2018 Autumn: The Rise and Fall of What Are You Reading Now?

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I have set aside Crashed, Adam Tooze, in order to finish Turing's Cathedral, George Dyson, wherewith I am nearing the end. It has been rather scattered for a history, but full of anecdotal interest. Dyson is now riding his hobby horse full tilt as the book nears its end, preaching the 'high-tech singularity' as humanity's final destiny. I remain skeptical of his hallelujahs.

I am not sure I will be positioned to pick up the Tooze book where I left off. I will soon be very distracted by sheparding my daughter through surgery and I am not likely to have the focus or attention required for economics until November at the earliest.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 27 September 2018 02:56 (four months ago) Permalink

Hre's link back to the 2018 Summer WAYR thread.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 27 September 2018 02:57 (four months ago) Permalink

as mentioned at the end of the other thread, I was feeling ambivalent about Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge. I reached page 45 and have had to give up. I'm predisposed to the picaresque and discursive, but the facetious tone and garrulous, cod-18th century prose manner (a version of it, Smollet, or a botched Sterne), seen somehow to be inherently funny, is disastrous, and not apparently to any purpose. Potentially interesting constraints – one of the main characters doesn't believe in Time, and wants to return to a pre-Roman vocabulary, are just waved aside. Discursions on, say, the Peasants Revolt, feel like research garbled up to fit the style of the book.

Pynchon can't be answerable for his imitators, but he's a bad master. I feel there's a cohort of well-off university educated young men complacent enough to feel this affected, arch, QI style is fine or even entertaining, but it's just horribly irritating and persistently so, line to line, page to page.

This was the second of my random selection to see what's interesting in contemporary British and Irish lit, after Murmur by Will Eaves, which was excellent.

Anybody want a fairly new copy of Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge by the way?

Fizzles, Thursday, 27 September 2018 11:40 (four months ago) Permalink

When you sell it like that...

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 27 September 2018 12:21 (four months ago) Permalink

rereading Leviathan (new penguin edition) and The Last Samurai.
Spectres of Marx bcz I want to see what Derrida is actually on about w/r/t hauntology (came from being mildly irritated by a podcast that rambles around british creepy vibe/SF/lots of theory; thought I should read for myself rather than having someone bang on in my ear).
Some other stuff which I can't remember right now - a bit all over the place after my run at 3/4 of Dance to the Music of Time.

woof, Thursday, 27 September 2018 12:41 (four months ago) Permalink

I finished Howards End last night. What a sweet, sad book.

faculty w1fe (silby), Thursday, 27 September 2018 14:57 (four months ago) Permalink

I'm so going to die like Leonard Bast

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 28 September 2018 01:17 (four months ago) Permalink

Not a bad way to go out tbh

I have measured out my life in coffee shop loyalty cards (silby), Friday, 28 September 2018 01:32 (four months ago) Permalink

Started Solar Bones by Mike McCormack last night. Now this is more like it. it opens to the sound of an Angelus bell - a call to prayer...

six chimes of three across a minute and a half, a summons struck on the lip of the void which gathers this parish together through all its primary and secondary roads with
all its schools and football pitches
all its bridges and graveyards
all its shops and pubs
the builder's yard and health clinic
the community centre
the water treatment plant and
the handball alley
the made world with
all the focal points around which a parish like this gathers itself as surely as
the world itself did at the beginning of time, through
mountains, rivers and lakes

so that quote hopefully captures the style. barely any punctuation, with prose broke up on the page to regulate the rhythm of the meaning (nicely complementary to the rhythm of the Angelus), and with embodied thoughts about creation and cosmos interleaved with the mundane landscape of County Mayo. The effect is as it should be – investing the quotidian with a weight of magical, cosmic meaning, and giving body to the religious and cosmic.

there are various reasons to suppose and I am assuming that the main narrator is in fact dead, a revenant, haunting the house he lived in, and picking up the daily paper...

that i might have the small pleasure of opening up a fresh newspaper, hearing it rattle and creak as it discloses itself, one of those experiences which properly begin in the day or the afternoon as is the case now, turning it over and leafing through it
starting at the back, the sports pages, to read the headline
Hard Lessons in Latest Defeat
as if this were the time and place for a sermon
which prompts me to close it again quickly, not wanting any homily at this hour of the day with the paper showing the date as
November 2nd, the month of the Holy Souls already upon us, the year nearly gone so

so it's witty too. so, yes, this is just really good i think – caveat that I'm only 40 pages in, but. with this and Murmur I feel that recent lit has delivered a couple of really excellent reads. i want to keep quoting:

he's good on farm machinery, on his father dismantling 'the farm's soul in many ways – the grey Massey Ferguson 35'

the day i came home from school and walked into the hayshed to find him standing over the engine completely broken down and laid on the concrete floor that was dusted with hayseed, piece by piece along its length
cylinder head, pistons, crankshaft
to where I stood in the doorway in my school trousers and jumper, terrified at the sight because to one side lay the body of the 35, gutted of its most essential parts and forlorn now, its components ordered across the floor in such a way as to make clear not only the sequence of its dismantlement but also the reverse order in which it would be restored to the full working harmonic of itself and my father standing over the whole thing, sighting through a narrow length of fuel line, blowing through it till he was satisfied that it was clean through its length before he laid it on the floor, giving it its proper place in the sequence and explaining simply
it was burning oil

a sequence which ends with

this may have been my first moment of anxious worry about the world, the first instance of my mind spiralling beyond the immediate environs of
hearth, home and parish, towards
the wider world beyond
way beyond
since looking at those engine parts spread across the floor my imagination took fright and soared to some wider, cataclysmic conclusion about how the universe itself was bolted and screwed together, believing I saw how heaven and earth could come unhinged when some essential cottering pin was tapped out which would undo the whole vast assemblage of stars and galaxies in their wheeling rotations and send them plummeting through the void of space towards some final ruin out on the farthest mearing of the universe

he's not afraid of bravura and set pieces – here the way he's framed that entire galactic spiral into the land around him – and they come very consistently, in fact starting before the other has finished.

