2019 Sum-Sum-Summertime: What Are You Reading, My Good People?

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A new season is upon us and unless you live in the upside down half of the earth, it is summer. I am now fully committed to reading The Siege of Krishnapur, J. G. Ballard. It manages to slip its tongue into its cheek with some regularity, which is nice for an English novel full of sahibs. Very little blood has spilled at this stage of the game, so the tone maintained so far may change shortly.

Here is a link to the previous WAYR thread for Spring 2019.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 18:04 (two months ago) link

I’m reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J K Huysmans. Not what I expected so far

shhh / let peaceful like things (wins), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 18:23 (two months ago) link

Yeah. It's J. G. Farrell. My brain has these two cross-indexed.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 18:40 (two months ago) link

Thomas Mann - The Holy Sinner

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 19:17 (two months ago) link

Karen Russell's "Orange World and Other Stories" - love her worlds, where the odd sits comfortably with the normal. "Bog Girl: A Romance" reminded me of Ray Bradbury.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 21:00 (two months ago) link

T.J. Stiles - Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America"

for a guy I randomly picked off the library shelf, Stiles has turned out to be one of my favorite historians/writers presently working. All his books have been exhaustively researched, cogently argued, and demonstrate a gift for teasing out compelling details and stories.

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 26 June 2019 21:12 (two months ago) link

Mihail Sebastian: Women

ed dorn - by the sound

no lime tangier, Thursday, 27 June 2019 04:36 (two months ago) link

finished: red shift - garner (ilb rec) and black leopard, red wolf - james
reading: great northern - rodman, and washington black - edugyan
on deck: there there - orange, the line becomes a river: Dispatches from the Border- cantú

remy bean, Thursday, 27 June 2019 14:41 (two months ago) link

20 pages left of Terry Eagleton, HUMOUR.

the pinefox, Friday, 28 June 2019 08:00 (two months ago) link

did you make it??!

j., Saturday, 29 June 2019 17:15 (two months ago) link

Finding it hard to settle on summer reading. 50 pages into a short horror novel called seed by Ania ahlborn, I’m struggling with it because the writing is poor - it’s a shame, it feels like it hasn’t been through much editing and it would have been a compelling enough arrangement of tropes otherwise

(I have 2 months free of this Amazon prime book thing so I’m like a filter feeder atm trying to get as much nourishment as I can from a sea of garbage)

Keep fleeing from that into Sappho and Elizabeth Bishop

shhh / let peaceful like things (wins), Saturday, 29 June 2019 18:49 (two months ago) link

did you make it??!

Lol

Vini C. Riley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 29 June 2019 19:03 (two months ago) link

three-body problem
the end of the myth: from the frontier to the border wall in the mind of america

mookieproof, Saturday, 29 June 2019 19:17 (two months ago) link

Really curious about the Eagleton book!

I'm reading a new translation of Alexandre Dumas's TWENTY YEARS AFTER - the first modern translation in over a century! It's by the guy who translated Mysteries of Paris for Penguin. For some reason he's self-published it on Amazon, and it reads a lot, lot better than the William Barrow version, but the Kindle formatting is the worst I've ever seen, and there's tons of typos. It's GREAT but also ANNOYING.

I've also started WEIRDSTONE OF B after being really impressed by Red Shift; and am halfway through THE BFG, which I'm reading for for the first time, and is okay-ish. Also want to read Brookner's LOOK AT ME and the last two Ferrantes this summer.

