooka being aimed at a gnat.

o. nate, Saturday, 15 September 2018 01:26 (one year ago) link

I finished Thomas Browne's Religio-Medici, and as a perfect follow to Burton's Anatomy..., just as a fireworks display of language and learning, anchored by a deep well of faith in a god, which in their hands its a complex figure. Burton and Browne are companions in the best sense and you realise what pub talk as prose could be.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 15 September 2018 13:47 (one year ago) link

Lawrence Goldstone - Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903

The Silky Veils of Alfred (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 15 September 2018 14:10 (one year ago) link

I could not disagree more re: Chaucer's Troilus, which to me seems pretty clearly Chaucer's multi-angled comment on the future fate of all such starcrossed-lovers tales

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Saturday, 15 September 2018 16:57 (one year ago) link

Currently reading Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety. Love it! I tried it once before but gave up early...really glad I tried again. You can see the way she perfected her style with Wolf Hall etc later...all the building blocks are there. Also love the way she has written the various women.

Debating whether to pursue another fictional French Revolutionary novel afterwards, or a meatier non-fiction instead. Def want to stay in this arena though.
Maybe that Marie Antoinette book by Antonia Fraser?
We’ll see.

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 15 September 2018 16:59 (one year ago) link

I just finished Ourednik's The Opportune Moment, 1855 btw and it was fucking great. I loved Europeana and didn't really understand Case Closed entirely but 1855 is just terrific - clever and biting and fun and dark. I'm glad Dalkey has this guy, wanna read everything he writes

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Saturday, 15 September 2018 17:08 (one year ago) link

I'm now digging into Crashed, Adam Tooze.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 17 September 2018 17:40 (one year ago) link

I'm taking some time out of town and Crashed is too massive and unwieldy to bring with me, so I'll probably start and maybe finish another book before I can get back to it.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 16:22 (one year ago) link

Violette Leduc: The Lady and the Little Fox Fur -- another really good Penguin European Writers book with a lovely cover and hideous paper stock

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 23:30 (one year ago) link

I keep meaning to talk about stuff I’m reading, but never get around to it. Anyway, started to reread ‘Seibi There Below’ by Krasznahorkai, and reminded how much I loved it. The writing is gorgeous.

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Friday, 21 September 2018 10:18 (one year ago) link

Should be Seiobo

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Friday, 21 September 2018 10:19 (one year ago) link

Vile Bodiesm Evelyn Waugh. It's funny! Was taken with this passage:

"Adam ate some breakfast. No kipper, he reflected, is ever as good as it smells; how this too earthly contact with flesh and bone spoiled the first happy exhilaration; if only one could live, as Jehovah was said to have done, on the savour of burnt offerings. He lay back for a little in his bed thinking about the smells of food, of the greasy horror of fried fish and the deeply moving smell that came from it; of the intoxicating breath of bakeries and the dullness of buns...He planned dinners of enchanting aromatic foods that should be carried under the nose, snuffed and thrown to the dogs...endless dinners, in which one could alternate flavour with flavour from sunset to dawn without satiety, while one breathed great draughts of the bouquet of old brandy."

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 21 September 2018 12:03 (one year ago) link

T. Singer by Dag Solstad, in which a fellow hamstrung by self-consciousness lives his life. The book does its Dag Solstad thing, which is to say I loved it. I think he's probably my favourite living writer at the moment.

Tim, Friday, 21 September 2018 13:19 (one year ago) link

I have also been reading Dag Solstad. His Armand V, which I finished last night. This one has very light games played with narrative although apart from that it isn't that different to his other books and what they work over in all its European white-male neurosis in a tragic-comic mode with an awareness of priviledge. Both he and Thomas Bernhard have a lot in common although there are some key differences - in Bernhard, whose central figures like to berate you with truths - although they hate themselves for never standing outside of it. They are very much post-war and dealing with something like the fall out from the politics of the 60s and 70s, but then Solstad also engages with the aftermath of the Berlin Wall, and Western imperialism too -- something Bernhard never got to do as he died in the late 80s. Both write with a really addictive rhtyhm to their sentences (although Bernhard has that trademark density of his). Its quite a novel to be reading today -- as we drive toward what feels like the end of certain projects -- the EU, NATO, etc. as the kind of consensus fractures and we march toward what nobody knows.

Other than that its poetry via a couple of key NYRB issues:

Poems of the Late T'Ang
Proensa An Anthology of Troubadour Poetry

The first set fo translations is by Welsh sinologist A.C.Graham who seems to, in his introduction, attempting to bridge a gap between a conception of Chinese culture and poetry somewhere between Ezra Pound and William Empson. I often wanted to engage a bit more with ancient Chinese poetry but I never found a starter volume. Till now. The notes are good - when I can understand them, and I feel that I can go on a learning curve now. No such problems with Troubadour poetry although I have only started on Proensa I've read a couple of vols in the past. This one is translated by Paul Blackburn (who had a corerspondence with Pound) and there's a quote in the back from Richard Sieburth (translator of, among many things, courtly love poetry and an editor of the Faber Selected poetry of Ezra Pound) so join the dots.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 21 September 2018 15:24 (one year ago) link

Re-reading Derek Walcott's The Arkansas Traveler and just started The Sellout.