another section takes its starting point as the photo of a women on hunger strike protesting against a pressurised gas pipeline:

and, not for the first time, stories like this always strike me as
peculiar to Mayo
Mayo God help us
Mayo abú
a county with a unique history of people starving and mortifying themselves for higher causes and principles, a political reflex that has twitched steadily down the years and seems rooted in some aggravated sense of sinfulness because, like no other county it is blistered with shrines and grottoes and prayer houses and hermitages just as it is crossed with pilgrim paths and penitential ways, the whole county such a bordered realm of penance and atonement that no one should be surprised that self-starvation becomes a political weapon when, to the best of knowledge, no other country in the Republic has called up three of its sons to starve to death for flag and country so late in the twentieth century
McNeela, Gaughan, Stagg
Arbour Hill, Parkhurst, Wakefield
valiant souls who took their inspiration from our martyred land and saw a world beyond themselves as did
my own favourite
a young hermit who, towards the end of the last millennium, took up residence in a ruined bothán on the side of a hill not ten miles from here, a young woman who, by way of some ancient rite, was professed a hermit by the Vatican with licence to beg and preach among these rainy hills, claiming that God had called her to go deeper into the desert so that she could be more aware of his presence in greater silence and solitude but who, after a few years living the full sacramental life on the mountains of West Mayo with nothing to distract the eye or hand save damp sheep and stone walls, came forth with her message to the world, telling us that
hell is real and it's not empty
simple and blunt as that
hell is real and it's not empty

quoted at length, because that pay-off is marvellous i think, especially given its importance to the book, but also this is a book clearly about Mayo, and that phrase there 'a bordered realm of penance and atonement', yes, this feels like it's about the bordered realm of Mayo as spiritual realm.

he really uses those wheels of phrases well as well:

a large, abandoned industrial facility in the north of the county is being assessed as a possible site for an asbestos conversion plant which will form part of a massive toxic dump to process industrial and medical waste from the rest of the province in a state-of-the-art incineration process which, if economic studies and environmental assessments prove favourable, could come online in a few years' time with the promise of jobs and subsidiary investment across the county and
something out of the past
a psychic link which dates back to my childhood when
my father worked on its construction
he fucking did
worked on it ata a time when, with a similar promise of prosperity, it was spoken of as if it were a cathedral or a temple that was being built on that raised site above the small town of Killala

that 'he fucking did' is almost of the school yard – angry rebuttal of unspoken doubt.

Fizzles, Saturday, 29 September 2018 10:35 (four months ago) Permalink

distractingly it has a character called darragh in it. i mean not wildly improbable obv but p much every time i read it a lol circuit fires in my head.

Fizzles, Saturday, 29 September 2018 15:24 (four months ago) Permalink

That's great, thanks so much. Land of penance and sacrifice is also the glimpse of late or maybe mid-Twenty-First Century I already had with with first coffee this morning---but reading it in this context reminds me of recurrence more than planetary twilight.

dow, Saturday, 29 September 2018 16:15 (four months ago) Permalink

Anyway, before things get worse again, and worser still, I hope to read Solar Bones by electric light.

dow, Saturday, 29 September 2018 16:17 (four months ago) Permalink

James Baldwin - If Beale Street Could Talk
Lionel Trilling - The Last Decade

The Silky Veils of Alfred (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 29 September 2018 16:31 (four months ago) Permalink

Autumn then. The Plains by Gerald Murnane, an obliquely told tale of a filmmaker's anthropological study of the Plain people (effectively what seems like the Australian - white - inlands). As I am not very familiar with Australian culture it took me a while to grasp what might be going on and I had to model a British rural radicalism onto it - and even then I am not sure that fully works. But I had to find an approach due to the exceptional force of the writing. One of the great reads of the year and I look forward to re-reading, and finding more by Murnane. Followed that up with a few novellas. Grappling with the cruelties of Maeve Brennan's The Visitor where a daughter comes home and is pushed away. Saba's Ernesto is an unfinished slice of mid-20th century queer autofictional literature from the Italian poet - now this had a trick of dialogue and a somewhat cold commentary of the narrator (Ernesto) who is looking back at his actions many decades ahead from when they took place. The dialogue itself is dialect from Trieste (where Saba grew up) and so, as the translator says, the flip back-and-forth between dialect (and crude too, as the discourse surrounds the narrator's first sexual experiences with a male builder and female prostitute) and learned commentary in the Italian original is impossible to render into English. More alienation in Bae Suah's A Greater Music where the female Korean narrator uses an accident as a starting point to reflect on past relationships with a German working class man and a highly cultured woman who is called M. Both the narrator and M are academic minded, and there is a deep connection with Germanic culture in both its love (I loved passages on going to classical concerts - it was great to read about Bernd Alois Zimmermann in a novel and I was surprised that she only mentioned but didn't cover Isang Yun in more depth) and how alienating culture can be (her German bf is alienated from it). There is a Sebaldian menadering quality that I find addictive in the moment but leaves me cold afterwards - although I will pick something more from her if I see it. Finally Tanizaki's A Cat, A Man and Two Women was a strong tale of a love quartet - with Lily the cat holding all the cards. She has a hold over all of them and its a very funny, wonderfully conceived tale.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 29 September 2018 19:23 (four months ago) Permalink

Autumn then.

Northern Hemisphere hegemony rules all.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 29 September 2018 20:01 (four months ago) Permalink

I had to model a British rural radicalism onto it - and even then I am not sure that fully works

Yeah, you need to add an undercurrent of white settlers committing genocide: https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres/map.php

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Sunday, 30 September 2018 02:39 (four months ago) Permalink

otm, and I did think about that - I couldn't tell whether that was a troubling aspect of this book as I found the experience of it overwhelming, but maybe that's because it felt like I was engaging with Australian literature for the first time too.

And Other Stories are doing a couple of Murnane reissues, which I'm excited about.

https://www.andotherstories.org/authors/gerald-murnane/

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 30 September 2018 11:12 (four months ago) Permalink

I started A Million Windows by Murnane on a flight to Australia earlier this year, and was really enjoying it, but put it down to watch Thor: Ragnarok, I think. Must pick up again.

Fizzles, Sunday, 30 September 2018 11:25 (four months ago) Permalink

For those who didn't see this posted on Rolling Contemporary Literary Fiction, still an intriguing read:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/magazine/gerald-murnane-next-nobel-laureate-literature-australia.html

dow, Sunday, 30 September 2018 14:09 (four months ago) Permalink

Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina (the Constance Garnett translation in the old hardcover Modern Library edition that I bought maybe 20 years ago)
Sylvia Plath - Collected Poems
Norbert Elias - The Civilizing Process

ryan, Sunday, 30 September 2018 14:25 (four months ago) Permalink

Things I can remember since last time:

The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner; I get why the nu-nature-writing crowd like this dude so much but he's a class above I think, deeply-felt connection to place lightly worn (rather than the current Fabery opposites). I would have been quite pleased to not enjoy this but I liked it very much. It's short.

The Peeler by Bertie Marshall; Dostoyevsky Wannabe business, kind of a flash novel featuring a fuggy little slice of a decades-long NYC lost weekend. Slight in the best way.

Gaudy Bauble by Isabel Waidner; more DW, the slippiness of super-experimental* prose put to good use is a kinda-detective story about the slippiness of identity and gender. The rarest thing for experimental detective novels to do is to keep up the energy all the way through and this one does. I wish I'd cared a bit more at the end, but that's asking for a sticky moon I think.

Helena or The Sea In Summer by Julian Ayesta, end of the nineteenth-century, hazy beach-based bildungsroman. Sidra with Rosie, but a bit more buttoned-up, undeniably lovely.