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 29 June 2019 22:55 (two months ago) link

madame bovary

flopson, Saturday, 29 June 2019 23:09 (two months ago) link

im reading madame bovary Flaubert just described a hat as “one of those pathetic objects that are deeply expressive in their dumb ugliness, like an idiot’s face”. Lol

— Sam (@fuiud) June 29, 2019

flopson, Saturday, 29 June 2019 23:10 (two months ago) link

I finished Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia 1941-1945. Perhaps a bit dry at times, I think more could have done to bring the personalities and settings to life for the lay reader. I still found it pretty interesting though, and clearly a prodigious amount of research went into it. Now I'm reading Why Does the World Exist by Jim Holt.

o. nate, Sunday, 30 June 2019 02:47 (two months ago) link

Let us know the summary of that one

Finished Full Surrogacy Now by Sophie Lewis, which was good and dealt in interesting arguments but in my reading opted not to outline much in the way of a truly concrete program, rather ending by turning over a lot of rocks.

don't mock my smock or i'll clean your clock (silby), Sunday, 30 June 2019 04:01 (two months ago) link

finished the dorn: a rather prosaic portrayal of a pacific northwest logging town during the fifties centred on a small group surviving (just) on the occasional employment they can pick up on construction sites or odd job work for the local farmers who act as a sort of gimcrack gentry in the region

now i'm one chapter into omensetter's luck by william h gass

no lime tangier, Sunday, 30 June 2019 05:42 (two months ago) link

Timothy Snyder: The Red Prince -- biography of a gay, sometimes cross-dressing, warrior/spy/politician Ukraine-loving Habsburg prince who fought the Russians in WW1, then the Nazis, then the Soviets (and was executed by the latter)

I finished Terry Eagleton HUMOUR last night.

In truth, not his best book - easy-going, not that rigorous or purposeful, though its chapter structure is ostensibly clear. The first few chapters are about theories of why we laugh - they're OK but recursive / repetitive. Then there is a history of 'humour' that slides far too much into 'good humour', C18 coffee houses etc - he keeps getting distracted from actually talking about the subject. The last chapter focuses on Trevor Griffiths' COMEDIANS, quite a good move, but gets rather distracted again from the earlier questions of what's funny, rather than what's emancipatory, ethical, etc.

Then he finally turns to carnival again, which is OK except is carnival actually funny? Then he says that Jesus Christ is carnivalesque so, very characteristically, gets to spend the last 3pp talking about the Bible. Probably not an obvious way to finish a book on humour.

The book contains some good jokes (mainly other people's) but TE's attempts to mimic Myles's 'Catechism of Cliché' are remarkably poor.

the pinefox, Sunday, 30 June 2019 13:23 (two months ago) link

I also finished THE SHORT FICTION OF FLANN O'BRIEN.

Deceptively good / useful collection - in that I thought I had most of it already, but actually lots is first published here - including new translations from the Irish, and an SF story that FOB may or may not have written.

Familiar things like 'John Duffy's Brother' come across well. 'Drink & Time in Dublin' I had never read. Even his late unfinished novel SLATTERY'S SAGO SAGA has a degree of interest.

the pinefox, Sunday, 30 June 2019 13:25 (two months ago) link

Today I started Julio Cortazar, HOPSCOTCH.

I feel like what I have heard about this novel is: it has a ludic structure, but that's a superficial afterthought, and you might as well just read it normally.

So I started on Chapter 1. Then a friend who loves the book told me he was starting again on ch73. So I read that and will go on to Ch2 and read it the HOPSCOTCH way after all.

the pinefox, Sunday, 30 June 2019 13:28 (two months ago) link

Love Hopscotch. It’s primarily impressionistic. Read it however you want

Οὖτις, Sunday, 30 June 2019 13:48 (two months ago) link

Finished Sebalds Austerlitz. Could have kept on reading about forts and nocturamas and train stations for hundreds of pages more. The main plot was good as well.

Frederik B, Sunday, 30 June 2019 15:07 (two months ago) link

I finished The Siege of Krishnapur last night. It remained gently satiric even as the bloodshed and extreme hardship of the siege is accurately rendered from the point of view of the English. The characters show amazing resilience and bravery, while at the same time each one is faintly ridiculous and beset by delusions so powerful they are able to sustain them in the face of continuous horrors, while equally blinding them and making fools of them. It's quite a feat of tightrope walking by the author.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 30 June 2019 16:05 (two months ago) link

Krishnapur is one of those In Every Charity Shop Ever Books, so I assumed it was bad or Under The Volcano-level unreadable. But that sounds interesting

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 30 June 2019 19:01 (two months ago) link

Inner thread connection, the Karen Russell book of short stories has one from the PoV of Emma Bovary's greyhound. Favorite story was "The Gondoliers", about one of four sisters in a flooded Florida who ferry various people around using an evolved sense of echolocation.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Monday, 1 July 2019 15:47 (two months ago) link

Started on Paul Mason's CLEAR BRIGHT FUTURE.