The Silky Veils of Alfred (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 21 September 2018 15:25 (one year ago) link

started hugo wilcken's the reflection and hoping it becomes a bit more than wow this narrator is *really* unreliable

mookieproof, Friday, 21 September 2018 15:47 (one year ago) link

In the home stretch of Ha Jin's Waiting, but slowing down my reading, resisting the tide, even though I know it's time, it's time---so much quiet momentum, the characters are so fluid within their constraints, their circumstances, their logic: lightning in a bottle, across the decades, that is.

dow, Friday, 21 September 2018 23:31 (one year ago) link

During my short beach vacation, I started reading Turing's Cathedral by George Dyson (Freeman Dyson's son). Now I am halfway through it and must decide whether to set it down and pick up Crashed where I left off, or finish the Dyson before I return to Tooze's book.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 23 September 2018 19:28 (one year ago) link

Is it bad, or just overwhelming?

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 24 September 2018 00:29 (one year ago) link

I'm reading the Confessions of Augustine in the new Sarah Ruden translation. The translation is great: jazzy, punchy, and thoroughly unstuffy. The work itself can be repetitive at times and elusive at others, rather like a stream of consciousness, despite the overt devotional character of the work, I do picture Augustine indulging in a tipple while leisurely dictating this to an amanuensis, but at times it snaps into focus and you feel like a bit of historical vertigo as you catch a personal glimpse down through the centuries.

o. nate, Monday, 24 September 2018 01:07 (one year ago) link

The Unforeseen by Dorothy Macardle. A woman, Virgilia, staying in isolation in a cottage in the Wicklow mountains, realises she's developing second sight. Her daughter, Nan, is trying to decide whether she's in love with Perry, a dick, or should be dedicating herself to her art. There's a combination of building dread, confined hysteria, and uncertainty, within a lovingly depicted Wicklow countryside and its bird life, which is striking. In fact one of the successes of this book is how Virgilia's visions and the nature surrounding her are seen to participate in each other.

As the main characters attempt to come to decisions about their futures you are shown them probing the future in different ways, whether it is the predictive force of hereditary traits, a sense of unease, being able to visualise yourself in alternative futures successfully or common sense. The way these interact and compare with the dangerous certainty of second sight is well done.

It has a terribly glib resolution though, which squanders the building unease. The scientific seriousness with which the male characters take everything makes this feel, as an introduction also suggests, that this is doubling up as an assault on scepticism about second sight and paranormal things generally. The overall lingering message – that which is unforeseen is sometimes the most important thing, in our previsions and attempts to make decisions based on a perception of the future – is a decent one.

And the shadow of the war sits within this book (published 1945, set summer 1938), with so that the decisions the characters are trying to make are laced with a presentiment of death:

'And, you see, for our generation, life is not going to be a summer holiday. What we've got to find out is whether we shall want one another when things are frightening and terrible.'

It's written in what I would call an Edwardian fashion - that is to say it's pretty stately, but i quite like that mode of writing, which is well done here at least, and which made this perfect reading while convalescing, and the descriptions of Wicklow and Dublin Bay made me wish I were there rather than blowing my nose in London.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 25 September 2018 13:12 (one year ago) link

also started forbidden line by paul stanbridge. in many ways it looks like the sort of thing i should like - a mixed plate of history, pseudo-religion and the arcane, - but it’s written in that facetious, garrulous style that seems like its intended to be described as pynchonian but which also seems to be the congenital style of a category of well-educated young male tyro, and to be lacking in any sort of constraint that might make it interesting.

am ambivalent. will continue with it for a bit.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 25 September 2018 22:32 (one year ago) link

That Dorothy Macardle book is going on my wish list.

o. nate, Wednesday, 26 September 2018 01:10 (one year ago) link


Robert Harris's enjoyably sprightly SELLING HITLER, about the fake Hitler diaries, is lots of fun

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 26 September 2018 03:49 (one year ago) link

That Dorothy Macardle book is going on my wish list.

a few people i’ve seen prefer her first, published in the US as The Uninvited but in the U.K. originally as Uneasy Freehold (weird title).

Fizzles, Wednesday, 26 September 2018 15:37 (one year ago) link

Hey, it’s fall

faculty w1fe (silby), Wednesday, 26 September 2018 16:05 (one year ago) link

so it is.

Fizzles, Wednesday, 26 September 2018 17:44 (one year ago) link

Oh yeah, basis of the Ray Milland movie The Uninvited (made during WWII, I think). Never watched the whole thing, but have seen it compared to Val Lewton signature films re (post-Turn of the Screw?) supernatural as lens/prism of character development.

dow, Wednesday, 26 September 2018 20:22 (one year ago) link

I just started 2018 Autumn: The Rise and Fall of What Are You Reading Now?. Feel free to commandeer the throw pillows and stretch out on the sofa.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 27 September 2018 02:58 (one year ago) link

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