I'm nibbling away at Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki, which is doing that Japanese super-flat and super-delicate thing so far.

Tim, Thursday, 4 October 2018 12:53 (four months ago) Permalink

*?

koogs, Thursday, 4 October 2018 14:56 (four months ago) Permalink

oh yeah thanks

*experimental is obviously an awful word but I'm trying to be succinct and you know what I mean

no actual experiments were carried out in the writing of this book.

Tim, Thursday, 4 October 2018 15:00 (four months ago) Permalink

alan garner is a cut above definitely. i loved his books as a child and on the back of a couple of interviews i read recently was thinking about revisiting him so this is timely.

Fizzles, Thursday, 4 October 2018 18:13 (four months ago) Permalink

I checked my mailbox today for the new Deborah Eisenberg collection. Anticipating it has given life a purpose and shape.

You like queer? I like queer. Still like queer. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 4 October 2018 18:15 (four months ago) Permalink

Going to Lisbon soon so reading Portuguese stuff:

"An Explanation of the Birds" by Antonio Lobo Antunes.
Brilliantly written but saddled with an irritating circus metaphor running thru it. I hate fucking circuses. I couldn't really believe the central character either.

"Lucio's Confession" by Mário de Sá-Carneiro.
Short novel, which I kind of ploughed through, I think I read it in three hours. It's fin de siècle Paris, it's an ingenious little novel about repressed homosexuality by an ingenious but repressed little homosexual poet - actually not sure if he was little or not. If I still had it, I'd quote from the long description of a decadent party the main character goes to, which sounds like the party scene from "Midnight Cowboy" crossed with some E'ed up rave from 1991.

"O Crime do Padre Amaro" by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz.
Not the sort of thing I'd normally read, late 19th century realism which reveals itself as sledgehammer satire/ social commentary by the end - the Catholic Church does not emerge from it unscathed, shall we say - I'm amazed it got published, to be honest. Breasts seem central, almost as much as shit is in "Blindness" by Jose Saramago, which I also read.

Zach Same (Tom D.), Thursday, 4 October 2018 18:38 (four months ago) Permalink

For a bit of light non-Lusitanian relief, I started reading "For Marx" by Louis Althusser today. Fuck knows why.

Zach Same (Tom D.), Thursday, 4 October 2018 18:40 (four months ago) Permalink

Garner - also a childhood fave, we actually read Weirdstone... at my school (Red Shift was not on the cards, and p much puzzled me when I picked up a paperback copy a little later).

I'm hoping Tim will offer more detail on the 'nu-nature-writing crowd'. I can see how The Owl Service (my top choice) especially would fit into any reasonable 'folk horror' discourse, but I don't know enough of Garner's later books to think of him as primarily a nature writer (tho he is v good on landscape among other things).

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 4 October 2018 19:02 (four months ago) Permalink

yeah i was wondering that. found “lightly worn” and “Fabery opposite” an interesting distinction.

certainly within the pastoral/uncanny crowd i find despite surface similarities and sympathies that there are some i can’t stand and some i love. and i’m interested in that response. pompous emphasis on psychogeography tactics and tropes would be my crude sideswipe.

i wonder if Tim is getting at that. tho “Fabery” are you getting at that dreadful earnest enthusiasm for the effortful sincerity of rural life. trying to think of examples now.

also curious to know why you would have been quite pleased not to enjoy it. because of that crowd?

Fizzles, Thursday, 4 October 2018 19:48 (four months ago) Permalink

Mostly laughing out every now and then to Helen DeWitt's Some Trick short story collection where -- for much of it, if not entirely so -- her interests in language and creativity come to the fore, both these aspects being illustrated via examples from the art world and (crucially) the world of technology and management. Her insecurities around finishing or accomplishing a work, that this work could be good, that it somehow not be interfered with by the forces outside of it (commerce, other egos impinging upon) also comes through at times. Giuseppe di Lampedusa's Two Stories & A Memory, an assortment of scraps from the author of The Leopard, has powerful recollections of the author's childhood and its really interesting to see how he translates those to not only his classic novel, but also mining them again and again in the story (The Professor and the Siren) and in the only completed chapter he managed to finish of his other novel - the other 'story' presented here. A distanced nostalgia, at times critical of the past he celebrates, but also with hints of disgust at the world and the things from it being destroyed, its artefacts rotting away. Finally, I failed to grapple with the irrationalities in Yoel Hoffmannn's The Sound of One Hand - 281 Zen Koans with Answers, but it was nice to try. I can see how doing this with a reading group could be interesting.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 4 October 2018 21:08 (four months ago) Permalink

Really still need to check out Lampedusa and Eisenberg---that recent profile linked from Rolling Contemproary Literary Fiction is very appealing.
my father worked on its construction
he fucking did

worked on it ata a time when, with a similar promise of prosperity, it was spoken of as if it were a cathedral or a temple that was being built on that raised site above the small town of Killala

that 'he fucking did' is almost of the school yard – angry rebuttal of unspoken doubt.
--Fizzles
Also angry affirmation of the hyped hope, desperation, determination in both senses as irony and working days and other limits continue to be ground into the dirt and never (not yet) finished.

I resisted finishing xpost Ha Jin's Waiting,just because I wanted it to keep going, and also because I felt the logic leading to a black hole of sorrow---instead, it was the developmentally perfect punchline (sorrow would have to wait in the wings a little longer, though maybe not all that long), as with The Neapolitan Novels and In Search of Lost Time and not much else that I can think of at the moment (even good or good enough endings often have to glide into place or just stop, either way with the engine shut off and/or the fuel gone).

dow, Thursday, 4 October 2018 22:07 (four months ago) Permalink

"Also angry affirmation" just on the face of it of course, having only read your quote of the book (so far!)

dow, Thursday, 4 October 2018 22:09 (four months ago) Permalink

Roland Barthes, THE GRAIN OF THE VOICE: INTERVIEWS 1962-1980

the pinefox, Friday, 5 October 2018 08:07 (four months ago) Permalink

I don't think Garner is primarily a nature writer, but "The Stone Book Quartet" is not at all folk-horrory (no figures emerging from the Old Times here, except as real-world traces left on the landscape, and a sense of there being a deep rhythm to human life through generations). I'm no kind of expert on Garner but the few other things of his I've read over the years have had more of a supernatural flavour.

So I see why the kind of people who like the kind of new nature writing touted by John Mitchison on the Backlisted podcast would like this, and the sort of writing I'm on about is Robert Macfarlane and a bunch of sub-Macfarlane writers whose tastefully-covered works (often with a woodcut of a dead tree or live badger) I see on Waterstones tables. TSBQ feels to me like a piece of fiction that's grown from a really deep connection with a place; the nature-writing tendency I'm on about often feels to me like a desperately self-serious attempt to demonstrate a connection with a place but ending up giving the feeling of a urbanites getting back to nature and feeling very pleased with themselves. "Effortful sincerity", quite. Which is cool if people enjoy it but it's not my thing and yes I quite like the idea of contrarily waving away stuff these people like.