Easier and faster going than HOPSCOTCH. Maybe it's really like an extended run of PM New Statesman columns, with those short paragraphs and punchy assertions. Uncertain about the coherence. But only about 25pp in.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 2 July 2019 10:03 (two months ago) link

To get away from Britishers I am reading Ubik, Philip K. Dick.

So far it is a pure shaggy dog story with some sci-fi/fantasy embellishments. I get the strong impression that Dick wrote his novels by launching at random into them, just trying to amuse himself as he went along. If he liked the result he kept going, piling up new characters and incidents for a while until finally he had to figure out how to tie them together and move them in some semi-coherent direction. There's a certain amount of the "and SUDDENLY a WITCH came in with BIG DOG" sort of story logic often employed by six-year-olds, but it is kind of fun, too.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 2 July 2019 15:52 (two months ago) link

Ubik is one of his best. It becomes sort of tragically horrific by the end.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 2 July 2019 15:54 (two months ago) link

His vision had a very strongly absurdist element, which easily morphs into a sense of the horrific and tragic.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 2 July 2019 16:02 (two months ago) link

my memory is that it definitely starts on an absurdist note, all those ridiculous clothing descriptions, "wubfur" etc

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 2 July 2019 16:05 (two months ago) link

Yeah, I think UBIK is my favourite PKD book.

And there's an especially good reason for the absurdism in that one.

reading Philip Kerr’s “Prague Fatale”, which is one of his Bernie Gunther novels and thus far maintains the high quality control of the rest of the series. I’m glad he was able to sneak out a final novel with this character before he passed away; I’m trying to work my way through the novels at a good clip since I’d like to reread them all sooner rather than later, assuming the remainder of the books are at a similar level. I have no reason to expect they’re not.

omar little, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 01:05 (two months ago) link

UBIK certainly canonical as far as PKD goes.

I partly share the view that his novels can seem improvised, but in this instance it would seem that a larger vision is driving it all.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 07:22 (two months ago) link

Hopping around a few chapters of HOPSCOTCH: I can see the general charm of the set-up (people idling in Paris) but at the moment the more I read, the less it wins me over. The philosophical digressions seem windy, the story isn't yet going anywhere. I start to wonder if it's a self-indulgent book like GRAVITY'S RAINBOW but less organized.

Yet, at times it does seem to press through at something real, with unusual honesty and directness.

Maybe it will come together. I have a long, long way to go. I think it needs more concerted reading, less the commuter reading that I am mainly giving it.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 07:25 (two months ago) link

I've only read Ubik, loved it, but haven't figured out which one to read next. Probably Flow My Policeman Tears Thingy.

Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 21:49 (two months ago) link

Tried Martian Timeslip but wasn't feeling it.

Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 21:50 (two months ago) link

A Scanner Darkly or Dr. Bloodmoney would be my rec

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 21:54 (two months ago) link

Flow My Tears is p good and I know various people love it but it's a bit too one-dimensional/tied to a pretty basic premise imo

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 21:55 (two months ago) link

grab an omnibus of the short stories and plow through some of that, they usually get some bonkers idea across and don't overstay their welcome. or at least, so I recall from my teenagerhood when I did just that

president of deluded fruitcakes anonymous (silby), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 22:03 (two months ago) link

Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch also a good one on a level with/similar vibe to Ubik imo

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 22:07 (two months ago) link

Yeah Three Stigmata is great for nonstop-rush mindfuck PKD, I lost count of the plot twists in that one. A Scanner Darkly is probably his best-written, most heartfelt book, very sad and often very funny. I didn’t quite vibe with Flow My Tears but lots of people love it.