I wonder whether I'm mischaracterising the new nature writing tendency (which I've barely read)? Quite likely, but if so I'm going to keep doing so: my perception is the writer is usually volubly present in these books, they're walking through big-n Nature and we see them watching and learning and finding out important things about the world and themselves. It does nothing for me.

Tim, Friday, 5 October 2018 08:51 (four months ago) Permalink

Lol I just read Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler in which she goes canoeing on the Birmingham canals and [SPOILER ALERT!] discovers she is a lesbian.

Toss another shrimpl air on the bbqbbq (ledge), Friday, 5 October 2018 08:55 (four months ago) Permalink

I've just remembered: we read "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen" at school and they made us do that thing of designing a book cover, writing a blurb etc etc. I was always dreadful at that sort of thing, everything I've ever drawn looks crap, but the boy I say next to properly went to town: watercolour, gouache, careful lettering he really worked hard at it. I was feeling that resentment one must feel towards anyone who's swottishly gone above and beyond the necessary effort in their homework, when I realised he must have been working on it in front of "The Rockford Files" - his cover had credited the book to James Garner. Imagine my delight.

Tim, Friday, 5 October 2018 09:01 (four months ago) Permalink

If, in your own words, you've barely read something, is it reasonable to say that it does nothing for you?

It's true, though, that there are things that I have barely read, which I feel that I don't like.

the pinefox, Friday, 5 October 2018 09:30 (four months ago) Permalink

I think it would be reasonable to read one of the books properly and closely and evaluate it as an individual work.

I did that with H IS FOR HAWK and was ambivalent. I think it is overrated and quite strangely naive or faux-naive at times. But it contains some decent writing also.

I would think that most of these nature writing people know more about nature, are better connected to it, and also by extension are more ecologically sound, than me. I think these are all good things. Saying that they are urbanites seems perverse as I am an urbanite and I understand nature much, much less than they do. I think that for me to attack them in general would really come down to envy and contrarianism.

the pinefox, Friday, 5 October 2018 09:33 (four months ago) Permalink

Tom D, it's partially that the government in charge of Portugal at the time - a liberal, parliamentary monarchy - while not anti-clerical per se, had a somewhat fractured relationship with the church, which was still strongly influenced by the previous regime of absolutist monarchism, so I think a lot of ppl in charge would've been sympathetic to Queirós, though they wouldn't state so publicly. My fave Eça book is The Maias, a huge ol' family saga with a very bittersweet, fatalistic feel to it - tiyl Miklós Bánffy, Thomas Mann, that sorta stuff.

António Lobo Antunes is mostly known for his novels about the colonial war experience. Speaking of which, a recent big hit is The Return by Dulce Maria Cardoso - the story of a family fleeing Angola and returning to post-revolution Portugal. Kind of a taboo topic in Portuguese society for decades.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 5 October 2018 09:34 (four months ago) Permalink

xp My caveat was added precisely to note that I may be being unfair, though maybe not unreasonable (except in so far as it's hard to reason with taste). What I have read has done nothing for me.

xxp Well, I read "The Stone Book Quartet" and that is a book in which landscape is critically important; the point I was making is that I found its engagement with landscape more interesting and convincing than the bits I've read of new nature writing. It's not urbanites I have a problem with, or even urbanites getting back to nature, it's the feeling of self-satisfaction I get from (some of) those books that I find unappealing. I don't think a game of tallying who lives a "more ecologically sound" life would be a very good way of judging whether or not I find value or pleasure in those books or not.

Tim, Friday, 5 October 2018 09:47 (four months ago) Permalink

Or not, or not.

Tim, Friday, 5 October 2018 09:51 (four months ago) Permalink

I think the point is simpler -- is it OK to knock things we haven't read? (Perhaps 'barely read' contains an ambiguous range. You say that you've read some of the books, so maybe you have actually read a lot more than barely.)

I was implying that it's not really fair.

But I also immediately had to allow that this is something that we seem to do (me quite probably more than you), so perhaps we all feel that there is some validity in it after all? Perhaps the rationale is simply: you don't need to actually read a book to know enough about it to have a cogent view? For there are other ways to know what's in a book. (In fact there are whole books about this.)

Nonetheless we could probably also agree that the policy of not reading leaves the possibility of being mistaken about a book, as in: if you read it, you might feel differently about it from what you expect.

the pinefox, Friday, 5 October 2018 11:01 (four months ago) Permalink

"Barely read" - I suppose that my opinion has been formed by a paltry selection of two or three books and quite a lot of excerpts in places like the Guardian and Caught by the River, laced with bits and pieces of hearing people talk about this kind of stuff on podcasts and in the world. But I'm referring to a growing genre of books and I'm generalising so I think it's important to note my relatively scant engagement with that genre. Goodness knows I wouldn't want anyone thinking I speak with any authority.

You're probably right that the reasonable thing to do in order to solidify my opinion(s) would be to read more of these books more carefully. But then again I'm not sure it's a good use of my time to spend time making sure I'm really actually not keen on this genre. It might make more sense simply to continue to caveat my ill-founded opinions with recognition of my own ignorance.

Tim, Friday, 5 October 2018 11:14 (four months ago) Permalink

Tom D, it's partially that the government in charge of Portugal at the time - a liberal, parliamentary monarchy - while not anti-clerical per se, had a somewhat fractured relationship with the church, which was still strongly influenced by the previous regime of absolutist monarchism, so I think a lot of ppl in charge would've been sympathetic to Queirós, though they wouldn't state so publicly. My fave Eça book is The Maias, a huge ol' family saga with a very bittersweet, fatalistic feel to it - tiyl Miklós Bánffy, Thomas Mann, that sorta stuff.

António Lobo Antunes is mostly known for his novels about the colonial war experience. Speaking of which, a recent big hit is The Return by Dulce Maria Cardoso - the story of a family fleeing Angola and returning to post-revolution Portugal. Kind of a taboo topic in Portuguese society for decades.

Cheers, Daniel. A Spanish woman I work with recommended I read Antonio Tabucchi next.

Zach Same (Tom D.), Friday, 5 October 2018 11:28 (four months ago) Permalink

Declares Pereira is really good. I got to finally get around to Antunes sometime. There was a big chunk 2nd hand @ skoob last time I checked.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 5 October 2018 12:02 (four months ago) Permalink

you don't need to actually read a book to know enough about it to have a cogent view? For there are other ways to know what's in a book. (In fact there are whole books about this.)

― the pinefox, Friday, October 5, 2018 4:01 AM (five hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

In this vein, I highly recommend reading How to talk about books you haven't read, which is funny if nothing else.