Highly recommend the story “Faith of Our Fathers,” it has one of my favorite lines of villainous dialogue ever.

JoeStork, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 22:25 (two months ago) link

Henry Green - Doting
Agnès Poirier - Left Bank: Art, Passion, and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-50

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 22:31 (two months ago) link

I agree about PKD: I can't think of a novel of his that was altogether satisfying (but I have many many more to read), whereas the stories, in their own way, are.

As though, in a fairly basic and obvious way, he could hold things together over a short and not a longer stretch. Or as though some 'aesthetic' aspects, or maybe issues of depth, don't seem to matter in a story and do seem to in a novel.

Though that still feels over-simple now I think about it. But I do think the stories succeed more unequivocally than the novels.

the pinefox, Thursday, 4 July 2019 08:08 (two months ago) link

SPQR

great

brimstead, Thursday, 4 July 2019 18:19 (two months ago) link

I return to Seamus Heaney, ELECTRIC LIGHT. Different discipline and intensity of reading poetry, a good thing to get back to.

Though late Heaney isn't always so intense, and is usually too ready to blather about some old family friend that none of us have ever heard of. That's when he's not translating bits of the classics, a practice that has rarely meant anything to me, though it seems intensely interesting to him.

Nonetheless I take satisfaction from moving through the lines and looking closely for the points of interest. I wouldn't mind going back and reading / rereading the whole of Heaney.

All of this is prompted I suppose by the magnificent exhibition about him in Dublin.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 28 August 2019 11:57 (three weeks ago) link

The craft of a Heaney poem delights me so much that I almost always forgive the lack of inspiration in late Heaney.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 August 2019 11:58 (three weeks ago) link

I like the idea that there is craft in these poems.

But I don't think I can always see it.

And I don't think that's just a matter of craft being so good it's invisible.

Perhaps there is a Heaney thread where someone could show this in a real detailed example.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 28 August 2019 13:05 (three weeks ago) link

Seamus Heaney-Classic or Dud (RIP)

the pinefox, Wednesday, 28 August 2019 13:12 (three weeks ago) link

I've been doing the Women in Translation Month thing: what I read starts here:

#witmonth #womenintranslation book 1: HUMAN ACTS by HAN KANG (translated by DEBORAH SMITH): Excellent and incredibly grim novel about innocence vs the state. The section from the POV of a hastily cremated corpse is far from the bleakest bit. pic.twitter.com/lZAkPCMT8Q

— Caustic Cover Critic (@Unwise_Trousers) August 1, 2019

And according to some websites, there were “sexcapades.” (James Morrison), Wednesday, 28 August 2019 22:52 (three weeks ago) link

Pasternak/Rilke/Tsvetaeva - Letters: Summer 1926. Some of the letters here are pretty great. Tsvetaeva especially who is has these strange, blunt rhythms to her prose. Rilke is dying and it sorta shows (in comparison to the correspondence to ohter people in his younger days) as time goes on and enthusiasm dims - and Pasternak I've never been especially convinced by, he is finding himself in the world. Its a valuable snapshot if you are interested in any of these people, and also how lonely people try to find each other - but also how sometimes that doesn't work. We all die off in the end.

Yukio Tsushima - Territory of Light.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 2 September 2019 10:49 (two weeks ago) link

I've been nearly a week w/o opening a book. I guess I needed a break. Looking to try on That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana, Carlo Emilio Gadda. In his introduction Calvino likens it to Italy's equivalent of Joyce's Ulysses, in part due to the many Italian dialects Gadda very artfully employs. Then the translator's intro warns that the translation can't really capture any of that.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 2 September 2019 15:16 (two weeks ago) link

I've been on a nonfiction kick this summer. Also, these are all audiobooks.

Tenold - Everything You Love Will Burn
Paxton - The Anatomy of Fascism. The historical details about how fascism began were my first encounter with them, and too brief, so I bought a copy of Evans's The Coming of the Third Reich which I hope to get to soon.
Mike Myers - Canada. structured like a stand-up routine, with many of the canada facts at the beginning being set-up for later jokes in the personal segments.
Alexievich - The Unwomanly Face of War. not as good as the Chernobyl book, with many accounts that say almost identical things. interesting that one of the first accounts is of a horror story also included in the MASH finale, followed by accounts that dismantle the pieces of it.
also Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451. not what I expected. more about instant gratification in culture rather than censorship.

currently listening to David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest
halfway through reading Ted Chiang's Exhalation collection

adam the (abanana), Monday, 2 September 2019 15:46 (two weeks ago) link

W.G. Sebald - 'The Rings of Saturn'. Simply exquisite, of course. And speaking of: After tiptoeing around it for a long time, Sebald sealed the deal for me, I want to read Chateaubriand's 'Memoirs' next. Does anyone know what the best English translation/edition is? Is Anthony Kline's free translation as good as the NYRB version (the first 12 books irc?).

Gérard de Nerval - Aurélia ou le rêve et la vie. (re-read)

AM Homes - Days of Awe. The first short stories collection of hers that I found mediocre and, at times, even tedious, while on the whole being a fan of her work. I feel like she's reached a point where she's starting to repeat herself - both thematically and structurally - in a way that feels lacklustre, on auto-pilot. The stories just aren't as good.

The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories. Solid collection that's nice to cherry-pick through with many work by authors previously unknown to me.

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 2 September 2019 16:53 (two weeks ago) link

"Does anyone know what the best English translation/edition is? Is Anthony Kline's free translation as good as the NYRB version (the first 12 books irc?)."

Read the NYRB last year and its a selection from each of the books which I liked enough but I actually wanted to read the complete first few, with all its reflections of his younger years iirc.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 4 September 2019 09:59 (two weeks ago) link

I finally finished Orhan Pamuk's Snow. Would it be too corny to call it Byzantine? It's po-mo in a way that seems very late '90s. This and Infinite Jest were clearly cut from a similar cloth: the fascination with formal complexity for its own sake, meta-textuality, calling attention to its own artifice, lots of authorial wink wink nudge nudge. There is an emotional core to the book but it's buried under so many layers it struggles to breathe at times. I imagine a knowledge of Turkish political history would probably help a lot too. It's clearly an accomplished work, but I felt exhausted before I reached the end.

Now I'm reading Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla.

o. nate, Thursday, 5 September 2019 00:42 (two weeks ago) link

Thanks xyz! I'm the same in that I'd rather read the complete works, especially on his youth/young manhood.

Le Bateau Ivre, Thursday, 5 September 2019 10:04 (two weeks ago) link

Richard Ellmann -- Yeats: The Man and the Mask
James M. McPherson - Battle Cry of Freedom

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 September 2019 10:27 (two weeks ago) link

Rooney - Normal People. believe the hype!

goole, Thursday, 5 September 2019 19:48 (two weeks ago) link

i didn’t like Conversations with Friends but wifely like i have to give Normal People a chance

flopson, Friday, 6 September 2019 00:19 (two weeks ago) link

I found the two protagonists pretty insufferable.

The Pingularity (ledge), Friday, 6 September 2019 07:36 (two weeks ago) link

LOL @ my phone autocorrecting ‘wifely’ in there xp

flopson, Friday, 6 September 2019 08:41 (two weeks ago) link

Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World by Mark Miodownik
author runs through a lot of the construction of objects in the every day world. Quite interesting.
Looks at things like the atomic bond in the construction of concrete and steel.

Patternalia Jude Stewart
Light book of musings on the history of various patterns. Worked its way to the top of my book pile so I've been dipping into it.