I have measured out my life in coffee shop loyalty cards (silby), Friday, 5 October 2018 16:41 (four months ago) Permalink

The Death of Woman Wang - Jonathan D Spence (1977). A brief history of a poor region of 17th century China, T'an-ch'eng, in Shantung Province (where the silk for the ties comes from presumably). It has a central observation point 'the decision of a woman named Wang, who was unwilling any longer to face an unacceptable present.' 'T'an-ch'eng county was not famous for anything; it produced no eminent men in the seventeenth century, the data on economic and social conditions are scant, and though disasters struck repeatedly the people themselves did not rebel.'

It is always hard to conjure up from the past the lives of the poor and forgotten; and the Chinese thoroughness in the spheres of state and county historiography has ironically been accompanied by the nonpreseration of most local records.

In other words it falls almost entirely outside the space of recorded history. Despite this it's consistently giving lines, images and observations that I'm finding magical. This, I should stress, is not because of some orientalist framing, but because of the nature of the endeavour.

The first of those lines is where he says 'I have mainly relied on three different sources in my attempt to penetrate a little way into the world of T'an-ch'eng'. That seems to convey history in the correct way, that it can only be a humble activity – these are the materials available, this is what can be said with those materials, and from it we are able to say a little about a world that seems entirely distant and inaccessible. The effect is almost is if observing through a scrying glass. Will future historians of our age, with the vast wealth of information, or data, be able to have the same humility, and pay attention to the gaps between the vast historic record?

The three sources are a highly competent and assiduous scholar-official magistrate for the two years being examined, Huang Liu-hung, a former (not very competent) magistrate and editor of a Local History, compiled relatively soon after the events described, Feng K'o-ts'an, who 'seems to have been content to compile an authentically bleak record, not touched up with the brush of nostalgia or propriety.' The final source is an essayist and short story writer, P'u Sung-ling, whose vision Spence uses to supplement the administrative and historical sources.

For though Feng and Huang take us surprisingly far into the zones of private anger and misery that were so much a part of their community, they were not concerned with penetrating into the realms of loneliness, sensuality and dreams that were also a part of T'an-ch'eng. Whereas it was just those realms that obsessed P'u Sung-ling.

Again, the clarity and imagination of the approach, and how you might view these lives, even in private, internal spaces and dream realms, had my attention. (After all, the immediate appeal of a small county in 17th century China isn't necessarily obvious – these things are usually very dry and uninteresting).

He describes a savage and quite common cycle of tragedy – earthquakes, floods, famine, and bandits, and the proverbial folk wisdom that emerges from these circumstances (the second set of images that really made me sit up):

"To have the bodies of one's close relations eaten by someone else is not as good as eating them oneself, so as to prolong one's own life for a few days." Or, "It makes more sense to eat one's father, elder brother, or husband so as to preserve one's own life, rather than have the whole family die." Out in the countryside, says the Local History, the closest friends no longer dared walk out to the fields together.

The riverbanks flood, so that a newly appointed magistrate has to sail across the sodden land to arrive for his new job (an image that has stuck with me – the landscape deranged and incoherent, your job to apply the structure of the state and administrate order, what must he have thought as he gazed out from the boat?)

It will surprising you to know inhabitants considered their lives had no meaning and that they were utterly without worth, so that Huang Liu-hung issued a harsh proclamation to stem a spate of suicides:

"Those men who commit suicide, hanging themselves from the rafters or throwing themselves into the water, will an eternity as ghosts, crammed in the eaves or drifting on the waters. Who is there to pity them if the officials refuse to collect their bodies and leave them as food for the flies and maggots? Those women who kill themselves, dangling from ropes or hanging from their kerchiefs, will haunt deserted alleys and inner rooms. Why should anyone feel shame if we delay holding an inquest on their corpses and leave their bare bodies exposed for all to see? You bodies were bequeathed to you by your mothers and fathers who gave birth to you, but you go so far as to destroy those bodies. Only once in ten thousand cosmic cycles can you expect to be reincarnated into human form, yet you treat your bodies as if they were the bodies of pigs and dogs – that is something I hate and detest. If you have no pity on the bodies bequeathed to you, then why should I have pity on the bodies bequeathed to you? If you think of yourselves as pigs and dogs, then why should I not also look upon you as pigs and dogs?"

The overall potent force of this book is in the images and landscape of decline and ruin. Huang obsessively keeps account of the mortality rate in comparison to other similar areas and finds that it's always higher in disaster, he records the amount of taxable land and sees that it's declining faster in his county than anywhere the same around it. It portrays a place that always co-exists with the one we live in, is always there in potential, a persistent other place, that the world we live in could dissolve into. The way such a world changes and contorts perceptions of life and death (state Confucianism is seen to be of little relevance and surrounded by superstition and magic).

The anecdotes of how humanity persists in such a place are also wonderful:

P'u Sung-ling heard the roar of the 1668 earthquake moving up from the direction of T'an-ch'eng as he was drinking wine with his cousin, by the light of a lamp:

"The table began to rock and the wine cups pitched over; we could hear the sounds of the roof beams and the pillars as they began to snap The color drained from our faces as we looked at each other. After a few moments we realized it was an earthquake and rushed out of the house. We saw the buildings and homes collapse and, as it were ,rise up again, heard the sounds of the walls crashing down, the screams of men and women, a blurred roar as if a caldron were coming to the boil. People were dizzy and could not stay on their feet; they sat on the ground and swayed in unison with the earth. The waters of the river rose up ten feet or more; the cries of roosters, the din of dogs barking filled the city. After an hour or so, calm began to return; and then one could see, out in the streets, undressed men and women standing groups, excitedly telling of their own experiences, having quite forgotten that they were wearing no clothes."

Fizzles, Sunday, 7 October 2018 09:01 (four months ago) Permalink

picked it up cos of this tweet:

a truly amazing book that packs a huge amount into a monograph on rural misery in 17th century Shandong. Feminism, literature, concubinage, banditry, legal codes, taxation, power structures, famine, natural disaster and scorched earth warfare. https://t.co/eBmcJCyi0Z

— jamie k (@jkbloodtreasure) October 3, 2018

Fizzles, Sunday, 7 October 2018 09:03 (four months ago) Permalink

So I see why the kind of people who like the kind of new nature writing touted by John Mitchison on the Backlisted podcast would like this, and the sort of writing I'm on about is Robert Macfarlane and a bunch of sub-Macfarlane writers whose tastefully-covered works (often with a woodcut of a dead tree or live badger) I see on Waterstones tables. TSBQ feels to me like a piece of fiction that's grown from a really deep connection with a place; the nature-writing tendency I'm on about often feels to me like a desperately self-serious attempt to demonstrate a connection with a place but ending up giving the feeling of a urbanites getting back to nature and feeling very pleased with themselves. "Effortful sincerity", quite. Which is cool if people enjoy it but it's not my thing and yes I quite like the idea of contrarily waving away stuff these people like.