Pedagogy of Hope Palo Freire
follow up book revisiting the work he published in pedagogy of the oppressed a few decades later. Read the earlier book on a train the trainer course I took around this time last year. Seemed very sound and was apparently central to the philosophy of Brazilian education , unfortunately Bolsonaro has come in and overturned that. Regressive dickhead.
Found the book in the library yesterday, thought I'd had to get a library loan to get the earlier work. Must have been focused on getting the oppressed volume cos I missed this at the time.

Augusto Boal Theatre of the Oppressed
brazilian theatre writer whose ideas were behind Theatre for Change

Pere Ubu The Scrpbook
short book with a short history of the band up to 1982 in. Been dipping into this too.

Stevolende, Friday, 6 September 2019 09:29 (two weeks ago) link

I have read Ellmann's WBY biography.

I finished Heaney's ELECTRIC LIGHT - read the whole thing with audio of Heaney reading it. I now feel doubtful that I can or should read poetry any other way.

Started Muldoon's MAGGOT.

Still reading fantasy novel THE TROLLTOOTH WARS.

the pinefox, Friday, 6 September 2019 10:38 (two weeks ago) link

Ducks, Newburyport out in the USA and I've read the first 6 pages. Otherwise, Sheila Heti, Motherhood, which contains the line (in the context of a family tree viciously pruned by the Holocaust) "Family is scarce in our family" which was affecting enough that I had to put it down for the day.

president of deluded fruitcakes anonymous (silby), Friday, 6 September 2019 16:27 (two weeks ago) link

how is the ellmann yeats book? i've owned the wilde book for about 10 years but somehow have never read it.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 6 September 2019 18:01 (two weeks ago) link

It's good if dated. It actually doesn't dwell on the poetry. I can see him holding his nose as Yeats spends thirty years plowing through Madame Blavatsky, seances, Noh, Lady Gregory, Irish peasant drama, and masks; he sorts out these phases with admirable clarity, though.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 6 September 2019 18:03 (two weeks ago) link

I accept Yeats' greatness as a poet, for it is brilliantly evident in his poetry, but viewed simply as a person, he always looked to me like a godawful mess of fatuous immaturity and intellectual bad judgment.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 6 September 2019 18:11 (two weeks ago) link

if only Twitter had kept him honest

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 6 September 2019 18:13 (two weeks ago) link

Hey, I began Ducks, Newburyport today as well. Really looking forward to seeing what crazy adventure that puma gets into, though at the moment it's been interrupted by some kind of rant.

The reason I began a new book is because I finished rereading Pynchon's Against the Day. I must have read the first part of it five-six times, but only the second time I made it all through. I took a break after part three, and only went back to it earlier this summer, reading parts four and five. I was surprised at how coherent it seemed, there's a good three-hundred page stretch where it's basically only Kit and Dally and Reef and Yashmeen and Cyprian. Almost like a little novel inside the novel. Then Frank returns, and the last part of it is as ever-shifting as at the beginning.

Frederik B, Friday, 6 September 2019 18:53 (two weeks ago) link

I finished Steve Jackson, THE TROLLTOOTH WARS.

I enjoyed this, even or especially with its rather ludicrous replication of material from the first 3 actual FFGs - I mean, whole scenes from THE WARLOCK OF FIRETOP MOUNTAIN!

But it ends with a deux ex machina scene which is possibly also an allegory of role-playing, ie: the gods are like players, the books' characters are like PCs.

the pinefox, Monday, 9 September 2019 14:25 (one week ago) link

I start Henry James, THE ASPERN PAPERS, but it will probably take me a long time.

the pinefox, Monday, 9 September 2019 14:26 (one week ago) link

I'm about 85% through That Awful Mess in the Vis Merulana. It does exhibit the sort of comprehensive mastery of language, rising to an occasional full pipe-organ fugue and mixed with low buffoonery, somewhat reminiscent of James Joyce.

The other salient feature that jumps out at me is the author's apparent view of women as being objects both of great frightfulness and aching desirability, which conflicting emotions color the entire narrative so far, both overtly and latently. I conclude Gadda was not entirely a well man when it came to his relationship with women. It makes me hesitate to recommend the book without reservation.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 10 September 2019 01:10 (one week ago) link

I finished Ants Among Elephants. It was a fascinating look at life in some of the poorer and more oppressed corners of Indian society, from independence up until more recent times, told through the stories of a few generations of one untouchable family. The two main characters are an uncle of the author who was a radical Communist political organizer and the author's mother, who struggled against caste-ist and sexist oppression to complete her education and obtain a permanent position as a teacher. But intertwined with their stories are stories of many other relatives, acquaintances, and lots of interesting background material. The book has a Balzacian sweep, zooming in on intimate personal stories and then zooming out to sketch the political situation at large, all in a very engaged, clear style that is never pedantic or dry. Highly recommended.

Now I'm starting on Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth, which someone was giving away on their stoop. So far I've considered bailing out since I find Roth's sex writing to be neither sexy, funny nor all that interesting, but the book has such rave reviews I'll probably soldier on a bit to see if it improves.

o. nate, Tuesday, 10 September 2019 01:45 (one week ago) link

Reading Hilaire Belloc’s book on Robespierre.

Bidh boladh a' mhairbh de 'n láimh fhalaimh (dowd), Wednesday, 11 September 2019 10:52 (one week ago) link

(Spoilers: He’s not as keen on him as I am)

Bidh boladh a' mhairbh de 'n láimh fhalaimh (dowd), Wednesday, 11 September 2019 10:53 (one week ago) link

Willem Elsschot: Soft-Soap -- a masterpiece of cynicism in an old 2nd-hand copy that unfortunately stinks of mould

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Wednesday, 11 September 2019 22:41 (one week ago) link

J.P. Nettl - abridged version of his (originally two volume) biography of Rosa Luxemburg

Seany's too Dyche to mention (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 11 September 2019 23:04 (one week ago) link

i am starting on my first thomas bernhard by reading his last novel: extinction

previous to that i read david markson's wittgenstein's mistress

no lime tangier, Thursday, 12 September 2019 07:03 (one week ago) link

I am now reading The Beginning of Spring, Penelope Fitzgerald.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 13 September 2019 16:52 (one week ago) link

Finished Daniel O'Malley's "The Rook". Liked it better than the Starz series, which dilutes and changes the novel's world, characters and plot.

Now reading "Major Dudes / A Steely Dan Companion". A chronological selection of reviews and interviews. Learning some stuff, and surprised with how easily the deep cuts come to mind. Now on the solo years, before they got back together. Got me to pull out China Crisis' "Flaunt the Imperfection" for today's commute.

Next two in the stack are follow-ons to these. "Stiletto", sequel to "The Rook", and "Reelin' in the Years", a Steely Dan biography.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Friday, 13 September 2019 17:37 (one week ago) link

Henry James: Search and Destroy

the pinefox, Monday, 16 September 2019 08:16 (five days ago) link

I'm on the third book (Death's End) of Cixin Liu's Three Body Problem trilogy. Really enjoying the series, even if there are some parts that urge me to reach for the salt and take a large pinch

frame casual (dog latin), Monday, 16 September 2019 13:21 (five days ago) link

I gave up on that after book 1 as the aliens, when revealed, turned out to be really dull. Do they get more interesting?

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Monday, 16 September 2019 23:49 (five days ago) link

I dunno, they haven't arrived yet

frame casual (dog latin), Monday, 16 September 2019 23:51 (five days ago) link

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXpost Hi Aimless, if you come across the Katherine Mansfield collection unhelpfully titled Stories, with a not particularly helpful intro by KM biographer Jeffrey Meyers----it's a Vintage Classic, and a good demonstation of how her writing developed over the years, incl. acquiring and repurposing and sometimes discarding manners and influences, but always with a drive that seemed to come from experience, as a girl and young woman and less young woman in New Zealand and Europe. Not always at her best here, but plenty of momentum.
Good quote from omg Elizabeth Bowen:
We to her the prosperity of the 'free' story: she untrammeled it from conventions and, still more, gained for it a prestige till then unthought of. How much ground Katherine Mansfield broke for her successors may not be realized. Her imagination kindled unlikely matter; she was to alter for good and all our idea of what goes to make a story.