Yes, ok, this is exactly a thing for me as well. I just about to start thinking about specific shibboleths that separate the two – I have an immediate and quite visceral dislike for one (the Rob Macfarlane crowd), and a deep, resonating love for the other, and yet they exist in the same space for many people so it's interesting to me to work out what's different.

Instead my brane said 'those fucks who go on about collective nouns like murmurations of starlings are as bad as pub name etymologists'.

By which I *think* my brain was indicating that language is one place this division resides – the perceived folk wisdom of exotic (and often bogus) rural terms as having the pseudo-magical force of 'true naming' is indicative of the tourist, rather than a deep sense of lived-in place. Which is only a more roundabout way of saying what Tim was saying, but does bring in some of the mechanisms that crowd use, which could be generally summed up as 'ironically deployed magic'. ie ley lines, existence of history as a thing *always* giving contemporary meaning to a place (it doesn't).

Perhaps another way of looking at this is that it is an asymmetric relationship: mysticism coming out of an understanding of nature v mysticism and magic revealing the nature of nature. It is not a reversible jacket. The second will produce a heavily reduced, constructed version of pastoral, the former may have elements of that, but will understand observed location.

Tim, although I seem inadvertently to have said something that chimes with you in that 'sincerity', I think I was more aiming for... well, what exactly? I guess I was thinking of the Cowper-Powys world, but that's not right. And maybe in fact they exist on the same vector after all.

Sorry my thinking's messier than usual this morning.

Fizzles, Sunday, 7 October 2018 10:22 (four months ago) Permalink

You're probably right that the reasonable thing to do in order to solidify my opinion(s) would be to read more of these books more carefully. But then again I'm not sure it's a good use of my time to spend time making sure I'm really actually not keen on this genre. It might make more sense simply to continue to caveat my ill-founded opinions with recognition of my own ignorance.

I think you and the pinefox and both being too considered and thoughtful here. 1) yes it is ok to knock things you've barely read – it's that visceral 'Oh God ffs' moment you get at certain cadences and expressions. Reading RMcF who writes in an area I like and to which I feel drawn my immediate response is 'no, that's *not* it, you're doing it *rong*'. I know it's seen as bad to let that go unexamined, and it probably is, but equally, a push away from a place or set of things is as useful as a desire towards. I'll let the serendipity of time and happenstance overcome it if necessary (someone on ilx saying 'no, i know x looks like they're doing this, but in fact' or at some point in the future deciding I do actually want to go back and give it another go, for instance).

Also stuff like the McFarlane (now this ad hominem really *is* unfair) feels so latent in the air that I feel I have a tacit understanding of it without engaging with it further (that is an argument for understanding it more, rather than deliberately disengaging I suppose).

I realise these impulses are bad not good.

Fizzles, Sunday, 7 October 2018 10:27 (four months ago) Permalink

I'm still reading The Golden Bough. If there was an even more abbreviated edition, I would probably go for that. If there's any more contemporary author it reminds me a bit of, it would be William Vollmann, in the exhaustive piling up of facts to suggest the faint outlines of a numinous pattern.

o. nate, Monday, 10 December 2018 01:45 (two months ago) Permalink

I finished Excellent Women, Barbara Pym, last night. It is a beautifully observed and well-formed book. It legitimately rates as a comic novel, but only because the narrator maintains a slightly sardonic view of herself and those she becomes involved with. There is the hint of a smile in most of what is related, but it is tempered by her barely acknowledged distress at living a self-consciously narrow, faintly absurd life.

Now I am reading The Saga of the Volsungs in the Penguin edition translated by Jesse Byock. Reading at least one Icelandic saga each year seems to have become a tradition with me. This may be my second one of 2018. I may have read Sagas of the Warrior Poets already in 2018. I'd have to check.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 10 December 2018 23:16 (two months ago) Permalink

Excellent Women was by far the best Pym novel I read last summer, most of which had diminishing returns. I agree with that review.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 10 December 2018 23:32 (two months ago) Permalink

I enjoy Pym, but sometimes I want to scream that I really do not care what the new vicar is up to.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Tuesday, 11 December 2018 00:19 (two months ago) Permalink

blimey

mookieproof, Tuesday, 11 December 2018 00:22 (two months ago) Permalink

I have never not cared what the new vicar is up to. What could be more important?

sacral intercourse conducive to vegetal luxuriance (askance johnson), Tuesday, 11 December 2018 02:16 (two months ago) Permalink

I do care what the vicar is up to, but Wodehouse and Fitzgerald did it better.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 11 December 2018 03:58 (two months ago) Permalink

Finished Sodom and Gomorrah (re-read) and will take a break from Proust.

Also Noonday (Pat Barker), the London-in-the-Blitz set conclusion to her artists-and-war Life Class trilogy. I suspect if this had been a first novel Barker would have been advised to go away and substantially rework it. Repetition, unnecessary little gobbets of not-quite-there fine writing, poor technical control. And yet I found it enjoyable. It's the 7th or 8th of hers I've read so she obviously has something that keeps me coming back, although I'm not sure I could easily describe what it is.

Now reading Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker which has started well.

frankiemachine, Wednesday, 12 December 2018 12:53 (two months ago) Permalink

I finished Saga of the Volsungs. Its main interest for me were the most primitive parts of it, which were a dim reflection of some very old Teutonic myths, retold in an era that barely recalled and no longer understood them.

Afterward, I picked up Thomas Mann's Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man and read about the first 25 pages. Compared to the terseness of the Volsung saga, Krull is baroquely elaborate. I'll probably stick with it, but it is early days, and I've never managed to be on good terms with Herr Mann in the past.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 12 December 2018 17:16 (two months ago) Permalink

I enjoyed an earlier book in that Barker trilofy, can't remember which one, but was annoyed by one anachronism: people in WW1 using the word "robot", which wasn't coined by Karel Capek until 1920. I am aware this is a very niche complaint.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 12 December 2018 22:29 (two months ago) Permalink

Afterward, I picked up Thomas Mann's Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man and read about the first 25 pages. Compared to the terseness of the Volsung saga, Krull is baroquely elaborate. I'll probably stick with it, but it is early days, and I've never managed to be on good terms with Herr Mann in the past.

― A is for (Aimless)

You made the best choice. A decidedly un-pompous book.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 12 December 2018 22:31 (two months ago) Permalink

Flex Krull! The bit with the military service panel is wonderful, like the whole thing. There's also a German TV adaptation kicking around with a really great lead actor and a stapled-on ending where he flies away in a hot air balloon triumphally.

Brand Slipper, Thursday, 13 December 2018 10:56 (two months ago) Permalink

Weststruckness/Gharbzadegi, Jalal Al-e Ahmad

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 13 December 2018 18:50 (two months ago) Permalink

I've been re-reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It's WAY more overt in its religiosity than I remember (duh), but is still, at a sentence level, one of the most gorgeous books I've ever read - in the sense of it feeling like something you imbibe. It's one of those books that, for a time at least, changes how you see. I can think of no better recommendation.