dow, Tuesday, 17 September 2019 02:03 (four days ago) link

We owe to her, that should have been. As a prodigious teenager, Bowen was checking in while Mansfield was checking out, and the inspiration to her personally might have been particularly strong.

dow, Tuesday, 17 September 2019 02:08 (four days ago) link

I spent last December plowing through three Bowen novels, The Death of the Heart the best among them.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 17 September 2019 02:10 (four days ago) link

Cool. Need to do that, I've only read the dynamic doorstop Collected Stories.

dow, Tuesday, 17 September 2019 03:00 (four days ago) link

Please Look After Mother, Shin Kyung-sook. The titular mother disappears on a trip to Seoul; novel follows the various family members as they process their guilt over having neglected her. Written almost entirely in the second person. It's got that good family guilt a la Tokyo Story, and a certain sparseness that I encounter a lot in....South East Asian? (struggling to find a non-offensive word for something I've found in Chinese, Korean and Japanese fiction...post-confucian?) writing. I'm probably making it seem like a bit of a chore but actually it's quite the page-turner!

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 17 September 2019 12:48 (four days ago) link

That sounds good, I'm gonna check it out.

jmm, Wednesday, 18 September 2019 15:38 (three days ago) link

reading two books I found on the street:
I Claudius (Graves)
Annihilation (Vandermeer)

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 18 September 2019 15:41 (three days ago) link

I read a bunch of stuff over the summer - a list that makes me look well parochial. Ho hum.

Alan Moore - V for Vendetta. The concept is enough to make it a classic but it's stretched out pretty thin by the end.

Robin Ince - I'm A Joke and So Are You. I find Ince kind of annoying but this is gently wise and funny enough to mitigate the worst of his excesses.

Caryl Lewis - Martha, Jack & Shanco. I went to Anglesey so wanted to read some Welsh-language literature. This aims for a Steinbeckian universalism but doesn't quite have the courage of its convictions. The nature writing was beautiful.

Richard King - The Lark Ascending. This should have been my *thing* - activism, music and landscape - but it never quite, well, took flight.

Robert Macfarlane - Landmarks. I fell out with Macfarlane around the time of The Old Ways but, compared to the above, the existential nature of Macfarlane's commitment mattered again. Beautiful.

Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker. As a reading experience, I found it tough but my brain has been like a huge resonating chamber since I put it down.

Keiron Pym - Jumpin' Jack Flash: David Litvinoff and the Rock and Roll Underworld. This was the *one*. During an obsessive pursuit (to use Richard Holmes' phrase) of his quarry across the world and down the toilet of London's 60s underworld, Pym ravels and unravels the riddle of Litvinoff and with it the history of the Jewish East End, the Krays, the Chelsea set, Performance. Litvinoff comes across as manic, inventive, borrowed from death.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Wednesday, 18 September 2019 16:11 (three days ago) link

I finished The Beginning of Spring last night. It was a very fine novel and a pleasure to read. More so than any of the authors I read, Fitzgerald achieves her effects so subtly and organically that it is impossible for me to put my finger on the artifice that supports her art. She is economical of details, but there is no sense of sparsity or strain. She frequently chooses the precise word needed to carry an exact meaning, but her prose is never fussy. Her characters emerge clearly and well-formed, and do not seem overdone or underdone. I stand in awe of her excellence and cannot explain it.

btw, the autumnal equinox is almost upon us. A new thread of books, mists and mellow fruitfulness shall soon be in order.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 18 September 2019 16:28 (three days ago) link

I'm now reading another novel by Sicilian author, Leonardo Sciascia. This one is To Each His Own.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 20 September 2019 18:06 (yesterday) link


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