Now reading Walter Kirn's Blood Will Out which is a car crash of narcissism and doubt - at both subject and autobiographical levels.

Have the Rams stopped screaming yet, Lloris? (Chinaski), Thursday, 13 December 2018 18:54 (two months ago) Permalink

Final verdict on Bréton's Anthology Of Black Humour: some good selections, but on the whole it's a bit too Vice Magazine: The Early Years. A rather representative extract, by Jacques Rigaut: "I have never taken much of anything seriously. As a child, I poked my tongue out at the women who approached my mother in the street to beg for alms, and I secretly pinched their brats who were crying from the cold". Uhhh congrats dude?

On some level it seems obvious that all the nihilism and sociopathy in the book's aesthetic has to have had something to do with the trauma of two world wars (in what Bréton chose to highlight, I mean - the authors go back as far as Swift), and he does do a good job of introducing writers, even though he leans on Freud just a bit too heavily. Overall not something I'd recommend.

Now moving on to the first volume of Elena Ferrante's Naples novels.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 14 December 2018 10:26 (two months ago) Permalink

picked up a copy of Charles Webb's novel The Graduate which the book is taken from. prose is pretty sublime so far.
Not sure to what extent the film changed things. & now realising i can't remember the film as thoroughly as i thought I knew it.
THink this was something i meant to read the novel of for a while and then i just found it for 25c so thunk I'd take the plunge.

Stevolende, Friday, 14 December 2018 13:34 (two months ago) Permalink

Speaking of Ferrante I finally started the fourth one last night, after being too cranky to read for a week and a half

I have measured out my life in coffee shop loyalty cards (silby), Friday, 14 December 2018 16:44 (two months ago) Permalink

Terry Eagleton, RADICAL SACRIFICE - still

the pinefox, Saturday, 15 December 2018 19:40 (two months ago) Permalink

Picked up T F Powys' Unclay at the library - had never heard of it, enjoying it 50 pages in with no idea of exactly what he's going for.

JoeStork, Saturday, 15 December 2018 19:41 (two months ago) Permalink

on foot of various related/unrelated waffling last night but specifically discussion of solar bones -from which much spinoff- i read fizzles last few posts about it while he was reading it and im resolved to finishing it, but also ive been almost homesick and certainly nostalgic even from the snippets quoted so i guess thats a testament to the strength of the voice of the author

gabbnebulous (darraghmac), Sunday, 16 December 2018 01:11 (two months ago) Permalink

On one level the Ferrante book is exactly what I'd expect from an account of growing up in Napoli in the 50's. But it's also so accurate in its portrayal of the psychology of children, I've found myself numerous times remembering things from my childhood that I hadn't thought about for ages. Definitley think I'll stick with the series.

In other news, I'm getting married next Summer and since it's a non-religious ceremony, I have to find good readings. Turns out all my favourite writings about love are about it ending, or not working out, or otherwise inappropriate. My fiancee has also struggled, so we've decided to widen the scope to writings about friendship or companionship. Now I'm going through all the Moomin books trying to find something. Didn't remember them to have as many echoes of the Bible - great floods, plagues of locusts - or the Jules Verne influence in The Exploits Of Moominpappa. I did remember the bohemian vibe inherent to Moomin family life, but it struck me more this time too - like in Exploits Moominpappa just casually drops that Snuffkin and Sniff have fathers whom they've never met, and then they show up at the end of the book! And next book no Sniff, and the Snork Maiden's brother has disappeared too, with no explanation.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 19 December 2018 10:40 (two months ago) Permalink

Congrats Daniel!

I am stil reading my technical book, although I took a break to read about 200 pages of Josep Pla's The Gray Noebook which is a diary Pla kept as a law student (for about 18 months in from March 1918) and then revised decades later (once he had indeed become a published author). Its a mixture of impressions, conversations with friends, a record of his readings and various critiques. It reminds me a bit of The Book of Disquiet, in that sense - form-wise its loose yet ambling along somewhere.

Also started on some Agaha Christie's The Secret Adversary.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 19 December 2018 10:53 (two months ago) Permalink

Congrats!

PG Wodehouse very good for wedding readings--we made use of him at ours.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 19 December 2018 23:30 (two months ago) Permalink

I mean, they're not HELPFUL readings, but the guests will enjoy themselves.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 19 December 2018 23:30 (two months ago) Permalink

Thanks, guys!

Wodehouse might be an interesting avenue to explore. I'm trying to walk that tightrope between not being too solemn but also not giving the impression that I'm treating the whole thing like a joke.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 20 December 2018 10:32 (two months ago) Permalink

I'm pulling up to the 'end' of Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man. The scare quotes are because Mann apparently projected this as the first book of a trilogy he didn't live to finish. My enjoyment of it has been mixed. It did coax audible laughter out of me several times when I read a particularly witty and well-formed phrase. Several of the set pieces, like the Krull's military induction medical exam were engaging and entertaining. That's very much on the plus side of the ledger.

On the minus side, the book (and perhaps the author) began to run out of steam in the latter third of the book. Felix, as the narrator, is allowed to chatter on about costumery, drapery, aristocracy, heraldry, paleontology, cosmology and love, all in a very ornate and oratorical style. All this does is establish him as a very tiresome popinjay. Under the guise of expanding his hero's education in the world, Mann just succeeds in making him shallower and more voluble, to the point where now I just want him to shut up and go away. Luckily, he will in another 20 pages.

When I close this book and set it down I won't regret having read it, but I won't pine for the two further books that were never written.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 20 December 2018 20:19 (two months ago) Permalink

I'm now reading Fair Play, Tove Jansson, a very short book (100 pp.) consisting of many short vignettes, held together by the fact that all of the vignettes feature the same two women characters. Both are artists, but strangely money seems not to be an issue for either of them. The author is Swedish and everything so far seems very Scandinavian. All the emotional content of their lives is sublimated into a kind of amorphous, highly aestheticized approach to life. The prose is attenuated to the point of near-disappearance.

This book could hardly be further from Felix Krull, even though that wasn't my intent when I chose this book. It caught my eye at the public library because it is a NYRB reissue and those are usually worth investigating.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 21 December 2018 20:11 (one month ago) Permalink

I love that book and will brook no criticism of it. Fwiw it's autobiographical, they were lovers, and money was no issue because Jansson was author of the hugely internationally successful Moomin books.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Saturday, 22 December 2018 00:20 (one month ago) Permalink

Then I shall be careful not to criticize it. However, I may describe it in terms that do not match your own perceptions, which are those of a lover and therefore nothing is likely to satisfy you short of an effusion I may be unable to supply. Be assured my intent is not hurtful.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 22 December 2018 01:03 (one month ago) Permalink

thumbs_up.jpg

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Saturday, 22 December 2018 09:38 (one month ago) Permalink

It's such a short book I finished it last night and had some time to ponder on it.

It is a peculiar book. Almost all of its content is not in what the author writes about, so much as how the author writes about it. I would have to re-read it with very close attention to get at the bottom of its style and even then I'm not sure I would capture it.

The best I could do last night was to compare it to a visual artist's control over 'negative space'. There's a very large amount of metaphoric space in the book surrounding a very small amount of description, action and dialogue. That space dominates the book and indirectly provides it with a much larger significance than any of the content provided directly in the words. Which I must say is a weird trick and I don't see yet how it was done.

Anyway, I can see how it is a book worthy of being loved, even if it is a book I don't exactly understand.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 22 December 2018 20:21 (one month ago) Permalink

Have you read anything else by Jansson? I think Fair Play may benefit from some familiarity with her, her life story, her other work - not that it isn’t a well-written, successful book but I understand being a bit puzzled by it. She was a visual artist as well, by the time she wrote Fair Play I think she had really transitioned away from her identity as an author first and foremost.

I’d highly recommend The True Deceiver and The Summer Book, both of which have more in the way of narrative arcs. They work as mirrors of each other, both about the relationships between two female characters who are many decades apart in age, but where The Summer Book is warm and touching The True Deceiver is harsh and ruthless in the way that it examines its protagonists. (It also reads as the author splitting herself in two and interrogating the different parts of her personality.)

JoeStork, Saturday, 22 December 2018 22:31 (one month ago) Permalink

re. Krull, I also think the Portuguese stuff is the weakest section, mainly because the setting is no longer inherently interesting. I think you get the theorising because there's less to say on that side of things. It's also one of those jokes where he talks himself up more and more and more though you know he's going to do something caddish any second, so it just depends how much you're willing to wait for that punchline.

Also, Fair Play is lame, The Summer Book is the real magic.

Brand Slipper, Saturday, 22 December 2018 22:37 (one month ago) Permalink

In all honesty, Aimless, you have written very interestingly and perceptively about it, even if it's not yr thing. You are a very good egg.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Saturday, 22 December 2018 23:57 (one month ago) Permalink

Oh hey it’s winter in some jurisdictions

I have measured out my life in coffee shop loyalty cards (silby), Sunday, 23 December 2018 01:15 (one month ago) Permalink

It is, but we ILBers like to assert the year as well as the season in the WAYR thread title and that always makes for a slippery transition into the winter digs. We often consider Dec. 22-31 as an interregnum and just let the autumn thread act as regent until January.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 23 December 2018 01:45 (one month ago) Permalink

Very good, as ye were

I have measured out my life in coffee shop loyalty cards (silby), Sunday, 23 December 2018 01:46 (one month ago) Permalink

Even in the one-volume abridgment, I think that 800 pages of The Golden Bough is a bit too much for me to do in one go. Since I'm at the halfway point, I'm going to set it aside and read some other things. Next up is All For Nothing by Walter Kempowski. James Wood had it in his "Four Books That Deserved More Attention in 2018" list for the New Yorker, and it was already lying around the house, so it seemed a propitious coincidence. I'm enjoying it so far. The theme reminds me of Troubles. The genteel manor, stuck in a time warp, somewhat absurdly persisting against a darkening cloud of violence and chaos. The suspense of how long can it last, but limned with a lightness of touch that is almost gallows humor.

o. nate, Sunday, 23 December 2018 02:47 (one month ago) Permalink

Re Golden Bough, has anyone read The White Goddess, and is it as mad as it sounds?

That kempowski looks good. One of Anthea Bells' last translations

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Sunday, 23 December 2018 07:33 (one month ago) Permalink

Even in the one-volume abridgment, I think that 800 pages of The Golden Bough is a bit too much for me to do in one go. Since I'm at the halfway point, I'm going to set it aside and read some other things.

i did this, and never went back. then tried again from the beginning a few years later and did exactly the same! i wish you better luck.

large bananas pregnant (ledge), Sunday, 23 December 2018 08:53 (one month ago) Permalink

I'm reading Towers of Trebizond, Rose Macaulay. The first notable fact about it is that she wrote it in her mid-70s, but the first person narrative voice is that of a much younger woman - and she carries it off believably and with ease. Second notable fact it that the narrator is very droll while giving the impression that this is second nature to her, coming so easily it is rather unconscious. So, a very pleasant read so far.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 24 December 2018 19:37 (one month ago) Permalink

Whoa I had no idea she wrote it that late in life.

JoeStork, Monday, 24 December 2018 19:45 (one month ago) Permalink

The otherwise immaculately detailed Ferrante book knocked me out of it briefly last night when the narration alluded to AIDS being a topic of conversation in 1980, which is very unlikely, even avant la lettre.

I have measured out my life in coffee shop loyalty cards (silby), Monday, 24 December 2018 20:22 (one month ago) Permalink

I made a fairly serious attempt to read The White Goddess many years ago, mainly because it was a big thing for Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and I was very interested in them at that time. I maybe managed about a third of it. It was unreadable tosh. Putting it mildly, Graves's gifts did not include a capacity for logical argument or the marshalling of evidence.

I've recently finished Cassandra at the Wedding, which on the whole I enjoyed even though it turned out to be a bit weirder and less good than it promised in the early pages.

Now reading The Echoing Grove by Rosamond Lehmann.

frankiemachine, Tuesday, 25 December 2018 13:04 (one month ago) Permalink

Aimless, not to be a pedant but Jansson was Finnish, not Swedish (though she did write in Swedish). Seconding The True Deceiver, that's an amazing novel, but of course it's also very weird for me to imagine someone coming to her work without first having read the moomins books.

After My Brilliant Friend I'm switching to a different epic series and the second volume of Miklo Banffy's Transsylvanian Trilogy. Was quite worried I wouldn't remember enough from the 500 page first volume which I read more than a year ago but it only took a few pages for the characters to feel like old friends. These books are so good you guys.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 27 December 2018 20:00 (one month ago) Permalink

Seconding the Banffys here.

I seem to be ending the year on a Simenon/Maigret binge, catching up before the last year of new translations starts.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 27 December 2018 22:56 (one month ago) Permalink

I got <i>My Friend Maigret</i> for x-mas! Also watched the first of the Jean Gabin adaptations, a story I had previously seen acted out by Mr.Bean.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 28 December 2018 10:15 (one month ago) Permalink

There's a late 50s version of The Man Who Watched the Trains go by with Herbert Lom.
Think it's quite good but it is a long time since I saw it.
That's Simenon but not Maigret.

Stevolende, Friday, 28 December 2018 15:14 (one month ago) Permalink

It is time for the Winter 2019 WAYR thread to arrive. If there is not such a thing already in place later today I'll try to spawn one.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 1 January 2019 17:19 (one month ago) Permalink

Here it is: 2019 Winter: The What Are You Reading thread that came in from the cold. Have at it.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 1 January 2019 18:56 (one month ago) Permalink


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